Look at me; I am all right. Touch me; I will not break. Love me; I will not fail. But trust me, and I will die.
15th – 17th October, 1979
The next time the darkness left me and I opened my eyes, Lily was sitting by my side. This time she wasn’t crying, but she was deadly pale. She was knitting silently, casting glances at me from time to time. There was something calming about having her by my side, as if it was my own mum sitting by my bedside, worrying herself silly and busying herself with small stuff.
“Hey.” I smiled at her, and Lily nearly jumped out of her chair. She smiled at me, put her knitting away, and sighed deeply.
“Vic,” she said, “you have no idea how worried I’ve been about you.”
I smiled at her, trying to ease the serious air. “I’m here, aren’t I? There’s nothing to worry about.”
She ignored me. “You slept for another day.”
I sat up. “Wait, another day? What do you mean? What date is it?”
She looked at me. “October fifteenth.”
“Fifteenth?” I cried. “I’ve slept for two days?”
I sighed and shook my head. I was losing time, and I was still tired. My whole body was aching.
“Why did you have sex with Andy, Vic?” Lily asked quietly. “Do you love him? Does he love you?”
I sighed deeply and hid my face in my hands. This question seemed to be haunting me. Maybe it was to tell me that it hadn’t been my finest decision.
“We’re not in love, Lily,” I said and looked at her.
She raised her eyebrows. “Then why on earth would you choose Andy to take your virginity?”
I smiled. “Andy is my best friend. I trust him. Everyone’s protecting me all the time, and it’s suffocating. Andy’s not trying to tell me what to do all the time.”
I reached out to take her hand, squeezing it.
“It was better this way,” I whispered, silently doubting my own words, before adding in a lighter tone, “And I was curious.”
At this, Lily laughed loudly. “Sooo…” She wiggled her eyebrows. “Was he any good?”
I smiled a timid smile. “He was wonderful, and it was perfect.” I didn’t want to admit to myself or Lily that the first time had been anything less than perfect, but Lily seemed to have sensed something in the tone of my voice, and she laughed, hugging me.
“Oh, Vic, Vic, Vic.” She shook her head, beaming at me. “It’s never great the first time, but it’ll get better, trust me.” She winked at me. “Practice makes perfect.”
I looked down miserably. “I don’t think I want to try for it again.”
Lily smirked at me. “Oh, you’ll want to, trust me, you will. It might be with a different guy, but sure as hell you’ll want to do it again.”
“Will it really get better?” I asked in a small voice.
Lily smiled and nodded. “Yep.”
I sighed in relief. Lily smiled almost motherly at me and kissed my forehead.
“So what’s been happening while I was sleeping?” I asked Lily. A wry smile played on her lips as she leaned forward to tell me all the gossip.
“Sirius is banned from the room and so is Andy.” She laughed. “Andy finally got mad, which resulted in a black eye for Sirius and a broken nose for Andy.”
I gasped. “They did this because of me?”
Lily chuckled. “Partly. But mostly it’s because they share a deep, unexplainable dislike for each other.”
I shook my head. “And Sirius was angry at me for not getting along with Evelyn.”
Lily grabbed my arm excited. “Speaking of which, Sirius and Evelyn broke up!”
I stared blankly at her for minutes, stunned into silence. I had lost my virginity to Andy, gotten into deep waters with him. To tell the truth, I no longer knew what we were and how to act around him. Something had changed. And now Sirius was single and free — just as I was totally in doubt about all of my feelings.
“Isn’t it great, Vic?” Lily asked me, beaming.
“Yeah.” I forced myself to nod. “Yeah, it’s great.”
“Hey, I was wondering if you’d like to be my Maid of Honour?” Lily was suddenly fingering the ring on her finger. I looked at her with wide eyes,
“Really?” I breathed.
She looked up at me, smiling. “Yeah.” She nodded. “I talked to James ,and we agreed: We want you.”
I squealed and threw myself into her arms. She laughed. “You’ll do it?”
I beamed at her. “Of course I’ll do it!”
I didn’t tell her that I doubted I’d be around when they got married. Nor did I tell her I wouldn’t do it. It was all about the gestures. I might not live to do it, but the intention was there. And maybe, if given the chance, I would be able to make it. Hope wasn’t that far away anymore. The day was already looking better. Sirius and Evelyn were over, and I’d survived things I was never supposed to survive. It could all work out somehow, I wasn't too lost anymore.
Lily got up, telling me she had to go. I nodded vaguely, straightening my eiderdown, wondering if James was waiting for her at home, with love and care. She got up and walked to the door and opened it. I could see people rushing past my room constantly, and I was grateful that I wasn’t locked up in a hospital all the time at least.
Lily hesitated with her hand on the door handle. She turned around, looking at me with a deep sadness I’d never seen before in her eyes. “Do you even try, Victoria?”
I looked at her, “Why bother?”
My voice was choking up, and tears were welling up.
“No matter what. I’ll be dead in a few months time.”
She didn’t say anything. She just looked at me warily before slipping out the door and walking down the hallway.
As the sound of her footsteps faded into the distance, the Healer entered my room with a robotical,
“’Ello Ms. How are you today?”
“I don’t know. I guess you’ll be finding that out very soon for me,” I answered dully.
The Healer just looked at me, as if wondering why I was being sarcastic. I just stared back into his old face. Finally, he looked away, “Let’s get it over with then.”
I shrugged, not really caring.
“I’m really well enough to not get the meds. You don’t have to give them to me,” I tried weakly, knowing the fight was pretty much lost.
As I suspected, the Healer just shook his head, saying gruffly, “No can do, Ms.” He didn’t once meet my eyes.
That wasn’t really news to me. The Healers never looked you into the eyes — not when you were dying.
The Healer gave me a dozen potions. I watched idly as he gave me one of the bottles. I emptied it in one go, and he handed me the next until I had finished them all. I noticed idly that with every bottle that I drank, I felt my eyelids become heavier and heavier. I wanted to throw the bottles away, but I didn’t. If the Healer saw it, I would probably be tied to my bed in the hospital and never let out again. It didn’t stop me from feeling horrible every time I drank one of the potions. It was like it was numbing me all over again. The constant pain was gone but so was the alertness.
Like a saint or a hero from some stupid movie, Sirius appeared in the doorway. He was all chiselled and rough with half a beard and a bruised eye. He still managed to look handsome, though.
He leaned against the doorway as the Healer finished me up, watching me with half a smile. I stuck out my tongue at him. His smile split into a real grin, and I was happy, knowing I had made him smile.
The Healer finished and with a small nod (more like a bob of his head, really), he left, leaving Sirius and me alone in the room.
I suddenly realised how I had to look. I groaned. “I must look scary.”
Sirius didn’t say anything; he just shook his head and walked into the room. He sat down on the edge of my bed, looking at me.
“I thought you were banned from the room,” I noted. He smiled and shrugged. In that moment he looked like his age — nineteen and all cheeky and handsome with a sparkle in his eye.
I was slightly annoyed that he still hadn’t said anything, so as revenge I pointed at his blue eye and smirked. “Looks like that hurt.”
He shrugged with his usual casual nonchalance and said, “It’s nothing. You should see Blackburn, then.”
My mouth became a tight line when he mentioned Andy, and Sirius seemed to sense this too. His mouth twitched as if to say something, but he remained silent. The silence stretched, and I figured I’d better start the conversation.
“I heard you and Evelyn aren’t together anymore.”
Sirius looked up at me for a second before looking back at his hands, mumbling, “That’s right. Yeah. We … We didn’t really fit that well together.”
“It took you some time to figure that one out,” I noted dryly.
He ignored me. “Are you happy we ended it?” He looked intently at me.
I tried to avoid the question. “Why did you break up? Was it you who did it, or her? Did she cry?”
“Why are you avoiding the question, Vic? It’s simple. Yes or no.” Sirius looked sternly at me.
“I don’t want to answer because it will hurt both me and you.” I sighed.
His eyes widened slightly, and he said, “Just tell me.” He looked at me pleading, and I was a goner.
“Yes, I am.”
He smiled wryly. “You and Evelyn never did get along.”
“Neither do you and Andy.”
“I’m sorry.” He bent forward, and for a moment I thought he was going to kiss me. Instead he grabbed my hand and held it tightly.
My voice trembled slightly when I asked, “For what?”
He looked away for a second before meeting my eyes. “For hitting Bl—Andy, for being a jerk, for not realising Evelyn didn’t care much for you, for those things I said to you that I should have never said that to you. It was both very untrue and very low of me to say. I let my temper get away with me, and for that I’m sorry.”
I nodded and smiled. “It’s all right. You’re forgiven.”
“Thank you.” He grinned and pulled me into a big hug. I breathed deeply into his chest, thinking about how he probably never would be mine.
“I’ll leave you to sleep.” He gestured to the meds, and I smiled bitterly.
He nodded and got up from my bed and kissed my forehead tenderly. “Sleep tight,” he whispered against my skin. I nodded and smiled softly up at him, wishing so much he was mine. He quietly slipped out of the door and I went to sleep, my eyes closing on their own accord.
The next time I woke up it was dark outside the window and somebody was sitting by my side with my hand in theirs. I groaned and opened my eyes slowly.
“Hey …” James smiled warmly at me.
“Hey.” I sat up straighter in the bed, looking carefully at James. He let go of my hand and scratched his head nervously.
“How long have I been out?” I rasped, my voice hoarse from not using it.
“Two days?” I sat up straighter, looking incredulously at James. He nodded grimly. I couldn’t believe I had lost another two days. The drugs were numbing me down, and I knew I had to get the potions to stop before I turned into some kind of blob of mindless goo. It was disturbing to think I had lost the days like that. I felt as if time was slipping between my hands. What if the next time I woke up, a month had passed since the last time I was awake?
“James, I don’t want to have to take the medicine anymore.” The reaction was classic, totally predictable.
James broke into a lot of profanities and started telling me how I needed them to keep myself alive. I shook my head.
“James, I slept two days because of those damn potions. Who knows how long I’ll sleep next time I fall asleep. A month? I’m losing the last days of my life being drugged up instead of living my life. And I’m of age. I can choose what I want. But, I really don’t want it to come to that, James. I love you.” I reached out for his hand and squeezed it.
James looked at me for a long time, and for a second I was sure he was going to throw another fit. But he finally sighed and nodded, smiling weakly. “You’re right, Vic. It’s just hard, you know. All of my instincts scream for me to prolong your life for as long as I possibly can.”
“Sometimes it’s worse to lengthen a life that is meant to end. The pain won’t go away, James.” I looked him in the eyes, sadly. “It won’t stop me from dying.”
His lips trembled, and I stretched my arms out to him. “Come here.” He smiled a crooked smile and climbed slowly into my bed and under my covers.
“Jesus Christ, James! Your feet are freezing!”
He laughed, breaking out of his sober moment before falling back into the sullen state again. He hugged me close and rested his head on my chest where I knew he could hear my weak heart beating.
“You’re so skinny,” he mumbled into my skin.
I laughed silently and ran my hand through his wild locks. “Tell me about it.”
We lay there in bed for a long time without saying anything. James was silently listening to my calm heartbeat. I kept it calm, just for him, to calm him down and assure him that I was staying just a bit longer even though I wasn’t so sure I was. I stared up at the ceiling, thinking of how people would live on without me. It was strange knowing what was coming and yet not knowing what it really was at all. My life would change; my life without me. I didn’t know how they would deal with me missing, how James would handle it. We’d lost so many people, and I was just another one lost forever.
“I don’t want you to die.”
His murmur was almost inaudible, but I made the words out, maybe because I’d known they were coming. He hadn’t said them before, which I had admired him for. I would have yelled, screamed, begged, and cried so hard if it had been him. I knew he had been on the verge of it many times; I’d seen it in his eyes. But never once had the words slipped past his lips. Until now.
My throat closed up, and I stroked his hair again. I knew I could have said something in that moment. It would have been the perfect opportunity to confess all my problems and my fears: my fear of dying, of never being loved, of leaving them, of being forgotten. But I didn’t. I let him lie in my bed and stroked his hair, humming one of our old lullabies. I said nothing because I knew it wouldn’t matter. He needed my strength in that moment ,and I could keep it to myself a little longer. Taking a burden to the grave wasn’t hard.
My shirt and the pillow underneath my head got very wet as we laid there. Sometime into the night, James’s breathing grew heavier, and his chest stopped shaking with suppressed sobs. I almost didn’t dare to go to sleep again; the fear of never waking up again was so strong. I had slept two days without a problem, and it disturbed me deeply. Who knew how long I would sleep the next time. But in the end I fell asleep, and we both slept until morning.
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