By J.D. and M. Blais
The silence in the tent stretched, allowing the sounds outside the tent to filter in, even here life continued despite what either of them might want. It was Claire who finally broke the self imposed solitude.
"I do need to go see her today," Claire said, quietly.
Instead of answering, she instead asked, "Are you.....going to go, too?"
"Do you want me to?
She was silent a moment, then said, "Angelique would like to see you."
"That's not what I asked you." Luka turned slightly to his side and raised up on his arm so that he could more comfortably watch her.
"Yes," she finally said.
"Then I'll go." He kept his eyes on her back as he spoke.
She relaxed slightly, although her shoulders remained hunched, as if her arms were kept close to her chest. "I need to get stitches," she said, very low.
That forced him to sit, and he pulled the oxygen off as he did. "Where?"
Claire heard him move, and half-turned back, enough so he could see her eyes, and the feeling within them. "Don't take off the oxygen."
He didn't move except to drop his feet to the floor. It was always an effective threat. "Where?"
She returned back to her former position. "On my thigh."
"You showed her?"
That seemed to alleviate some of the worry and he leaned forward to cough. Without the oxygen there were a few moments of heavily drawn breaths before he grew quiet again. "Should go now then..." His words came rougher.
She turned over, looking at him. "I wish you wouldn't take the oxygen off.." She swallowed. "Hearing your cough...it goes right through me."
"I have to take it off to go..." He leaned forward to retreive his shoes.
"Can we....take just a few minutes?"
"If you want..." He picked up one shoe and slid the foot of his good leg in it, then laced it before forcing himself to stand so he could put the other on.
"Those shoes fit you better?"
He left it untied as he used the bed and half hopped over to reach the oxygen to turn it off...the crutches still leaning at the foot of the cot. "Yeah, not so big."
"I'm glad," she said, softly.
He swallowed a cough at the effort and did the half hop back to where the crutches lay then grabbed them before he sat again.
"Wish I didn't have to get stitches....I hate needles," she tried to joke, weakly.
"It won't be so bad..."
"Maybe....it's all in the mind, though." She sniffed once, then asked, "You really think I am stronger?"
"It's harder to keep going. Too hard for me..." He finished the end more quietly.
"I can't let you give up," she said, as if trying to explain it. "I can't."
"Yeah...so you keep telling me..." His tone was a tad lighter...a joke from him?
"I'm afraid I'm going to fail."
Luka rubbed his fingers in the corner of his eye. "I can't make any promises...not yet...there are still times.." His voice cracked and he paused before beginning again. "There are still times when it hurts so bad...that I miss them so much." He waved a hand in dismissal. "But I'm trying. Everything I own consists of a photo of dead people and someone's old clothes...not much to build a life on."
"I know....I know you are trying," she said, low and unevenly. "I want to help...and I feel like I can't help anymore.."
"Why? Because they took something that wasn't theirs to take? That doesn't change what you're doing...it makes you different. Makes you see us differently maybe..." He wiped his hand over his face, "It's hard to explain."
"I..." She faltered, then said, thickly, "I've been trying to show you that there is still life worth living out there, and then this happens."
"I know...but it's not your fault."
"How can I help you, when I can't...can't even..." She stopped, turning over again with her back to him.
"Helping me is the last thing you should be worrying about now." Even as he spoke the words he wasn't sure how they might be interpreted by her.
To be continued...