“Holy moly! … DID YOU SEE THAT?!” I crane my neck back to the boy. That little tit presses his nose against the window! I hate it when he does that… Never listening! He throws me an asking look. “Did you see that? Did you? Did YOU?!” I shake my head. Of course not. I’m not the idiot looking out of a fucking window during air raid. “Look! LOOK! …That light coming down the sky…”
“Move brat! Close those damn curtains! ASAP!”
“Leave him alone. He’s just a kid.” Charles’ soft voice rumbles from the door, in his hands an unlit candle and a glass of milk.
“- Soon a dead kid. Pulling us with him…” I raise one eyebrow to Charles. I don’t care what disappointed shades crawl across his face. It’s not mine to take care of him. I only care ‘bout staying alive. That’s the only thing that matters. As if it wasn’t hard enough feeding us two – Charles and me. No… He had to pick up that filthy starving boy. He’s too kind, maybe too kind to survive. I keep telling him, he’s gonna be my doom, if he keeps saving the lost and hopeless. He just nudges me gently and laughs his deep throaty laugh. As if it was a joke. I tag along, but… He says, that he’s returning the favor. I don’t get him, but maybe that’s why we stick together…
“Lighten up, buddy. He’s just a grumpy old man.” Charles explains mildly to the boy. “I brought milk. Better get some, before going to bed.” With a nod and a smile the boy goes, silently closing the door behind him. “Don’t let it out on him. Wasn’t his fault. You know that, don’t you?” His smile flashes in the darkness. Heat boils up my face. I don’t know how, but he manages to grind my gear. With that honeyvoice. “Are you blushing? Seriously? How’s you leg?”
“Still attached to me.”
“Are you in pain?” As a question mark Charles’ hands touch my toe resting on a cushion on the coffee table.
“Mmgh. No. Shit.” Teeth on teeth, biting on the ache. Fingers digging into the leather of the couch. God!
“Exhale. …Sorry, I have to check. I got some painkillers. It’s not much, but it’ll do for a while. The milk is for you. I’ll try to get some penicillin tomorrow.” With one hand he offers me the white liquid. Don’t want it.
“Give it to the brat.” No more air in my lungs.
“Come now. Be a good boy and behave. You need it. Your leg needs to heal. I even got meat for you. What do you say? I’ll make you a soup tomorrow.” He smiles his bright optimistic smile. I can’t look at that face, not like this… “Where is your belt? You’ll need it. Sure that you won’t be better of in the bed?”
“Go on. I’ll manage…”
He shrugs and begins to peel off my bloodied bandages. The pain immediately claws up my leg , right into the base of my spine. Squeezing my eyes shut, I bite my lip. Breathe in. Breathe out. Charles works through the layers very carefully, then seeing my wound, he hisses.
“You know, since the dog ran away, there is no one to protect your garden. I have to stand guard, so the vegetables won’t disappear. You need to get better soon. I need your help to keep everything running. It’s not the same… I need you… Promise me one thing.”
“Just… Don’t die on me. Promise!”
“Shit… That ba-” The world burst into light, noise and motion. The curtains fly apart, million shards of glass fill the room like a blizzard.
The moment roars into my brain. Jerks my skull and bone marrow with the heat of a sun storm, to the dreadful bang of a mountain turning upside down. Blinding white burns through eyelids, tears me into shreds. I throw my hands up to protect them. They sting. They itch.
The room cracks, or is it my bones? Breathing.
It’s hard. I try harder. Someone hits me – maybe a horse… Kicks me in the chest?
The sea of noise throws itself against me, trying to blow me up.
The brightness fades into thick grayness.
It tastes… Like…
Smoke and cotton.
Everything’s – moving… Shaking… Occupying different places all at once. Stop. Everything decide… Decide already where you are!
I think I’m all over the place too. At least my head is… Charles? “Charles?” The words fall out of my mouth. Plunge down and plop…on the floor. “Charles?” Where is he? There was something… An explosion. Air raid! A hit! A direct one? No. I’d be dead. Something shifts. CHARLIE!
“…Charlie?!” An arm length from me, he lies cramped up between me, the overturned couch and wood from the parquet, furniture or doorframe. He’s so -pale. Too pale. I’d swallow, but can’t. No, please this mustn’t be. Please… There has to be a pulse! Please- God, please. “Charlie! Wake up!” Why is it so hard to move? I’m trapped. Something big’s on my legs. “Open your eyes. Wake up!” Nothing on the wrist. No! No no no… His neck, there must be a pulse. “If you’re dead I’m going to kill you!” The soft skin under his jawline is inches away. Stretch more. “Be alive… Please?”