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Don't Kill Me Now (It's Early) Part 3
I went straight home from the hospital to an absent sister and passed out mother. My mother lay face down on the couch, feet hanging off the side and her head cocked awkwardly; I ignored her as much as possible, leaving her there. I went up to my room, feeling exhausted, and collapsed on my bed, immediately falling asleep in the same clothes I went to the past and hospital in.
I slept heavily (for once), never hearing my mother stumble past my room from the couch to her own bedroom like she usually does every night. I was too deep in sleep, in dreams, to wake.
I dreamt of good things, bad things, and frightening things. I dreamt of Eric, I dreamt of dying, I dreamt of ghosts that only I could see.
Eric was alive, well, and we were happy; together. We were happy together.
The death was cold, as if I could feel it in my own skin, and inexplicable.
The ghosts I saw were everywhere: people dying where they stood, their souls escaping their bodies making themselves only visible to me.
I woke out of my coma-like state with the sun peering in my window and beating down on my neck and arms. When I realized I wasn’t dreaming any longer, I rolled off my stomach, and onto my back. I had sweat dripping down my forehead, it was so hot; after all it was mid-July and the uncovered window over my head let the sun beat down on my skin.
I lay there for a few minutes, not thinking, or moving. Just laying, letting myself recuperate from the misfortunes and gratitude’s that took place the night before. I remembered the party, sitting; alone, but completely surrounded. When I first saw Eric, in his ghost form, dripping blood that turned out to be his own. Sitting at the stop sign with him, revealing secrets within a matter of minutes. The wholeness we felt while we were with each other.
And then when he returned to his body, bringing his self back to me. My blood-curdling screams escaping from my mouth without my sane consent; what was the point of sanity when you were on the verge of losing your insanity?
I remembered the two girls that were in the other car that I hadn’t heard hardly anything about, and didn’t think twice of. What happened to them? Were they okay? Were they in as bad of, or worse than, shape as Eric?
I thought about when we were at the hospital, Eric silently awaiting his own return, my frantic about what we could do. Meeting his father for the first time in not the best circumstance.
The first time Eric squeezed my hand.
And then, I remembered the last thing that happened before I made my way home: Eric awoke, alive, eyes open, looking at me.
“I love you, Claire,” he’d said.
After I escaped from my last-night reverie, I reached over to my bedside table for my phone (stupid Track phone that I paid for out of my limited pocket; I figured what with me being gone pretty much 24/7 it would be a good idea.) I didn’t expect any texts or missed calls, and I was right not to: there were none.
What did catch my eye though was the time: 3:09 p.m.
CRAP! I thought. Why aren’t I at the hospital? Eric’s probably wondering where I am.
I threw my body out of the lumpy bed, and practically ran to my closet, thrashing around to find only a T-shirt and jeans. It took me forever to find any clothes, considering I barely had any, but when I finally did I threw them on in a rush, took a comb to my hair, and ran out the door.
I fired up the engine to my poor ’91 Oldsmobile that should’ve been buried 10 years ago; instead, I got it for $100 from a drug dealer. Yay me.
Before I pulled out though, I snapped the seatbelt into its holster, subconsciously until the click made me realize what I had done; I never buckled up.
I made it to the hospital in a matter of minutes, still frantic Eric would be upset I hadn’t been there (a little arrogant, I guess; I mean, it wasn’t like we were boyfriend and girlfriend – my God, that sounds so cliché.)
As I walked in the hospital room (not bothering to ask the Receptionist where he was, I obviously already knew, although she gave me a wicked look the whole time I walked past), Eric was lying on his bed, purple and blue bruises covering his face. I noticed the cast that went from his ankle all the way up his thigh. He also had one on his arm, and a sling over his shoulder. He was still gorgeous.
His dad sat (surprisingly enough) in the corner of the room in an ugly orange plastic chair, looking uncomfortable. His head snapped up when he heard me enter the room, and dropped back down when he saw who it was.
Eric lay there, looking stoned out of his mind, half asleep. But when he heard me enter, he looked up, also.
“Hey,” his raspy voice greeted me, with a weak smile.
“Hi.” I said back, a smile appearing on my own face.
“You’re here late.” I knew he was waiting for me; it was in his voice.
“Yeah, I’m sorry. I literally just woke up fifteen minutes ago,” I said as I sat next to him on his bed, avoiding his broken leg. “It was a long day yesterday.”
“You didn’t have to rush.” He said, with a slight joking tone that I just knew would have been intensified if it could’ve been.
“I know, but I didn’t want to keep you waiting.” I smiled at him, once again. “So, what are the damages, anyways?” I asked, pointing to his leg.
“A lot, apparently. The leg’s broken in three spots, fractured in two. Broken arm. Almost shattered shoulder. A crack in my skull,” he said, pointing to where the deepest purple was on his head, “and all these bruises. It really is a wonder I’m alive,” he poked me in the shoulder, accusing me.
I didn’t say anything, too much to process going through my mind. It didn’t make sense he was alive. It’s seriously like a medical phenomenon; that’s how I felt anyways: How in the world is he actually here?
Neither of us spoke, just staring off into space for some odd minutes. Eric’s dad must’ve fallen asleep in the plastic chair; his head was tilted back, and he wasn’t moving.
After a while of silence, Eric whispered in my ear: “Do you believe in God?” He asked, out of nowhere.
I didn’t know how to reply, so I said, “Umm, I don’t really know. I’ve never actually thought about it.”
“You haven’t thought about it? How have you not thought about it? That’s not really something someone just doesn’t think about…” He started out rough, but quickly turned back to joking.
“I, I don’t know. I just haven’t. I mean, it’s not like my parents ever said anything about God, never took me to church. The only time the word ‘God’ came out of their mouths was if they were linking it to a cuss word. And the kids at school never really had anything to do with me; most likely because I didn’t want them to, and I didn’t want anything to do with them and their dumb lives that I’d envied.”
“Oh, well, okay…” He said, bringing the mood back down. His voice was still weak, but I noticed a dramatic change in it, although I couldn’t point it out.
“Why’d you ask that, anyways?”
“I was just wondering. I mean, when I was coming back… It was weird. I don’t know, I can’t explain it, I guess.” His hands were in his lap, twitching and fumbling.
I looked up at him, and his face was hesitant, solemn.
“Eric, tell me, I’ll listen.”
“All I’m saying is that when I was up there, it felt like heaven: I mean, of course, being with you is heaven enough, but this felt like the real thing; where God didn’t only exist but He was worshiped.” I probably looked at him like he was crazy, according to the embarrassed look that was on his face after he was done. But he sounded crazy.
I didn’t reply, not wanting to start an argument. I was just going to let him think what he wanted to think, there was really no harm in that; besides, he’s probably doped up on drugs.
Eric’s dad (whose name I hadn’t learned yet) still slept in the corner, snoring loudly. I heard Eric give a hint of a chuckle. I looked at him.
“He’s here,” I said. “He’s been here since I got here.”
“I know…” he said, obviously thinking the same thing as I was: Why’d he come?
“Why do you think he’s here? I mean, from the things you’ve said about him, I wouldn’t have guessed he’d be here: and he looks sober at that.”
“My guess is as good as yours. I have no idea.”
“What’s his name, anyways? He didn’t say last night.”
“Well, don’t you think I ought to know?” I laughed a little.
“Yeah.” He sounded like he was getting more tired, and I saw his eyelids begin to droop. His head rested on my shoulder, the ends of his hair rubbing the side of my neck.
After a few minutes, he was unconscious, snoring like his dad. The nurse came in shortly after, to check on him and put more meds in his fluid bag. She didn’t say much to me; a casual hello, at the height.
Hours passed, and Eric and his father were still sleeping. I began to wonder what their night had been like. I wanted to stay with him, but it was 9 o’clock, and I knew I had responsibilities the next day: I had grown-up things to take care of; a job, a house to clean, grocery shopping.
Eric’s head fell against the pillow as I slid my way out from under him. When I got to the door, I heard his dad stir. I hurried my way out, into the hospital hallway.
When I made it outside, the door opened again behind me: Eric’s dad, Robert, stood there.
“Claire, right?” He asked.
“Would you mind having a seat?” He asked, pointing to the concrete steps that lead down from the hospital entrance (steps at a hospital?).
“Umm, no, sure.” We both sat. “What’s up?” I asked.
“I noticed you and Eric together: how close you two are… I guess I was just wondering what’s going on between you two, and what brought it on? I’ve never seen him this way with anyone before.”
That took me by surprise. I didn’t know how to reply.
I kind of laughed, a shocked laugh, yet flattered.
“Uh, I don’t really know… It’s hard to explain, I guess. And, it’s probably something he’d want to tell you himself. I’ll just say we met last night. But it was instant, the pull we both felt towards each other.”
“I understand.” Did he?, I wondered. “So, there was another thing I was wondering about…”
“Well, did he say much about me? And his life growing up?”
“Actually, no. We haven’t actually had much time to talk.” I didn’t want to tell him what Eric had said about him.
“Good. I want to tell you, before he gets the chance.” Too late. “Listen, Eric, he hasn’t had an easy life,” I nodded, understanding, “his mom died when he was only 6. She committed suicide… He was there with her. I wasn’t home that night, I was on a business trip. She’d always suffered with depression, but I never knew it was as bad as it truly was. I came home that night…” He began, obviously falling into a reverie. “Eric was sitting on the couch. The TV was on, but there was no sound. In the kitchen is where she lay, with blood all around her. Eric looked like a ghost,” his words stung, in an ironic way, “his eyes frozen over, pale as glue. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to handle things. So, I left. I left my 6 year old son, frozen on the couch, with his dead mother who had shot herself in the head. I went to the nearest bar, and stayed for hours. I didn’t want to leave, but the bartender made me. I had nowhere else to go but home. When I returned, they were both in the same places; one dead, the other looking like he was almost there. The smell of Rachel was overwhelming. It took awhile, but Eric soon looked up at me. He didn’t say anything, but I knew what he was thinking: “What did I do to make her do this?” Of course it wasn’t his fault, but I always knew he thought it was. I tried telling him it wasn’t his fault, but when I left him alone that night, it sort of proved to him that it was his fault. But it wasn’t. It was neither of us that did that to Rachel; it was Rachel herself.
“Eric was the one that called the cops. It took a few days, and the police had a lot of questions. We even had to go to court over it; they were accusing me of killing her. They made Eric get up on the stand to testify God only knows how many times. Every time the fear in his eyes made me feel even guiltier in Rachel’s place. But every time he had the same story; ‘Dad was on a business trip, and I was home alone with mom. Not me or dad knew she hated herself. She was always nice. Always laughing with me and him. But, when dad left, she started looking sad. I was in my room when I heard a big BOOM. It scared me, so I went to find my mommy. But when I went in the living room, I found her lying on the kitchen floor with blood spilling out of her. I tried to wake her up, but she didn’t move, she didn’t answer me.’ Soon they dropped the case, but my mind never forgot what we had been through. It was hard for me, you know? I wasn’t able to protect my own son from his mother. The remembrance of the pain in his face when I came home that night, every time he was on the stand at court, protecting his father instead of the other way around, caused me pain; pain I didn’t want to have to deal with. I began going to bars every night, sometimes bringing the bar home with me. Eric strayed farther away from me, the more I drank. I never hit him, I never hurt him physically; it was all mental and psychological. I know he felt like both of his parents neglected him; so I did, because I didn’t know what else to do. When he started to grow up, never having any friends, never socializing with anyone, I gave him his first beer, hoping to cheer him up. Heck, I was drunk. That’s not an excuse,” he back tracked, correcting himself. “After that one, I gave him another, noticing it didn’t give him a buzz. He just kept taking them, sometimes taking a case into his room at night, drinking them all by the next morning. His grades slipped, but he seemed to start going out more, being with his friends (although they were all always drunk, as was I) when he got old enough. He’s seventeen now. He grew up without a mother, and an alcoholic dad, that allowed him to be an alcoholic as well. He’s lying in a hospital bed, on the verge of death, because he was drunk driving. This is my fault.”
I looked at him. The sadness that spilled from his eyes in the form of water was overwhelming to me; it honestly made me think: how did my mom truly feel about me? She’s an alcoholic. Did she have sentimental feelings towards me, as well, or is this a special circumstance; Eric and his dad? I didn’t know, and right now I truly didn’t care.
“No,” I began, but he cut me off.
“Don’t say ‘No it’s not’, because you’d be lying. It is my fault.” He still sat on that step, beside me, the father of.... My boyfriend. The father of my boyfriend. Crying.
I didn’t know what else to do, so I did what I knew to; I wrapped my arm around him, pulling him close to me, just like he was my own father, whom I missed so much right then.
“Robert, it’s too late to blame yourself. Eric’s alive, and that’s all that matters right now. We have to focus our strength on making him better. Right now, you have to be strong for Eric, make up for all those years you weren’t.” He pulled out of my embrace, and erased the sadness from his face. He kissed my cheek, being fatherly again.
“You’re good for him, Claire. He’ll keep you; and I hope you keep him.” I smiled at him.
“Well, you better get home now, it’s getting dark.” He stood, pulling me to my feet. We hugged again, saying the words in our motions that we couldn’t say verbally. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
I walked away, towards my car. Halfway there I had to stop, leaning against the hospital wall. A strong stabbing pain in my guy made me stop. They’d been happening for a while now, enabling movement for a matter of minutes. When the pain subsided I shook it off and kept walking. I drove the whole way home with yet another pain, wondering what was going on. I didn’t get out of the car until the pain stopped. When it finally did, I went in to the darkened house.
I had noticed before I went in that my sister’s car still wasn’t here; I assumed she was at her friends or boyfriends. It was cold in my God-forsaken house, and smelled like rotten eggs; in other words, terrible. I flipped on the first light I came to; the kitchen was exactly how I left it. I made my way into the living room, flipping on the light as I assed through. My mother lay in the exact spot as last night, not moving.
“Mom?” I asked, trying to wake her and send her to her room.
I went over closer to her.
“Mom?” I asked again.
Nothing. I shook her, turned her over, trying harder. Yet again, no answer. “Mom!” I yelled, realizing the inevitable. I sat down on the floor by the couch, the overwhelming smell now with a known source.
My mother is dead, I thought to myself.
Not a tear dripped as I dialed the phone for Andrea.