I'm Here to Fix You

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Chapter 39


It was a nightmare. It could only be a damn nightmare. Just that. I thought this as I stood at the doorframe, unable to find the strength to enter. Jake was sleeping peacefully, after having been saved right in the nick of time.

He was on overdose. Morphine, the doctor said. That jerk mixed it up with some other pain killers they’d given him. I have no idea where was he able to get the double of the dose of morphine he was allowed to take, but that’s it. He took it, and he went on overdose. A minute more and he would have been gone. Forever.

I feel guilty. If I’d paid more attention when he told me he was stuffed with pain killers, when he was so weird, I would have been able to react more quickly ...

I covered my mouth with my sleeve to muffle the sob that erupted. I was crying. Of course I was crying. This was like ten years ago all over again. I’m always late, always causing disasters, always losing the people I care for.

It was all so sudden. One moment I’m finally telling him I love him, he’s promising not to ever leave me, we’re being as mushy as it can be, the other he’s ... not even in a billion years I could have imagined Jake would go on overdose of morphine.

And you know what’s worse? The doctor afterwards talked to Serene, the only family member present, therefore the only one he was officially allowed to speak to, and he said that, via tests of different kinds and via the documentation they received about Jake’s anamnesis, they were able to tell this wasn’t a first time.

You understand? That fucking idiot got himself on morphine overdose more than once already! It wasn’t by choice, apparently. It was due to the same reason he’d taken the drug now: too much pain. When I gazed at Colin, I noticed his guilty look, which had me guess that he knew. I felt like lashing out on him for missing to tell this small detail about that irresponsible jackass that is his best friend.

Everybody was in the waiting room, all shook to the core. It’s one thing the jerk doesn’t seem to understand. He may not value his own life, but there are people that do. We all do. I see my angle, but the others don’t look much good either.

I left that Serene was crying her heart out on Colin’s shoulder as he consoled her, while Trey was cuddling Tess. I’ve never seen her so shaken up.

I needed a few moments alone with the idiot here. If he was awake, I would lash out on him, for how stupid he was, but when I entered he was sleeping, so I let him. Jake looked peaceful like that, as peaceful as I’ve barely ever seen him, and the only thought that I’d been, once more, a mere inch away from losing him, had me want to scream, tear my hair in frustration ... but the only solution I could find was cry silently at the doorframe, lacking of the courage to even enter.

Ten years ago the very same thing happened. Ten years ago I had to watch powerlessly as I lost my kindred spirit, my sister. Now, ten years later, I was about to watch as Jake left me, too. I guess it’s pure luck Ryan hooked me to his medical shows, so that I was able to tell that Jake was on overdose just by watching how his pupils constricted. Myosis, the doctor called it, one of the first symptoms of morphine overdose.

It’s been over an hour since Hell went down in this room, and I could still so vividly see it: me yelling for help while I watched him turn pale, his eyes becoming slits, his look blank, then doctors and nurses pushing me away, Jake calling for me, me replying but not being able to reach him ... it all felt like a huge flashback. A horrible, horrible flashback.

Ten years ago, after I left that pool, I ran straight home, I found my parents talking in the kitchen, wondering where were we, and when I entered, the first thing they did was wrap me up in a tight hug.

Only a moment later they noticed I was crying silently. They asked and asked, but I couldn’t find the words. They asked where was Matilde, what happened, but I couldn’t speak. I kept reliving that scene, of my beloved sister tied to that chair, and now she was alone with that man.

Only after a while I was finally able to form a complete sentence and explain what happened. After that, it was all a blur. Dad called the police, it took them time to arrive, because, you know, they were coming from the nearby town, and meanwhile mom and I remained on the couch, hugged to each other, while dad went on a deathly mission, to do what police could be too late to: save Matilde.

I felt stupid for not going with him, but they wouldn’t let me. He, as much as police, were too late, though. The man had already left, Matilde with him. There were only the two chairs at the borders of the pool.

Weeks passed. We sought her everywhere. Police from nearby cities were alerted, even the media got to it – the regional one, but still –, yet nothing. Absolutely nothing. My parents insisted I go to school anyways, but even though I complied, I didn’t even pay attention. My teachers never reproached me, knowing what I was going through.

One night, after four months, I was home alone with my neighbor, my parents were out with police, because they’d been told that someone had spotted a girl that resembled Matilde in the town nearby, and now they were questioning her. It wasn’t her, obviously. They’d just mistaken an innocent Rom girl for my sister. You see Matilde had this olive skin that could easily be exchanged for foreign.

I was home alone with our neighbor, I said. The old lady left for a moment to go feed her husband. That was when I heard a knock on the door. I rushed to it, not even knowing why was I sure it would be who I wanted it to be. Somehow I felt it would be her, though.

Today I’d say it’s a kindred spirits thing, back then I just jumped into that hype. Maybe it was the way she knocked, maybe it was that we were truly as connected as twins would be. The fact is, it could have been Mrs. Esposito, my parents, the police, anyone ... but I was utterly sure it was her. And indeed it was.

My sister was right there, wearing shabby clothes, she was all skin and bones. She collapsed on me, in fact. I ushered her inside, helping her into the kitchen, and grabbed everything I could find for her to eat.

She never spoke, she just swallowed everything I gave her. I don’t know why I didn’t think of calling our parents or even only the neighbor, but I didn’t. I just remained there, staring at Matilde, wondering whether she was real or I was only hallucinating. That wouldn’t have been a first time.

Every doubt was solved when she gave me her usual sweet smile and, once standing straight, she opened up her arms for me. I ran to her, hugging her tightly, crying tears of relief because I finally had my beloved sister back. It’s absurd, she was the one to comfort me, telling me everything was alright, she was back, and now no one and nothing could divide us ...

She couldn’t know what was to happen next. She couldn’t know that that horrible man had been seeking her, despite polices being after him. She couldn’t know that, when someone nonchalantly knocked on the door, it wouldn’t be our neighbor. She couldn’t know it would be that psychotic man.

It was me to go open the door, because Matilde was resting on the sofa. We’d just called our parents, they were on their way along with the polices. Because Mrs. Esposito hadn’t come back, I naively thought it was her. That’s why I froze in my spot when I realized it was that horrible man.

He didn’t give me time. All I saw was an evil grin, before he knocked me unconscious with a violent punch. I woke up in a car, tied with the seatbelt. Matilde was beside me, awake, but gagged and tied as much as I was. The man whistled as he drove, talking about some nice trip we were having. He was happy. He sounded delighted at the idea.

He brought us deep into the woods. When we arrived where he wanted, he made us both kneel. He gave us a whole speech, about how he was in the right and God would forgive him for this, because Matilde had been a naughty little girl, because she’d broken her promise, escaping from him when he’d lowered his guard, while I’d told my parents, alerting police.

It was pitch dark, but the lights of his car did an amazing job, so that I could witness everything in detail.

He played rock scissors paper, you know. Well, an Italian equivalent called ambarabacciccicoccò. He did that to decide which one of us would go first. He said he would have preferred me first, because I was the semen of betrayal, and because Matilde needed a punishment for what she did. Yet, he then said, it would be funnier to see me cry.

That’s why he grabbed Matilde first, and threw her onto the ground before me, a few inches away, enough for us not to be able to touch each other, but enough for our eyes to meet and for me to see everything. Every single gruesome detail.

I saw the blood, I saw the pain, but most of all, I saw light leaving her eyes. I was there to witness it all, while my beloved sister, my kindred spirit, was brutally murdered in front of my eyes.

It took hours. Hours. Not a minute, not 20 minutes, but 4 hours and 50 minutes. He didn’t just stab her, he didn’t slit her throat like he’d promised he would do to me. She revolted against him, her own father, therefore he punished her.

By the time he was done, she was in a puddle of blood, after he’d inflicted on her 45 blows with his long sharp knife. 4 hours and 50 minutes for 45 blows. That’s basically 10 stabbings per hour. 10 stabbings per hour, I don’t think you can understand the extent of this cruelty.

He paused every 10 stabs, just to prolong her sufferance. He talked through the whole length of the process, tortured her, laughed while naming all the things he could to make her ‘atone for her sins’. Matilde disobeyed her father, her actual father, and that, as you may know, it’s a heavy sin. It’s violating commandment number 5: honor your father and mother.

His every word, his every act, his ever smirk is engrained in my mind. Matilde begged me to look away every time, more than whimper at his every blow, she begged me to look away, but I never did. I had this ... foolish idea, that if she knew I was there with her, she might endure it just a little bit better. In fact when he paused after the first hour, I squeezed her hand, as if that could help. How stupid I was.

I should have run off to seek help. I should have screamed at the top of my lungs, maybe somebody might have heard. I should have done something. Of all the things I could do, holding her hand while she died was the least helpful.

She could have died a lot sooner, you know. But he’d planned it all. Each stab was at a place that wouldn’t cause immediate death. In the end, in fact, she bled out. That’s how Matilde died. He never hit a vital organ, he bled her out ... literally. Because that would be the most excruciating pain.

I don’t know if it was luck or fate or just a very bad joke from whoever it is that should be up above us guarding us, but, right when I was about to reach her, right when the bloodied knife was a mere second away from slitting my own throat, I heard a gunshot.

A hunter that was around there at dawn spotted us. He was far, but he heard the ruckus the man was making, ranting on and on about God, about how we’re all going to pay for our sins eventually, how I was the very embodiment of sin ...

The hunter said he thought it was a wild animal making weird noises, so he came closer, to be sure, and braced his rifle. He got close enough to hear the man chant in my ear how he was going to give me an even more painful death, how he was gonna butcher me and make me pay for my parents’ sins ... hence, the hunter took aim at his rifle, and shot.

I don’t know how was he able to hit the target, but he did. And he didn’t even kill him. He purposely hit the shoulder. He said to be sure he wouldn’t accidentally hit me, but I think it was not to risk an accuse for murder. He justified the shooting as needing to intervene before the worst happened, and because he was too far to impede it without using his weapon, he just acted upon instinct and fired.

I am grateful to him now, but right then, I hated him as much as I hated that bastard. Because the worst had already happened. We’d been there for hours, that demon had tortured my sister for hours before actually killing her, and nobody had intervened.

But most of all, I hate myself for not doing anything. I could have screamed. I could have tried to move, impede it, even only trying to escape would have delayed the moment. Maybe the man would have come after me and Matilde would have been safe. Maybe he would have just shot me in the back and I wouldn’t have had to witness that gruesome scene that still haunts me. I could have reacted in many ways, but not reacting at all shouldn’t have been an option.

Later on I found out who that demon was. Later on I found out the grudges he held against my parents and why was he so obsessed with Matilde. It was something I would have never fathomed, but it caused the heavy hammer of reality to strike upon me, making me realize that nothing is ever as it seems, that people lie, even in the face of truth, and that even that one man that should cherish you can turn into the worst demon you could ever face.

Because, you see, turns out that that man was someone from my mother’s prior life. Her ex husband. Matilde’s biological father. I was the very embodiment of sin because I was born out of an extramarital relationship my mother had with my father.

I abhor hospitals because I’ve been in one for too long after that happened. And because my dad, after receiving my call to say Matilde was finally home, broke every single road law and ... crashed into a truck.

I was still shaking in the aftermath of what I’d witnessed when they told me my parents had a car accident. Both went under surgery, my mother, specifically, had to undergo brain surgery ... does that sound familiar?

That was, by far, the worst night of my life. Not only I lost my sister, but I went a mere inch away from losing my parents, too. I almost lost everyone I loved. And all for my own fault.

My father recovered sooner, his surgery regarded his left leg. It’s a pure miracle that he didn’t remain paralyzed. My mom spent two months in a deep coma. She went under surgery more than once. Dad and I spent sleepless nights waiting for the result. The exact same as I did last week while Jake was under surgery. Now you see why was it so painful for me?

Tears were stained on my cheek and I didn’t even realize it. I guess I was too busy reminiscing those painful moments. That jerk nearly killed himself without even realizing.

Or I hope he didn’t realize it. The other times he went on morphine overdose, it was almost voluntarily, from what I gathered. Who tells me he didn’t do it on purpose this time, too?

All that claiming how he’s won’t die before me because I couldn’t handle it, yet he goes and overdoses. I’ll kill him when he wakes up, then resurrect to kill him again. That jerk.

I nearly lost my best friend. Again. But more than that I lost the man I love right when I’d womaned up enough to tell him the truth. I’ve got such a need to yell at him that I’m not sure I’ll be able to retain myself when he wakes up. That moron.

How could he think that mixing up morphine with other pain killers wouldn’t hurt? How could he think that such massive doses wouldn’t cause damages? Even the dumbest person ever knows that! I felt like crying and screaming at the same time. I would do both, if the moron was awake.

As if on cue, my eyes turned back to the bed and, consequently, tears welled up in them. I spent a whole week watching my father in that same state. And a whole month watching my mother in a coma, seemingly lifeless. The sole sight of a hospital bed should have me freak out, but before coming here I gathered all my strength.

Now it was leaving me, though. I just needed to relieve those emotions that were chewing me up, and I had no idea how. There were anger, exhaustion, fear, grief ... how could I let them all out? I would beat the crap out of Jake the moment he wakes, but that would be counterproductive in his conditions.

I love what he does, though. I mean, I still have to make him pay for leaving these months, and he’ll pay double for scaring the hell out of me tonight, but ... even though I’ll never tell him, I love that no matter what, he keeps on staying.

Jake keeps on reminding me he won’t give up on me. And he has no idea how much I appreciate that. I think I love him even more only for being so stubborn about all of this. But ... I guess that, if he knew my whole story, he wouldn’t be so convinced anymore.

I mean, I might fall apart any moment, and these days I have, that’s why I didn’t want him to be there to see it. It wouldn’t have been a nice sight. There are too many things of me that he doesn’t know but should, yet I know he will leave me as soon as he hears it all. And I can’t deny that scares me.

I’ve talked to him about Matilde and ... you have no idea how relieving that was. It drained out my strengths, but it also relieved me. To be able to finally talk about her out loud, tell someone how much of a unique being she was, it felt liberating.

But he doesn’t know the rest. I just ... I just couldn’t make myself. Jake didn’t ask either, I bet well aware that I needed to take slow steps. The same as we need to do with this ... thing we’re starting.

I’m always five moves in advance, but I never expected to fall in love with Jake so deeply, and now I don’t know what to expect. With Ryan it was somewhat easier. I mean, sure, I didn’t mean to love him either, but ... he was reassuring in a way. A safer choice, I guess.

Ryan is the good guy, he’s perfect husband material, I suppose that’s why even one like me got to thinking of a lifetime beside him. He made it easy. Ryan is reliable, responsible and honest. I mean, this is the guy that spent three hours just talking with his ex and even told me. He never, never once lied to me. Not one single time. Ryan is ... the safe choice. It was somewhat easier to tag along, try and go with the flow.

Jake is ... the exact opposite. I think I know him, yet he goes and takes me off guard. He’s unpredictable, and sometimes unreliable. One day he’s here, the next he’s there. One day it’s black, the other it’s white. One day I’m awaiting the Netflix and chill night to talk myself out, relieve my heart on his shoulder, the next he’s gone somewhere nobody knows.

Yet the thing is, I’ve spent 2 months yearning for Ryan, while all the while, something deep inside me was yearning for Jake instead. It took me so long to realize, but Ryan was right. I loved him, I still do, but ... I’ll never love him like I love Jake.

Cracking a sad smile, I pulled off the doorframe when I saw him begin to stir. By the time I’d reached the bed, Jake was opening his eyes.

“A gorgeous vision to wake up to ...” His voice was raucous, but he smiled cheekily, stretching his hand to grab mine.

I granted him the touch, and even let him pull me onto the bed beside him, but I was still mad. “Flattering me won’t save you, you jerk.” I lay beside him, snuggling close into him, my head on his chest. “You scared the hell out of me, and I’m gonna make you pay for that.”

Jake half chuckled, wincing at the pain of his ribs, and entangled our fingers. “Do as you please, baby. You know I like it rough ...”

I rolled my eyes. Always that mouth of his. I lifted my head, to look him in the eyes. “I should kill you just for scaring me like that. And kill you again for leaving me for two months.”

He laughed, and I’m not mushy, but it was nice to hear him laugh for real after all this time. “So I start this relationship already in debt, huh?”

The word relationship was what killed the somewhat light mood for me. I suppose I should tell him now before it gets worse.

“I said something wrong, didn’t I?” Jake sighed, wincing consequently. “You should know I say a lot of shit, baby. Don’t bother.”

“It’s not that ...”

“Then what?”

I sighed, leaving my head back on his shoulder, eyes on our entwined fingers. “This moment right here, it’s perfect ...” I murmured, “you and I together ... it’s perfect. But ...”

“But you’re not ready.”

He reads through me, remember? He probably really knows me better than I know myself.

I think it goes back to what that Italian writer, Luigi Pirandello, said: we’re all one, no one, and one thousand. We’re nobody in the middle of this flood of humans. We’re one to ourselves. But we’re also one thousand, as one thousand are the eyes that see us on a daily basis.

If you think about it, it’s true. Your parents see you in a way, but to your best friend you’re someone else, to your relatives you’re a whole other person, and your girlfriend and boyfriend and husband and wife and grandma and employer and colleagues ... everybody that sees you, sees you in a different way.

Yet ... Jake gets incredibly close to the one person I see myself as. Then again, I guess it’s the very essence of a love like ours. When you have that someone that can understand everything without you even talking.

I took a deep breath, gathering the words to admit out loud what he’s already perceived, yet once again, he beat me to it. Jake in fact squeezed me against him, ignoring his aching bones, ignoring the fact that we should have probably called a nurse the moment he woke, to check his conditions. “You’re not ready to face a new relationship right about now, so we should wait. Am I right?”

“That doesn’t mean I’m wavering, that just means I’m-”

“I’m English mother tongue, I know what not being ready means.”

I rolled my eyes. “Don’t get mad ...”

He scoffed. “Mad? Why would I be mad?” He laughed, and I frowned. “Baby, you’re here, in my arms, you love me, and ... and for the first time I feel glad to be alive. Why would I be mad?”

I smiled, snuggling closer into him. “Is that your cheesy way of saying you don’t mind waiting? You do know that it could take months, and that that entails you not having sex throughout the whole time, right?”

He gasped, predictably. “Ouch. I thought you meant not ready emotionally ...” his eyes were wide in shock, believe me. “You seriously plan to give me blue balls for the whole length of the ... trial period?”

“Hell, yeah.”

“That’s your punishment, isn’t it? That’s your way of punishing me. Wicked woman.” He pouted, leaving his head on the bed.

I laughed. “Come on, Jake ... we haven’t even started and you already want sex? Do you even know how does a relationship work? It takes time for that.”

“Ha! Not for me. I fuck on the first date.”

I tugged at his hand because I couldn’t punch his arm like I usually would. “Gross.”

“Just the truth.”

“Mmh, well, the truth’s gonna change now, Mr. Womanizer. You’re playing by my rules.”

“You know I would do you even in this goddamn hospital bed, right? If I didn’t suffer an excruciating pain every time I breathe, I would definitely flip us, and pin you down on this wretched bed.”

“Wow ... you’re so romantic ...” I rolled my eyes, and he laughed, we both did. I guess this is us. Jumping from one topic to the other, being serious yet stupid, stupid yet serious. If this is what being in a relationship with Jake Watson feels like, then maybe I’m not ready yet, but God, is it gonna be amazing.

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