It felt like running on for years. Every step took an eternity. Every moment lasted forever. It seemed to him he did neither move, nor come any closer to his destination. His own steps were echoing from the walls, sounding like thunder coming from up above in his ears. There was no one around. He heard Roger say something to him, but didn't understand a word. Time stood still just that moment. All he could do was keep on running. Running along the gray corridors with only one thought rushing through his head: "Please, no!"
Leo woke up abruptly that morning. He'd been sleeping very little and dreaming even worse. At first, he couldn't remember where he was. He looked around and felt more tired than ever before. Only when he noticed the weird pink pillows all around him, he remembered the last day. He felt thankful to Roger and Carmen for letting him stay in their house and somehow even more thankful for finding himself alone in the room. He had not the slightest idea of how late it was, nor did he care. He tried to get his head steady and waited for his eyes to get used to the light room. Leo blinked once and focused the windows. The daylight seemed to brighten the room even more.
Slowly, Leo climbed out of his alternative bed, rubbing his head. He shuffled to the window sleepily, just to cover his eyes moments later. It was only white what hit his eyes. "Snow?", he thought. The city was covered in thick white snow. Leo stared at it for a while and suddenly felt extremely warm and cozy just for being inside.
He pressed his head to the window pane. "It's still so strange waking up in this house," he thought. He used to spend his life in the office ever since Ulla left. He was very fortunate to have Max on his side for that matter. He never asked any stupid questions. When Leo asked him about letting him stay, all he did was emptying a room for him. He never asked. Leo used to live with him for over a year now. And Max was always there. Leo believed he didn't even had somewhere else to go. "I never asked him about that," he thought. Thus did he realize he was thinking about him again.
"Maybe Roger was right," he closed his eyes and smiled. "It was an overreaction on both sides. Maybe, I should just go and talk to him again." After all, every fight ended somehow; someday. And usually Max would never mention it again, as he always did. After all, he was the only person never to let Leo down. Leo had to smile thinking about it.
Softly he rubbed his neck, while watching the people outside making their way through their icy environment. "I should give it a try. Nothing lasts forever. And it'd be highly stupid to throw everything we've been through away, just because we lost our tempers in argument", he thought.
He took a deep breath and opened his eyes again. Yes. He knew that was the right thing to do. He felt more determined than ever before. What good was this hiding anyway. Sooner or later he had to see him again. And he didn't want to stay away.
Leo moved over to catch his clothes and got dressed carefully. He run through all the things he wanted to say in his mind. Everything that happened didn't count.
Then he stopped for a moment, looking at his right hand again. The pictures of him raising his hand against his partner came back to him. "I shouldn't have done that," he ruefully said more to himself. Max had been absolutely right about what he'd been saying. Ulla was a fault. She used him; at first to get to Rio, then to carry her career forward. And even though Leo was certain, if it had been Max, he would have run off to Rio with her without even wasting another thought of Leo; he knew his point of view had changed. Max did try to warn him a hundred times over. When Ulla started flirting with this dancer, Max knew she was cheating on him sooner or later. He simply must have known.
Leo remembered that one day, he tried to talk to him. At that time he didn't understand what he wanted to say. Usually, Max was very clear when it came to speaking about something so obvious. But somehow, he chose to hide it underneath a rag of suggestions and questions.
"I guess, he wanted to protect me somehow", Leo thought again.
He went to the door and stopped again. With one hand at the doorknob he turned to look at the white splendor once more. "I will set this right."
Leo went down the huge stairs which combined several floors. "Townhouse is the right word for this," he thought. Passing quite a few huge paintings of flowers, fuzzy dogs and close-ups on naked human backs, he noticed it was unusually quiet in here. Roger and Carmen lived with so many other crazy people – their "production team", as they put it- , silence was something you rarely found underneath this ceiling.
Leo reached the end of the stairs quickly. Luckily, he had been in here a lot of times before with Max, so he couldn't get lost anymore. Too many doors were piled along the hallway, like walls. But he knew which one to take.
Seconds later he entered the DeBris-kitchen, just to find every single person living in this household standing in a circle and turning their heads on him. An awkward moment like this always gave him a chill running down his spine. Normally, they would speak all at once, but now no one said a word. Leo felt their eyes on him. Then, Carmen arose behind the others, coming closer.
"Leo...," he began.
"Listen," Leo interrupted him, closing the door. "I've been thinking about what you said yesterday. And I think you were right." He stepped closer, searching for Roger's eyes.
"I guess it was an overreaction, indeed. I think I should go now."
"Where do you wanna go?" Roger asked and now Leo noticed, where he was. He was sitting behind all the others on a kitchen-chair; his arms folded, his head bowed and his eyes closed. He spoke calmly, yet meaningful somehow.
"I'll go back to the office. I think I should make it clear I didn't want this to happen and apologize," Leo chose to ignore their funny behavior, for he'd witnessed odd situations with them more than once. "You were right. I'm sure Max will have calmed himself by now. If I go over alone, I'm sure I'll be able to talk to him normally."
"Leo...," Roger began and finally their eyes met. "I think you should sit down..."
There was a seriousness in his voice, Leo had never heard before. Why should he sit down? There was no need to do that. He didn't want to waste any more time. So,he shook his head.
"No, I think we can talk another time. I really need to do this now," he replied and turned to move outside the kitchen again.
"Leo, please...Sit down," Carmen jumped after him, carrying a compassionate look along.
Leo didn't understand. Why couldn't this wait. Roger and Carmen had never been the type to keep someone with them longer than necessary. And the sad faces of all the others around, including their continuous silence didn't help the situation much.
"Listen, I really appreciate, what you did for me," Leo said a little uncertain. "But, don't you see?... I must go now, as long as I keep a stiff upper lip."
"SIT DOWN!" Roger's voice was much louder now. Leo flinched that second, but although it sounded harsh, Roger still didn't look angry, but desperate somehow. Now, Leo really started wondering what was going on here. Slowly he walked over to the kitchen-table, grabbed one of the chairs and sat down.
"What's going on here?" he asked carefully. Something was definitely in the air. At first he thought his feelings just played tricks on him, but now he was convinced there was something going absolutely wrong.
Roger turned his head towards the window, looking even more desperate. He didn't say a word. Everyone else turned their looks away from Leo, staring at the ground or into space. Leo looked from one to the next. No one seemed eager to tell him, until Carmen put both his hands on Leo's shoulders. He looked him straight in the eyes, which made Leo feel even more uncomfortable.
"Something happened...," he said. "And we think you should know..."
"No, we don't," Roger said silently not daring to look in his direction. "But you would find out anyway..."
"What is it then?" Leo asked nervously. "You're scaring me a bit right now."
Carmen sighed. "Leo...," he began. "When you go now, you know...back to the office...you won't find Max there."
Leo looked at him questioning.
"There's been an accident..."
"No...," Leo caught the words only scattered. He felt his heart pounding against his chest "What … what kind of accident?" He was getting cold all of a sudden.
From the corner of his eyes he saw Roger turning to him as well, sighing.
"He was hit by a car..."
Leo's heart sank. He didn't seem to breath anymore. They must be kidding. Surely, he misunderstood them right now. This just couldn't be. No. It was too bizarre. The pure image of him sitting in this kitchen, with Roger and Carmen telling him something like that, made him believe he was still sleeping. This must be a bad dream. Or a joke...a bad one for sure.
Leo tried to smile. "Good one," he said and tried to laugh, but he felt his eyes growing wider in shock. No, they wouldn't joke about something like that. But, this couldn't be... His face grew pale and the smile was wiped away.
He lost the ground underneath his feet.
Nothing. They didn't tell them anything. Leo, Roger and Carmen sat in the waiting area of that damn hospital for what seemed like hours. No one dared to say anything. Leo sat bend forward, holding his head in his hands. He heard the annoying ticking of a nearby clock. He was angry. Angry with Roger for not telling him immediately what had happened; angry with those doctors, who refused to let him see Max and most of all he was angry with himself. Why hadn't he been there, when this happened? Maybe it never happened at all, if he himself hadn't been going.
But Max wanted him to leave... He didn't even know if this had anything to do with their fight. Yet, he blamed himself for this.
The more he thought about it, his body started to shake. He felt tears in his eyes and he felt cold all the time. But what was that? There was a hand on his back...
Leo opened his eyes a bit to look into Carmen's face.
"Don't blame yourself," he said in a nigh whisper. "It wasn't your fault. It's nobody's. No one could see that happen..."
He knew Carmen was trying to help, but it didn't blow away the self accusment. Roger hadn't been saying anything ever since they sat in there. Whatever he was trying to tell him, when he rushed out of the apartment and run through this gray vault in desperation, Leo didn't know. He didn't ask either. It was unimportant.
"Mr. Bloom?" he heard an unknown voice coming from behind him.
Leo lifted his head. "Yes?"
A doctor stood now in front of him, carrying around something that looked like a patient file, looking serious. He seemed to notice the frightened look in Leo's face and the eyes of the two other men with him, which seemed to freeze on him.
"He's alive," he said.
What a relief. At least one good news on this dark day.
"But he's got some wounds, of course," the doctor continued. "His right arm and two rips are broken, he's got some cuttings and bruises on his face and head and all in all he looks like someone who has been hit by a car..." He smirked a bit, but lost it again seconds later. This was meant to brighten the party a bit, but it had no effect at all.
"Can I see him?" Leo asked shyly.
The doctor nodded. "You can," he turned to Roger and Carmen. "As for your companions... It's okay as long as you say so. I cannot let people who don't belong in the family go inside..."
"I'm not exactly part of his family either," Leo said as if out of his mind.
Again, the doctor nodded. "Yes, but according to his living will...," he pulled out a piece of paper from the file he was carrying. "You are his representative..."
Leo was stunned. "I am?"
"Yes... You didn't know?"
He actually never knew Max had planned on putting Leo in his living will, nor did he know he even had one. He felt enormously grateful and could tell his eyes were getting wet again. Then, he nodded.
"I want them to come along," Leo said, pointing at Roger and Carmen.
They were sent inside a small room, with a lot of machines Leo had never seen before in his life.
Max lay in the middle of that room.
"He wasn't downplaying it," Leo thought. He looked horrible. But it didn't matter. He was alive and Leo couldn't recall a moment in all the years he knew him now, in which he felt more happy to see him. He stepped closer and sat down at the edge of the bed.
"Oh, Max..," he whispered.
To his surprise Max turned his head slightly and opened his eyes.
Leo sat there with wide eyes.
"You are awake?" he asked and moved a little closer. He stretched out his hand and touched his face the way Max had done so many times before with him. "Listen, I am so sorry for what had happened. I should never have said anything like that... I ..." He was fishing for words and swallowed hard. He felt tears running down his cheeks.
"I am so happy, you're alive," Leo said. "I heard too late. And I thought...I thought I'll never get the chance to tell you how sorry I am..."
To his surprise Max didn't show the slightest change in his face in any way. He just kept on staring into Leo's face; completely expressionless and almost as though a stranger was sitting in front of him.
"You're still mad at me?" Leo dared to ask a little insecure.
Max opened his mouth and answered in a hoarse voice:
"...Who are you?"
~to be continued~