For all time

Here’s a little something that I wrote a while ago – I tried myself on some short fiction, free of any magical beings!

For all time

I met Roy shortly after waking up in hospital.

One late afternoon, after my family had left on my doctor’s order, I took a walk through the bleak corridors. My legs were still weak and one of the nurses offered me a wheelchair, but I refused. I fought my way to the common room, where I saw him standing on the balcony, smoking a cigarette.

Although it was a cold, rainy November day he was dressed in nothing more than a short-sleeved shirt and a pair of jeans. He wasn’t wearing any shoes either. He was tall and slender, his dark-brown hair ruffled by the wind, and I thought how beautiful and indestructible he seemed.

When he lit his second cigarette, his eyes met mine through the window and I felt my cheeks flush. I was suddenly aware of how bad I must look, reduced to a skeleton, my cheeks hollow and pale, and my hair tangled. I tried to hide my face, but I stopped when I saw the expression on his face. He looked at me in astonishment, but in a good way and not as if I was a complete maniac. He beckoned me to join him on the balcony and I followed his invitation, pulling my cardigan tighter around me. It was freezing, but I was willing to take the risk of catching a cold.

At first, we were standing there in silence and I felt so stupid, already contemplating about leaving, when he said, “So what’s your deal?”

I blinked at him and he stared back at me, waiting for my response while taking another pull from his cigarette.

“Uh, head injury followed by memory loss of the past five years,” I responded.

He nodded. “Cancer of the lung,” he said dryly, finishing off his cigarette. Throwing it over the balustrade he added, “This was my last one.”

We walked inside and he followed me to my room where we talked until one of the nurses chased him away. We repeated the exact same procedure every day for the next three weeks.

Funny how close you could get with someone in a hospital, I thought as I lay awake in my hospital bed one night. Roy was the closest to a friend I had at the moment. He never asked me about my past, because he knew I couldn’t remember much, and he never bothered me with questions I wouldn’t have the answer to. He wouldn’t try to force something onto me like my parents did.

“You love carrot cake,” my mother had said, and she had made me eat it. I had almost thrown up.

“You used to wear skirts, even in winter,” my father had said, and for a day, I had to experience the discomfort of a tight skirt.

Roy would never tell me what to eat or what to wear; he would tell me to be me the way I wanted to be now.

I dreaded the day of my release from the hospital, which would be the next day. While I lay awake all night, I thought about Roy and how his presence made me feel more alive than anything else did. I felt as though he was the only person in the universe that understood me – even more than I understood myself. My parents and the few friends that had visited me in the hospital all acted as though they knew better what kind of person I was. And I hated that they were telling me how to be myself.

In the morning, the nurse came in early with my breakfast. She told me to start packing, which I did very slowly, in the hope they would keep me if I took too long.

But then came my parents.

“Look at you, all up and about!” my mother cheered. She was wearing a fitted designer dress, her hair was pinned up in place and at her throat sparkled a shining white pearl necklace she had worn every day since my waking up.

My father, who wore a really nice, white shirt and had slightly graying hair, looked at me half-happy, half-sad. He said nothing as he bend to pick up my suitcase.

“Wait!” I called out. My heart was beating way too fast in my chest. I couldn’t leave. It wasn’t time yet. I –

There was a knock on the door, and when it opened, my heart stopped beating all together.

“Roy!”

Apparently my brain had stopped working along with my heart, because I threw myself into Roy’s arms right in front of my parents. He hugged me back, but briefly, then pushed me away softly.

My eyes searched his face, stern and set, but he was not looking back at me. He was looking at my parents, who eyed him contemptuously.

I had wondered before what my parents would think of Roy. He wasn’t exactly boyfriend material. He used to smoke and ride a motorcycle, and even now, in hospital, he was dressed in ripped jeans and a dirty white shirt. He was barefooted again.

And he was dying. His oxygen tank he had to drag around with him was a constant reminder.

But I had hoped that I still had the perks of being a kid with memory loss. That they wouldn’t be too harsh on me. I’d never had anticipated that they would be harsh on Roy.

“Louisa has to leave now,” my father told him.

“But I’ll come visit,” I said eagerly, and finally Roy looked at me. “I can come by tomorrow, if you want.”

“You have an appointment with your doctor tomorrow, in the city,” said my father.

“That won’t last all day.” I turned to glare at him. I thought I saw my mother flinch.

My father grit his teeth audibly. “No.”

I felt something brush my arm. “It’s okay, Lou.” Only Roy called me that, and it was the most beautiful sound on earth.

Pulling myself on my tiptoes, I kissed Roy briefly on the cheek. “I’ll be there.”

Roy, smiling weakly, left the room, and the second the door shut behind him, my father said, “You shouldn’t see that boy again.”

Hot-red anger flooded my face. “Roy is my boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend?” my mother squealed, clasping a hand over her precious pearl necklace. “Louisa, there are other boys, out there. Boys that –“ She stopped, paling as she realized what she was about to say.

“What? Boys that are not dying?” I snapped.

My mother gasped for air like a fish on the open, while my father gave me a scolding look. Then he picked up my suitcase and started walking. Neither of my parents said another word as I followed them out of the hospital and into our car, which would take me to a home I knew wouldn’t look as it had five years ago.

Time had passed, but I was back to being eleven. On the outside, I might have looked like a 16-year-old, but in my heart I was a reckless, stubborn 11-year-old, and it scared me that I had moved back in time, while everybody else had moved on.

Everyone seemed to live in a different universe than me. Everyone but Roy.

***

The next day, after a quarrel with my parents, I was back in the hospital, with Roy, lying in his small bed. He was on his back, his arms folded under his head, and I was snuggled up at his side, his scent of boy filling my nose.

I was talking, and he was listening intently. I told him all about my home, how it was nothing as I remembered it. My room, which I recalled to be messy and chaotic, was now clean and perfectly organized, with shelves full of schoolbooks. On my desk I had found an essay I’d apparently written but was unable to understand now. There were no more posters of rock stars, which I remembered, and my bed was no longer covered in big, fuzzy pillows.

I told Roy how I had lain in my bed, on pillows I didn’t remember, and how I had felt completely out of place, like it was my room that had been taken over by someone else.

When I finished talking, we spent some time in mutual silence. Then Roy’s voice startled me.

“So, boyfriend, huh?”

My cheeks turned hot, and I buried my face at his side. “You heard that? I shouldn’t have said it. I’m sorry,” I murmured, my voice muffled by the fabric of his shirt. I felt his hand on my cheek, wandering down to gently push up my chin. He forced me to look at him, and when my eyes met his dark ones my heart stuttered.

He lowered his head and brushed his lips against mine, hot and sweet. I gasped. His mouth pulled into a smile, but it didn’t leave mine. He deepened the kiss, pressing me to his side, and I parted my lips. He licked over my lower lip, which caused a shiver down my spine. Roy laughed.

“Lou, I hereby take you to be my girlfriend.”

I opened my eyes and found him grinning at me. I couldn’t help but smile too, and then we both started to laugh so hard that I got tears in my eyes. I wiped at them with the sleeve of my jacket.

“Isn’t this crazy? We only met; we don’t even know each other. I don’t even know myself!”

“But I do. I know you, and you are the funniest girl I’ve ever met, Louisa,” Roy replied.

“I don’t deserve this name,” I observed. “Louisa was a girl with good grades, a passion for theater and classical music and apparently no taste for clothes. Everything I found in my closet is either gray or brown. What about some other color? Green or blue or yellow. I’m not Louisa.”

Roy looked at me sadly, but not pitifully. He never looked at me pitifully, because he knew I hated it to be pitied. I was pitied by my family all the time.

“You could change your name,” he suggested. “If you don’t remember the old Louisa you might as well become a new Louisa, and you could start by changing your name. How would you like to be called?

“I can’t just become new Louisa. People are expecting me to be old Louisa.”

“What people?” he retorted, his eyes blazing up.

“My family. I can’t let them down. They want their Louisa back, and I promised myself I’d give it a try,” I explained.

“They are your family. They have to love you no matter how you decide to live your life, whether you want to be old Louisa or new Louisa.”

I gave a sigh. “They think my memories will come back.”

“Do you?”

I shook my head.

We spent another couple of hours talking, kissing and cuddling. I was surprised that we weren’t interrupted by any nurses. Maybe Roy had tipped them off; he’d done it before.

When the end of the visiting hours drew nearer, I felt Roy tense at my side. I sat up, looking down worriedly at his pale face. Dark circles showed under his eyes, and he suddenly looked a lot older.

He closed his eyes, inhaling deeply.

“I’m dying, Lou.”

The words send a shock through my body, although they weren’t new to me. I tried to sound casually as I said, “You don’t know that. The doctors said –“

“The doctors are wrong!” Roy’s eyes flew open and he sat up abruptly. We were now face-to-face and I could see every freckle on his nose. I’d tried to count them once.

“Don’t say that!” My voice trembled. “They said they would operate again and that it would heal you and…”

“I’m dying, Lou,” Roy repeated. “I can feel that I’m dying.”

I swallowed. “I…” The words got stuck in my throat. Tears welled in my eyes, and Roy leaned in to kiss them away.

“Will you stay with me tonight?” he asked.

“But visiting hours are almost over.”

Roy grinned. “Not for you.” And he pulled me back down, back into his arms.

“I wish we could stay like this forever,” I murmured at his shoulder. “This Roy. And This Louisa.”

“We will,” said Roy. “This you. This Louisa you want to be. We are going to be the Roy and the Louisa we want to be, together. For all time.”

“How can I be this new Louisa without you?”

But Roy didn’t answer; he just kissed me, again and again. He held me tight to his body, tighter than I ever thought he could in his weak state. I was worried, because he’d put his tank aside the moment I’d come in, and his breath has coming in ragged gasps.

“Roy, you need your tank.”

“I don’t want it.” He buried his face in my hair. “Just this once. Just tonight…”

I didn’t object. But while Roy eventually fell asleep, I lay wide awake, one hand resting on his chest.

Breathing in. Breathing out. Stop. Pause.

I held my breath, too, looking at Roy, at the way his dark lashes cast shadows on his cheeks.

Breathing in.

I relaxed, exhaling. And despite my effort to keep my eyes open, I succumbed to my exhaustion and fell asleep.

 

I wish that I hadn’t, because the next day I woke, Roy didn’t. Maybe it was me screaming and crying at the top of the lungs or maybe it was just their usual morning routine that led her in; but a nurse came in, and with a surprising calm she forced me off the bed, away from Roy.

I collapsed on a chair beside his bed, sobbing uncontrollably, as more and more nurses and a doctor arrived. The doctor was furious, yelling at the nurses why nobody had noticed that the boy needed help.

He then turned at me, and I went stone cold as he said, “You should’ve gotten a nurse.”

Those where the words he said, but the words I heard were “This is your fault!” More tears flowed down my cheeks as the doctor left to inform Roy’s parents. Then the nurses began to gather around Roy.

“N-No! D-Don’t take him!” I cried, and with whatever strength I had left, I pushed passed the nurses and flung myself at Roy’s still body; he was still warm and smelled just like him. I heard some of the nurses leave, but one stayed behind. I looked up at her, glaring.

“He would want me to tell you,” she said, leaning in. “But you cannot tell anybody else, promise?”

I nodded vehemently.

“He knew he was going to die and he wanted it. As long as you were with him…”

If I had thought before that it wasn’t possible to cry even more, I was proved otherwise now. It was as though a dam had broken and I didn’t know how to stop it. I clutched Roy’s shoulders and held on to him as tight as I could.

The nurse knelt down beside me. “He gave this to me. For you.”

I reluctantly released one hand on Roy to take the small parcel she held out to me. Not leaving Roy’s side, I used my other hand to open it. Inside was a necklace with a heart-shaped pendant with an engraving on the front that said: For all time. I took it out with trembling hands and turned it over to find the words: For my Lou 2.0.

Falling back down beside Roy, I wept again, with the necklace clasped in one hand. I don’t know for how long I lay there before the other nurses returned and gently took me away, out of the room.

But before they pulled me away from Roy, they let me say my goodbye. I kissed him on the cheek and whispered, “I love you, Roy. For all time.”

Once I was outside his room, the events finally took a toll on my body and I collapsed. Strong arms wrapped around me and pulled me into a fierce hug. I remembered that smell, and when I looked up I saw my father’s face, marked by more lines that I could recall.

“Time to go home,” he said, and picked me up, as though I was truly 11 years old again.

As he carried me to the car, put me down on the backseat, and drove me home, I held Roy’s necklace tight in my hand. The edges cut into my palm, but I welcomed the pain. The tears hadn’t stopped and I knew they wouldn’t stop for a long time. Roy would never leave my heart; he would stay there, in new Louisa’s heart.

For all time.

 

 

 

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