Time passed with the tick of the bedside clock. Victoria had bought it to give him something to count to. She set it to ring every hour so he could follow time, but Bram paid it no attention. Days meant nothing. He couldn’t see daylight, and not even the UV lights made it through his bandages. The updates of court happenings were daily. Some days even Sam came to give the good news. His restraints had been removed, he was free to roam the room, but his facial structure was still in question.
Bram knew when his eyes were open, or at least he thought he did. He would practice late at night with the narcotic press button near him, clicking until the pain was manageable. They were then forced his eyelids open against the tightness of the bandages. He had requested they be removed, but the nurses still gave negative replies. His room was kept dark to aid in the healing of his eyes. The bones in his facial structure had been bolted and plated back into place. Doctors had explained one day, and they could be removed if he desired. Bram stared, or didn’t stare, into the backside of his bandages.
“Happy Birthday, sweet pea,” his mother calling him his grandmother’s old pet name was a comfort but had a string of sadness attached to it. Somewhere he had lost what it felt like to love someone so unconditionally. He felt a crinkle of paper in his palm, “I brought you’re a cupcake. Red velvet, you’re favourite. I even made it myself.” His birthday was bittersweet, seventeen today and his friends would be graduating in a few short months. He dared not ask about school.
Victoria was suddenly full of stories and would sit into the late hours of the night. She would recap about Bram’s childhood. Baby stories Bram couldn’t have remembered, toddle tales he thought she never noticed and puberty complaints he never thought she’d heard him say.
She left, and Sam visited. He smelt the floral of the roses she brought, “what colour are they?”
“How’s Justyce?” he dared to ask. His mother had told him Justyce was deemed mentally unstable. The suicide note she had scribbled was found in the small trash can.
“It’s so sad Abram,” he caved, “her note, it was simply;”
Am I not pretty enough to catch your eye?
Am I not pretty enough to touch my thigh?
“The note was cryptic, inciting Justyce had some lost lover,” Bram heard Sam shake her head, the ruffle of her jacket, “but she had no boyfriend. As if she had secretly loved someone and felt it was enough to die for.”
“How’s Dad?” the title still felt foreign on Bram’s tongue, but it was deserved. His father was the one who needed the extra compassion. Bram didn’t care his face was broken. It didn’t bother him. His eyes were blind behind bandages. Nothing brought him up or down now. Obscura left him numb. Sam’s voice sounded flat, and her suicidal daughter had taken its toll on the vibrant woman. “I mean, I know how you are, I know how Dad is, but how are you and Dad doing, you know, with your…” Bram had wanted to ask straight out relationship but felt it wouldn’t be his place to ask.
“We’re okay, Bram. It would be best if you cared for yourself right now. Your father and I are taking counselling with your mother. They have lots to work through, and the three of us want to work together for you. And Justyce.” Sam had patted his hand reassuring, kissed his cheek. He heard the clunk of the vase hit the table next to him, “they’re red for the love we all have for you.” Sam stated before leaving.
His fingers found their way to his face, and the bandages felt looser from the last dressing change. Did the nurse leave them open on purpose? The swelling had gone down substantially in his face. He could even force a smile through the stitches and cracked scabs from the numerous surgeries he’d endured to reconstruct the shattered sinus bone. The jagged lines of his put-together face should have sent fear into his mind, but it did nothing either. The tips of his fingers ran along the train tracks, creating an image in his mind of what he looked like. It wasn’t pretty. His head shaved once more, just as it had been when he was a child, and his mother couldn’t be bothered to care for him. Now his mother was by his long side hours each day, trying to make up for her downfalls? Possibly, but she didn’t seem to know. She spoke as if nothing had ever been a problem, and she never mentioned a monster any longer.
Running to the ends of the bumpy grills on his cheeks, he tightened his grip on the gauze and pulled his eyes free. Everything was black. But his eyelids were closed, his fingers exposed layers of gunk had piled on top. As if sleep had always lived in the corners of his eyes, it created a natural glue for his eyes to remain closed and healed. His brain said open, his eyes obeyed.
A sliver of light edged through, and he could see the clock on his table! Bram examined the flowers, and he saw no red through the dusk of his darkened room. His cold heart told him he needed the red. It drew him; it called him. His eyes opened more than just a slit, and he focused on the light switch by the door. He had moved around the room a few times, so his legs weren’t dumb, but they were tired and sorely underused.
His scalp stung as he rolled out of bed, briefly glanced at the fading bruises from the leather restraints which had been in place for too long. All charges had been disbanded. Bram was free to go. When he was healed and ready.
A new sense engulfed Bram, one he couldn’t attach an idea to. He wasn’t sure what it was, but it hung on every IV-line hook in the hospital room. It painted the walls with shadowy greys. It created a blanket of darkness in the room like Obscura but not. He needed something to be colourful, to break the mould of ashen in his world.
Bram’s room door was open a crack, and the light outside the door looked like heaven. All white, still no colour but heaven in light. The hallway was bustling with movement, but the voices rusted out. He sat for a few minutes, allowing his eyes to settle and focus so he wouldn’t fall. Seeing his own hands and feet, they looked alien to him. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed and hoped once he crossed this obstacle, he could call Malhi, and she would help him catch up on his school work. Maybe they couldn’t date, he understood. She needed to care for her father, but they could be friends.
Christopher had called one day, spoke on the phone to him but gave not much of an update. Only his new school was the same as the last, but it reassured Bram that Christopher didn’t hate him, which was something.
His feet looked swollen from inactivity, and the hospital floor seemed miles away as he shifted to step to the floor. The floor felt wonderfully cool to his naked feet. The linoleum hospital floor sensation renewed his spirit to make the trek across the room to the light switch. Bram shifted his weight to stand, and he stretched his arms instinctively. A groan of pleasure escaped his lips as he stood tall and strong. He began the short walk to the light switch.
With each step, he held his arms out to balance himself, vertigo hit him firmly, but after a glance to the off shaded grey roses, he persisted his painful dizzy steps to the light switch. Closer to bringing colour back to his world. Something his heart, mind and soul craved. To see the bright red of the roses, the baby blue of the hospital gown, the crisp yellow of the apple juice at his bedside.
He needed this, and he craved it more than water, more than oxygen. Only a few more steps and his fingertips would reach the circular knob of the light switch.
A small victory exclamation escaped Bram’s lips as his fingers landed on the light dimmer. There was no hesitation as he twisted the knob in one direction then the other. Nothing happened. A nurse stopped in the hallway as she noticed Bram on his feet.
“You’re eyes! Excellent, are you ready for this? It may hurt,” she explained as her hand hovered over the light switch. Her cropped grey hair promised to shine with the addition of light. Her face was young, Bram attempted a smile to reflect the kindness she held, but it felt fake. Even thinking about it made it feel strange. She didn’t wait for a response from Bram as he stood frozen, staring at her face. She pushed the door further open, “you have to click the button.”
Bram wobbled on his sore feet as she entered his space and blinked involuntarily as he expected the light to flood the room from the soft click as her fingers touched the button below the dimmer.
Still nothing, her hair remained an off grey shade and her eyes darker grey. Bram looked to the roses, which boasted now only a lighter ashy olive shade but still no red, “the lights not on.” He stated and turned back to the switch.
’The nurse’s smile faded, “yes, it is.” Bram’s face sunk at the lift of the nurse’s eyebrow. Her full lips, which he was sure should be peachy pearls, remained a dull grey. He lifted his hands to his face, and they appeared white as a ghost. No blue of his veins or purple of the bruises, only varying shades of ebony on white flesh.
“The light,” he allowed his hands to drop to his sides, his shoulders slumped. “It’s not on.” The last words came out as a whisper, and the words appeared as it once had when he was a child. When he was first introduced to Obscura, and the look on the speckled grey nurse faded into the background as the room melted, and Obscura snapped into focus and demanded his penance.
“Abram?” He heard her voice far away and saw the outline of her hand on his elbow, but he couldn’t feel her. His stance wavered, and his knees threatened to collapse.
“There’s no light.”
“I need help in here!” She yelled, and Bram stepped backward as the walls bent and breathed deeper darkness of Obscura into the room.
The dark matter spread up and over the grey of the roses. It ate his hospital bed away and invaded his world completely. Amalgamating the two so completely he couldn’t even blink away Obscura. He could hear a commotion in the hallway, and he heard frantic yells as Obscura pulled him harder into the abyss. Not the first time he went involuntarily, but he felt it would be the last time he stood freely.