I lay awake to the sound of painful groans from George. Amy is out in the neighborhood trying to find some proper bandages. Despite her own health, Eileen has devoted her effort into keeping her husband alive. However, judging by all the blank stares and frowns, it’s clear that there is not an ounce of hope. We all know George is dying. Only I know that Eileen might die, too. I can’t even imagine Ethan as an orphan. Technically, I am. But only temporary.
My dad will come back some time, he’s got to. My mom is going to be okay, too. They’ll see the note and come with an armful of supplies. Mom and Dad will hug me and tearfully say, “I love you.” We will all decide to switch to my house, because it’s bigger, and stick it out until this all ends. Amy will stay in my room…..and Ethan in the guest room. Only Ethan.
“No!” I hear Eileen shout from the living room and jump out of bed. George cries and curses.
I sprint to the couch. Eileen, still hovering over her husband, does not look at me. She looks at something behind me. Two feet away is Ethan. There are tears in his eyes and red in his cheeks. Without even returning eye contact with me, he runs over to his dad and grabs his wounded leg.
“Dad, c’mon,” he whimpers. Then, he lays his head in his mother’s lap and sobs. Shocked, I look at George, his lifeless face staring into space. I see my father’s face for the briefest moment.
“Wake. Up,” Ethan’s body jerks when he hears his father’s last breath. I rush over without thinking. I shake George’s shoulders and pump his chest.
“He’s fine. He’s fine,” I mutter, glancing at the lamenting mother and son. Eileen lowers her head, her shoulders shaking. Ethan raises his head and stares at me with bloodshot eyes,
“Jocelyn. He’s not coming back.”
“He’s fine!” I scream, grabbing George’s shirt and shaking him harder.
But Ethan whispers the same thing over and over. And I scream the same thing over and over.
Let it go. Let it all go.
Eileen cries harder every time I make an attempt to bring George back. I feel Ethan’s rough breaths on the nape of my neck.
“He’s fine!” I cry, “He’s fine! He’s just asleep!” Ethan’s eyes fill with seething rage. I focus my attention back on George. Limp, cold George. In the corner of my eye, I see Ethan’s hand raise. The next moment, I feel his palm slap against my face with great force. I stumble to the floor. A stinging sensation rises against my skin and my trembling hand flies up to cradle my cheek. His mother grabs her husband’s shirt and weeps on his unmoving chest, laying her ear on his still heart. His mother grabs her husband’s shirt and weeps on his unmoving chest, laying her ear on his still heart amidst the action.
“He’s gone,” He hisses. But something changes within him. I can see it in his expression. His eyes soften when he looks deep into mine. His eyes flicker to his outstretched hand in horror. He probably just realized his capacity to hurt. I stand up and wipe away the tears with the back of my hand. Ethan reaches out to touch me, but I back away. He looks pathetic as he stutters,
But I cut him off by running out the front door. Why am I acting this way? Ethan doesn’t care about me, so why do I care about him so much? I know I feel so useless. So incredibly hurt. Why is this thing even happening? My parents are gone. Everyone I cared for is theoretically gone.
The dark sky rumbles and a sensation of wetness traces down my scalp. Then it all comes down. The rain splatters on the ground, soaking my clothes. I hear the rickety screen door slam open and close behind me. Breaking into a run, my head pounds. I hear heavier, quicker footsteps slosh in the mud. Then I feel two muscular arms wrap around my torso and yank me under a tree on the neighbor’s lawn. I have a strange feeling that it’s a Turner, but then I feel warmth on my back that could not be radiating off of a corpse.
“Jocelyn, don’t you ever leave me,” a gruff voice whispers, just loud enough over the violent rainfall. Ethan.
Despite the fact that he just slapped me, I feel as though I might just melt in his arms right now. He’s bipolar, I just know it. And, of course, I start to feel my voice catch in my throat. “I know that I’m unbearable. But quite frankly, you drive me insane.” A Turner stumbles on the road about fifty feet away, clawing at the air in our direction.
“Insane?” I squeak. I still have not mustered enough courage to face him. His arms tighten around me, and then loosen.
“Insane. How long have I known you?”
“Not even four days?” I let out a throaty laugh. Somehow, I feel him smile too.
“Well these four days have been the worst days of my life,” he states curtly. Wow, another mood change. I stay still, suddenly realizing this position is awkward, not passionate or sweet. I elbow his arm. But he does not budge.
“What I mean is, in this brief span of days, I’ve come to a horrible reality,” he lowers his voice as the rain calms down around us.
“That I am willing to lay down my life for you.” My heart beat quickens, my temperature rises. I open my mouth, but I don’t utter a word. The I slide down into a sitting position in the mud, onto Ethan’s lap.
“Really?” I ask. But I don’t sound hopeful or naïve. I sound skeptical if anything. I mean, we’re talking about Ethan. The same boy that slapped me. The same boy that killed a man.
….and the same boy I fell in love with. Just then, the night sky flashes. I heard that a tree is the worst possible shelter in a thunderstorm. But the tree is not my shelter. Ethan is.