"I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want to go,” I gushed aswe pulled into the hospital car park, “please, just turn around and take me home.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Casey,” Mum moaned, “I’ve let you talk me into turning around too many times these past couple weeks and I’m not standing for it anymore.”
“But Mum –”
“I want no butts. You’re going, and that’s final. Besides, he knows you’re coming and can’t wait to see you.”
“That’s what I’m worried about,” I closed my eyes and rested my head against the headrest, taking a deep breath in and out as Mum parked the car, “what if I’m not what he’s expecting?”
“What do you mean? Who else would he want to see?” Mum asked turning to face me with a puzzled expression spread across her face.
“I don’t mean that, Mum. I mean what if he thinks I’ve changed? What if he thinks I’m not the same person he knew... before?”
“Don’t be daft; I’m sure he’ll be over the moon when he sees you. You’re all he talks about, apparently.”
“What did I say, Casey? No buts!” Mum interrupted, scornfully. I remained silent, “Now, take that gift bag on the backseat in with you; it’s for his parents.” I sighed and turned to the backseat. James’ eyes met mine as his gargle laughter filled my ears. The corners of my lips curled as a smile broke across my face.
“Are you going to come in with me, big boy?” I asked James with a smile. He grinned and clapped his hands. Mum chuckled under her breath beside me, “Good, because Mummy needs all the support she can get. You’ve my big, brave boy, aren’t you, James?”
“Are you sure you want to take him with you? He can stay in the car with me, if you’d prefer.” Mum asked.
“I want to take him in with me. I’m not going into that building alone and seeing as you won’t go with me he’s my last choice. Besides, it’ll be nice for him.”
“Okay, if you’re sure.”
“Yes. I’m one hundred per cent sure of myself.” I smiled weakly at her and unbuckled my seat belt before exiting the vehicle through the passenger door and pulling the seat forward to retrieve James from his car seat and also the gift bag sat beside it. Once James was out, I placed him onto his feet and held his hand. It was so much easier with him being able to walk as he was quite heavy to carry. Just as I’d walked around the front of the car to the hospital entrance, Mum called over to me through the rolled down window of the drivers’ side of the car. I turned to listen to her:
“Ring if you need me. I won’t be far.”
I thanked her and continued around the side of the white-wash building to the large revolving door entrance, with James in tow.
The moment we set foot inside, the hustle and bustle of the busy hospital – conversations, elevator doors, telephones, etc. – absorbed me. Nurses and doctors in uniform passed me and the sad and complex expressions of faces on patients and visitors captured my vision. I swallowed hard and took a harsh breath before continuing.
James’ little eyes were darting around the congested corridors as he gazed upon new and interesting things. Mum had said that he’d liked coming to the hospital to see me after the accident and was fascinated by all the machines and appliances used. I’d found this quite ironic, being as nearly a year before he’d been rushed into the same hospital in serious conditions.
I found it a nerving thought to know that in just under a month I would be eighteen. So much had happened over the past couple years and I’d grown up so much in such a short space of time. I’d found out I was pregnant, moved to Scotland, formed a relationship with a wonderfully eccentric family, given birth to a beautiful baby boy, passed my GCSEs, moved back to England, fallen in love, feared for my son’s life, betrayed his father, was depressed, gained trust again, was blackmailed, was cheated on, fell out of love, found new love, was part of a love triangle which ended in a car collision. Finally, I had lost someone I loved and had found myself in a depressive state again; twice in the same year is such a bad record to hold and nothing to boast about.
My feet froze to the spot as I stood at the door to his room. My heart was racing and my hands trembled. I looked down to James who was still admiring his surroundings. I closed my eyes and breathed in slowly.
‘You can do this, Casey. Just breathe in… and out… and knock on the door.’
I opened my eyes.
‘If he doesn’t answer you can just leave. Breathe in… and out… in… and out.’
I raised my lightly clenched fist towards the door.
‘Come on! Stop being silly and just knock. Breathe in… and out… in… and out… in… and – ’
The door opened wide before I’d even had the chance to knock. A startled nurse stood in front of me. On closer inspection, I realized that she had been one of the nurses who had taken care of me whilst I was here; the one who had broken the news on who had died, ironically. She recognized me too and smiled, once calming herself down.
“Oh, you made me jump, dear. It’s been a while since I’ve seen your face around here.” She said with a toothy smile, making her laughter lines and crows’ feet prominent on her face.
“Yes, it has been,” I replied, weakly, “We’ve come to visit, err –”
“Oh, I see,” she exclaimed, turning to face back into the room. I glanced over in the same direction and my heart melted, “you’ve visitors, dear.” She turned back to face me and maneuvered around my frame to leave the room, accidentally-on-purpose edging me closer into the room. The grip I had on James’ had loosened and he ran into the room and over toward the bed. His gleeful laughter echoed and the joyous sound of his voice sang its own sweet song into my ears.
He took James into his arms and lifted him into the air, spinning around and around in circles. Other than a few heeling cuts and faint bruising on his skin, you wouldn’t have been able to tell he’d been involved in a serious accident. I’d been informed that most of his broken bones had been mended and that only a little pain could still be felt on his part, depending on the amount of time spent straining weakened muscles in his body.
Once returning to his normal stature, with James in his arms, he turned to look at me and sighed. I gazed back longingly. It had been so long since I’d looked upon his handsome face and I could feel everything I had ever felt for him racing through my veins: love, hate, compassion, friendship.
“Hey,” he said. My heart skipped a beat the moment his deliciously, golden voice hit my eardrums. I felt my cheeks burning pink through the red and forced a weak smile. I couldn’t keep my hands still by my side so clasped them together in front of me; instead, I swayed jerkily from one leg to the other… smooth.
Sitting James onto the hospital bed, he crossed the room over to where I stood. I held my breath with anxiety as his folded his arms around me and pulled me close. We were cheek to cheek and he smelled gorgeous. I loosen my stance and placed my arms around him too, closing my eyes and embracing the flood of emotions that had suddenly overcome me. Tears dripped down my face the closer and longer we held onto each other. I’d forgotten just how special it was to be held in his arms; I never wanted to leave them.
He pulled away just enough for him to be able to look at me face to face. Less than a foot away, his eyes glistened; he’d been crying too. He brushed away a loose strand of hair from my face and tucked in neatly behind my ear before smiling warmly and smirking.
“I missed you.” He announced quietly.
“Me too.” I answered. He loosened his grip around me and let his arms drop to his sides. I wiped away the remainder of teardrops that had rested on my cheeks and took a deep breath to steady my nerves. Although I was stood before him, my tummy was doing somersaults.
“Why didn’t you visit?” he asked, sounding hurt and bruised, no pun intended. I swallowed.
“I am now.” I replied, smiling weakly and looking over my shoulder nervously.
“I mean before,” he added, “why didn’t you visit before?” a longing look lingered on his face as his heart, I dare say, raced as he waiting for my much awaited answer. I looked him back in the eye and sighed.
“I just… I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was scared at what see and how you’d react.”
“You were being cowardice.” He stated. I nodded, deserving the bluntness of the accusation.
“Yes, I was being a coward. I always have been. I just… I couldn’t find the strength to –”
“Face up to me?” he finished. I nodded, biting my bottom lip in attempt to hold back the new set of tears that had slipped through, “Casey, you know I love you and that I always will.”
“I know you do and that you will. I just… I had a lot of thinking to do and it… it was hard.” I gushed, surrendering to the on-flowing stream of fresh teardrops. I covered my mouth with my face and swept past him over to the best, seating myself beside James. He looked up at me and his lip trembled; he didn’t like it when I cried. He rested his small against my arm placed his little arms around me. He was such a smart person for someone of his age and appeared to acknowledge and understand different emotions set before him; one the other hand, he’d seen me crying so often that he’d learned that his Mummy was hurting and that she needed help.
I looked down at my beautiful boy and smiled, wrapping my arms around his small physique and kissing the top of his head.
“Thank you,” I murmured, looking back over to where he stood by the door with his hands in his jeans pockets. I hadn’t noticed that he was fully dressed in his normal clothes, rather than hospital bed wear.
“You’re being discharged today?” I asked him, remembering why Mum had insisted I visit him today. He nodded and edged closer towards me, sitting on the other side of James. I unwrapped myself from around my son and looked back up to face him, “I’m sorry.”
“Apology accepted.” He answered, smirking slightly.
“You don’t even know why I’m apologizing.” I added.
“I have an idea.”
“Yes. You’re apologizing for not having the nerve to visit in my time of need, you’re apologizing for getting me into this mess, and you’re apologizing for anything else that you feel you should be apologizing for.” He smiled and smirked to himself.
“You know me too well.” I told him, smiling to myself. He knew far too much about me, so much it scared me, “did you hear about –”
“Yes.” He interrupted, harshly. There was a thick silence for a few awkward moments that gradually became hostile and uncomfortable, “a nurse told me.”
“I didn’t think you’d have been interested in asking.”
“I was asking about you and they just added that knowledge on at the end, thinking he was a friend. I couldn’t care less about him.”
“That’s harsh –”
“But true. I’m thankful that I never have to cross his path ever again.” I gulped at the abruptness of his statement. He noticed and calmed himself down, “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I know you never liked him.”
“And now he’s gone.”
“Yes.” A silence filled the room again. I looked down and my hands in my lap as I fiddled nervously with them. James climbed down from the bed and wandered over to one of armchairs on the facing wall, picking up the magazine that sat on one of the seats and flicking through the pages randomly, not taking in anything he was looking at. He edged closer to me on the bed and reached for one of my fidgety hands, taking it into his hand and holding on tightly. I looked down at our clasped fingers and then back up into his eyes.
“I love you.” He said.
“I know.” I replied. It wasn’t the answer he was hoping for in return. He wanted me to tell him I loved him too and that everything could go back to how it had been before everything had happened.
“Do you still love him?” he murmured, eagerly awaiting a response. I felt his grip growing tighter as he waited longer and longer for my answer. My tummy had stopped doing somersaults but was now on the fastest rollercoaster in history. I breathed in deeply.
“No.” I answered, truthfully. My heart was racing.
“But you don’t love me, either?”
“I never said that.”
“So… you do love me?”
“I never said that either.”
“Casey,” he breathed, snapping his eyes shut and kissing me hard. Everything vanished. The whole world around us wasn’t important anymore; all that remained was the two of us. His kiss was passionate and longing, and a strength and feeling that I’d not had – or longed for – in so long. Our lips parted and both of our breathing was harsh, “I love you, Casey; please tell me you love me back.”
I snapped my eyes back to his and kissed him again, holding him and letting go of all my inhibitions. He held me too, embracing me and holding me. I broke away quickly, and locked eyes with him, our breathing both heavy and eager.
“I love you, Ben.” I whispered.