It’s funny how, when you remember back to the worst time of your life, you don’t particularly remember the scenery, or even the thing that first made you feel such strong emotions. You remember the little things. What you remember is the sound your heart makes, and, in my case, the sound Oliver’s heart didn’t make. I remember the scratchy texture of his jeans as I pulled his phone out of his pocket and called an ambulance. I remember Martin and Oliver’s blood pooling together as I watched the helicopter in the distance draw closer agonisingly slowly, and I remember them carting him into the shiny steel shell and telling me that if I wanted to ride with him I had to stay out of the way.
His face had been so pale, even against the white sheet that stretched across the bed they laid him on, and his blood had been so scarlet it was as though Marie-Ann’s lipstick was leaking from his side.
The helicopter ride had taken an age, with shouting that I couldn’t hear over the general noise that it made, the whirring and roaring, but it had eventually come to an end, as all things do. They lifted Oliver out, and I remember thinking that he hardly looked like Oliver any more. The Oliver I knew was tanned and strong and grinned like the world loved him- not just the people, but the very Earth he walked on. And why wouldn’t it? Everyone loved Oliver. I loved Oliver.
“Get them online! Okay, ready? Clear! Any reaction? No? Ready, and…clear! Anything? Okay, get the bullet out and stitch it up, quickly! No, I don’t care, just stop the bleeding!”
I had a good view through the surgery window. The only colour in the room seemed to be Oliver’s hair, gold against the blue and white and grey. But there was red, too- red I didn’t dare look at, too much red.
My knuckles were white, and I suddenly realised that I was exhausted. I was utterly and completely worn down, emotionally and physically. There were chairs lining the corridor, but I couldn’t bear to look away from the surgery, so pulled one up to the window. They were more frantic now, buzzing around like blue bees. Oliver seemed very still next to them.
“Guys, he’s flatlining! Quick, ready! And…clear!” They were quiet for a few seconds, then one turned to the main surgeon and raised their eyebrows. I couldn’t see his face, but he motioned for them to use the defibrillators on Oliver again. The others looked dubious, but they readied them and held them above his chest.
“Is everyone ready? This could be our last chance. Get the air pumping, okay? Ready…clear!”
I held my breath, the room before me swimming a bit. There was a short silence, like the gap in between fireworks going off. Then the doctor let out a very un-doctor like whoop.
“His heart’s beating! Quick, you got the bullet out? Okay, sew him up! Ava, get those bandages ready! Guys, he’s gonna live! We have a success!” The surgeon threw his hair covering in the air. I briefly wondered if he was a bit mental, then decided I didn’t care.
Oliver would live. If I’d ever not believed in a just God, I certainly did now.
Oliver would live.
It seemed hours later that a weary looking nurse approached me. She smiled, eyes crinkling.
“He’s going to be fine. We’re transferring him to a room now. You may be his first visitor, if you like. His great aunt in England was contacted the moment we received your call and is being driven to this hospital as we speak. They’ve never met, but we believe now would be an appropriate time.” I had to resist the urge to hug her.
“Which room is he in?”
“21B. Down the lift one floor and directly opposite the doors.” She smiled again and left, heels tapping cheerfully against the floor. I made for the elevator, stabbing at the buttons. The doors seemed to take an age to close, but close they did, commencing the terrible music that always seems to accompany elevators. I tapped my foot on the floor, watching the light flick down.
The front of the elevator opened again with a faintly musical ting. A door faced me, blue like the surgery, but a more cheerful blue. That had been the colour of sickness, whereas this was the colour of hope.
My feet carried me forwards of their own accord, in cahoots with my hand which seemed to raise itself and push the door open.
Oliver was propped in a bed which seemed altogether too small to contain someone so perfect. He was pale, even sickly looking, but his smile was the smile of the Oliver I knew. I approached him slowly, too unbelieving of the fact he was alive to return it.
“Your heart wasn’t beating.”
“Is now.” He gestured to a machine next to him which beeped with every pulse of his heart. Those beeps were one of the nicest noises I’d ever heard.
“I killed Martin.” Oh my God Edmund, how many times to I have to tell you? A ‘hello’ takes you a long way, it really does.
“They won’t press charges. It was an act of self defence. I was recording everything he said on my phone.”
“Who are they?” I sat on the seat next to him, frowning. “People always say that ‘they’ will know what to do, or that ‘they’ will arrest someone, but who exactly-”
“Edmund, you’re rambling.”
“Am I? Sorry.” I twisted my hands in my lap, cracking the knuckles.
“Edmund, Martin was insane. There was something wrong with him. I mean, we did get together once, but it was so short, and so long ago…you can’t believe anything he said.” He paused, letting it sink it. I nodded, deflating inside.
“I know. So uh, how are you? I mean, can you feel it, or…”
“Just dimly. Morphine.” He gestured to a tube that was stuck in his arm. I winced. Sticking something in Oliver would be like spraying weedkiller on a rose- a perversion of what was meant to be.
I stood awkwardly, chair squeaking. “Well, I suppose I should make way for your great aunt, so…” I sighed and made to leave.
“Honestly Edmund, you are so dim.”
I turned back towards Oliver indignantly. “Excuse me? Rude.”
“You read constantly, and you’re so intelligent, but you’re as blind as… a very blind person.” His head was tilted to the side, an expression of almost curiosity on his face. “Out of interest, why do you think I spent so much time with you? Do you really think it was because I thought of you as a friend?”
“Edmund, I find all of my friends utterly boring. I don’t do friends.” He held a hand out to me, which I took and lowered back to the bed.
“Careful. You were just shot.”
“Yeah, Martin isn’t a good aim. But anyway, I don’t do friends.”
“So…I’m you best friend as in not plural?”
A grin spread on his face. “No.”
“Super best friend?”
He tightened his grip on my hand and pulled me closed slowly. My breath was coming faster, and I noted with some strange satisfaction that the heart monitor was beeping faster. And louder too. Awfully loud. Too loud. It sounded almost like heels clicking on a hospital floor.
The door burst open with a bang. I jerked away from Oliver and snatched my hand to my side, turning to the door to see-
There was a short, stunned silence in the room, then two voice spoke in unison.
“You’re my great aunt?”
“You’re my great nephew?”
Silence again. I wished most heartily to sink through the floor and hide from the world underneath a desk with some tea sachets I could inhale.
“Right, that’s it. I disown you as my great nephew. And you.” She turned her heavily made-up glare on me. I withered slightly. “You left your stove on and your house burnt down. All that’s left is your dingy shop. Good riddance to the both of you!” She stormed out the door and slammed it behind her. I called out to her as her heels clicked away.
“It’s Edmund! My name is Edmund!” She replied with something that sounded very rude, and that was the last I heard. I turned to Oliver again. “I didn’t like that house anyway.”
“You can come and live with me.”
I considered. “That would be a bit strange, though, with you and I only being friends. Wouldn’t the press think it was strange?”
Oliver sat up slightly. I winced, but he didn’t appear to be affected by the bullet hole in his side.
“Then I guess the only course of action left open to me is to kiss you and make us officially together.”
Some of my brain cells died, along with my vocabulary. “Oh. Uh-”
He pulled me forwards and kissed me.
I’d thought, before I met Oliver, that there was no better experience on Earth than sitting in my cosy shop, drinking tea, and reading a book. That was before a wounded actor kissed me in his hospital room, and I realised that nothing- not even tea- could beat kissing Oliver Smith.