I watch her as she finally seems to give up hope. There’s blankness in her expression that screams resignation, a low-key facial expression that nobody but Alex and I would recognise. She bows her head, yawns, coughs and sighs, and that is the only form of communication I manage to get from her until about half past ten.
“What is it?” she says eventually, after staring at me for around ten minutes, “What makes us… like this?”
“What makes us want to help other people, to help people pull through? What gives us all that hope that we never seem to be able to destroy?”
“What? What do you mean, hope you can’t destroy? Hope is meant to be destroyed, isn’t it, that’s why it’s hope.”
“I don’t…” she doesn’t get what I’m saying, “You’re not making sense.”
“Do I ever?”
“No.” she half smiles, “I guess you don’t.” she sighs again and wipes her eyes. I didn’t realise she had been crying, though it was obvious now that I looked closer at her, two thick streaks across her cheeks.
“Um, Mrs Holloway? Can I have a word with you, in my office?”
“Tom, C’mon.” she rises from her seat, I stand as well, but the doctor gives me a look and I sit back down, slightly relieved. “No, either he comes, or I’m not moving,” she says simply, taking her seat again and folding her arms.
“OK. We’ll do this here. Basically, we want you to ensure that… his affairs are in order - all of his accounts are sorted, and that sort of thing… as the longer he is out the less likely he is to survive.” she nods but doesn’t say anything, I think she is as lost for words as I am.
“OK, thank you.” she says simply, “I’ll do that.” the doctor nods and leaves. There’s a twenty-second pause and she looks up at me. “Don’t make me do this.” she whispers and bursts into torrents of sobs. I stand up and cross the room to her, folding my arms around her and trying to comfort her. I’m such a failure as a brother. I can’t even reassure her anymore.
*Once. A long time ago.*
It was almost midnight, and Alex was still awake. He was lying, fully clothed, beside Calli, who was also dressed, and fast asleep in his arms. They had been relaxing on her bed, somehow she had fallen asleep, but he was having problems doing the same.
Mainly because he was thinking. Calli was the most beautiful person, both physically and emotionally, and he wanted to… he needed to… well; it was a feeling he couldn’t put into words. His hands touched the bare skin under her T-Shirt, and she curled up against him, her warm body reacting with the cool feel of his fingertips. He kissed her neck and she smiled in a half-asleep daze, blinking herself awake to look at him.
“Where’s the fire?” she whispered, then sat up hurriedly as Alex did the same.
“Are you sure?” He said cryptically, running a hand through his hair, then doing the same to hers, affectionately kissing her cheek.
“Am I sure? About what?”
“Marrying me.” he said simply, and then went to get up. She pulled him back down onto the bedcovers.
“Don’t walk away from me.” She said, her tone a little hurt, and a little confused at the same time. “What do you mean, ‘are you sure’? Why wouldn’t I be sure? Alex, I want to spend the rest of my life with you… don’t you feel the same?”
“Calli, of course I do… it’s just…”
“Just what, Alex? Explain it to me…”