Forty

The light begins to come back. The absolute dark fades at the edges. My mouth’s dry. The grit of last night’s medication lines my throat.

‘Hey,’ Adam says.

He’s got a hard-on, apologizes for it with a shy smile, then opens the curtains and stands at the window looking out. Beyond him, the dull pink clouds of morning.

‘You’re going to be here for years without me,’ I tell him.

He says, ‘Shall I make us some breakfast?’

Like a butler, he brings me things. A lemon ice lolly. A hot-water bottle. Slices of orange cut onto a plate. Another blanket. He puts cinnamon sticks to boil on the oven downstairs, because I want to smell Christmas.

How did this happen so quickly? How did it really come true?

 

please get into bed and climb on top of me with your warmth and wrap me with your arms and make it stop

 

‘Mum’s putting up a trellis,’ he says. ‘First it was a herb garden, then roses, now she wants honeysuckle. I might go out and give her a hand when your dad comes to sit with you. Would that be OK?’

‘Sure.’

‘You don’t fancy sitting outside again today?’

‘No.’

I can’t be bothered to move. The sun grinds into my brain and everything aches.

 

this mad psycho tells everyone to get into a field and says I’m going to pick one of you just one of you out of all of you to die and everyone’s looking around thinking it’s so unlikely to be me because there’s thousands of us so statistically it’s completely unlikely and the psycho walks up and down looking at everyone and when he gets near me he hesitates and he smiles and then he points right at me and says you’re the one and the shock that it’s me and yet of course it’s me why wouldn’t it be I knew all along

 

Cal crashes in. ‘Can I go out?’

Dad sighs. ‘Where?’

‘Just out.’

‘You need to be a bit more specific.’

‘I’ll let you know when I get there.’

‘Not good enough.’

‘Everyone else is allowed randomly out.’

‘I’m not interested in everyone else.’

Wonderful rage as Cal stomps to the door. The bits of garden in his hair, the filth of his fingernails. His body able to yank the door open and slam it behind him.

‘You’re all such bloody bastards!’ he yells as he races down the stairs.

 

Instructions for Cal

Don’t die young. Don’t get meningitis, or Aids or anything else ever. Be healthy. Don’t fight in any war, or join a cult, or get religion, or lose your heart to someone who doesn’t deserve it. Don’t think you have to be good because you’re the only one left. Be as bad as you like.

 

I reach for Dad’s hand. His fingers look raw, as if they’ve been through a grater.

‘What have you done?’

He shrugs. ‘I don’t know. I didn’t even notice.’

 

Further instructions for Dad – Let Cal be enough for you.

 

I love you. I love you. I send this message through my fingers and into his, up his arm and into his heart. Hear me. I love you. And I’m sorry to leave you.

I wake up hours later. How did that happen?

 

Cal’s here again, sitting next to me on the bed propped up with pillows. ‘Sorry I shouted.’

‘Did Dad tell you to say that?’

He nods. The curtains are open and somehow the darkness is back.

‘Are you scared?’ Cal says this very softly, as if it’s something he’s thinking, but didn’t mean to say.

‘I’m scared of falling asleep.’

‘That you won’t wake up?’

‘Yes.’

His eyes shine. ‘But you know it won’t be tonight, don’t you? I mean, you’ll be able to tell, won’t you?’

‘It won’t be tonight.’

He rests his head on my shoulder. ‘I really, really hate this,’ he says.

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