In case that you haven’t given up on me…
If you haven’t already checked out my web-serial so far, just click the menu on the left, or click the link for Episode 1.
If you have been keeping up, then this is probably the best time to re-read the previous episodes! (I don’t want to give any spoilers to new readers!)
I know that I have been unbelievably bad at posting, but…whilst my excuse is life, all I can say that this is an unbelievably bad excuse…so I will try to up my game.
This has been on my computer for the past few months; I just never got around to publishing it…
Let me know what you think, and if you aren’t already, you can follow me by entering your email address in the left sidebar and on Twitter @tmir92
A massive thank you to everyone who’s supported me so far. It’s been so great to hear positive feedback and criticism likewise.
The Red Thread
“Go home,” Siobhan told me, viciously writing down every piece of information thrown at her by the nurses, as I followed her around the ward.
“Look, I can help,” I affirmed. She suddenly stopped and jolted a glance at me, stopping me in my tracks.
“Emilia, I’m officially giving you a day-off,” Siobhan asserted. “Go home,” she told me forcefully. “And take the others with you,” she added, walking off with her clipboard. I sighed deeply, and followed her again.
“If you’ll just listen to me,” I began, but she immediately cut me off.
“Emilia, I don’t have time for this. It’s 2:30am.” She surreptitiously looked over each shoulder and behind me, and then fell into whisper, leaning slightly forwards lest anyone heard her: “I’m still processing that vodka-coke that Yue bought me at the club, and now I’m absolutely exhausted.” She stood upright and sighed. “If I let you work on this, then Dr Yeates will have my head. She knows that you’d be personally invested in this if I let you help, so I can’t let you,” she affirmed. “Take Yue and Mei back home, and have a rest tomorrow.”
“Does Mei know now?” she suddenly asked. I didn’t even process the question – which I had interpreted as nothing more than emotional blackmail – and just stuttered in denial. “I didn’t think so.”
She turned and began to make her way into the ward, the clip-clop of her stilettos still heard over the sudden and abrupt movement of the nurses initiated by the new admission. I just stood there, trying to hold back tears, passing my hands through my hair and rubbing my neck in frustration. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit…
I walked out of the ward into the waiting-area, adjacent to Mei’s and my usual desks: pin-drop silence except for the sound of snuffling; absolutely empty, except for Yue standing against the counter, far away from Mei, who just sitting peacefully in one of the comfortable seats. The moment that I shifted the door into the waiting-area, Mei stood to attention.
“So…? What happened?” I looked over at Yue, whose eyes shifted from mine the moment that they met mine. Coward. He hadn’t said anything. I took Mei’s hands, and held them tightly.
“Look…just listen…” At that moment, a sudden burst of sound exploded from the seats, which made Mei pull away from my grasp and hurl herself at her phone, the ringtone exacerbated by the silence. She quickly picked it up.
“Mum? What’s happened?” Yue and I just watched her take the call. “Hiro’s in hospital? It’s that bad? …okay, sure. I’ll leave right now. I have my car back home.” I sighed in guilt. Fate had a way of pulling Mei to-and-fro. “I’m at the hospital now, but I’ll get back home in the next hour. Just stay put till then. I’ll ask for a couple of days off.” I crossed my arms. My stomach had become tight – possibly from the antibacterial smell of the ward, or even the Sambuca that Yue had given me not even an hour ago, or my sudden feeling of guilt for not telling Mei sooner. Why did I listen to Yue and Tristan?
Mei cut the line and then looked over at me.
“Tristan’s got some sort of cancer, right?” At this, I broke my gaze with her. This wasn’t my story to tell. So why did I feel so guilty? “Did you always know?” I looked up at her.
“No, no! I didn’t. I swear,” I quickly told her, though a sense of panic and suspiciousness had manifested in my voice. “Yue, tell her what happened!” Yue didn’t say anything and just continued to stare at the glistening, whitewashed floor. “You are such a coward! Just tell her!” Nothing.
At this, Mei sighed.
“Look, I have to go. Hiro’s in a bad situation as well,” she told us.
“Is he okay?” I asked, genuinely concerned.
“He will be. But I can’t deal with Tristan as well,” she asserted. “So just keep me posted. And can you tell Siobhan that I need a couple of days off?” I nodded. She tried to smile, but failed. She couldn’t bring herself to. As she walked out of the ward, she tried to raise Yue’s gaze, but again failed: his eyes were fixed on a single spot of the floor. Given everything that happened in the club, he couldn’t let her dignify him with a smile. That’s what I thought his reason was anyway. I just stood there, my arms crossed tightly, trying to hold back screaming out at Yue, when the doors of the ward automatically. I looked up, expecting Mei to be walking out, but an unfamiliar clip-clop of stilettos broke the silence instead. We all looked up, and this time, even Yue was shifted from his position. Long, dark hair let loose that fluttered with the chilling breeze which entered with the automated, sliding doors; a long beige coat that fell to her knees, left open but tied together by the belt, and dark, skinny jeans, her shape even more defined by the high-heels she had decided to wear that fateful morning.
“Delilah?” Yue stood to attention, even more unnerved than before. “What are you doing here?”
“They called me,” she said very matter-of-fact. “You should all go. This doesn’t concern you,” she told us. None of us said anything, as took another step into the ward and approached Mei, who was probably just as taken aback by Delilah’s sudden appearance. But this didn’t stop her. She too made her way for the exit, only to be agitated by a whisper.
“You’re Mei, right?” said Delilah the moment that Mei had passed her, stopping her in her tracks. “Tristan’s right. You are beautiful.” Mei shot a look at her, though Delilah’s gaze was fixed on the door to the ward behind me. That was the moment that I saw the peace and harmony that constantly graced Mei’s eyes split, break, fracture, because even I knew that what Delilah said wasn’t just a simple compliment: it was a confession, which should have left the lips of the actual person who wanted to speak. Instead, it was carried upon the lips of a woman whom Tristan had shared the most intimate of moments. That moment, I saw the tears come to Mei’s eyes, and I wanted to run to her and embrace her tightly, but the woman who stood between us was someone around whom none of us could let down our guard.
The stillness was broken the moment that Mei nodded her head ever so slightly to acknowledge the woman, and left without a word. The doors to the ward closed.
“What are you doing here?” Yue asked Delilah, closing his eyes coolly, arms crossed as he leaned against the ward’s reception-counter, pretending that he wasn’t the slightest moved by what had been happening, lest he surrender his weakness to Delilah.
“I don’t need to explain anything,” she jolted back nonchalantly. “To either one of you,” she didn’t fail to add as she glanced at me. “Where’s Siobhan?”
“She’s dealing with Tristan’s situation,” I told her, my arms also crossed, but more because I felt that it was the only thing keeping me together, keeping my tears from bursting, keeping my tired and exhausted breath within my chest.
“Thank you,” she said indignantly, attempting to evade me.
“Hold on! Where the hell do you think you’re going?!” I suddenly rebuked her, my need to cry suddenly dissipated, replaced by a spontaneous and childish indignation.
“You can’t go in,” I told her forcefully, stopping her in her tracks, though she did not lose her determined and totally calm and collected look. At this, Yue stepped forward, probably to stop me from doing or saying anything, but before I knew it, the words splurged from my lips:
“How the hell do you think you can go ahead and see him when you broke up with him at such a bad time in his life! You should be ashamed of yourself! You abandoned him! You just left him to die!” The tears began to flow down my cheeks uncontrollably. She didn’t budge. Not a single movement or change in her expression, just pure determination and pure unheeded composure.
“Emilia, stop…” Yue intervened, but I shoved him aside.
“How could you have left him?! Didn’t you think that he needed you?!”
“Emilia,” Yue again tried to hold on my shoulders to pull me away from Delilah.
“How you have left him to die?!”
“EMILIA! That’s enough!” Yue pulled me aside from Delilah and all I faced was him, his face red from shouting, fuming, wide-eyed, bloodshot, breathing heavily like a bull ready to charge; yet all of this was made an even more fearful sight as the tears obscured my vision.
“Are you about done?” Delilah finally asked. When I turned back to her, she stood with her arms crossed, leaning to one side in her high-heels. “You never told her, did you, Yue?” I glanced back at Yue, hoping for an answer, but instead he just scratched the back of his head guiltily, taking a few paces away and faced away from Delilah. “Such a coward.” Delilah sighed. “I’m Tristan’s next-of-kin.”
“His…” I became lost by her words. I stood there hanging onto every syllable, as everything except her and her words became the only things to exist.
“I’m Tristan’s next-of-kin. He chose me to deal with his illness and everything that comes with it. His parents wanted less of him than he wanted of them. They abandoned him and have left him to his own devices. If anything, Tristan screwed it up himself: stealing money from them, running away, getting involved with the wrong people – God knows what – but who cares? It’s a surprise that he even got this far without their help. But then we got together. Things got better but obviously that never last long. And then it got worse. His body no longer belongs to him. It belongs to the illness within him. All I can do is help him through his last days.” She took a deep breath in and breathed out.
“He broke off the engagement that day – and I knew he was going to anyway – but on top of all that he was being so ridiculous and annoying and so unreasonable, so I got angry and ran off. But for him, it was the perfect plan. I wasn’t going to have a fight with him in front of you guys, so I left.” I turned to Yue, who was still pacing around slowly, just listening to Delilah’s words. He wasn’t going to give any answers.
“But since then, I was in contact with him every day without fail, and with Yue to make sure that he was okay. Then…” She sighed again.
“I knew he had fallen for that Mei girl.” I went silent and my heartbeat hastened. No. Please. “He likes her. A lot. I knew that one of his reasons for breaking off the engagement as well as the fact that he didn’t want me to have false hope in it all – you know, the dream, being together with him forever, getting married, all that crap that we both knew was never going to happen. But then he met Mei, and destiny changed his path, and now he’s fighting to keep alive because – and God knows for whatever reason – he has fallen for that girl. I mean, he even stopped smoking for her and connected with her brother for that reason, and everything. For the past few weeks, I’ve seen him happy. But we all knew…” At this Yue stopped pacing, but still was facing away from Delilah.
“We all knew that at the end of the day, he is going to die. And that’s where we are now.” She dropped her arms and approached me so close that I could feel her breath against my face. “So before you go throwing around accusations like that, get your facts straight. Otherwise who knows when you’ll say or do something you regret.” At that she walked past me and I watched as she strutted straight into the ward without so much as a hesitant step.
Yue and I were left alone again, now two strangers remaining for the sake of a common cause. We may have spent a few moments in our lives together, but now our hearts had been forced apart by two things: our differing emotions on the one who now lay in an ICU bed, and my closest friend, with whom the both of them had fallen in love. It made my heart wrench. At that moment, I didn’t know whether to hate the situation, or to hate Yue, or to release myself of blame.
The familiar clip-clop of stilettos followed the sliding of the ward’s doors but I didn’t look up to see who it was. I knew that Siobhan, and that she was ready to scold me.
“How is he?” I heard Yue ask her. There were a few moments of silence followed by a sigh.
“Stable. Let’s just leave it at that,” she answered back. The clip-clop of the stilettos drew closer and the seat beside me was filled, and I felt a hand pass over my back, as I stared aimlessly to the whitewashed and glistening hospital floor. “You need to call Mei so that she doesn’t worry about things here.” I heard her words, but didn’t process them. And then I felt Siobhan embrace me from behind, and laying my head against her chest and holding me tightly. “It’ll be fine, okay? It will be fine.”
This situation wasn’t mine to deal with, but the tears still kept falling, until dawn finally rose, except its light was obscured by the oncoming nimbus. Yet the thing that made that morning pass wasn’t coffee or my constant tears, but rather crossing the threshold beyond sheer exhaustion that paradoxically deceives one’s limbs, mind, and soul to believe that we have slept an entire evening.