Chapter 4: Reversion or Here We Go Again
I honestly thought that I would see this sight just once before my death. I might be lucky enough to live up to the ripe age of Alzheimer’s then and won’t even remember that I spent most of my teen and young-adult life visiting hospitals. I would be so old that ferns and moss would have grown out of my ears and anus.
And yet fate has a twisted sense of humour, because here I was again, a nervous wreck with my left foot bouncing up and down as I was trying to sit in place. Time moved with a pace of a sloth in slow-motion. In short, the arms on the clock didn’t seem to move at all.
I waited for an E.R. doctor to give me Jeremy’s prognosis while trying not to pace on the outer side of the plastic drapes that hid the sleeping boy from the view of the others in the emergency room. The buzzing in my pocket could be attributed to Greta; she was blowing up my phone with texts wanting, nay demanding, to know if I had further information about Jeremy.
When I found out to which hospital he was to be taken, the E.R. already gave me a call to inform me of where my brother was. I didn’t lock the apartment, hell, I don’t even remember closing the front door or saying anything to Hyeon, I just took off. I bolted as if I had to have the fireworks exploding under my ass. Upon my arrival, a kind nurse showed me to the bed where Jeremy lay and filled me in on the condition; he was currently in.
“At first, he was unconscious, but when he woke up, he was extremely sick and vomited. We needed to give him an I.V. That helped with nausea and to help him rest. There is also alopecia areata or in English; loss of hair on a certain area of the scalp.” The nurse delivered the information very unbiased while the colour slowly drained from my face. The longer she listed the symptoms, the more ashen-faced I had become. I heard them recited once before.
How didn’t I notice the signs? They were right there!
Jeremy’s refusal to go to the hairdresser was because the long hair hid the spots of missing hair. The weightloss, constant excuses of him being tired were all connected. They were part of the same ailment. It was back, I was sure of it. All I needed was a doctor to confirm it was 100% true.
The facts were right there, staring at me; however, I was bewildered. Unable to comprehend how did it happen.
Doesn’t the vampire blood heal? How did the Leukemia return then?
Whipping the icy clammy palms on my jeans, I nervously looked at hospital personnel to see if any of them that was in a long white coat was headed towards me with the information of doom.
How was I ever going to tell Jeremy? He just found himself friends, and if there were a need for rushed hospitalisation, it would dampen Jeremy’s spirit immensely. It may be lowered to the point that he wouldn’t want to recover. I covered my face with a palm trying to contain the tears. How scared he must have been when the hair started to fall out. Knowing him, Jeremy just wanted to ignore the problem so that he could prolong the happiness. It might just disappear if I close my eyes and wish for long enough, those were Jeremy’s thoughts, no doubt about it.
The rush of feelings of being inapt sibling were overcoming me. If only I hadn’t been so preoccupied with myself and to pay more attention to Jeremy, I could do something. After all, everything I had done was for Jeremy. My decisions were always influenced in such a way that was most beneficiary to him.
I peeked around the plastic curtain to check on the boy that was everything to me. Jeremy was still sleeping, his chest rising slowly while the I.V. in his arm dripped the medicinal drops slowly into his vein. The sense of Déjà vu was pressing heavily on my heart. I was feeling lost, unable to determine what was my next step when the ground underneath seemed as sturdy as the surface of a balloon.
Here we go again.
“Are you the guardian of this boy?”
A tired voice startled me, and I dropped the curtain swiftly as if I did something forbidden. It swayed back onto its’ former place, covering the boy resting behind it.
I turned my eyes upwards to find a worn-out, middle-aged looking woman in scrubs and white doctors’ robe. The purple circles under her eyes was an indication enough of the shift she had today. Tapping impatiently with her pen on the patients’ chart, she was waiting for me to start talking. I felt her irritation which caused me more discomfort than ease, which she was supposed to give me at this time.
“Uh-” My voice cracked, and I had to take a second to clear it. “Yes, I am Jeremys’ guardian. What’s wrong with him?”
The tapping stopped, and she opened Jeremy’s chart. Without looking at me, she began to talk. It seemed like the doctor was talking more to the papers in front of her than me. “My name’s doctor Sullivan. I need to ask a few questions first. There seems to be no record of Jeremy Covell anywhere. No medical records, nothing.” She glanced at me from under her lashes, as if I was someone untrustworthy.
I answered calmly since I already had practice with Jeremy’s school. I previously uttered this line which most people accepted without further probing. “We needed to change our names due to unfortunate circumstances. His full name is Jeremy Wright O’Cowell. He-” I wetted my lips as my mouth felt unusually dry. “Jeremy was diagnosed with Leukemia and was not too long ago found to be cured.”
The doctor lifted her brows high on her forehead. They almost disappeared into her hairline. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but the one that discharged him was very unprofessional. His blood work shows that there are in a higher count of cancer cells. The boy seems to be in recurrence.” There was no compassion in her voice; sounded robotic as if it was computerised.
A shiver travelled down my spine, and I felt cold sweat on my face. “What comes next?”
“I have to check his medical records first before I give you my professional opinion. If the worst is confirmed, I’ll refer you to the pediatric haematologist.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” My whisper was so low and feeble that I doubt she caught it as she already drifted away to another patient.
The walls started to close in on me, and a lump in my throat formed. It swelled to the point that I couldn’t swallow or take a breath. I stared onto the floor, not seeing it, not registration anything. There were no pictures in my mind, no thought, just emptiness as static-like buzzing were deafening the sounds of people rushing around me. The sound grew louder until nothing, but it remained in my ears. I was in my toxic bubble where nothingness was more harmful to my soul than the sounds of a sick people and quick cluttering of the fast-paced emergency clinic. Alone, stuck in my mind which currently faced foul abyss.
“Miss? Are you alright?” A warm hand touched my shoulder, and I was roused from my darken state. A kind face appeared in my vision. It belonged to a nurse that assessed me with a quick flick of her eyes. They clinically, professionally scanned my body, looking for an ailment.
My gaze must have been as blank as I felt since concern contorted her features. “I’m fine, just received bad news, that’s all.” I waved my hand and struggled to put the corners of my lips into a smile.
The miserable attempt to reassure her absolutely failed. “Why don’t you get a cup of coffee and a nice candy bar from the vending machine?” She suggested, and as I looked panicked at the curtain, a hand on my shoulder gave a slight squeeze. “Don’t you worry. If he wakes up, I will tell him you have stepped out for a minute and will be back soon.”
I hadn’t had time to protest; suddenly I was relieved of my jumper and somehow found myself in the hallway where the buzzing of the multiple machines trying to keep the stale sandwiches and candy bars fresh was making it hard to think.
That nurse must be a wizard in disguise.
I felt lost as I gazed onto the glass that separated the multiple choices of chocolate treats from the outside world. A vibration in my back pocket made me jump, and I quickly remembered that I had to inform Jeremy’s school of the further absence of their pupil.
There were at least five messages from Greta; however, I ignored them and moved into a more private and secluded area of the hallway. I didn’t think- my instincts kicked in. I needed someone but not just anyone to talk to.
Pressing the phone to my ear, I counted each and every sound it made. Then instead of Will’s voice, I heard a generated recorded message of a voicemail. After a beep, I let the tears flow.
“Will? It’s me. I’m fine. But not Jeremy, it has happened again, his illness came back. Please call me back.” Before I ended the call to my best friend, a small ‘Please’ escaped me.
Then I sat on the floor, letting the natural process of grieving, fear and insecurity wash over me in a shape of tears.
Jeremy was kept in the hospital overnight, and I stayed beside him on a crappy chair that could be turned into a bed. I needed to pay for the additional costs of my stay, and I whipped out a credit card which I haven’t used even once since my first payment of being a Donor.
Before the sun came up, I sneaked out of the room, trying not to wake Jeremy, he finally managed to fall back to sleep after he exhausted himself from crying.
It was time to beg the most insufferable person for a favour. If it were for my sake, I would rather eat my tongue and die; however, it was not for me. Several blocks away from the hospital, I stepped into a secluded alley and waited. The smell of garbage and human piss was putrid.
It took Hyeon less than a minute to come into view. Lips were pressed into a tight line as if someone has drawn them on his face with a ruler. “How many times do I have to tell you not to roam around in the middle of the night?” There was no hello just a bark of command as Hyeon’s dark eyes glowered into mine.
I looked onto him calmly. “This will be the last time.”
“I sincerely doubt it.” He mumbled not caring if I heard him or not. Hyeon kicked a can lightly, and it bounced off the wall, making a loud noise that made me flinch.
It was now or never.
Taking a significant intake of air, I quickly recited a line I had practised for hours while watching over Jeremy. “I know I give you no reason to ask this of you-”
“No.” Hyeon flatly interrupted me before I could even finish my request.
Gawking at him in disbelief, I sputtered. “I haven’t even asked it yet.”
“I know what you want, and the answer is no.” Hyeon stood calmly before me, his palms in the pockets of his jeans. No one would know by observing us that I was asking for his blood and not to borrow five dollars of him.
It took me a minute to process his words; then I felt a surge of panic and anger. “How can you know-”
A big sigh escaped him as if he was in a hurry, and I was wasting his precious time. “You were going to ask for my blood to heal your sick brother.”
“How did you-”
“Humans are predictable.” Grumbling in frustration, Hyeon leaned on the wall; however, never taking his cold gaze off mine. The dark orbs dissected my every move.
We stood there, locked in each others eyes in complete quiet. The bustling city was starting to awaken, even though the sun hadn’t risen yet. The traffic was getting denser by the minute and few impatient drivers were beginning to press on the horn as if they were Moose in mating season.
All I could manage was a whisper. A silent plea that came from my voicebox was faint and positively desperate.“Do you want me to beg? Because I will do it. I will even go on my knees and kiss your feet if need be.”
Hyeon broke our gaze and pinched the bridge of his nose, massaging it. “Groveling won’t change anything.”
“Were you always this cold?”
He didn’t meet my steadfast gaze. Hyeon gazed onto something in the darkness my human eyes couldn't see. “I honestly don’t remember.”
I stomped with my foot because my body was all I was currently in control off. Even my emotions were turning against me. “Then, why? Why won’t you even consider it.”
“Because it won’t work.” The Rogue in front of me was stern and unyielding.
I pressed on; I cannot afford to take a no for an answer. A life was depending on it. Depending on me. “Vampire blood heals. You can’t fool me. I have seen it. I have been healed by it.” I flung my hair over my shoulder to show him my completely smooth skin on the right side of my neck. There should be weird looking punctures all over my body. I had been supplying blood to a vampire for a little more than half a year. Although, thanks to the healing proprieties their supernatural bodily red fluid possessed, I was fortunate that the bite marks were non-existent.
Hyeon shook his head slowly, calmly trying to persuade me that I was wrong. “Mine won’t.” His dark eyes moved away from mine as if he was ashamed of the words. “At least not the way you want it too.”
Moving on an impulse, I took his hand in mine, squeezing it slightly, hoping that skin to skin contact would make my plea more honest. “Just try, please.”
Our skins were utterly different temperatures. While mine was clammy and warm, his was like an icicle. I felt him recoil at my touch as if it was something very painful to him.
“I can’t.” He said softly. Then the vulnerability he let seep throughout the wall had vanished in a blink of an eye. “Because I already know it won’t do anything for your brother.” Hyeon removed his palm from mine while his visage remained stoic.
I was wholly perplexed while standing frozen. “How can you say that without even-”
“My blood, the blood of a Rogue is not strong enough.” Hyeon interrupted me without even letting me finish and started to pace back and forth like a lion in an overly small cage.
“Then surely you know a Created that could help?” The desperation was starting to creep into my voice, making me slowly lose my hope.
He gave a bark of unamused laugh and when noticing I was dead serious he gawked. For the first time, Hyeon looked at me uncertainly and stopped in his tracks. “Are you meaning to tell me that you don’t know?” He spoke slowly as if he was trying to confirm something.
“I don’t know what?” The calmness was leaving me, and I started to become irritated by his condescending demeanour.
Squinting at me with his fox eyes, Hyeon looked me up and down. “No vampire blood can heal a genetic mutation or something a body is constantly reproducing to destroy itself. Only a Stainless can keep the process in remission. But once you stop supplying the blood, the health problem reoccurs as soon as it is out of the system.”
Shaking my head at him in disbelief, I needed to reconfirm if I heard what Hyeon was saying right the first time. “Are you telling me that Jeremy can only survive if there is a willing Stainless that will give him blood?”
“Yes,” Hyeon answered without taking a beat.
That single word was more destructive than a wrecking ball. It was as if a building collapsed on me and I could do nothing but watch the bricks fall and damage me. I looked up at the sky, seeing the dawn colouring it dramatically red; looking like blood. I snickered in dry humourless way. Oh, the irony. Here I was trying to escape the supernatural vampires and it seemed that I was in need of them. And not just anyone. I was in need of him. The irony was to much not to laugh at it.
Hyeon looked at me as if I finally lost the final marble of sanity I was guarding.
It’s not over until it’s over. I thought and still snickering at the insanity I made my way.
“Where are you going?” Hyeon grabbed my elbow as I darted past him like a bullet.
I shook his grip of me and continued down the alley without looking back. “I need to go back; I need to get back to Camaraderie and-”
“Wait a minute!” Darting in front of me and blocking my every attempt to get passed him, Hyeon lifted his palms.
“If you are trying to stop me-” The warning I sounded deep from my throat would scare many people.
But the vampire who could turn me over without breaking a sweat was not taking the warning as seriously. Hyeon grabbed my shoulders and pushed me back into an alley. “Indeed, I am. Because if you go back, you are fucking dead.”
That got me to stop struggling for a second. “What?”
Hyeon cursed in his mother tongue before starting to speak English again. “Damn it, how could you be a Donor and not know half of the rules? Didn’t that Varshawsky royal runt tell you anything?”
“Tell me what?”
Hyeon, for the first time, was lost for words. It was like up till now he never even considered that there might be a possibility of my lack of knowledge. “You really don’t know.” His voice sounded small, lost. “My God. You really don’t know a thing.” Repeating over and over again as if not entirely understanding how this could be possible.
Perhaps it was all the pent-up energy or the accumulation of many events that finally done it for me and my nerves just snapped without warning.
“WHAT. DON’T. I. KNOW?” I yelled so loudly that an alleyway tabby cat fell from a dustbin and dashed away from the danger it felt my voice possessed.
Hyeon felt that my mental health was a few seconds away from irreversible damage. Without further hesitation, he explained. “Any Donor that deserts the institution is as good as dead. That is a very wildly spread rumour which most undoubtedly is very close to the truth. Why do you think Gwilym wanted me to watch out for you? Any Rogue or Created that wished to get in Stainless good graces would deliver you on a silver platter to the Suzerian Varshwasky.”
A tremor went over my whole body, and I felt frozen on the inside. My arms went instinctively around my torso, to provide some warmth. The last thing I wanted was to be at the mercy of Andrey Varshawsky. The merciless prick of a father that cared only for his reputation and the power he could accumulate for himself. That man was evil. Andrey made his own son watch the death of a mother then leaving the carcass outside his window for days. I was only once brave enough to speak out of turn in front of him, and the leader of Varshawsky vampiric line locked me in a room full of taxidermied hunting trophies. There was also a box containing an Oracle woman mummy (that coincidently was not as dead as I would like) and an offensive possession of fetuses in jars. It comes to no surprise that I had nightmares for weeks.
I would rather rot in hell than fall into the hands of that vampiric turd.
“Are- are you meaning to tell me-” I was stuttering, feeling very cold despite the warm morning breeze that surrounded us.
Hyeon knew what I was trying to ask. “The only way a Donor can leave his or her position is if the Stainless breaks the contract or discharges you honourably.”
Oh no. I was neither discharged with honours nor sacked, which means I am fucked. Super-trouper-duper fucked.
As if to make the picture crystal clear Hyeon decided to elaborate even further while squeezing my shoulders to the point it hurt. He lowered his head, so my eyes were on the same level as his. “If you go back not just your brother, but you will be dead before a month is out.”
“But-” I felt a bit faint and was in danger of getting violently ill right on top of Hyeon’s shoes. “Why didn’t any of my friends told me? Surely they must have known when they helped me.” I hoped beyond hope that perhaps Hyeon was such a cloistered loner that he wouldn’t have known that the world was no longer operating under the ancient Babilionial Hamurabi eye-for-an-eye like code.
After a silent contemplation, Hyeon let me go of one of my shoulders and lifted two fingers in the air. The other palm stayed firmly put, perhaps he was not sure that if he let me go, I wouldn’t do something incredibly dumb.
“There are only two options. One that they didn’t know this rule.” He paused and looked very sceptical as if the option number one was only presented to me as a theory. Hyeon stared at me, waiting for something to imprint on my mind.
The silence dragged on for a while; however, it didn’t take me long to know what his quiet implied.
“Or they knew and were setting me up.” I presented the option two out loud myself.
Hyeon looked more grimly upon me that a director of a Funeral home. “That might also be a very likely possibility.”
I swiped his palm off my shoulders and crossed my arms. “No. Not Will.” In my tone, there was a defiant tone that dared the vampire to try and contradict me.
“You sure?” His beautiful fox eyes narrowed.
“Without a doubt.” I stood my ground, knowing that my friends wouldn’t wish me harm.
Looking me up and down, Hyeon sighed like someone put a heavy object on his shoulders to carry. “Then you are even a bigger fool than I thought you were.”
Another one with trust issues. How do I find them?
I bit back an obscene remark and decided to overhear him. “Look I just know he wouldn’t. Will would rather cut his penis off than betray me. And that is saying something; he is rather proud of it.”
“A naïve fool; that is even worse,” Hyeon grunted, and once again, he pinched the bridge of his nose. It seemed that every time the annoyance was getting the better of him, he needed to touch that point on his nose. It was as if he got a sinus infection every single time someone irritated him too much.
“Will you grunt and insult me, or will you help me save my brother?” My sarcasm was palpable at this point.
I don’t know why, but Hyeon and I somehow couldn’t get along without insulting each other at least twice per minute.
“I think it would be easier for you just to accept that there is no saving him.”
“Never.” Was it so hard for him to understand that I will give up hope only when Jeremy or I would be dead?
“Obstinate, stubborn, naïve-” Hyeon continue to list adjectives until he ran out of them in English. Then he switched to Korean after that it sounded like he changed to Japanese.
“Finished? It's not like I have all day to listen to your complaints. I literary just found out that I have a target on my back and very little time to save my brother.”
He grunted like a bear then seeing that he had no choice, Hyeon reluctantly agreed. “I will see what I can do. For now, I must speak to Gwilym.”
“Then call him, I can wait.” Something in his voice made me think that Hyeon forgot the convenient telephone technology.
Irritated that I couldn’t read his mind, Hyeon spat back at me. “He is somewhere without reception.”
It was my time to curse. After a colourful assortment of obscene words, I finally was able to speak in sentences. “The hell is he? On Antarctica? Did he decide to live with Penguins?”
I rolled my eyes and finished what the Rouge consistently said when I asked for too much information. “None of my business, I know.” After a minute of staring at him and Hyeon not deigning to give any useful data I prodded. “So what’s the plan?”
He started to pace as if the movement helped his thinking better. “Just resume your normal life. I assume you didn’t call anyone?” When I didn’t answer him, Hyeon squeezed his eyes shut. “My God, you did.”
“It’s a burner phone.” My defence was a very feeble one.
“Just tell me you didn’t give a location.” He was talking through his clenched jaw while the nerve above his brow was twitching. “Right now, you are giving me so much stress that my dead heart is in danger to start beating again.”
Sighing in resentment was my only way of telling him I didn’t appreciate his sarcasm. “I didn’t.”
“That is the smartest thing you have done in your life.”
“No need to be rude.” I was seriously considering throwing something sharp at him. Ali did teach me how to throw a perfect bullseye. I might be rusty, but Hyeon would make a good practice target.
“This is me being nice,” Hyeon grumbled as if I offended him.
If this is him being polite, I can’t imagine how he is as insulting.
I ignored his muttering and reassured his evident anxiety. “I will be most of the time in the hospital anyway, so no need to worry about me strolling around at night.”
“Grab the stuff you need from your apartment and get to my place.” He tossed me a key and a little paper that had an address on it. Before Hyeon disappeared around the corner, he looked me dead in the eyes and quietly threatened. “And for Satans’ holy arse-hole don’t bring that cat in there if you know what’s good for you.”
The place where Hyeon lived was a small Feng-Shui styled apartment without any additional clutter to show me who the characteristics of a person. Even the air felt like it came from a Nepals’ mountains and not from the dirty city outside. I didn’t believe this was his flat at all, Hyeon probably just rented it out knowing his careful and on the border of being a paranoid personality. As I told him before he went God-knows-where I wasn’t even there for most of the time. I became an almost full-time resident at the hospital where Jeremy was now admitted.
Jeremy was not in good mental shape; he hadn’t uttered a word since he was brought here. The only time his mood brightened was when Billy and the boys visited after school. However, most days, Jeremy just stared into nothingness.
I felt helpless. It was not a good feeling to have. Greta dragged me out of the hospital every afternoon, so the boys had time for their selves and I a bit of a break.
“You don’t look so good, Ella,” Greta observed. She was a typical stay at home mom that had a husband who made big bucks in sales. Being always in tip-top shape, with her French tip nails and salon blown-out hair, Greta seemed unapproachable. But the more I got to know her, the more she reminded me of my mother’s friend Monique, whom I haven’t heard from since that fateful night.
You don’t know the half of it, Greta.
It was not easy to react to the name I now used instead of my real given name. Perhaps I was a bit sentimental, but Ella or Elyse was the name of Will’s sister.
“I feel like shit. But we will get through. We already did once.” I offered a small smile. It might seem to the outside world that I was optimistic; however, I was grim. It was already more than a week since Hyeon went in search of Gwilym and there was still not a whisper of news.
Greta tapped my palm with motherly warmth. “I wanted to thank you.”
Her words caught me by surprise. “What for? I think it was I who needed to give you my thanks?”
“If it weren’t for you and Jeremy my Billy would still be lonely. Now he has three good friends, and I can’t say how happy that makes me.” Her eyes glimmered with tears, and she dabbed the corners with a cotton tissue.
“Oh, Greta, no need. Jeremy was as lonely as Billy until they found each other in Disneyland.”
“It is fascinating that just one quick decision made them find each other, isn’t it?”
Because of that decision, I was neck-deep in horse manure.
We talked about trivial stuff to get my mind decluttered of worry and rather too soon for my taste she needed to dash taking the boys with her.
The hospital room was eerily quiet when the hubbub of boys subsided. Jeremy was back to his old fungi like state. It broke my heart seeing him like this.
“Jeremy, I am going to swing by apartment, do you want anything?”
He didn’t reply, just stared at the trees outside.
“An iPad maybe?” I tried to get a reaction, yet still nothing. It was as if I wasn't even there.
As I was closing the door, I saw Jeremy angrily hurl a pillow at the window.
The worst thing for me was that I could do nothing until Hyeon came back. I felt useless as I walked down the street, which was unbelievably hot under the scorching sun. Lost in my head, I hadn’t realised I was standing in front of our old apartment complex.
“Damn it,” I muttered and turned around.
A phone in my pocket vibrated, and I fished it out. The caller ID made me deliriously happy as well as mad as I answered. “It took you a week for you to call me back? Seriously, Will?” My heart was beating loudly in my chest, and I waited to hear the familiar voice of my best friend. But there was nothing, just static silence on the other end. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
The line beeped on the other end and the call was dropped.
What fresh hell is this?
“What do you want me to say? Long time no see?”
It took me a second to realise that the sound wasn’t coming through the phone; however, when I did, I froze.
It was a deep and melodic voice, one that I would recognize after a hundred years. Tingles erupted all over me as if my body, my essence was up till now muted not able to feel as much as they wanted. Yet Dread filled my mind. There were so many things I imagined myself to say and do when I would see him again. So many punches I wanted to give, so many words I wanted to shout. Then I could belatedly get released from the limbo I was under. From his spell I was under.
And yet there was nothing—just petrification on this particular sidewalk spot, a closed throat and battling emotions.
I slowly turned. Half hoping he was a mirage and half praying that perhaps, perhaps this time he was real.
Yellowish-purple eyes, that were before the centre of my being, bored into mine. “Hello, Darling.”