☠ Chapter Thirty-Six ☠
Pre-Chapter A/N: this one's a big one :)
(also, a double update) thanks for a combined 70k with my wattpad account
➳ ARIELLE'S POV
"Hello," I say once I answer the call. I put my arms into Hayes' coat when the cold breeze blows against my skin.
"Babygirl," he breathes. "Listen, I need to say something."
When I look over my shoulder, Hayes and Rae are staring at me. I take a step further away from them before cradling my cell phone between my shoulder and my hand. "What is it?"
He sighs heavily on the other end of the line, and my heart starts to pump really fast. He's really nervous on the phone and I don't know why. Immediately my mind flashes to several different scenarios. Maybe he's hurt, or maybe he's in trouble. The worry totally overwhelms my body.
I imagine him furrowing his eyebrows, and pacing back and forth somewhere. Or maybe he's sitting in his car, having a cigarette to calm his nerves. Whatever he's doing, I want to be beside him, holding his hand, calming him.
"Arielle, I love you." He utters rather quickly into the phone. "I'm done keeping it a secret."
And it's like the world suddenly stops spinning on its axis, and my heart beats so fast I'm afraid it'll burst right out of my chest. My palms get sweaty really fast as my mouth falls wide open. Zayn just said he loved me. Loved me.
Zayn loves me and nothing else in the world matters anymore, it's just annoying background noise. Knowing that he loves me make me suddenly feel invincible . . . Fearless, even. I can't go wrong with him. There was once a time when I would worry about being enough for him, but now I feel like I can do no wrong. I'm invincible with him because he loves me, and I love him. He loves every single little bit of me, flaws and all.
"I'm sorry I've kept it in for so long. This is a first for me, but there's no denying it anymore. I love you, babygirl. I love the way you mumble in your sleep, and I love the way you laugh so carelessly, and I love your cooking, your body, the way you look at me, your strength . . . I love you."
"Zayn, I-" I start a sentence but I can't even finish it as the tears begin to well up in my eyes. "I love you too, so much . . . you know that." I can't help the smile that's radiating across my face. He loves me.
"I know that, and I'm so happy I-" as he's speaking, he's suddenly cut off.
"Zayn? Are you there?" I hold the phone closer to my ear as if it'll help me hear, but there's nothing on the other end of the line. I check the volume on my phone, but it's as loud as it can get. "Zayn?"
I hear some muffled shuffling on the other end of the line. "What the fuck?" Zayn's voice is there, but it's distant.
"Zayn, what's going on? Is everything alright?" But he doesn't answer me. Suddenly I hear a loud smack! and it sounds like his phone hits the concrete.
My heart rate picks up impossibly fast. "Zayn?" I'm yelling his name into the phone now, desperately hoping that he just dropped his phone. However, something deep within the pit of my stomach feels wrong. I know something isn't right. The line goes dead in my ear, and I look at my screen in despair, checking to see if it's simply a miscommunication with my cell signal. But it isn't.
My fingers fumble with my phone, and I nearly drop it in the process of redialling Zayn's number. It rings once but then it goes straight to voicemail. I dial it again, but this time it rings and rings and rings but it goes unanswered.
Rae seems to notice the panic I'm in and I hear her voice from behind me. "Is everything okay, Ari?"
But I ignore her and dial the number, only for it to go unanswered yet again.
"Ari, you're breathing really hard. What's going on?" Hayes' voice is near me but I don't even register what he's saying.
I dial it again, but this time it doesn't even ring. "What do-what do I do?" I'm muttering under my breath to myself.
"Ari, what's going on?" One of them ask, but my brain can't register who it is. I'm too busy frantically calling Louis' number. He's the only person I can think of that might know where Zayn is.
"My boyfriend . . . He-" but I can't finish the sentence because I know that something's wrong.
It rings for what seems like forever. Eventually I hear Louis' voice on the end of the line. "Ari?"
"Something . . . something's wrong with Zayn," I choke out.
"I'm coming to get you now. Where are you?" He sounds a little rushed, and it just causes the panic to rise even more. What does Louis know that I don't?
"I'm at Vinum . . . Louis, is he okay? Please tell me he's okay." I run my fingers through my hair.
Louis sighs a little, "listen, Ari . . . I'll just - I'll see you soon." He hangs up on me before I can ask further questions.
The second he's no longer on the phone, I panic again. I'm left staring at the wall, running those damn scenarios through my head again.
I've known from early on that Zayn is messed up with the wrong people, and it always has me on edge. He was confessing his love to me and then he was suddenly gone. Who's to say he's not dead right now? I don't imagine these people he works with are very reasonable, and it has me thinking the most outrageous scenarios. I'm terrified that he's dead right now.
Terrified doesn't even begin to describe what I'm feeling.
"Ari?" I feel a hand on my shoulder and when I turn, it's Hayes looking at me with concern. "What's going on? Is everything okay? You're scaring us."
"It's my boyfriend, I think he's dead," I confess. I know it's horrible to say but it's just racing through my head. I totally think he's laying dead in the street somewhere and it's all my mind can focus on.
Rae gasps and engulfs me in a tight hug. "Ari, calm down." When she pulls away from me she begins rubbing underneath my eyes. I didn't even realize I was crying until I feel her fingers spreading the wet tears across my cheeks.
"I'm sure he's okay," Hayes says from behind Rae. He brushes past her and towers over me before he too, engulfs me in a tight hug. Instantaneously I'm overwhelmed in his amber cologne and the lingering scent of cigarettes and it's enough to set me off about Zayn again. Hayes is so much taller than me that he's able to comfortably rest his chin on the top of my head.
His hand moves in circles on my back as he tries to calm my nerves, but it's doing nothing. "I have to go," I mutter. "I have to go see him. I need to know that he's okay."
"Go," Hayes urges. "I'll cover for you. Just go."
"We'll cover for you."
"Thanks, you guys," I manage to choke out. I don't want anyone else to touch me, it'll cause the tears to flow out like a waterfall and I can't have that.
I head into the building and head straight for the locker room but my hands are shaking so much that I have a hell of a time entering the correct code on the new lock. Eventually I'm able to enter it and I grab my purse in a hurry. I charge back out to the alleyway, nodding a tearful thank you to Hayes and Rae and begin to run around the building. Once I'm on the front end of the restaurant I recognize Louis' car speeding up the street. I run towards it heedlessly.
He stops the car right beside me, and without hesitation I hop into the car and Louis speeds off. "Please, tell me Louis."
"He's in trouble," Louis says very evasively.
He's dead. He can't be. No. He's not dead. How can he be dead if I never told him how much I love him, and how much I love the way he squints really hard when he laughs, or how he bites his lip when he's concentrating. Or the fucking adorable little snores he makes in his sleep, and the way whenever he leaves the house he has to double check the locks. Or how I adore the way stares at me from across a crowded room. Despite the crowd, he's still my favourite face to look at.
And I never told him any of that.
"Louis!" I yell, despite the fact that he's directly beside me.
"He's in the hospital, Ari . . . He's hurt real bad."
"He's alive," Louis answers.
I breathe a sigh of relief, clutching my heart as if it's finally started up again. A little of the panic disperses within me, knowing that he's alive, but it's not enough. I'm still worried about him, and how he's doing.
It's amazing the things you realize the second you believe you've lost someone important in your life. I got angry with myself for not saying everything I could've ever told him, or said to him, but didn't. I'm still mad at myself for thinking about all of the times I could've been with him, but I wasn't. There have been so many untold I love you's that it makes my heart sink.
How could I ever forget that anyone can be taken from us, at any point in our lives? I could lose someone tomorrow. But you never realize how important the person is until you think they're gone . . . Until it's too late. I shouldn't have waited so long to say the things I've always wanted to say to Zayn. I don't want to say it once it's too late.
I want to run to him and hug him and kiss him and tell him how much I love him. I love him more than I've ever loved any other person in my life. How could I have kept that from him?
"I'm sorry," Louis laments as he touches my hand.
"What happened to him, Louis?" I try to pull my hand away from his because it's too awkward touching his skin.
"He was beaten up, really bad. I went inside to buy smokes and all of the sudden I'm running outside because I hear a loud yell and he's on the ground." Louis runs a hand through his hair. "If I would've been there a second earlier maybe I would've seen him."
"So you don't know who did this to him?"
He sighs as he stares at the road. I'm sure that Louis knows exactly who did this. "I have an idea . . ."
"Who?" I ask.
But he's unable to answer my question because we're pulling up at a hospital and my stomach instantly churns. I'm instantly charging into the hospital, straight for the front desk.
"Zayn Malik, which room is he in?" The words come out of my mouth in a rush and the receptionist looks at me like I'm nuts for a moment before she realizes what I said.
"Two-oh-three, but it's family only," she explains.
"I'm his girlfriend."
"And I'm his step-brother," Louis lies.
"Alright, you can go see him. But please talk to the doctor so he can explain Zayn's situation before you see him."
I barely register what she's saying before I'm running towards the stairs. I don't even bother to wait for the elevator - it takes too long. By the time I'm at the top of the stairs I'm out of breath, and Louis is ten times worse. He has to stop on the last platform and rest his palms against his knees to catch some oxygen. I don't bother waiting for him, I run down the hallway until my eyes finally catch sight of the room I'm looking for.
But as I near the door, I stop dead in my tracks. I'm terrified of what's behind the door. I want to see him, but at the same time I don't. I don't want to see him bloody and bruised. I don't want to see pain in his face.
Louis reaches me after a moment, "what are you waiting for, love?"
"I-I'm scared," I confess.
"Look," he says as he holds his hands out. "I know this isn't the right time, but I want you to know. I think you deserve to know."
"Is it about who did this to him?" I ask.
Louis nods his head and takes a step closer to me. "I know that you know he's been doing some illegal things, but do you know what exactly he does to earn cash?"
I shake my head no, "he wanted me to be anonymous in all of it. He didn't want me involved for this exact reason." I point towards the room where Zayn's lying in a hospital bed for emphasis. I wince at the thought of him lying there. I'm terrified to see him.
"He's been trafficking stolen cars," Louis whispers. "He traffics cars through the United States and Mexico."
I gasp at the revelation, but Louis comes quickly to his defence.
"I promise he doesn't steal the cars. Sullivan just tells him where to pick the car up and Zayn takes it from point A to point B. But the thing is . . . Zayn doesn't check the cars he's been driving. And who's to say that Sullivan isn't packing ounce upon ounce of cocaine, or heroin in the trunks of these vehicles?"
I'm speechless. I'm standing in front of Louis, staring at him as if he's grown two heads. I imagine Louis and Zayn are in this business together and the level of danger that comes with being in this business isn't fathomable.
He sighs before pinching the bridge of his nose. "This is bad Ari. If he gets caught trafficking cars he could go to jail for ten years, and that's not even including drug trafficking charges . . . Which I'm positive Sullivan is using him for that as well."
"Fuck," I curse. This is all so fucked up. Everything was so good and now everything is totally and completely messed up. I knew that Zayn was doing something illegal but I never expected this.
I never expected Zayn to be caught up in something so deep, but now I understand the secrecy. I understand why Zayn didn't tell me what he does. These people are dangerous, and now I'm positive that whoever he works for did this to him. Maybe Zayn screwed up on a shipment, or maybe he just pissed the wrong person off . . . whichever it is, he's lying in a hospital bed now.
"As it is, Ari, even Zayn's car is illegal. The mods on his Skyline are totally illegal in Miami. The only thing that's saving his ass is his mother, but after this incident I don't even know if she could look the other way."
Another thought I had is now confirmed. I had a feeling his mother was covering his illegal activities and I guess Louis just admitted she does.
"Jesus," I swear again.
"I know it's a lot to take in, but I felt like you needed to know."
"Thanks, I appreciate that." I manage to mutter it out, even though my head is swarming. How am I supposed to just take this all in?
"Now, are you ready to see him?" He asks me.
I reluctantly nod my head before taking a step towards the door. But Louis doesn't follow me, so I turn around just before stepping inside. "Aren't you coming?"
"I thought you'd like some alone time with him first."
"Thank you, Louis . . . For everything."
He just smiles and nods at me to step inside, and I struggle to do so. As I slowly walk in, I hear the beeping machine beside him. It takes everything within me to finally look at his body in the bed.
He's sleeping, peacefully and I struggle not to run into his arms and hug him tightly. "Zayn," his name comes out as a whimper as I take in the sight of the very apparent bruising and the swelling. He's tucked tightly under the blanket, with several different tubes shooting out of his arms. I don't know the first thing about medicine, but what I see in front of me doesn't look good.
His lip is massively swollen, and it adorns a large cut. His arm is in a sling. His eyes are black. But I think the most apparent change is the fact that all of his beautiful hair has been shaved off, revealing a large bruise, along with a gash on the side of his head. His beautiful skin is now full of cuts, scrapes, and bruises and it's heartbreaking.
I take another step towards his frail looking body until I'm able to reach his hand. And I hold it. I hold it like his life depends on it, because staring at him like this has me terrified that he's in a coma . . . And what if he never wakes from this?
But the second I touch his hand his head turns towards me, proving to me that he in fact, isn't in a coma. He's awake, and he's alive, but it's obvious he's in pain as he winces the instant he turns his head.
"Zayn," I breathe out. "I'm so glad you're okay. Are you in pain?"
"They got me pretty morphine-d out," he replies.
"So, no pain?"
He tries shaking his head no, but winces. "No."
"I came as quick as I could. Louis is here with me, he's just outside," I say as I point to the hallway.
"That's great, but I have a question," his voice weak.
"Who are you?"
Zayn looks at me with furrowed eyebrows as he concentrates on my face. But my whole world shatters around me. "W-What?" I stutter out.
"I've never met you before, so why are you holding my hand? Who are you?" He reiterates.
"Miss, you shouldn't be in here," a deep voice says from behind me. I turn towards it, and it's a man in a doctor's coat. He walks towards me and places the clipboard on my back, basically forcing me out of the room.
Tears are already frantically streaming down my cheeks by the time I'm in the hallway and Louis looks at me with sorrow written all over his face. He embraces me in a warm hug, and I try to suppress the tears.
The two of us face the doctor to finally get some answers.
"I'm afraid to tell you that Zayn hit his head pretty bad. Also, I hate to tell you this, but Zayn has retrograde amnesia caused by swelling from damage to the frontal lobe."
"What does that mean? Does he not remember anything?" I ask desperately.
"No, retrograde amnesia is where someone forgets events before the trauma happens. He'll be able to perfectly form new memories, but there may be some memories from the past that he's forgotten. It could be people, places, anything really, but the good news is that it isn't any motor skills. Also, what's good is that it can be reversed, although we don't know how long it could take for him to recall those forgotten memories."
"Is there anything we can do to help him? He seems to have forgotten who I am," I reply, and Louis looks down at me in shock. His hand is still wrapped around my waist, and he pulls me closer to him.
"I'm sorry, Arielle." Louis whispers just quiet enough for me to hear. For the first time since he's met me, he called me by my full name.
"I'm afraid not. There's nothing you can do to speed up the process, unfortunately. With memory loss, there are certain things that'll help a person remember, and the biggest thing is scent. But of course, the brain is very complex, so Zayn's brain could be different. It could be anything that would help him remember you. You just have to keep trying new things. If he truly loves you, I'm sure he'll remember you at some point, Miss."
That's when it hits me.
Zayn may never remember who I am.
I can't kiss him. I can't hug him. I can't call him mine because he doesn't even know who I am. In his mind, I never existed. I never wrote my name in Sharpie on his heart. He's never called me his angel. We never adopted a dog together. I never personalized a ring for him. I never wrote on his chalk walls. We don't live together. And he doesn't love me.
Suddenly the invincibility I was once feeling has vanished and I feel like I'm suffocating.
"I'm sorry to break the news to you now and in this circumstance, but the visiting hours are over. I'm going to have to ask the two of you to leave, unfortunately, but you'll be able to visit him tomorrow. Just please keep in mind, forcing anything on him won't help him remember. Easing him into it helps jogging of the memory."
I'm unable to speak anymore, and Louis realizes it so he speaks for me. "Thank you Doctor."
I start crying even harder and I have to turn into Louis' shirt and I fist it as the shock takes over my body. Zayn doesn't know who I am anymore, and it's enough to completely shatter my world. What if he never remembers who I am? I've officially lost the one man I'm madly in love with.
I grind the heels of my hands into my eyes, as if it'll help. As if it'll force the tears back into my skull, along with the grief. Louis wraps his arms around me tighter, but the embrace he has me in only seems to increase the pain I'm feeling.
"Please-tell me he'll remember me," I choke out between the sobs. I'm crying so hard that I can barely breathe, and I'm gasping for air against Louis' chest. "Louis, I can't-" I try to tell him that I can't breathe, but the words don't come out. The only sound I can make is desperate cries.
"Ari, it's okay. He'll get his memory back, he'll be alright."
I mumble a series of inaudible words as Louis wraps his arm tightly around me and turns me around. He side hugs me and begins leading me towards the hospital exit. "Let's get you home," he says softly.
Louis holds me as if I'm the most fragile thing in the world.
And right now, I am.