Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Orange Sky: Part Forty-Five

[Parts 1-44 are here. Thank you so much for reading, and I am impressed if you're still here Xo]

Thomas is waiting when they get inside. “You can’t keep doing this,” he says, shooting James a disapproving look. “I’m going to get in trouble if I keep losing patients.”

“Sorry,” James says, grimacing as he sits down on his bed. “I needed some air.”

Thomas’ face darkens. “What’s wrong? Is it your shoulder?”

James grimaces again and nods. “It’s probably nothing,” he says, lying on the bed. “It’s just stiff from the cold.”

“And from all the movement,” Thomas says reproachfully. “You shouldn’t be putting on sweaters and jackets yet. You shouldn’t be moving your shoulder so much.”

“I haven’t been putting my arm through the sleeve.”

“You still move your shoulder to pull the sweaters on whether you intend or not. You have to let it heal more before you start doing things like that. You already ripped out your stitches once.”

“That wasn’t from putting on a sweater.”

Thomas looks at him quizzically. “Then how did it happen?”

James dodges the question. “Any news?”

Thomas sighs and helps James back into his gown so he can check his shoulder.

“Michael is in his room. He seems to be doing okay, all things considered. They’ve started him on a round of antibiotics that have been successful in treating MSRA before, but it mutates so quickly that there’s no guarantee they will still be effective. He’s being closely monitored and they will change his medication if he doesn’t start to improve.”

Thomas takes off James’ sling and begins to unbandage his shoulder. James winces. “And Alexander?”

“Sorry,” Thomas says, trying to be gentler. “Violet called about fifteen minutes ago. Alexander is asleep and doing well. She said he may even progress from the oxygen mask to the nasal cannula in a few days.”

“The what?”

“The nasal tube. It means his breathing is improving and he may not need as much assistance.”

James’ face brightens. “Really? That’s good, right? That’s good news?”

“It is GREAT news,” Thomas says, smiling as he re-bandages James’ shoulder. “By the time you are able to go see him again he will probably be on the cannula if he continues to improve.” He helps James to lie back against the pillows. “Your shoulder looks good,” he says, picking up James’ chart and writing something down. “It’s a little tender, but I’d say that’s from pushing it further than you are ready for. The incision is healing well. Has Dr Anderson spoken to you about physio?”

James is barely listening. “So if his lungs are getting better that means he can’t have MSRA, right? That means he’s going to be okay, right?”

Thomas stops writing and looks up. “It is good news,” he says, less enthusiastic than he was a moment ago. “But it can take up to ten days for the symptoms to appear.”

James’ face falls.

“I don’t want to give you false hope,” Thomas says gently. “There is a good chance Alexander doesn’t have it. It is only spread through direct contact – it isn’t airborne – and he didn’t spend much time with your brother. But that being said he could have it. I just want you to have all the facts.”

James’ glimmer of hope dies out.

“We’ll know more after the tests come back,” Thomas says, replacing James’ chart. Hopefully that will be in the next day or so.”

He gives James a sympathetic smile and leaves the room. Elizabeth sits down in the chair beside James’ bed.

“How are you feeling?” she asks softly.

James answers without looking at her. “Like I’m ready to wake up from this nightmare.”

Elizabeth sighs. “Yes,” she says, looking out the window. “I am, too.”

An hour before visiting hours end, Elizabeth stands up.

“I’m going to see Michael before I have to go back to the hotel,” she says, gathering her things. Her voice sounds much too loud after a couple of hours of silence. “I’ll be back tomorrow. Do you need anything?”

James shakes his head. His neck feels stiff.

“Alright,” Elizabeth says. She comes over to his bed and slips her hand into his. “It is going to be okay.” She squeezes his hand. “It will be okay.”

James doesn’t answer, but he squeezes back.

“I’ll see you tomorrow. Try to get some sleep.”

James nods, but he knows he won’t be sleeping tonight.

He can’t sleep without Alexander.

Elizabeth leaves.

Without her, the room seems much bigger. Emptier. He lies back and stares out the window. He watches the sunset, wondering if Alexander is still asleep. If he ate dinner or if it is lying cold and untouched on the tray like the dinner beside him. If he is scared. If he is okay.

You have to be okay.

James watches the sunrise and rubs his tired eyes. The nurse who took over from Thomas offered to get him something to help him sleep, but he had refused. Every time he closes his eyes he is back in that cabin, trying desperately to breathe life into Alexander’s limp body. The thought of being in a drug-induced sleep and unable to wake up from that nightmare...He may never sleep again.

“I have something for you,” Thomas says, coming in a few hours later with a tray containing toast, fruit and cereal.

“I’m not hungry,” James says, barely glancing at him. “Any news?”

“Good morning to you too,” Thomas says, setting the tray down. He puts something on James’ lap. “Here,” he says, smiling. “I think this may help.”

It takes James a few seconds to register that it is an iPad. He turns to Thomas. “What’s this for?”

“Turn it on,” Thomas says, still smiling.

James can’t see how an iPad could possibly help fill the hole in his heart, but he switches it on anyway. Alexander’s face stares back at him. His heart skips several beats.

“What…” he starts, looking up at Thomas. 

Thomas beams. “It was Violet’s idea. There are no phones in patient rooms in the ICU and you aren’t allowed to use mobile phones or wireless devices…Unless they are in flight mode. An iPad in flight mode is still a camera. It can still take videos.”

The word videos makes James’ heart pound. He looks at the iPad, noticing the play button across Alexander’s chest for the first time. He presses it and turns up the volume.

“He’s just downstairs?” Alexander says to the person behind the camera. James recognises Violet’s voice as she answers.

“Yes. As soon as we’re done here I’ll send this down for him. I’m sure it will make him very happy.”

“Can he come see me today?”

Violet hesitates. “Not today, no. But soon, okay? Really soon.”

Alexander’s face falls. “Is he sick?”

The camera shakes. James imagines Violet shaking her head. “No, he’s not sick. But he misses you. That’s what this video is for. To help you both feel a little better about being apart.”

Alexander looks at Violet thoughtfully and turns his attention to the camera.

“I miss you, James,” he says, staring right into the lens.

James touches the screen with trembling fingers. “Alexander,” he breathes. “Buddy.” Tears well up in his eyes. All he wants to do is run upstairs and pull Alexander into his arms. He wants to hold onto him and never let him go. Keep him safe from harm. Keep him safe.

“I miss you a lot.” He sounds like he is trying hard not to seem sad. James’ heart hurts.

“I had a dream about you.” Alexander glances at Violet self-consciously and drops his voice to a dramatic whisper. “We went ice skating. I fell over and hurt my arm, but it was okay because you were with me. You kissed it better and bought me a cupcake. Uncle Michael was there, too. He was the best ice skater of all.”

He looks at his cast. His whisper loses the dramatic quality. “Then we went home. Back to our house. You carried me inside and into my bedroom. You tucked me into bed and sang me a song and read me a story you wrote just for me. You did all the voices, just like you always do.” When he looks up, there are tears in his eyes. His voice trembles. “I wish the dream was real.”

James waits for him to say more, but he doesn’t. Instead he stares into the camera lens until the recording stops.

“That was ten minutes ago,” Thomas says when the video is over. “You can see he’s doing okay. He’s eating a little and gaining back his strength. He’s doing better.”

A tear splashes onto the screen. James makes no move to clean it.

I miss you, James.

I wish the dream was real.

“Mr Axton?” Thomas says, coming closer. “Are you okay? Didn’t the video help?”

James doesn’t answer. He doesn’t know how.





“We thought it would help.” Thomas’ voice has changed. He sounds worried. “We thought it would make you both feel a little better since you can’t be together right now.” Thomas reaches out to take the iPad back. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

James pulls the iPad towards himself. “Don’t take it,” he whispers. “Don’t…Don’t take him from me.”

“Oh. I thought…” Thomas’ voice trails off. He drops his hand, trying to read James’ expression. It is a mixture of pain and relief. Joy and fear. Happiness and heartache. “I’ll be back later,” Thomas says, turning to leave. “Take as long as you need.”

As soon as he closes the door, James plays the recording again.

And again.

And again.

He watches it on a repeat loop until Thomas comes back to check on him, one hour later.