Traitorous Veins by Lizzie Kearney

My fingers clutch the white sheets dangling off the cot, but despite my best effort I don’t have enough strength to hold and they slip away. Fire ignites my nerves as pain spirals it’s way up my beaten body. I shudder trying to rid myself of the agony, but it stokes the inferno. The rustling awakes a figure slumped over in the distressed chair situated in the corner.  His emerald eyes pierce my own and I’m taken back at how gaunt he seems.  Dark circles sag under his brow and his pink lips are chewed and worn, set in a grim line. Stubble coats his lower jaw and his pale shorn hair is sticking up every which way as if he’s torn his hand through it a thousand times.

            “Sean,” I croak, my voice wary from days of misuse. He blinks at me. “What are you doing here?” Sean shifts, clearing his throat. He appears uncomfortable.

            “Uhh…how, how are you?” I raise my brow at him and glance down my body before my eyes flit back to his face. A blush creeps up his neck, flooding his cheeks with color.

 “Right, right dumb question…” An awkward silence pursues his voice. I sigh, amazed at the change in the atmosphere. In my mind, a picture emerges, a camera angle peering at us from the outside:  a boy accompanies a girl wrapped in gauze and decorated in a rainbow of bruising and blood, the two sit separated, one not quite sure what to say to the other.

Only the constant beep on the monitors breaks through the noiseless barrier. The insanity of the stillness spikes my core, as if needles were piercing my skin. I have to ask him or the suspense will render me incapable of thought. The words burst from the tip of my tongue before I can resist.

            “Did you tell her?” Sean immediately snaps his eyes close and utters a grunt. His nose scrunches in tight concentration and he presses fisted fingers to his lips. He’s in despair and I pity the mess I made of him. I fiddle with the material my body lies limp in. “I’m taking that as a no…” I trail off.

            “Charlie, I tried. I…” He inhales a shaky breath. “We can’t do that to her. After all she’s already lost?” He begs for me to understand and I do. I get it, in the logical part of my brain and I’m scolding myself for screwing this whole thing up. But there is this doubtful little voice that nags, demanding attention. It demands that I stand up for this, for us, for something that might be salvable. It’s cutting me right down the middle.

I open my mouth to explain to Sean that I can’t forget that night, those words given to him by Jack Daniel, the ones he swore he’d stowed away for the sake of us all. He stares warily at me from the hospital chair, watching my thoughts flash across my face and shaking his head in a silent plea to not give him what we both want to hear.

The moment is shattered by the sudden pop of my door and Rachel, who swoops down to wrap what she can of me into her arms. Tears swim in her eyes and she holds back choking sobs. I try a smile on for size and pray it’s enough to disguise the turmoil broiling inside my body.

Voices whisper while she’s my sister in every way except one I can’t let her have this, that I’m in this position because I made a hasty exit to escape her wrath, that while it’s her husband sitting in the chair, Sean’s my everything. I don’t let her see the anguish they cause me, the secrets we’re keeping from her. I don’t let her see that I’m in love with him.

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