Tears tinted with mascara dripped into the sink, staining the porcelain veneer. Nona stared into the mirror before fixing her makeup for what seemed like the tenth time that day. You have to stop crying! She told herself angrily. It was a useless endeavor that didn’t benefit her or anyone else.
Hendrix had returned from the happiest place on earth to the saddest. He couldn’t understand why his mother cried continuously and why he couldn’t speak to or see his Auntie Jay. Two weeks. Two weeks had passed since their lives were forever changed and Nona had still been too emotional to fully explain it to him.
She finished mopping up the wasted mascara, avoiding the mirror, as she was tired of the sight of her own sorrow reflected in it. With a flick of her wrist, she turned off the light and headed to her bedroom. Slipping on a pair of oversized sunglasses she slipped into the hall. Her black dress swished as she moved down the hallway, hoping her son had managed not to ruin his suit. It was bad form to look disheveled when paying one’s respects. Nona had even gone as far as to remove most of her piercings, not wanting to distract from the occasion.
“Hendi, let’s go!” She yelled into the living room, working hard to keep the tremble out of her voice. “Everyone is waiting. We can’t be late.”
The service was beautiful and simple. The entire team attended, save for Kurt who had a weightier responsibility to care for. He had sent his regards and deepest regrets. Nona understood, accepting his condolences. She sat in the front row with Rico on her left, her parents on her right and Hendrix on her lap. He was surprisingly well behaved, sensing that his mother needed him to cooperate today of all days. He was so cute in his tiny black suit; Nona wished he’d had a happier occasion to wear it.
She was able to contain herself through much of the service but when the coffin was lowered, her composure crumbled. Rico pulled her into his strong arms and Hendrix kept whispering, “Don’t be sad mommy”.
Once the services concluded, Nona drove over to Kurt’s house with Hendrix in tow. Kurt recognized the white SUV, answered on the first knock and immediately enveloped her in the biggest bear hug she had ever received. Hendrix joined the embrace, his little arms trying to circle their legs.
“Unca Kurt!” He exclaimed with a giggle that Kurt returned.
“Buddy!” Kurt released Nona and scooped Hendrix up into his arms, planting a sloppy kiss on the child’s cheek that was speedily wiped away. “Hey! You better not wipe off my kisses!”
The two went through the ritual a few times before the three-year-old gave up, kissing Kurt in return. Nona watched the exchange with a sense of melancholy, a slight smile all she could muster. Kurt turned his attention back to her.
“How are you? How was the service?”
“I’m fine, really. The service was nice, very appropriate. I’m sorry you had to miss it.”
“I am too, truly…” he trailed off, then tried to lighten the mood. “Where are my manners?! You guys come on in!”
He ushered the two inside his home, his nephew propped securely on his hip. The trio headed into the kitchen where Kurt offered his visitors cookies and milk, an offer Hendrix was more than happy to accept. Nona declined the snacks, instead preferring to get straight to the reason for her visit. Kurt nodded lightly, said he’d keep the nephew busy while she was gone. She thanked him and headed down the hall. When she reached the door at the end, she gave it a small knock, then entered.
“I thought I’d never see you again… like this…awake…” Nona unconsciously flashed back to the day they had defeated CLU, the day she nearly lost her family in the most brutal of manners.
“We failed you love… I’m so sorry…” Kurt had uttered those devastating words even as he choked back his own tears while he gently stroked Jordan’s face. “Its not fair… we wasted so much time …”
Nona stood there staring in disbelief. She couldn’t be gone. Kurt stood up in time for Taylor to throw herself into his arms, sobbing uncontrollably. He tried without success to keep his bloody hands off her but couldn’t comfort her properly otherwise. Nona dropped to her knees gently placing Jordan’s head in her lap because the ground was so very hard and cold. She pressed her forehead against her sister’s noting that Jordan’s skin felt cool to the touch, a feeling Nona had never associated with her sister before. She could feel the tears falling but didn’t try to stop them, couldn’t have stopped them.
“Not like this…not like this,” she kept chanting over and over, unsure of whom she was beseeching. She took her sister’s uninjured hand in her own, clutching it to her chest, over her heart. “Jordan, I know you can hear me…” she began softly.
The others gathered around them, not sure how to comfort one another; utterly shocked they had failed so terribly in aiding their leader. Legend placed a gentle hand on Nona’s shoulder but didn’t interrupt her. He knew she needed this closure. Taylor continued to sob into Kurt’s chest.
“Jordan please listen to me. I know these last few days have been hell on you and all you want is to rest. I know you gave EVERYTHING you had to stop CLU because you wanted to protect this family. But your work isn’t done; we still need you to do one more thing. You don’t have to get up; you don’t even have to open your eyes… we just need you to breathe. Do you hear me? That’s all. You can sleep as long as you like, we’ll be here when you wake up. But for now, YOU NEED TO BREATHE.”
Nona had kept Jordan’s hand clutched over her heart in hopes of persuading her sister’s heart to mimic the rhythm. She clenched her eyes shut and waited desperately needing a response. She could feel the others around her, ready to pull her away, to abandon Jordan’s body before the authorities showed up. But she wouldn’t, couldn’t, because she knew her sister was going to take a breath.
“Breathe…” she whispered again, tears spilling off her cheeks onto Jordan’s forehead. The air was still and then… nothing. No miracle awakening, just silence and sorrow.
“Nona… you need to go now. There’s nothing more you can do. I’ll stay here with her.” Kurt had managed to wiggle out of Taylor’s grasp. He gently took Jordan from her lap and was pulling Nona away from her sister. He wanted her to save herself but she was adamant Jordan would breathe.
“No! Let me go. She needs me! Jay please breathe!”
She was still clinging desperately to her sisters’ hand and just as her fingers began to slip away… Jordan took a shallow, halting breath shocking the whole group! Nona nearly stopped breathing herself when her sister took that first breath and then another, each one stronger than the last. She dropped to her knees so quickly she was sure she would be bruised later but it didn’t matter. Her sister was breathing which meant this hadn’t all been for naught. Nona had kept Jordan’s hand clutched in hers, even as the paramedics tended to her, on the ambulance ride to the hospital and right up until she passed through the doors into surgery determined to keep her sister anchored to this world.
“You look pretty good,”Nona observed, as she moved into the room, closing the door behind her. “For a dead woman.”
Across the room, propped up in bed, Jordan gave her sister a small laugh at the slightly inappropriate comment. Dressed in sweats and an oversized tee with her long black hair pulled back in a ponytail, she looked a thousand times healthier than the last time Nona had seen her. At that point she had been lying in a hospital bed with more than a dozen tubes running in or out of her, unable to communicate, on a ventilator. Now save for the slight bags under her eyes and a little paleness to her skin, she looked nearly like her old self. Even the sling cradling her left arm couldn’t distract from her obvious progress.
Her sister patted the bed next to her and Nona moved closer and sat down, kicking her heels off as she tucked her feet under her. Jordan mustered a small smile when Nona pulled her in for a gentle hug, careful of her still healing body. Nona savored her sister’s warmth, believing for weeks now that she might never get the chance to feel Jordan’s warm body pressed against hers again. They sat quietly that way for a while, shoulders touching, heads leaned together before Jordan broke the silence.
“How was the service?”
Nona filled her sister in on all the pertinent details, including the unexpected arrival of Detective Vasquez, a dozen roses in hand, in full dress uniform. She told Nona that it was inappropriate for an officer to attend the service of a fallen hero without one. Before leaving she had given Nona a strong hug and whispered to her “Your secrets safe with me, give your sister my best.”
At that sentiment Nona glanced down; afraid she’d lose the battle with her emotions again. The only people more important to her than her son were Jordan and Julio. He was gone forever and Jordan quite nearly had been as well. She sniffed a little as her sister placed a reassuring hand on her back. Reaching around with her good arm, Jordan pulled her into her chest as she started to cry. Her sister stroked her hair rocking her.
“Shhh, you don’t have to be brave for me,” Jordan assured her. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there for you today.”
“No, it’s okay…” Nona sniffed. “I mean, you just got released from the hospital this morning. You shouldn’t be out of bed; you should probably be resting now.”
“That doesn’t change how badly I wanted to be there for you…for Hendrix…”
“I know.” She sighed. “He’s taking it pretty well but I don’t think he truly understands.”
“It’s gonna take some time. Julio was a good man, I owe him so much… my life even…”
“We ALL owe him. It wasn’t his fight but he stood by us to the end. I don’t know what I’m going to do without him.” She wiped at her once again ruined makeup with the back of one hand. “I wasted so much time being mad at him.”
“I know the feeling…” Jordan stated wistfully.
She and Kurt had been separated for months and yet, the moment she needed him he was there. There through her initial injuries, her lack of recovery, there to pick up the pieces of her shattered confidence, there for Taylor when she couldn’t be. He had spent most of his vacation time sitting by her bedside in the hospital, waiting for her to wake up, praying when the infection CLU had left inside her, the same infection that claimed Legend, raged putting her into a coma, and then waiting again so he would be the first face she saw when she opened her eyes on her own. Just that morning he had sat patiently as her doctor’s went through her discharge instructions, listened intently to her medication precautions, and scheduled her physical therapy before carrying her to the car because she couldn’t get comfortable in the wheelchair provided.
Through all that, not once had he complained. Not once had he considered walking away again. He loved her for all she was, admired her heroism. Fretted for her safety and prayed for her good health. She was his and he would not let her go so easily this time around. Nona noticed the thoughtful expression her sister wore, deducing she was probably reflecting on the time she had wasted away from her true love. She turned her sister’s face toward hers when she spoke.
“How are you guys? Kurt seemed to be in a good mood.”
Jordan sighed loudly. She knew how Kurt felt about her but she didn’t know how they were. The past few weeks they had spent together were full of violence, injury, pain and loss. When the wounds she received from CLU began to fester, Kurt had the unpleasant duty of holding her down while the areas were scraped clean of the infection. She remembered quite vividly his strong arms holding her still while the medical team worked. No anesthesia had been strong enough to keep her from screaming through the ordeal. She regretted Kurt had to witness her at such a low point, thankful the coma overtook her not long after.
That nightmare had reminded her of the time in her childhood when she had been severely burned in a house fire, before her powers emerged. Every time the nurses had cleaned her blistering skin, she would scream for hours, the pain too much for a child to endure. At that point, she had felt like a burden to her family and now Jordan had begun to feel that way again. A burden; one she wasn’t sure Kurt should have to bear.
“He deserves better… MORE…” Nona stared at her sister appalled.
Who could be MORE than Jordan?! Her sister was the bravest, most selfless, beautiful individual she had ever known and whether her sister knew it or not, Kurt felt as if he didn’t deserve her. She waited for Jordan to elaborate but she didn’t. Instead she turned away from her, focused on a small platinum and diamond band on her right hand because her left had been too swollen. Nona’s eyes grew wide.
“Jay! Did he…did Kurt propose?! Her sister nodded shakily.
“I should have said no. I’m just a burden to him.” There, she had said it.
“You most certainly are not! You have been through a hell of a lot this past month but I know that man in the other room sees you as nothing short of a blessing! Don’t make the same mistake I did.”
“When we were together before, I was the strong one. I was the one Kurt could lean on. I don’t know when I’ll be that woman again and I don’t want him wasting his life waiting for her.” This time when Nona grabbed her sister’s face to look at her, she didn’t let go.
“You’re putting too much pressure on yourself, as usual. Remember what I told you before. You’re gonna be fine, it just takes time. I won’t stand for you berating yourself. You are my sister and I love you. You are the strongest person I know and if anyone can bounce back from this you can. You are NOT a burden; you are not ALLOWED to feel that way. Not while you have a family that loves you, not EVER. Understood?” Jordan wasn’t fully convinced but she knew there was no arguing with her sister.
“Understood. I love you too.” Nona leaned over and pecked her sister on the cheek, laughing at the look of disgust it garnered. “I told you to stop kissing me.”
“And I told you, I’ll kiss you whenever I want!” Nona stuck her tongue out at Jordan before snuggling into her shoulder contentedly. “You know now we have a new problem…”
“Oh? What’s that?”
“Now we have to plan a wedding suited for all Kurt’s snooty booty relatives!”
Both sisters burst up laughing, Jordan trying hard to control her laughter since her ribs were the injury that kept on giving. She succeeded only in falling into a rhythm of snorting and wincing that seemed to make her sister laugh harder! Despite the discomfort, it felt good to laugh again, the last few weeks having been so wrought with emotional and physical distress. Watching the smile light up her sister’s face gave Jordan hope; maybe it would all work out in the end.