My body was tired. My spirit was tired.
I opened my eyes, slowly. But I couldn't get used to the brightness.
Groaning, I raised my hands to rub my eyes. But I let my left arm fall down with a gasp.
Damn, it was burning. It felt like somebody had ripped my skin off and poured acid all over it.
'Scarlett, thank god you're awake.'
I blinked a few times and squinted when I looked up. Niall was staring down at me with a worried frown. 'How do you feel?'
I sighed. 'I wished I wasn't awake.' I didn't even want to look at my shoulder. But I did, anyway.
Curiosity kills the cat.
In this case, the cat had almost killed me.
The wounds looked horrifying. The tiger had left four large, red scratches mainly on my shoulder, down to the top of my left breast. Her paws had been so big, that one of the nails had ripped the flesh of my collarbone and another one had hit my arm, down to my bicep.
I could barely move, because any movement that made my skin stretch, caused an almost unbearable pain.
So I just laid there, helplessly. Suddenly I became aware of a whooshing sound.
'Are we close to the sea already?' I mumbled.
Niall nodded. 'You've been passed out for almost a day and a half. You've been awake a few times, though. You don't remember?'
I shook my head, a movement I immediately regretted.
'For Christ's sake.' I hissed through gritted teeth.
'I'll tell one of those guys you've woken up. Maybe they'll give you something for the pain.'
Niall walked away, leaving me alone. I took a few deep breaths, trying to force the pain to go away. My grandmother once told me that ninety percent of the pain, is actually in your head.
Not literally, of course. She meant that if you fully concentrate on something else, the pain can go away - or at least become less present.
So that's what I tried. I thought about all the countries I had been to. It had started when I was fifteen years old. In stead of doing what most of my friends and other people around me were going to do - getting a higher education - I decided I wanted to travel. So I finished my last year of school and planned on leaving as soon as possible. But then I got pregnant.
I quickly pushed the thoughts away.
When that was all... finished, I waited for two more months and booked a flight to France, where I was signed up for work as Au-Pair. I had my seventeenth birthday that year. My child had her first birthday...
I had a nice camera and photographed a lot. It hadn't been smart at all, really, to do Au-Pair work. Dumb, dumb Scarlett. Of course it reminded me too much of my child... Anyway, when I saved enough money, I booked a trip to Africa, to work as a volunteer in an Orphanage. I mostly took care of orphaned lions, preparing them for living in the wild.
I had the most wonderful time of my life and of course, made a lot of pictures. Not only from animals, but also from African tribes. A friend suggested I should enter a National Geographic photo-contest. I won a few prizes for some of my pictures and they asked me to work for them.
It was a dream come true. I had never thought I would ever get paid for my hobby.
Letting out a deep sigh, I closed my eyes. The pain had eased.
I didn't even notice I had drifted off to sleep, until somebody softly padded my leg to wake me up.
'Scarlett, they're here. Wake up, sweetie.'
I was a little confused and when I heard his words, I opened my eyes. 'Harry?'
But I stared into blue eyes.
'No, darling. It's me.' Niall softly spoke. His eyes had a sad look in them.
'Wh-where is Harry?' I mumbled. I wanted to see him.
Niall looked a little nervous, turning his head to look at something. Or someone.
'He, eh, he's busy. I'm sorry. But I'm here with ya, I won't leave your side.'
The guides put something on my wounds which made me yell in pain. Tears formed in my eyes. I couldn't think straight anymore and let out a loud groan. Then, it was over. The pain was suddenly gone. The only thing I felt was my pounding head and the trembling of my body.
'Harry... I want to see him.' I whispered, before passing out again.
'Her fever is still quite bad. She had a clear moment, though. But when I came back with those men, she had fallen asleep and she was all confused again when I woke her up. She kept asking for you, Harry.' Niall said softly.
I sighed in frustration. My feelings were ripped apart. On one hand, I wanted to stay by her side, like I had done since she passed out the first time. But I couldn't see her face without constantly being reminded of what Liam said. So today, I stayed away from her.
It didn't help, though.
I thought about it anyway.
'She's having a hard time, mate. She needs you. I heard what Liam said yesterday and it sucks, but try not to think about that now, she obviously cares about you and I'm sure she regrets it with every hair on her head.' Niall said, briefly looking at Liam with a disgusted face.
I shook my head. Why is my life always so fucked up?
I thought it finally got better when I met Niall and we decided to make some music together. Finally some luck and happiness.
Then we crash. And then I meet Scarlett. I really started to feel something for her. And not just for her body, but also for her personality. She was kind and also a lot of fun.
She was sensitive and at the same time she was tough.
And then, once again, my happiness is destroyed.
I felt the anger coming back and I really wanted to punch someone.
A soft cry emerged from the shelter.
I walked away, towards the cliff, where you had a view of the ocean.
The waves broke on the rocks, making it sound like thunder and blocking out all other sounds.
I didn't want to hear her cries. She sounded hurt. Not only physically but also emotionally.
But I am hurt too! I yelled from the inside.
I sighed and turned. While Niall was trying to calm her down - or so it seemed, she turned her head a little, squeezing her eyes shut in pain. I frowned and suddenly her eyes opened, staring right into mine.
Even from where I was standing, I could see the hurt expression on her face while she mouthed my name.
But I turned around.
Was I a fool? Maybe I was. But I ignored these thoughts and stubbornly stayed where I stood.
I couldn't stand it anymore. It was past midnight and I was tired. I groaned and got up from my bed, walking to the shelter not far from ours. They had made a separate shelter for Scarlett, just in case somebody would accidentally touch her in their sleep. And because of her feverish dreams, which made talk in her sleep and cry out from time to time. Nobody had closed an eye the night before.
I sat down beside her, shaking my head at the sight of her wounds. The infection wasn't so bad anymore, but it was still there.
Sweat had formed on her forehead and she was paler than usual. Her body trembled uncontrollably and I went back to the other shelter to collect some clothes.
Fever was a weird thing. It was in fact an increase of temperature of the body, but sometimes you could oddly feel like you were freezing.
I laid the clothes on top of her and after a few minutes, her shivering slowly stopped.
Her head was moving from one side to another, making her face scrunch up in pain.
I placed my hand on her forehead, in an attempt to make her head stop moving.
But instead, she woke up, staring up at me in confusion.
'Am I dead?' She suddenly asked.
Her voice was clear, nothing like a person with fever.
I shook my head. 'No. You're still alive.'
'Harry?' She whispered.
I nodded. 'I'm here.'
'Thank god. I was afraid I would miss the bus. But you're here now.' She said, closing her eyes again.
I frowned. Miss the bus?
She mumbled something inaudible when she suddenly chuckled. 'Fine, fine. Buy me some coffee, then. Oh, and a brownie, Dave.'
Dave? Who was Dave?
She hadn't been awake at all, I thought. She was just dreaming.
I sat down comfortably and watched her.
After mumbling inaudible again for a few minutes, her face got a shocked expression, eyes open wide.
'No, no. It can't be.' She breathed out.
'What can't be?' I asked.
'It's positive, Dave.'
'The test...' She mumbled, closing her eyes again.
I wanted to ask her about it, hoping she would tell some more, but she started to hum a song. It sounded like a lullaby.
'Katie... Please. Don't go.' She whispered. She sounded heartbroken.
'I won't leave you again, promise. Katie? No! Please!'
She started to sob, and a tear ran down her cheek.
It hurt me so much to see her like this. I wanted to hug her, but I knew I couldn't.
So instead, I grabbed her right hand and pressed soft kisses on her knuckles, stroking her cheek with my other hand.
It didn't matter what she had done. I liked her too much to see her suffer like this and ignore it.
She opened her eyes and looked up at me, still crying.
'Harry...' She breathed out.
'Yes, I'm here. I won't leave you again.' I softly said.
'I woke up and you weren't there and I thought... I thought you left me, but then I thought it was stupid to feel like that because we aren't even together. But I was so confused and I didn't know where you were...' She rambled.
'It doesn't matter. I'm here now.'
She nodded. There was a long silence.
Then, she suddenly asked: 'What am I to you, Harry?'
I looked at her, dumbfounded. 'Eh, well, I like you. You have...'
Stolen my heart.
'... become one of my closest friends.'
Her eyes looked sad, but she managed to smile. 'I... I like you, too.' She whispered.
Another moment of silence.
'I'm tired... you're not leaving, right?' She asked.
I shook my head. 'Promise.'
Then, I lay down next to her. 'Goodnight, Scarlett.' I whispered, before turning around, my back facing her.
I couldn't help but still feel hurt.