Eventually of course I realised what I was doing and looked up in abject horror. Mr & Mrs Harmon were looking at me but not with censure. Their eyes were sympathetic, in fact misty with emotion.
"I... I'm sorry," I mumbled, feeling acutely embarrassed, and before they had a chance to say anything I pressed on. "What have they said?"
"Only what I told you. The doctor examined him this morning and said he's doing remarkably well and they want to see what's going on mentally now he's stable physically."
"So he's going to be okay?"
"Physically he's fine. The doctor said he could probably come home in a few days and in a week he'll be back to normal. It's just..."
"You don't know what 'normal' is going to be," I finished for her and she shook her head, looking at Marc anxiously. "What have they said about that?"
"They just don't know. Until he wakes up there is no way of knowing how much capacity he's gained, if any at all."
"So he might be exactly the same as he was before and this was all for nothing?" They exchanged glances and Mrs Harmon shook her head.
"What do you mean 'worse'?"
"It's possible he may have even less capacity than before, although that's unlikely, or... or there may be changes, personality changes."
"What does that mean?"
"It means I don't know Jamie, I just don't know."
I stared at her for a moment and then looked at Marc. He was... the same. On the outside he was the same. I turned away. I couldn't look at him any more. I was afraid that he would open his eyes and I wouldn't know the person behind them.
I wandered over to the window and stared out. Everything had gone silent and all I could hear was breathing.
We were on the sixteenth floor and I felt as if I was floating above the city. There was a fabulous view across the city, all the way to the sea. There was a hover, floating above the waves, heading out of the bay. It was probably going to The Island.
Marc has always loved The Island. We still go every year. It's changed a lot since we first met on the balcony of the little wooden hut. The cabins are gone, replaced by ultra modern hotels and resorts.
The arcade is gone too, replaced by rows of virtual reality pods. Marc never got the hang of those. He didn't like doing anything completely alone. I didn't like them either. To me they represented a trend towards seclusion that I neither understood nor embraced.
But still -- there were beaches where we swam or scrambled through rock pools. And there was the bluff where it seemed as if we were flying over the water. At sunset a track appeared stretching out towards the horizon so that it seemed almost as if it was possible to stand on it and walk on the water into the dying sun. I swear that if I hadn't been with him there were times when Marc would have tried. He was always a sunrise and sunset person. I wondered if he still would be.
I was more scared than I had ever been and I wondered if Mr and Mrs Harmon were sitting there in the silence regretting their choices, thinking 'what the hell have we done?'
I stood at the window for a long time, until the sun went down and the lights came on in the city. At night it's easer to see the patterns of streets and squares, all laid out below like a cheap reflection of the stars.
I raised my eyes to the stars, which were just coming out. I have always loved the stars. When I was a child I used to really believe that one day I would travel to the furthest ones and touch them. I didn't realise at the time that to even try would have meant instant death. As I grew older my passion remained but my dreams changed.
I no longer dreamed of sailing among the stars because I knew there would be no possibility of Marc being there at my side. Instead I learned how to help send other people up there in the hope that one day a ship I helped build would take a part of me further than anyone had ever gone before. Maybe it wasn't a very realistic dream, the chances of me ever finding employment with one of the four major producers being slim at best, nevertheless it was a dream.
I was lost in the dream when I became aware of a soft voice calling my name. It took a few moments to orient on Mrs Harmon. She was smiling uncertainly and holding her hand out. Hesitantly I walked back across the floor. Marc was stirring and as I watched he yawned and tried to turn over onto his side. He has always preferred to sleep curled up on his side like a cat.
Mrs Harmon, afraid that he would dislodge one of the tubes stopped him and he opened his eyes wide with a look of surprise on his face. Mrs Harmon smiled uncertainly but his eyes slid past her, searching.
"Jamie," he whispered and I saw Mrs Harmon flinch. For the first time I felt guilty.
"I'm here, Marc."
It was beautiful to see the way his eyes lit up when he turned and saw me. He smiled his beautiful smile and everything was okay.
"My Jamie," he whispered, still smiling and I smiled back with tears in my eyes. At that moment I had no idea why I was crying. Maybe it was just knowing that he was okay, that he was still smiling, still calling me 'his' Jamie. I don't know... maybe it was more. Maybe it was because even then I knew that the Marc I knew had gone forever.
"Hey sleepy. How are you feeling?" I spoke to him in the same way I have always spoken to him, the same way I speak to everyone. He continued to smile but started to look a little confused.
"I..." His eyes left mine and slid over the room behind me. Then they widened and filled with fear. "Jamie what... where...?" he whispered half sitting up.
"Ssh. Marc it's alright. It's alright. You're in hospital. You had an operation. You're fine now but you have to be calm okay?"
"No. No, Jamie. No. Jamie it's all... it's all... wrong."
He was struggling in my arms, trying to push me out of the way but I held him firmly by the shoulders, pressing him back onto the bed. He twisted his head from side to side and started to cry.
"Jamie... Jamie please help me. I... I can't... I can't... Jamie I'm scared. I don't know, Jamie... I don't know." He was begging and I didn't really know what he was begging for. All I could assume was that he remembered how scared he had been before and didn't know what was happening now. Although I did acknowledge the possibility that it was more, much more.
"Ssh, Marc. Listen to me. Marc listen to me." I forced my voice to be firm and he responded. I let go of his shoulders and put my hands on either side of his face, forcing him to look into my eyes.
"It's just us, Marc. I know it's scary. I know you're afraid. You didn't understand what was happening to you and you still don't but it's alright. I'm here and I'm going to stay right here with you. I know that things are... strange but we are going to make it through... you and me... just like always. Just you and me Marc, okay?"
His eyes were enormous, huge pools of blue, full of fear and confusion. I could feel him trembling. His hands had come up to grip my arms and every part of him was shaking.
"Marc, it's alright. Just you and me. Nothing else. No one else. One step at a time. One step, Marc. Just calm down and focus on me. Just me okay?"
Slowly he nodded and whispered. "You and me."
"That's right. It's always been you and me hasn't it? Right from the very beginning. Always. Just you and me. We've had quite a journey and this is just another stop. Don't you remember how we talked about the journey; how we talked about travelling together? Always together, remember?"
Marc tore his eyes away and looked around again.
"Stay with me, Marc. Don't worry about anything that's out there. Just you and me."
As I spoke I could feel him relaxing. It was painfully slow but gradually the shaking eased and he just wept quietly and let me take him in my arms, resting his head against my shoulder.
Unfortunately at that point the doctor came in and came straight to the bed with his strident and cheerful voice, scaring the crap out of Marc who instantly started to freak out again.
"Look, just leave him alone for a while. We were doing fine. He was calming down. Just go away for a bit."
"I need to examine him," the doctor said more quietly. "Physically he's going to be fine so we have to concentrate on his mind now. It's important that we find out what's going on in there as soon as possible. We have to get to grips with the changes and help him deal with them right from the start or it might do irreparable psychological damage."
"The only thing that is causing him psychological damage right now is you. He was fine. He will be fine if you just leave us alone." My voice was rising and I had to struggle to keep my anger under control. Marc was clinging to me and the last thing I wanted was to scare him even more. I just wanted to calm the situation down so that I could talk to him, reassure him. I couldn't have cared less how much 'function' he had or what the future was going to hold; all I cared about was that Marc was scared and hurting right then and there and I wanted to stop it.
"Marc," the doctor said gently, sitting down on the edge of the bed, "I just want to talk to you. I'm not going to hurt you, just talk. Will you talk to me?"
"Jamie..." he whispered and I looked down into his tear streaked face which was white as a sheet and terrified. "I don't want to. I can't. Please Jamie... help me... please."
"It's alright, Marc. I told you... just you and me okay. It doesn't matter about anyone else. It's just you and me."
He threw his arms around me and pulled me close to him. Mrs Harmon would have stepped forward again, still concerned he might displace the equipment but the doctor stopped her.
"That really isn't important right now. I think that... Jamie?... is right. The most important thing is that Marc settles down and relaxes. He needs to talk to someone that he trusts and it seems that right now the only person he trusts is Jamie." He stood up. "I'll come and talk to you again in a little while, okay? I'll let you talk to Jamie first."
Marc didn't look at him. He buried his face in my shoulder but my arms around him seemed to be working as he had stopped shaking again and he was relaxing.
The doctor turned to Mr & Mrs Harmon. "If I could have a word outside for moment."
"Is everything alright?" Mrs Harmon asked, panic in her voice. It must have been really hard for her to see her child in such distress and then to be asked to walk away. I think she understood that the doctor didn't want to talk to her as much as he wanted to make space for me to talk to Marc.
When we were alone I gently disengaged Marc's arms to allow me to get up onto the bed with him and he curled into my side. For a while I just held him and let him calm down. I simply stroked his hair in silence.
After a time I thought he had fallen asleep and I was happy enough with that. I needed time to think. But I wasn't going to get it.
"I'm sorry," he whispered.
"Sorry? What for?"
"I'm scared. I'm really scared. I didn't mean..."
"Hey," I said hugging him closer. "It's okay. It's not your fault. None of this is your fault."
"Why have they done this to me?"
I froze, my heart thudding. That didn't sound like Marc. It was one of the most complete sentences I had ever heard him speak and there was something in his voice that was...
"Done what?" I asked carefully.
There was a long pause before he answered, equally carefully. "It's... different, Jamie. The same but... different."
"I... I don't know." He sounded exhausted and completely miserable.
"It's alright, Marc. You don't have to think about that, not now. You need to rest. Look... make yourself a little bit more comfortable and you can have a sleep. Things will be better when you wake up."
"No," he said simply and sadly. I didn't know what he was saying 'no' to and I didn't want to ask. My mind cast around desperately trying to find something helpful to say.
"Do you remember?"
Shit! That was unexpected. He'd answered almost like a... as if... "Before. I mean before the surgery, what you were like?" Fuck, that was stupid. How could I possibly expect him to understand that? "I'm sorry I'm not making sense. I'm really sorry, Marc. I'm not helping very much am I?"
Marc tilted his head back to look up at me. He seemed thoughtful. "I don't understand what happened to me."
He didn't understand? Neither did I. "Do you... feel different?"
He smiled and gave a little ironic laugh. "Yeah."
He closed his eyes and shook his head. "Jamie, I..."
As he became calm something changed. I couldn't have put my finger on it but there was something in him that... settled and... changed. There is no other way I can think of to explain it. I think maybe that the panic that had gripped him almost from the moment he opened his eyes was disappearing. Gradually he was letting himself accept that things were different.
Looking back it was typical of Marc. He had always been methodical and careful but very passionate. When his passion overburdened him he simply stopped, calmed down and let his innate optimism and inner balance settle him. And that is exactly what he was doing right there and then. He wasn't forcing it, trying to make sense of it, trying to understand it. He was simply waiting until he was calm, until he was able to get his balance back.
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly locking his eyes with mine. "I'm different Jamie. I remember how it was before, but I'm different."
"How are you different?"
He shook his head, confusion etching deep crevasses into his beautiful face. He shook his head again and then, slowly, incredibly, breathtakingly his eyes widened and his slow, blinding smile crawled over his face. The smile flickered from joy to uncertainty and was like but unlike the beautiful light that I was used to shining from him and that confused me.
"Are you alright?"
"Jamie," he said, a strange note in his voice. His eyes searched mine and they were so different they scared me. Marc's eyes have always been beautiful, so expressive and loving but there had always been an... emptiness there, which had somehow been filled.
I shifted so I could look into his face properly and he sat up. I was sitting with my back against the wall and he was half turned so that we were pretty much on a level.
"Shouldn't you lie down?" I asked but there was something in his face that made it come out uncertainly. He smiled but it was flickering as emotions flew through him.
"My Jamie," he said softly and that time that was definitely something new in his voice that made me very uncomfortable.
"Marc, I think that we should..."
He shook his head and his smile twitched into a grin as his eyes twinkled with mischief. That look was familiar enough.
"Marc, you're in hospital. You've had brain surgery. You really shouldn't..."
I used my firm voice but that time it had no effect on him at all. Before I could finish, he reached out his hand and touched my lips effectively stopping me. I was shocked and remember staring at him not knowing what to say, what to think, what to feel. If it had been anyone else I would have been feeling... excited.
Uncertainly Marc bit his lip and lowered his eyes then he smiled again, slowly looking up through his lashes. I was scared rigid. Was he flirting with me?
"My Jamie," he breathed.
I swallowed hard and licked my lips. That time the way he said it left no room for doubt at all. It was entirely unlike the way he had ever said it before.
"Everything's different, Jamie, everything. I'm not..." A look of uncertainty passed over his face and he licked his lips. "It hurts... in a way. There's too much... just too much, but..." Raising his eyes to meet mine again he captured me in their glittering depths and I jumped, startled when something touched my face. I was even more shocked when I found it was his hand. I was frozen as his long, cool fingers traced my jaw and slid into my hair.
"Marc... stop. This is... this..."
"It's different, Jamie, my Jamie." His eyes were smouldering and it was me who started to shake. "There's no more 'can't', no more 'shouldn't', no more 'mustn't'. Can't you feel it? I always felt it but I didn't understand it. Didn't you feel it too?"
Oh fuck. Oh fuck. Oh fuck. I felt sick. I wanted to scream; to run; to laugh; to cry.
"Marc... you can't; we can't. This isn't the time or the place. Fuck... half an hour ago you were in a coma, four days ago you were... you were... and ten minutes ago you were freaking out."
"All true. But I have you, My Jamie. I'm not scared any more. I don't understand what happened to me. I don't know what changed. I can remember what it was like before, what I was like before. It's not clear, as if a curtain's been drawn over it... or maybe it's that the curtain has been torn away, but there are some things I remember. I remember you. I know how I felt and I know how I feel and I don't have to..." He sat up straighter, wincing slightly. The screen behind me was flashing and making strange noises, presumably because I was pressing myself against it, half hoping I would sink through or that someone would come. I felt... wrong but the whole bloody thing was surreal.
I have no idea why no one came. It can't have been normal for that screen to be making noises like that. There must have been alarms going off somewhere. Maybe someone did come but I didn't notice. I was completely mesmerised by Marc's eyes.
"I have always been told what to do and that's okay. I needed it. I know I needed it. I have always been confused. Everything was... I didn't understand. I didn't understand anything; well... almost."
He took a deep breath and moved a foot closer. I pressed myself even harder against the screen. "Who's scared now, Jamie?"
"What...?" It came out as a croak. I licked my lips and tried again. "Marc, I don't know what to say, what to do. I don't know you."
He frowned, looking crushed. "Don't you like me any more? Now that I can... understand you, don't you want me?"
"Marc... no. It's not... I love you. I've always loved you. I will always love you, it's just..."
Marc was grinning and I gasped as I realised what I had said.
"Marc no; it isn't right. It just isn't..." I didn't get any further because the screen had completely failed to suck me in and there was no escape when Marc pressed his body against me and kissed me.
At first I let my eyes fall closed, and my heart just about exploded in the sensations that washed over me. Then I resisted because I felt it was wrong. I couldn't really have said why, not then, not with Marc like this but... And then there was nothing I could have done anyway because it all overwhelmed me and carried me away.
Anyway... that was then and it's all different now. It's cold in here, really cold. I should have put the central heating on the clock. The weather is so changeable at this time of the year I shouldn't have left it to chance. At the moment I'm warm and cosy but I know that as soon as I throw off the duvet my breath will be misting the air. Bugger.
Ah well. I have a few minutes left. I like to set the alarm early so that I can savour these last minutes of comfort and warmth. Today, more than any other day, I want to cling to it, to hide under the covers and not come out. Oh fuck I wish this day was over.
The sound of someone hammering on the front door scares the living crap out of me. I throw off the duvet, completely disoriented and stub my toe on the chair, looking for my slippers. Abandoning them I hop down the stairs, shivering and cursing loudly. The hammering starts again.
"Alright, alright. For fuck's sake! Give me a chance. I've just got out of bed and I'm freezing my fucking balls off." I'm going to kill them. They weren't supposed to be here yet. I was supposed to have had at least another half an hour of peace and calm. "Alright. Fucking hell, will you just..."