I had been excited and overwhelmed by the gift Jasper and Noir had given me at first. So much so that I didn’t even realized that a cell phone didn’t have many purposes for a mute girl. The device went largely untouched besides the rare occasion I used it to browse the web when the only desktop in our home was occupied. Despite this fact, I still made sure the black and silver gadget was plugged in every night and I had an odd habit of checking it every few hours.
My nose was buried deep in a novel when it went off for the first time. The tacky techno beat that blared from its tiny speakers was so unexpected that I jumped, sending my rocking chair swaying in the wake of my movement. By the time I had managed to calm down and tug the phone out of my back pocket the ringtone had already stopped but the missed call was still splayed on the screen.
Those four words caused my stomach to whirl, anxiety surging through my fingertips. I had no idea what he wanted but worry began to seep in when I realized he could be in trouble. Instinctually, I hit the green dial button that would call him back, hoping that he wouldn’t be hurt or in danger. It rang three times before he picked up.
The response to his greeting was a dial tone because I hung up as quickly as I had dialed. I sat there, feeling rather stupid for calling him when I already knew we couldn’t hold a conversation through such methods. Still, hearing his voice settled the worry since I knew he was alive and well. Or, at least well enough to answer his phone and sound normal. My phone began buzzing, the air filling with the obnoxious techno beats again, as the screen lit up with Noir’s name. I sent it to my voice mail this time and quickly deposited the device back into my pocket, hoping that would be the end of it.
I wasn’t able to read half a page before my butt was vibrating. I pursed my lips, toying with the idea of ignoring it, but eventually my curiosity got the best of me. This time instead of a missed call, there was a text waiting for me.
‘Hey! What’s up?’
I replied honestly, figuring my boring response would cause him to cease his efforts. It didn’t. If anything it encouraged them, since his next text rambled on about how he and everyone else was doing. I didn’t bother responding and he seemed to get the hint.
At least, until the next day.
‘How are you this evening?’
‘What’s your favorite color?’
‘What are you up to?’
It had to have been almost a full month of him texting me daily – me giving minimum replies if any at all – when I finally didn’t receive a message all day. I went about my regular habits, reading fantasy novels and watching movies, the whole time silently waiting for the vibration that had become routine.
‘Panda, can you text me real quick?’
My sister raised an eyebrow at my inquiry, “I’m right beside you. Why would I text you?”
I shrugged, slightly embarrassed, but I wanted to make sure my phone was still working. Panda shifted on the couch, squirming until her phone was firmly in her hand. Even as she typed her attention never strayed from the television – we were in the middle of watching ‘Bow Idol and my sister thought the current contestant was a hunk. Without a word she snapped her cell shut, leaning in closer to the television as the judges began their assessment. It took a few seconds but sure enough my own silver phone was vibrating in my lap, Pandora’s name bold and proud on the screen.
The anticipation and anxiety that had been swelling up in my bones since the morning doubled, heightened by the worry that took hold of my heartstrings, ‘Have you spoken to Noir today?’
Pandora only spared a passing glance at my notepad, “No, why?”
The corner of my lips tugged downwards, ‘Do you think he’s alright?’
“Noir? Psssh, that guy’s too stubborn to die. If you’re worried you should – WHAT! FUDGE THAT. HE HAS THE VOICE OF ANGEL! FUDGING BERRY SIMON, YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.” Pandora hollered, seizing her phone to vote for the man on the television, “We’ll show you.” She grumbled.
I couldn’t help but giggle at my sister’s display – which erupted into full blown hysterics when she snatched my phone to vote for him again, “As I was saying before Simon’s stupidity got in my way – you should text Noir yourself if you’re worried. Now take your phone, I have to get mom and dad to vote for my future husband.” She stated blandly, tossing my phone at my head as she stomped off – clearly on a mission.
It took me a minute to regain my composure but my aching sides were a welcomed distraction from the last few hours that had been wasted checking my phone every few minutes. I chewed on my bottom lip, mulling over my sister’s advice, before I decided she was right.
What harm could come from texting him first?
Turns out waiting for a reply was even more dreadful than just waiting for a text. I was almost constantly checking my phone and I couldn’t help but wonder if he had read it yet or not. Was he ignoring me? Was his phone dead? Was he dead? My text had been simple, just a friendly ‘Hi. How are you today?’ and I suddenly felt completely terrible for all the times I had never texted Noir back. Is this how he felt every single time he texted me something mundane only to never receive a response?
I fell into an uneasy sleep that night, plagued by thoughts of Noir and what might have become of him.
‘I’m alright but…. I have a favor to ask of you.’
I stared at the glowing letters in front of me – a mixture of delight, relief and annoyance spilling into my soul. It was early in the morning – six a.m. to be exact – and sleep was still crusted in my eyes. I had put my cell on loud before going to bed and had been woken up by the techno song that had become part of my everyday life – though I still found it irritating.
‘I’m glad you are okay. What’s the favor?’
I had just pulled myself out of bed and began brushing my teeth when his reply came in, ‘I need you to visit someone with me. A member of the Uprising. He was shot last night.’ I instantly felt dizzy, waves of fear washing over my body. I gripped the sink for balance, eyes clenched shut. A few deep breaths cleared my vision and I put away my phone without replying.
I continued on with my morning – brushing my hair and changing my clothing – until a second text from Noir came, ‘Please, Estelle. He’s just a teenager and he keeps asking for you. Please.’
I could feel my resolve crack – guilt and sympathy gripping me tightly as images of Mithos’ bloodied body flooded my mind, ‘Okay. Just this once, though.’
‘Great. I’ll pick you up in an hour.’
It only seemed like ten minutes had passed when Noir’s knocking alerted me of his arrival – though I knew it had been longer. Pandora stopped rummaging through our dresser at the sound, pursing her lips at me as I pulled on a pair of shoes, “Hey, you don’t have to go.”
I nodded, aware of that fact but unable to get the image of our dead brother out of my head. I had left him to die all alone – I wasn’t going to leave another boy to the same fate. My conscious wouldn’t allow it. I took a few deep breaths, attempting to psych myself up, before I finally made my way outside.
“Estellise,” Noir looked frazzled, dark circles under his eyes, “thank you for coming with me.”
His gentle demeanor took me by surprise, as did the tired smile that tugged on his lips. There was a different look about him today – worn and exhausted. The flames of excitement that always lit up his lilac eyes were extinguished. He looked dull, almost lifeless, compared to the usual exhilaration that coursed through his being.
The drive was quiet. I found my eyes focusing on the dashboard while my ears picked up every screech of tires against the asphalt, until we pulled into a residential neighborhood and slowed to a stop in front of a regular two story house. The yard was well groomed – a flower garden innocently playing in the breeze – and the home well taken care off. A fresh coat of red paint must have been applied recently, because the outside of the building looked almost new. Still, my eyebrows rose in confusion, ‘Didn’t you say we were going to visit someone who was shot?’
A lungful of air gush out of chapped lips, “Yes, we are.”
‘Then why aren’t we at Choco Hospital?’
Noir banged his fist against the steering wheel, the violent reaction causing me to jump in my seat, “Apparently they refuse to treat us there.” His voice was a low hiss and I cringed at the anger that lingered in his tense figure. I was relieved that I was not the target or cause of his rage and simultaneously astounded by what I had just heard.
Why was he shot? What had happened? Why would the hospital refuse to treat this poor teenage boy? I didn’t write any of these thoughts, instead opting for four words, ‘How did they know?’
Noir’s forehead thumped softly against the hard plastic, eyes turned ever so slightly towards me, “He was wearing black when he was shot. He was with a small group of the Uprising protesting outside city hall when someone…” Noir trailed off but I had a good idea of what he was going to say. Someone had opened fire on them. I had figured out that most member’s donned black hoodies and T-shirts when participating in Uprising activities – it was almost like a uniform. That fact must not have gone unnoticed by the citizens of Sugar Valley. Still, I did not understand how anyone could turn away an injured teen – especially someone whose life was supposed to be dedicated to saving ‘Bows.
I laid a hand on Noir’s shoulder, small smile forced on, ‘Let’s go.’ Noir’s gaze lingered on me for a moment before he sighed and opened the driver-side door. I followed his lead, slightly confused when he started heading for the fence on the side of the house instead of the front door. He held the wooden gate open for me, letting it swing shut behind us, before leading us further back in the enclosed area. Leaves were scattered across the pavement but the only other object of interest I noticed was an old grill. Noir slowly made his way towards one of the red and orange piles that were strewn in a far corner, brushing them to the side with his hands. I was about to ask him what he was doing when I noticed a wooden latch sticking out from under the dirt, becoming more noticeable with every swipe of Noir’s callous palms.
“It’s dark down here, be careful.” Noir’s advised as he yanked the planks off wood up in one swift motion. He held it up with one hand, taking a few steps down and stood with his back flush against the cool stone wall. I scurried a little closer, peering down the dark staircase as a shiver of trepidation ran down my spine. Noir’s playful smile danced on his lips as he observed this, “Don’t worry, Estelle. Nothing bad is going to happen to you, trust me.”
I met his lilac eyes for a moment before averting my attention back into the descending darkness. I stepped down, swallowing the terror that was gnawing at me, until a loud crash sounded as Noir let the cellar door slam shut, encasing us in the darkness. Instinctively my hands flew to the rough grooves in the stones, pressing my body as close as physically possible to the cool surface. I faintly heard Noir curse under his breath before shouting, “Fudge sundae, Jasper! Turn on the other light!”
I quivered against the wall, listening to the jostling that echoed up the stairwell until the faint sizzling of electricity took its place. A single bare light bulb flickered on over our heads, held up by a rusty cord, and Noir began heading down the steps again. When he passed me, since I still wasn’t sure about moving, he gently removed my hand from the wall and linked his fingers in mine, “Come on.” He coaxed.
I obeyed, biting my bottom lip until my saliva had a slight metallic taste to it. As the cellar floor came into view I quickly realized that slightly moldy and rusty smell that lingered here wasn’t preferable to the bleach and stoic scent that real hospitals maintained. There were two gurneys, both of them rusted and worn. One seemed completely useless, since it was missing a wheel and shoved into a corner. Random medical supplies were strewn around – bloodied syringes, forceps and scalpels – along with random cooking supplies like butcher knives and spatulas. Another bare light bulb hung precariously over an operating table where a young purple ‘Bow I had never seen before laid, blood slowly oozing out of a wounded shoulder.
I stood there, half frozen in terror and half in disgust, as Jasper stopped in front of me, “Estelle…” He began, studying my every movement, “are you alright?”
I nodded numbly, tears pricking at my eyes, as he continued to speak, “I’m sorry you have to see… this… but thank you for coming.”
I shifted my weight, unable to look away from the splotch of red on the operating table as I wrote, ‘Is he alive?’
“Yes, he’s alive,” Jasper lowered his voice, stepping closer to me as he finished, “but I don’t know if he’ll make it. I’m no- I’m not a doctor.” Jasper choked out, running his hands through his hair in distress. I felt my stomach flop at his words. I stepped around Jasper silently, feet moving on their own accord until I was at the purple ‘Bow’s bedside. Dried blood cakes his lips and forehead, face still streaked with tears that he had shed hours ago. He groaned softly as I placed one of my hands against his cheek. He was burning up despite the freezing temperature in the room.
“P-princess?” His voice was scratchy and barely a whisper, eyes fluttering open.
I nodded, forcing a small smile back onto my lips, “You’re here. You’re really here.” I would have thought he was excited if his features were not contorted in pain.
I nodded again, pulling out my pad so I could respond more appropriately to him, ‘What’s your name?’
No confusion filled his eyes at the sight of my pen and paper and he responded without hesitation despite his condition, “Affair. Affair Fudge.”
I was in the middle of writing when Affair’s eyes rolled into the back of his head – whites staring back at me as his body began to convulse. The pen clattered against the dirty linoleum as I squeezed my eyes shut. Movement filled the spaces between us – the breeze from Jasper and Noir softly blowing my hair over my shoulder. Warm hands spun me around before enveloping me, pressing me gently against a hard chest, “Don’t look.” Noir mumbled into my ear.
When I had gathered enough courage to open my eyes again, Jasper was by Affair’s side – messing with the IV that ran from rusted metal to purple flesh. I watched him inject a clear liquid into the bag with one of the bloodied syringes that had been strewn on a wooden table. Affair’s spasms had stopped and his eyes were closed again. I would have asked if he had died but I noticed the shallow rise and fall of his chest. I knew, however, that Affair couldn’t survive in these conditions – not with this abysmal care. I pushed myself away from Noir’s chest and he let me go without a word, watching as I bent down to pick up my lost utensil.
‘I know someone who can help him.’
“Who?” Noir’s voice caused Jasper’s head to snap over to the pair of us – the sorrow that had buried itself into his eyes lifting slightly.
‘Her name is Ivy. She’s a doctor at Choco Hospital.’
I’d never seen Noir drive as reckless as he did that afternoon. His usual behavior behind the wheel was wild and thrilling but this, this was something else completely. He was driving as if his life depended on it – which, someone’s did, I guess. No one knew how much longer Affair would make it without proper medical care – he was still bleeding pretty heavily and that was just out of his shoulder wound. According to Jasper there had been another that hit the poor teen’s abdomen, which was the injury Jasper had spent the most time on trying to cauterize – both internally and externally.
Luckily, Ivy’s house wasn’t far from Jasper’s and with the help of a few ran stop signs; we were there in no time flat. I had already written out my message to Ivy so as soon as Noir pulled up into the driveway, I bolted out. My feet flew up across the pavement in a blur, hands balled up into tiny fists as I began pounding on the door. I heard movement in the small green house – jumbled voices that were probably arguing over who would have to open the door – before the door was finally cracked open. A green face peered through the crevice at me before the door flung open all the way.
“Estellise! What are you doing here!”
She was standing there, just like I remembered her. Long dark hair pulled into a ponytail, she was wearing a bright green pair of pajamas. I was about to thrust my notepad at her when my eyes fell on her waist. She used to be slim, just like my Mama, but right now Ivy’s stomach was swollen bigger than a beach ball. It dawned on me that she was pregnant, and I almost turned away without saying anything, until Noir honked the horn of his car and woke me from my daze. Ivy’s pale green eyes were already wide with disbelieve and I only added to her surprise when I showed her the message, ‘Someone’s been shot. The hospital refuses to help them. Please, please help me.’
Her demeanor changed the second what she read registered in her mind, eyes hardening as she stood up straighter, “Give me one second.” Her voice was calm but soothing, and I quickly realized she had transformed into her professional persona.
She disappeared inside her house and I heard her shouting at someone – who I presumed was Cameo – before she reappeared with a large bag in tow, “Take care of Tsurī!”
The name she yelled didn’t register with a face and I realized that Ivy hadn’t been around the house at all in the past few years. I had never questioned it, perhaps because I was as wrapped up in my own problems as everyone else had been, but I suddenly realized that she had kids of her own; kids that she was potentially putting in danger by helping me.
I tore the thought from my mind and jumped into the back of Noir’s purple death machine since Ivy had slid into the passenger seat. We ran all the same stop signs on the way back to Jasper’s as we had on the way over – in which Noir explained as best he could what had happened to Affair and what his current condition was.
When Noir told her about Affair’s convulsions, I saw Ivy frowned but said she would do everything that she could.
I just hoped it would be enough.
A/N: Affair is Fruhurricane’s creation. He will be put in the guest star’s page as soon as I make one. x]