I did eventually fall back to sleep. When I woke up again, I was alone. That could mean one of three things,
1) Max was already up
2) There was something wrong with Max that he didn't want me to get worried about
3) Max had stopped caring about me
Because I knew Max would never leave me alone while I was sleeping at night.
I doubted the second option, and the third option even more, so I went outside. And God it was cold. So cold. It was snowing really heavily and a strong, icy wind was blowing it all at me. Max wasn't outside, though, so I immediately got worried.
Option three was still extremely doubtable, and barely possible. But option two was just... he told me everything so why would he not tell me now? Even so, I found tears falling lightly from my eyes.
I moved over to his side of the tent.
"Max?" I asked. "Max, are you awake?"
"Yeah, I'm awake" he sounded a bit strained, which suddenly made option three possible, and option two VERY possible. "Come in, it's not zipped up"
"OK" I undid the Velcro and went in. Then I zipped the tent up and did the Velcro back up. When I turned round I had to stop because what I saw suddenly made option three VERY possible and option two VERY, VERY possible. Max was sitting cross-legged on his sleeping bag. He had both his hands pressed to his forehead and his eyes were tight shut. He looked like he was in pain. I didn't think about how possible that made the last two options, because I was suddenly too worried to care about anything else and I found myself crying more.
I immediately rejected any thought that he'd stopped caring about me and let the thought that he was hurting flow through my mind. "Max..." I said quietly, putting my hand gently on his arm. He didn't respond.
And that brought back the extreme possibility that he's stopped caring about me.
"Max?" I asked, unable to stop the tears leaking into my voice. "Max?" there was still no answer so I made myself say the words "Max, have you... have you stopped... caring... about me?"
He forced himself to open his eyes, and they were filled with pain.
"No" he whispered, almost inaudible. "No, I haven't stopped caring about you"
"Oh" I whispered back. "What's wrong?"
Max closed his eyes again and then there was silence. More tears came to my eyes when I remembered where I'd seem this before. It was from Ben. He'd been like this while having his 'something bad' headaches. They were something he'd only told me about. The very last time Ben had had one of these headaches, he'd died that same night.
"Please stop crying" Max was suddenly there in front of me.
"I'm sorry, I- I can't" I swallowed. "Sorry"
"You know that I would never stop caring about you. Never. Sara? You know that, don't you?"
"I know. I'm sorry" I swallowed again and wiped my eyes. "Are you OK now?"
"Yes, I'm fine"
"That's good. What was wrong?"
"I'm not really sure. It was like... I wasn't... here. I was finding it very hard to concentrate on what was going on. The scene kept fading away but there was nothing else ever there. It was dark, like I had my eyed closed. But I had my eyes open at first, because I was with you. But then it got worse, almost too hard to bear, so I came in here. But it got really bad and I couldn't focus on anything. When you came in I could hear but I couldn't see. When you weren't talking I was barely aware that you were here"
"Oh, goodness!" I exclaimed. "Are you OK!"
"I'm fine now, really. But if you ever see me like that again, I want you to keep talking to me. Say anything. It helps me focus. OK?" he looked into my eyes, knowing I'd say yes.
"Yes! Fine! Anything!" I said "Just, wake me up next time. I hated seeing you in that state"
"OK, I promise. Now, let's go. Abbie's probably out there wondering what the hell is going on"
"Um, I highly doubt that. There's what's close to a snowstorm going on outside"
"Oh" he laughed "Then I doubt she is"