Sorry this took so long. Writer's block is a terrible thing. Though to make up for it, I have made this my longest chapter so far.
I was vaguely aware of my consciousness. I took a deep breath, and let the large dosage of oxygen filling my lungs jump-start my brain. My arms stretched out automatically relieving my muscles of the cramps I had accumulated overnight. There was a tug on my wrist, and a not so pleasant tug at that.
I opened my eyes to see what the disturbance was, and I realized I wasn't in my room. Panic shot through me. Where am I? Why am I here? I sat up in the bed and took in my surroundings. The small room was white and there was a small vase of flowers on a table across the room. It was a hospital room. There was movement by my leg. My eyes grazed across the figure and I wondered why I hadn't seen him there before.
He looked so peaceful, though the worry was evident on his face. It looked as though he hadn't slept in days. I tucked my brother's dark brown hair behind his ear so I could see his face more clearly. There was a frown and dark circles under his eyes. Whatever it was that was worrying him must be pretty bad. Then I realized from my position, I must be the one who caused those dark circles. Why am I here anyway? I tried to think back to my last memory.
Then, in between heartbeats, there was a flash of memory. Then another…then another. Then the whole scene played before my eyes. I had been with Michael. My head. My hand reached up automatically to feel my head for any injury. What had happened to me? I lay back in my bed leaning against my pillow. I remember playing videogames with Michael…and then he started playing the piano…and then…what? What happened? I felt fine, I feel fine. I feel perfectly healthy. Actually, I feel better than I have ever felt in my life.
My eyes wondered back over to my brother. I smiled lightly. His eyes were twitching; he was beginning to wake up. I just sat and watched as his face came to life. His mouth opened to yawn, and then he opened his eyes. He stared at my face for over 5 seconds before realization animated his features.
He jumped up joyously. "Liz!" He hugged me tightly. I was taken aback. I wasn't used to such affection from my brother. It surprised me to see just how much he cares about me. I hugged him back, contented.
He pulled away and sat back down in his seat. "How are you feeling?" He asked it so seriously. It was like he was a completely different person.
"Fine, I'm feeling fine, I don't know what happened." I said honestly.
"Michael called me and told me that you passed out, that you hurt your head...or something?" He searched for clarification.
"Yeah, he was playing the piano…" the scene flashed across my memory again. "…and all of the sudden my head started hurting really bad." The pain of the memory contorted my features. But before I could dig too deep into my subconscious the door creaked open slowly. A familiar face poked into vision. He was trying to make sure he didn't wake me. His eyes caught mine and he smiled. He walked in the room and stood a few feet away.
"You're awake." He declared. I looked at his face, he looked like Mason. Dark circles, little sleep. Though he looked happy now, I could still see the worry underneath. Even Michael was worried about me.
"Yeah, I just woke up." He just stared at me, a little too intensely. I looked away. There were a few moments of awkwardness before Mason spoke, clearly feeling the tension in the atmosphere.
"Well, I think I am going to go get some breakfast." He stood and walked toward the door. He looked back at me, "You want anything?"
"No, I'm not hungry, thanks though." I gave him a reassuring smile to let him know I really was fine. He could leave and not have to worry about me passing out again…I was pretty sure. Michael took his seat by my side; he was still watching my face, looking for something. His face looked…hesitant.
"Michael," I began, "what happened?" I needed answers.
He finally looked away from my face for the first time since entering the room. His face was blank, emotionless. "I'm not entirely sure." He stopped, but I wasn't going to let him be finished yet. I said nothing waiting for him to continue. "You just passed out. I called 911, but they took so long. I didn't know what to do; I didn't know what happened to you." He paused, finding the words he wanted to say. "Even while you were unconscious you...writhed." He didn't want to say it. "I was so scared." His mask slipped and I saw the fear in his eyes. "So, I picked you up and ran as fast as my feet could carry me. I wasn't going to wait for the ambulance."
My mouth fell open. "You carried me all the way here?" I couldn't believe it.
He looked at my face, with one that still showed anxiety. "I didn't know what else to do."
I did the calculation in my head. "But that is 67 blocks!" How he made it that far without passing out himself was miraculous. When he did not respond I showed the least of my appreciation. "Thank you." I said seriously. He just smiled sadly to me. The gratitude I felt towards this man was overwhelming. It was hard to think that I only met him yesterday. Or was it yesterday?
"How long have I been in here?" I asked suddenly, taking him off guard.
He just looked at me for a second. "2 days." He was still hesitant, like he was waiting for me to explode.
"Hmm." I thought about that. "Well, what's the verdict?" I asked, hoping he could clear up a few things. And also hoping to distract him from whatever was going on in his head. It took him a moment to grasp what I was asking.
"They gave you an MRI. I guess everything looked alright. They thought maybe you had an aneurism but the MRI showed negative for that. They said you are fine and that they don't know what happened. They thought maybe it was too much stress in your life. I guess sometimes people have stress overloads and their bodies react." He said it like I imagined the doctors had told him.
I pondered it. It did make sense. "Well, I have been pretty stressed lately." I guess the stress just built up so long that it had to have an effect at some point. I just pushed everything into the corners of my mind so that I wouldn't have to worry Mason. I didn't want him to see what I was going through so I pretended like everything was fine. "I have always tried to either adapt to my problems or ignore them. I guess it just all came down on me at once." I thought out loud. His face was indescribable.
"Well," I said at length, "I feel fine now." I smiled to him, hoping to calm the storm in his eyes.
His face changed then, like he broke through a trance. "Yeah, the doctor said you were perfectly healthy." He said it in a way that made me think he didn't quite believe it.
As if on que, a nurse walked into the room holding a clipboard. "Oh, your finally awake. I was beginning to wonder if you were ever going to wake up." She joked lightly, though Michael didn't seem to find it funny. She was young, though she held herself in a way that made me feel like she had a lot of experience. She walked to me and touched my forehead. She then proceed to check my heart monitor and wrote some things down on her papers. I just hoped that she would unplug me from these machines so I could leave. "So how are you feeling?" She looked up from her work momentarily.
"I feel great. I think I am ready to go home now." I said as pleasantly as I could. I was taught that you can catch more flys with honey than you can with vinegar.
"Well, everything looks good. And the doctor has already approved your dismissal. So you can leave as soon as you would like."
"Now sounds good." I smiled.
She laughed lightly and took the needles out of my arms. It was a little uncomfortable, but I was just glad to be leaving. "Now you take it easy for awhile, ok? Try to steer clear of strenuous activities." She instructed. I nodded and swung my legs around the side of the bed and stood slowly. Michael stood with me and I steadied myself on his arm, though I probably could have walked fine on my own. And again I noticed his great warmth. He looked hesitant again. His eyes hid something he was trying to not let me see.
"Really, I'm fine." I assured him. He just smiled briefly. His concern for me was puzzling. Or maybe he was thinking about something else entirely. Why did I think that whatever was going on with him was about me? He has his own life, and there are about a million things that could be bothering him. I let go of his arm.
I changed back into my clothes in the small bathroom, and then we left. We found Mason in the cafeteria. And it appeared as though he had fallen asleep in the middle of eating his cereal. Even Michael couldn't help but laugh.
I stood across the table from him and watched as Michael tapped his shoulder. He jerked upright, startled, and my laughter grew at his face. There were froot loops stuck to his cheek, milk dripping from his chin.
"Thats a good look for you." I said as he came to. He wiped the breakfast from his face and grimaced. Though he couldn't hold his agitated expression for long because he yawned. He spoke in his yawn. "I'm just so tired."
"Well as soon as we get home you can go right back to sleep, ok?" I said hoping it was enough motivation to get him moving. I smiled when he stood.
"Wait," I suddenly had a thought. "How are we getting home?" I was really hoping we wouldn't have to walk all the way back.
"My car is here." Michael said as he walked towards the exit. He didn't seem like he was in the mood for further questioning so I let it drop. I wanted to ask him what was wrong, but I didn't bother. We didn't know each other nearly well enough for him to confide anything in me. Though he did risk his life by giving me a job and he did carry me 67 blocks all the way to the hospital. Those aren't things that people who barely know you would do either. Why was he helping me so much anyway? Who was I to him?
We walked to his car in cold silence. The temperatures had been dropping lately. Winter was almost here, the thought made me smile. I always had enjoyed winter, though, I rubbed my arms, I didn't so much like the cold. Could you have a nice snowy winter without it having to be any lower than 60 degrees? No...I didn't think so.
I didn't know where we were going or what his car looked like so I just followed. We eventually came to a blue-ish colored 4-door something or other. And I'm no car expert, but I was pretty sure this car was really expensive. It was very nice, and it had one of the shiny symbols on the front, the one that I recognized from car commercials. It was the kind of car I knew I would never be able to afford. "Wow, nice car." I spoke my thoughts.
"Oh, thanks." He seemed a little flustered. "It was a gift." He said quickly. He took his keys out of his pocket and pressed a button, unlocking all the doors. I opened the back door for Mason, he was basically sleep-walking so I just shoved him in gently, though apparently not gently enough. His head thunked on the top of the frame upon entry. "Oops, sorry." I should have been a little more careful, but I was a little impatient for some reason unknown even to me.
He just mumbled angrily and then curled into a ball in the back seat. Not caring enough about safety right now to get buckled. I made sure all of his extremities were clear before I closed the door. And I noticed that the sound the door made when it closed even sounded expensive. Can there be an expensive sound?
I opened the passenger door and climbed in, Michael already had the car started and the heat on. I closed the door beside me and smiled at the 'expensive sound'. I opened the door again pretending my seat belt was stuck and then closed it firmly once more. I laughed at myself. It was silly but that sound was entertaining.
"What?" Michael asked when he heard my distant laughing. There was a gleam in his eye that wasn't there a minute ago. I liked it.
"Nothing," I was a little embarrassed at my idiocy. "I'm just laughing at myself." I smiled. He just gave me a mocking look and put the car in gear.
The ride home was quiet, just as I thought it would be. All that I heard was Mason's quiet mumbles in the back seat. He was pretty well known for talking in his sleep. Most of it was pretty incoherent though. I wanted to say something. The silence was so thick, and my awareness of it only made it worse. It clung in the air like a dense fog. It was mocking me. I couldn't even navigate my mind to a different topic because my mind was too clever to be distracted by any other subject. I couldn't stop thinking about it because I knew I was trying to avoid thinking about it, which actually only made me think about it more. I sighed heavily. I have had just about enough of this. I reached out to the unfamiliar buttons on the dashboard and pressed what I thought would be the radio button. I smiled when the speakers suddenly poured music into what used to be the thickening silence. Hah, I put a silence to the...silence.
Michael looked at me for a moment, and then turned his eyes to the radio button I had just pushed, and then quickly turning his eyes back to the road. Ugh, that is it! I opened my mouth to speak...
"Don't tango too fast!!" Mason suddenly shouted.
I closed my mouth and turned around to look at my brother and Michael looked into the rear-view to see the reason for the sudden outburst. He was laying half off the backseat, in a position I couldn't imagine was comfortable. He was dreaming. He wiped the drool from his mouth and turned over. I heard Michael's laugh by my ear, and I could feel the warmth from his body on my face. It seemed impossible to me how this beautiful man could be so warm. The warmth from his body emanated from his skin, and I got the feeling that the car heater wasn't really necessary.
I turned back around in my seat. Suddenly the words I was going to say were now lost in the tangled web of my mind. My resolve was broken.
The rest of the trip was spent with the the music and mason's mumbles as the only sound. Michael turned onto the street where my house was and I suddenly wondered how he knew where we lived. He hadn't ever been there before...had he? I didn't tell him where we lived. He was just headed in the right direction the whole time, I didn't feel the need to correct him. I didn't think it was because he already knew. Maybe Mason had told him while I was asleep?
...Mason. He had to get to the hospital somehow. Michael must have picked him up. Ok, that made sense. It was enough to put my wondering mind to rest as we pulled into the driveway.
Michael put the car into park, leaving the engine running. Mason still slept quietly in the backseat. I didn't move yet, not entirely ready to leave the warm van and go out into the cold. I looked over to Michael, who appeared to be deep in thought. "Thank you, for everything." I tried to sound as sincere as I could, so he would know just how much everything he did meant to me. He looked up at me and smiled, though his eyes were still emotionless.
"No problem." He said, shrugging it off as if it were nothing.
I tried to think of something to say, to make him talk to me. "So, Its...Tuesday?" He nodded. I had a feeling he was going to deny me my next request, but I asked anyway. "I would like to work today." I told him, trying to find a way to arrange my words so it didn't sound so much like asking. He knew it was coming so he already has an answer prepared.
"Don't you think you should get some rest? You just came back from the hospital after all."
"Yeah, I just came back from the hospital, where all I did was rest. I feel better than I have ever felt, revived somehow." I told him and it was pretty obvious I was going to win this argument.
He looked skeptical. "Alright," he said in defeat. I was glad that he saw things my way, but his hesitance and clear resistance hurt somehow. Like he didn't want me around. I tried to ignore it.
"I'll be right back." I told him quickly. I got out of the car and dragged my brother out of the back door. He was startled as I woke him from his sleep and he banged his head again on the frame.
"Ouch!" He shouted, clearly irritated.
I just pointed him in the direction of the house and he walked to the door. I looked back to Michael for a second to make sure he wasn't just going to leave me behind.
"I'm not going anywhere." He said, reading my thoughts through my expression. I just turned and headed after Mason.
I took the quickest shower I could possibly manage, while still trying to scrub off two days of grime. It was a little easier with my short hair, so it didn't take as long as I was expecting. I changed without paying much attention to what I was putting on. I quickly ran my brush through my hair, and headed back out the door, jacket in hand. I was anxious to get back into the warm vehicle.
"That was quick." He said, even though I felt like I had taken far too long. "I was expecting you to be in there for awhile." I just smiled at him, I didn't have much of a response, my brain was still in fast forward. I took a deep breath to calm myself down a little. He put the car in gear and headed back down the street.
By the time we got back to the video store it was about 10 o'clock. It felt much later than that. Being unconscious really screws up your time perception. We walked down the stairs into the dark room. He turned the lights on and turned over the closed sign. It was strange, I felt like I was just here, almost as if I never even left.
"So, um" Michael began, "Do you think you will be ok here by yourself for awhile? You know how to take care of everything right?"
"I guess..." I was a little confused. "Where are you going?" I was kind of dissapointed that he wouldn't be here with me.
"Oh, I just have to take care of a few things..a few errands to run, you know. I'll be back in a little bit, it shouldn't take too long." His vague answer only made me more curious, though, I suppose it really isn't any of my business what he does.
I hesitated, "Alright..." I just looked at him, waiting for him to do something.
"Ok, um, there are a list of numbers on the wall by the counter if anything goes wrong. You can watch tv if you would like, and feel free to help yourself to anything in the fridge in the back. I'll be back in a bit." He headed for the door, but before he got there he turned. There was something in his eye that wasn't there before. "Be careful." Then he abruptly exited the room.
I just stood there for a minute, trying to figure out what just happened. I looked at the jacket in my hands, I figured I should probably hang it up. I took it and draped it over the hook on the wall. I got everything set up and ready to go. There really wasn't much for me to do, so I went around the room, straightening movies, making sure there was exactly the same distance between every one.
Once I was done and feeling much like an obsessive compulsive perfectionist, I sat down behind the counter. I saw the outdated remote on a shelf underneath the counter, so I picked it up and turned the tv on. There wasn't much on, a few talk shows, soap operas, and children's programs. So I turned the channel to the news. Maybe something had happened in the real world in the last two days I should know about. They mostly talked about the stock market and gas prices, typical.
It had been nearly two hours since Michael left and there hadn't been a single customer. Boredom was quickly creeping up, my mind and eyes began to wonder. I began snooping around. I looked at the items on the shelves under the counter. There were several papers, all of which meant nothing to me, and there were pens and empty candy wrappers. I smirked at that. In the back there was a small box of cigars and a book of matches, things I guessed belonged to Michael's grandfather. I pushed the small box back to its home and the top of my arm brushed something stuck to the top of the shelf. I reached my hand up and there was a metal object taped there...I grazed my hand over the surface of the object and quickly realized that it was a gun. I jerked my hand back, shocked. I rubbed my hand as if the gun had burnt my skin.
Why was there a gun here? I suddenly felt a twinge of paranoia. "No." I told myself. I didn't have anything to worry about. Michael was a good person. Or...was he? Come to think of it, I don't really know anything about him, and he seemed to know a great deal about me. His grandfather was so nice to me though, they couldn't possibly be bad. I assured myself. The gun is probably just for protection, this store isn't exactly located in the best part of town after all. I soothed my paranoia. There wasn't anything to worry about. He saved my life, he isn't dangerous. I stood from my seat, maybe if I stretch my legs a little and get my blood flowing I will feel a little better. I walked out into the open room and did a couple yoga moves I remembered learning a few years ago. And it actually calmed my nerves. The world seemed much more logical after the blood was flowing freely to my brain.
I stood up straight and walked into the back room. I was feeling rather thirsty. I hadn't actually drank anything since coming back from the hospital. I didn't remember seeing a refrigerator in here before so I didn't know where to look at first. I opened the door and looked around. My eyes first landed on the black piano. I shuddered. I kept looking around and sure enough, behind the door on the back wall was a small white mini-fridge. I smiled at my discovery. I opened the door and there was a large selection of beverages, none of which were alcoholic, I noted with relief. I took out a can of mountain dew. I could use some caffeine right about now.
As I opened the can I heard the front door open. That must be Michael. And I couldn't decide whether I was relieved or frightened. Though, regardless of my feelings, I thought it would be best to keep it light. I walked through the door. "Back already?" I said with sarcasm. Though as soon as I saw who was standing in the entrance, all traces of a smile drained from my face, along with all the color.