This time someone is waiting for me at my hospital room when I return. The morning light has disintegrated and now it is clearly afternoon. How long was I gone for?
I see his dishevelled shirt and his dirty pants first, full of mysterious stains. Then I smell the putrid stench of alcohol and cigarettes wafting off him in heavy doses. His blond hair is everywhere and the scar on his chin stands out horribly against his pale skin under the unnaturally bright light of the room. I can almost see the long scar on his leg where the shark gripped him, almost away from us, through his jeans.
"You know sis," James says in a drunken drawl. "I-I never thought that we would be here. I always was the one getting into this type of trouble."
I watch, frozen with fear for my brother.
He laughs in a cold, disconnected voice. "You saved me," he shakes his head with a grin that doesn't reach his blue eyes. "But you see sis," he frowns, "I can't save you."
"James," I whisper, finally snapping out of my stupor. I reach for him, but he moves away without realizing it.
"I know it was my fault Vic," he presses a hand tightly to his chest. "I know it was me. I shouldn't of gone into the water, but I did anyway. It was my fault Vic."
I examine my brother and I see that the bags under his eyes are darker and wider. His upper lip is twitching and I know that he is about to cry. Rubbing his hair wildly, James walks closer to my bed and kneels beside me.
"It was me Vic," he says in my sleeping ear, making my blonde hair float like feathers around his face. "I made mom and dad change, so why are you the one here? You shouldn't be here Vic, it should be me!" He closes his eyes, forcing back the tears. "You know that, deep down you know that! Why do you think I'm never home? I can't stand the way they are, how cold they've become. It was all me Vic."
I look down at my feet, lost for words. I had no idea that he had blamed himself, I just thought that somehow along the way the near-death of their only son had slowly destroyed my parents. My hands start to shake and I look up at my brother who is silently staring at me, his body slightly swaying at the odd position.
"I have to go Vic," he smiles, this time it reaches his eyes. "I'll see you soon, I promise." He gets up, a bit unsteady on his feet and smiles down once more at my sleeping form on the bed. He points his finger at me with one hand and pulls out his car keys with the other. "I'll be there soon."
Realization hits me as he leaves the room, occasionally raising his hand as if saluting to me. "James," I go after him after he's closed the door. I'm surprised to see that there aren't any nurses or doctors or patients around to stop him. Can't they see what he's about to do? "Stop! Someone, please!" I yell around me, but of course no one can hear me. I catch a flicker of movement out of the corner of my eye, but nothing is there when I look back.
James enters the elevator, smiling to himself. His hand plays with the keys in his other hand and he looks at ease, as if finally coming to an easy solution. I follow him and stand right beside him, watching the numbers slowly decrease. "You can't do this," I say, even though I know he can't hear me. "You can't do this to mom and dad. It wasn't your fault; it wasn't anyone's fault."
The door dings open and James steps out and I can see that he is trying to act nonchalant as he passes by several nurses conversing near the check-in desk. I look back at them, giggling and gossiping. Why can't they see what's right in front of them?
"James, please stop," I beg him as we reach the hospital doors, "please, don't do this!"
James stops and looks back at me. For a fleeting moment, I believe that he can see me, but then he looks down and smiles. "I love you sis," he whispers before walking out of the hospital, towards his car.
I run to catch up with him, but when I take one step out of the hospital doors a sensation of being hit by lightning takes over my body and I am thrown back into the hospital. What the hell? I think before realizing that James is gone and I can't do anything about it.