As Imperceptibly as Grief
Part Four

Still shielding my eyes from the bright glare of this hospital hallway, I don’t see Quatre approaching; don’t even know he’s there until he puts his hands on my shoulders.

“Are you okay?” He looks so compassionate as he looks down at me, platinum blonde hair alight in the brash radiance of this place.

I shift away from him slightly, even though I hate myself for it. “I’m fine.” I get up and glance over at Relena, who is smiling at him weakly. “Relena, would you mind driving Quatre to the house? He needs to drop off his stuff.”

She nods. “Hi. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“The pleasure is all mine, Relena.” He looks over at me, but I pretend not to notice.

“I guess you two will be staying at his father’s.” She smiled. “It not that far from here. Nothing is in Siddonsburg is really that far from anything else.” They share comfortable laughter as they walk away, back out to the parking lot, back out to the car, back on the road, back to him where I should be.

But no, they aren’t, are they?

I wander into his room. He’s asleep, like when I arrived. Not that he would pay me much heed even if he wasn’t. He was always so disappointed in me, in the life that I chose. He wanted me to stay in this place and raise a family. He didn’t care that this town was dying, that all the young people moved away to Harrisburg to get jobs in the factories or farther, to college and real careers. The ones who stay do nothing with themselves. Maybe a few return. Maybe they come back after getting degrees to work in the hospital, or the schools where they can educate people so much like themselves.

This place is dead.

Maybe after he goes my last ties here can be finally severed. I could escape the memories once and for all. Cities can wash away the past like no where else on earth. They flood the senses until nothing but the moment exists. That’s how I want to live. I don’t want to think about the sheets in the closet in our chic loft on East Street; the way I could never bond with Trowa even at the best of times; the predictability of Relena’s clean pink sweater and long white pleated skirt; the way his sobs racked his body as he wept for me to leave; the way my father couldn’t breathe without a machine.

And so I stand at the foot of a cold hospital bed, watching my father’s aided life force slowly drip away.

Maybe, if I could muster up the courage to deal with it all, everything would be better. If I could tell Quatre that I couldn’t love him no matter how hard I tried, that I didn’t need Relena’s protective glances, that I never forgave my father for not mourning over my mother that night, that I didn’t care about the woman passed out on the sofa or the cheap apartment but the person who lived inside a clean fortress of posters and gray sheets; if I could say all those things, would that heal these wounds?

For the first time in eternity I feel like crying. But I won’t. I can’t. Because I don’t have any reason to. Not the kind of reason that he did. The father I never respected or loved is dying. So what? His mother was passed out for probably the millionth time in his life. And worst of all, I was there to see it. To witness his embarrassment and horrible home life. As if I cared about what neighborhood he lived in, or the cost of the whiskey his mother had drunk that night until she swam in oblivion. I didn’t care. All that ever mattered was that he was on the floor crying his eyes out.

I rub my eyes once again as I snap out of the steady rhythm of the oxygen machine keeping him alive. It’s dark outside, even though in here it’s lit. I can almost feel the darkness. It’s that deep near winter night, the dark that seems endless, like it might never rise. And just when you think it’s much to dark for anything but dawn to come, it gets just a bit darker.

Like when we had snuck into my attic to go through the boxes and get away from the world. It was late, and Relena and Trowa had gone home. Catherine had come to collect her brother and Relena had been picked up by her butler. But he had stayed. I had asked him to and he had stayed, like so many other nights.

We had climbed up that unsteady looking pull down ladder and sat in the utter darkness of the attic until I got my wits enough to light the candle we had brought with us. There were no lights up there, I had told him as we dug through I box of some long ago memorabilia, laughing at everything and nothing.

We stumbled on some yearbooks from years long past. He gushed over how cute I was and I playfully hit him. We sat close together on that dusty wooden floor, yearbook splayed over our legs and tried to remember times that were really happy. And I think we must have fallen asleep there, because I remember the way the hazy light of dawn looked across his features. And I think I must have been happy then, because we were together, and he had been smiling, and nothing existed except us and a few ancient books of photographs and the scribbled signatures of children who have all moved on.