William gets startled by the noise and raises his eyes from the book to look at him. They widen and dropping the book on the bedside table William stands up, quickly taking a couple of steps to his bed.
- Hey. - William says, reaching for his hand. His fingers are warm and dry, looking odd without all the rings. His face is bruised and cut but in William’s eyes he never looked more perfect. - How are you feeling?
Lennon tries to speak but fails and William gets him a glass of water and helps him drink a few sips. He pulls his chair closer to Lennon’s bed.
- Like I’ve been hit by a car. - Lennon manages to rasp, a shadow of a smile like it is actually a joke.
- Yeah. - William stares at him, willing him to tell him what had happened without actually having to say the words.
He knows his throat hurts now and his mouth feels like it was filled with cotton. He’ll wait. The only thing important is that he is alive and recovering. - You’ll be alright. Doctors said you’re out of danger. We were worried about the head injury but you were lucky, bab... - William closes his eyes as the word slips. He sighs, agony and relief fighting inside of him. He wants to take him in his arms and never let anything bad happen to him ever again. How did he let this happen? And then Lennon’s face twists in agony as he feels pain. - You’re hurting. - William states. - I’m going to call the nurse.
- No. - Lennon stops him - Not yet.
- Lennon ...
- How long have I been here? - Lennon asks, his eyes looking glazed over in the bright light. Then he notices his right arm in a cast.
- Two days. You had surgery when they brought you. You have a fractured shoulder. - William points a finger at it. - Your rib is cracked and hip also severely bruised. But you will heal.
- Have you been here the whole time? - he asks and William nods. - Did you sleep in that plastic chair? - William shrugs as if it wasn’t a big deal. Lennon probably can see the dark circles under his eyes that confirmed he didn’t have a proper sleep in a couple of days.
- My assistant brought me some clothes and toiletries. - William says as he catches Lennon stare.
- William, I want you to go home. - Lennon says and closes his eyes.
- I’m fine now.
- You’re not fine, not yet. I’m going to call the nurse and we’ll talk about this later. - William reaches over the bed and presses the call button. - I’ll let Jorja and the guys know you’re awake, they barely left the hospital. They only allow two people in the room though, I think they just went to eat across the road. - William rambles as Lennon still stares at him emotionless but probably in pain. A middle aged woman appears shortly after, her hair pulled back in a bun, her movements swift and professional, taking Lennon’s vitals, writing everything down. William quietly leaves the room when the doctor comes in.
He sends a quick text to Jorja and their manager and sits on the chair in the waiting room of the private wing of the St Mary’s hospital. He made sure he only got the best care, best doctors, and privacy. Whatever it costs. He also dealt with all the media bullshit about Lennon’s accident, Micah working on overtime because going to the office was not an option. He spent all night working from his phone until Micah brought him his laptop with some other necessities.
Jorja and Sam come out of the lift and go straight for Lennon’s door.
- Doctor Johnson is in there now. - he says, his head tiredly leans on the wall behind him. His eyes are almost closed, eyelids starting to feel heavy.
- How is he? Did you talk to him? - Jorja asks him excitedly.
- Yeah, a bit. I was there when he woke up. He didn’t say much. I’m sure he is still confused because of all the meds.
- At least he’s awake. - Jorja sighs and sits next to him.
- And that means you can go now. - Sam says bitterly, leaning casually against the wall across from them. William just sees red, sleepless nights and worry about Lennon causing total loss of composure and rationality. He launches himself at him in fury, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt, pinning him against the hard surface.
- I’m not fucking going anywhere.
- Oi! Stop that! - Jorja shouts from somewhere behind his back but he doesn’t listen. Sam just laughs.
- I’m not leaving him so you better get used to seeing my face. Problem? - he pushes until his chest bumps Sam’s but Sam seems to find that funny, a dark, disbelieving smile pulling at his lips.
- Since you showed up he only ends up in hospitals. So yeah, it kind of is a problem.- he says, dryly, his eyes challenging William’s but not pushing him away.
- That’s because I wasn’t with him. But that changes now.
- You’re sure you’re good for him?
- And you think you are? Huh? You jealous, Sam? - Sam shows his teeth, in his lazy, not-bothered way, and doesn’t say anything.
- Hey guys! Guys! - Jorja starts separating them. - William, sit down. We’re all a bit tense and tired, yeah? - she leads William to the chair, away from Sam. - Sam. Chill, ok?
- I’m chill. - he raises both of his hands in surrender.
- Good. Lennon doesn’t need this Gossip girl meets Twilight shit now. Jesus. We’ll all need a drink soon. - she sits back down next to William.
- Look. - he starts - I am serious, I want to take care of him. With or without your permission. And I know you all dislike me and believe me, I don’t like myself either right now. I regret everything I’ve done to him, or didn’t do. I know I fucked up. All of this is my fault. But I want to make it right this time.
- Ok. I believe you. - Jorja looks at him with a knowing smile and Sam scoffs in the background. - After I found out how big of a bitch that fiancée of yours is and how she played you both I kind of realised that it wasn’t all your fault.
- She’s not my fiancée anymore.
- Oh. You broke it off?
- Not yet, no, I don’t really want to hear her voice at this moment. The thought of her hurting Lennon like that...
- Wait. You don’t actually think she had something to do with Lennon’s accident?
- I... I don’t know. I haven’t seen her at the party afterwards and there were no messages or calls from her which was strange because we were fighting. And the fight was about Lennon. I told her I found out about her lying to me. - he says to Jorja what he’s been thinking about for a few days now. - She should be trying to contact me, want to know what happened with Lennon and where I am. She would definitely raise hell if she knew I’m with him now, but she didn’t even send one text to me or my assistant. It’s all very suspicious.
- But why do you think she is so desperate to get rid of Lennon? I mean I get that she is jealous and hurt, you did cheat on her after all, but still, it’s a bit extreme.
- My money? I don’t know...
- But she is a famous actress, I’m sure she’s not struggling with money that much.
- I really don’t know. I’ll have to deal with that after I know Lennon’s okay.
- Hey. He’ll be okay. He’s so strong. Listen, I don’t know how much you know about Lennon’s life, if he’s told you anything about his past...
- No, he only told me that his younger sister passed away when he was a teenager.
- Yeah, that’s all he told you?
- Yes. Why? What else is there?
- Well that’s the thing, there are things that nobody knows. He doesn’t have a family, William. He said they all died, and never said anything else. Obviously back then we didn’t want to push that topic much, we were all just young, dumb and trying to make music. He clearly enjoyed playing and creating, he wrote some incredible songs and we never knew what the actual meaning behind his lyrics was, but we knew they came from a dark place. Like I said before to you we’ve been his family, really, that’s why we act like this. - she nods at Sam who’s scrolling through his phone, close enough to hear the conversation but not wanting to participate. - Lennon has been friends with Liam and Nate first and they became close but he never shared anything about his past to them either. Nate only said that he was hanging out with some weird crowd, some models that were known in town for using drugs and partying hard and that he was in a really dark place. - William just listens to her. - That’s why I think he needs more family. More love. More people to take care of him. He is so strong, he built this wall around him but he should allow himself to be weak sometimes. And maybe you really are the only one who can help him. - William just nods. It’s scary, uncertain, confusing but it’s what being in love with Lennon is, from the first day he has met him.
- Yes. Yeah... that’s all I want to do.
After he talks to the doctor about Lennon’s recovery he goes in to talk to him, but once inside his room he sees his face tired, sleeping on a white pillow. He looks so young like this, with his wild hair, soft, full lips and bruised face. He takes his hand and gently kisses his knuckles.
- I’ll be back soon, love. - he whispers into his skin.
William then gets up, takes his laptop, book and a small bag and leaves Lennon’s room and the hospital for the first time in almost three days. He needs to get rid of his past in order to start living in the present. With Lennon.
He calls Jorja and tells her that he has to take care of things and she knows what that means. After he makes her promise to update him on any changes in Lennon’s state he goes to Charlotte’s place. He is determined to move to the hotel officially, meaning he has to get all his clothes and personal belongings from the place where he lived with Nina. The prospect of seeing her makes his blood boil with rage but she’s right there in the house and notices him coming down the stairs with the suitcase.
- Where have you been for three days? William? - she is asking. He is going straight for the door. - William!
- Not your business.
- Wait. What’s with the suitcase? Where are you going with that? - he stops in front of the house door where she is standing like a guard, he closes his eyes and breathes deeply as he reminds himself why he is there.
- Away from you. We’re done.
- I know what you did, Nina. I know it was you that had something to do with Lennon’s accident.
- So that’s where you’ve been. I knew it. - William can see smouldering anger seeping from her pores. He does his best to stay focused but her antics are appalling. It’s funny to witness someone as beautiful as her transforming into the ugliest human he’s ever seen.
- So you’re not denying it?
- Yes of course I’m denying it. Whatever. I don’t even know what you’re talking about.
- I’m going. Don’t try to contact me, don’t try to find me. - he goes to reach the door knob.
- Oh; yes. Give me back my mother’s ring. - he turns to her again extending his palm and waits.
- The ring?
- I’m breaking up the engagement. And feel free to say whatever you want to the press, I don’t care.
- Oh, this is just great. - her face is red and unrecognisable as it changes into an unattractive grimace - I will tell them you’re a fucking cheating faggot! How’s that? - her murderous feverish eyes are moving all over William’s face and body. - You’re making a huuuge mistake. You’re so stupid. You will ruin your family’s name all because of that whore that will snort his way to an early grave? - she laughs but it’s more of a snarl. All gracefulness gone. And William is done here.
- You leave him the fuck alone. - he can’t have anything happen to Lennon, if he died because of him, William would never survive that. - Insult him or me all you want but if it ever even just crosses your mind to physically hurt him I swear to my mother’s memory I will have you arrested for attempting murder. - he leans in closer, his voice dropping. - Believe me. I will find a way to prove it was you who pushed him under that car. - he reaches for her hand and in a swift manner pulls the ring from her finger as she starts crying on cue. An Oscar worthy performance.
- Will, stop.
- Goodbye, Nina.
He spends the night in his hotel room. He really wants to go back to the hospital and check on Lennon but tiredness catches up with him and after a long hot shower he ends up on the bed, falling asleep all the way through the night and the morning. He wakes up grumpy and somehow even more tired but the first thought in his mind is Lennon and he reaches for his phone to call Jorja.
There was an unspoken agreement or understanding between them and somehow they are friends now. She says Lennon is doing just fine and that he’s been resting, that he doesn’t need to worry. So he decides to go to the office and deal with all the work he left on standby.
He goes to the office every morning and afterwards to see Lennon, spends a few hours just sitting there next to him in the hospital room. They don’t talk much. William brings him books and talks about TV shows that people at work recommend him to watch. They talk about the band and what the media has been saying about the accident.
William doesn’t talk about Nina, about the empty swimming pool or his feelings. He doesn’t want to upset Lennon, make him stress more than he already probably is.
Lennon is quiet, guarded. He mostly sleeps so William just reads sitting by his side, or watches a football match on mute on the hospital TV. He almost always kisses Lennon’s hand when he is asleep or gently touches his face removing the hair that falls in his eyes. After a week, one day, instead of going to the hospital he meets with Charlotte.
- Hey stranger.
- Hey sis. I’m sorry I haven’t called.
- Yeah, you should be. - she smiles as she sits down and puts her iPhone on silent, giving him her full attention. They are in one of the quirky, post-industrial West London bars that Charlotte’s firm designed. It’s relaxed and surprisingly not too busy. - I just came home from work the other day and Nina was crying in the kitchen, hysterical, all your things gone. She said you moved to the Four seasons.
- You ok?
- Yes, I’m going through some changes. I guess. I broke up with her.
- Yeah, it seems like it. I called. You never answered any of my calls. I really wanted to talk to you about something. Why didn’t you tell me?
- Tell you what?
- That you’re unhappy. That you have someone else?
- How do you know that I have someone else?
- Well... she told me.
- Don’t believe everything Nina says. She is a manipulative actress on and off the screen who can’t be trusted. But yeah, that thing is true, there’s someone else.
- Damn, Will. - she sweeps away a strand of blonde hair off her Barbie-like face. - Look. The thing is... The thing I really called you for is... I’m so stupid, I should have told you earlier. I’m so sorry.
- Told me what? - she takes a slightly wrinkled envelope from her designer bag and puts it in the middle of the table. It has For William. LL written on it. William is staring at it and his stomach twists.
- I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.
- Charlotte? How do you still have this? I thought Nina made you get rid of it. - he looks at her intently, needing the explanation right now.
- I haven’t. I did at first but afterwards I took it out of the bin and kept it. I don’t know why, I just did... I’m sorry William.
- I remember this guy just showing up at our door that day, the day you guys were leaving for New York and he asked me to give you this but Nina... Gosh, she said he was some opportunistic wannabe singer that was trying to use you for money and fame and that he’s been messing with your head, stalking you, trying to break your relationship. She was devastated, she was crying and sad and...
- Yeah, she’s really good at crying. It’s fine, Charlotte.
- No, it’s not. I... should have talked to you about it, not her! You’re my family. I...
- Hey. She tricked us both. She’s... She said things to me that I believed even though deep down I knew were wrong, also I knew that I didn’t love her anymore, but I just let her be in charge of my life. I was blind and a coward. So don’t blame yourself. I could have put a stop on this way before it came to this envelope. Ok?
- So how is he recovering?
- What do you mean?
- I know it’s Lennon Lewis, William. I didn’t know of him then but now, who doesn’t know him. He’s been all over the radio and the internet is full of gossip about him lately. I connected the dots, I remembered seeing his face at my front door. - her lips quirk. - It’s him you’re with, right?
- We’re not... together. - William shifts in his chair, voice soft. - He’s... he’s still in hospital and just focusing on recovering.
- Jesus Christ, you’re completely gone for him, aren’t you?
- I’m not! He’s just, you know...
- He’s very handsome.
- He is. - William’s voice is soft, too soft.
- Is he going to be okay? What did the doctors say?
- Yeah, he is doing really well, he got out of the bed yesterday, started doing his exercises with the physio, it’s a matter of day when they will let him go home. - he grabs the glass of his drink and sips, then scans the bar and lowers his voice. - I think Nina had something to do with the accident.
- What? I read online that he was probably drunk or high and didn’t see the car with all the rain and...
- No, he wasn’t high or drunk, his friends can confirm he’s been trying to get clean after he overdosed a week before that and also they did blood tests in the hospital when they brought him. He was clean. But he won’t say anything to me. And I don’t have any other proof. Just a gut feeling.
- Will, that’s so messed up.
- Yeah. Feel free to kick her out of the house.
- I already did. I can’t believe I trusted her like that, she was my friend that I let in my home and she deliberately hurt my brother. I hope she moves back to America.
- Yeah. Can’t wait for all the gossip magazines after they find out the engagement is off. Dad will kill me.
- He will. - she looks at him deeply, one of her soul-crushing glares, a deliberate look that reminds him so much of their mum - But he must realize how bad the situation is, that she most definitely can’t be your wife after this. You need to talk to him, Will. I know you always argue but this time he will understand.
- I don’t care if he doesn’t. I hate this life he planned out for me, I just want to be free.
- Will... - she inhales deeply. - You can be free, if you really want. You went for Broadway, that was pretty brave and freeing.
- No, that was me just running away across the ocean because I couldn’t man up to do it here.
- Just stop thinking about expectations dad has of you. You always wanted his acceptance and approval too much and he was always too bloody stubborn and too proud to show you love.
- I lost myself in everyone’s expectations. It took me a while but I’m letting that go and I’m doing what feels right for me now.
- Just please don’t go to New York again. I would want to have you near when the baby comes.
- I’m pregnant.
- No?! You are? Oh my God that’s... - he gets up, contentment washing over him. He embraces her fondly, kisses the top of her head. - I love that, I’m so happy for you both. Congratulations, lovely.
- Thank you.
- Why didn’t you tell me right away?!
- We had some other important things to discuss first. - she winks at him.
- Nothing is more important than being an uncle.
- More important than being an uncle is being a happy uncle. - she smiles and he can see so much of their mum in her at this moment. - I really want you to find happiness, Will. You go to him and be happy, yeah? Don’t worry about dad, about the family name, about the media.
- If he wants me still. I hurt him.
- Just be honest. To him and to yourself. And don’t hold back, say what you feel and what you want. You can see how quickly life can change, don’t waste time.
Yes, he knows that, the most recent tattooed words on his chest say something very similar to what Charlotte says. He knows it’s unrealistic of him to think it will be easy. But he used to be a dreamer and it’s not difficult for him to dream now, not when his dream-come-true is right there, so close. And he thinks, that maybe this time they’ll both get lucky, that despite the outside world they will make it.
He spends the rest of the day with Charlotte, pregnancy talk inspiring cheerfulness in him and optimism about the future. Then he goes to the hotel and listens to the song. He is about to go to the hospital so he calls Jorja.