Chapter 21
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“This is Me”

 

My eyes open when I hear loud footsteps rushing coming from the outside before the door burst open. I rub my brows as I feel a slight jolt of pain from the sudden banging and turn to the entrance.

“Luke. Evan. McKenzie!” Abby says my full name sternly before grabbing me and inspecting my body.

“Are you okay? Are you hurt? Did something happen to you?” She squeezes my cheeks making me pout and turns it left to right. Then she stares into my eyes with wide blaring eyes.

“Did you know how worried you made me?!” She releases her hold on me and put both hands on her waist.

“How did you know I’m here and aren’t you supposed to not be in town?” I squint at her while trying to think if I remember it incorrectly.

“Do-Hyun told me and I came back yesterday because Elaine said that you need me.”

“She… She did?” I ask hesitantly.

“Yeah. I haven’t been a good friend. I know. I haven’t been involved with your life so much but it doesn’t mean I don’t care, ok?!” Her tone is as dramatic as always as she laments her attitude towards me.

I chuckle quietly before saying, “Yeah, I know.”

She smiles after hearing that.

“Ugh… Shut up…”

Abby and I turn to the bed at the same time to see Ryan groaning and shifting around on the bed. He looks at us with a frown. He doesn’t resemble a patient but more of someone that is annoyed after being woken up by the noise.

“You’re awake,” I approach the bed while blinking away rapidly to stop myself from crying. I turn to Abby to tell her, “Can you get Eric here?”

Abby glances at Ryan before turning back to me and nods and then leaves the room.

Ryan reaches to touch my hand and gives me a weak smile. I return his smile but that makes me cry.

“Why are you crying like a baby?” His voice is hoarse from dehydration.

“I’m not a baby!” I pout and try to shake his hand away but he holds it firmly.

“But you’re my baby,” He teases.

“You’re delirious!” I can feel the heat rising up to my cheek.

“He’s awake.” I hear Abby on the outside and that makes me tug my hand away again. This time, Ryan releases his hold on me.

Eric walks in with his hand in his white coat pockets. He glances at both of us before smiling. It makes me feel like I got caught for doing something bad so I try to look anywhere but at Ryan.

“How are you?” Eric asks Ryan.

“What do you think?” Ryan raises a brow at Eric.

“I saved you. Can’t you at least be nice to me?” Eric replies to him calmly.

Ryan snickers, “Don’t lie. I won’t tell you who she is if you do.”

Hearing that, Eric’s soft smile disappears as he stares at Ryan with a serious expression, “You know her?”

Ryan laughs a little before replying positively to Eric. This makes Eric become flustered, “And you haven’t told me, why?”

“Just found out. Had to do some stuff and plus, it's not like I need a favour from you,” Ryan's lack of good conscience makes me want to help Eric and punch him for messing around. He’s lucky he’s a patient.

“I’m your physician. I should be keeping you alive.” Eric threatens Ryan lightly.

“Yeah, yeah. You won’t kill me until I tell you who she is anyway,” Ryan smirks at him.

A knock on the door interrupts their banter and everyone turns to look at the newcomer.

“Am I interrupting something?” Ian asks as all eyes are now on him.

“Why are you here?” Ryan doesn’t look like he appreciates Ian’s presence.

“Joey called and said you are here,”

“He should have minded his business then,” Ryan snorts.

“You shouldn't argue with him. He’s your family and of course, he’d be worried when he hears that you’re in the hospital,” Abby chimes in to back Ian up.

Ryan chuckles before saying, “I’m not the one having the cold war with him though.”

“Ryan,” Ian calls his name as a warning.

Ryan weakly lifts both his hands to surrender.

“Let’s talk outside, okay?” Ian turns to Abby and invites her out. Abby gives me a glance before leaving with Ian.

“You two never changed. Too egotistical to say to one another that you guys are worried about each other,” Eric states his assumption to Ryan to which the latter responds with an eye roll.

Eric ignores him and turns to me with a smile, “He’ll be fine with that attitude. You should go home. Your parents must be worried,”

I glance at Ryan who nods at me, “Yeah. I’m fine. Go home and rest. I’ll call you when I can.”

“Okay,” I respond quietly and walk out feeling at a loss. I wonder if he doesn’t want me around.

I leave the building and notices Abby and Ian talking far off on the side of the hospital. I choose not to interrupt since both of them appear to be in a serious discussion. 

Instead, I turn to the opposite side and see Do-Hyun standing next to Joey. I approach them slowly with the two of them aware of me. It makes me feel awkward to continue but I’m already halfway there so I don’t stop walking.

Joey snubs his cigarette using a portable ashtray he takes out from his pocket when I’m close enough to smell the smoke.

“Want to go home?” Do-Hyun asks while playing with the car key in his hand.

I nod after giving a quick glance at Joey who now has his hands inside his pocket while lazily leaning on the tree. 

My actions don't go unnoticed and Do-Hyun decides to introduce Joey to me, “This is Joey, he’s Ryan’s bodyguard in-name.”

“In-name?” Curiosity gets the better of me and I accidentally speak my thoughts aloud.

“It’s just so they can force me to keep an eye on that reckless guy. I’m mainly a trainer though. Nice to meet you,” Joey reaches out his hand for a handshake.

I politely take his hand for a quick handshake after a brief nod.

“Let’s go. You must be tired,” Do-Hyun walks toward the car after saying that.

I quickly rush along to keep up with him and realise there are several different cars parked at the front of the hospital. Do-Hyun goes to one of them and unlocks it. I realise that it’s not the same one as the road trip car or the getaway car.

Out of habit, I open the back seat and pauses for a moment because I plan to sit next to Do-Hyun but someone stops me from closing the door. Abby gleams happily before scurrying into the car.

I sigh but let out a doting smile and go in to sit next to her.

I notice Ian approaching the car but he doesn’t try to talk to Abby and goes to talk to Do-Hyun instead. We can’t hear their voices but I notice Abby doesn’t even glance at Ian at all.

“You’re not going home with him?” I ask lightly.

“Why should I go with him when I got you?” She teases with a sly smile.

“Are you two okay?” I don’t bite into what she feeds and try to force it out whatever she’s trying to hide.

She sighs, “We’re fine. I just need space,” She peeks at Ian before quickly turning away, possibly because Ian's eyes met hers. He has been glancing into the car since earlier.

“Is it because he can’t accept it?”

She turns to me with a frown, “No. It’s frustrating because he did!” She crosses her arm while pouting.

I laugh and poke her cheek, “You’re being childish, you know that.”

She glares at me before replying, “I know you are but what am I?” Then we both burst into laughter and slowly mellow down.

“How’s Ryan?” She raises her brows at me.

As I reply to her, Do-Hyun finishes his conversation with Ian and enters the car. “He’s fine.”

Do-Hyun doesn’t care and starts the car. Ian knocks on the window to which Abby reluctantly lowers the window. He leans over and the two stare silently. I start to feel awkward since I’m an outsider in their relationship.

“See you later. Goodbye,” Ian finally speaks first with a soft gaze.

Abby nods slightly before responding, “Goodbye.”

Ian steps away from the car lifting his hand to give a brief wave while Abby only gives him a curt glance before haughtily looks away. I know she’s happy but she’s definitely acting this way to throw a tantrum at Ian. I smirk knowingly.

Abby rolls up the window as Do-Hyun drives the car away from the lot. Abby shares with me the story of how she ends up travelling while the car is moving towards home. Apparently, she was accompanying a friend who needs to travel nearby which ends up with her travelling further and further without noticing.

By the time Abby starts going out of stories to tell, we reach home safely. Do-Hyun pulls up the car to the front door instead of going straight to the parking spaces. I find it weird because I have told him previously he doesn’t need to send me to the door since it’s a hassle to circle back to the parking space.

However, Abby walks out of the car and disrupts my intention of asking him to do so while also noticing my parents walking out the door.

I quickly follow Abby out of the car. Seeing that I’m coming out of the car, my mother rushes to me as she calls out my name.

“Are you alright?” She starts checking my body before letting out a sigh of relief and pulls me into her embrace.

The sudden hug is surprising but it’s so comforting that I just start crying for no identifiable reason.

“Mum…” I mutter quietly.

“I’m here, baby,” She rubs my back while I tighten our embrace.

I don’t understand why I’m crying but not being asked allows me to break without worrying about having to explain myself. There’s so much I want to say but everything is currently bundled up and tangled. I don’t even know where to begin.

They bring me inside and we properly start talking about today’s incident. The whole family including Abby sits in the drawing-room.

“If I knew you were going to be involved, I wouldn’t have let you,” My father speaks first with regret and sadness. It implies that he knew this was happening but was unaware of my involvement.

My mother places her hand in his and gives him a gentle smile before turning to me.

“Your father and I have been worried sick after we found out. We’re not mad but we do want to understand why you’ve decided to do this without telling us,”

I lower my head and bite my lips. My fingers are twiddling with one another. 

“I uh…,” I don’t know how to explain myself but no one interjects and lets the silence hang as I sort my words.

“I just wanted to find out the truth,” I confess properly.

I hear a soft sigh but since my head is down, I don’t know who did it.

“Is this because of your insomnia? We decided not to tell you anything regarding those days to protect you. We should probably have talked about this with you instead of hiding it.” My father doesn’t sound angry but helpless instead.

My tears fall because everything that has happened so far finally overwhelms me to the point I can’t keep a brave front anymore. Everyone quickly gathers around me and gives me a hug.

“It’s okay. You’re safe here,”

I have subconsciously created a distance between myself and them when in fact, they’ve been mine all along. It makes me sad that we didn’t spend more time together. I have always thought of them as his and that they wouldn’t want me as their child.

Now that I know the truth, I feel so sad that I couldn’t accept them from the start. It makes me want to be their child. It makes me want to be better and treat them well.

From day one I came into their life, they have created a safe place for me to come home. Have I been taking that for granted when I recklessly put my life in danger? I don’t know if that’s true but I do know that I want to stay in this warmth always.

 

I lay on my bed alone since Abby has left after dinner and start to think back on everything that has happened today. My feelings turn complicated when I remember the conversation Leon and I have in the corridor. My life that is originally mine was taken away from me and all this time, I grew up wondering what have I done wrong to deserve all of this.

Meanwhile, he lived his life with this warm family but in the end, chose to give it all up. 

I’m trying my best to understand his perspective of being stuck here unwillingly but I really can’t understand it. This family is loving and caring so why would he want to give it all up. Yet at the same time, I don’t want to blame him because I don’t know his situation. I just can’t help myself from doing so right now.

It’s not until the phone rings that my thoughts clear up.

“Hello,”

Hello, Luke?” Elaine sounds panicky.

“Yeah, it’s me. What is it?” I sit up on my bed wondering if she is okay.

Are you alright?” She asks.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I reply with the hope that it reassures her.

Then, did anyone get hurt?” When she asks that, my thought immediately goes to Ryan who is laying on the sickbed.

“Yeah… Someone did,” My voice comes out almost as a whisper.

Are they… alright?” She hesitates a little.

“Yes, they should be fine.” 

Elaine remains quiet long enough for me to become suspicious and check if the call is still connected.

“Elaine?” I call her out as I hear nothing on the other line despite the call is still connected to her.

They’re… alive?” Her question reminds me of what she said before I agreed to Ryan’s proposition.

“Yes… Em… Maybe… Maybe your premonition was wrong or was it meant for something else?” I try to question it.

No… It should be about today but…” Her voice trails off and I try to call out to her several times but she doesn’t respond.

It’s not long before she speaks again, “An outside intervention…” I can barely hear the words she said.

“What are you saying?”

It shouldn’t be a big deal. The hurdle has been jumped over and passed. I’m glad you’re fine,

“Are you sure it’s okay?”

You don’t have to be worried about it. It’s not our problem anymore,

“Oh…” This time I trail off because I don’t know how to respond to that but Elaine doesn’t speak at all so I continue, “I guess that’s fine… Thank you for worrying about me.”

Luke...,” She calls out to me through the receiver.

“Yeah?”

Happiness is a direction, not a place. Take your time. Goodbye.

Her last words surprised me to the point I can only reply with a goodbye subconsciously before she ends the call.

I stare at the phone in my hand. The glow from the screen illuminates the space around me in the dim room. My head turns 180 degrees as I take in the room in its entirety whilst in the dark. I let out a wry laugh after a while.

It’s useless to think about the past since I don’t have any power to change it. Things that happened are what made me today. I’m thankful to be given this second chance to do my life over and live it properly. I won’t give it up for anyone.

I clench my fist around my phone as I close my eyes.

This life is mine and mine alone. I hope wherever he is now, he is in a better place because I know I am.

My heart feels lighter as the weight on it has been lifted. 

I know the journey isn’t over yet but I will be sure to live this life properly. I know who he is and I know who I am.

Leon says we’re the same but separated by two worlds.

Same but different.

Everything we go through is our own experience that we have and no one can take it away. I want to make more memories and it doesn’t matter if it is as “Luke” or “Evan”.

At least I know, I am me.

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