Now, I'm not a religious man, or a superstitious one, but if that trailer fire wasn't a sign then then I'm a-
"Aaron! You're alive! We were so worried..."
I heard Aaliyah's voice and for a very quick second I thought about how attractive the un-alive option was becoming. Everything hurt, and what didn't hurt itched something awful. Since the coughing stopped, my head was about the only thing that wasn't hurting, at least until it was assaulted by all the melodrama. I kept my eyes closed but for the tiniest slit possible. Maybe I could pretend that I was-
"Is that chocolate?"
The flamboyant actress beamed, and smirked at an invisible face I assumed belonged to Ms. Anderson. I hoped she had no plans to visit, not while Aaliyah was here. The last thing I needed was an argument in my luxurious half-room. It wasn't optimal, but if there was chocolate involved, I supposed I could put up with some of Ms. Greene's theatrics.
"I don't say this very often, but... I think I love you," I declared, as Aaliyah deposited her gifts on the bedstand.
"Of course you do, everyone does." Her matter-of-fact tone caused me to giggle, which set off an earthquake in my abdominal. Things began to move that weren't supposed to, and I sucked in a large breath as the aftershocks ravaged my stomach and chest.
"The others just wanted to send a card, balloon, and flowers. Laaaaame. But me? I care. Obviously."
Having finished arranging everything to her satisfaction, Aaliyah then turned to me all of a sudden. Her hands were clasped in front of her, but there was something odd about the stillness, a tenseness too her that belayed the calm she was trying to exude.
"Aaron. Aar-on. Aar-on Sha-ffer. There's something I need to ask you, and you need to be honest with me, ok?"
Things had taken an unexpectedly serious turn it seemed. I was concerned, and I had an eyebrow furrow to prove it.
And then Aaliyah was there, right in front of me. Face in my face, hands gripping my shoulders, eyes wider than donut from "Hank's Rings, Wings, and Other Fried Things."
"Who did it?"
I could only blink.
"Who did it, Aaron? Was it a cast member? A family member?? A... a crazy fan??? Please don't tell me it was a crazy fan Aaron. I won't be able to forgive you if it was a-"
"I didn't see who it was."
Aaliyah reeled back as if struck. "Noooooooo- wait, what?"
"I... didn't see who it was?"
It was her turn to blink. And with a nonchalant "oh" she hopped back off my hospital bed, waved goodbye, and slipped out the door.
I would have thought it all a medication-fueled hallucination if not for the chocolate that remained on my bedstand. Reaching out a shaking, bandaged hand, I made to touch it, just to be sure.
I drew back my arm in a hurry, instantly regretting it, and tried to look as innocent as possible.
"For an actor, Mr. Schaffer, you're terribly unconvincing. You're not supposed to be moving that arm yet and you know it."
"It's not like it's broken," I protested, earning nothing from the nurse but a scowl and a disapproving shake of her clipboard.
"I don't make the rules Mr. Schaffer, I only enforce them. You've been awfully lucky so far; it's best not to push it. Now, I have some," she glanced at the clipboard, "good news!"
I offered a tentative smile and gave her the universal eyebrow signal for "continue."
"Most of your burns were only first degree, and those should be fully healed in a few days. You have some scattered 2nd degree burns, mostly on your back, and those might take a little longer to go away. However, we'll give you a prescription for that; simple salve, apply twice daily, and you as long as you're doing that you should be ok to get back to work as soon as you're feeling up to it."
"So I'm free to go?"
The nurse shook her head. "Not quite. We're going to keep you one more night just to be safe, and if all looks well tomorrow afternoon, we'll discharge you. In the meantime," the stern gaze came back out, "you need to rest, and keep the moving to a minimum."
My head flopped back and I sighed. "What about my chocolate?"
"Don't you have an assistant for stuff like that?"
There was a gasp from outside, and Aaliyah bounded back in.
"An assistant! Of course! That's what we're getting you next Aaron. Actually, I'll do it. By the time you're back to work I'll have you an assistant. Mark my words!" And with that she was out the door before the nurse could even tell her to leave.
To my credit I did manage to get some sleep, and I didn't move. Not even to enjoy my chocolate. That didn't stop me from having vivid dreams about it though. In them, a fuzzy person came in and sat down next to me for a while. I asked her if she could turn down the blur on her face and she only laughed. Every once in a while she'd smile and feed me some of my precious chocolate. But it was only a dream. Of that I was sure. The visitor was on fire after all.
Which only made it more disconcerting when I woke to see a pile of wrappers on the bedstand.