Regret fills my body, regret for the last few drinks I had. The last one that tipped me over the edge from drunk to completely wasted. Lights flicker and make me dizzy. I can't tell one person from the other, they all look the same and in this crowd I can't recognise anyone.
Except for one person.
He stands a head taller than most, talking to a blonde girl who laughs at something he says. Her hand rests on his bare arm for a split second, and that's when I make the quick decision to tell him exactly what I think of him.
I push through the crowd, thinking I'm making a bee line straight for him. At some point I realise I'm veering off course and I alter it, in order to reach him. Finally I tap his shoulder and watch as he looks over it at me. An eyebrow raises and I know what he's thinking – he's wondering why I've come over, why now with her standing there?
"Yeah?" Indifferent to what I have to say. After all, to him I am now just an annoying brat.
"I just want to say," In my head it's clearer, but by his face it's a slur – words blurred together just as my vision is. "That you are a" My head sways as I force the words out. I close my eyes, trying to stop it. "Egotistical, pompous…"
"Stop it." He turns around fully to face me now. "You're drunk."
"Oh well done, Sherlock."
A sigh escapes his lips as I force myself not to cry. Why did I say it? I needn't have come over. I don't even think I mean it.
He turns to the girl, properly explaining who I am, before he places his hands on my shoulders and begins to guide me towards the entrance.
"Come on, I'm taking you home."
"I don't want to go home!" I protest against it, my voice reaching a high pitch that possibly only dogs can hear. He doesn't listen, and within minutes he's phoned a taxi and it's on its way.
He takes off his jacket and wraps it around my shoulders. I pull it tighter, the alcohol that numbed my body earlier no longer protecting my bare shoulders.
"I love you." I mumble, falling onto his arm and closing my eyes. Tears leak from under my eyelids, as I wonder what I'd ever do without him. The hate I felt mere moments ago has dispersed, as it always does.
"I know." I hear the chuckle in his voice. "Love you too, kid."
"I'm sorry." I mumble, before I feel the glare of headlights and open my eyes to see the taxi in front of me.
He helps me climb into the taxi, settling me in the back before he takes his place in the passenger seat. The driver drives, as pubs and houses whiz past me. At some point I feel like I'm going to puke, though I hold my breath and count to ten, stopping it.
I lift my head, taking a breath. My eyes lock onto the window, and I scream. Headlights shine into the taxi as the driver covers his face. My scream stops as we collide.
Something sticky on my forehead as I slowly open my eyes. For some unknown reason I am lying on the ground, and it takes me a few seconds to realise how I got here. I remember reaching for the door handle and throwing myself out. I must have hit the ground hard to black out.
Sit up, put hand to forehead. Blood. Glass. Pain.
The cars lay three houses away from me, back towards the hall, though the hall and the people contained there are way out of sight. Slowly, I stagger to my feet and crunch over the glass, towards the cars.
Shout his name. Over and over again I shout, praying for a response.
Finally I reach the cars. I ignore the two drivers, gaze fixed on him sitting in the seat, eyes closed, mouth open and blood everywhere. They're all unconscious.
A scream rips from my throat, and I feel disconnected from my body. The sound echoes in my ears again and again until I feel someone, attracted by the screaming, grab my shoulders and pull me away from the scene.
I hear them; they call for an ambulance. He paces back and forth, as redundant here as I am. We can do nothing but sit and wait.
The silence is suffocating.
Patients lay quiet in their beds as I wait for the news, wrapped in a blanket in my own bed, staring at the ceiling, unable to cry or even speak.
Shock, they said.
Post-traumatic stress, possibly, they said.
Numb, they said.
The same thing in different words.
My brain has shut down my body because it can't comprehend what's happened. It doesn't understand that I was inches away from death, that he may be dead right now.
Finally it clicks and tears stream down my face.
Again my vision blurs, though I am defiantly sober now. I hear the clip clop of heels on the floor and I sit up as my mother bursts through the curtains, enveloping me tightly. She cries freely, and I know something is horribly wrong.
"Mum? What is it?"
I push her away, holding her shoulders at arms length and dreading the worst. "Mum?" My voice is barely above a whisper as I gaze at her. Her usually perfect make up is smudged, mascara streaks under her eyes.
"It's not good."
"He's alive, right?" I ask, and she nods, a slow, sad nod.
"He…he's paralyzed. He won't walk again!"
She breaks down, falling to the floor and I leap from the bed. As I run, nurses try to stop me but one simply follows, grabbing my hand and leading me to where he is.
"Hey." He manages to smile, and I stare at him, biting my lip. "Say something. Not that bad am I?"
I turn away. His face is covered in cuts, a deep one stretching down his cheek. Bruises have already formed, and I realise I can see the sparkle of glass in one of the cuts and in his right eye.
"Tell me the truth; think she'll still like me?"
"That blonde girl? Don't know. Some girls like scars."
Laughter, replaced quickly by coughing. I feel guilty. He was just trying to bring me home safely, my fault he's here. How do I end up with barely a scratch and he ends up like this?
"I'm so, so sorry."
"Not your fault." He lifts a hand and I take it, allowing myself to be pulled to him. "Don't feel sorry alright? Just trying to look after my little sister. Hey, I'll need you to look after me now."
"I know." I nod, leaning forward to kiss his forehead. "I will." And I mean it. I lean back and look at my big brother. So fragile lying here. So vulnerable.
"Love you sis."
"Love you too bro."