It was after a further fifteen silent minutes between Danielle and the newly determined Tobias that a nurse – not the same one that Tobias had run into before – poked her head around the door and told Tobias that his parents were looking for him.
‘I know,’ Tobias replied, but made no move to exit the room. He still had so much to talk through with Danielle, but he felt that he had wasted precious time in silence when he could have been discussing the Voices with her for the last quarter of an hour.
‘Are you going to come and let them know you’re alright? They’re quite worried about you, young man.’ The nurse was young, no older then Danielle must have been. About twenty, and certainly not patronising. She obviously still held her passion for the job she was doing, and was clearly very good with people. She gave Tobias and Danielle a warm smile, and Tobias couldn’t say no to her.
As he got up off his chair, he thought about how he was going to explain this to his parents. There was no way he would want to blame it on the Voices, who had been silent since Tobias had met Danielle. He would have to have a good excuse.
Walking around the bed to accompany the nurse down stairs to his parents, Tobias looked back to Danielle, who smiled at him understandingly. She knew that Tobias felt that she was the only person in the world that he could talk to, and it was probably true. He had told his parents about this, but he dared not elaborate on the subject. They seemed distraught enough as it was, and Tobias was in no way going to make things worse. Danielle – being the only Gifted person he knew – was the only person Tobias could really open up to about this. She seemed to understand him, rather than just back channel all the way through the conversation. She took it in, because she had obviously been in this situation once too. She had been nervous and scared of the Voices in her head, and may not have had anybody to talk to like Tobias now did. It was probably even harder for her, in that respect.
‘Can I visit again?’ Tobias asked Danielle, eagerly. Regardless of whether or not the hospital would allow it, let alone his parents, both Tobias and Danielle knew that it would not stop them meeting and consulting one another on the Voices in their heads.
‘Of course you can,’ Danielle replied. ‘You’re my new best friend.’
Danielle winked at Tobias, and Tobias felt his stomach fill with butterflies. He was fully aware that this was a simple wink of friendship, but Tobias couldn’t help but be embarrassed at being winked at in front of another person. Especially by somebody like Danielle.
Maybe they could become best friends, for real. Open up to one another, like best friends did. Tobias was lonely at school, and that was his own choice. He had always been quite shy, and that was his reason for burying himself in literature. But now he had somebody he had something in common with.
Maybe the Voices were really making his life better.
The nurse pressed her hand against Tobias’ back, leading him out of the room, and back into the hallway. It seemed so boring now, and Tobias was already missing the conversation with Danielle. His new best friend. His first real best friend.
As he walked the hallway with the nurse who seemed determined not to let Tobias out of her sights, he wondered how he was going to visit Danielle again.
Maybe his parents would give him a lift. But maybe not… They were very unlikely to be supportive about this whole ordeal, and it’s not like Tobias could tell his parents why he wanted to go to the hospital. He’d have to come clean about his friend, and they’d think he was crazy, and Danielle would be locked up, and Tobias would probably join her.
At least if they were both banged up in a mental asylum, maybe they could share a cell and talk about the Voices forever.
Maybe that would make things easier.
As the elevator doors opened, revealing the ground floor of the hospital, Tobias was instantly met by his parents.
His mother was upon him almost before the doors had fully opened, but not shouting and screaming at him like Tobias had been bracing himself for, but hugging him tightly. Maybe she had been so worried that she had forgotten about the mental instability of her son.
As he left the small confined space of the lift, Tobias was released by his mother, and was left to make eye contact with his father, who did not look as delighted as Tobias’ mother.
But, despite the expression of disturbance on his face, which had been present for about twenty four hours, he bent down and hugged his son. Not a word was spurted from either mouths, and neither found it necessary.
Were they putting this behind them? Tobias wanted to know.
‘I’m sorry, son.’ The words emerged. An apology. For what, Tobias did not know.
But he took it. And he appreciated it.
As they left the hospital, Tobias let his mind drift back to the conversation. Danielle – the first Gifted person Tobias had met. She could hear the Voices. Is that what made her Gifted?
For the first time, Tobias felt he understood his situation a little more.
He began to toy with the idea of referring to himself as Gifted.
With a capital ‘G’.
He liked it.