The Mess Of Me:Chapter 33

33

 

Dear World, I find home is a strange, almost alien place when I get back there.  Everything seems different now.  I feel too far away from Joe, and I do not like it.  I ask my mum when I can go back.  I just want to sit with him, I tell her.  She tells me that the police are on their way to speak to me, and I have to talk to them, because they have already waited long enough.  But I just want to sit with Joe, I tell her again and again.  She insists that I sit in the lounge, and she brings me a blanket and a cup of tea and some marmite toast.  It all seems hollow and pointless while Joe is lying on a bed with machines keeping him alive.

The police do not stay long.  The policeman I recognise from the hospital, but he does not say much.  He leaves the talking to the policewoman, who looks like she is in her early forties, and wears her hair in a neat, tight bun.  It does not take long.  I tell them that Leon Lawrenson, Joe’s older brother, attacked him.  I tell them that I tried to stop him.  I tell them that Travis eventually appeared and Leon ran off.  They seem satisfied and they leave.

I see my mum hovering in the doorway, with her arms crossed over her middle, and a tea towel dangling.  I look at her and she tips her head to one side, narrowing her eyes slightly at me.  “What?” I ask her.

“The only thing you didn’t tell them is why,” she says to me.

“Huh?”

Why,” she repeats, before pulling away from the doorframe and heading back to the kitchen.  “Why he would do that.”

My mind flicks back to the bags of white powder, pouring thickly into the toilet bowl.  I wonder if Lorraine and Mick have been home yet, and if they have, what have they found there?  I left out the bit about the drugs because I didn’t want to get Joe into any more trouble.

We eat dinner in silence.  Mum, Les and I.  The phone does not stop ringing all evening.  Twice it is Sara to get the latest news, and see if I am okay.  Once it is my dad, who has heard about the attack.  I don’t speak to him, but my mum deals with him in careful, clipped tones, and I hear her advise him not to come rushing around as I am still in shock and not talking.  I thank her inwardly for this.  Lorraine calls twice as well.  The first time I leap up to grab the phone but my mother beats me to it.  Lorraine tells her that there has been no change, which is neither good news nor bad news apparently.  She tells her that they have gone home to deal with the younger boys and left Travis at the hospital in case anything changes.  The second time Lorraine calls it is to say she is back at the hospital, having sent Travis home to get some sleep, and that there is still no change.

I hover around my mother while she talks on the phone, trying to read her expressions, trying to hear Lorraine’s voice on the other end.  My mother keeps her eyes on me, listens intently, and then frowns and lifts her eyebrows at the same time.  She makes a strange face at me.  “Really?” she says to Lorraine.  “How odd!  Did you speak to her?”  I mouth to my mum, ‘who? What?  Who?’  She waves her hand at me and concentrates on what Lorraine is telling her.  I watch her mouth opening and closing like a fish.  “Oh my goodness!” she exclaims eventually, and I can barely stand it.

“What is it?  What?  What?” I beg, pulling at her arm and bouncing around her feet.  She holds me away.

“Oh my goodness, that is terrible,” she says again.  “I can’t believe it, how awful…Lorraine, hang on one tic, Lou is getting in a right state, hang on.” She holds the phone against her chest and looks at me.  “It’s not Joe, nothing has changed, it’s something else, I’ll tell you in a minute,” she blurts out to me, and then puts the phone back to her ear.  “Really?  Good God…..Unbelievable.  You wouldn’t think it would you?  I can’t believe it Lorraine.  Is she okay, the mother?….Oh right.  I see….Good God, what a shock.  What a day!…Okay, you’ve got to go….Oh yes, I will, I will, if she wants to.  I’ll have to talk to her….Okay then.  Okay. Bye now.”

Finally my mum hangs up the phone, exhales a huge breath and shakes her head at the floor, as if trying to clear her head.  “What?” I practically scream at her in the hallway.  “What else is it?”

My mother turns to look at me, and lifts one hand to scratch nervously at her neck.  I can see that she is trying to work out the best way to tell me something and I am all over again filled with horrible fear.  “Lou,” she says, and reaches out to place her hands on my shoulders.  “Lorraine is back at the hospital visiting Joe, and she called to say she ran into a lady there, a lady she recognised?”  I stare at her, eyes wide, waiting, just waiting.  “Anyway,” she goes on, “she approached the lady, asking if she knew her from somewhere, and it turned out to be Marianne’s mother, Mrs. Sholing?”

“What?  What was she doing there?”

“It appears Marianne is also in the hospital, darling,” mum says and tightens her hands on my shoulders, biting her lip, her eyes searching mine.  I shake my head at her, not getting it.

“Why?”

“Um, I don’t know the full story, but it seems she may have tried to end her life at some point today.”

I pull back.  I pull back from her hands.  I stare at her as if she is insane.  I think, no, don’t be stupid, fuck that.  “What?” I ask her.  “What do you mean?”

“She tried to kill herself, Lou.  Apparently.” My mother is blinking at me, staring at me as if she can’t understand or believe it either.  “Mrs. Sholing is in a terrible state apparently.  Lorraine had to calm her down.  She wanted you to visit Marianne, but I said I would have to see….you’ve been through so much today already, I just don’t know.”

“I don’t know either,” I agree with her.  “I don’t know.”

“Do you want me to take you back?”

I think quickly.  I think of Marianne, and all I feel is wonder and confusion, but also anger.  Anger.  I can’t somehow believe it to be true.  Then I remember her strange phone calls to me earlier.  God it seems like a lifetime ago.

“I think better leave it till tomorrow,” my mum says then, making the decision for me, for which I am strangely grateful.  I sigh, and let her lead me back to the sofa, and my blanket.  “Enough is enough for today,” she says, as I sit back down and she covers me up.  She sits next to me.  “What a day,” she says to herself.  “I just can’t believe any of it.  Are you okay love?”

“I don’t know.  I suppose so.”

“Why do you think Marianne would do that?”

“Attention probably,” I reply, and the bitterness in my voice surprises both my mother and me.

“Well I suppose it could be a cry for help.”

“She’s okay though?  She’s not going to…”

“Oh no, no, no.  It was her wrists apparently.  They had to stitch them up.  She was brought in by a boy.  Did you know she had a boyfriend?”

“A boy?”

“Yes, that’s what Lorraine told me.  Mrs. Sholing was told a boy found Marianne and brought her to the hospital, but then left.  She doesn’t know who it was.”  My mum pulls the blanket over her legs too, and snuggles closer to me.  “Maybe Josh or Ryan?” she murmurs.  I don’t answer, because a strange little realisation is occurring in my head.  I don’t want to say a thing until I have spoke to Marianne.

“If you take me tomorrow to see her,” I say to mum, “then can I sit with Joe as well?”

“Of course you can love.  Definitely.  But I want you to have a good nights sleep, and a decent breakfast.  You’ve got to look after yourself you know.”

I nod and look back at the TV.  I am all out of words, and thoughts.  I stare at the TV, taking nothing in, while my mind runs around on itself, hitting blank walls.  I feel my mother watching me all evening.  I see her wipe her eyes from time to time.

We leave the house at ten forty the next morning.  Mum informs me that intensive care allows visitors at eleven.  We are not sure where Marianne is, but my mum thinks we’ll find her mother there somewhere.  I feel conflicting emotions on the way over. I am both dreading seeing Joe, and desperate to at the same time.  I cannot even fathom what I am going to say to Marianne, but the best way to deal with it so far is to just not think about it.  Deal with it when it comes, I tell myself.  Deal with it when it comes.

We go to intensive care first, and relieve Lorraine from her shift.  She has been there all night, and barely slept by the look of her.  My mum holds her for a while in the corridor outside Joe’s room.  I hover by the closed door, peering in, then looking back at Lorraine and Mum, not knowing whether to go in or not.  I see Lorraine leaning into my mum, weak on her own legs, crying, and shaking her head.  My mum nods at me over her shoulder.  “Go on in love,” she tells me, so I do.

Joe is there.  Joe is still there.  I look at him and feel a surge of impatience with him. “You lazy sod,” I tell him, pulling up the nearest chair and finding his hand again.  “Look at you laying there!  Not gonna’ get any riveting conversation out of you today, am I?” I shuffle the chair closer and lean towards him.  I wonder if he can really hear me.  He looks exactly the same as yesterday, except for the bruises on his face have increased in their vivid colour.  “You won’t believe what else happened yesterday,” I whisper to him.  “Get this.  Marianne tried to top herself.  Really.  She did.  She’s in here somewhere too and wants to see me.  I feel like telling her to fuck off.  Remember those calls yesterday, when she was all snappy and pissy? Fuck knows what’s wrong with her.”  I sigh, and brush my hair away from my face.  Joe does not move.  I guess he can’t move.  I look at his face, at his swollen, closed eyes, and wonder where he is.  If he is just stuck in an endless dream somewhere that he can’t get back from.

The door opens from behind and Lorraine shuffles back in.  “They say it’s good to talk to him,” she tells me.  “Your mum is going to take me home to sort the boys out, then I’ll be back.  Can you stay with him till then?”

“Course I can.”

“Thank you.” She turns to go and then stops herself.  “Lou, your mum said you told the police it was Leon.”

I turn my head and look at her.  I nod.  “It was.”

“Honey, I know.  I know.  Can you tell me something else?”

“What?”

“The drugs Joe was caught with.  They were Leon’s weren’t they?”

I nod again.  Lorraine steadies herself.  I think, I have never seen her look so weak before.  All the fight is gone.  All the anger.  She just looks exhausted and defeated.  She does not say anything else.  I don’t think she has the strength.  She just leaves and I hear her feet clacking slowly back down the corridor.

I stay with Joe all day.  Nurses come and go, checking things, writing on charts.  Some of them speak to me; ask me if I want anything, if I am okay.  Some of them do their duties without even looking at me, as if I am a ghost they cannot see.  I get a sore bum sat on the chair for hours, so I end up getting to my feet and going for a walk.  One of the nurses tells me where I can get a drink and a snack, so I wander off, making sure the nurses know I will be back.

I find Mrs. Sholing at the vending machine.  She has her head resting on it, and is staring grimly into the void of chocolate and snacks, with her money in one hand. She is wearing a long black work skirt, and a long chocolate coloured cardigan.  Her hair, so dark like Marianne’s is twisted up neatly and pinned into place. I approach tentatively from behind, not knowing what to do or say.  I hold the pound coin my mum gave me tightly in one hand.  It burns a hot little circle in the centre of my sweaty palm.  As I get closer, she must hear me, or become aware of someone behind her, because she straightens up, clears her throat and starts to feed her money into the machine.  She only looks behind at me after she has punched in the code for the item she wants.  “Oh!” she says when she sees me.

“Hi Mrs. Sholing.”

“Lou,” she says, and walks towards me, just as her item clunks to the bottom of the machine.  I point towards it.

“Don’t forget your food.”

“Oh,” she says again, sounding sort of vacant.  She turns hurriedly, opens the flap and pulls it out.  It is a mars bar.  “It’s for Marianne,” she admits.  “I wasn’t sure what her favourite was.  Do you know?”

“I think she likes them all,” I shrug, and take up my place at the machine.  I get myself a can of lemonade and a packet of crisps.  “Is she okay?” I ask, just to fill the silence that has consumed the corridor.  “Mum told me last night.”

“Oh.”  Mrs. Sholing holds the mars bar in one hand, and fiddles with the edge of the wrapper with her other hand.  She looks at me, and then looks away again, her brow furrowed in confusion.  I think, she reminds me of Lorraine.  She looks utterly beaten and overwhelmed.  “I don’t understand it,” she says suddenly, throwing up both of her hands.  “I’m so confused Lou.  Do you understand it?  I hate to ask you, but do you have any idea why she would do something like this?”

I start to walk with her, back down the corridor.  “Mrs. Sholing,” I say slowly, as we shuffle along together.  “There is something.  Something you might not know.”

She is looking at me desperately.  I am thinking of course, of lots of things.  Of weed, and coke, and drink, and razors, and boys.

“What is it?”

“She cuts herself,” I say.  “I don’t know if you know, but she cuts herself.”

“Oh,” Mrs. Sholing exhales slowly.  “Well, yes.  We did know.  I mean, it was a long time ago, before we moved here.  We sent her for help and she stopped. It was because she was getting bullied so badly by these girls at her school.  Which is why we moved her.”

“She still does it though,” I say in a small voice.  I hate to be the one to tell her, I really do, but I find it hard to believe she thinks Marianne has stopped?  The woman looks at me, her expression is one of someone who is totally lost and has no clue where they are going or why.

“Does she?”

“Yes.  A lot.  All over.  I should have said before, I’m sorry.” I bow my head, biting my lip and watching the pale green floor under my feet.

“No,” Mrs. Sholing replies quickly.  “Don’t say that.  It’s not your fault.  It’s mine.  Of course it is.  It’s mine!  A mother should know these things.  A mother should know!  I didn’t know.”  She starts shaking her head.  “I didn’t know she was still doing it.  I didn’t know.”

“People can be really good at keeping secrets,” I try to tell her.  “You shouldn’t feel so bad.  People can be really secretive.  Kids especially.” I grimace to myself, remembering all of the things my mother still has no clue about.  Such as Joe and me going over the bridge to Somerley.  Selling drugs to people.  It makes my stomach turn over on itself and my cheeks burn with shame.

“It’s our job to know these things though,” Mrs. Sholing says.  “I didn’t even know she was down, or depressed, or worried about anything!”

“Neither did I, really.”

“Really?”

“Well she called me twice yesterday.  She wanted to meet up but I was busy with Joe, you know, moving his stuff to our house, because he’d been chucked out.” I look at her and see her big green eyes, identical to Marianne’s staring at me in bewilderment.  “You know, this was before, before he got.  Before he got in here.”

“His mother,” Mrs. Sholing says, eyes still on me.  “His mother is in bits.  She told me all about it.  How is he?”

“Still asleep, or whatever they call it.”

“My God.”

“I’m staying with him all day.  I was helping him yesterday, before, and she called me, and I couldn’t see her, because of Joe.  I think she was angry with me.”  I shoot a sideways glance at Marianne’s mother, wondering if she will blame me now she knows this.

“Who knows what was going through her head?” she says to me softly.

“Do you want me to see her?” I ask.

“Oh yes.  Oh yes please.  Well, I mean, if you could.  If you want to. I know Joe is, more, more pressing right now, but, if you could…” she trails off helplessly, wringing her hands and practically squeezing the life out of the mars bar.

“Where is she?”

“Children’s ward.”

“Now?”

“Oh yes please.  If you don’t mind.  She would love to see you.”

I am not so sure about that, but I keep my thoughts to myself, and turn left instead of right.  I feel guilty doing this, like I am being torn in two.  I know I have to see Marianne. I have to.  I have to speak to her.  But I want to be with Joe.  I want to be there with him, otherwise he is all alone.  What if he wakes up and finds no one is there?

I can’t allow myself to dwell on this, so I walk on.  I follow Marianne’s mother to the Children’s ward, bracing myself for what I might find there.  Initially, I am confused and surprised.  I had been expecting a terrible place, rows of beds filled with deathly pale children, on their last legs.  But it is not like that at all.  It is bright and warm and exuberant, with murals of cartoon characters all over the walls, and music playing, and a toy corner where lots of smaller children are gathered in front to a man who is putting on a puppet show.

Mrs. Sholing traipses past the children, staring right ahead, almost as if she cannot bear to look at them.  She leads me down to the far end, where I can already see Marianne, sat cross-legged on a bed, fiddling with her mobile phone.  Her hair is loose and hanging down over her face.  She is wearing purple jeans and a black top, with a scruffy green cardigan hanging over her tiny shoulders.  I see her, and I am surprised by the anger and resentment that flood me.  I go ahead of Mrs. Sholing, who hangs back nervously.  I get the feeling she is afraid of her own daughter, afraid of what she will say, or do.  I don’t blame her for that.

I approach the bed bravely.  I think of Joe.  He can’t sit cross-legged in his bed yet.  He’s not even fucking there.  When she looks up and sees me, she does not even look surprised, or pleased, or worried, or anything.  She gives me the same look she always does.  Her eyes, as always, almost totally unreadable.  “Hi,” she says flippantly, throwing her phone onto the bed.  She shakes her hair away from her face, and her little pointed chin juts out at me defiantly.

“Hi,” I say, because I don’t know what else to say.  She motions for me to sit next to her, so I do, taking care not to actually touch her.  I think I am afraid that her insanity will rub off on me.  She gets up abruptly and yanks the curtains around her bed.

“No fucking privacy in this place,” she complains, hopping back onto the bed.  I stare at her, amazed.  “Can’t believe they put me in the kiddies ward.”

“When can you go home?” I ask her.

“Dunno,” she shrugs.  “Some time later.  When they’ve done all their checks I suppose.  It’s so boring in here!”

“Well what did you expect?”

“I didn’t expect anything did I?” she stares at me and asks.  “I expected to be dead.”  I stare back at her.  She holds my gaze, but then breaks away and giggles.

“I don’t believe you,” I tell her coldly.  “I don’t believe you meant to die.”

“Don’t you?  Oh well.  Think what you like.”

“So why did you do it?”

“Lots of reasons,” she cocks her head at me.  “Some of which you know.  Some of which you don’t know.”

“Is that why you wanted to see me yesterday?  Because you were feeling so bad you wanted to kill yourself?”

“Well sort of,” she shrugs again, and she leans back on the bed with her hands behind her, and her legs kicking out at the curtain.  “I suppose if I am truthful, I wanted to give you a chance to be a good friend.”

I stare at her, open mouthed.  I am utterly stunned.  I feel like I have been slapped in the face.  “You what?”

“You know,” she goes on casually, kicking her legs.  “I wanted to see if you’d come.  I wanted to see if you’d choose me for once.  Instead of Joe.”

“Joe needed me,” I say this through gritted teeth.

“He always needs you.  And you always need him.  It’s so predictable and boring, and yet you wonder why you have no other friends!” She rolls her eyes at me sulkily, and looks away for a moment.  “Wonder why you do don’t just fuck each other and get it over with,” she mutters.

“You bitch,” I mutter back.  She whips her head back to stare at me.

“Why am I?”

“Joe was thrown out of home, that was why I was helping him yesterday,” I tell her, trying to keep my voice down.  “He was busted carrying you know what for you know who, did you know that?”

She narrows her eyes.  Shakes her head at me.  “When?”

“Friday.  He got arrested.  Thrown out of home.  Leon and Travis even came to me to make sure I kept my mouth shut.”

“So why is he in here?”

“You don’t know?”

“My mum won’t fucking tell me anything,” Marianne wails, sounding like a spoilt little child.  “She thinks anything will send me over the edge!  How did he get in here?  What’s wrong with him?”

I stare down at the bedspread under us.  I pick at it with my finger and thumb.  I take deep breaths, in and out; calming myself down, telling myself it is not her fault she does not know.  “Leon attacked him,” I hear myself say, my eyes on the bedspread. It’s awful really, because every time I think of it, it rushes through my head like an unwanted movie.  All of it.  The dull sound of a curled fist beating flesh that cannot escape.  The gurgling choking noise Joe made in his throat.  I fight the tears that threaten to swell in my eyes.

“Badly?” Marianne whispers this.  I look at her.

“He’s in a coma.”

I watch her green eyes grow larger.  “You’re fucking joking.”

“I’m not joking Marianne.  He’s in intensive care.  I’ve got to go back in a minute, because I’m the only one there.”

“Well what’s wrong with him?  When will he wake up?”

“They think when the swelling goes down.  He had bleeding in his brain and his internal organs.  They had to operate.  He nearly died Marianne.”  I find my eyes meeting hers, and the tears come too fast for me to stop them.  “He still might die,” I tell her.  I feel her hand land on mine, and I pull away quickly, dragging the hand across my wet eyes.

“Why are you mad with me?” she asks.

“Because you did this to yourself!” I hiss at her.  I reach for her arm then, and snatch back the cuff of her over-sized cardigan.  Her wrist is bound in thick white bandages.  I raise my lip and drop her arm again.  “You’re always doing things to yourself.  Joe didn’t.  He didn’t ask to have a family full of fucking maniacs, and he didn’t ask to be thrown out of home for something his brothers did, and he didn’t put himself in hospital, unlike you!”

Marianne is silent for a moment, and I can see her considering what I have said, what I have accused her of, as she folds her arms across her middle and crosses one leg over the other.  She looks petulant, watching my face, waiting for me to add anything else.  I sniff and wipe my nose on the side of my hand.  “And you did this for attention,” I say, not looking at her.  “You called me twice.  You couldn’t accept I was busy with Joe, so you did this!  Are you happy now?  Are you happy you got my attention?”

“Don’t fucking flatter yourself you stupid bitch,” she says to me in a low, cold voice which is so startlingly different to her normal voice, that I move back slightly, unwilling to be too close to her.  “You think I’d slit my wrists over you?”

“Why then?  Why?”

“Just like you to expect it to be so black and white,” she says scathingly.  “Do you not think there might be millions of reasons why someone tries to end it?”

“But did you really want to end it, Marianne?  Did you really?”

“At the time, yes.  I was angry.  I was pissed off at you and Joe.  Always together, always shutting me out, unless it’s convenient for you.  I was pissed off with my parents.” She leans forward, over her folded arms, and her hair drops over one shoulder, gleaming black.  “Off they go again on another fucking little trip. Business, they say. Business.  Yeah, right.  Do they ever think to invite me along?  Do they ever think I might get bored and lonely on my own?  It’s like they can’t fucking wait to get away from me.”

“You should tell them then,” I say.  “You should tell them how you feel.  They don’t know how you feel.”

“Then how do I know exactly how they feel?” she shoots back viciously.  I frown at her, not understanding.  “How is it I can empathise with them, but they can’t with me?”

“What do you mean?”

“The baby.  My twin. Melissa.  I know how they feel because I feel it too.  I’ve felt it my entire fucking life.  It drags me down.  I wake up in the morning, and it is there Lou.  She is there.  Because she isn’t there!” She is getting worked up now.  She stops and tries to compose herself by rubbing a hand across her mouth.  Then she pulls at her top lip with her finger and thumb and glares at the curtain that shields us from her mother.  “I live with it every day,” she goes on, one leg twitching angrily on top of the other.  “I wake up and she’s there, the misery of it, the why’s and the what if’s.  I have to put on a brave face, try to cheer them up.  I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid.  Trying to make it okay for them.  Trying to be enough for them, to make up for losing her.  But it’s never enough, because they are still sad.  They are still grieving for her, every day Lou.  Can’t you see it when you look at them?” She turns to look at me questioningly.  “Their faces.  They’re so good at pretending to be fine, but it’s not real, it’s never real.  It’s fake.  It’s pretend.  It’s not there.  Do you know what that means Lou?  That means my entire fucking life is fake and pretend, and not there. Maybe I decided I just didn’t want to do it any more.”

I exhale the breath I have been holding in.  I scratch my cheek, and then rest my forehead in my hand.  I don’t know what to say to her, I don’t know what to say for the best, so I just say what I am thinking. “You should tell them all of this,” I sigh.  “They don’t know Marianne.  You may be right about all of that, and it’s not fair and it’s not nice, but they’re not doing it to you on purpose.”

She does not answer me.  She brings her feet up onto the bed, and wraps her arms around her knees.  I watch as she presses her face against her legs, closing her eyes tightly.  “Marianne,” I say to her.  “Our parents aren’t mind readers.  They don’t know what’s going on in our lives if we don’t tell them.”

“So when did you get so wise?” she says into her knees.

“Me?” I snort.  “I feel like a hundred fucking years old today.  I am a little old lady, you know.  Sixteen is like, gone.”

“I’m sorry,” I hear her say.  She mumbles it into her knees, and her hair falls all around her face, blocking her out.  “I’m such a bitch.”

“It’s what I like about you,” I joke.  “It’s what makes you so intriguing remember?”

“I don’t think I deserve any friends, really.”

“Maybe none of us do.  The way we’ve been acting lately.”

She pulls away from her knees finally and pushes her hair back behind her ears, and there are real tears in her eyes.  “I’m sorry about Joe,” she whispers and I nod at her.  I know she is.

“He’ll be all right.  I know he will.”

“I just never, I never thought Leon could do something like that.”

I look down at my lap.  “Neither did I.  Maybe he was high.”

“Why did he do it?  Why did he attack him?”

“The drugs,” I say softly.  “Joe was flushing the drugs.” Marianne opens her mouth slowly, disbelievingly.  I nod at her.  “When we went to get Joe’s stuff from the house, he found loads more of it.  They’d told him it was all over, all done.  He could just about cope with being arrested if it was all over.  But they lied, Marianne.  It was never a one off.  It was never a once in a lifetime thing.  It was a career choice.”

Marianne shakes her head at me.  “I can’t believe he flushed them!”

“He lost the plot a bit.  He was so angry.  He just wanted it gone.  And then Leon appeared and he just…” I stop, biting at my lip.  “Fucking hell,” I tell her.  “It was awful Marianne.  I never want to see anything like that again in my entire life.  I tried to stop him.  I kept trying.  I just wasn’t strong enough.  He kept shoving me away.”

Her eyes move up to the bruises on my face.  “Is that what they are?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

“And then what happened?”

“Travis appeared,” I remembered.  “He shoved Leon off me.  Leon ran out.  Then we tried to help Joe.  I can’t really remember it all after that.”

“You were probably in shock.”

“The police know Leon did it,” I tell her then.  Her face is sombre as she nods at me in reply.  “I had to tell them.  He might die, Marianne.  What if he dies?”  I can’t help it then, I start to cry.  Really cry.  Marianne puts her arm around my shoulder and pulls me into hers.  I cover my face with both hands.

“He’ll be all right,” she tells me, rubbing my arm.  “He will be.  Lou?  There is something else I have to tell you.”

“What is it?”

“It was Leon that found me.”

“What?” I pull back, staring at her.

“He found me,” she nods, biting at her lip again.  “He found me at home.  He stopped the bleeding.  He wrapped his t-shirt around my wrists and took me here.  He carried me out to his car and drove me here.”

I am just staring at her, blinking, shaking my head, trying to believe it, trying to understand.  “You mean, he saved you?”

“Yeah.  He saved my life Lou.”

I don’t know what to say, or think.  I suddenly remember Joe, and how he is all alone, and I am meant to be sitting with him.  I slip slowly from the bed.  “Marianne I have to go back to Joe,” I tell her, wiping my eyes.  She nods in understanding.

“It’s all right.  I’ll be all right.”

“I’ve got to go.”  I turn and stumble through the curtains.  I see Mrs. Sholing hovering nearby, and she falls into step beside me and follows me all the way back out of the ward.

“What did she say?” she asks me, wide-eyed and frantic as she hurries along beside me.

“It’s a lot of stuff,” I tell her.  “But some of it is to do with her twin.  You probably need to talk to her about that.”

“Oh!” Mrs. Sholing stops walking and I go on.  “Thank you for seeing her,” she calls after me in a small, timid voice.  “I hope your friend will be okay.”

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