Chapter 46: Epilogue
Mike opened his eyes and silenced his alarm clock. It was early morning on Friday, two weeks after his time with Lucy. There was no longer any question of them being in a relationship, and just as he had promised, his relationship with Sandy had been terminated. Despite the break-up being honest and clean – or so he felt it was – he could not shake the frequent and recurring feelings of guilt. He would often reminisce on the sound of her crying or on the utter disbelief in her voice. He had spent a lot time trying to convince himself that she would be better off and that she would take the break-up in stride, but after listening to her cry, yell, and even tell him that she never wanted to see or talk to him again, he wondered how true those things really were. He had done all that he could to soften the blow, but he knew that in her position he would have been devastated as well, and almost shamefully – he admitted – worse off.
It was with his diagnosis that a change occurred within him. Steadily, he had grown into an entirely new person; a person who was more concerned with enjoying life, rather than avoiding danger and being 'financially secure.' As long as he was able to squeeze whatever happiness he could out of life, he counted himself successful, and that was all that mattered. He told that to himself often, but there was still something else he cared about: making the people around him happy. He was a feeler, a sympathizer, and not at all a sociopath. Detaching himself completely seemed utterly impossible. It was why the break-up with Sandy had bothered him so much. Even favoring Lucy, he still felt feelings for Sandy; he could not get over his empathy.
When he finished up in the bathroom, he took a long look out of his window. The sky was filled with quickly moving black clouds. The ground was wet, but it was not currently raining. There was something ominous about the scene, and he could feel a creeping sensation come over him. He could not identify the feeling, but it seemed to him be a forewarning: a prediction of bad news.
When he finished eating, he said goodbye and left the house. His mother did not offer him a ride, much to his surprise. It was still not raining, but it looked as though it could start at any second, and he figured his mother to have thought the same. Not thinking much of it, he started down the road, keeping an eye out for Lucy, wondering if she had been lucky enough to get a ride. Upon turning a corner, he saw her, and with a bit of jogging, he caught up.
"Hey," He began. She was looking at him, already stopped from having heard his foot-steps on the wet cement.
"Morning," Mike leaned in and kissed her. With the awkwardness and confusion that had once been their relationship gone, they had grown much more comfortable with each other, and it had become ritual for them to exchange a kiss whenever they greeted.
Mike grabbed onto Lucy's hand as they walked to school, causing a soft, uncharacteristic smile to form on her face. She had grown clingy, constantly trying to bask in every second she was with him and almost afraid to ever part; however, Mike didn't mind it. He somewhat enjoyed it, often perpetuating the bad habit with hand-holding and flirting. He loved the attention and the seemingly unconditional love, but there was something else: over the years, he had become somewhat attuned to her feelings, and he hated when she felt depressed, and in this case, rejected. She had spent so long being alone and desperate that now that she had him at her disposal, she couldn't help but indulge; although, there was something that Mike found odd about the situation.
Occasionally, he would look into Lucy's eyes and he would see shame. Sometimes he wondered if she was aware of the clinginess and the dependence; he often asked himself if she could even control it. He refrained from ever bringing it up, knowing that it would undoubtedly discomfort her, and, on top of that, she probably wouldn't say anything anyway. It conflicted with her strength, or rather the strength she pretended to have.
"What's wrong?" She asked him.
"Hmm? Mike responded. "Nothing, I was just looking at you."
"I don't know," he responded, his cheeks slightly darkened. "I guess you're nice to look at." She laughed, blushing a little as well.
"Thanks," she answered, looking straight ahead, the school in-sight. Mike was pleasantly surprised at her response. He was initially expecting some rude quip or a self-conscious disagreement, but she had seemed content - possibly even happy. The image of her laughter stayed in his mind as they entered the school. Something about it had seemed different – so carefree and unexpected.
He pondered the matter for several minutes, but as he entered his homeroom he couldn't help but chuckle to himself – looking a touch foolish in the act. For the first time, he had seen her truly smile; a smile that wasn't blanketed by a constant aura of depression or tainted by some snide remark. She had seemed content for the first time in his life. He smiled as he sat in class, day dreaming.
Mike and Lucy had made a habit of sitting together at lunch, sometimes displaying unwelcomed affection in front of their friends. There was not one of them that thought the relationship between the two felines was healthy, but none of them knew what to say. If they ever breached the topic, it was quickly shifted or ended by either Mike or Lucy, neither of them wanting to explain. Many of them felt strongly on the matter, but it was Paulo who seemed the most disturbed. He would often sit in silence, staring at them in the corners of his eyes. There was something of their newly found partnership that disgusted him greatly. He was not sure if it was the desire he had long felt for Lucy, the jealous contempt he had always harbored for Mike, or if it was some other less apparent issue, but it seemed no matter what the cause, the feelings were there to remain. He even took an effort in his own mind to examine the situation, separating himself from all bias, and even in that consideration, he found the relationship wrong – in the sense it was beneficial to no one.
The day went by fluidly and without trouble. It seemed that with happiness a new found contrast to depression and regret; life was far easier to live. Things seemed more carefree, troubles on the horizon seemed less intimidating, and this was true for both Mike and Lucy. When school was out, Mike walked her home, and upon parting, they both faced each other. They shared a quick moment of looking into to each other eyes, and in the tense situation, Lucy laughed. She had once again surprised him by reacting normally, as opposed to rudely, and it seemed that is was done naturally – it was not forced. Mike laughed back, kissed her on the lips – on the smile he loved so much - and started walking home. The clouds had gone, and in their place was a blue sky, a bright sun, and stifling humidity.
Without warning, Mike felt a deep sinking feeling form in the center of this chest as his breathing became slightly labored. He swallowed hard and he looked down at the ground. It was not the first time this had happened to him, and it appeared to be becoming increasingly common. He would be stricken with random bouts of depression, hopelessness, and worry. They didn't last long, but they bothered him immensely. He always worried that there would come a time when they lasted longer, or they refused to leave him at all. He thought back to the days he felt as though he were in perpetual misery, and he did not want to ever go back to that.
By the time Mike had gotten home the mini panic attack had left him. He entered the front door, and just as the door closed his mom appeared before him, livid with emotion and eyes bloodshot.
"Michael!" She called out to him in a somewhat melodramatic fashion. Mike looked on in bewilderment. "The doctor called! I have great news!"
"They found a donor!"
Mike looked at his mother with a confused expression. The words did not properly register, and there seemed no adequate response. His mother hugged him tightly, tears overflowing from her eyes. Mike felt small tears forming in his eyes as well, but he didn't know why. There was a small sense of happiness in him, but it was only because he didn't know what else to feel. He hugged his mom back and he pondered on what it all meant.
"I'm not going to die."
The words echoed in Mike's mind for many hours after hearing the news. He sat in his room, not sure of what to do next, feeling an odd sense of irritability and excitement contorting within him, a feeling that he could not fully satisfy. He felt as though he had traveled back years in both age and experience, and was now a young child, waiting eagerly on Christmas Eve. He would occasionally smile, unable to stop the happiness from rising up and overflowing out. But just as there is a silver lining to all that is bad, the opposite rings true. Something felt wrong about the situation; there was a sickening worry that lay deep within him.
He had changed his entire mindset to accommodate a guaranteed death at a young age, yet now he was called on to change it again; although, it was not the change itself that truly scared him, but rather the cost of change. How was he expected to go back to a life of planning and consideration when he had seen a life of happiness and freedom? How was he to return to a life of responsibility and self-blame when he had grown so accustomed to passing off life with the excuse of death? His happiness quickly turned to rage. He stood from his bed and walked over to his window. He had a powerful urge to punch through it with all of his might, and he pictured the event in his mind – there was no pain and no regret.
He would be expected to be happy and thankful for his newfound longevity, and it killed him inside to think about it. He would have to put up a front, spread countless lies to everyone, possibly even Lucy, and if he didn't, he would be viewed with disgust. People would think of him as nothing more than a selfish child. But that also caused him to consider another matter: why should he care what people thought about him at all? Why not just ignore them? He laughed aloud at the thought. He couldn't do it and he knew it. He could not live as a social pariah; he was not strong enough. Mike felt weak, disgusting, confused, angry, regretful, and completely overwhelmed by a grinding sense of self-awareness.
"What's wrong with me?" He whispered to himself, soon descending into a fit of incoherent babbling.
Mike became quiet. His tears stopped flowing and he grew calm. All of it happened in a moment, and the sudden lack of all emotion and action left him anxious. He looked around his room, looked down at his still scarred hand, and then stood up. He walked into his bathroom and looked in the mirror. To himself, he appeared to be distraught, tired, possibly even deranged.
"Maybe it's been my own fault." He whispered to himself. "Who else is supposed to make me feel better? God…? No, that…" His voice trailed off. "But what do I do? Is there anything I can do?" He once again looked at his hand; he looked at the damage he caused to himself. "I'm such an idiot." When he looked back up, his eyes met his own in the glass, and he saw they were bloodshot, a single tear about to overflow from one. He wiped it away.
He left the bathroom and sat down, once again, on his bed. He looked over at his phone and thought about the people he needed to deliver the "good" news too. He started to think of the task as overwhelming, and he wondered if he could get through it without giving up, but he quickly caught himself and put the thoughts to rest. There was no time to worry about the future, not when so much was going on in the now. He lifted the phone and dialed Lucy's number.
"I guess I've got to start somewhere."