“Tess!” I called, rushing to her. “What happened?” I asked in a haze, but all she did was fall into my arms, as desperate as I’ve never seen her, on the verge of crying, as she frantically blubbered words about accidents and motorcycles and reserved prognosis ... till I grabbed her shoulders and shook her, intimating her to calm down. At least one of us needs not to freak out. May I be the panicky one for once?
Once Tess seemed calm, I asked her details, but she just burst into tears all over again, until Trey sneaked up behind her and took her in his arms, giving me a crooked smile that barely even made it to quirking up his lips, then he led her to the chairs not too far.
“She was there.” Colin’s voice startled me, so I turned around, meeting the very desolating sight of a worn out guy that, clearly, was on the verge of breaking down. “We were all there when it happened.” He explained in a sigh, raking a hand over his face.
I asked for further explanations, and he hinted to the vending machine a few steps from our position. I would have argued that I didn’t want to drink anything, but maybe some hot cocoa would help calm down my nerves. I hate hospitals. I hate, hate, hate hospitals.
As we walked, Colin exhaustedly recounted me what happened: “We had lunch at this new restaurant a friend of ours has opened. Tess wanted me to get my mind off ... well, the issues we’ve had lately.” The whole dating his sister’s best friend behind said friend’s back, that is. “Tess, Trey, Paul and I had lunch together, like I said.” He took coffee from the machine, which I refused. “We’d just come out when we saw it ... the accident.”
I swallowed hard, trying to keep focus. I slyly concealed my quivering hands behind my back, forcing myself to remain here and now, to remain rooted on the place and time, not on the memories. These white halls, all this hustle and bustle around, all these nurses and doctors swirling around. Such a familiar sight.
Colin dropped back against the wall, sighing, coffee in hand. “It happened all so fast. We saw a motorcycle being plainly hit by a truck, and the one that was driving it was jolted on the other side of the road. People immediately gathered around, and we ran too. Paul thought he could be helpful, since his mother was a nurse, and she taught him a few things.”
Colin sighed shakily. “I wasn’t ready, Silvia. I ... I could have never been ready for the scene I witnessed.” He closed his eyes for a moment, and I saw the slightest hint of tears on his cheeks. “He was there, lying on the ground ... I ...” he cursed, banging his head against the wall, making me worry that he got hurt, but he didn’t even bother.
He kicked the wall behind him and cursed once more, and when he talked, his voice was cracked, and there were clear tears in his eyes. “I’ve seen him in the worst predicaments, Sil. I’ve fucking seen him barely conscious, beaten to a pulp. I’ve been with him in most of the crap he got himself into, but this! This!” He gestured frantically to the hall. “I’ve never seen him so defenseless, Sil. For once in my life I panicked.” He cursed. “Jake is a freaking brother to me. I lose him, it’s like I’ve lost one of my siblings.”
I didn’t speak as I witnessed tears streaming his cheeks, I only felt the same frustrated and pained tears prickling behind my eyes, but I resisted, always forcing full control into myself. I did stretch a hand to grab Colin’s, though, and I squeezed it, saying nothing, just giving him a knowing look, to say I know exactly how he feels. I’ve been there.
I wish Hell could swallow me whole right now. That way I wouldn’t feel my heart clenching like this, so painfully.
God, if you’re there, and you’re as merciful as they say, please, don’t do this. Please, don’t take him away. Please. Just ... please, I’m begging you. Don’t take him away.
“Better?” Trey asked me for the umpteenth time, stroking my cheek with his thumb to wipe away a tear.
I nodded warily, tired of crying. “I guess.” It’s been 4 hours and 17 minutes. We’ve been waiting since 4 hours and 17 minutes. Every time someone passes, we try to get info of any sort, but all they keep saying is “too soon to tell, surgery is still ongoing”. It’s been 4 hours!
Taking refuge in Trey’s arms, I sighed. “I worry about her, though.” Silvia’s been in a state ever since she got to the hospital, I don’t even recognize her. And I feel guilty, because in such a moment I should have thought of her first and foremost, given their peculiar connection, but ... I couldn’t.
I’ve never gotten this close to death in my entire life, I swear. Seeing Jake like that ... lying on the floor, all that blood all around him ... I’m glad we didn’t take Serene with us, and I’m even more glad that we didn’t tell Silvia either.
We didn’t even know that Jake was back. We only approached the scene of the accident because Paul knows something about first aid, so he thought he could be useful until paramedics came. Neither of us expected to see our friend there, lying unconscious. I honestly thought we’d lost him.
“She’s strong.” Trey mused, knowing I was talking about Silvia. She’s remained there on the floor right outside the surgery room for over three hours now. None of us has succeeded in convincing her to distract herself some way. She just sits there. Waiting.
“You don’t know her like I do.” I closed my eyes, tears filling them again. “She’s repressing it all.” I murmured, my own voice breaking as tears restarted falling. Trey inched me closer into his arms. “She’s living Hell right now, yet she doesn’t even make a sound. I should go to her.”
I tried to wriggle myself out of his grip, but Trey didn’t let me. “You’re weak as it is.”
“But she’s my best friend, and she’s suffering!”
Trey wrapped his arms around me tightly when I fought to be set free. “Think of yourself for once, babe.”
“I can’t. Sissy is ... you don’t know her, she’s ...” I crawled at his feet, exhausted, crying. “God ... if she loses him ... Trey, I know her ... if she loses him ...”
“She won’t. We won’t.” He crouched behind me, pulling me into his arms again, holding me close. “We won’t lose him, Tessy.” He kissed my temple, his own voice weak even if his words held hope. “I know Jake. He’s a fighter. He’ll pull through. He has to.”
I just hope he’s right. For the sake of all of us.
“Calm down.” Paul told me, gripping my left hand when he noticed it was shaking. “It’s going to be fine.”
I freed my hand from his, and used it to wipe my tears. “You don’t know that, Paul. Nobody knows.”
“He’s a fighter.”
“But this is way worse than anything that’s happened before.” The cup of coffee in my right hand shook together with it, either because I’ve had too many, or because my nerves are wrecked. I don’t even know what to do. I keep wandering around, pacing the hall, drinking coffee after coffee while waiting and waiting and waiting. I feel so damn useless.
I chugged down the coffee in one sip, then crushed the paper glass, and threw it into the dustbin, my hands still shaking. “This is it, Paul. This is the time I’ve always known would come. This is the day I lose my best friend, and I can’t do anything about it.”
I dropped against the wall, feeling my whole body ache, my chest burn with the pain that was ready to shatter my heart. “I’ve spent my whole life trying to keep him alive. Yet I’ve failed.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“No?” I looked up, teary-eyed. “Why do you think he left?” His own best friend betrayed him. Of course he fled. It’s what he does every time it gets too hard. He just ... goes. And I know it’s also partly to protect me, us, from ... from the other there. From that demon deep inside him, the one he nearly unleashed at the restaurant that time.
“That has nothing to do with you, Colin.” Paul argued. “Jake ... he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s not your fault.”
“I promised, you know.” I blubbered as tears streamed my cheeks. “I ... I-I promised his mother to watch over him. Yet I failed.” During of her awfully rare lucid moment, Mrs. Watson asked me to keep an eye on her boy, keep him safe ... and what have I done? I’ve done the exact opposite.
I was selfish. So stupidly selfish. I should have known it would hurt him. I should have known he would react this way ... instead no, I was too focused on relieving my own heart after so long. God, if he dies ... if Jake dies, I ... I won’t even be able to look Serene in the eyes.
I haven’t even told her. She’s in New York, trying to keep going with her life despite the hole in her heart, and all the while her brother is here fighting with death. She’s there peacefully sleeping or trying to, waiting to wake up and go to her classes, and all the while, the last piece of her family is nearly gone.
I’m willingly robbing her of the last moments she might have with her brother, but I know he’d agree. We’ve spent our lives trying to keep her from the sorrowful truth behind their broken family. Jake has given his everything to keep Serene from harm, and I won’t undo his job now. But the fact is, I know she’ll hate me forever if ...
I bit my lips, crying silently. “This is not fair, you know.” I murmured. “After all he’s been through. This is not fair. He can’t ... he can’t just ...” I growled, crawling to the floor. “After all that’s happened to him, you’d think a merciful God would spare him this ... yet no. This is the cherry on top, isn’t it?” I laughed hysterically, covering my face. “This is the last act. The end of the tragedy that’s been his life.”
“I should have protected him. I should have done more, I should have been a better friend. I ... I failed. And now this ...”
“Colin, you did nothing but stand by his side through every storm.” Paul kneeled before me. “You’ve done all you could.” He looked at me as if he knew. He and Trey don’t ... they know Jake has problems, but they don’t know the story. Nobody does. Yet Paul seemed aware. “We’ve been friends for a long time, haven’t we?” Exactly 10 years. Since college. “I’ve seen how much you’ve done for him ...” he patted my shoulder, “don’t blame yourself. You’ve done all you could.”
“It served to nothing.”
“I need to blame it on someone.” I blurted out. “Otherwise it just ... it just doesn’t make sense. Why? Why would fate be so cruel to him? Why does he have to suffer this much? It’s not fair. So it’s my fault. It has to be my fault.”
Paul made a sorry face, but said nothing. “I’ll go check up on the others.” He stood, and I nodded.
Closing my eyes, I knocked my head against the wall. “He’s my brother.” I spoke out loud, opening my eyes, fixing them on the ceiling, despite tears. “Don’t take him away. Do you hear me? Don’t take him away.”
Through the window I could see the first lights of the morning, but I didn’t even bother to turn around. I felt empty, drained of every strength, worn out, entirely lost. I’ve been sitting on this same floor for hours, but nothing has changed. He’s still in there, still on that operation table, still prey of those almighty doctors that won’t even give us one glimmer of hope or despair.
We don’t know what’s going on, what are they doing to him, what’s taking them so long. We know nothing. And it’s wearisome.
My eyes were about to close when before me I saw a cup of tea. I blinked my eyes, confused and exhausted, and tiredly looked up, only to meet his comforting sweet smile.
“Paul told me you were here.” Ryan said, sitting before me, placing the tea cup on the floor.
I felt stupid for calling him, but I didn’t reject his touch when he wrapped me up in his arms, and pulled me into him. I felt weak, and I had nothing to hold onto. They say the darkest hour is the one right before dawn ... well if so, dawn hasn’t come yet for us, no matter what the world outside says.
Ryan kissed my temple, squeezing me into him. “You should cry. I know you haven’t.”
“What for?” I asked flatly, too worn out even to speak.
“It’ll serve to rid you of this pain you’re caging within you. It’s killing you.”
“I shouldn’t have called you.” I claimed, yet I didn’t move.
“You wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been an emergency.”
My eyes filled with unshed tears, but I pushed them back for the umpteenth time, forcing the lump in my throat down. “Still. I shouldn’t have.”
Ryan kissed my temple again, cracking a sad smile. “I’d tell you it’s going to be fine, but I know you wouldn’t believe me. So I’ll ask, what can I do?”
“Nothing.” I closed my eyes, abandoning myself in his arms, seeking a comfort that I know only the one person I’m losing could give. I called Ryan in a desperate moment, during that darkest hour I said, and I begged him to come. Here he is now, and now I don’t even want him to be. To what use it is his presence? It’s not like he can go in there and hasten the process. It’s not like he can save Jake. “You should go.”
I looked up. “Ryan ...”
He cracked another bittersweet smile, and kissed my forehead. “I’ll be gone before he wakes.”
My gaze fell. “He won’t ...” my eyes filled with tears all over again, “he won’t wake ...” my voice broke as tears began falling, “this is going to be just like 10 years ago ...” I murmured to myself, closing my eyes, “I’m losing him, too.”
This is the moment I realize how stupid I’ve been to care in the first place. I had sworn to myself, years ago, that I wouldn’t lose anyone else after Matilde, because I wouldn’t let myself get enough close for someone else to be so important to me. Yet here I am now, back to square one.
I felt like a wreck. I felt like the whole damn world had crushed onto my shoulders, burying me alive. I felt like a raggedy cloth that’s been overused, like a shabby house that’s about to collapse on itself. I guess that’s why I collapsed into Ryan’s arms, against every sensible choice I could have made, I guess that’s why I had no qualm in crying before him now.
“I’m losing him, Ryan.” I blubbered, letting go of every tear. “I’m losing Jake, too, and I ... I ...” I bit my tongue with that tiny bit of restraint I still had.
“Say it.” Ryan nudged, hurt clear in his voice.
My whole body shook as I sobbed against his chest, losing my every restraint, as worn out as I was. “I’m losing him, like I lost her. I’m losing him now that ... now that I love him.”