Tick, tick, tick. I wasn't sure if I could take another minute. Even in the noise of the busy hospital, I could hear my watch ticking constantly, as though it had to become louder to be heard.
I was curled up unladylike in a hospital chair, leaning all my weight against Adam, who was sitting in the next chair with an arm around me. He was still, staring out into space quietly. Every few minutes, he'd glance at me, seeing that, yes, I was still there, tears spilling out silently, and then, he'd rub my shoulder for a moment.
My phone buzzed in my bag on the floor, but I didn't reach for it. I didn't want to move from my safe spot. I was sure it was only my mother, trying to get me to come home again. Alli had left around 1 AM, but Adam and I had spent all night in the hospital. We were now a few hours into the school day.
Eli's mother and father sat a row away, their backs to us. Eli's father was whispering words of comfort as his mother cried. I was glad I couldn't really see their faces. It would make me feel ashamed, like they might be blaming me. And maybe it was my fault.
I didn't want to think about it, but I was slipping into yesterday again. And the days before. "When we die, let's go together..." he'd said, while pouring over our writing. "Like Romeo and Juliet." I should have seen it then, but he had said so many strange, scary things over the past few weeks.
Let's die together... like Romeo and Juliet. Except I wasn't really Eli's Juliet. And I never would be.
Tick, tick, tick. Click, click, click. I barely lifted my head off of Adam's shoulder and cast my eyes over to the new sound. I straightened in my chair quickly, though Adam's arm remained around me. It was Fiona.
Adam looked up at her with weak, tired eyes. They studied each other, until Adam finally spoke. "What are you doing here?" His voice sounded exhausted, but otherwise emotionless.
"I came to the hospital to bring Holly J. some homework, and..."
"Oh." Adam went back to his earlier position and pulled me towards him ever so slightly.
I watched Fiona struggling with her emotions. Her eyes darted, her hands were playing with her long heart necklace, and she shifted back and forth on her feet. She hardly looked like the diplomats' daughter she usually did, other than her clothes. But then, though, I'd seen some of Fiona at her worst, this felt very different.
Fiona shook her head. "Adam, I came to see you..."
"Why?" Adam asked, hardly looking her way.
"I heard about Eli," she said. "I wanted to make sure you were okay."
"Do I look okay?" Adam asked, dryly.
Fiona sighed. "I'm sorry."
Adam was staring at the front desk again. I looked at Fiona, and she looked at me. Her eyes were asking me what she could do, but I didn't have an answer for her. She turned, but then, didn't move for a moment. "Would you please... text me if something happens?" Fiona whispered.
I realized she'd been talking to me. "Okay," I said, knowing quite well that if something happened, I'd be in no state to remember her request.
When Fiona was gone, Adam made a noise. I looked at him. He was too tired to be fuming, but he was angry. His chest rose and fell distinctly.
"Maybe you'd feel better if you forgave her?" I offered. "Not for her... but for you."
"She used me," Adam said, simply. "For that part of me that... isn't even me. The part of me I hate." Adam shifted in his seat, and for a second, I caught a glimpse of the skin under his long sleeve. Was it a fresh mark or just a scar? I wasn't sure.
"Adam..." I whispered. He didn't respond.
My eyes were clouding with helplessness. "Adam, I just don't want your anger to turn into hatred... and for that to turn... inward."
"I don't hate her," Adam said, avoiding what I'd really meant. "I still really..."
"I know," I said, looking at my hands.
"I thought we fit well together," Adam continued. "I mean, yeah... we were worlds apart socially, but when I was with her, it felt so right. At least... at first. Before the drinking."
I didn't know why we were talking about this now. Or maybe I did. Maybe it was just so much easier than talking about what we were most scared of right now. That our trio would be forever changed.
"Maybe... she really did love you," I said, looking at him. "In spite of it all. Even though you were the wrong gender for her. Just like you and..."
Adam frowned, and I knew I shouldn't finish. "Well, you know what I mean."
"You really think so?" Adam asked, after a few minutes of silence.
"Yes, I really do, Adam," I said, honestly.
We were quiet again, then; we both stared at the front desk.
"Clare..." Adam whispered. I looked back at him. He seemed in pain. "When does it stop hurting? It shouldn't-it shouldn't be hurting at a time like this."
"Broken hearts are funny like that," I said. "And the hurt is part of the recovery."
"What if it's always like this?" Adam asked. "What if there's no one, who can see me as I really am?"
"I see you, Adam," I said, strongly. "And Eli-" It hurt to say his name. "He does, too."
"And what if that's it? What if there's no one else?" Adam asked, looking deep into my eyes.
"There's someone for you, Adam. I know it," I said.
"And if I never find her...?" Adam said, almost to himself.
I took a deep breath. Our world could be ending, changing any minute now.
"Then, I'll marry you."
Adam smiled - a small smile, but it was real. I smiled back - a small smile, but it was the very best I could give. Then, I leaned in and gave him a kiss. It was also small - platonic but still filled with love. He kissed back lightly, and I could feel the hollow ache in him... and the worry in both of us.
We pulled away slowly, at the same time, both knowing when it was meant to end. Tears were sliding down my face again, and Adam looked away and brushed his own eye with his free hand. I eased back against him. We were solid, strong together. Whatever happened, we'd feel, we'd mourn, we'd recover together.