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'Laetitia! Come on! It's seven o'clock! Why are you still sleeping? Classes start in an hour! We have to go!'
When Annabel realized her screaming would not be enough to get Laetitia out of bed, she started nudging her until it was impossible to stay asleep. Laetitia tried to ignore her by turning her body towards the wall, but Annabel did not quit, 'Laeti!' and with that piercing shriek, Laetitia did not have another choice but to get off the couch and to open her eyes. As she tried to do so, all of the pictures that were lying besides her fell to the ground. Once again, she had probably fallen asleep while looking through these lost memories.
Annabel was always looking after Laetitia. She made sure she made it to class on time, was well fed, and clean' well, she tried. Laetitia was always so grateful to have a best friend like Bel, as she had nicknamed her when they met their freshman year of college. They took the science courses at the University of Chicago together and just a few months after they had met, they went apartment hunting for the perfect freshman flat which they now shared. Now, they were both sophomores.
As Laetitia carefully put away the images of her past in the wooden box of lavender where they belonged, Annabel took out some fresh clothes for her and pushed Laeitia through the door while stuffing the outfit in her hands. Their morning routines were quite simple: Annabel would wake Laeitia who would clean up her pictures and then they would both get into Annabel's car and drive to their school which was barely ten minutes away while Laeitia would discreetly change in the back seat.
'I'm going to visit him today at lunch,' Laetitia mentioned quietly.
'Again? Laeti, you know this isn't healthy for you, right?' Annabel asked her.
'Yeah'I know'' Laeitia answered in a whisper. She began fidgeting with the small golden locket tied around her neck.
'So why do you keep torturing yourself by going there every day? You know, Professor Allister mentioned that you haven't been paying attention in classes lately''
Mr. Allister always poked around in other people's business. Sometimes, he just went too far.
'Mr. Allister doesn't have the right to talk to you about me, Bel!' Laeitia complained.
'He's worried about you... And I am too,' Annabel said gently, 'What if Luke never gets better? It's been two months''
'You can't say that! I know he will! You don't understand' he has to.'
At this point, Laetitia was practically tearing the locket off her neck. Annabel noticed this so she shut up because she knew better than to press the subjects that made Laetitia fumble with the locket. It had been given to her by her grandparents when she and her younger brother Luke were just babies. They had both lived with their grandparents until Laetitia was twelve and Luke eight. Their parents were off somewhere discovering the world together, and according to them, children were a hassle. Their maternal grandparents owned a little country-side house in Aix-en-Provence. Life there was the most peaceful thing Laetitia had ever known. When her grandparents passed away, Laetitia had to take her brother back to Chicago where her parents, although strangers, tried to take care of them. Their relationship with Laetitia was terrible because she was never able to let them in to her private and personal life, but since Luke was still quite young when they moved back, he got used to them easily. From that point on, Laetitia kept her golden locket around her neck at all times with a small picture of her grandmother and grandfather inside it. She had also put together an assortment of childhood pictures of the lost 'Provencal' house along with some of the family it had protected and sheltered during so many precious years. She spends all of her free time looking through them as if she wants to relive the painful but perfect memories.
First period algebra went by quickly, as did second period sciences, third period calculus, and fourth period chemistry. Annabel always dreaded the last minute before lunch break, but, as always, there was nothing she could do about it: Laetitia had taken the car and was now making her way to the Chicago Hospital.
The accident occurred on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Since Laetitia and Luke returned from France, Laetitia made sure Luke's life contained some of their grandparents' traditions so they could be a part of him, such as the Sunday hiking that their grandfather loved so much. Therefore, every Sunday, Laetitia took her brother on a bus to the country and they went hiking through the woods for hours until the sun would start to set. Luke always looked forward to the hike with his older sister.
They had already hiked for several hours and had just taken a water break in a meadow of wild flowers.
'Laeti! Look! Do you see them? There are hundreds!' Luke exclaimed suddenly.
'What are you talking about? I can't see anything! What are you looking at?'
'Laeti! They are gorgeous!'
'Luke! Stop yelling! Tell me what you see!'
'Laeti, can't you see them? All the lavender bouquets!'
'Lavender? Oh yes! Wow' They are really beautiful, aren't they?' Laetitia widened her eyes in surprise and her grandmother came to mind. Lavender was her favorite flower and she would always take Laetitia and Luke to pick them from her garden in the spring season. Laetitia fidgeted with her locket at the thought of the bittersweet memory.
'Grandma would have loved this,' Luke tried to comfort Laetitia. 'I'll go pick some for you.' He picked up the lavender he could find on the trail until he reached a wide tree and then disappeared behind it to gather some more.
'Be careful, there's a drop somewhere behind there' Don't get lost, you don't want to'' and Laetitia was suddenly cut off by a piercing cry echoing from deep inside the forest.
Then, the voice, the scream, the sobs, they all vanished.
'Luuke! Luuuuuuuuke!' She tried screaming for help and then she tried screaming so that Luke could hear her and then answer her, but no response came. Laetitia could no longer see where she was going with the tears blocking her sight. She called 911 and then she searched for Luke until medical assistance finally found her. Luke's body was in a ditch and it was in pieces, or so it seemed, swimming in a pool of blood. His leg was going in two different directions and so was his arm. His body was all injured and scratched. What stood was Luke's scalp which was letting out an abnormal amount of blood. But what scarred Laetitia the most was the lavender bouquets that Luke still held in his bloody hand. She couldn't find the energy to move or to breathe. After she had fainted, the doctors took her into the ambulance and did their best to save Luke, but they knew they had come too late.
As Laetitia was driving to the Hospital on the road she now knew too well, the images from this nightmare came back to haunt her as they so often did. She once again held on to her locket until her blood could no longer circulate through her veins and in to her fingers. She parked Annabel's car in her usual spot and took the elevator to the corridor she knew her way through way too easily. As she turned the brass knob which would lead to her most despised place, she had trouble breathing as she always did. At the sight of him, the one true love of her life, the last true family member she had left, Laetitia burst into tears. She kissed his soft face and caressed his hand with her thumb; she could not understand how it was possible that, after all she had been through in her life, she could lose Luke as well. He has been in this deep coma since that dreadfully gloomy Sunday afternoon exactly two months ago. Laetitia knew she would soon have to make a decision, a decision she could never make. She knew her grandparents would be there with her when she made it, but she still wasn't sure she'd be courageous enough to make it. She didn't want to be the person who had to decide on letting her brother live in this condition or on giving up on the belief of his awakening. At this thought, more tears came. She felt so useless, and that she could not bear'
~ Epilogue ~
'Bel! Let's go! We are going to miss our flight!' Laetitia shouted.
'I'm coming! I'm coming! Hold on! Why are you so in a rush? The flight leaves in three hours!' Annabel shouted from the bathroom.
'I just want to make sure we get there on time! This is our first step, like our first step towards freedom! Don't you just want to get out of here?'
'Yeah, but I can't believe it's the end, you know'' Annabel sighed. 'This is so freaky, don't you think?'
'I know, I know, but everything is in the past now and we are going to get on with our lives! Everything can change, everything can be great! I can't believe I'm going back!'
Laetitia and Annabel were on their way to the airport. They were getting away from Chicago University in order to celebrate their graduation. They were on their own now and they were off to France; to Aix-en-Provence. Laetitia hadn't been there since her grandparents had died and the piercing sensation in her stomach was a good one. She was fumbling with her locket, but for reasons very different than she had in the past. She knew she had been through rough times; more than rough, tragic. She still thought that nobody should ever have to come close to the terrible pain she had felt in the past. She missed her grandparents all the time and she kept her wooden lavender picture box with her at all times, but mostly, she missed Luke. She thought of him constantly and he was the little voice in her head encouraging her to keep on going every day. He was her good conscience and she was grateful for that. She had had his casket transported to France and buried in her grandparents' backyard. On her twenty-first birthday she was legally allowed to read their will, and of course, they had left the property to her. Now she would be close to her grandparents and mostly to her brother.
'There it is! There's the gate! They're boarding!' Annabel shrieked with delight. 'I can't believe I've never been to France. It must be beautiful, with all the food, and the flowers'' Annabel had dozed off into her little dream bubble.
'It is' it really is'' Laetitia mumbled.
'Isn't there like a typical flower I could bring back for my mother? She loves flowers. Did u ever see our garden?' Annabel asked enthusiastically.
'Um' no. But the French flower, it's lavender.' Laetitia fumbled with her locket. 'Lavender'' she whispered quietly.