“Oh, honey,” she cried, rushing to wrap her arms around me.
“How are they? How are…?”
Mom started sobbing harder, her body trembling. “Jamie…Jamie’s gone, Tristan. She was holding on for so long, but it was too much.”
I pulled away and pinched the bridge of my nose. “What do you mean gone? She’s not gone. She’s fine.” My eyes moved to Dad’s stare, who was shocked. Confused. Hurt. “Dad, tell her. Tell her that Jams is fine.”
He lowered his head.
My insides were set on fire.
“Charlie?” I asked, almost sure I didn’t want to know the answer.
“He’s in intensive care. He’s not doing great, but he’s—”
“Here. He’s here.” I ran my fingers through my hair. He was okay. “Can I see him?” I asked. She nodded. I hurried over to the nurses’ station and they took me to Charlie’s room. My hand wrapped around my mouth as I stared at my little boy, hooked up to more machines than I’d ever thought possible. A tube was down his throat, IVs ran through his arms, and his face was bruised and battered. “Jesus…” I muttered.
The nurse gave me a wary smile. “You can hold his hand.”
“Why the tube? W-w-why is there a tube down his throat?” I stuttered, my mind trying to stay with Charlie, but the truth of Jamie was slowly creeping in. Jamie’s gone, Mom said. She was gone. But how? How could she be gone?
“During the car accident, his left lung collapsed, and he’s been having a hard time taking in air and breathing. It’s to help him breathe.”
“He’s not breathing on his own?”
She shook her head.
“Will he be okay?” I asked, staring into the nurse’s eyes and seeing her guilt.
“I’m not his doctor. Only they can—”
"But you can tell me, can’t you? If you were me, and you’d just lost your wife—” The words forced emotion out of me and I choked it back down. “If that little boy was all you had, and you were all he had left, you would want to know how much hope there was, right? You would beg for someone to tell you what to do. How to act. What would you do?”
“Please,” I begged. “Please.”
Her eyes faltered to the ground before she met my stare. “I would hold his hand.”
I nodded once, knowing she had just told me more truth than I was ready to hear. I walked over to the chair besides Charlie’s bed and took his hand in mine. “Hey, buddy. It’s Dad. I’m here, okay? I know I haven’t been around as much as I should’ve been, but I’m here now, okay? Dad’s here and I need you to fight for me. Can you do that, buddy?” Tears rolled from my eyes onto his cheeks as my lips rested against his forehead. “Daddy needs you to work on your breathing. We gotta get you better because I need you. I know people say that the kid needs the parent, but that’s a lie.
“I need you to keep me going. I need you to keep me believing in the world. Buddy, I need you to wake up. I can’t lose you too, okay? I need you to come back to me…please, Charlie…come back to Dad.”
His chest rose high and when he tried to exhale, the machines started beeping rapidly. The doctors came rushing in, and they pulled my hand away from Charlie, who was shaking uncontrollably. They all began shouting at each other, saying words I didn’t understand, doing things I couldn’t comprehend.
“What’s happening?!” I shouted, but no one heard me. “What’s going on?! Charlie!” I yelled as two nurses tried to pull me out of the room. “What are they doing? What’s…Charlie!” I said, louder and louder as they pushedme from the room. “CHARLIE!”
Late Friday night, I sat at my dining room table and dialed a number that had previously been so familiar to me but hadn’t been used as much in recent days. As it rang, I held the phone to my ear. “Hello?” the voice said, smooth and soft. “Tristan, is that you?” The alertness in her sounds made my stomach twist. “Son, please say something…” she whispered.
I pounded my fist against my mouth, but I didn’t reply.
I hung up the phone. I always hung up. I sat alone in the darkness for the rest of the night, allowing it to swallow me whole.
Saturday morning, I was certain I was seconds away from waking up the whole neighborhood as I tried to start the lawnmower, which kept backfiring every few seconds. Steven had always made it look so easy when he handled the lawn work, but I wasn’t having the same luck.
“Come on.” I yanked the chain to start the engine one more time, and after a few sputters, it went ahead and died. “Jesus Christ!” I kept trying over and over again, my cheeks blushing over when a few neighbors from across the street started staring at me from their homes.
When a hand landed against mine as I was about to yank the chain yet again, I jumped in freight.
“Stop,” Tristan scolded me, his brows narrowed and his eyes filled with irritation. “What the hell are you doing?”
I frowned, staring at his tight lips. “Mowing my lawn.”
“You’re not mowing your lawn.”
“Yes I am.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Then what am I doing?” I asked.
“Waking up the whole fucking world,” he grumbled.
“I’m sure people were already awake in England.”
“Just stop talking.” Hmm. It seemed he wasn’t a morning, afternoon, or night kind of person, so he had that going for him. He pushed the lawnmower away from me.