I was floating on cloud nine at school the next day. The world seemed a brighter place and I smiled and walked with my head held a little higher. People seemed to notice and, as I smiled at them, I was surprised to see them smile back.
School seemed to drag on as I waited for after-school choir rehearsal. That way I had an excuse to see Kevin in the same environment as me.
We sat beside each other as we waited for the rest of the choir to organise themselves. I kept peeking glances at him and smiling, before looking away and trying to pretend nothing was happening. I don't think he was helping much either, by giving me knowing glances and smiling back.
We got through the rehearsal, but I couldn't remember anything about it except, that next practise I would be singing a solo. My heart pounded.
I had my first solo rehearsal the very next day. I was so nervous I couldn't get a word out, and when I finally managed that, my tone was so reedy I wanted to cry. Mr Fox was patient and tried to keep me positive, but I knew better.
Kevin told Leila that very afternoon that he needed to concentrate on school and they needed to take a breather. I am told she begged and pleaded with Kevin and left broken hearted. Being uncomfortable that I was the cause, I avoided her as much as possible. I was feeling guilty, and I was afraid my guilt would appear on my forehead in neon letters for my family to read. So I never really knew what was happening with her.
For the next few weeks, Kevin and I snuck around and sucked and licked each other as much as possible. I don't know how many times we made out in his car. One night I suggested we go further and, for the first time, I felt his fingers enter me. I shot my load all over his chest and licked it up afterwards. When I hinted for us to go further, he would only smile and say, the longer we prolong it, the better it will get when we do it. Personally, any more waiting and I would combust. But I really couldn't complain; he left me craving more from him and that's a very good thing.
School went as usual, but exams were coming up and I found that time with Kevin meant we both had to knuckle down. I didn't mind. I took study very seriously; it was the only thing I felt better at than my siblings. So I saw less of him but it was fine.
I had been stuck in my room for too long after a study session for the up and coming exams this week, so I decided to take a walk.
Behind our house is a large area of woods so I decided to take a walk to clear my mind. I heard a groan and thought some one was hurt. The noise was coming from my left so I went to investigate. I saw Kevin with his back towards me, and with a randy smile I went to call out his name when I saw hands go around his neck and pull him down for a kiss. My heart rushed up to the back of my throat. I watched as Kevin lifted the person up and shoved the person against a tree. My sisters straight black hair appeared a little higher than Kevin's. I watched as Kevin struggled with his pants for a second before I saw his butt and Leila wrap her legs around his waist. She moaned as he thrust into her and it was hard and fast, and with each thrust my heart began to bleed upon the ground.
'Tell me you love me' Leila grunted.
'I love you'
With each hard shove he repeated the words like a litany. My heart died in my chest.
Slipping away, I cursed my naivety and stupidity for thinking someone like Kevin could want me. I had put the thought of Kevin and my sister away in the back of my mind and, with love blinded glasses, assumed that Kevin and I were solely monogamous. He had lied to me. He had assured me that there was nothing going on between him and Leila; that they had cooled it off a week ago. What else was he lying about? I didn't know, but I wasn't going to give him a second chance to try and hurt me. Silent tears lashed my face all the way back to my room. By the time I was showered and ready to close my eyes for bed. I was numb. I had no more tears to give and Kevin was dead to me. I would make it so.
My life changed dramatically that night, and in a way I had Kevin to thank, and curse, for it.
- - - - - - - -
I lay in bed the very next day in a catatonic state. I didn't care anymore. I just wanted to die.
Dad came into my room later that evening. I hadn't realised the passing of time. My mind registered him, but then my consciousness faded. My mind was peaceful; it was bliss. A small spark of my old self wondered how he had gotten in and then I remembered I had not locked the door, something my old self would never have done. That too faded into the back of my mind.
'Are you sick, son?' Dad asked me, checking my forehead. 'The school rang and wanted to know where you were?'
His voice faded in and out as I sank deeper into my own little world. I didn't care. No one mattered, not even myself. My eyes stared blankly as I went back to that peaceful quiet where there was no pain.
Time seemed to slow down or speed up, I'm not sure, but my body was lifted out of bed and I saw a blur of lights and then darkness. A male voice called to me. 'Leave me I alone,' I thought back to that voice, and I drifted. A light appeared in my cocoon of darkness. The light outlined a female clad figure. She gave off love like it was a scent. I basked in it and felt all the pains that life brought burning a hole in my chest. Yet I couldn't move. I was transfixed and the pain intensified. 'Stop,' I begged. Something snapped and I floated.
Mum's face appeared, and she stared at me with love and disappointment.
'Oh my baby, what have you done?' she asked.
I cried at her touch. All my fears about the loss of mum and then Kevin came bubbling up. She held me and hugged me tight. 'You have to go back son,' she said.
'Why? There is nothing for me. Why can't I stay here?'
'Because it isn't your time, and you are needed back there.'
'It's too hard mum, please'
'Life is not easy; that is why it's called life,' she cut in. 'You have so much hidden strength James, its time you tapped it, and I have given you a gift to help.' She smiled gently and continued, 'and tell your father that I am happy he has found love once again.' Her voice turned much sterner. 'You used a talent that has been in our family for generations. Stopping your heart with your mind is not what that talent is for. It is to help your fellow man through times of trial. Use it much more carefully, James, I was not into new age spirituality for the fun of it.'
'I don't even know how I did it?' I replied, confused, wiping my eyes, and moving out of her arms.
She nodded, but she remained stern. 'That is why I have given you the next part of our family heritage. You will understand much more when you wake up.' With a kiss on my forehead, I felt a flash of cold centred where her kiss was, and darkness rushed upon me.
- - - - - - - -
I came to in a hospital bed. Dad was slouched in the chair beside me, asleep. Dark rings were around his eyes and, even in sleep, he seemed tired and drawn.
I tried to talk, but it came out hoarse and rusty. I looked around for something to drink as I felt how parched my throat was. I gave a racking cough as I tried to clear my throat. Dad opened his eyes and stared at me.
'You're awake,' he said, touching my arm with trembling hands. 'We thought we had lost you.' He laid his head on my hand and wept. I felt his tears soaking the back of my hand and I tried patting his head with my other one. I couldn't believe how weak I was. My hand shook as I tried to touch his head.
'Dad' I croaked.
He looked up at me and saw me trying to swallow. He grabbed his old coffee cup, rinsed it out and came over to me. I gratefully drank down the proffered water. It was the best tasting water I had ever had. 'More,' I whispered. He went back and refilled the cup, holding it up for me while I sipped. After refilling once more, I felt halfway human.
A nurse came in, took one look at me and went rushing back out the door. I gave Dad a questioning look. He seemed reluctant to talk, but gave in when my look never wavered.
'You were in a coma and diagnosed as brain dead yesterday,' he answered.
That stunned me for a second. 'How long have I been in a coma?' My voice still sounded hoarse from disuse.
'Three weeks, two days and seven hours,' he said. The doors opened and a doctor came rushing into the room. He looked slightly shaken.
'Hello, James. I am Doctor Stevens. How are you feeling?'
'Like an insect under a microscope,' I replied dryly. The doctor seemed taken back by that reply. So was I, but I wasn't going to stop now. 'A squashed one I might add.' Dad gave me a strange look but smiled and kept holding my hand.
The doctor laughed. 'Well at least your sense of humour is still intact.'
I didn't have a sense of humour, but he didn't know that. I shrugged one shoulder. 'When do I get out of here Doc?'
'I need to check your vitals and then I will discuss that with your father.'
After checking everything, he turned to dad and they both started walking out.
'Dad,' I said, giving him a measuring stare. I wanted to know what was going on and I wanted him to tell me. He gave me another strange look before heading out with the Doctor.
They ran tons of tests on me, and I was called a medical miracle. So much so, that I ended up in the papers. The board of ethics went up on review for the many other diagnoses that they had made in regards to 'brain dead' patients. As far as I was concerned, I wasn't interested in a public image, and not because I was afraid of it, but because there was a sense of purpose that was at the core of my centre that had never been there before. That purpose told me a public image would not mesh with what I had to do. I didn't have any idea what the purpose would be, but I was certain it would come to me.
I was given a physiotherapist, and over the next few days my body built up strength. I told my physio-instructor that in one week's time I would be walking out of here. He had laughed and admired me for my determination, but suggested I take it slow. But I knew better. I just knew I was going to walk out in a week; the image of my feet walking one foot in front of the other was too vivid for me to doubt it.
Exactly one week after making my statement, I was walking out of that hospital under my own power. The doctors had tried to keep me there, but I didn't want any of it, and told them and Dad so. Dad agreed, and he put up a big fuss to get me home. The hospital had conditions: I was to keep seeing the physiotherapist, and I was to get a weekly check up in case of a relapse.
Dad, Sara, the twins, and Kevin were waiting for me at the entrance. They cheered encouragement as I walked towards them. In Leila's hands were a bunch of flowers that she gave me as a congratulatory present for making it to the car on my own. I smiled my triumph when I touched the door of the passenger seat. I was bombarded with hugs and loud cheers.
They had put on a welcome home celebration for me when I got home. I smiled and laughed as family members came up and hugged and kissed me, while shoving cake into my hands.
Dad gave me a warning look as he saw me wilting, and guided me to the wheel chair. I harrumphed, but obeyed and sat in the chair. He shook his head wonderingly. I had never moaned or complained before, and this new me was something he was trying to get used to. I looked him in the eye and gave a cocky smile. He arched his brow in reprimand and I laughed.
His white teeth flashed in his tan face. 'Off with ya' he said. I waved and wheeled myself away.
Dad wasn't the only one who had noticed my changes. I had spoken to everyone there and made conversation like it was second nature to me. The twins kept looking at me as if I had grown a second head; one that was intriguing and different from what they were expecting. I winked at them as they sat side by side with a soda in their hands. Leila blinked as if she wasn't quite sure what she had just seen, and Leon frowned but waved half-heartedly back. I laughed, and went to talk to one of the cousins from mum's side.
'Hi Kate,' I said. Out of all mum's relatives, she was considered a few sandwiches short of a basket, but she was harmless.
'Hello, James. Did she talk to you?'
Kate rolled her eyes as if I was being dense. 'Your mother, of course'
A chill crawled up my spine; I had forgotten about that and I had put it down as a figment of my imagination.
My mouth dropped open. 'I thought that was just a dream,' I said with a little bit of trepidation.
She lost that vague look and a sharp intelligence looked out of her green eyes. 'It normally jumps a generation, but not this time round, you have it strong in your veins.' Sound seemed to mute; she held onto my wrist as she stared at me. 'Something dark is drawing towards you James. Be prepared, or you will be swallowed whole and you will never see the light of day.' I wrenched my wrist from her grasp, but I could not erase the cold chill that was sliding up and down my spine.
Kate frowned for a second, and then her usual vague look spread across her eyes. She stared at me with a limpid smile. 'Hi James, did you like the daffodils I brought you? I picked them myself.'
'What was the darkness you were talking about Kate?' I demanded. She frowned at me, looking confused and shook her head.
'I picked daffodils for you. Did you like them?'
I took a breath and swallowed the pulse that was still leaping at the back of my throat. I gave a smile. 'Of course, I loved them Kate, thank you very much.'
The look of joy on her face helped slow my beating heart down further, but I knew that I would never be comfortable around her the way I had been before.
I wheeled away and went outside to feel the afternoon sun warm my shivering flesh. I looked out towards the forest, watching the sun's ray's spear through the branches and filter onto the ground. I knew who it was before he even spoke. 'Hello, Kevin'.
He paused and answered. 'How did you know it was me?'
'I just do,' I replied.
'I thought I had lost you,' he said in a whisper just behind my chair. I kept my face towards the forest. 'What happened, anyway? Your dad said your heart stopped beating for fifteen minutes. No one knew what the cause was; it was like your body just lost the will to function?'
'Can we not talk about it please?' I said, 'It's not something I want to rehash.'
'I'm such an ass. I'm sorry baby, it's just when I get scared, I analyse every little thing until I can understand all the nuances.' He paused. 'Shit I'm doing it again.' He rubbed my shoulders in way of apology.
Dad came out onto the balcony. 'Everything all right out here?'
'I'm kinda feeling tired. I think I might go and rest,' I said.
'I'll help you,' Kevin offered.
'No,' I said abruptly. He stared back at me with hurt creeping into his eyes. I patted his arm. 'I appreciate the offer, truly, but I have had all the help from everyone I can stand right now. So I just want to try and do it myself.' He nodded his understanding.
I left the wheel chair in the game room across the hall and walked into my room. Closing the door, I let out a heartfelt sigh. My bed had been made, and there was a light airy smell like the room had been dusted, polished, and vacuumed. Everything was in its rightful place, and I smiled at the consideration that had been put into it.
Dad knocked on my door. 'Can I come in son?' I opened the door, noting the different lock on it. Dad followed my stare and smiled grimly. 'I installed this one so that it can be opened on the outside with a key,' he said, holding up the spare key dangling from his key chain. 'This is your set.' He handed over two more keys.
I understood his logic, and just nodded my head. The old lock locked from the inside only. He was worried in case something happened and he had to get to me quickly. He now had access to my room.
I lay back on my bed and sighed. The linens smelt fresh. 'Whose idea was it to clean my room?'
Dad gave me a thoughtful stare before replying. 'Kevin, and he cleaned it all himself.'
I gaped at dad. 'Why didn't you get the cleaning lady to do it?'
'Because he insisted. He said you considered this room your haven from the world and it was something you would appreciate more than a party.' I stared at dad with a lump forming in my throat. Dad looked at me, nodded his head and walked towards the door. 'I guess he was right'. He opened the door and shut it behind him