Daniel dropped his head mournfully to his shaking form, sleeved in an olive green hospital robe.
'This is so pathetic'
He glanced around the white-washed walls, closed, numbered doors and bustling hallways.
'This is so incredibly cliche'
Even the paper cup he drank from smelled of disinfectant.
His mother lay unconscious in the room behind him, receiving a check-up for the fifth time that evening. He never liked to stay and watch, it was the first time he'd seen her vulnerable; and preferred the loneliness of the corridor.
'Watch it son!' A warden sped past and almost caused a collision with the stretcher he pushed, harbouring a motionless, sheeted form.
Daniel jumped backwards, only to hear the outrage of a group of knee-high children. They glared viciously at him, shrunken beneath their matching robes and I.D. bracelets.
He smiled, apologetic. He was used to children liking him.
'See why we call it the midnight rush?' a voice commented lightly beside him, and he glanced down to this watch as he turned to face her.
'It's only eight o'clock..'
The girl shrugged, her tangled hair reflecting her carelessness and her worn robes revealing just how familiar she was to this place. 'Sickness doesn't always wait.'
Daniel nodded, irritated and turned back to the rushing hallway.
'Jhokai- burns unit.' She delivered her greeting grimly, but looked to him for a response all the same.
'Daniel- miserable actor from a movie series that never finished. Excuse me, I have to attend to my dying mother.' And with his last bitter note, he turned back towards room 304. The heavy door swung outwards, and Daniel felt his face implode as it made contact.
He squeezed his eyes shut and stood motionless, cupping his nose as blood oozed through his fingers and into his gaping mouth.
The exiting doctor, anything but sympathetic, moved Dan heftily into a nearby supply room to fix the damage. They left shortly after with barely an apology, leaving him with a bandage pressed to his face and a inquisitive-looking Jhokai seated across from him.
'I remember now.'
'So do I, it still f**king hurts.'
'No! Harry Potter right?'
'Call me Daniel' His sarcastic reply was muffled by bloody cloths.
She grinned roguishly as if they had made progress. 'Yeah.. There used to be two little girls here. Utterly obsessed they were. Got their whole ward hooked and started a dress up tradition which we still have I believe.' She trailed off reminiscently.
Daniel snorted with laughter; immediately regretting his action as more blood drizzled over the drying stains on his chin and onto his robe as he tried fervently to block the flow.
'Grow up, did they?'
Jhokai eyed him sternly. 'They died Daniel, that's usually the case when we speak in past tense.'
He dropped his eyes to hide the guilt. Jhokai crossed her legs on the box of plastic tubing she was perched on, eyeing him blatantly and flickering back her locks to reveal a glistening array of piercings.
'Aren't they a health risk?'
It was her turn to scoff. 'Needles in the ass isn't the only thing doctors are good for.' She fiddled with a ruby stud on the inside of her ear. 'But they aim just as good.'
Daniel skimmed her over in the silence. 'You don't look very sick.'
She smiled wryly. 'Don't I?'
'Well you said you're from the burns unit and I- ah..'
'You expected what? Scars?'
He dropped his gaze once more. 'Never mind.'
Her intense eyes softened and she picked up her clucky tone. 'So what happened to your mother?'
As invaded as Daniel felt, the girl in front of him didn't seem like someone you said no to.
'Stroke.' He cleared his throat. 'I'm kind of here, everyday out of guilt.'
She smiled, obviously used to exchanging morbid, sadistic hospital stories.
'Ah the guilt visits. Not as popular as the I want your inheritance trips but there's still a few
He grinned at her attempt to make light of the situation, cautiously removing the cloth away for the first time.
'Yeah I've stressed her out. Not doing too great at school any more, and when the whole Harry Potter thing cut short last year..' He shook his head, feigning mourn.
Jhokai gave an understanding nod. 'We'll I'm sure she'll appreciate you when she wakes up, they always do.'
'Jhocky?' A small frail girl peered into the room, gripping the doorway tensely and eyeing Daniel with fright.
'Mindy!' Jhokai rose and scooped the child into her arms, bringing a tiny smile to her porcelain face.
'What're you doing out baby girl?!'
'You didn't come say g'night...'
Jhokai cooed an apology before setting her down again. 'Race you back to the ward!' she called, humouring Mindy. The little girl squealed and took off out the door, white hair flailing after her, and shyness long forgotten.
Jhokai paused in the doorway, still bearing a grin of affection. 'Goodnight Daniel. I was sort of hoping you were sick, we could of hung out.' And with that she was off, bare feet falling down the halls playfully and tiny screams of excitement not far ahead of her.
She didn't stir. She never did. He watched her pale, ageing skin, and heard her shaky breaths as air tried entering her body. Twisted plastic tubes gripped her form menacingly, twirling around and under her still figure, piercing her flesh and giving her life. Clear concoctions were pumped into her veins. 'If she were here to see this..' he mused at the irony.
His mother would've unplugged the tubing herself.
He eyed his bulging schoolbag with detest, slinging it over his shoulder and heading down to the cafeteria for something to eat for the first time that day.
Warmth lingered on his pale hands as he gripped the coffee mug, savouring the bitter-sweetness. Childish chuckles and the clanging of trays and cutlery echoed, moulding the chaotic atmosphere, and Daniel glanced over his shoulder occasionally in caution. If it wasn't for his mother being an occupant, Daniel would've seen hospitals as being almost cheerful.
He brought his fingers to his face tentatively, still feeling a slight swell from the previous day. Two hands came down on his shoulders suddenly, and familiar tangles of chocolate hair slid over his face, jolting his coffee mug into his lap.
'You're something beautiful, a contradiction. I wanna play the game, I
want the friction.'
Daniel looked up in outrage at Jhokai who continued to dance around his table, eyes closed, completely oblivious.
He tore his jacket off his arms and pressed it into the sweltering heat between his legs; the once-full mug now in pieces.
Jhokai, noticing the lack of attention, pulled her headphones from her ears and grinned at him silently.
He scowled at her. 'You burnt me! Do you have any idea how much this hurts?!'
The warmth slipped from her face. 'Yes I do.'
He stopped wiping himself down and looked up to her, feeling sheepish, although the scowl hardly came away. 'You're bad luck.'
Jhokai, quick to forgive, slipped Muse back into her ears and yelled out to him as she left. 'Whatever. I'm on the seventh floor, room twenty-seven!'
Daniel laughed to himself as she left, 'Like I'd go.'
But two hours and a phone call from his father later, curiosity got the better of him. His father was stuck back at work, and Dan had never been allowed to get public transport; the risk of being noticed still worried his parents, much to his embarrassment. He was glad the attention in the hospital was fairly mild.
The lift was empty as he entered, searching lazily for the "seventh floor" button. While he waited anxiously for the door to close, he began checking the front of his pants carefully, making sure there was no sign of a stain. He looked up to find the doors open and waiting, a short cleaning woman eyeing him suspiciously; cloth in hand.
He avoided her eyes and followed the door numbers down steadily until he got to what was supposed to be number twenty-seven.
He eyed the sign stupidly, hearing a small chuckle to his left; finding an elderly warden sipping coffee and studying him in amusement.
'She got you too eh?'
A light flush spread over Daniel's face in realisation.
He took another sip, shaking his head and commented conversationally, 'Talk about dead ends...'
'Am I even on the right floor?'
The warden heaved a throaty laugh. 'Goodness no! Jhokai is on the second floor. She must've been pulling this trick for near five years now.' His voice reflected admiration.
'That's where I came from.' Daniel felt his intelligence diminishing as he continued to speak. 'So.. Thanks..'
He took the stairs this time, vowing to avoid cleaners and wardens from then onwards for fear of losing the rest of his dignity.
'I should have realised' The floor was milling with frantic nurses, stressed doctors, screaming children, and some at-home looking teenagers sitting in small groups; doors wide open.
The Burns Unit doors were tightly shut, almost airtight, with no movement visible through the Perspex window. The lighting was dim and Daniel approached cautiously, pressing the door forward.
He stepped slowly down the hall, in realisation that he didn't even know which room was hers.
He could hear a faint commotion further on and followed the sound; the emptiness giving him an almost overwhelming feeling of depression.
Voices met his ears now and doctor surged forward from an adjacent corridor and into a nearby room, implements in hand.
A piercing scream filled the ward, followed by heavy breathing, sobs and the sound of a struggle. 'Please! Please'
The tiny girl Daniel saw the previous night appeared at a doorway, the same fright in her eyes as she clutched a soft toy, barely blinking, before scampering away.
A feeling of paralysis consumed Daniel's body as he turned the next corner. The room in full view was closed off, but with a broad viewing
window and the curtains drawn.
Jhokai was centred on her bed, he screams still audible through the shut-off room. Her face was strew with tears as she writhed her body up against the headboard, ripping at the bed sheets, attempting to escape the sets of hands holding her down. Her mouth was contorted into an expression of inexplicable pain, and a syringe protruded from her arm, just out of the doctor's grasp.
'Please!' Her scream sounded as if her throat were bleeding.
The distressed Doctor stabbed another needle into her leg, the only place he was able to reach, and her body slumped; still shivering, and her face was stained with fluid.
She flickered her eyes upward to meet Daniel's as she collapsed lifelessly to the mattress, holding no expression, no sorrow, no recognition.
Daniel turned out of the ward shaken. His heavy breaths reverberated of the passing walls. The rainbows and cheery faces littering the space between the ceiling and floor burned into him and he found himself longing for the white stillness of his mother’s room.
Bidding her a short goodbye, he left himself to the mercy of an outside bus stop to wait for his father, vowing to never enter a hospital again; at least until his mother woke up. A young boy was seated there with his mother, absorbed in the seventh Harry Potter book, making him feel all the more miserable as he whipped the jacket hood over his eyes.
Daniel found Rupert asleep when he got home, sprawled out on his king-size bed, suitcase unzipped at his side. He stirred as Dan entered.
‘Thank God it’s Saturday tomorrow.’
‘I second that. How you been mate? What’re you doing over this way?’
Rupert rubbed his eyes and gripped a handful of shaggy orange hair, yawning. ‘Some movie gig…’
Dan couldn’t hide his disappointment. ‘Oh.. So things have been going okay since HP?’
A broad grin swept over Rupert’s face. ‘I’m havin’ you on mate! I came to see how you were doing, I heard about your mum ay.’
Daniel nodded, slipping off his sopping jacket. ‘She’s getting better’ he shuddered, ‘I hate hospitals.’
Rupert nodded, shuffling through a nearby C.D collection and eating a bag of jellybeans, which had apparently come out of nowhere. ‘Yeah I was in one once.’
‘Yeah I insisted that I didn’t go, but mum didn’t want to be pregnant any longer..’
‘You idiot.’ Dan shook his head, the dark mood lifting. ‘It’s not just ‘cause of mum. I saw this girl there- I think… I think she was having a fit..?’
Rupert hummed in though. ‘Did she want to lose her virginity to you, or did she just want an autograph?’
‘Rupe, compared to what really happened, I would’ve settled for either.’
He now sat attentively, either conjuring another joke or something more serious. ‘Did she…’ he paused, analysing Daniel’s face, ‘I mean did she die?’
Daniel stared at him in confusion, it was something he hadn’t considered.
‘No’ he hesitated for a moment. ‘No the doctors were trying to help her, I’m sure.’
Rupert was now well into a second packet from oblivion. ‘You don’t sound it.’
‘Shut up Rupe, go to bed mate.’
Rupert stripped off his shirt and climbed under the covers, still chewing.
‘We can always find out tomorrow night.’
‘What’s wrong with going in the morning?’
Rupert flicked off the bedside light. ‘I’ll be sleeping.’
Dan trenched down the hall to the spare room, realising he’d been kicked out of his own.
He stood outside the reflective foyer doors, anything but eager to go in.
‘Maybe I’ll wait outside.’
Rupert rolled his eyes and took hold of Daniel’s arm. ‘I’m sure your mother would really appreciate that.’
Daniel watched a flush of concern wash over Rupert as they entered the room. He’d lied when he said she’d gotten better, she had barely changed in the fortnight since she’d been admitted.
‘Hey Marcia.’ Rupert smiled goofily to himself as the words left his mouth. Daniel stood back, holding his arm and looking down to his feet, contemplating whether to wait outside or not.
‘I’ll go grab us some break- ah lunch, Rupe. Won’t be long.’
He skipped out of the suite before his friend had a chance to respond.
His dropped his head as he passed the children’s ward, just as up-beat as it was the day before. He waited impatiently at the elevator, and just as the doors opened, he felt two cold, slimline hands close over his eyes, followed by a giggle.
‘Hey Danny baby’
He spun around, losing his balance and stumbling a little. ‘Jhokai?’
‘Come for a walk.’
He was led stupidly back into the Burns Unit, not sure whether he was relieved or frightened, he still didn’t know this girl.
She stepped into that same room, this time, curtains closed, and shut the door firmly after them.
‘You didn’t stick around yesterday, I thought I should explain something.’
Dan stood a few paces away from her, rigid. Even from the short distance he could see the needle bruises trailing her arms, still fresh. ‘I completely agree’
‘Ever since I was admitted, I started to, y’know, panic.’ She cleared her throat, perching herself on the bed and picking up a stray piece of beaded jewellery. ‘I just start feeling a little trapped sometimes, a bit claustrophobic, like I’m not getting anywhere. And it frightens me.’
Daniel nodded, her tone soothing him and he stepped closer. ‘Panic attacks?’
She smiled. ‘Yeah. A bit like that. You think I’m a freak don’t you?’
He sat up next to her. ‘Not at all. I had a minor one when we were filming the fourth movie. It delayed the release for at least a few months. Mum wouldn’t let them near me.’ He flushed a little, shaking his head.
‘I wish I had someone like that. All I get is a stab in the arm and a shove out the door.’ She traced her fingers over the marks on her arm in silence. ‘That’s what’s delaying my release.’
Daniel took the moment to glance around her room. Apart from a wardrobe, a bookshelf stacked with C.Ds and tasteful array of novels, the walls consisted of scrawled drawings, mainly crayon, and misspelled letters addressed to Jhokai.
Her bedside tray held a small box filled with jewellery consisting of oversized beads, painted pasta, and scrunched paper threaded on string. Jhokai watched him observe.
‘You think I’m childish right?’
He shook his head. ‘Why should it matter?’
She collapsed back on the bed, feet dangling over the side. ‘We’re not so different you know. I’ve tried filling my miserable childhood with these,’ She held up a tatty bracelet, ‘and you-’ she paused, rolling her head to the side to look at him, ‘you still haven’t figured it out yet.’
Daniel remained silent. He couldn’t argue.
‘You’ll always be remembered as making other people’s children happy, when all your years were filled with was a never-ending schedule.’
He grinned at her, impressed. ‘You think you have me worked out, do you?’
She sat up, reaching out for his open palm, and closed the mass of beads inside his hand, ignoring the question. ‘You’ll be needing this.’ She looked up to his eyes, unblinking, ‘to help you figure it out.’
Ack! Don't leave! I like your stories too! You are one of the best writers I've encountered on this site. If you do stop, could you PM me the story?
To all those people who keep bugging out about where the story should be - I believe it is just fine right here. It has to do with Harry Potter in a way. Her other fanfic - She Loves Me Not - is in the Harry Potter Fiction section so this one is fine here too. Bug off.
So yeah I just feel you guys are replying out of politeness. I have this story on 4 forums with an innumerable amount of support and replies and.. well I'll just be repeating what I said before. I'll PM/email the story to you Brunette Angel.
‘That’s very pretty Daniel, did you make it yourself?’
Rupert peered closely over Dan’s shoulder, eyeing the multicoloured bracelet with feigned awe and approving noises.
Apart from the small shove he gave to put some space between them, Dan offered Rupert no recognition that he’d even spoken.
Rupert slumped back on the couch and scoffed. ‘Shall I give you and the jewellery some time alone?’
Dan finally gave a small grin. ‘Sorry Rupe, I was just thinking.’
‘Yeah I figured’ his tone was relenting. ‘How is she?’
‘Confusing. Frustrating.’ Dan paused in though. ‘I don’t know.’
‘I personally think the disinfectant has gotten to you.’ Rupe smiled graciously at the young waitress as she slipped a full plate on the table, grinning shyly.
Daniel paid no attention as a second meal was set down under his gaze, and the waitress left haughtily. ‘What I mean- well… She’s like an open book, but I can’t understand anything that’s written.’
He looked over at his friend, who was now thoroughly absorbed in his lasagne. ‘She’s very different. And that’s saying something- I used to be an actor.’
‘You still are.’
Dan shook his head, smirking. ‘I knew my career was over when mum fired my tutors and put me back in school.’
Rupert broke the contemplating silence, ‘Yeah your mum’s still got it.’
Dan pushed a lettuce leaf around the plate restlessly. ‘Dad says we have a meeting with her doctor tonight. To get an update on how she’s doing.’
‘Are you scared?’
Daniel still didn’t look up. ‘Well last time we were told that she was in a deep coma and the longer she stays in it, the worst the damage gets.’
He looked over at Rupert who sat quietly in thought. He had always admired how he knew the perfect moment to make a joke and when to stay serious.
He glanced down to his full plate. ‘I’m not hungry.’
Rupert stomach sounded, almost inaudible. ‘Me neither. Did you want to go?’
Jhokai stepped carefully out of the shower and ran her fingers through the heavy steam that coated the mirror.
She swept her hair up on her head and simply stared at herself, fully exposed.
A frail nurse entered and dropped a towel loosely around her shoulders, attempting to rub down her back. ‘Don’t need you getting a cold as well now do we?’
The girl remained motionless, watching the scene indifferently in the mirror.
‘I think I need another piercing.’
The woman draped a gown and fresh clothes on a bench and stepped briskly out of the private bathroom. ‘You’ll have to talk to Doctor Ryan about that one.’
Jhokai heard her shuffling around in the room, readjusting some of her things.
‘You have another grafting appointment tonight at 7. Will see you then.’
Jhokai made no move to dry herself; instead stood eyeing her scars with a deep loathing and stormed out of the bathroom, covering herself up for yet another day.
It was the same Doctor who’d almost broken his nose.
‘Good evening Mr Radcliffe.’ He nodded to Daniel in greeting, ‘And Daniel I believe? If you would like to take a seat.’
The office was an impersonal mess of papers, charts and coffee mugs. It was obviously used as more of a storage room than a place to relax.
‘Excuse the rubble. My office is usually in patients’ rooms and surgery, I’m not quite accustomed to the whole desk and filing office thing.’ He gave a friendly smile and sifted through some bulging files on his desk, finally placing one on top and flipping it open, frowning.
‘Well then… Let’s see.’
Daniel began to shift uncomfortably, listing all the things that might come out of the Doctor’s mouth and bracing himself for the news.
He cleared his throat, jolting them to attention. ‘I’ll keep it simple, no use for all the medical nonsense.’ He forced a small sigh of laughter, increasing the tension.
‘Basically Marcia’s condition has improved. Her weight has remained stable, her body is accepting the medicines and her breathing hasn’t faltered at any stage. Medically speaking, she’s doing okay.’
Daniel looked over to see Alan gripping the arm rests, preparing for the rest of the speech.
‘But as I informed you on our last visit; it is rare for a stroke to occur with no long term damage.’ He clasped his hands together on the desk, eyes weary, voice remaining solemn and at a steady pace.
‘We have, on recent occasions noted some muscle depletion in her lower body, which is becoming more severe the longer she remains in an invalid state.’
Alan inched forward in his seat. ‘Doctor-‘
The man raised his hand to silence Daniel’s father. ‘Yes I understand sir. I am getting to the point.’
He took a disjointed intake of breath and peered down at his notes again, as if clarifying the matter.
‘Put simply Mr Radcliffe, it would be an almost impossibly optimistic view to say that Marcia will ever be able to walk again.’
Alan slumped into his seat, covering his face and rubbing vigorously at his tired eyes.
Realising that it was the end of the doctor’s spiel, Daniel left the office, slamming the door behind him and marching heatedly down the hall. He was yet to realise the thick wash of tears that now coated his face as he searched blindly for the hospital exit, forgetting he was not on the ground floor.
Jhokai pulled a loose thread off her gown and sat quietly outside the surgical suite, waiting for Doctor Ryan. She used to bring her music, or something to pass the time and soothe the nerves, but had eventually adjusted to the thought of needles as the years had passed. And she saw no need to have sympathy for herself when no one else had ever shown any.
Her eyes wandered the nearly deserted hall, before focusing on a familiar figure storming down the corridor, eyes forward.
He passed her with no greeting or glint of reaction, his face shining with remorse.
She made no attempt to call him again, but silently watched as he left the ward, a trail of broken beads falling behind him.
Daniel hadn’t seen a syringe, drip, clipboard or heard a moaning patient for over a week.
He couldn’t say he’d seen much of his father either. His office held the stench of Rum fumes, which would have spread to the rest of the house but for the simple fact that Alan never left the room.
He’d never perceived his father as a weak man, but concluded that tragedy brought out the extreme in everyone, and Alan taking over the household was certainly a tragedy.
There was no reply. Daniel could barely see him from the doorway, but pictured him slumped in his oversized office-chair, staring moodily into his reflection in the mahogany floors, crowded in by overdue notices, payment demands, and officially branded letters.
‘We’re going out, this is depressing.’
With that he pulled the door shut and walked heavily down the stairs to where his friend was waiting.
‘Where to?’ The driver donned his cap and grinned at Daniel broadly. Their driver was probably the only thing the Radcliffes’ had kept when his movie-life had eventually faded to nothing. Even the classy limo, which had held many a memory for them, had been traded in for a smaller, unmarked luxury car.
Rupert looked across at Daniel and then back to the front seat declaring, ‘The studio’ and settling back down, ignoring his friend’s inquiring look.
‘Why on earth..?’
‘Look mate I’m leaving tomorrow, I just wanna see how it’s going, alright?’
This evoked no response from Daniel, which didn’t surprise him in the least. The last few days had been slow going.
The enormous aerodrome of Leavesden Studios came into view, arousing some enthusiasm from Daniel, who perched up in his seat, staring nostalgically out the window.
It was eerily deserted. The once over-scheduled notice board that hung at the main entrance was bare and weather-beaten. The parking lot was empty and the racing traffic that passed by was audible for the first time; with the absence of cast, crew, technicians and artist milling around.
‘It was less depressing at home.’
Rupert barely heard him. ‘She’s back to how we found her.’
Dan nodded, recalling the miserable state the studio had been in when they began filming The Philosopher’s Stone. He slunk miserably back to the car, wishing he’d been able to keep the memory of laughing Gryffindors, child extras chasing each other with wands, the smell of the make-up room, but mostly just the cheery atmosphere that he appreciated when he wasn’t required for gruelling interviews and premiers.
After leaving, Rupert noticed that they were taking the hospital exit. He stared at Daniel questioningly.
‘You know what Rupe? The first thing I thought when we stepped outta the car, and saw what the best years of my life had turned to; a rotting deserted building, I said to myself “at least I’ve got my family,” And then I realised I barely have that any more.’
Chris, the driver watched from the rear view mirror. ‘Ah you got some high time ahead of you, you kids. You know that?’
Dan eyed the back of his head bitterly. ‘I wish you were right.’
Chris shook his head, putting his eyes back to the road. ‘When you’re almost fifty and you know you’re driving around something you’re not, you get to learn these things. You know when you’ve hit rock bottom, and it takes a few years to figure it out. You my boy- you’ve only been forgotten for the moment.’
Daniel nodded in a sort of pleasant, contemplative way and rested back against the window.
Glancing into the children’s ward as he did every visit, Dan was surprised to find it deserted.
‘I’ll catch up in a sec Rupe, just checking something out.’
Rupert rolled his eyes and continued walking as Daniel veered off through the doors, stopping at the reception desk.
‘Hi there, um, where is everyone today?’
The young nurse barely looked up from her magazine. ‘Visitor’s lunch today.’
As he turned to leaves he realised the burn’s unit door was pinned back for the first time, and he could hear some familiar music pumping down the corridor.
Following it through to Jhokai’s room, he found her spread-eagled on a beanbag in jeans and a Beatles anniversary t-shirt, absorbed in a book.
She didn’t look up as he pressed stop on the stereo.
‘What are you reading?’
She flipped the book over, glancing at the cover as if she was unaware until he’d asked.
‘After the Umbilical.’
He watched her, amused. ‘Never would have picked that myself.’
The cover muffled her bland response. ‘It’s a hospital, not a library.’
He sat in the plastic cushioned chair by her bed. ‘Why so miserable?’
‘It’s visitors’ day. Y’know, Everyone meets downstairs, eats fancy sandwiches and pretends to be happy.’
‘So why are you up here?’
She rested her book down by her side. ‘I figured you had to have a visitor to be included.’ Her tone was barely melancholy.
She picked up a comb and dragged it roughly through her lengthy hair.
Daniel glanced around. There seemed to be more new things covering the wall than last time. He looked to her bedside table and saw a broken thread of beads mangled there, as if for him to find. It seemed a good explanation for her haughty mood.
‘Sorry about that.’ He gestured to his broken gift.
She nodded, expressionless. ‘Sorry about your mum.’
He was going to ask how she knew, but realised it was pointless.
‘Where are your parents?’
She sighed dramatically and looked upwards. ‘They died in a massive car crash and I was terribly burned. Or something like that.’
He furrowed his brow. ‘Was that supposed to be convincing?’
She stood up, slowly approaching him. ‘I live in a hospital. I thought that was the kind of tragedy people wanted to hear.’
He eyed her, unsure of how to take it in. ‘Then why are you dressed if no one’s coming?’
‘Oh this?’ She brushed down her shirt, ‘I didn’t want to look pathetic as well.’
He smiled, standing up and offering her his arm. ‘May I be your visitor?’
She gave a rare grin, taking his arm as he led her down to the cafeteria and he swore he almost saw a momentary flush pass over her face.