Savage Delight

Page 10


“Why didn’t you tell me I’d forgotten him?”
“Honey, I’d been meaning to. But Mernich advised me not to. She wanted you to come to the realization on your own. She said it’d be healthier.”
“It’s not healthier, it’s just more fricking confusing!”
“I wanted to tell you so bad,” Mom says. “Believe me. But I was so scared for you. I did everything the doctors told me to so nothing would go wrong. I didn’t want to take the chance I would mess up your healing process.”
When I don’t say anything, Mom sighs.
“He’s a nice boy, you know – ”
“I don’t know what he is, Mom. Because I can’t remember him.”
My voice is sharper than I meant it. Mom flinches. I eat a fry and exhale.
“Sorry. Today has been so weird.”
She gets up and kisses my head. “I know, sweetie. Try to get some rest. You’ll be out by tomorrow, and at home, where I can take care of you.”
Mom leaves, and Naomi comes in for her final night check a few hours later. I pick at the last stubby French fry and let the mindless cartoons on the TV lull me to sleepland.
“I heard you’re leaving,” Naomi says.
She quirks an eyebrow. “No cartwheels? No screaming?” She crosses the room and feels my forehead. “Are you feeling alright?”
I lean back. “Everyone lied to me.”
“Yeah? Why’d they do that?”
“You did too.”
“I most certainly did not!” Naomi looks offended.
“You could’ve told me I had amnesia.”
“I had no idea! I’m in charge of your basic health. That head stuff is up to Dr. Fenwall and Dr. Mernich.”
“Oh.” I frown. “Sorry.”
Naomi sits on the bed and crumples my hamburger trash into her palm.
“Why do you think they lied?” She asks quietly.
“Because they wanna see me squirm.”
“Nonsense. They wanted to protect you. They wanted to see you get better.”
“Even Sophia knew.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised – that girl knows everything. Sometimes it’s like she can see right through people.” Naomi shivers slightly, but the room isn’t cold. “Now, promise me you won’t sneak into the kids’ ward tonight, alright?”
“But…I gotta say goodbye to them.”
“I’ll take you in the morning to say goodbye. Promise me.”
“I promise.”
“Be specific.”
I huff. “I promise I won’t scale the wall and pull myself up over a precarious windowsill ledge into the kids’ ward.”
“That’s what I like to hear.”
She readjusts my IV, and taps the monitor. After a quick check of my chart, she closes my blinds and turns the light off.
“Goodnight, Isis.”
The hospital bed is comfortable enough, but too much comfort nags at you after a while. Makes you feel useless and lumpy. But I’m leaving. Tomorrow is the last day I’m here. The real world is out there waiting for me. My real memories are out there, waiting for me.
Isis’ front porch is as run-down as ever.
The windchime clinks pathetically in the night air. The lights are on; warm squares of golden light fighting off the darkness. I pull my keys from the ignition and grab the still-warm lasagna from the backseat. Mrs. Blake’s decorated the front door with a Christmas wreath and a string of white lights. I smooth my hair and knock twice. The mottled glass on either side of the door has been repaired since that bastard broke it, but seeing it still makes my throat twist unpleasantly.
Mrs. Blake answers, in a sweater and yoga pants. But she looks happier and more clear-eyed than my previous visits.
“Jack!” She opens the door. “Come in, quick! You must be freezing.”
I step into the warmth of the hall, and she takes my coat and fusses over the lasagna.
“Did you make this yourself? It smells lovely. It must’ve been time-consuming!”
“Not extremely difficult. Just some meat and sauce.”
“Nonsense. I can’t make a good lasagna to save my life. Thank you so much.”
“Eat it while it’s still warm.”
She laughs. “I will. Let’s sit in the kitchen. Do you want a piece?”
I ignore the gnawing in my stomach. “I already ate.”
“Well, have some juice at least. Or do you want soda? I could make you some heated eggnog!”
“Water would be fine.”
She makes a ‘tsk’ noise that sounds so familiar. Isis does the same thing, in the same tone, when she’s disappointed in something. She fills a glass and slides it to me, and dishes herself a portion of the lasagna. We sit at the table and I watch her eat – her wrists are thinner than I remember last time.
“Have you been eating?” I ask softly. Mrs. Blake shrugs.
“Oh, you know. Things at the museum are so hectic lately, I don’t cook as much as I should.”
“You forget.”
She smiles sheepishly. “Yes. Isis is so good about that – she always packs me lunches, and puts them in the car so I won’t forget them in the morning.”
Her eyes light up as she takes another bite.
“You really are a wonderful cook, Jack. This is amazing. Thank you.”
“It’s the least I could do.”
“No, no. You didn’t have to do this at all. The visits, the food, all of it. I’m…I’m very grateful. You’ve helped us so much.”
I clench my fist under the table. “I haven’t helped at all.”
“Without you –” Mrs. Blake inhales, like what she’s about to say requires more air, more life force. “Without you, Leo would have –”
“I didn’t do anything. I couldn’t save Isis in time,” I snap. “She got hurt because I wasn’t fast enough. I failed.”
The last two words ring in the near-empty, dim kitchen.
“I failed,” I say, stronger this time. “And she forgot me because of my failure.”
“She didn’t - Jack, no. That’s not it at all.”
Yes. It is. It’s my punishment. And I’ll take it. It has been a long time coming, after all.
I stand and go into the hall, pulling on my coat. Mrs. Blake nervously follows.
“I didn’t mean – I’m sorry. You don’t have to leave,” she says.
“I have work.”
She doesn’t know what work. She just knows I have to leave. And she knows it’s an excuse as much as I do.
“Alright then. Drive safely.”
Before I get a foot out the door, Mrs. Blake grabs my coat sleeve. I turn my head over my shoulder, and she murmurs softly, sympathy glowing from her eyes with near-uncomfortable warmth.
“You’re always welcome in this house, Jack.”
I’m quiet. Mrs. Blake reaches up and hugs me. I quell the urge to push her away. Her arms are gentle. For a moment, she feels like my own mother. I’m the first to step away. I always am.
“I should go,” I say. She nods.