CHAPTER 62 - THE FLIMSIEST HOPE
“What about England?” I asked.
She laughed, sitting down, mug filled with tea in her hands. Ever since she got pregnant she became obsessed with tea for some reason. “England is terribly warm in July.”
“Ok, then ... Germany?”
“Why are you so obsessed with Europe?” She laughed, her beautiful, cheerful laugh, the one she has when she’s carefree. I tried to see whether she was faking it, but either she’s too much of a good pretender or I’m just ... a lovesick idiot that can’t even tell what’s real from what’s a dream.
“I’m not, am I?” I made room for her to come snuggle up to me. For some reason I felt eager to have her close. Even a few inches apart seemed miles to me.
She grinned, cozily huddling against me. “Have you noticed that, you’ve named pretty much only European countries except for one?”
TV may have been on, but we didn’t even care to look. I know I didn’t. I can’t see anything when she’s here. And I know it’s immature, but the more I gaped at her tonight, the more I felt like ... she was slipping away. As if her every word set her farther and farther, as if, even though I was cuddling her, she was in a whole different world. I felt my heart thumping faster, as if it were running against time to stop her, keep her from leaving, yet ... I couldn’t. Odd, isn’t it?
“Have I?” I smirked, placing a kiss on her temple. We were discussing our summer holidays, it should be a getaway because we get swamped in the parenting world. “I guess I like the idea of spending a whole month in Europe with you.”
“Bootlicker.” She stuck out her tongue to me, and we both laughed. God, is she beautiful when she laughs. How come she does it so rarely? I keep trying to make her laugh, yet it’s never enough. Or maybe it’s just me, I’m just never enough satisfied. Am I really making her happy? Or could I do more?
“No, I’m just a poor uncouth American that wants to learn more about the Old Continent ...” I laughed, yet it seemed so distant for a sound. “What’s wrong about that?”
Her gorgeous face molded into fake doubt. “Mmh ... and your poor uncouth American brain could first of all use some art lessons, right?”
“Well, I was gonna say history, but yeah, art sounds good.” I bit my lip to repress a grin. “And you know, there’s this particular country in Europe, where they have much of both ...”
“Yeah, you know ... it was the home of Romans, but there’s so much history there ... I’ve actually been quite interested in King Frederick II lately.”
“The 13th century King of Sicily?”
“Well, he was also King of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor ... quite an interesting persona, don’t you think? Did you know he founded one of the first universities in Europe? In-”
“Naples.” She laughed. “What a coincidence ... I grew up in a small town that’s 2 hours away from Naples.”
“Really?” I gasped. “Oh, I didn’t know that!”
“Sure you didn’t ...” she playfully slapped my shoulder, laughing.
I huddled her closer against me when the news channel broadcasted something about a roundup in a criminal circle somewhere outside Boston. It seemed familiar, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. “Well, we would be killing two birds with one stone, don’t you think?” I mentioned as I distractedly watched over 50 people being cuffed and put into police cars. That must have been quite a night. There were victims, too, though, apparently.
She pulled back, arching an eyebrow at me. “You seriously wanna meet my parents?” She hinted at her pretty much evident belly bump. ”Now?”
I shrugged, greedily taking her back into my arms. What is it with me? Why do I feel like if I let her even an inch of space, she’ll slip away from me? Why do I feel like I’m losing her bit by bit, breath by breath? “Better now than never.” I said, feeling a weird savor in my mouth at those words.
On TV they showed two ambulances, but one seemed to be carrying a body bag. Weird. I always thought I’d wind up in a predicament like that. Or I did long ago. Now sitting on the couch, cuddling the love of my life, her carrying our son ... I don’t know, I felt like I’d escaped the tight rope I’d tied myself to for so long. I could finally be happy.
“I mean, it’s-Silvia?” I was alone. Where did she go? She was here a moment ago? Where did she go?
“He’s not responding to the cures.”
“But his bones have been healing ...”
“I meant the psychiatric cures, he doesn’t respond to the medications ...”
“You shouldn’t give him any. He’s not a mental patient.”
“He’s not. Whatever you may believe, he’s not crazy. If anything, this is ... PTSD.”
“Post Traumatic Syndrome? Hardly.”
“He watched his girlfriend die in his arms, doctor, what else do you think it could be?”
“Given his past, anything. The brain surgery also-”
“Ugh, are you hearing this jerk? It’s nothing more than PTSD. And PTSD isn’t always cured with medicines. We all know what he needs.
“Don’t restart, Colin ...”
“It’s the only way!”
“Okay. Then go ahead, see if he can hear you. Tell him. Tell him it’s been over 13 months but she’s still in a coma. Tell him it was him to reduce her to a coma.”
My eyes flung open. “She’s ... she’s alive?” I croaked out, my voice hoarse for not having spoken for months.
“Jake ...” Fitz gasped. “You ...”
Slowly, I sat up, my head feeling dizzy. It was like floating on air. As if I’d been swimming in a muddy lake, so my ears and my every other sense was still too groggy for me to catch anything beyond what I really needed to know. “What you just said.” Tears welled up in my eyes once again, or maybe they just never left, I don’t know. I really don’t know anything these days. “Is ... is she alive?”
“Yes and ... no. I mean ... she’s in a coma, and-”
“Colin.” My voice broke as I rested against the pillow. “Tell me she’s alive. Please.”
“Jake, I ...”
“I’m not asking. I’m begging you.” I croaked out, tears blurring my vision more than tiredness and dizziness. “Tell me she’s alive. Or else let me die in peace.”
He inhaled deeply, closing his eyes as he nodded. “She ... is. Silvia is alive.”
I felt as if I were finally able to breathe again. As if the heavy lid that had buried me deep down for all these months had been lifted, as if light were finally seeping through after eons of darkness. Slowly, I placed my feet onto the ground. I wasn’t quite sure in which state my bones were, I haven’t used them for so long. In fact when I went to stand, my legs were barely able to hold me, so that Fitz had to grab a hold of me. “Take me to her.”
“First you need to get checked up, and-”
“Take me to her.”
He sighed, but pulled my arm over his shoulder nevertheless, to support me. I barely heard my uncle grumbling I don’t know what, while the doctor argued that I shouldn’t get out yet. Colin and I made our ever so slow way across the corridor, to the elevator, where I finally rested against the wall. I felt weak, I won’t deny it. These months have been a blur. I’m not even sure I was where I thought I was.
It was an immense struggle to get to her, but the closer I got, the faster my heart beat. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to see her like that, but I had to make sure she was alive. I’ll think about the rest later, now all I needed was to see her.
“You sure you wanna go? It’s not a nice sight ...” Colin argued, gripping my arm when I nearly collapsed.
“I saw her dead, Colin. Anything other than dead is a nice sight.”
I had to change my mind when I entered her room. She lay in the bed, covered by tubes, attached to a machine whose beeping unnerved me at its every, deadly slow, sound. She couldn’t even breathe on her own. There was nothing of her that would say she was still alive, aside from that obnoxious machine.
I collapsed against the wall, my heart sinking. Did I do that to her? Was it really me? I ... I can’t have. I never would. I ... no, I ... I refuse to believe I did. I can’t have. I would never do such a thing to her, no, I ... I did. I probably did it. I ... I didn’t even realize it, but I probably did it.
“Who are you?” A harsh voice barked, and suddenly I realized there was a man sitting at her bedside, holding her nearly lifeless hand. He looked menacing, as if he’d waited all this time to fight somebody. Somebody he probably blamed for her conditions. Somebody he’d just pinpointed.
Colin raised his hands. “Mr. Banchi, it’s alright. This is Jake, we-”
“Jake?” The man leaped to his feet, his jaw clenching, his stance getting ominous by the second as he approached me. ”That Jake? You’re that Jake?”
“He is, Mr. Banchi. We never told him about-”
“How do you feel?” Mr. Banchi spat, his eyes bloodshot, yet, evidently, brimming with anger as he raised his arm to point at the bed. “How do you feel knowing you are to blame for this?”
“Mr. Banchi, there’s really no need for this. Jake-”
“Like shit.” I cut off Colin. “Worse than shit.” I swallowed my own tears, or probably my own heart, at this point I don’t even know the difference anymore. “I feel what you couldn’t even understand, what I couldn’t even explain.”
“I told you to take care of her.” He accused, his voice hoarse. “I told you to protect her, cherish her.”
“And he did, Mr. Banchi. This is-”
“I failed.” I once more cut off Colin. “I failed her, I failed you. And I’m sorry. I deserve all the hatred you’ll throw my way, so go ahead. I’ll stay here and take it all. Hit me with all you have.”
He stared at me straight in the eye, his hazels resembling his daughter’s so much that already that gaze was a pointy knife cutting through my veins. He didn’t seem to be gathering the words, he just ... stared at me. Anger oozed off him, it was clear, but also grief and tiredness. A worn out father looking after his comatose daughter, of course he would seek someone to blame.
When he raised his arm, I thought he was going to punch me, I would very well deserve it, yet ... no. Mr. Banchi wrapped me up in a hug, clinging onto me, as if to recharge his strengths. I was baffled, confused, flabbergasted, but I slowly hugged him back. When I felt something wetting my shoulder, I realized he was crying. It was hard not to follow him, to be honest.
I tried picturing myself in his shoes, being called from overseas to be told that my daughter was in a coma, having to sit here, day by day, waiting for her to wake up. I tried to picture myself doing this. But I didn’t really have to. It was what I would have done, had they let me, hadn’t they kept me ignorant throughout all these months. I would have stuck to her, I would have done something, hadn’t they deliberately chosen to keep me in the dark.
But I’ll deal with that later. Now I ought to convey all my barely existent strengths into not crying, not for the umpteenth time within-how long has it even passed? Well, doesn’t matter. What matters is that she was there, holding onto the flimsiest hope. As long as we have one to hold onto.