Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Orange Sky: Part Thirty-Eight

[Parts 1-37 are here. Thank you for reading Xo]

Thomas forces James to get back in the wheelchair before taking him back to the ICU.

“My legs are fine,” James says as they get into the elevator. “I can walk.”

“It’s hospital policy,” Thomas says as the doors close. “You just had surgery. You need to stay in the wheelchair until your doctor says it’s okay for you to be wandering around the hospital.”

The elevator dings. Violet is waiting when the doors open.

“How’s your brother?” she asks, taking the wheelchair from Thomas.

“He’s okay,” James says distractedly. “How’s Alexander?”

Violet pushes him down the corridor to Alexander’s room.

“No change,” she says, opening the door to Alexander’s room. James’ eyes fall on a bed set up along the far wall.

“I had them set up a bed for you,” she says, wheeling him inside. “My supervisor said it was okay.”

“Thank you,” James says softly, staring at the bed. “I appreciate that.”

“Are you hungry?” Violet asks, walking over to check Alexander’s chart. She glances at the monitors and writes something down. “I could get you something.”

James shakes his head. “No.”

Violet puts Alexander’s chart back. “Alright. Well you know where I am if you need me.” She leaves.

Without her voice filling the room, all James can hear are the sounds of the machines. The beeping of the heart rate monitor. The gentle, rhythmic sigh of the respirator. The dripping of the IV. The mechanical whirring of all the machines working in unison.

It’s maddening.

He pulls his wheelchair closer to Alexander’s bed. He tentatively reaches out and touches his hand. Convincing himself that he is there. That he is alive.

“Wake up,” he whispers, cutting through the sound of the machines. “Open your eyes. Open your eyes, buddy. Look at me. Tell me you’re okay. Tell me you’ll be okay.”

He stares at Alexander’s eyelids, willing them to open.

Come on, he thinks. Come on. Wake up.

Time passes. He has no idea how much. Violet comes in and out of the room at regular intervals, checking on Alexander and offering James food. He declines each time.

“Mr Axton?” she says on her ninth or tenth visit. James forces himself to look at her. She’s been kind to him. She deserves his attention.

She looks apologetic. “My shift is ending now, but I’ll be back tomorrow. Can I get you anything before I leave? Some food? A cup of coffee? Anything?”

“No,” James says.

She nods like she expected this. “Okay. Um…Dr Williams is coming by soon to examine Alexander and see how he’s doing.”


Violet shifts on her feet. She seems uncomfortable.

“They um…They need to take him down to radiology for some tests. You can stay here or go back down to your own room, but unfortunately…” She lets the sentence hang.

James’ heart sinks. “Oh.”

“He won’t be gone long,” Violet says. “I could take you down to see your brother…?”

James considers it for a moment. “I’ll wait here until they come to get Alexander,” he says eventually. “But thank you.”

“Okay,” Violet says. “Well…I’ll see you tomorrow. Try to get some sleep.”

The door closes.

About ten minutes later, Dr Williams comes in with a couple of interns.

“Mr Axton,” he says warmly. “How are you doing?”

“What kind of tests does he need?” James asks, ignoring the question.

Dr Williams directs the interns to hook Alexander up to a portable ventilator and picks up Alexander’s chart.

“We need to x-ray his arm to make sure it is set correctly. It was a complicated break made worse by delayed treatment, and may require a second surgery. We need to ensure that the bone marrow has stopped leaking into his bloodstream. We will also…” He clears his throat.

“What? You will also what?”

Dr Williams looks up. “We will also check his brain function.”

James blinks. “You think there’s something wrong with his brain?”

Dr Williams puts the chart down and comes over to James. He sits down beside him. “As I told you before, Alexander was without oxygen before the paramedics arrived at the cabin. It is…It is possible that in that time his brain…”

“No,” James says. He doesn’t want to hear it. “No. NO. His brain is fine. His brain is fine. He is going to be fine.”

Dr Williams has pity in his eyes. It makes James want to scream.

“We still need to check. It’s standard procedure.”

“Do your tests,” James says, turning away from him. “They’ll only prove I’m right. He is going to be okay. You’ll see. He’s going to pull through.”

Dr Williams stands up. “I hope so,” he says sincerely. “I really do.” He looks over at the interns. “Is he ready?” They both nod. “Okay,” he says, moving aside so they can wheel the bed out. “Let’s go. We’ll be back in roughly an hour,” he says to James. “You are welcome to wait here.”

James watches them go.

Please buddy, he thinks. Prove them wrong. Come back to me.

Come back.

After they leave, James unhooks himself from his IV and slips downstairs unnoticed. He goes to his room and finds his clothes. They’ve been washed and placed on a chair in the corner of the room. He pulls them on as quickly as he can, cringing as he tries to use his shoulder. He pushes on anyway, awkwardly pulling his sweater over his head and keeping his left arm tucked inside. He doesn’t want to look like a patient. He doesn’t want a nurse to try to force him into a wheelchair or insist that he go lie down or suggest that he sit and wait for Alexander to come back. He doesn’t want them to say they’ll come outside with him and try to hold his hand and comfort him. He doesn’t want any of that.

And he doesn’t want to see Michael.

He can’t stand the thought of seeing Michael lying there with over a year of physical therapy down the drain. Lying there in pain, unwilling to take something to help. The thought makes him want to throw up. After he puts on his shoes he straightens up too quickly, sending a wave of pain through his shoulder and down his spine.

Good, he thinks harshly. I deserve pain. I deserve to hurt. This is my fault. All of it.

All of it.

He walks over and opens the door, peeking outside. Everyone is preoccupied. No one is giving him a second look. He walks out of the room and heads towards the entrance of the hospital. No one tries to stop him. He bursts through the double doors into the freezing night air. For a moment he wishes he had put on his jacket, but quickly decides otherwise.

He deserves to be cold. He deserves all the pain and discomfort in the world.

But not the pain of losing Alexander, he thinks, looking up at the stars.


Maybe I do deserve that.

Maybe I don’t deserve to have something so pure and wonderful in my life, but…He shouldn’t suffer because of me.

Not more than he already has.

He wraps his undamaged arm around himself and walks away from the hospital. He’s not going anywhere in particular. He’s just killing time. The idea of sitting in that room while they check if Alexander’s brain is still working is too much to bear.

He’s only been walking for a few minutes when he becomes acutely aware of someone behind him. He turns around. A light flashes in his face. He staggers back.

“What…” he starts, regaining his balance. He blinks against the spots playing in his vision. His eyes settle on a camera pointed at his face.

“I knew it was you!” a young man says excitedly.

Another flash of light.

“All the others left, said you’d definitely have been airlifted to LA by now, but I knew you’d still be here!”

A click. Another flash.

It takes James several seconds to understand what he is saying.

“You’re here…To take pictures of me?” he asks, backing away.

“Yeah!” Click. “Someone said that you were staying here and,” Click. “a bunch of us came down! Hey I’m real sorry about what happened.” Click. “Can you give me a statement? Something to sell to the mags?” Click. “I heard your brother lost his leg. But you look okay. Wait, where’s your other arm? Oh my God; did you lose your arm?!” Click click click.

James turns and walks away as fast as he can. The man follows him.

“Hey wait!” Click. “Tell me what happened! Is it true you were out in the snow for a week?? Is your kid gonna die??”

James stops. He turns around.

“What did you just say?” His tone is deadly. 

The man lowers his camera. “Hey man,” he says nervously. “I just wanted you to talk to me. I just wanted something I could sell the magazines, you know. I’m trying to make a living.”

James stares at him. In his mind’s eye, he sees himself kicking his teeth in. His hand twitches.

“Get out of here,” he spits. “Now.”

He turns to leave.

“Can I get a quote?” the man calls after him. “Maybe something about hoping your son pulls through?”

A flash of light dances before James’ eyes, but this time it didn’t come from the camera. He flies at the man, closing his hand around his neck hard enough to almost lift him off the ground.

“My family is falling apart,” he growls through clenched teeth, “and you want a fucking statement? You’re hanging out here like a fucking rodent hoping for a picture?? You’re looking to exploit that??” His grip tightens. The man struggles for air, clawing at James’ hand.

“You paparazzi are all the worst parts of humanity rolled into one fucking pathetic package,” James spits. “I could kill you right now and no-one would miss you. No-one would mourn the loss of another scumbag with a camera.”

“Please,” the man manages to choke out. “Please. I have a family.”

“Yeah?” James laughs bitterly. “I have a family too. The one you’re currently stalking. What, will it make a better story if my son dies? Will it entertain the masses if he doesn’t make it through??” James squeezes even harder. The man’s eyes bulge. His attempts to escape grow weaker. His hands slide off James’ arm and hang limply by his side. James stares at him. His anger and fear seem to ebb away with every weakened beat of the man’s heart. It leeches into him, giving James a problem he can fix. Giving him an enemy to fight.

Giving him an enemy to kill.

Alexander’s voice echoes in his ears.

Stop, he hears him say. James. Stop.

James takes a sharp breath in and lets the man go. The man trips over his own feet and falls to the ground, gasping for air. A dull ache blooms in James’ shoulder. He’s fairly certain he’s ripped out his stitches.

“You want a statement?” His hand trembles, still aching to punch the man in the nose. Aching to make the man hurt as much as his does.

Aching to transfer his pain.

“Here’s your statement,” he growls, struggling to remain in control of himself. “If I ever, and I mean EVER see your fucking face again I am going to take your fucking camera and shove it so far down your throat that you’ll be taking pictures of your colon.”

“I was just doing my job,” the man stammers breathlessly, scrambling to his feet. “I was just doing what I need to do to get by.”

James curls his hand into a fist. He can almost feel the man’s blood coating his knuckles. Almost hear the crack as he breaks his nose.

“Leave,” James spits. “Before I change my mind and shove that camera down your fucking throat right now.”

The man turns and runs.

James breathes out heavily. His body is shaking. He looks around to see if anyone saw what happened, but he is alone. He watches the man get further and further away until he can’t see him anymore. Then, with a heavy heart and an overwhelming desire to chase down the photographer and beat him to a bloody pulp, he makes his way back into the hospital.