This week there were several image prompts, some word, and line prompts. I opted to use the line prompt, "Look into my eyes." I hope you enjoy this installment of Never More Lonely.
Never More Lonely Part 6
"Look into my eyes." The nurse's voice is quiet but firm. Pete turns his head and looks at her. "Good morning Pete, you have some visitors," she says. "Is that okay?"
He blinks. "Sure." His voice is deep and steady.
I come to visit Pete as often as I can, but I can’t tell anyone why. I make sure I never go when his family is there though. They are part of the apostolic church and had lived through some of the most conservative times. They aren't bad people but they'd been very strict when we were growing up.
Pete was supposed to be at my place that night. I'd helped him sneak out and meet a date at the movies. His parents hadn't even allowed him to go to movies, calling it 'Sin'ema, much less date. If they'd known he was seeing a guy they would've probably had a stroke.
Instead, Pete had skidded off the road in my car before he'd ever gotten there. I was supposed to be in the car with him but I'd had a horrible cold and was coughing up a lung. I'd stayed home and stayed whole.
He’d put his head through the windshield. He’d lived in a care facility ever since.
"G'day," Pete says. "Do I know you? Are you friends with my parents?"
I wish that Owen could hold my hand but his solid warmth against my back is soothing.
"No. I'm your friend, Pete. My name's Cooper. We went to high school together."
Pete's head cocks and his eyebrows scrunch. "We did?"
It isn't one of his really good days. Sometimes he recognizes me from my last visit. It’s been a while. "Who's he?" Pete asks, pointing at Owen.
"Oh, hi." Owen shuffles his feet behind me. "I'm Owen. I'm visiting Cooper."
"From where? You have a weird accent."
Owen laughs. "To me you guys have the accents."
That makes Pete smile. "Guess so."
Walking into his room, I hold out the bag in my hand. "These are for you."
"Really?" He takes the bag from me and opens it. "Oh! Yum. These are my favorite!" He pulls out a handful of passionberries with a wide grin and pops a few in his mouth, chewing quickly. "Thanks mate! It was ace of you to bring these. Must have cost big bikkies though. It’s cold outside."
I shrug. I see Owen soundlessly echo Pete's sentence in confusion.
"A friend with a greenhouse grows them, it wasn't too bad. I got a mate's rate."
Pete finishes the berries in his hand then puts the bag down. He's watching me with those big brown eyes. His fingers trace the seam on his jeans, wiping berry stains on them. “You’re nice. Thanks.”
Nice. I shake my head.
He looks at me carefully. He bites his lip, then says, "You look sad. Because of me?"
"No." I shake my head. "It's because of me. See, I'm moving to the United States."
"You don't want to go?" Pete’s mind was broken but he wasn’t stupid. "Or are you sad because of something else?"
My eyes burn and it hurts to swallow. "I want to go, but mostly I'm sad because I won't be here anymore."
My breath catches. How do I explain? Admit that it is my fault he’s here? I'd come up with the plan to sneak him out on his first date. Pete's head injury, the fact that he’ll never be able to function normally, and will spend the rest of his life in a care facility—all of that is my fault. And now I wouldn't even be here to be his friend, to do what I can to make it up to him.
How in the hell do I tell him that I was abandoning him to go live a life he should've had?
Owen's hand slides down and rests on my back gently. He'd spent hours listening to me talk earlier; he knew why I felt guilty. He'd told me that deep inside I knew Pete wouldn't blame me if he knew how I felt and could understand. Spending my life alone wouldn't take away Pete's brain damage and make him whole.
"I'm going to miss coming to visit," I finally say. A few tears escape my control. "I'll miss you a lot. You’re my best friend."
Pete leans forward and pulls me into his big arms. He smells like Acqua di Parma shave gel he'd always had to have from David Jones. His voice is like a deep rumble in my ear, but I can't understand him.
I pull back. "What?"
"It’s nice of you to come and to bring me the passionberries, but," his eyes met mine, "I don't really know you."
I close my eyes briefly.
"My nurse tells me lots of things, but I don't remember." Pete points to a picture on the nightstand labeled Mom and Dad. "I don't even remember them, not really. They were here yesterday and they seemed so sad. Now you're sad too."
He runs his hand through his hair. "I don't like making people sad. Maybe moving will make you happy."
Struggling, I try to find control. I’m making Pete unhappy, the last thing I want to do. Owen's quiet but his touch helps me calm down.
"I think I will be."
A wide smile crosses Pete’s face. "Good." He yawns. "Sorry. I was up really early; the guy down the hall was upset again. I think I'm ready to take a nap."
Pete and I hug one last time. "Bye," I say quietly.
"Bye, Cooper." He looks at Owen who’s already standing by the door. "Nice to meet you."
Owen nods. "You too, Pete. Thanks for letting us visit."
I stand up, letting my friend go one last time.
Owen takes the keys from me when we get outside. He waits and when I break down he holds me.
"It's hard now but it'll be okay, Cooper. I promise."
Thanks so much for reading this latest installment of Cooper and Owen's story. I hope it wasn't too predictable! Now that you're done, don't forget to check out the other Wednesday Briefer's flash stories!