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The Images Behind
The soft, mechanical hums, under toned by nurses' footsteps. Hospital beds creaking as bodies shift in the night. I stare at the ceiling, awake despite the raw exhaustion gnawing at my insides. If I close my eyes the images will start flooding in again; fast and unforgiving.
Youri's monitors beeping. Troubled breathing, ragged and short. Running feet and hushed whispers, the snapping of latex gloves and syringes filled with white, milky fluid.
I wish the windows in this place could open. I'm sweating; I need some air.
They start getting louder, voices growing urgent. He's not breathing now. His heart rates low, so low, and he's not breathing, he's not breathing, he's not breathing-
They take him away in a stretcher. To where, I keep asking, where, where, but they ignore me, leaving me, talking amongst themselves but not to me, no, not to me-
“Have you been to sleep at all yet?” Quinn's worried expression momentarily breaks my thoughts, my flashbacks. But I don't answer him. He already knows the answer.
Quinn shakes his head and stands up, bare feet smacking against the linoleum floor as he approaches my bed. His eyes are clouded, hand cold as he presses it against my forehead. I flinch.
“Are you sick?”
Sick. I think to myself. Am I sick?
Maybe in the head.
Quinn's talking to me, but I can't concentrate. I stare ahead at his once occupied bed, now neatly made and disinfected. Waiting for its next patient.
At least it's quiet now. The screaming, and the beeping. At least it's quiet. At least-
Quinn stands up and closes the curtain encircling my bed. It gets darker, the red glare of the Call Nurse button covered.
“Better?” He asks.
We sit in silence for a while, Quinn staring at me while I stare at nothing. Every time I blink I can see his blue face; those sickly, yellow-tinted scleras. The frail arms of a dieing fourteen-year-old.
“Tell me he's okay.” I blurt out. I sit up suddenly as my hand start to shake; I clench them into tight fists.
“Tell me he's okay.” The images flood in freely now, in front of my open eyes. I snap them shut and shove my fists into them. “I...I just need to hear it.”
Quinn hesitates. “Mel, are you-”
“Yeah, I'm fine. Is he?”
Stars start to float in front of the sickness; the pills and the blinding fluorescent lights.
“Yeah. He's fine.”
It's not enough.
“How do you know?”
“...Look, it's the middle of the night. Can we do this tom-”
“No.” My voice starts to shake. “We can't.”
Fourteen year old boys shouldn't be like this. They should be playing video games and popping zits and having wet dreams; not heart failure. Not respiratory collapse.
“Mel.” Quinn turns my head and stares deep into my eyes, making me wince. Can he see what I'm seeing? “He's fine. Youri's fine. You hear me?”
I bite the inside of my cheek. “Yeah.”
“He's just resting. Taking a load off...he'll be back.”
Quinn stand up and pulls the curtain back, walking to his bed. He pauses, looking back at me. I taste blood.
“He's fine, Mel. He always is.”
Hours pass. I stare at the ceiling, or the empty bed, or the light slowly making its way across the sky. Anything but close them. Anything but face the truth.
Quinn's words play themselves in a loop;
“He's fine. He always is.”
It makes my heart sink.
Quinn's a terrible liar.