Chapter 1: Lucy
Today was terrible. Yesterday was awful. The day before that was a living hell. And being drunk certainly didn't make it better. I know I shouldn't have gotten drunk at work that day. I shouldn't have poured vodka into my Thermos flask in the morning. But I had no idea how to get through the day without it. Not through that day.
It has been one year, it's time to move past this. At least that's what Amber keeps telling me. The question she can't answer me, though, is how? How should I ever move on from that?
Not like this, though, that's for sure. I know I can't be drunk at work, not in my position. Not when I have the well-being of people depending on me, people who are completely innocent when it comes to my sadistic heart that just keeps beating even though I wish it would just stop. Stop beating, stop pumping blood and oxygen through my body, stop keeping my organs working and alive. I want it to stop.
"Hey, anyone here? Where the fuck is everyone?" A man's voice starts yelling right outside the nurse's room I've been hiding in. Taking in a deep breath, I compose myself, plaster a smile on my lips and walk out to see if I can help him.
"Excuse me, sir, is there something I can do for you?" I ask him politely. Talking to people always used to make me feel better when I was down, but nothing really succeeds to make me feel better anymore. Or to make me feel anything at all. It had been a whole year now. One year since I stopped feeling. Yet did not stop breathing. Sadly.
"I just need some fucking hot water, but no one in this fucking hospital seems to give a flying fuck about me! Just some water, bloody hell, I didn't ask for a heart! But apparently, water is just as rare in this shithole of a hospital!"
As his desperate eyes fall on me, my heart finally does what it refused for a year now. It stops.
Caramel eyes look right into mine, eyes I had been dreaming about during plenty of secret moments at home. I barely recognise him, his usually so perfectly styled hair now messily falling into his face, dressed in a plain grey hoody and jeans, his skin pale and obviously exhausted.
But it's him. Without a doubt, these soft eyes, that throaty deep voice, it can only belong to one person. Nathanael Fox. The Nate Fox. The frontman of the greatest band I have ever heard of, Devil's Entourage. The face hanging over my bed at home, framed and polished. And being talked to every other night when I'm feeling extra lonely. I love him. Seriously. And now he is standing here, right in front of me!
Once my heart remembers that beating might not be a bad idea after all, it starts to get overly motivated to do so. It's banging inside my chest, jumping up and down while a hole volcano of nervousness erupts in my stomach so strong that it somehow manages to push through the numbness inside of me and make my hands sweaty and my head dizzy.
I have dreamed about meeting him for so long, ever since I had seen the picture that is now hanging over my bed for the first time. Almost four years ago. And now he is standing here, right in front of me. If I reached out my hand, I could actually touch him. I could just lift it up and touch his face, those perfectly soft cheeks of his that I admire so much. Only that it isn't as soft right now, the stubble that is clearly visible in his face is a clear indication that he must have neglected to shave for days.
"Hey, I'm fucking talking to you! Have you gone deaf in the past seconds? I just need some fucking hot water, is that really too much to ask for?" Nate Fox now screams at me, his voice full of anger and devastation.
"I... I'm sorry... water..." I stumble, incapable of getting out the whole sentence to tell him I was going to get him water. Holy Christ, I'll get him whatever he wishes for, anything. Anything but the one thing I know he truly wishes for. As much as I wish I could, I know I can't. I can't help the girl he loves to feel better. I don't know how. I'm not a doctor, I haven't even applied for medical school yet although my plan had been to start last summer. That was before last January, though, before everything changed.
"Yes, water! How many more times do I fucking have to say it? Go back in there, boil some water, give it to me. That is all I need you to do, it shouldn't be that difficult!"
Still incapable to take my eyes off of him, I just nod. I know I should probably get going and do it, but I'm still frozen on the spot, simply incapable of stopping to stare at him. And I don't want to, either, I want to suck in every little detail of his presence as long as I can. Besides, my legs feel so wobbly, I'll probably pass out if I try to move now. I don't want to move anyway because as I am faced with my biggest crush since celebrity crushes have become a thing, I don't feel numb. I can still feel the nervousness and sorrow and empathy and that is more than I had been feeling in over a year.
"Okay, seriously? I'm in the room down the hall, just bring me the fucking water if you learn how to function again!" He snarls at me and walks away. He just turns around and leaves. And I wish I could yell after him to stop, to come back. Only for one hug. Just one time I want to feel those arms around me and breathe in his scent. I bet he smells heavenly. Manly. And I bet if I started to cry in his arms, he would hold me tight and tell me everything was going to be fine again. It would be a lie, but from him, I would accept that lie everyone else keeps telling me anyway. Or kept telling me. Most people have given up on trying to make me feel better months ago. Most of them have given up on me altogether.
"Hey, are you alright? You look like you just saw a ghost!" The voice of my workmate Amber pulls me out of my dreamy and starstruck mixed with sadness and loneliness state of mind.
"Nate Fox was just here!" I mumble, still staring at the spot he had been standing in a few seconds ago. Or minutes. I don't even know anymore. He had been standing here and he asked me to get him water and bring it to his room! Oh blimey, I forgot his water! "I got to go, he needs hot water!"
"Hey, hold on a second! You can't just drop a bomb on me like that and run off! What was he like?" Amber follows me as I hurry into the nurse's room, her voice sounding more excited than I would ever be feeling again.
"He was... Rude, actually. But I don't really care," I say. I couldn't care. I have long stopped being polite myself. At least privately, I know I have to remain a certain friendliness at work, though.
"I guess I'd be rude as well. So sad, do they still not know anything?"
His girlfriend Jay Dawson's symptoms are a mystery to all our doctors. Her symptoms don't make any sense, especially because there seems to be no physical reason. Yet you don't have to be a doctor to know something is awfully wrong with her. Hallucinations, fever, throwing up, trembling, sweating, racing heart, there must be something! Yet nothing they thought of checking came out positive so far.
"Hello? Is anyone here?" Another man's voice sounds outside of the nurse's room, but I don't have it in me to fake any more friendliness right now. With a pleading look on my face, I silently beg Amber to deal with the stranger and, being the darling she is, she goes out immediately.
"Hey, my mate was just here and asked for water, did he talk to you?" The man asks and I can feel my heartbeat quickening again. The water hasn't even started boiling yet, I should have gotten right to it instead of wasting time with fangirling or heavy thoughts. But I guess I'm never really doing my job here well enough at all anymore. I don't know why I'm still working here anymore, to begin with. I should have accepted Molly's offer to let me go a year ago. Back then, I didn't want to, though. I wanted to latch on to my job, I was desperate to have something to fill the void torn into my soul so suddenly. Now I'm staying out of habit.
"No, to my workmate, Lucy. Are you here to get the water?" I can hear in Amber's high-pitched voice, that she must be as close to swooning as I had been earlier when Nate Fox talked to me. And my heart still feels a little shaken five minutes later. It almost feels like a dream now, not like something that really happened.
"No, love, I wanted to talk to her for a second. Is she around?" I hear the man ask and my heart starts racing again at the thought of what it could mean that this someone who's obviously connected to Nate Fox would want to talk to me now.
"I'm sorry if I'm disturbing anything, your workmate told me to just go in. Are you Lucy?" The man's voice now sounds right next to me and this time, I clearly recognise it as well. My heart is vibrating like the wings of a hummingbird when I turn around to face him, our last encounter still very present in my memory.
His blue eyes look down right into mine and I can see his eyebrows pulling together in confusion for a second. I really want to say something, but I just don't know what. We have met before, one time almost two years ago. And it wasn't a pleasant conversation. It felt like one, though, until he had opened his mouth and made me realise that it really wasn't.
"I'm sorry, love, but did we meet before? I can't help but think I know you from somewhere," the guy in front of me says, pulling me out of my thoughts I keep disappearing into. And at his question, I can literally feel my heart sinking right into my stomach. Actually, it doesn't just stop there, it falls through my abdomen right out of me, crashing down onto the clean and sterile hospital floor I am standing on. He remembers!
It was the day I met Jay Dawson as well, the girlfriend of Nate Fox. She was a patient here two years ago but back then, the guy sitting by her side wasn't the frontman I love so much. It was him. Michael Collins, the guitarist of Devil's Entourage. I was so excited. Completely starstruck. But unlike earlier with Nate, I just couldn't keep my mouth shut back then. I kept talking and talking until the moment that the usually so seemingly good-humoured Mickey Collins basically kicked me out of the room. And told me I was being unprofessional. He ruined my whole week. And it seems he is just about to ruin another.
Now I really wish I hadn't come to work today. Or at all anymore. Or that I wouldn't have given up on drinking alcohol at work and just gone with vodka straight today.
"Um, yes. I'm Lucy Stewart, I was here when your mate July got into the car accident two years ago. I brought her lunch," I finally force myself to confess how we met, my face heating up with shame as the memory of my behaviour during our last encounter runs through my head again. Everything I said. God, why couldn't I just freeze up as I did with Nate today?
"Oh right, the nosy redhead, I remember!" Mickey laughs for a moment, then his eyes close as his hand slaps onto his forehead. "Shit, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to call you nosy. I'm a little rattled, Jay is really sick and Nate is about to lose his mind because no one can tell him what's wrong with her. We are all worried sick, this is just too much! First little Jade gets that virus and almost dies from liver failure and now this thing with Jay. She just wanted to save her daughter's life with that liver transplant and now she is here and she's getting worse every minute and no one only has an idea what might be wrong with her. It's maddening! God, I'm sorry, I bet you have better things to do than to listen to me whine about the cruelty of life."
"It's fine, I'm on my break. Why did you want to talk to me? I suppose you had another reason than to force me to listen to you whine about the cruelty of life?" I ask him as I get up to take the teapot off the stove. He can take it with him when he's done telling me whatever it is he came here for. I just pray he doesn't have another scolding saved up to lecture me about the correct interaction with patients. First, I kept blurring out any thought I ever had to his mate July, then I fell into a starstruck shock when faced with Nate. He must think I'm a lunatic now. Which I probably am anyway.
"Right, I'm sorry. I wanted to apologise for Nate's behaviour. I could hear him yelling at you up to his room and it wasn't okay. He's usually a lot nicer, but he tends to get a little difficult when he's stressed."
"Don't worry about it, I'm used to it by now. Relatives freak out a lot, I try to stay away from them as good as possible. They tend to get... let's call it protective when their loved ones are hurting." I say, one eyebrow raised at him to show my silent accusation. He wasn't any better back then, he literally told me to get out. And I don't think I ever heard an apology for his own behaviour. "Anyhow, here's his water. You better get it to him, it seems his life depends on it."
"It's for his daughter, Jade. The poor kid has been screaming for almost an hour, but he couldn't find anyone to boil some water for him to prepare her milk. Two hurting loved ones are certainly above anything Nate can take. You're right, he can certainly get quite protective. So I guess, I better get the water to him, then. Thank you, love."
Taking the teapot out of my hand, Mickey leaves. Not one single word of being sorry for ruining the excitement over meeting the guitarist of my favourite band and the love of my big celebrity crush two years ago. Back when I was still excited about things.
Back when my life was still worth living.