“You foolish, foolish boy. I thought I’d lose you.” Dr. Williams clung to her son like her life depended on it. Fred bore it good-naturedly for a while. For a frail-looking woman, her arms were tightly wrapped around him. When she didn’t let go of him for a whole minute, he began to fear he would die from lack of oxygen.
“Mom” – he gasped – “can’t breathe.”
Abruptly, she released him, muttering an apology, and started crying again.
“Mom,” he groaned.
“Why? Why did you have to save someone by getting yourself killed?” She furiously dabbed at her eyes with tissue.
I did? he thought. Arching a brow, he teased: “Isn’t that what you do?”
“It’s not the same,” she snapped, not taking the bait.
They fell silent. The quiet stretched between them. They both knew that she had risked her neck more than once for a patient…when she was still single. The tears had stopped and she was back to being Dr. Williams. She checked his vital signs and read the clipboard at the foot of his bed.
Meanwhile, Fred’s impatience was getting the best of him. He blurted the first question in his head: “Why am I here?”
She flicked a glance at him, maintaining a professional air. “What do you remember?”
Fred stared at the corner of the ceiling as he tried to recall what had happened before waking. He had seen Louis standing in the rain.
“It was…” Fred frowned. Does his mom know that he was friends with the Roucans and about Electra? He didn’t want to break Louis’s confidence. “It was raining.”
“And?” she asked him, gently.
He tried to remember more but came up empty. Fred shook his head. Why can’t I remember? What happened back there?
His mom sighed and sat on the bed. It pained her to see the confusion in his face. “It’s alright, love. Your memories will come back eventually. Don’t try to force it.” She patted his hand and stood. “I’ll be right back, okay? I just have to talk to your doctor.”
“You’re not…?” Fred had tried to push himself up to a sitting position. The frown he wore deepened.
“Don’t ask.” His mom took the clipboard and was about to leave when she noticed Fred’s expression. “Fred, is something wrong?”
“I – I can’t feel my legs.”
“Thank God you’re alive,” Paolo said in greeting. “It’s not the same without you, Fred. I’m getting tired refereeing between these bickering old ladies.” He jerked his thumb at James and Michael, who both rolled their eyes.
They had brought flowers, a fruit basket, and a stack of get well soon cards from the class. It was a welcome change from the three days Fred had to suffer various tests and the ministrations of his mom, doctors and nurses, and feeling sorry for himself.
“How are you holding up?”
“Pretty well, I guess.” Fred pasted a smile on his face. “I’m starting therapy next week.” He absently rubbed his useless leg. “Mom and the doctors said there’s still a chance for me to walk.” He didn’t add that it was possible he’ll need a can to help him. It felt like sealing his fate if he said it aloud.
“You got lucky, man. What matters is you’re still with us. James thought you were dead when that lightning hit you.” Fred hadn’t remembered the incident. His mom avoided it whenever he wanted to discuss it. He kept a neutral expression with the hope that Paolo would say more. “It was reckless – but I’ve got to hand it to you – very brave. You pushed the Roucans out of the way. James said your leg got the worst of it—”
“He doesn’t remember,” James interjected.
Paolo’s mouth opened and closed. His head swiveled from James to Fred.
“Do you remember why Louis was with us before the accident?”
The images that flashed in his mind were hazy and made no sense to him. Fred sighed, saying: “No.”
James stared at him for several seconds. Grimly, he began: “Louis was upset the night before and stayed over with us.” He recounted the details about the ambulance taking Victoria’s body, the father’s arrival, the ensuing argument, and Fred shoving Louis and Mr. Roucan out of harm’s way. The retelling over, a question hung in the air. How did Fred know that the boy and the father were in grave danger?
The door opened, revealing Louis standing at the threshold. The boy’s face was pale and drawn. He wore black underneath the school uniform’s navy blue jacket. Louis had broken the rules, but no one had commented on it. He was grieving for his sister.
Louis shuffled inside. The trio excused themselves to give Fred and him privacy. The moment they were alone, tears spilled down the boy’s cheeks. Brusquely, he wiped it with his sleeve. He stayed out of reach even when Fred patted the mattress, welcoming him to sit. His gaze fell on Fred’s legs. “I’m sorry.”
He heard, Fred thought wryly. He must have been listening since the guys came. “It’s not your fault, Louis.”
“It is.” Something in the boy’s eyes reawakened a memory. Louis had turned away from his father but halted abruptly. With fear in his eyes, he turned back for Mr. Roucan. “I saw,” Louis said quietly. “I saw it hit you…before it happened.”
Fred’s eyes widened. He had thought only Electra possessed special abilities. But, apparently, it ran in the family. Louis could predict the future.
“I thought I could change it.” Louis’s head was bowed low, his hands curled into fists. “Sometimes I could do it – a few minutes before it happens. I didn’t mean it, what I said to Father. I didn’t want anyone to die. I had to go back or him. You followed – I wanted you to stop but you didn’t.” His sobs shook his small frame. He was clearly blaming himself.
“Louis.” Fred couldn’t bear seeing the boy go on like this. He suspected that Louis had been crying for a while since the accident. Fred had to be careful not push him over the edge. “It was my fault.”
His words fell to deaf ears.
“It was my fault,” Fred repeated with more conviction. “I knew from the start.” Louis’s sobs quieted a bit. “You were warning me off and I still followed.”
“Why?” he squeaked.
“Because you would’ve done the same if you were in my shoes.” Louis frowned, digesting what Fred had said. His sobs became mere hiccups. “Or I must’ve knocked a few screws loose up here,” Fred added, tapping a finger at his temple.
“You’re weird.” A corner of Louis’s mouth curled upward.
“Isn’t that why we’re friends? You can see the future and I can talk to animals and live after being struck a lightning,” Fred said lightly.
Fred understood what he was referring to. “Don’t be. With mom and her people working with me, I’m sure I’ll walk again in no time,” he said with forced cheer. It was true. He would walk, but could he ever run again?”
Later that day, Mr. Roucan came to express his thanks for saving his and Louis’s lives. He offered to pay for all the expenses in Fred’s hospitalization and therapy. Fred was guaranteed that he would graduate with the rest of his class. Mr. Roucan also offered them rooms in his mansion to stay for the remainder of the school year. Dr. Williams had been reluctant at first. She knew from experience what such generosity generally entailed. Fred, she observed, appeared uncomfortable with Mr. Roucan. She suspected there was a story behind it. But the guarded look her son wore meant he had no intention of discussing it. Dr. Williams had been in the receiving end of it when she had tried to talk to him about attacking his teacher. She had thought Fred would refuse and was surprised when he did the opposite.
Still, it was hard to refuse given what Mr. Roucan had said of being forever indebted to Fred – being Louis’s friend and savior.
Copyright © 2014-2016 Cecilia Beatriz. All rights reserved.
A/N: Well, I think I’ve covered the part explaining Louis’s odd behaviour during the storm.
Poor Fred. After saving someone’s life, he ends up almost lame.
By the way, thanks for reading City of Mysts. Your support is what encourages me to continue writing this story. 🙂