Chapter 24 : Albus: When Stories are Told
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They wait outside the special care unit; the window is smaller than the nursery's one and I don't think Isaac is near it, so they won't be able to see him, but knowing they're there anyway seems to calm Lexi.
"This is it," she whispers, hand on the door, ready to push it open. "We're going to see a baby, a baby we made. Our baby." She glances at me. "This is like a very weird dream."
"Accept him being real and dream of holding him, then that one will actually happen, too," I whisper back, smiling softly. "Or better yet, get your dad to dream it. Sometimes his can get wicked accurate."
"Which is why I don't want him to. Just in case," Lexi adds quietly, fearfully.
I squeeze the hand not pressed to door and let her know that I'm here with her no matter what Kieron says. Or wants.
"He'll be fine," I tell her, hating that, despite what Erik said, I can't bring myself to actually promise it. It would be too much if I did and then something happened. I couldn't handle it. I glance up briefly to see my dad leaning against the wall, watching us intently. When our eyes meet, his smile is encouraging. I feel calmer now, stronger. I'm so glad he's here. I nudge Lexi. "Come on. Our son's in there. Let's say hi."
Chuckling at me and shaking her head, Lexi takes a deep breath and finally gives the door a push. Erik is waiting inside, monitoring a cot on the right, close to the wall. He waves us over when he sees us, keeping up that positive attitude he had when he told me we could visit. I feel reassured. He looks down at the cot and starts whispering, like the baby can really hear him, and for some reason that makes me want to laugh hysterically - off all the things to do in this situation. I manage a quick chuckle and I see Lexi biting her lip, trying to keep a straight face and looking around nervously. She definitely has the same thoughts as me then; unfortunately, we're not the only visitors here and this is not a place to laugh.
"Here's Mummy and Daddy," Erik says softly and I involuntarily look down.
I mean, I want to see my son, I do, but wanting to and doing so are two different things. I feared what I would see, my imagination running wild. My relief is evident to them both when I realize my imagination was far worse than reality. He's so small, so... fragile, but it's nothing like what my Dursley cousins would describe on the television to freak me out. They'd watch all kinds of things to freak me out, especially hospital programs. I now remember why I didn't tell them about the baby when I last saw them. There are no tubes, no wires, only the two devices on his tiny stomach and chest and the bubble charm around him. He doesn't look distressed or severely ill; he's fast asleep, his fingers twitching every so often. I go back to the devices, follow them until I see the only machine. They look like the machine and device Annie used to monitor the baby during the scans, only the machine is bigger.
"What are they doing?" Lexi asks the same question I'm thinking.
"Monitoring his internal organs," Erik answers, pointing at the screen. "His heart, lungs, kidneys, all of him. It's adapted from Muggle technology; with magic, everything had to be checked separately and that wasted time and lives," he says sadly. "So, these were brought in about a year after the ward was built, after mothers who'd been to Muggle hospitals suggested it. Annie told me the history when she gave me the tour on my first day," he shrugs, explaining how he knows so much about a hospital he's just started working in.
"What does the monitor say?" I ask hesitantly. I'm not so sure I want to know, but I feel like I need to know. I need to hear why Erik is 'gearing towards being positive' that my son will be okay. Erik gives it to us step-by-step; Isaac's heart and lungs aren't fully developed, which is why they're so weak, same with his other organs. Babies have been born this young before and been fine, Isaac needs the extra care because he's been small throughout. Just like Theo was and Kieron was and Lexi was, though she was fine. Theo calls it a curse for the Nott boys, so I'm wondering if it's something to do with genetics. I don't know. Magic is been used, though; the device on Isaac's chest is keeping his heart and lungs going, helping him to breath; the one on his stomach is strengthening his kidneys, liver and the rest of his body; the bubble charm itself is keeping him warm, safe from infections and adding strength to the devices. And he's responding to them, getting stronger, a little at a time. We just have to wait.
We can wait.
"How long until he'll be fine?" Lexi asks.
...Maybe we can wait.
"I don't know," Erik shrugs honestly. "Every child responds differently. We just have to wait and be thankful that he's getting better not worse."
She nods slowly, accepting that it's certainly better than the alternative, and seems okay to just watch him. Her hand brushes over the bubble charm, like she's pretending she's touching Isaac, and we see the charm shake, shimmering as if a light has hit it, and we know now that it's really there.
"Don't press too hard. Bubbles pop; that would be bad," Erik warns us carefully. Lexi apologizes, pulls her hand back a little, but doesn't drop it. "I'll leave you alone now. Sophie will be here soon to make sure he's fed."
He's gone before either one of us can ask how that's supposed to happen.
I leave Lexi with the grandparents after a while; she wanted to be the one to tell them what Erik had said, to answer any questions they might have. She said I did so much, telling them the hard news while she slept, that it was her turn while I rested, but I know that's not the whole story. She's just not ready to leave him yet. And I don't blame her. I'd be staying as well, but the little space we have in the special care unit is crowded enough and I'm exhausted. I can't remember when I last slept, I don't even know what time it is. All I know is that the engagement party was definitely yesterday.
Isaac was born late evening on February thirteenth, which was a few hours ago. So I know today is definitely the fourteenth...
"Happy Valentine's day," a voice calls out.
Crap. That's today. And I had dinner planned and everything. Oh, well, I think Lexi would prefer being with Isaac anyway. Maybe I can bring her something.
"You're not my type," I grin at Kieron, who's got his hand on a sleeping Dom's chest. I can't help but laugh as I look around - he's not the only one sleeping along the waiting room's chairs. Kieron shushes me when Dom moves.
"Why aren't you with Isaac?" I ask, sitting on the one empty seat here, the one right next to him.
"You were still in there and Dad didn't know how much time you wanted, so he told me to get some sleep. But I can't," he replies softly. I open mouth to tell him that he doesn't need to worry, that Lexi and Isaac are fine - for now. Then I remember that he hates hospitals more than I do, so that's probably why. "Why aren't you there?"
"I've been ordered to sleep," I try to smirk, but I end up yawning. It's long and uncomfortably loud and Kieron shushes me again.
"You need it," he whispers. "I'll get you a drink. Crappy tea or horrible coffee?"
"Water," I go for the safer option. "So, you don't hate me that much?"
That stops him in his tracks and he's frowning, looking very confused. "I don't hate you, I've never hated you. You annoy me and you do things that make me want to hurt you sometimes, like get my sister pregnant. But I'd rather it be you than some of the other assholes she's met. You're good for her, you keep her grounded and safe, even if that's only because you're a constant worrier."
"It's just - all the things you've said and done, and before..." I mutter.
Kieron's frown disappears and he actually smiles at me, then he laughs. Something has definitely amused him. "Oh, Al. You're just so easy to tease. But I tease everybody."
"I know. I don't care about that, I never have," I tell him honestly. "It was before, when you said you didn't want Lexi going in to see Isaac alone, like I wasn't there, I wondered."
"Oh." He's frowning again. And he looks... sad. And worried. And scared. "That wasn't about you, I swear. It's just, being with my sister, is calms me down. It was just me and her until you and Nick came. Nick wasn't with me in that room, he couldn't help, and it was just the first thing that came to my mind. I'm sorry."
"It's fine," I promise, wisely choosing not to ask him why he hates this place so much. I get uncomfortable because of the thought of sick people and germs and catching something. I worry. His is deeper than that. "It's just good to know that you really don't hate me."
"There's a difference between hating you and just wanting to punch you," he winks. "I'll be back with your drink."
He gets the drinks from the staff room around the corner, so he's back in a couple of minutes with a cup of water and a crappy cup of tea. He sits back and tries to relax, his hand back in Nick's - ah, screw it, they got to me! - and asks me a couple of questions about his nephew. I only get to "He's okay", then I hear a light snore and Kieron is finally asleep. I briefly wonder if I'll be able to catch some sleep in Lexi's room before I decide to stay put - Lexi probably won't be back for a while and, for the first time, I'd rather be with my family than alone.
When I awake, Kieron and Dom - so, it's an in-the-moment thing - have gone, as have my siblings and my friends. The only person sitting with me is Theo, smiling tiredly. I look around again and gesture with my hand; my mouth has decided not to work yet. Theo moves to sit next to me, rather than across, and hands me a cup of water.
"James, Lily and the gang have gone to see Zac with Kieron and Nick, your cousins and father have gone home to get some sleep and get changed and your mother is with Astoria and Daphne in Lexi's room," he explains quickly, trying to hide a yawn. "Erik is asleep in the staff room; he and Annie decided to take it in shifts to monitor Zac, since it's technically no longer their day off and they have other patients to see. She's with another patient now."
"What time is it?"
"Almost nine am," Theo says. "You seem to be the only one here willing to get more than an hours sleep. Zac is fine," he adds when he sees my mouth open, like he anticipated the question.
I let myself fall back down on the chairs while he continues to talk; he's speaking softly, it's soothing. "Lexi is asleep now. She wondered where you were, thought for sure she'd find you in the room, but she was pleasantly surprised when your mum said you were with Kieron. She thinks it's the start of something wonderful; Kieron was not amused when I told him. He pulled a face, kind of like the one you're pulling now."
I let my face relax, getting rid of the scowl I'd knowingly given him. "Wrong Nott," I whisper, watching for his reaction.
He looks somewhat amused and somewhat weary and it takes every bit of strength I have to not even crack a smile; I'll be showing this memory to Lexi one day. She'd love seeing the look on Theo's face. "I know," he finally answers me. "I always knew, remember?"
The memory of our talk about the photograph comes straight to mind and I nod, even though I still don't get how a picture of us falling asleep on the living room floor could have told him we one day might have ended up together.
"Guys and girls can be friends without feelings complicating things. But to be best friends? To have a bond that strong, to have someone you want to tell everything to, for them to be there and love you no matter what? Feelings grow, Al," he says simply. "You can call Megan and Darcy your best friends, but you've never had a bond as strong as you do with Lexi with them. You've never looked at them like you'd do anything without question or held them like you were protecting them. Like you do in the picture. That's how I know. Because that's how Harry looks at Ginny, that's how I used to look at Lavender."
"Lavender?" I frown.
He nods. "I used to be with Lavender Brown before Daphne. Well, technically it was at the same time, but that's complicated and we won't go down that road just yet. Didn't I ever tell you?"
I shake my head, sitting up; his personal life doesn't come up a lot. Or ever. "This is the same Lavender Brown who Uncle Ron used to date?"
"Yep. She changed after the war. And it was an accident, us meeting." I listen intently, more awake now, and imagining that her changing would be true. I remember the stories of the war, censored versions anyway; Lavender was left badly scarred after Greyback's attack. She barely pulled through.
"But she didn't want me the same way I wanted her," Theo continued. "She didn't want people seeing her for a long time, she wouldn't tell people about me or accept that I wanted to be with her. I loved her, but I couldn't take it anymore."
"Where does Daphne fit into this?" I ask, engrossed in a story that is not my own. I don't have to think or worry or judge; I just listen. I suspect Theo is only telling me this story to humor me, he knows me well enough, but I don't care. I feel like I finally know something about him besides the doting but lonely father.
"That's where it gets a little complicated. They both knew I was dating the other; Lavender wanted something casual with me and at first I wanted the same. Then Daphne asked me out and I was technically single, so I said yes. I told her from the beginning, but she wanted more and she pushed for it. She made everything special, she talked to me, she loved me - it was everything Lavender wasn't doing. I loved them both, but Lavender wouldn't let me in and Daphne was so determined to get me that she became too clingy, too possessive. But she only wanted me, she didn't want what I wanted - a family. Neither of them did." Theo shrugs, circling his finger where his wedding ring used to be. "Things got bad, I got depressed."
I can imagine that, too. The girl he cares for wants too much and the girl he loves doesn't want enough. It's kind of sad.
I take a deep breath, ask the question I desperately want an answer to. "How did you know which direction to take? That you should be with Daphne?"
He laughs, humorlessly. It's more like a scoff really. "Ah, yes. The reason for this entire conversation." I narrow my eyes; I wasn't aware he had an agenda. "I have every faith in you and Lexi. I mean what I say about knowing about you two. But don't do what I did; follow your heart, not your head. I was going to break up with Daphne, with both of them, when she told me she was pregnant with Kieron. I told myself that she loved me and she wanted me and she was willing to have a family with me. I told myself we both wanted it and I married her.
"Don't do that, Albus. You're moral and you're good and I know you well enough to know that, though you probably won't go through with it, you've at least been thinking about if getting married is the right idea."
I think back to my talk with Craig, when I could have easily said we weren't engaged but didn't. I remember the thoughts that came with it; maybe it popped up a few times, I small voice asking if it was right. But I never listened; I was never going to propose just because of a baby. I'm a cautious over-thinker, a worrier through and through. Proposing is rushing into things I can't control; I need that control.
"See?" he smiles. "I was going to have this conversation with you before Zac was born, but apparently the kid didn't want to wait."
"I'm not going to propose to Lexi," I promise. "But didn't things go well at first? You were married for over seven years before you got the divorce."
"No, things were bad at first; I was still depressed, she was going crazy being a mum. I, er, did something I'm not proud of and it caused a mess I'm still dealing with. But it put things into perspective," he continues before I can ask about the mess. So, that's not part of the story then? "I talked to someone and as Kieron got older, she changed her views a little. He loved her more than anyone, went everywhere with her. And she tried so hard. And I loved her. It just wasn't enough in the end. But you understand why I'm telling you this?"
"Theo, you're talking to the guy who second guesses his plans and his back ups; I won't be rushing into anything, I promise."
"Good," he yawns. "Now I've been up for over twenty-four hours, so I should really sleep."
He's ready to lie down, our conversation officially over, when Annie finds us and comes over. "Come on, Tired Ted," she grins, her hand in his hair. "There's a semi-comfortable couch in the staff room with your name on it."
"Tired Ted?" I smirk.
"You heard nothing," he glares.
I hold up my hands in surrender, causing Annie to laugh. He glares at her, too, but she isn't phased at all. Not scared of Kieron, not scared of Theo, able to make Louis feel that human emotion we simple folk call guilt - this woman has guts. Would making her talk to Hugo be pushing it?
"Come on, you can't give me a nickname, then think you won't get one yourself," she points out.
"What's your nickname?" I stupidly ask, because one look from Theo has me not wanting to know. In fact, I regret opening my mouth.
"Rated mature, kid," is all he says and is then pulled away.
After a bathroom break and eating some of the cake that Frankie left, I grab a drink from the staff room, taking care not to wake Theo, and take that and the rest of the food to Lexi. I find her sitting up in bed, our friends around her, and they're talking and laughing, but she's obviously irritated. She's tapping her knees, the sheets, anything she can touch for something to do because she hates that she has to sit in bed and wait to see Isaac. The last bit of news I heard was given to me just after Theo had left me, over an hour ago - he was being examined again and everyone had to leave the special care unit.
Lexi won't properly calm until she knows that he'll definitely be alright, but maybe dessert will help to put her mind off the negatives for a minute.
I hand her the bag and she does relax like I hoped. Well, she stops tapping. "Ah, cake!"
We all laugh and Chris makes some room, so that I can sit by Lexi's side. "You can go home, you know," I tell my friends. "Get some proper rest."
"Believe me, we tried to tell them," Lexi scoffs between mouthfuls of cake.
"We," Hugo agrees, coming in with a plastic shopping bag. I recognize the logo as the one across the road from the hospital. He hands it to Emmett, who rummages through it and pulls out pop, a packet of crisps and a sandwich - real food, in his eyes, not hospital food. He passes the bag around and puts his stuff on the bed before letting Hugo drop onto his lap. "I tried to get them out of here, but they're adamant about staying."
"We are free-thinking, independent adults, who can do what we want." Hugo, Lexi, Emmett and I stare at him; he may have moved out, but we all know that he still keeps his mum up-to-date. She'd come looking for him if he didn't. "And our parents know where we are. We're staying."
Emmett points at Chris. "What he said, only without the add on because I mean the first bit."
"Alright." I turn to Hugo. "Why aren't you back in school?"
"Because it's Sunday, Lily and I go back tonight. Plus it's Valentine's Day, which means he's coming home eventually today," Emmett chokes on his sandwich and I think we as a group go little red; the meaning is clear. "It's also Frankie's birthday, which is why Louis and Casey aren't here yet," he adds as an afterthought.
Darcy clears her throat, creating just a little more space between her and Emmett than before. "So, Isaac is adorable. I can't decide who he looks more like yet."
"How are you meant to? He's a ball of wrinkly skin with minuscule tufts of hair on his head. It's impossible to tell until he's older," Hugo says matter-of-factly. He's not harsh, there's no malice; he's just a kid stating a fact on a subject he doesn't like. I still want to hit him. "I like that his birthday is the thirteenth. One day it'll be a Friday the thirteenth. Aren't you glad that he was born on a Saturday? I mean, talk about potential bad luck."
Lexi throws her pillow at his face.
"Keep talking, Hugo, and I will make sit outside on your own," Emmett warns.
"I'm just making conversation," he mutters.
"Well, it's the wrong moment," Megan glares, the last to rummage through the bag for whatever she asked for, having stopped to gape at Hugo's words. The glare slowly fades away as the goes through the bag and she pulls out a card and two boxes. "Here," she says to Lexi.
I move to sit beside her on the bed, rather than on the chair, and she opens up the card. "Congratulations, it's a boy," she reads the front. It's the message inside that draws her in the most, the brief but sincere 'he'll be okay' that has her forgiving him. "Damn it, Hugo, stop being so... mercurial. It make it so hard to stay annoyed at you."
He grins knowingly and gestures to the boxes. The first box is chocolates, obviously for her, but she gives him one. The second one is a children's book, one Lexi mentioned having once but lost.
"You can't get this from the shop I sent you to," Emmett said.
"No, but you can from the second hand book store down the street," he answers. "I thought you might like it, you said it was your favorite. You can read it to the ball-baby," he corrects himself hastily.
"I mentioned this book in passing years ago, when Dora was born," Lexi reminds us and I briefly remember her telling Ted and Vic about it.
"I have an eidetic memory, it stuck."
"So, you just decided to get it?"
Hugo gives Darcy an are-you-crazy look. "Does that sound like something I'd do? No. I went into the shop to look for something for me; I need something to read if I'm gonna be stuck here. But I found that and I thought 'what the hell?' and I bought it."
"That sounds more like you," I agree.
Lexi nods with me. "Thank you."
The subject changes again, but I see the slight curve of Hugo's lips as we talk. He can be nice. I don't know why he tries so hard not to be.
There's only so many things you can do in a hospital when you can't bring yourself to leave it. Lexi will be okay, she can go home tomorrow, but I know she won't. Which means neither will I.
It's late now and even our friends are leaving for the night, with a promise that I'll call them if anything changes - especially Chris, he's taking the godfather position seriously. With an Auror for a godfather and a Healer for a godmother, I know we made the right choice.
"Have you seen Lily?" Mum asks as she hugs me. Dad is staying, so she's finally letting herself go home.
"She said something about the restroom," James answers. He looks ready to drop.
"I'll go find her."
I take James' words into consideration, heading for the restrooms first. Hopefully, she'll be coming out of them if this is right, or I'll ask Annie or Sophie to look for me. I find her, though, around the corner - and she's not alone.
"I can't believe I'm actually an aunt," she gushes, obviously excited.
Scorpius frowns. "I can't believe my girlfriend's nephew is my cousin. It sounded odd in my head, too. I wonder what he'll call me."
"A weirdo," she grins.
"Because I'll teach him to."
Then she leans in to kiss him and I just have to stop it. I clear my throat and Scorpius tries to step back, but Lily has hold of his t-shirt.
"Hey, Big Brother," she smiles.
"You're going now, Mum is looking for you," I let her know, trying so hard not to look them in the eye. My little sister can have a boyfriend, that boyfriend can be Scorpius Malfoy, but, God, I wish I hadn't witnessed it. "Did you two want to wait to talk to us, too?" I joke, reminding them of Hugo and Emmett.
"No, I don't want your permission," Scorpius laughs. It ends just as quickly as it started. "I'm not looking forward to James finding out, though. He tries to give everything a psychoanalysis. Damn wannabe shrink."
"You say wannabe, but he is currently in his second year of studying, so that he can be a shrink," I point out. Scorpius groans. "Go. Before Mum comes looking. When did it start? who have you told?"
"The summer. And Mum, Dad and Astoria, ages ago," Lily says. "She said she'd tell Draco."
"And where will we be when it happens?" Scorpius prompts, walking in front of us.
"Mexico," she feigns a promise, shaking her head at me.
I can't wait for that conversation.
As soon as everyone is gone, bar our dads, Lexi and I go back to the special care units. Someone had put chairs in, pushed them to the back, so we sit and we talk about things we might do once Isaac is home. I don't remember much after that. The next thing I know, I'm been shaken awake by Lexi and being told she'll give us some time alone.
Us? I don't understand at first and it takes me a minute to recognize the shadow in the semi-dark corner as Rose, who, and I can't believe that I've just noticed, has been absent since the party. Either that, or I just hadn't noticed her.
What kind of a cousin am I? To notice and talk to at least every one of my family members, even my friends, at least once, but not Rose? The girl who I was closest to until we started Hogwarts.
She gives me a small, sad smile and sits on the chair by my side. I take the moment's silence to wipe the sleep from my eyes and sit up properly. God, I can't wait to sleep in a proper bed.
"He's beautiful," she whispers. "I still can't believe he's yours and Alexa's."
"Me neither," I agree.
"I'm sorry I haven't been here until now. And I'm sorry I haven't been more supportive throughout... this. It's just -" She stops, shaking her head, running her hands through her hair, doing everything except looking at me. "I don't know what I want to say. Well, I do, but I don't know how. Alexa... She's not going anywhere now. She's here to stay."
"She always was, even before the baby," I tell her slowly. I'm not sure where this is going and, if I'm honest, I'm not sure I want to. Rose is treating this conversation like a life-changing confession and that's what scares me. There's been enough change in my life recently; I don't need anymore.
"I know. But the baby makes it real. The baby being born means I can't sit back and pretend that it hasn't happened."
"Pretend what hasn't happened?"
"That I haven't lost my best friend," she whispers. And a piece of the puzzle starts to click into place. "It was you and me all the way up to Hogwarts. Then you got sorted into Slytherin, because you were too worried about looking weird talking to a hat like you said Uncle Harry said you can do, and everything we talked about lasted a grand total of two days. Two days, Albus! Then Alexa comes along, saying you have to be friends because she likes Dom and Dom is her brother's friend, and you let her take you. I told myself you were just too shy to say anything when you didn't tell her we were talking, but you didn't even say good bye to me."
"Oh." The puzzle pieces keep falling; the hostility between Rose and Lexi, the awkward moments that happen between us. I thought we'd just grown apart, I don't even remember not saying good bye. But I do remember the day Lexi first spoke to him, when she'd pulled me away to ask if Dom would be okay with her talking to him in school. That's the only time I'd ever seen her nervous, unless Xavier was near; Dom was new and cool to her, the first person to get through to her brother and like him enough to stay. I also remember my thoughts that day. "Oh."
"What?" she asks suspiciously.
I owe it to my cousin, who I have unintentionally hurt, to be as honest with her as she is with me. "I don't remember not saying good bye to you, I just remember a pretty girl wanting to talk to me. Thinking she was pretty, ignoring everyone else just to talk to her, probably should have been my first clues. It was a thought I had about her from the beginning; it's part of the reason I kept my mouth shut. It's hard to tell a hat you don't want to be in a house when a pretty girl is already in there. I was a speechless eleven year old."
"And she was sorted first," Rose scoffs. "What is it with the boys in our family and keeping it in their pants?"
"Harsh, Rose. It was a delayed reaction, I stared for a moment; I was never going to tell the hat I wanted to move, I was too worried about looking strange and the hat saying no. Despite what Dad said, I thought it would say no," I tell her honestly, even a little angrily. "But I don't regret staying, I'm glad I stayed. I made amazing friends in Slytherin, people I'd do anything for. But I made great friends with people in the other Houses, too. I was in the same classes as Lexi and the others, they all came up to me a week later and told me we had to be friends. I'd be in the exact same position with Lexi even if she hadn't dragged me away from you that day."
"I know," she says, not looking at me again. "I didn't know about them, though."
"I don't understand."
"Do you remember about a couple of weeks into school, there was a rumor about Alexa being a bully? That she was just as bad as the old Slytherins, being from one of the old families?"
"Yes," I snap, then I take a breath to keep control and keep my voice low. I don't ask her a question, but she looks guilty already. "That was you. You know, there's a zero tolerance policy on bullying; it hasn't gotten rid of bullying, kids just got smarter about it, but the policy is still there. The only reason Lexi didn't get into trouble was because Digby believed her; he knows Theo and my dad, he knows Lexi and that if a Nott was bullying, he'd be more likely to get it right with Kieron. You could have gotten her expelled before she'd even started. You would have gotten expelled if you'd been caught."
"I know that, I hate myself for it," she cries. I have to shush her. "But she stole my best friend; I was angry and upset because you just walked away and when someone asked why I was crying, Alexa's name just came out. And I was too hurt to stop it. It backfired on me anyway."
"Because she wasn't expelled?"
"No!" At least she has the curtesy to look sincere, glaring at me, appalled that I'd ask. "I wanted you to be angry with her, to come back and talk to me, but you put your arms around her and so did the other four and you promised it would be okay. So, I gave up hoping you'd be my best friend again and tried to just hang out with you instead. But you were always busy with them."
"You started hanging out with us in fifth year, with Will," I remember. "Not often because you and Lexi didn't like each other."
"She knew," Rose whispers. "She saw the look on my face when you held her and she confronted me. I told her why and she promised not to tell you, but said that me and her wouldn't be talking and I was fine with that."
I squeeze my eyes shut. Oh, Lexi. If Rose weren't my cousin, she'd have made sure I knew everything, but she would never be able to turn a person away from their family.
"Why are you telling me this now? Why is everyone telling me stories now?"
"Maybe because you need to hear them. Because the baby makes it real and I wasn't here. Will was so angry with me because of it; 'your cousin is ill and you're not there, Rose'. I told him this story, including when I started to hang out with you, and he almost broke up with me."
"I'm the one who's angry with you, why would he wanna dump you? Will doesn't do things because of other people's personal lives, no matter how angry he is with you. He'd want you to talk to me, which I assume is the reason you're here, but he wouldn't dump you."
"No, but using him would. I wanted to hang out with you, so when he asked me out, I remembered you were friends and I said yes," she explains. I rub my eyes and shake my head; damn it, Rosie. "It lasted five minutes. I preferred his company to yours, I had fun with him. I liked him. He said he'd let it go, that he doesn't care about the past, as long as I talked to you."
"He's a good friend," I tell her sarcastically. She gets the implied meaning and looks away.
"I don't expect anything to happen between me and Alexa, I just needed to clear the air. She's part of the family now, she'll be here forever, and I don't want things to get worse between us. I regret everything and I wish I could take it back, but you're to blame, too. I'm not saying I should have taken my hurt out on you instead, I shouldn't have taken it out on anyone, but I wish you hadn't just forgotten me."
"I understand," I tell her softly. I do; I shouldn't have forgotten her for new friends; it wasn't like I'd never had friends before, I'd had some in primary school. But they were the first friends I didn't have to lie to, who were the same as me. And, yeah, I ended up liking one of them, even falling for her. But it's not an excuse. I stand up, pulling her with me and hug her. I can't remember the last time I gave Rose a hug; even when we were little, it was her who would comfort me. She's the oldest, it was her job, she said. "I'm so fucking mad at you and I'm so fucking sorry."
"I know. Me, too."
"It's not me you have to talk to, you know?" I murmur.
She sighs, her whole body stiffening in my arms. "I know. Tomorrow."
Rose pulls out of my arms and walks away, smiling apologetically, then stops when she sees Lexi standing by the door, watching. Rose glares at me. "She just pops up out of nowhere."
"I had to make sure Al didn't do anything stupid and remind you that my family should never hear of it. You're eighteen now, almost nineteen, and the only way you'll be able to get past Kieron's wrath now would be if Nicky got there first to stop him," Lexi warns, as she should, I think. "My dad was pissed as hell that day, I don't know what he'd do. If it makes you feel any better, I no longer hate you for it, liking you is just not on the top of my wish list. I don't care about what you did to me; you missed your cousin and you were upset, I get that. I was so upset about Kieron going to school without me that I refused to respond to his letters for days until he felt so guilty he actually tried to come home. But I'm glad he didn't because I felt horrible when I saw how sad. And I'm glad I didn't tell Al because I didn't want to see him that sad. That's what made me so angry; it would have hurt him. Now you've apologized; you did something stupid as a kid and you've said sorry. No one else knows and I don't care, so forget it. Please."
"But it doesn't make us friends."
Lexi steps aside, let's her out, and I smile, slightly awed. "Since when did you become a better person than me?"
"Since I got pregnant and realized growing up was not an option," she shrugs. "I mean it, Al. People grow apart, she knows that, but you were her favorite person in the world once. I know what that's like. If you had left me, I'd want you back that much. So, don't make her suffer for too long."
"I won't make her suffer at all, we're both in the wrong," I say. "So, we forget it now. No prolonging it, no hurting each other. We forget it. Maybe one day you'll even be friends."
Lexi shakes her head, chuckling, but says nothing. If she was totally against the idea, she'd have said. We say good night to Isaac and she leads the way out of the special care unit.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have hope.
A/N: A new chapter and only two more to go. And we've been told stories; I think that 's how you know something's coming to an end - the reveals. ;(
Theo's dreams is a reference to Her Hero and is not a main part of the story, so hasn't really been mentioned. It will come up again, though... :)
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think. :)
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