Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Orange Sky: Part Fifty

[The end is nearly here. Prepare yourselves.
Parts 1-49 are here. Good luck...]


“Daddy.”

James opens his eyes. Alexander is still curled up against him. His eyes are closed.

“Alexander?” he whispers.

Alexander doesn’t move. James realizes he must have been dreaming. He checks the time on the clock on the wall. Eleven am. He’s been asleep for a couple of hours. His gaze falls on the table beside the bed. There’s a small pile of paper that wasn’t there before. He slides his hand away from Alexander and reaches out to pick it up, recognising it as his discharge papers. There’s a sticky note on top which says, I didn’t want to wake you. Sign them when you’re ready. He guesses it’s from Violet. He puts the papers back on the table and turns to Alexander. His eyes are moving rapidly under his closed eyelids. James wonders what he is dreaming about. His face seems peaceful, but something about the way he is holding his mouth makes James nervous. Like he is holding in a scream. James dismisses the thought. Stop being ridiculous, he tells himself, closing his eyes. He’s just dreaming. He’s okay.

He stifles a yawn and closes his eyes. The days of little to no sleep have caught up with him and he is exhausted, though he knows that once he leaves Alexander’s side he will be back to having sleepless nights. And if anything happens to Michael…

I can’t lose him, he thinks, opening his eyes. I can’t lose either of them.

Suddenly Alexander gasps and jerks awake. His wide eyes settle on James and instantly fill with tears.

“Hey,” James says, touching his cheek. “Alexander. Buddy. What’s wrong?”

Alexander clambers into James’ arms and pushes his face into James’ neck.

“Alexander? What’s wrong? Did you have a bad dream?”

“Yes,” Alexander mumbles.

James strokes his hair. “It was just a dream, buddy." Alexander’s heart pounds against his. He wishes he had listened to his instincts and woken him up earlier. “It wasn’t real.”

“You were gone,” Alexander mumbles through his tears. “I woke up and you were gone into the snow and when I tried to follow you the bad men came and I—” He dissolves into sobs.

“It’s okay, buddy. I’m here now. You’re safe now.”

“I want to go home,” Alexander sobs. “I want Uncle Michael and I want us to go home. Please can we go home, James? Please take me home.”

James feels like his heart is in his mouth. “We will soon, buddy,” he says unsteadily. “We will go home soon.”

Alexander cries harder. “Why can’t we go home now? Are we going to die? People die in hospitals! Just like Aunt Jenna! People go to hospital and then they never go home!”

“Nobody is dying,” James says, gripping Alexander tighter. “We’re going to be okay, buddy. We’re all going to be okay.”

Your promises…

“You’re leaving, aren’t you?? I heard you talking to Violet. You thought I was asleep but I wasn’t and I tried to be brave like you told me but but but—”

“Alexander.” James’ voice reflects the pain he feels. “Buddy, I—”

“You PROMISED!” Alexander’s sobs turns into shuddering breaths. “You said you wouldn’t leave me!”

“I don’t want to leave you,” James says, losing the battle against the tears building behind his eyes. “I don’t want to go.”

“Then don’t!” Alexander grips a handful of his hair. “You keep leaving me! You keep going away and leaving me all alone!”

“Alexander, I—”

“Please don’t go!” Alexander tries to steady his voice. “Please stay with me. I have bad dreams without you. I get scared without you.” He pulls back and looks James in the eye. “Daddy,” he says, trying to catch his breath. “Please. Please stay with me.”

James breaks. He tries not to look as devastated as he feels.

“Uncle Michael is very sick,” he says, wiping the tears from Alexander’s cheeks. “He needs me, buddy. He needs me to go see him.”

“But I need you.” More tears roll down his cheeks. “I need you too.”

James’ heart shatters into a million little pieces. “I know,” he says, trying not to show it. “I know. I need you too. But right now…Right now Uncle Michael needs me more.”

Alexander chokes back a sob. “Will he make you sick?”

James shakes his head. “No. But he could make you sick, so that’s why I can’t…” He can’t even say the words out loud. That’s why I can’t come back to see you.

Alexander’s lip trembles. “Is he going to get better?”

James can hardly find the words to answer.

That’s all the answer Alexander needs.

“I don’t want him to die!” More tears stream down his cheeks. “I don’t want him to go to heaven!”

James doesn’t know what to say, so instead he pulls Alexander against his chest and holds him there, terrified to let go.

“His spirit will still be with us, right?” Alexander whimpers, clinging to James. “His spirit gets to stay. That’s what you said, right?”

His words send James past the breaking point. Deep, shuddering sobs escape him, shaking the bed and releasing everything he’s kept inside all this time.

“I’m sorry,” James says, clutching Alexander like he is afraid he will disappear. “I’m sorry, buddy. I’m sorry for everything. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

He repeats it over and over again until the words no longer sound like words. “I’m sorry,” he continues even after Alexander has cried himself out. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

“I’ll miss you,” Alexander whispers. James can hear that he is  trying to keep his voice steady. Dry sobs continue to heave through him at irregular intervals. “I’ll miss you so much.”

“I’ll miss you too, buddy. I’ll hate being away from you.”

“I hate it more.”

James doesn’t argue, but he thinks, impossible.

“Will you give Uncle Michael a hug from me?”

James’ stomach twists. “Of course.”

“And a kiss?”

“Yes.”

Alexander is quiet for a long time. When he speaks again, his voice is full of pain and determination. “Okay.” He sounds like he is fighting back tears. “You can go. I won’t be sad.”

James wants to cry again. “It’s okay to be sad,” he says instead. “I’ll be sad too.”

“But we’ll be together again soon?”

James nods. “Sooner than soon.”

Alexander hugs him tighter. “Do you have to go right now?”

James shakes his head. “No, buddy. I can stay a little longer.”

“How long?”

“Until you move to your new room.”

“My new room?”

James is grateful that he at least has some form of good news to share. “Yes, buddy. Your new room. You’re doing better so you’re moving to a new part of the hospital.”

“Oh.” Alexander twirls a lock of James’ hair around his fingers. “Can you still come visit me there?”

James feels his muscles tense. “Yes. But only after I see Uncle Michael and I’m allowed to come back to see you.”

“But you won’t be gone forever?”

“No. It won’t be forever.”

“Do you promise?”

James swallows.

“Yes, buddy,” he says, closing his eyes and praying that he won’t be made into a liar for the second time. “I promise.”

Alexander doesn’t ask any more questions. They stay there, silently clinging to one another until the interns arrive to take Alexander into his new room, two hours later.



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