There were a lot sirens. Someone had draped a blanket over me after I was carried out of the storage room. I was still in shock, and probably stark naked. There was that all too familiar buzz in ears and my limbs felt like lead. Had they removed the guy from top of me? I wondered.
The doors of the jeep were shut and there were a lot of voices. I vaguely knew everything around me, and yet I was in another world altogether. It was the field I always ran through. When syringe pushed the poison through my veins, that’s where I disappeared to to run.
The vehicle I was in roared to life. I wanted to protest, but the air in the field tasted so sweet, and leaves caressing my fingertips so gently, I quietly had to succumb into the alternate reality that I wished were home forever.
There was a rhythmic beeping and the smell of disinfectant in the air and without opening my eyes I knew I was in
a hospital. I had come to know this environment much too closely. So the jeeps and the sirens and the cops must have just been an illusion, I thought. I was back to where I belonged, it seemed. Nat would be here any time right from around the corner, bringing in our weekly supplies.
But then I realised I was on a bed and as i slowly opened my eyes, wires were moving in and out of my skin. How long had I been here? What was going on? Was this some sort of new kinky arrangement they needed me in?
I looked on my side and almost gasped aloud. But, someone I couldn’t move my tongue. It felt like sandpaper. It was him. The face I had last seen on a park bench a year back, right before I had to rush home. The face I had never thought I would be lucky enough to see again.
His eyes moved beneath his eyelids. He seemed fast asleep for a moment, before he began to awaken. I watched transfixed as he groggily woke up nearly face to face with me. We both stared at each other as though in a dream.
“Rory!” he cried out and reached forward to grab me. I still couldn’t move, but he enveloped me in his giant hug. Things soon got too tight and I reluctantly gave out a slight wince. “Sorry” he hurriedly let go of me and moved back to look at me. It felt empty again; I didn’t want him to have to stop.
“Kriss…” my voice sounded like scraping metal and I regretted it instantly.
“Don’t say anything. Does it hurt anywhere?” he’s eyebrows were knitted together with concern. That look, those features…could I be back? After I had abandoned all the memories?
I suddenly started to shake, or maybe shiver, I couldn’t tell. But I knew what my body needed. My hands quivered and trembled uncontrollably and I rolled back into the pillow. Kriss yelled out for help. The last thing I saw were the bright paneled lights on the ceiling as they turned into tiny stars under my squinting gaze.
“It’s all hard substance and sexual abuse, Kriss. Why are you fighting us on this? You can’t handle her alone. Not only that, it might be detrimental both to her recovery and your health. She will be well taken care of at rehab. Just let it be!”
“Isn’t that what you have been telling me for the better part of last year? Let it be? You tried your best to make me forget about her and now here she is. I’m not letting her out of my sight this time. There is no question of it.” Kriss’ voice was laced with tension and thinly concealed rage. I could imagine his expression at the back of my eyes without any trouble at all. I imagined stroking his tensed jaw to ease the distress.
My whole body was heavy with drugs, but at the same time it knew the difference. What it had wasn’t exactly what it was craving for. The argument continues on outside. All I wanted was to be back in bed in a normal house with regular ventilation. Without the threat of being struck with a needle in my sleep and being violated. I kept my eyes closed and tried to imagine the field. It came, but vaguely so. The hospital remained the dominant reality for now.
I set down the plate and the mug in front of Kriss. My head was bowed down with regret and shame. What has happened last night couldn’t be repeated again. I would make sure of it.
“Kriss..” I started, but he grabbed both my hands. “Please, Rory. We knew it would be difficult. And we’ll get through it.”
“No.” I said much more strongly this time. “This cannot go on, Kriss. You have bags under your eyes and the knife…” I paused to regain my composure.
“I’ll be back as soon as I’m better, sweetie. You can come down to visit me on a regular basis. It’ll just be for some time-” I started up again.
“NO, Rory!” Kriss stood up with sudden force and his chair was pushed back a few inches. “I’m trying the best I can. Please, just. Just work with me, damn it!”
I gazed deep into his eyes. They were a sea of consternation. I lifted my hands to the sides of his face.
“I will be safe there, and so will you.”
Luka leaned forward in her chair and reached out for my hands. As we held hands and looked at each other, she opened her mouth to speak and a streak of tear ran past her right cheek. I reached up to wipe it off quickly.
“I’m ashamed to admit that I had given up on you being alive, Rory,” she whispered. “I know I am a horrible friend for doing that, let alone an awful godmother!”
“Please, Luk! I gave up all memories of my beautiful life too. How can anyone keep up hope for that long? If I couldn’t do it, how could you?” I gasped. She couldn’t feel guilty for me.
“Your mother trusted me to look after you as my daughter-”
“Which you did, Luka. Every step of the way you were there. These were extraordinary and unfortunate circumstances. It is no one’s fault, certainly not yours.
“Anyway, I am healing. I am starting to take control of my life again.” I stated determined. I gave her hands a little squeeze and she half-sobbingly squeezed back. There was an unsaid assurance between us, there always had been.
We sat perched on the hood of the car, Kriss and I. No one spoke except to point out the few scattered stars we could spot in the polluted dark velvety sky. It felt right, everything about this moment felt right. I knew Kriss felt it too.
“I wasn’t going to tell you this, but it’s something about this night.” he started. I nodded. I knew.
“I dreamt about you every night. Every single night since you disappeared. The same thing, it was a nightmare. I wanted it to stop, but it was the only time I saw you.” he broke off hesitantly.
I wanted the tortuous parts to go away, whatever we had faced. But my will to live to live was stronger than ever. The storm was never about how we had made it through, it wasn’t about how we had gotten sucked in- it was about how we were changed all because of it.
“What did you see?”
“A field. You ran through it, that’s all you did. It was hot and sunny, and you would’ve hated it. But somehow, you seemed at peace with the world. You seemed in sync with the wind…I can’t really describe the feeling. But you never looked back, however much I called. I just wanted you to stop and glance back.” Kriss’ stare was glassy and he was looking up at the sky, but he wasn’t really looking at anything.
My lips trembled slightly, but I swallowed in my words. “That’s the place for both of us, that if we could swim to the bottom of the ocean or search across the galaxies, the stars would align and we would find it. That’s our happy place.”