Do you know? I still can’t look at a picture of you.
Why did you have to go?
Do you know? I still can’t look at a picture of you.
Why did you have to go?
For the past three weeks, Karen tried to have an one-on-one conversation with Chris but the latter appeared and disappeared unpredictably. Whenever she met him, he always seemed to be accompanied as if he knew she had questions. To quench her curiosity, she asked John, the only one that seemed to know the most. But the latter danced around each one of her queries. Thanksgiving was approaching and John invited everyone over to his place to celebrate a trending holidays amongst young adults: Friendsgiving. Karen seized the opportunity and focused her attention on Chris. She observed his attitude: under his blank expression, she could notice smiley eyes or confusion when he didn’t understand something. Boredom was the most predominant face he put on, half of the evening.
She suddenly lost sight of him as she came out of the bathroom. ‘He was too bored.’ John told her. She ran outside to catch him, hoping he would be on the sidewalk star gazing again. She looked around and found him at the end of the street about to take a left. She followed him, her heart pounding like crazy in her rib cage. Her breath materialized in front of her, blocking her view sporadically. She tailed him for a good hour: Chris just walked around town, without any goals or specific places to be. Some time to time, he stopped and stared at a window display for few seconds then went back on the road. The ephemeral fog became an inconvenient the moment he disappeared. She ran to where she last saw him and scanned the street. It was a huge crossroad where traffics tended to create themselves due to the amount of drivers that didn’t understand the concept of the orange light. To each green light, a massive part of the population gathered together on each side of the road and waited, partially patient, to cross and switch places. Toai City’s version of Shibuya, Karen thought. She lost herself in the crowd and decided to take her left based on an intuition. Once out of the herd, she found herself sighing loudly as if she just escaped death. When she caught her breath back, a piercing discomfort appeared: she felt eyes on her.
She turned around abruptly, her eyes wide open, scanning everybody. As seconds went by, the discomfort became stronger and closer. She tuned out cars noises, bits of conversations and ambiance music coming from shops around her, to focus on her sight. Her eyes traveled over the crowd again and again without noticing any distrubance. Her body and mind appeared to be in parallele universes, when a hand sharply pulled her aside of the stream of humans.
In a second, she found herself against a wall facing him. He was half a head taller than her, his perfum slightly noticeable. She stared at his lips as he brought his finger to them. Karen raised her eyes to his: they were soft and harmless. They stood still. It seemed like they were pulled away from the world running next to them. Sounds reduced to only two synchronized heart beat. Karen followed his quick glance to his left. As a strange man walked by them, Chris reached out for her cheek to make her face him. Time stopped.
A second later, Chris stepped back, put his hands back in jeans and looked over his shoulder. ‘Are you ok?’ Karen barely nodded. The silence broke to the hubbub of the city. ‘Stop following me from now on.’ Chris stared at her for a moment before throwing himself into the sea of body.
Karen stood still few minutes after he left, trying to process what just happened, then reconnected to the living world. She stepped on the main street, looked from left to right to situate herself and retraced her steps to home, all sorts of questions pounding her inner skull.
A couple meters away, Chris watched Karen coming out of the alley, then followed her to her home. Once she disappeared in her building, he made sure that no one else was stalking her before heading to his own house. Arrived at home, his father was sitting at the kitchen table, reading a newspaper: ‘Welcome back, son.’ He turned around to face him. A pause occured. His father stood up and made a few steps toward him. Usually, as soon as he passes the door, his son goes straight to his room, up the stairs. But something was different. Chris looked at him in the eyes, immobile. He could see that he was struggling to find the courage to say something.
After the Great Battle, Miles Turner hasn’t heard his son’s voice in three years. Aside from the screaming at night, the latter immured himself in a heavy silence and behind a thick wall that prevent any emotions to go through to him. It’s his way of coping, Miles thought. He waited patiently until Chris would be ready to share whatever was going on in his mind and heart. But as years passed and Miles started to believe that the teenager he watched grow up died along with his wife.
‘He found me.’ Chris said, his voice was trembling and uncertain.
His eyes wide open to photograph this moment, Miles froze in awe in the face of the effort his son just made: he removed the first stone from the wall he surrounded himself with. But the bliss of that precious moment was shadowed by the continuous threat they had to run away from.
‘Cal Garner found me.’ he repeated.
To be continued
The next day, Karen woke up to the sounds of Sarah’s parents’s arrival. She quickly stood up to introduce herself. They exchanged a look of indignation and sorrow. She gave them a moment alone with their daughter. On her way out, Karen caught a piece of conversation between an officer and Dr. O’Neill. A name was dropped. She walked to the reception and asked for a room number under the name of Jamal Clifford. At his door, two agents were standing and scrutinizing each person that were passing by. Karen asked few questions to them but they remained silence.
‘It’s for an essay. I’m a student in journalism at Sung University. I have an article to write about a fresh event in order for us to learn the ropes of getting informations from the police and other sources right on the spot.’
‘How’s it going so far?’ the officer asked, a point of sarcasm in his voice.
‘Ok, i guess. I mean, i did manage to find this room number. Come on! Help a student out! It’s not like it’s going to actually make the news. It’s just for class.’ The man took a moment to think, staring at the young lady in front of him. As seconds went by, her eyes softened his mind.
‘What do you want to know?’ A huge smile appeared on her face.
‘So, what happened to the guy inside?’
‘He was beaten up by someone. He don’t want to say who.’
‘So, he’s speaking.’ The officer nodded. ‘Did he say something about why he was attacked?’ The man’s expression changed: he looked amused.
‘You apparently know more than you pretend to. What are your real questions? I think it’s best if you are just direct.’
‘Ok. Did he say anything about Sarah Jefferson?’
‘He admitted to assault her.’ Karen froze. ‘He will be charge for a first degree assault and murder in the next few days, as soon as he gets out of hospital, if Sarah Jefferson doesn’t wake up.’ Karen looked down, then something attracted her attention on her right: a familiar silhouette drowned in the flow of medical personel.
‘And if she wakes up? What happens to the murder charges?’
‘The prosecutor will change it in attempt of murder.’
Karen left the officer without another word to return to Sarah’s room. As she approached the room, she saw John and Charlotte waiting in the hall. She interrogated her friend with her eyes. Charlotte brought her finger to her mouth. Minutes later, a policeman and the surgeon in charge walked out. Both of them gave a look to John who stood up straight. Shortly after, Sarah’s father stormed out. John tracked him with his eyes, waited for the father to disappear in a contiguous corridor before following his steps. Sarah’s father stopped his walk on the third floor where two police agents prevented him to go further. John pulled out his phone and dialed: ‘Chris? He’s moving.’ Then hung up. As he turned around to go back to Sarah, he bumped into Karen. ‘What’s up?’ he asked.
‘What’s going on?’ John let a moment of silence pass.
‘You saw her. You know what is going on.’ They stared at each other.
‘How are you and Chris involved?’
‘I can’t tell you that. Not yet.’ He left her on those words.
‘What? Why? And what does that even mean?’
The following friday, Karen visited her friend again, hoping to see her wide awake. Outside of her room, Mr. Jefferson seemed to be in a deep, serious conversation with a hooded man. Tears appeared in his eyes as he nodded to his interlocutor. When Karen was close enough, the hooded man mildly turned his head before evacuating the hallway. Right before a wall blocked her view, a quick eye-contact made Karen go after him but the latter already vanished. She questionned Mr. Jefferson but he claimed that it didn’t concern her. The same night, Karen convinced the Jeffersons to let her spend the night by Sarah’s side. She tried to pull an all-nighter but her mind had no power over her body and she fell asleep.
‘She still doesn’t wake up.’ A voice irrupted. ‘What should we do? At this rate, someone’s gonna notice something.’
In the silence, Karen’s consciousness surfaced. She heard movement around her then the darkness of her eyelid lightnened up.
‘Are you sure? I know you promised her father but… what about yours?’ Another voice said.
The light disappeared. As footsteps echoed in the room, Karen opened her eyes and caught one of them in the door frame. She recognized him: ‘Chris?’ The latter turned around. ‘What are you doing here?’ He watched her standing up then turned away. She followed his look: Sarah woke up. ‘Sarah!?’ That quick second was enough for Chris to disappear.
Karen rushed outside of the room to get a nurse then ran back to her friend. The neurologist checked her pupils and asked her some questions before explaining her briefly her situation. Her parents were called and arrived an hour later. ‘She is responsive. We’re going to keep her few more days under observation to make sure nothing is wrong. But…’ He looked perplexed. He glanced at the parents: tears streamed down Mrs. Jefferson’s face as she squeezed her daughter’s hand tightly, and Mr. Jefferson allowed himself to crack a smile. He walked to the neurosurgeon, opened his arms and pulled the latter against him: ‘Thank you… Thank you so much.’ he whispered as he chocked the doctor. When he released him, the neurologist felt the change of atmosphere: the severe and taciturn man became a jolly father relieved to get his little girl back.
Karen watched the scene few steps back. She couldn’t stop smiling as she texted Charlotte the news. When she looked up again, she noticed the concerned face of the doctor. She scanned the man as something bothered her. He looks like someone i know. What’s his name again?’
The surgeon remained speechless after hearing the man’s words. He immediately understood that they weren’t meant for him. Chris. What have you done?
To be continued
‘Call me a doctor! I need a doctor!!’ John shouted as he entered the emergency’s hall, Sarah in his arms. Unconscious. Around him, patients and visitors stared at him, frozen in time. A woman in white ran toward him while instructing John to put her on a bed before stepping aside. She checked her vitals, plugged tubes in her before establishing a course of action.
‘I want a CT and a X-ray! Let’s go, people!’ She ordered. ‘You! Tell me what happened to her.’ she stopped to ask as her team headed to the elevator. John stood there in silence, breathless, his eyes locked on Sarah. ‘Hé!! What happ…’. A disruption attracted her attention. John turned around: a young man stumbled in, disfigured and blood coming out of his mouth profusely. John stared at him, memorizing the pitiful state of the young man. A second doctor ran to him for an examination. The female doctor understood that there was a relation between them, then asked an intern to call the police and keep an eye on John: ‘You! Stay here until the police arrives.’ She caught up with her patient and disappeared behind the door of steal.
‘Are you hurt? Are you bleeding from somewhere?’ The intern asked. John looked at his shirt and realized a red stain covered his chest. He shook his head: ‘I’m fine.’ Minutes later, two policemen made their entrance at the hospital. They briefly spoke to chief of surgery before turning their attention to John.
‘Are you the one who brought the young girl?’ One of the officers asked. John nodded. ‘What’s your name?’
‘What’s the victim’s name and what are your relationship with her?’
‘Sarah Jefferson. She’s a friend of mine.’
‘What happened?’ John took a moment to answer.
‘I don’t know. I found her on my way to a friend’s house.’
‘An alley, next to Luther Street. I heard someone begging for help. So i went to check and i saw her, lying in her blood.’ As he said those words, he tried to contain a wave of anger. The officer noticed his effort.
‘Luther street. It’s far from here. Did you carry her all the way?’ John couldn’t believe what the officer was implying.
‘I didn’t beat her up, if that’s what you mean.’ The officer locked his eyes on his with a smirk.
‘And do you know the other victim?’
‘No. Never saw him.’ The officer scanned his facial expression again then took notes.
‘We’ll stay in touch.’ As he walked away, John grabbed his phone and dialed a number.
‘Where are you?’
The night was early and everything was ready: chips and crackers shared a bed on the table, next to slice of carots and small pieces of sausages. Drinks were separated on another table behind the couch. Lamps were on and a background music filled the room. Spider webs, carved pumpkins and fake ghosts were thrown at every corner of their home.
‘We’re over prepared.’ Charlotte claimed.
‘As always.’ Karen replied.
A phone vibrated on the table. Karen looked at it, her eyes widened in disbelief of the words she was reading: ‘Something happened to Sarah.’ She grabbed her coat, threw Charlotte’s to her and rushed her into a cab to the hospital. When they arrived, they were asked to sit tight in the waiting room until the doctors show up. An hour later, two surgeons came out of a restricted area. Their faces seemed exhausted and closed.
‘Where is the kid?’ A woman asked. ‘The one who brought Sarah Jefferson?’
‘He left a while ago. He said that someone else will come for her.’ A nurse replied.
‘Friend, my ass. Alright. Is anybody here waiting for Sarah Jefferson?’ Karen and Charlotte stood up simultaneously. ‘I am Dr. O’Neill, i am the surgeon in charge of your friend’s case. She had an internal bleeding that we were able to locate and stop. She also has few broken ribs and a broken arm but she made it through the surgery. She is stable, now.’
‘And i am Dr. Turner, neurosurgery. She had a severe bleeding in her brain and a concussion.’ He paused. ‘She is in a coma, for now, but, like Dr. O’Neill, just said: she is stable.’
‘But she will be fine?’ Karen asked. The two surgeon paused and exchanged a look. ‘What? What is it?’
‘Don’t keep us on tenterhooks. Tell us!’ Charlotte became impatient.
‘She will be fine… if she wakes up.’ The neurosurgeon said. ‘Does she have any family we can call?’
‘We already called her parents. They’re taking the first flight in the morning.’ Karen said.
‘Do you wish to see her?’ Dr. Turner asked.
Both girls nodded and followed the doctor to Sarah’s room. A religious silent reigned when they came in. Only the monitor, she was attached to, echoed in rhythm like a bell. She seemed peaceful and yet her body screamed the opposite: a tube came out of her mouth, her head was covered with bandages, her arm was in a cast and her eyes swollen. Charlotte burst into tears.
They decided to spend the night at the hospital and stay on the look out for the moment their friend will open her eyes. As the moon followed its trip in the darkness of space, the adrenaline fueling the girls’s hearts stopped, knocking them to sleep.
In the middle of the night, a noise woke Karen up. The silence of the recovery service was peaceful and scary at the same time. She mildly opened her eyes: the door was semi-closed, allowing light from the hallway to come in. An unusual glow appeared over the bed: someone was standing near Sarah, his hands upon her head. What? A noise attracted Karen’s attention to her left. Another person was leaning against the wall, his hands in his pockets and his head plunged into a hoody. The latter turned to her: they exchanged a look but her eyes were heavy and closed by themselves. As she fell back into Morpheus’s arms, it struck her: she has seen those eyes before.
To be continued