Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Orange Sky: Part Eight

[Parts 1-7 can be found here. Thank you so much for reading Xo]

It’s snowing hard when they arrive. James looks over at Alexander. He’s still asleep.

“I’ll go check in,” Michael says.

“No, I have to do it," James says without looking up. "I made the booking and it’s in my name on my credit card.” He watches Alexander sleep. He can’t leave him. He won’t leave him.

“Alexander,” he whispers. “Wake up, buddy. We’re at the snow.”

Alexander opens his eyes. His hand is still in James’ hair.

“The really real snow?” he whispers. His voice is hoarse from all the sobbing.

James nods. “The really real snow. I’m going to go check us in. Do you want to come?”

Alexander has his seat belt off before James even finishes the question.

“I’ll go park the car,” Michael says.

James gets out and goes around to the other side of the car to help Alexander out. Together they head towards reception.

After they’ve checked in and settled into their unit, James turns to Alexander and gets down to his level.

“Do you want to stay here?” he asks seriously. “Or do you want to go home? We have to stay here tonight, but if you want to, we can go home tomorrow.”

Alexander stares at him. “Do we have to go home?”

James shakes his head. “Of course not. We can stay if you want to. It’s up to you.”

Alexander shuffles forward and winds his fingers into James’ hair. “Will you still teach me how to snowboard?” he asks. “And can we still build a snowman?”

James smiles, though the look on Alexander’s face makes him want to cry. “Definitely.”

“Right now?” he asks. “Can we build a snowman right now?”

James pulls him into a hug. It’s already dark outside, but he doesn’t care. He won’t deny Alexander this. Not after everything that’s happened. “Yes, buddy,” he says softly. “We can build a snowman right after we change into something warmer.”

Alexander takes a tiny breath in. James closes his eyes, remembering how just a few hours ago Alexander was leaping through the air and catching snowflakes on his tongue. He wants to go back to that. He will do anything to get back to that, even go build a snowman in the dark.

“He needs a carrot nose!” Alexander says, giggling. Michael stands by the front door, sipping cocoa and watching James and Alexander build a snowman in the virtual dark.

James laughs. “Yeah, he does. We should go buy some carrots tomorrow. For now…” He hunts around and finds a stick. “There,” he says, shoving the stick into the snowman’s face. Alexander claps his hands.

“It’s Olaf!” Alexander says, pulling on one of the snowman’s stick arms. “We made Olaf!”

“Spitting image,” Michael calls from the doorway. Alexander giggles. James tries not to hear the difference between Alexander’s giggle four hours ago and Alexander’s giggle now.

“Do you think he’ll come to life?” Alexander asks James, running over to him. “Do you think he can be like the real Olaf?”

James brushes the snow off Alexander’s face. It stopped actively snowing shortly after they arrived, but the wind is still picking up snow dust and swirling it through the air.

“I think he can be whatever or whoever you want him to be,” James says, bopping Alexander on the nose. Alexander’s smile widens.

“Can we go snowboarding?” he asks, grabbing James’ arm and wrapping it around himself. James smiles.

“Tomorrow,” he says, feeling Alexander’s heart beat under his palm. “It too dark now. It’s not safe.”

Alexander pouts. “Oh-kayyyyy,” he says, playing with James’ gloved fingers. “Can I have some more cocoa?”

James chuckles. “Yes,’ he says, closing his hand around Alexander’s. “That is something you can have.”

“With extra marshmallows?”

James leads them inside. Michael closes the door behind them. “Sure, buddy,” James says, going into the kitchen. “You can have as many marshmallows as you want.”

Later that night, after they have played three games of Scrabble and James has read him several bed time stories, Alexander falls asleep with his head in James’ lap. James strokes his hair, staring at the TV without really seeing what is on.

“So we’re staying?” Michael asks, coming over and handing James a cup of cocoa. 

James takes it. “Thanks. Yeah, looks like it.” He takes a sip. It warms his entire body. “I still think this will be good for him,” he says, putting the cup on the coffee table. “If we can get past what happened.”

Michael drops his gaze. “Do you want to talk about it?” he asks, staring into his cup. James looks down at Alexander. He’s cuddling Astro.

“What is there to say?” he asks, still running his fingers through Alexander’s hair. “I wish I could have saved her. Meredith. I wish I could have done something, but…” He sighs. “I hope her kid is okay,” he says quietly, watching the rise and fall of Alexander’s chest. “Ruby. She seemed okay, but you never know with head injuries.”

“Yeah,” Michael says. “I hope so, too.”

They both fall silent. Alexander’s lips part. He mumbles something.


James rubs his back. “I’m here. I’m here.”

Alexander sighs and moves back, pressing his body against James’ stomach. He doesn’t wake up.

“Do you want to know something sick?” James asks. He doesn’t wait for an answer. “I actually think Meredith was lucky. If it were me, that’s how I’d want it to happen.”

Michael frowns. “What?”

James looks up at him. He can see the concern in his eyes. He tries to explain. “I mean if it was a choice between me and Alexander…I’d choose me every time. I’d much rather die myself than see him…” He stops. He can’t even finish the thought. “I wouldn’t live through that,” he says, returning his gaze to Alexander. “I came way too close to that once already. I wouldn’t cope. It sounds morbid, I know, but…I need to be the first one to go. Like Meredith. I need to be the one.”

Michael shifts uncomfortably. “Death is a part of life,” he says awkwardly, rubbing his neck. “Everybody dies. You always think you can’t go on after someone you love dies, but then…You do.”

James doesn’t look at him. “No,” he says, still rubbing Alexander’s back. “This is different. What we went through last year almost killed me, Michael. Literally. If something ever did happen, I…” He swallows. “Meredith was lucky,” he says again. “That’s how it should happen. That’s how it should be.”

Michael laughs nervously. “Kind of a morbid topic, J.” His voice is strained, like he is trying too hard to sound calm. “There’s no point in thinking about things like this. Ultimately we have no control over it.”

James nods. “Yeah. I guess.” In his mind’s eye, he sees Ruby hanging upside down in that car. Sees the blood dripping into her hair. He closes his eyes.

Save him, he prays silently, feeling Alexander’s heartbeat. If it ever comes down to it…Take me. Give me that small mercy the way you gave it to Meredith. Save him.


He opens his eyes. Alexander is squinting up at him. He looks exhausted.

“Let’s go to bed, buddy,” James says, sliding his arms underneath him and picking him up. Alexander nods and closes his eyes. He’s asleep again in a few seconds. James turns to Michael. “Good night.”

Michael looks troubled. “Night. See you in the morning.”

James turns and leaves, carrying Alexander straight past his own bedroom and into his without bothering to ask if that’s where he wants to be.