Soundtrack To My Youth (book 1)

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Even When I'm Sleeping

Sam 2020

“Any change?” I asked Bridget when I entered the room, handing her a strong black coffee knowing she’d need it desperately, Bridget had been by Veronica’s side since she had come out of surgery, she barely slept and when she did it was only for a few mere hours. It had been four horrendous days since Veronica’s car accident, she had been hit by some wanker who ran a stop sign, her car skidded across the road and hit the telegraph pole with such force that she was thrown from her seat, her head colliding with the passenger side door causing a brain bleed. She was rushed into emergency surgery where the doctors removed part of her skull in case her brain swelled and she was placed into a medical induced coma to allow her injuries to heal.

“They said her vitals are up, which apparently is good” Bridget tells me, looking at me with those sunken, desperate eyes, she’d been hanging out for good news for days now so she’d take any sliver she could hold on to.

“And how are you Bridge? Did you sleep at all last night?” I question her, already knowing the answer from the heavy set bags under her eyes.

“I got a bit of sleep, not much but enough” She confirms my suspicions, “I ate though, if that was going to be your next question, the nurses brought me in a tray of food for lunch and again at dinner”

“I want you to come home with me tonight Bridge, I’ll cook you dinner and you can sleep in an actual bed, not that fold up death trap they provided you here. I’ll even let you shower” I laugh, trying to lift her mood even a little bit.

“What if something happens while I’m not here though” She stresses

“Then they will call us and let us know to come back in. You’re no good to Veronica if you don’t keep your own vitals up” I remind her, wrapping my arm around her shoulders and she gives me the nod that she will.

“Did you see the front page of the paper this morning?” She asks me, pointing to where a copy of The Herald lay on the table at the end of the bed. I pick it up and am not surprised by the headline that reads “Soccer star rushes to dying lover’s bedside” accompanied with a paparazzi shot of me entering the hospital two days ago.

“This is nothing new for me Bridge, these vultures follow me around daily making up bullshit about my life to sell papers, next week they’ll have me sleeping with some pop star like Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus and this will be lining the bottom of someone’s bird cage” I remark, pointing to the stack of glossy magazines that Bridget has bought from the gift shop on the rare occasion she does leave the room, “I’ve been putting up with this shit since high school, people talk and every bastard listen to, taking gossip as gospel. It’s no different the rumours that Petra bitch would spread about all of us, you just gotta learn to block it out sweetheart”

“I don’t know Sam, maybe she is dying and the doctors are just not telling us anything” Bridget frets.

“She’s not Bridget, you’ve got to stay positive, for Veronica. She’s going to wake up real soon and the first person she will want to see is you honey” I reassure her as a young, female doctor enters the room, she smiles warmly at Bridget and I, grabbing Veronica’s chart from the end of the bed.

“Hi, I’m Doctor Stephenson, I’m an intern here at the hospital and I’ve been assigned Veronica’s case today” She introduces herself while she studies the chat and makes notes, “She getting stronger and her brain hasn’t swelled so this is a good sign, she will most likely be taken back into surgery within a day or two to have a plate placed” She comments to herself and I exchange looks with Bridget.

“When do you think she will wake up though?” Bridget asks the doctor.

“That’s a question best answered by Doctor Papskin, he’s her surgeon, I’ll contact him and have him pop by shortly” She promises, she goes to leave but stops in the doorway and looks me up and down, “You’re not Sam Lion’s are you?”

Great, a fan, just what I need right now.

“Ah yeah, I am but I’m not really up for pictures or signing anything right now” I tell her firmly, hoping she takes the hint. This happens everywhere I go.

“You went to school with my brother, apparently I had the biggest crush on you when I was just 4 years old” She giggles and then leaves the room. Bridget turns to me and laughs loudly, it’s the most animated I’ve seen her in days.

“You thought she was fan griling and she’s just like ‘no old man, maybe when I was 4, not now that I’m 25’ that was hilarious” Hearing her laugh right now makes me happy, even if it is at my expense.

“I have no idea who she is though” I laugh, racking my brain for how I would know her.

“I’m going to go down to the gift shop, see what new magazines are in today” Bridget tells me, hugging me swiftly before leaving the room. I know that this is her way of giving me alone time to talk to Veronica and I appreciate it to no end.

I take the chair that is in the corner over to the edge of the bed, sitting down and picking up Veronica’s small, limp hand in my own and kissing it softly. She’s hooked up to machines that monitor her heart rate and breathing, her face is swollen with bruising and her head is wrapped in a white bandage crown but still she’s as gorgeous as the day I first met her.

“Hey pretty girl” I greet her, as I have for the past 3 days, “The doctor says you’re getting better my love. I told Bridget that you’ll wake up soon so I’m kind of hoping you don’t make a liar out of me.” I feel like I’m almost begging her but it’s all I have left.

“I let you down and if I could go back and change it I would because I’ve regretted it everyday. I love you Veronica, there’s never been anyone else, just you. We just never seem on the same page with us but I promise you my love, that’s all going to change now, it’s our time” I can feel the tears from my eyes dropping , falling onto the small, frail hand I hold in my own. I feel her fingers softly squeeze my palm before releasing, capturing my attention. I almost convinced myself that imagined it, that my mind was playing tricks on me until she did it again, like an electric shock it happened so fast.

“Veronica? Princess? Can you hear me?” My heart is racing, surely this is a good thing? I held her hand hoping for another squeeze, almost willing it to happen but I got nothing, whatever that was it had gone.

“I’m sorry to disturb you Mr Lions but I have to ask you to step out for a bit while we redress the wound and clean Miss Kreslin” Doctor Stephenson says as she breezes back into the private room with a nurse behind her wheeling a cart.

I’m not ready to leave Veronica, not after what just happened but I know I can’t push the boundaries, I’m lucky to even be allowed in the room, if it hadn’t been for Bridget claiming that I’m family member then I’d be locked out.

“Before I go, I have a question, is it possible that she can hear me? She squeezed my hand twice while I was talking to her” I ask the doctor, she doesn’t seemed as surprised but still makes notes in the chart.

“There have been studies done that claim coma patients can hear and respond to what’s happening around them so it is highly possible that she squeezed your hand because she is responding to your voice” She smiles warmly at me

“One more thing, Can I kiss her on the cheek? I don’t want to do anything that may hurt her” I’d never forgive myself if I made things worse.

“Of Course Mr Lions, just be careful around her breathing tube” She advises me, I lean in a place a soft kiss on Veronica’s cheek.

“I love you” I whisper in her ear, I’d give anything to hear her say the words back right now but in true Veronica style, she’s going to make me wait but it will always be worth it, “Thank you Doctor”

Exiting the room, making my way past the nurses station, towards the elevators, I push the button for the elevator and get lost in my own thoughts as I wait for one to arrive. I keep my head down when I hear the doors slide open in front of me, allowing room for people to step out of the elevator before I walk in. I push the button for the ground floor, hoping to catch Bridget in the gift shop, I lift my head only so I can watch the digital display indicating what floors the elevator is passing, it’s the longest ride from the 5th level down to the ground floor but luckily the elevator makes a direct trip, no stopping on floors in between, something I’m grateful for as I’m hoping to move through the hospital unnoticed but my plan comes undone as I step off the elevator and start the short walk to the gift shop.

“Sam Lions” I hear a man shout my name down the corridor. I keep my head down and keep walking, hoping that if I ignore him then he will just fuck off but unfortunately ignoring him makes the wanker think it’s a sign to chase after me, I hear his footsteps stalking up behind me and then he grabs my arm.

“Look mate, it’s not a good time right now...” I trail off as I spin around and take in the person in front of me, his hair is grey and receding but his face is still as familiar as I remember it, it’s been 21 years since we last spoke.

“Lucas?” He stands before me, holding a bunch of flowers in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

“Yep, wow, I haven’t seen you since high school” He exclaims, looking me over, “Well I have because your face is everywhere I look.”

It was true, I was more in demand now than when I was at the height of my career, if I brushed past a woman on the street the media would claim that we’re dating, go to the pub on a Saturday night and then it’s printed I’m on a bender and headed to rehab and then there were the advertising deals, every company wants me to endorse their bullshit products, from underwear to cereal but it pays the bills.

“What are you doing here? Is everything alright?” I ask him

“Just dropping off flowers for Veronica, they wont let anyone but family in to see her but Charlotte happens to be a doctor here and has been assigned to work on Veronica so she promised she’d slip them through for me” He explains, looking as nervous as I feel at the mention of the woman who came between us all those years ago, “We should catch up though, you look like you need a coffee”

“I’d like that” I tell him, smiling widely, “But not coffee, I’ve been drinking that shit for the past 4 days straight, I’ve got caffeine pulsing through my veins now instead of blood. Take your flowers up to Veronica, I’ll grab Bridget and we can go back to my Dad’s house, I’ve got a bottle of Scotch that I was gifted and have been waiting for the right time to drink”

“Sounds good, I’ll meet you there in half an hour” He agrees, walking back towards the elevators. I find Bridget in the gift shop, a small stack of magazines in one hand and a block of chocolate in the other as she stand in line, waiting for the cashier.

“You will never believe who I just ran into” I exclaim, she looks at me excited and I can picture her brain working like mad to figure it out.

“Ed Sheeran?” She attempts to guess and I laugh

“No, why would Ed be here? It was Lucas” I tell her

“Well that’s hardly exciting, just Lucas? I see Lucas all the time” She scoffs, stepping up to the cashier who rings up her purchases, she attempts to pay and I block her, waving a $50 note in front of the cashier who takes it over Bridgets card.

“Well I haven’t spoken to Lucas since high school so it was exciting to me” I say as we make our way out of the gift shop.

“You’re friends with so many celebrities, that’s way more exciting” Bridget laughs.

“Anyway, I told him to come by my house for a drink, said I’d meet him there now, you wanna come? Or I could send an Uber for you later?” I offer, knowing she doesn’t like to be far from Veronica long but she looks so tired.

“I’ll come, I’ve been thinking about what you said, how I’m no good to Veronica if I’m not keeping my own vitals in check” She says as we make our way to the front entrance of the hospital, out front I spot two paparazzi, ready to take aim once we are beyond those doors.

“Hey Bridge, how would you like to see yourself on the front on New Weekly next week?” I question her, knowing that theres no way I’m going to be able to escape them.

“Well it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve pretended to be your girlfriend, just hope my wife understands” She holds out her hand and I take it in my own.

“She loves me, you know she does” I boast as we walk out in front of the vultures, looking for scraps that will help sell the glossies, it doesn’t take long for the clicking of cameras and flashes of light to go off so I decide to have a bit of fun with them, wrapping my arm around Bridget’s waist, I draw her in close to me to make it look like we’re about to kiss, she plays along, stroking my face and giggling before wrapping her arms around my neck and I kiss her forehead, bam, that’s their money shot and that’s all they’ll get out of us today.

I unlocked my car so Bridget could climb in while I went and paid for the parking, I was only gone two minutes but by the time I returned to my car Bridget had fallen asleep, snoring softly with her head pushed up against the window. She was exhausted, physically and emotionally from pushing herself to stay by Veronica’s side and as guilty as I felt for taking her away I knew she needed this.

I pulled in the driveway of my Father’s house in Claremont, getting out of the car and opening the front door first before coming back to the passenger side of my car. I didn’t want to wake Bridget but I knew if I opened the passenger door with her head resting against it then she would wake up and I’d have zero chance of convincing her to go back to sleep. Luckily Lucas wasn’t too far behind us, reaching across the drivers side to hold her up while I opened the door gently, undid her seat belt and managed to scoop Bridget up into my arms without her even stirring.

I carried Bridget up stairs to the guest bedroom that had longed been considered her room whenever she stayed here, placing her down on the mattress , sliding her shoes off and wrapping a blanket over her. She looked so peaceful, so free of the stress that had been weighing her down for days. Bridget is my oldest and closest friend, it was tearing me apart that I couldn’t protect her from the pain she was going through.

I closed the door behind me and went back downstairs where I found Lucas sitting in the dining room, nervously spinning the ring on his middle finger as he looks around the room.

“The old house hasn’t changed much” He comments. It’s true too, the decor of the house is still the same as it was when we first moved in there, only the furniture had been upgraded and that would of only happened if it had broken. My Father was a creature of comfort, he never felt the need to own the newest, updated products, he was just happy if it worked. I’d offer to buy him the best of everything but he would scoff and remark ‘why fix what isn’t broken’

“Is that you Sammy?” My Dad calls out from the living room, I suspect we may have woken him from his afternoon nap. I hear the sound of his walking stick hitting the titles before I see him.

“Yeah Dad, it’s me and I brought home strays” I tell him, an old inside joke between my Father and I that I would rarely come home alone as a teenager, always had either Lucas, Veronica or Bridget with me.

“Well you wouldn’t be my son if you didn’t” Dad laughs, entering the dinning room and taking a seat at the table, “Lucas Stephenson? I have not seen you since you were a teenager, getting drunk and making a mess of my kitchen” Dad laughs, shaking his head at the memories of the trouble we’d get into most weekends.

“Hey Doc” Lucas shakes Dad’s hand, “How you been?”

“My body is betraying me, breaking down around me” Dad complains while still keeping the smile on his face. I grab a glass of water from the kitchen and his pills from the cupboard, placing two in front of him. His body was now riddled with arthritis after decades of standing over an operating table, “But my mind is still as sharp as ever. What about you son, how’s things? I saw in the paper a few years back that you got married. Kids?”

“Yep, married 5 years now, we met at Uni, Veronica set us up actually. We just welcomed a baby boy in the family and we’ve got three girls. Our eldest is thirteen, absolutely boy crazy, I’m going to need to invest in a shot gun for when she starts dating” He laughs. I wasn’t even aware Lucas and Veronica still remained in contacted after school, she never mentioned it to me but it wasn’t a surprise she would keep it from me, with all things considered.

“I’m happy for you son, your parents must be loving having the grandkids around” Dad says before turning to me and smirking, “I know I would” He teases.

“Bridget is asleep upstairs” I tell Dad, hoping to get him off the subject of children, he’d been nagging us about it since I moved back here.

“Oh good, that poor girl was pushing herself too much, staying at the hospital every night, getting no sleep and not eating.” I’d kept Dad up to date with everything that was going on at the hospital, he always looked upon Bridget and Veronica as if they were his own daughters, even more so after their own Father passed away. He even managed to walk Bridget down the aisle last year at her wedding. “How’s Veronica today?”

“Getting better, her vitals are up and they’re most likely going to take her back to surgery to place the plate in her head either tomorrow or the next day” I told him, I decided not to say anything about Veronica squeezing my hand just yet, I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up until I knew she was out of the woods completely.

“That’s great news. Well I’ll leave you two boys to catch up” Dad says, standing to leave before turning back to us with a start warning “If you two throw up in my kitchen then I’m not cleaning up”

Lucas laughs and shakes his head.

“And how are you?” Lucas asks me, concern plastered across his face. It’s a stark difference from the kid I was friends with in high school who never gave a shit about anyone but himself and I can’t help but wonder if Veronica helped him grow up and see that the way he was treating everyone around him wasn’t doing him any favours in the long run. My girl always had a way of bringing out the best in most people.

“Guilty as hell, it’s all my fault that she was in the car accident, Bridget would never say it though” I ramble and he looks at me confused.

“You were not the guy who ran that stop sign, how is this your fault?”

“She was driving to me, we’d been looking to buy a house for the past six months and I found the perfect one, not far from where her Dad used to live but the realtor could only show us through that afternoon before it was due to go on the market so I told her to rush over. I stupidly believed that this would fix everything” I explain, resting my head in my hands.

“Fix what exactly?” He questions me.

“Fix the fact that I chose my career over her”

“Sam, she never saw it that way, she was so proud of you mate. There was only one man she ever truely loved and it wasn’t my naked picture that was pinned up on her fridge. I spent years being consumed by jealousy for what you meant to her, how she could never love me that way and then I met my now wife, Penny and it clicked, I get it, you are her soulmate, you two were always meant to be together and I should never had went after her in the first place, she was never mine, I think I even knew it back then, I never felt I measured up to what she deserved and it drove me crazy, I’m not proud of how I cheated on her though.

For years I’ve wanted to reach out to you, to apologise to you for everything, Veronica kept encouraging me to do it but I convinced myself that you would think it wasn’t sincere, that you’d see it as me trying to cash in on you, now that you’re famous” He hangs his head. I grab two small glasses from the cabinet and free pour the scotch, placing a glass in front of Lucas. 20 years of words needed to be said and I don’t think I could be sober to allow them to come out.

“I wanted to reach out to you too, I was a shit friend. I went after your girlfriend a day after she broke up with you, it was selfish. I’m sorry, I regret it, well not regret being with Veronica, that I can never regret but how I handled everything with you. I should have been honest with you, instead of having you find out the way you did. I was always afraid I’d lose her to you, I never once considered how you felt having her taken away” Taking a sip of my drink and letting it burn down my throat.

“It’s in the past, lets just leave it there now” Lucas suggests, smiling at me

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