He opens his eyes. Her face swirls before him. She smiles and brushes the hair off his cheek.
“Mom?” His mouth feels like it is filled with sandpaper.
“Here,” she says, holding a cup and a straw up to his lips. He takes a sip and clears his throat.
“What happened?” he asks. His eyes feel heavy. So heavy. He lets them close.
They snap open.
“Shhh, shhh,” his mom says, smoothing back his hair. “If you start kicking and screaming, they will come back with another shot.”
“I have to leave. I have to go see Jean-Paul, I have to organise the press conference, I have to, I have to…”
He tries to sit up, only to find he’s been shackled to the bed. He tugs against the wrist restraints.
“It was this or call the police and put you in the psych ward,” his mom says, putting her hand on his arm. “You punched a doctor in the face and threatened to kill a room full of people.”
He tries to pull away from her, but he can’t. The sense of betrayal is so strong that it is all he can do to keep from screaming at her.
“How long have I been in here?”
She looks at him sadly.
“How long??” he repeats. “HOW LONG??”
A nurse appears in the doorway. She looks a little frightened. “Is everything okay in here?” she asks, hovering in the doorway.
“Everything is fine,” Michael says from across the room. James jumps. He hadn’t realised he was there. The nurse leaves.
“Just over twenty four hours,” his mom says, unbuckling the restraints. “You collapsed and hit your head. You were out cold. Michael called an ambulance. On the way to the hospital, your heart...” She shakes her head. “Your heart stopped beating, James. By the time I arrived…” She puts her hand across her chest and lets out a tiny sob. Tears shine in her eyes. “They weren’t sure you would even make it through the night. Sweetheart, your body is shutting down. You liver, your kidneys, your heart...When last did you eat? Do you even remember?”
“That’s not why my heart is shutting down,” he growls, sitting up and undoing his leg restraints. “That’s not why my heart stopped. My heart can’t function without him.” He pulls all the tubes out of him and unplugs the monitors once they start to shriek.
“I’m not staying here,” he says, spotting his clothes in bag on the chair next to Michael. “You can’t make me.”
“Actually, she can.” Michael stands up. “She’s listed as your emergency contact, so should you be incapable of making medical decisions for yourself…”
James grabs his clothes off the chair and pulls off his hospital gown. Both Michael and his mom cringe at the sight of his frail, bony body. He tugs his sweatshirt and hoodie over his head.
“Well I am capable. I’m awake. I’m not concussed. And I’m leaving.” He pulls on his jeans.
“Sweetheart.” His mom puts her hand on his back. He pauses for half a second before putting on his shoes. “James, please. I know you’re worried about Alexander. I know you’re worried about your boy. I do. But…I’m worried about mine. Stay here. Get better. Let the police do their job. There’s nothing you can do in this state.”
He spins around to face her. His body is tense. He feels like he is barely keeping it together.
“I am not worried. I am fucking terrified. I know you’re trying to help, Mom. I know you’re worried about me, but I can’t, I can’t, I can’t...” His stomach swoops and his heart skips several beats. He takes a steadying breath. “I can’t care about me. I can’t care about anything except him.”
He puts his phone in his pocket and starts to leave.
“James!” His mom grips his shoulder, trying to hold him there. Her voice quivers. “You aren’t strong enough! Your heart…” She shakes her head and wipes her eyes. “I’m scared if you walk out of here, I won’t, you won’t…” She gasps. “I can’t lose you,” she whispers. “I can’t.”
He turns around and takes her hand. He places it over his heart. She feels it beating underneath her palm. Unsteady. Uneven.
“So then you understand,” he says, staring into her eyes, “why I can’t lose him.”
He lets go of her hand and leaves, only stopping to sign the Against Medical Advice papers on the way.
He pulls out his phone as he leaves, dialling Jean-Paul’s number. He picks up on the fourth ring.
“James,” he says sadly. “I am so sorry. I’ve been trying for the last 24 hours, but to no avail. I have to get back to Louisiana.”
James stops. “What?”
“Is this not why you are calling? I already spoke to your brother…The head of Focus Features refuses to budge. They said that if Sony won’t pull The Interview after being hacked and receiving multiple terrorist threats, there’s no way they are pulling Silent Scream over one kidnapping. I am so sorry. If it were up to me…” He sighs. “If we refuse to complete the film, they are going to sue. And they will win, James. We can’t fight this. I wish I could.”
A woman speaks over a PA system in the background, announcing that a flight has begun to board.
“That is my flight. I have to go. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.” He hangs up. James stands there numbly.
They’re not stopping the film. They’re not holding the press conference. They’re not…
His heart seems to slow to a crawl. The room grows dim, but he fights against the alluring pull of unconsciousness and forces his feet forward. He continues out of the hospital, not even stopping when he hears Michael behind him, calling his name.