Chapter 8: … Swimming in a Fish Bowl

Mike made his way downstairs and entered his living room. His mom was down there watching TV just as he had suspected. His sister was probably in her room doing whatever she did up in her confines, and he assumed his brother was asleep, although he was a touch worried he had disturbed him with his excessive yelling from before.

"Hey, mom?" Mike asked, the depression and exhaustion apparent in his voice.

"Huh? Oh what's wrong?" His mom asked him, immediately attentive and concerned. Mike had communicated very little with her, so she was glad that he was finally talking.

"I have a friend coming over. You know, Lucy? I was wondering if you could keep an ear out for her." Mike asked.

"Yeah, don't worry about it. I'll send her up to your room when she gets here. Do you need anything else? I can make you something to eat." His mother asked him.

"No, that's alright. Thanks though." Mike said making his way up to his room.

Although his mother was slightly hurt that he was inviting over a friend when there was so little he had actually said to her, she was moreover glad that he was talking. She desperately wanted to see him better and back to his old self, although she doubted that would ever happen. So his mother sat there and waited for Lucy to show up, praying that her little boy would get better, or least feel better.

It wasn't long until Lucy showed up at the front door. Mike had heard the knock, but knew his mother would get it. He simply lay on his bed, the blanket kicked to the bottom edge and quite askew. He realized his room was a touch out of shape, very rare for him, but he didn't really care. He had bigger things to worry about then keeping his room looking tidy.

About half a minute later Mike heard a soft knock on his door and Lucy's gentle voice echoing through.

"Hey Mike, it's me."

"You can come on in." Mike said through the door to her.

Lucy slowly cracked the door open and was greeted by the distinguishable scent of Mike and his room. Maybe it had something to do with how often Mike had been in there, or possibly the fact the windows were all shut, but Lucy noticed his room smelled a bit more poignant, possibly even piquant, then usual. Lucy walked in the room and quietly shut the door behind her. She stood where she was, a little unsure of what to do next.

"You can sit down if you want." Mike offered, using his head to point to the other side of the bed.

"Oh, uh, alright," Lucy said as she took a seat on the opposite end of the bed, still rather uncomfortable. "So… What are you doing?" Lucy asked trying to make conversation.

"Just sitting, thinking," Mike responded.

"I can see that; I mean what were you doing about before I got here?" Lucy asked him

"Doing the same thing I am now; sitting here, thinking." Mike answered.

"Oh, well, um, what are you thinking about?" She asked him, doing her best to make this conversation happen.

"A lot of things…" Mike said stopping for a moment. Lucy was about ask about what, when Mike continued. "My life, my family, my friends… you, and of course… the cancer," Mike said with a slight pause. He hated that word and it hurt him to say it, knowing he was referring to himself.

"I see…" Lucy said with a soft, almost fragile, tone.

"I can't help but wonder what's going to happen now." Mike said to her.

"What do you mean?" Lucy asked him.

"About the treatment, they told me the cancer was advanced, and they were going to try their best, but what if their best isn't enough?" Mike paused for a moment. "What happens to me if they can't cure it?" Lucy simply sat there and listened to Mike talk what if's about his inevitable death while he somehow managed to show little to no emotion, at least on the surface. Lucy could tell it was bothering him. She knew that in reality he was incredibly unhappy, and was in considerable pain. She could tell simply by the lost expression on his face and the details of his voice. He emanated unhappiness at the pores, but he did his best to hide it.

"It's weird to know your life is in someone else's hands, Lucy. To know that one mistake, or one detail, could result in you dying. Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier if they told me there was nothing they could do. If they told there was no treatment, and I had no chance of survival. Sure, it would hurt, but at least the pressure would be gone. You know what I mean?" Mike asked her, his voice as emotionless and cryptic as ever. In some ways, reflecting a monotone.

"I don't know, Mike." Lucy said with her voice breaking.

"Are you crying?" Mike asked her, not sure of what he had said wrong.

"… No." Lucy answered with a sniff.

"Why are you crying?" Mike asked with a small smile. "I'm the one who should be crying."

"I know, I know, I'm sorry, I'll try to be strong for your sake." Lucy said wiping the tears from her eyes.

"No, don't apologize. If anything it's flattering." Mike told her, realizing that this was the first time he had smiled since the diagnosis. Lucy gave a small laugh in return.

"Even like this, you're able to cheer me up." Lucy responded. Lucy's smile slowly faded from her face. "I haven't been a good friend, have I, Mike?" Lucy asked.

"What do you mean? You volunteered to come and spend time with me. Sounds like a good friend to me." Mike said trying to cheer her up.

"I know, but, all the other times. You've always been there for me, and I've… I've… Everything I do seems to hurt you, no matter how hard I try to make things right." She said beginning to cry again.

"Lucy, please…" Mike said, thinking of what to say, not wanting to see her saddened. "It's alright. I know you've always cared about me. If anything I was too hard on you and-"Mike started.

"No, Mike, you weren't too hard on me." Lucy interrupted him. "I'm sorry I wasn't… nicer." She said sobbing. Suddenly Mike remembered what he had said to her before he had hung up the phone. Mike didn't really think that it had bothered her, but then again, he never thought he would get cancer, so his 'thoughts' left something to be desired.

"No, no, no…" Mike said as he crawled across the bed and sat next to Lucy. "Lucy, I said that out of anger." Mike said, gently placing his hand on her shoulder.

"But Mike, I'm mean. You can't deny that, can you?" She said looking up at him with tears in her eyes. Mike didn't say anything, he found himself at a loss for words. "Exactly," She said covering her face with her hands once again.

"No, Lucy. It's not that simple. Maybe you are a little mean, I'll admit it, but that doesn't matter. The fact is, you're here. I'm sure we could say the same about Paulo being an idiot, or Daisy being a nerd, or even me being a wuss, but in the end, they're there for us, just like I was there for you, and you're here for me now." Mike said desperately trying to cheer her up.

"Do you… Do you really mean that Mike?" Lucy asked as she managed to somewhat regain her composure.

"I do, but it doesn't matter anyway because it's true!" Mike said to her. "Lucy, sometimes I'm going to say stupid things, and do stupid things, and… well be stupid, but please understand I don't do them to hurt you… This is just a… a rough time." Mike said with a comforting smile.

"Oh god, Mike, what am I doing?" She said wiping the tears away from her eyes.

"What do you mean?" Mike asked her.

"Here you are comforting me again, when I came here to comfort you. I'm sorry Mike…" Lucy said ashamed of herself. Mike stopped and looked at her for a moment; he could feel his chest tighten as he looked in her eyes. Without warning he grabbed Lucy and hugged her.

"Lucy, you helped me a lot more than you realize…" Mike said to her, doing his best to prevent tears from forming in his eyes.

"Michael…" Lucy said hugging him back, a smile forming on her face.