Chapter Twenty-one: Maggie
A tentative knock interrupted the moment, and all three of them turned to look at the pretty young women standing in the doorway uncertainly. Reggy didn't take much notice of her, assuming that she'd got the wrong room or something, but Kriss's eyes widened in shocked recognition and the coffee cup tilted in his hand, some of its contents splashing onto the floor.
“Maggie,” he murmured.
Reggy and Greg were looking between the pair of them, clearly puzzled by Kriss's extreme reaction.
“You two know each other?” Reggy asked with a frown, breaking the slightly awkward silence.
Kriss blinked, glancing at Reggy briefly before his gaze was drawn back to the doorway. “You could say that. She's my sister.”
Reggy's eyes widened and he turned his head to stare at the woman hovering in the doorway, stunned into silence. Now he was looking at her face properly, he could see the family resemblance. She had the same soft brown eyes, now looking very wary, and the same pale skin, which made the dark brown curls which framed her face all the more striking.
“Can I come in?” she asked hesitantly, her gaze flicking over Reggy's and Greg's faces before coming to rest once again on Kriss's.
Greg cleared his throat and got to his feet. “I should go check on Kip,” he murmured, heading for the door. “I'll see you later, Kriss.”
“Sure. Thanks, Greg.”
Greg spared Maggie a brief, rather cool, glance as he passed, but she didn't look away from her brother. Reggy started to get up too, assuming that the two of them would need some time alone, but Kriss reached out to grasp his arm firmly and pull him back, letting him know in no uncertain terms that he wanted him to stay. Reggy smiled reassuringly at Kriss, and linked their fingers securely as he settled back down. He noticed that Maggie followed the movement, looking a little uncomfortable. Kriss obviously noticed it too because, when he spoke, it was with a tone of weary resignation.
“Why are you here, Maggie?”
Her eyes shot up to his face and a there was a flash of emotion, maybe remorse, in her eyes. “I heard that you were hurt.”
Kriss immediately frowned in confusion so Reggy thought he'd better step in to explain, bracing himself for a bad reaction. “I called your mom, when you were in intensive care.” When Kriss turned his head and stared at his lover in shock, Reggy pressed on quickly. “We didn't know if you were going to pull through, Kriss. It could have been their last chance to make things right. I didn't tell you because your mom was less than receptive to my suggestion.”
“She didn't tell us,” Maggie interjected, taking a few cautious steps into the room and drawing Kriss's attention once more. “I don't think she ever had any intention of telling us, either. I only found out when I overheard her talking to dad about you.” Her eyes projected earnest sincerity as she took a few more steps towards him. “I would have been here sooner if I'd known.”
Kriss looked back at her impassively. “Well, as you can see, I'm out of danger, so you can leave with a clear conscience.”
She shook her head firmly, making her curls bounce against her face. “It's not about that. I've missed you, Kriss, and I've thought about finding you for a long time. I know that I didn't have your back when you needed me all those years ago, and I'm not going to try to excuse my behavior, but I've come to realize how wrong I was to judge you.” She was now within reaching distance of him, but held herself back, her voice dropping to just above a whisper. “Please give me a chance, Kriss. I'd like my brother back.”
Kriss let out a deep breath. “I can't do this now, Maggie.” He paused, and turned his head away from her, looking out of the window at the clear blue sky. “I'm gonna need some time.”
Reggy actually found himself feeling a little sorry for her as he watched her face crumple, but he knew that there was no quick fix to the situation; the hurt ran too deep.
“Okay,” she replied softly. “I'm staying in town for a few days.” She pulled a scrap of paper out of her purse and quickly scribbled down a number, before placing it on the table beside Kriss's bed. “Call me if you'd like to talk.”
Kriss nodded slightly but didn't look back at her. She glanced briefly at Reggy, in silent acknowledgment, then swiftly left the room, leaving a tense silence in her wake.
Reggy squeezed Kriss's hand in a gesture of comfort and apology, his worry increasing when Kriss continued to stare vacantly out of the window. “Kriss?”
Kriss blinked and seemed to come back to the present, looking at Reggy with the shadow of a smile. “I'm okay, Reg. I'm just tired.”
Reggy knew that there was more to it than that, but decided to let it go for the time-being. “Get some rest,” he murmured, leaning in for a brief kiss. “I'll come back in a little while.”
As he left the room, Reggy saw Maggie waiting for the elevator at the end of the corridor and, making an instant decision, he headed towards her. He called her name and she turned questioningly, just as the elevator doors opened with a ping.
“Reggy,” he said, holding out his hand which, after only a slight hesitation, she shook. “You wanna grab a coffee?”
There was relief and more than a little gratitude in her eyes as she answered. “Sure.”
Maggie sat down at a table by the window in the hospital cafeteria, which was fairly deserted at that time of day, and a few minutes later Reggy placed a cup of coffee in front of her.
“It's not very good, I'm afraid,” he smiled, settling into the chair opposite.
She smiled back and shrugged her shoulders. “It's hot. That's good enough.” She took the lid off to let it cool a little and dipped the white plastic spoon in to stir it gently, a frown creeping onto her face as she stared at the swirling liquid. Reggy decided to sit quietly and let her make the first move, not wanting to push too much.
“He is going to be okay; right?” She looked up on the last word, her gaze intense.
Reggy was quick to reassure her. “The doctors are confident. He's been through a lot, though, so it's going to be a while before he's back on his feet.”
She nodded, and lifted the cup to gently blow on the still scorching coffee. “So, how long have you and Kriss been together?”
A smile lifted the corners of Reggy's mouth briefly. “It feels like years, but it's actually only been around four months.”
Maggie took a small sip, grimacing slightly before reaching for the sugar. “But you love him?”
“Yes, I do. Very much.” He watched her face carefully as he answered, but there was no trace of judgment or repulsion. He felt that he had to make himself clear, though. “I'm not going to let anyone hurt him, Maggie.”
She looked up and held his gaze, her hand pausing in its task. “I have no intention of hurting him. I just want to try to make amends.”
“Okay,” he nodded, relaxing back against the chair, and decided to lighten the mood slightly. “You and he were close growing up?”
“Oh, I totally worshiped him,” she admitted, a smile lighting up her face for the first time. In that moment, Reggy could see Kriss shining through. She turned her head to look out of the window and Reggy continued to watch her with interest. Her gaze drifted over the bustling city, but he could see that her mind was far away; lost in memories.
“There was nine years between us, with my other brother, Graeme, in-between. Graeme and I never really connected as children; he was always so distant and self-involved still is, actually,” she added with a smirk. “But, even though he was so much older than me, Kriss was the complete opposite. Mom used to call us two peas in a pod because we were so alike. He would spend hours with me, just playing and laughing. He was always there for me when I needed him.” Her happy expression faltered slightly as the memories turned sour, and she took another sip of coffee.
“What happened?” Reggy asked gently.
“I was thirteen when he came out to our parents and everything fell apart.” She turned her head to look back at him. “You have to understand that our mom and dad have strong Christian beliefs, which we were raised to follow without question. Unfortunately, part and parcel of that is the firm view that homosexuality is fundamentally wrong. Against God.” Her gaze slipped back down to the cup cradled between her hands. “It must have taken a huge amount of courage for Kriss to do what he did, and I wish that I could have shown the same courage by defending him. But I didn't. I was young, confused, easily influenced by the strong views of those around me, and I left him to face the wolves alone.
Graeme reacted predictably, siding with our parents and rejoicing in the chance to become the favored son.” Her mouth twisted in distaste. “Mom and dad tried their best to fix Kriss, and show him the error of his ways. They said some awful things to him; quoted every relevant passage of the bible which said that he should be put to death, that he would be damned forever. I sat on the stairs outside, listening and crying for him but unable to move." She closed her eyes and a few tears slipped down her cheeks, splashing onto the table. “I failed him.”
Reggy, his own face pained with emotion at the tale, reached across and covered her small hand with his. “You're here, now, Maggie.” She opened her eyes to look at him, her eyes shining with a torrent of emotions. “Kriss's hiding a lot of hurt deep inside that even I can't reach, but you can. You can still make this right.”
Kriss was still asleep when Reggy returned to his room, so he sat quietly in the chair beside him. Curling his fingers around Kriss's hand gently, he thought back over his conversation with Maggie. The harsh reality of Kriss's experience had hit him hard, and his difficulties with his own family now seemed ridiculously trivial in comparison to what his lover had been through. How fucking ironic that the bible preached tolerance while simultaneously condemning everyone who didn't conform to its views. It made him sick.
“You went to see her, didn't you?”
Reggy jumped, wrenched from his thoughts, and looked down at Kriss face. His eyes were still closed, but there was a hint of a frown across his brow.
“Yes,” Reggy murmured. He was slightly anxious about Kriss's reaction, but he wasn't going to lie. “I just wanted to be sure of her intentions; that's all.”
Kriss opened his eyes, and turned his head slightly to meet Reggy's worried gaze. “I can't blame you for that, I guess.”
Reggy's eyebrows rose slightly. “You're not mad?”
There was a brief flash of a smile in response. “No; not at you.”
“But you're still mad at her,” Reggy replied. It wasn't a question.
Kriss turned his head away, with a quiet sigh. “I didn't think that I'd ever see any of them again, Reg, and, as difficult and painful as that was, I learned to accept it and tried my best to move on. Now Maggie's here; I don't honestly know how to feel.”
Reggy squeezed his hand, running his thumb over the back of it soothingly. “That's only natural. It's going to take time to work through your emotions, but it will get better.”
When Kriss looked back, his icy eyes were clouded with doubt. “I'm not sure. I know the danger of re-opening old wounds.”
Reggy leaned forward slightly, choosing his next words carefully. “I know you're scared of letting her back into your life, Kriss, but isn't it worth the risk? The rest of your family may be beyond hope or reason, but your sister is here and she's holding out her hand to you. I think you should take it.”
“I'll think about it,” Kriss replied softly. “Right now I just want to concentrate on getting out of here.”
“Okay,” Reggy nodded, giving him a quick peck on the lips. “Do you need anything?”
A mischievous glint crept into Kriss's eyes. “Well, I could do with a little more of that particular medication.”
“Anytime,” Reggy purred, leaning in again.