Don't try to fix me, I'm not broken
“Killian?” Annabelle whispered into the darkness that hid the entry to his room, and knocked lightly on the wooden door. After a moment the door opened, and Killian appeared in front of the girl. He smiled a crooked, chipped smile when he saw her.
“Annabelle”, he replied, and made a gesture that suggested her to walk in to the room. She nodded and stepped past him.
“How are you?” She asked casually, as if to hide the fear she felt inside, the fear of death that was about to devour her from within. He closed the door and walked towards her with heavy steps.
“Don’t worry about me, Annabelle”, he said, gently, and at once, he seemed so terribly tired. She frowned. He was about to open his mouth as if to say something, but Annabelle interrupted him.
“Sit down,” she said, and tried to speak to him in a way that would make him obey. He closed his eyes and sat down on the floor, as she did the same. “Killian," she said then, “how are you, really?” When he didn’t respond, she took his hand and squeezed it hard.
“I know what happened to Mrs. Ericsson.” She chose her words wisely, but her voice was serious and she spoke without even looking at him once. “She died of tuberculosis. Extremely contagious. We suspect that one of the soldiers infected her, but we’re not sure. So I ask again”, she paused, as if to gather herself for what she was about to say. “How are you?” She continued to talk immediately, without even giving him a chance to answer her.
“I have seen the symptoms of tuberculosis; I know how the disease affects the human body.” Here she turned up her gaze, only to find that he was already looking at her with his piercing blue eyes. It was then that she noticed how empty they were. “I know that you're sick, Killian. We’ve known it for a while, so have you.” She released his hand and intertwined her own in her lap. “But not this sick. You have tuberculosis, Killian...” She had to interrupt herself, for now she felt tears rising within her, threatening to flood over. Tuberculosis had no cure.
Annabelle took a deep breath, and the room’s sick air made her cough. If Killian suffered from tuberculosis it didn’t matter anyway; she would’ve been infected long ago and the disease would already be inside her.
“I feel good, Annabelle,” Killian said then, after a moment of silence. “Please don’t worry about me.” He attempted a smile to hide the pain he felt, but Annabelle stubbornly shook her head.
“Don’t lie to me, Killian. No more lies, not now.” Then she closed her eyes, just to open them a few seconds later, her body filled with a strange calm feeling. “But it doesn’t matter,” she said, almost whispering, “because I’m going to heal you. I’m going to fix you, Killian, I’m going to fix everything.” She could hear how the boy hesitantly shook his head, but she didn’t care. “I have to, Killian; I have no other choice.” Then she rose, and was ready to go. But Killian rose too, and with trembling legs he stood in front of her.
“You always have a choice, Annabelle,” he said, and then let her walk past him, out through the door.
In the days and weeks that followed, reality was hidden behind a thick veil for both Alice and Annabelle. Without Mrs. Ericsson to watch over them, they were lost somehow. Each day more and more arrived, injured, sick; people who needed their attention and help. Days passed by without neither of them saying a word, and the silence that constantly grew in the house created loneliness. It didn’t help that Annabelle hadn’t spoken or seen Killian at all after their last meeting.
But then suddenly one day in early July, Annabelle awoke to Alice loosely patting her on her cheeks.
“Wake up”, she whispered, as she threw worried glances around the room. “Wake up, Annabelle. You have to wake up!” Annabelle took a deep breath as she sat up, still half left in the dream.
“What’s the matter with you, Alice”, she murmured as she rubbed the last of the sleep away from her eyes. Alice just shook on her head, and reached for Annabelle’s hand. Reluctantly, the girl was dragged out of bed, only to follow Alice to the part of the house where the soldier’s lay. Tired, she tried to get out of Alice’s grip, but the girl refused to let her go. Deep within Annabelle a worry started to grow, so she decided not to say anything else.
“Annabelle,” Alice whispered, and the look in her eyes filled Annabelle’s heart with sadness.
“What is it, Alice, that made you drag me here at this hour?” Annabelle bit her lip hesitantly when she saw the vague smile Alice gave her. Gently Alice patted her on the shoulder.
“Hopefully it’s nothing, Annabelle. But I can’t be truly sure.” Slowly, she pushed the door in front of them wide open, and suddenly the girls found themselves in front of their patients. The smell of rotten flesh made Annabelle hesitate, and her instincts led her back out through the door.
“There is someone you need to meet, Annabelle”, Alice said quietly, as she pulled her back, and then Annabelle realized that she was serious. With an understanding smile on her lips she nodded, and let Alice take her arm. Many of the soldiers were still asleep, and barely noticed them, as they passed by. So finally, when they reached the part of the hall where they kept the newly arrived, Alice stopped. The grip on Annabelle arm disappeared.
“The reason I brought you here today, Annabelle, is that...” Alice had to take a pause to swallow, for the words she was about to say weren’t that easy. She lowered her gaze. “I think someone you know is here. I just want you to take a look, and see if what I suspect is true.” She took a deep breath, but did not dare to raise her gaze and face Annabelle.
“And if it’s what I suspect, please Annabelle, we’ll fix it. We’ll take care of it, I promise.” She took the girl’s hand, and pressed it gently. Annabelle nodded gently, with a sad smile playing on her pale lips.
“Thank you, Alice”, she whispered, “but I can handle myself. You can leave me now, please, don’t waste more time on me, others need you more than I do.” Alice nodded, somewhat disappointed, but still her heart was filled with happiness, for she knew that Annabelle didn’t mean anything bad.
With a wry smile and a slight nod, Alice left Annabelle, and her steps echoed as she walked out of the hall. Annabelle smiled welcoming to the solitude, and swallowed deeply before she continued to walk.
The farther she went, the darker it felt, no matter how much Annabelle told herself that it was no more than an illusion. As she walked she raised her hand, and let it drag along the wall. Then she stopped suddenly, simply because she couldn’t walk any farther.
On the ground was a rigid metal bed, and on it lay a man. The light on the floor beside the bed threw a dim glow around the man, though bright enough for Annabelle to discern his features. She had to take a deep breath to keep herself from screaming.
She clearly saw who the soldier was, even though his aged face was full of infected wounds and dark scars. The eyelids were closed; the friendly, light brown eyes hidden in the darkness. The man’s gray uniform was broken and ripped, and Annabelle couldn’t stop the tears that slowly rose within her. His bright hair was full of dirt and disease, but the girl stroked it anyway, at the same time as she whispered his name.
“Father”, she said, “don’t leave me, please.” No answer, not even a slightest insinuation of one, made Annabelle bite her lip hard, and she then placed her head softly on her father’s familiar chest. Her gaze was empty; far away, just like her soul, and she didn’t even notice the silent tears that left her eyes one by one as time passed by.
“Do not leave me alone with the darkness, father”, she whispered quietly.