Foto bij 603. - Lucien

Eschieve is shaking like a reed. Her eyes are red and puffy, but her tears are long gone. There's none left. She's on the end of the bed, hands clutching the covers so tight that she's accidentally pulled them down. His shoulders now lay bare in the hospital bed, badly bruised. The tattoo that curls over his chest seems to have been drawn on with a black marker.
Father is in a chair in the corner of the room, gazing over the bed without really seeing anything. I can't begin to imagine what this must be like for him, how many painful memories this must bring back. Every ten minutes or so, the nurse or doctor comes into the room to check. Their faces are blank, they say nothing, they just are suddenly there and disappear again. The clock tells me it's been three hours since his doctor connected the bag with the sedative. He doesn't even really look like my brother anymore. His face is beaten and bruised from the fall, even though they did their best to patch him up.
The rattle startles us. The doctor warned us this might happen, but no one can prepare you for the death rattle that is a dying man's breath. Eschieve whimpers, crawling next to him with her head on his chest. She's crying again. Father's gotten up to take his hand and lay a the other on her shoulder. A weak consolation, but what else can he do? I can't get myself to move. I stare in horror, in shock, and experience the whole thing like I'm not really in my body. The rattle gets louder, a sound that pierces through everything. Eschieve clings to him, trying so hard to stifle her sobs. I can see the tightness of my father's grip on her shoulder, the way he clenches his jaw; he's trying so hard to keep himself together.
And then the rattle stops. His breathing goes back to normal, until a couple of minutes later, that stops as well.

      I'm damp with sweat when I wake up. My breathing is ragged, and I will it to slow down. My head is still pounding with the remnants of a headache, and I know it'll come back in full force if I'm not careful. The dream has become a regular occurrence ever since spending those days in the hospital with Emma, the memory awakened by the sight of doctors everywhere and that typical hospital smell. Him being gone might not have the biggest effect on me, his death has definitely earned its place on the list of 'things that fucked me up'.
Once I've evened out my breathing, I dare opening my eyes. The room is still mostly dark, but I know instantly that Emma isn't there. I was surprised that she'd stayed at all. It was a desperate plea, one that had me immediately prepare for disappointment, but then I felt the familiar weight shifting the bed, and her soft breathing in the darkness. It didn't lessen the headache in any way, but it made it more bearable. Like my thoughts of her have summoned her, there's the sound of the doorknob being pushed down and the door opening. Just a crack, for her to check if I'm still breathing.
"I'm awake." I croak, since my back is to the door. I hear how she lets out a breath. A body shifting, a door closing, and then her weight on the bed again. Not quite laying down, just the way she sits on the corner of the bed like she always does when I'm floored by a migraine like this.
"Hey," She says quietly, laying a hand on my lower leg. It almost startles me, just like her touch to my temples did last night. Those were the first time she initiated a touch in a long time. I'm no longer used to it. "How are you feeling?"
I very slowly roll over so that I am facing her. In the half-dark and with my only-partly working brain, I'm not sure if I'm right in what I'm seeing. "Did you get dressed?"
Judging by her face, that's really not what she expected. I wonder if she's blushing, if she feels caught. "I... yeah. I did."
"Good." I mutter, letting my eyes close again. "I like that blouse on you."
      When I wake up next, it's because Emma is gently shaking my shoulder, like I've done so often to her in the last couple of weeks. She's turned on a small light, so I can see her better now. Her hair looks like it does after a shower. Her being dressed was not a migraine-dream. Her tired face still looks the same, but her eyes look just a little brighter. "Hey," She says again. I manage a tired smile. She's holding out a glass of water. "I know you want to sleep, but you need to drink."
What a turn of tables. I push myself up to a sitting position, and take the glass from her. When our fingers brush together, she doesn't flinch away from me as much as she used to. Like she's trying to stop the movement. "What time is it?"
"Nearly three. You've been out for a while."
Immediately my mind goes over all the things I would have done by now. Has she eaten? Has Frank eaten? I haven't done groceries in three days, I don't even think I have a list ready. The leftovers from ordering Chinese really should be tossed and -
"Lucien, I've got it." Emma's voice cuts through my panic. It must have been visible on my face and I suppose I'm just too damn predictable. "Frank's eaten, or he would have woken you up with his screams. I have eaten. If you want, you can go right back to sleep."
I look at her, trying to process what's happening. Is she pretending now, for my sake? Or is she just honestly trying to get better? I want to ask, but the words don't really come to me. Maybe when I feel better.
"I'll be out in a second." I decide. "Could you get me some ibuprofen?"
"I'll even make you the toast to go with that."
To my questioning look, she gives me the ghost of a smile, which is more than I've seen in a long time. "That's what you kept telling me. No ibuprofen on an empty stomach."

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