He can still remember that feeling. The one that came with the fall, that earth-shattering, life-changing fall. The dizzy sickness in the pit of his stomach as if the world had suddenly spun on its axis, turning in somersaults around him. Except of course that the first time he'd felt it, he'd known with an almost light hearted certainty it was him doing all the moving. Now he's not so sure.
He looks at her, this broken, bandaged doll of a body lying there on the hospital bed. Really looks at her, taking in the blank expression that a part of him fears will never smile again regardless of what the doctors say. He worries about her, this child, this daughter he's acquired somewhere along the line. He'd never meant... Never expected her to mean anything to him. She was meant to be a means to an end. His end, to be precise.
He wonders if he will ever forget the feeling of that fall. It was supposed to end that day, one way or the other (and deep down in the darkness of his soul, he'd hoped for the other). Some crazy notion of get the girl or die trying. The end.
It hadn't ended, of course.
He didn't remember the landing. Didn't remember the hospital either to begin with, but that was to be expected. A bad knock on the head, they'd said. Bruising on the spine. Things would come back to him in time, they'd said.
Things had. Like the ache in his heart, and the sudden shock of realising that he used to be able to feel his toes.
He can taste guilt mixed in with his self-pity, leaving a bitterness like orange peel in the back of his throat that no amount of alcohol seems able to remove. Still, he figures it's probably worth another go. He tips a little more down his neck.
It used to be rage he'd try to wash away. Rage at losing yet more to a world that only ever seemed to take and never give. It had burned out in the end, leaving him with nothing but placid despair. He'd been trapped, alone with his memories until one day the most unlikely of angels had stormed into the ward. "Alexandria the Great" he'd called her, spinning her a story like a spider's web. The plan had come to him with frightening ease, born as it was out of desperation. He'd beguiled her with visions of the beautiful Hell inside his head, where he could play the undeserving hero. He'd worked low down in the movie business; he knew how to spin a yarn. A thread of a narrative from here and there mixed in with the recollections that were still coming back to him then. In this fantasy, he could make things happen how he wanted.
But she hadn't been happy with that. She'd taken the story and changed it, made it something new. Her influence had always been benign, trying to smooth out the rough edges he'd created only to cut himself upon. And somewhere along the way, he'd started to enjoy making this world for her.
Even so, he'd still wanted to die.
Still does, truth be told, although his resolve is faltering just a little. Looking at her pallid face, he wracks his brain for what to say if, when, she wakes. How to make her understand. Could she? Wasn't sure. She's so damn young. She might never know why he almost killed her. Why he'd been afraid, so God damn afraid of remaining alive that he hadn't even considered what their false friendship might cost her. He's a coward, a bandit who almost stole her life out of the selfish desire to end his own.
Watching her sleep now (please God, let it just be sleep) he's aware that he should feel something. More than the twisting, turning, tumbling sensation that's never really gone away. More than the self-pity that's become his constant companion. More even than the sense of responsibility that's settled over him since hearing the news of her accident. He's not responsible for her. Couldn't be, shouldn't be. Just look at where being responsible for himself had gotten him. (He glances down to the unfamiliar wheelchair. Still getting used to it. Doesn't much like it). Regardless of all these facts, he feels responsible. He is the bandit, and she his daughter. A good little girl. She deserves better.
And then he looks up, catching the sight of his unexpected daughter's wide brown eyes. He can sense the question in that stare. Knows what she'll ask of him before she's even said a word. It's as if the great glass dam holding back his emotions shatters under her gaze, and fresh tears find their way onto his cheeks.
He'd never intended it to have an ending. But after all, it's his story.
He knows how it must end.