"Hurry up dad!" Calvin yelled up the stairs as he fumbled with his keys impatiently. "Dad is waiting!"
Footsteps came thundering down the stairs to meet Calvin in the hall. "How do I look?" James said nervously, running his fingers through his hair, grimacing into the hall mirror.
"The same as always."
"Is that a good thing?"
"Just get in the car."
Calvin gently began nudging his father towards the door. James tried to get one last glance before following him. Calvin had just passed his test and so it was still a habit of James's to try and get in the driver's door first.
"I think it's best if I drive today." Calvin smiled as James got in the passenger side, then immediately grabbed the handle above his head. "Dad, you know that makes me nervous."
"You've only just passed, plus you whiz round corners way too fast."
Calvin started the car and pulled out their driveway. They battled with the radio together, Calvin turning it up only for it to be turned down by James. They finally found a station for the pair of them, something from Cabaret was on, the cast recording for the latest revival.
"You know Uncle Connor and Uncle Kevin?"
"We haven't seen them in ages, not since the Christmas before last I don't think."
"Well Connor's in this at the moment. I should take you to see him."
"You should take dad, it's more his thing." Calvin spared a glance over at his father at these words. He sighed and turned his eyes back to the road. "You know, if you can make it up there in time. I mean…before it closes…in time before it closes."
James carried on staring straight ahead seemingly ignoring this last comment.
"Can we stop for a sec?" James said spying a florist on the side of the road. Calvin pulled up the car and waited with the engine running for James to run in. He came out holding a large bunch of white roses.
"I got him some of these for our first date." James smiled, leaning down to smell the bouquet. "And then I wore one on our wedding day."
"He'll love them."
They continued down the road before Calvin pulled into the parking lot and found a space. As they made their way up to the sliding hospital doors, Calvin found his hand slipping into his father's.
James wrinkled his nose as they walked into the reception area. He hated the clinical, antiseptic smell that assaulted him and made him feel nauseous. He wondered how Chris could deal with it, but then figured he must be used to it by now.
Their journey to Chris's room was well walked for them by now. They retraced old steps to the small, white cubby at the end of the corridor where Chris had been moved to fairly early on in his treatment.
James looked through the circular hole and felt himself relax as he saw Chris's peaceful face, eyes closed, resting on the pillow. He turned the handle carefully so as to not make too much noise. Calvin stayed in the doorway, giving James a chance to have a moment with Chris alone.
"Hey," he whispered softly, smiling as Chris's eyelids fluttered open. "How are you feeling?"
Chris smiled back and reached for James's hand instantly. He took a few deep breaths and blinked to get over his drowsiness.
"Sorry," he said as he yawned, "New meds. I think they're meant to last longer, but I always end up tired."
"I got these for you." James began arranging the flowers in the vase on Chris's bedside table taking care to make sure the best ones faced the bed.
"They're beautiful, straight from our first date right?"
"Of course." James grinned realising that they both simultaneously remembering that day, and night.
"Where's my precious baby?"
James frowned for a moment before his countenance cleared and he beckoned Calvin over.
"You always ask about school first and it's always fine."
"I worry sometimes, don't be harsh on your dad."
"You worry sometimes?"
Chris let go of James's hand to instead take Calvin's. "All the time, but not as much as your dad."
As they usually did, they all sat there talking and laughing for as long as they could. Despite being back almost every day, James never tired in just sitting and listening to Chris talk. He could look into those eyes forever.
Chris's hair was thinning and pale, his skin waxy, his eyes less bright, but it was still the same Chris that he'd fallen in love with.
"I was thinking earlier, Connor's still in that new Cabaret thing."
"It's not new James, it's a revival."
James made a face and rolled his eyes. "Whatever, anyway, do you want to go with me?"
"Maybe you should take Calvin," Chris said quietly, his eyes cast down at his thin bony fingers, now fiddling with the sheets.
"I want to take you. It's only a few hours drive away."
"I'd love to come." Chris made a pained expression then reached up to his drip to squeeze the liquid in faster, exhaling after a few seconds at the effort. "I'm sure I'll manage. I'd love to see Connor again, we used to be best friends."
"God the mission seems so long ago." James shook his head remembering how young and naïve he'd been. In a time when he'd been somehow both happier and sadder.
"I know." Chris reached across to the bedside table to spin a frame around towards him. It was a photograph of the ten elders of district nine. They were all over twenty years older and must have changed so much, but Chris wondered how many of the smiles were still the same.
There was Arnold Cunningham, looking off the frame away from the camera lens, maybe at Nabulungi. He'd stayed, married her, helped build orphanages, become a travel writer, then returned together to the states to pursue a career as a children's author.
Chris smiled sadly at Arnold's innocent gaze his mind filling in the image of Nabulungi. He could blame what happened next on God's unjust hand, or perhaps it was just her immune system that couldn't take the change. Immune systems were a bitch that way, he thought.
Standing next to him were Elder Schrader and Elder Neeley, their arms around each other's shoulders. If anyone was ever a confirmed bachelor it was these too. Chris smiled as he remembered the few times he'd been to their was littered with pizza boxes.
He racked his brains trying to think what it was they actually did. He couldn't remember them having actual jobs but, he was sure they must have done.
Next to them was Elder Davis, awkwardly in the background, slightly blurred. It must have been from where he'd run to try and catch up with the picture before it was taken. Elder Davis was their photographer, an unfrugal one at that, so it was him who'd set up the camera.
James had stayed in touch with Elder Davis, they'd been mission companions after all. James had told him it was stupid to make such a fuss about them always spending time together, he was just being jealous. Elder Davis had drifted out of their lives shortly after that. It was the closest James had ever got to cheating.
Next along the line was Elder Michaels. Chris chuckled as he thought about what he'd gone on to do with his life. He'd probably strayed furthest from the Mormon path. His family had given him no second chances so he'd decided to completely reject them.
First he'd been a model, Chris had to admit he had great jaw structure. Then he'd transitioned into topless modelling. They thought it would stop there but Elder Michaels had stretched his career in places Chris never thought he'd existed. Chris would never admit he'd seen any films starring Stoker Hunt, as he was then called, or anyone else for that matter.
Elder Zelder was standing close next to his companion. Out of all of them, he'd probably led the most normal life. He'd gone home, explained to his parents exactly what had happened, well his side anyway. He'd said how he'd wanted to spread the word of God before some whackjobs came and spoiled it. And they believed him. As far as Chris knew, he was living with his wife in Provo, seven children, dog, white picket fence and all.
Next to Elder Zelder were Kevin and Connor, their hands around each other's waists. As far as he knew they were happy together and had been for quite some time. They'd had their squabbles, Connor worked late into the night and accusations were flung as easily as insults in that house.
It died down a bit when Arnold moved in. He didn't have anyone else and Kevin let him in. That was before he caught his big break at a publishing firm and moved to the Hamptons with a million dollar contract. Alone.
Finally on the end, himself and James. They were holding hands. They usually were. Chris looked closely at their faces, startling himself at how young and full they both looked. He squinted at James, noticing something he'd never noticed before. Whereas Chris was staring straight at the camera, James's eyes were cast slightly to the side, towards him.
He glanced over at the real James who leant over to stroke his wrist and place the photograph back in its position.
"We were going to have the world." Chris murmured barely audible.
"We were all going places, we all had dreams, look at us there. All so happy." Chris spoke wistfully, his voice breathy, his eyes glazed. "Only one of us got it. Only one of us got the world."