adalia drinks a potion made from cicada shells simmered in water on low heat for eight hours. she drinks it through a straw that she puts far back on her tongue with the hope that it'll keep her from tasting it too much. the first few times she drank the medicine, she was able to keep it down for about ten minutes. now she can almost always drink it without throwing it back up, but it takes two hours of slow sipping, lots of chasers like pomegranate juice and hard candies, her redwall books to take her mind off of the process, and all of her nine-year-old resolve.
there is no guarantee that the potion will work. chinese medicine is a tedious process. six months to see results. she'll choke down the bitter black cicada juice twice a day for six months before anyone can really decide if it's working or not. she doesn't throw tantrums. she scratches the scabs and sores on her arms, but when she realizes what she's doing, she balls her hands into fists. knuckles white.
grown-ups are always telling her that she is brave (yong gan) and good (gwai), but she looks down in embarassment and maybe even a little bitterness. if she had a choice, i think, she would prefer to be both cowardly and bad, so long as she could be comfortable in her skin like the other kids, so long as the girls in her class didn't scream when she touched them, so long as she could leave behind the brown medicine stains on her clothes and the yellow stains on her pillow and sheets from the oozing of her sores.
it's ok, she's used to it, it's not terminal or even anything that will keep her in bed. just enough insomnia, discomfort, and real or imagined rejection from her classmates to nurture either self-pity or a hard resolve to avoid it. self-pity would make her peevish. avoiding it makes her guarded.