But I'm in Love With You

If I could burn my memories, I would. If I could take a lighter to a series of photographs and words and music and everything I associate with him, I would. And if I could show you everything I’ve seen, you’d burn them too.

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12. #12

Scarlett

The orange juice is bitter on my tongue, and I rip another piece of dough from the bread and pop it into my mouth: everything else seemed to churn my stomach. I touched upon the memory of last night – take me home, he had said – but how could I possibly do that? How could I possibly go with him and then pack a bag and leave after a month, without a word neither heard nor said? I couldn’t.

There is a family on a table across from me, a mother and a father and a tubby child in a highchair. Blonde hair: just like me. Blue eyes: just like me. But that child had a father present, that child had a mother that could move without wincing as pain soared through her limbs like knives – and yet I did not have a father nor a mother, in fact. My mother was not a mother at all, but someone that was waiting to die. My father was a runaway.

So, superficially, that child and I were near identical; deep down, though, we couldn’t be more different. Should I be the runaway, or should I be the one that sticks around for a little while, even though I’ll leave in the end? Even though, in leaving, I will leave in my wake a trail of absolute heartbreak.

**

 Zayn is still sleeping when I return to the room – so much for I’ll be out by early morning. His eyelids flitter as he dreams and he shifts beneath the sheets every so often, but aside from that he seemed so peaceful. I just wished that I could lie beside him and slip into such a serene unconscious as he: no dying mother, no guilt for leaving the one person that truly seemed to understand my every word, no impending fear of being alone. No, fear was the wrong word for I did not fear it – I had become accustomed to it after such a long stretch. Guilt, may be the correct word; guilt, for allowing her to slip into a state of nothingness – and without doing anything to stop that. Without trying.

I flinch as my phone begins to buzz against the wood of the dressing table; whisking it up, I slip into the bathroom and close the door with a soft thud. ‘Hello?’ I murmur.

‘This is Nurse Carter from St Mary’s Hospital in London,’ a curt female voice replies, ‘may I please speak with Scarlett Johnson?’

‘This is Scarlett,’ I say. My nerves beneath my skin suddenly began to quake, and it was then that I knew. I knew.

‘Although she is now in a stable condition,’ the voice proceeds, ‘your mother’s liver is truly beginning to deteriorate. Whilst we have stabilized her for now, she will...’ The voice has trailed off, and for the first time since I had answered the telephone, I feel as though the voice at the end of the line is more than just a robot. The nurse clears her throat. ‘She will pass within the next twenty-four hours.’

I open my mouth to say something, but I find that all words seemed to have been stolen from me and I find my throat was closing over and my chest was just screaming for air for I had stopped breathing and it was only the sudden jolt of cool porcelain as I staggered into the sink that caused me to gasp. I could see it coming, I knew it was coming – and yet here I was, with all oxygen whisked from my lungs. How was I supposed to move forward if the first mere moment was like that?

Silence. ‘Miss Johnson?’

I drag in a breath, fold my knees beneath me and fall onto the tiles of the bathroom. My head rests gently on the cool of the sink as I squeeze my eyes closed. ‘Yes? Yes, I’m here.’

Another pause. ‘She is asking for you,’ she says, and at that my teeth latch onto my bottom lip; bite down hard. ‘I hear you are in the Americas.’ Pause. Blustering of the nurse’s breath crackles the phone receiver. ‘Whilst we hope that you can get here, we are obliged to tell you that we will not revive her if her heart begins to fail. I presume you are aware of her personal wishes?’

Of course I was: she and I had written her will a year or so before, me writing as she spoke at me. It was even a struggle for her to grip the pen and scribble a barely decipherable scrawl of her name. ‘Yes,’ I finally manage, ‘yes, yes I am.’

A stretch of silence. ‘Miss Johnson?’

‘Yes,’ I murmur.

‘I’m sorry about your mother,’ she says softly, ‘and I hope that you will arrive in time.’

So do I.

So do I.

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