there is no title for this. i cried
His corner of the house was more of a subdivision of rooms with a “common room” of sorts that connected them all together, but to get to that room, we first had to go through two others.
Dark navy walls, two plush chairs and a coffee table separating them occupied the first. Some old toys in boxes seemed pushed up against the walls, hoping to go unnoticed and awaiting an exit. I thought it resembled a waiting room.
The air in this room was warmer and homier than the other. A day bed lay against the back wall and posters lined the walls. In one corner stood three guitars- an electric, acoustic and a steel guitar (which I assumed had never been played due to the boys’ lack of affinity for country music).
We padded through the two rooms, the four boys and I, until we finally reached the common room that held normal everyday things to keep a teenage boy occupied- television, video game consoles, sound system, comfy chairs, a futon (?), and a boy stench that was all too familiar. I had spotted a can of Febreeze on a dresser in the previous room, so I reached around the doorway and swung the bottle at eye-level with the rest of the boys who froze in their steps toward the console. With a look of determination, I laughed manically and sprayed half of the bottle in the air around us, causing them to exaggerate coughs and yell at me like I was the bane of their existence, which unfortunately happened pretty frequently these days.
There was one room left, and it didn’t seem as though the guys were going to take me to see it. I let them get settled with the game on the console and tiptoed behind their chairs to the last door in the strange layout.
Its door sat slightly ajar, so I wiggled through it without any backfire from the boys, specifically Luke, considering this was his room.
The next room was something I would never wish on anybody- a hospital bed, vitals monitor and shock white cabinets filled the room with such a grief that I was almost to the point of breaking. Several larger cardboard boxes sat untouched in the middle of the room. I sauntered over to the nearest wall and found a young blonde boy, around 12, lying in a hospital bed with an IV and oxygen tubes in a black frame. He was giving the camera a thumbs up and trying his best to smile.
Another had the same weak face assisted by a wheelchair and his mother in outdated attire, pushing him down a road. His mother was radiant, though a tint of weariness sat upon the corners of her eyes.
His father adorned the next, holding the boy on his shoulders while they both sported Manchester United jerseys, assumingly on their way to a game. Luke was slightly younger in this one and had a little bit more health to him.
They were all like this, frame after frame that adorned every wall of the makeshift hospital room.
My hand slipped shakily over my mouth, stifling a sob. I made my way to the dusty boxes in the middle and pulled back a flap to reveal thousands of medical supplies- medicines, needles, gloves- all packed into the untouched boxes.
The hospital bed was still neatly made, complete with starch white sheets and a terrible pillow. The vitals machine was freezing. Somehow, I found myself sitting on the wretched bed, feet dangling over the dusty floor. Why had he not told me about this? What was he sick with? Surely he could’ve died, that’s why all this equipment was here.
I heard a shout from the other area- somebody had lost the game.
I quietly pulled open the drawer in the table next to the bed. Inside laid a stack of papers- a will signed off by his parents due to his age. I attempted quieting another sob but I was too late and I threw the will back into the drawer and slammed it closed, covering my face with my hands.
“Hey,” I peeked through fingers to witness a blonde, beanie-covered head poke through the crack in the door. His expression turned from carelessness to panic as he saw the tears streaming down my face.
“Hey, hey, hey now,” Luke said, rushing over to the bed, carefully taking my hands and engulfing them in his. He scooted onto the bed and looked at me- puppy dog eyes and a pouted lip.
“W-what is-“ was all I could get out before he wrapped his arms around me and I tucked my head into his broad chest.
He sighed and hugged me tighter, shuddering as he looked around the room. “I had what the doctors thought was terminal cancer from the time I was nine to when I was fifteen. I went into remission before I started high school, and it was gone for good by the Christmas of that year. Best Christmas ever…besides when I started dating you-“ at that, he pressed a kiss into the top of my head and continued. “I never thought about telling you because I didn’t think I’d have to…and I didn’t want to, to be completely honest. It hurts a little still talking about it.”
I pulled back from his chest and wiped the tearstains from my cheeks. “Did they think you’d make it?”
“But you did…?”
“I did. And it blew the minds of all the doctors I’ve ever seen.”
“That’s incredible,” I said, half-heartedly smiling. He ripped the beanie off his head and ran his fingers through the blonde paintbrush hair on his head.
“I’ve got a scar to prove it,” He said with a smirk.
“Ooh, show me!” I said, giving him a false new vibrato.
He chuckled and reached for my hand. “You’ve gotta find it, first…”
I blinked twice and then understood where he was heading.
Luke lightly pushed my shoulders down into the sheets, likely where he’d spent days, weeks of his younger years. “Here, Luke?” I asked, eyeing the bed.
“It’s been bleached so many times that we’re probably getting whiter just sitting on it.”
I chuckled and relaxed. His t-shirt hung underneath him and laid on me, his arms resting on both sides of my head, fingers toying with my hair. Sparkling blue eyes pierced mine and he smiled the biggest grin I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
“What?” I giggled.
“I’m alive…you’re alive…what a time to be alive.” He whispered as he closed the gap between our lips. His hands roamed my body until one of them found one of mine and slowly brought it to the hem of his shirt. Releasing his mouth from mine, he attached it to my jaw while sliding my hand up his stomach. The scar began at the base of his ribcage and stopped at his collarbone. I gasped upon its touch. It was like I could feel the tendons underneath the skin, but more importantly I could feel the rapidly beating heart beneath it that was very much alive.
“Baby…” I sighed into his ear. His lips detached from my skin and he stared me dead into my soul. He rubbed his nose on mine and I giggled quietly, studying his face- the silent freckles, subtle stubble, girlish nose, upturned eyes- everything.
“Yes, dear,” He replied, bringing a thumb up to caress my cheek.
“I’m glad it’s you.” I whispered, silently giggling and laying one of my hands on his.
“And I’m glad it’s you,” he said, grinning onto my lips.