Hidden Sights - Chapter 6 - An Unexpected Arrangement
"It's Flax. He's my brother."
Her words were like an explosion in my mind and I stood in shock as the effects rippled outwards. "What…..? How…..?" I couldn't get my mind to form coherent thoughts let alone sentences. Finally something shook loose and out tumbled the first thing that popped up. "That's not possible! I grew up with Flax and I've never met you." Her eyes widened at the mention of my growing up with Flax as if it was an unexpected complication. "It's a long story." She turned her face from me then, brow pinched in remembered pain. I hurt me to see her hurt, physically hurt me. How could I care for someone so deeply in such short a time. It seemed impossible, fairytale like almost, but there was no denying my heart.
I guided her to a nearby bench and gently sat her down. "It's a good thing I have plenty of time then isn't." She was quiet for a time, examining her hands as if they held the words she sought, but eventually she began to tell her tale. Stories of childhood are generally short, people glossing over what they consider to be an unimportant part of life. Nilla's story was no different and although it told of how she came lead a separate life from her brothers she didn't go into any great detail. One thing I was certain of, however, and that was she was holding something back. She wasn't telling the full story, not to intentionally hide things from me, but to hide the pain from me and perhaps even herself.
In the end I just held her as she let out years of emotion. It came to me then, with a kind if crystal clarity, that I could never let her go. Whatever happened with this case I would be by her side the entire time. When she had cried as much as she could I took her by the hand and started to lead her away.
"Where are we going?" She sniffled, attempting to clear the tears from her eyes. "We're going home."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I rode with Flax in the ambulance biting my nails with worry the entire way. He was wheeled straight into the emergency room and I was left to pace alone while Malt made the round of phone calls telling everyone where we were.
"How is he?" The soft spoken, almost melodic, voice broke through my reverie and I turned, very surprised, to see the owner.
"Maize? Wow look at you!" He laughed self-consciously. "Yeah I was getting a bit tired of the whole punk look. Leather really isn't that comfortable you know." I laughed with him, "I'll take your word for it. And the accent?" He leaned closer conspiratorially, "Well between you and me I wasn't really that good at it. Thought it would help the image you know but hey what do I know about that sort of thing." His easy manner and joking smile helped drain the last of the tension from me. I had never really known Maize when we were growing up since he was a couple years older and his sense of humour surprise me. So very different from his still slightly immature brother.
It wasn't until I heard the door open that I realised just how close I was standing to Maize. The expression on Malt's face, however, said he say it right away. As I rushed up to him and gave him a quick peck on the check I thought, for an instant, I heard Maize growl behind me, but as I turned to him his face was the picture of innocence.
"What the news?" I asked Malt eagerly unable to wait any longer. "Well the good news is he only passed out so he's not in a coma again." I breathed a sigh of relief. "The bad news, though, is that there were increased opiates in his blood stream again. The doctors are now fully convinced that he is fully responsible for the overdose and he's being held here for a full detox." "What?!?" Maize burst out, clearly upset by the news. "But that's ridiculous! You know as well as I that Flax is the last person to take drugs." "Hey I thought I knew him but look at the evidence. He's landed in hospital twice in one week for drug related issues. It can't be a coincidence." "Now you listen to me..."
This was not good and there was no way I was going to stand back and watch them go at it. I'd spent enough time in the hospital this week already and I wasn't going to be here any longer for one of these two numbskulls. "HEY!" I yelled as loud as I could manage. "Stop this right now! Look I know we are all pretty tense here but this is uncalled for. Both of you have valid points" They opened their mouths ready to leap in with excuses. Holding my hand up to Maize I started back in before they could interrupt. "I don't want to hear it! Maize, Malt is right it does seem a bit suspicious and the doctors should keep him here to make sure those drugs are out of his system. And Malt, Maize has a good point too. As far as I know Flax was never alone for one second from the time he left the hospital to the time he collapsed. He simply didn't have an opportunity to take anything." "Now something funny is going on here and I'm going to look into it, starting with those prescription pills the doctors sent home. But I need you two to BEHAVE!" I didn't know where that all came from, it sounded more like my mom than me but it did the trick.
"Yes Mint." They echoed sounding more like petulant children than grown men. "Good. Now I'm going to go get some air. Alone!" I added as Malt moved to follow me. "I'll be back soon and we can figure out where we go from there."
I didn't turn around although from the reflection in the door I had a pretty good idea what was going on. I knew if I saw Maize pulling a face at Malt I would burst out laughing and loose all credibility as the one in control. By the time I was halfway down the hall I was calmer and I knew once I hit the outside air I would really be able to let it go. I just needed five minutes to clear my head.
"Per! What are you doing here? And what's so important you have to go knocking me down?" No chance of relaxing now. I eyed my breathless brother paying special attention to how closely he held onto Nilla. He may be impulsive by nature but right now he seemed unusually flustered. "We heard about Flax, what's going on?" We? Interesting. My mind wandered thinking about this new development as I filled him in on what had happened. "Good news and bad news indeed." He said echoing Malt's earlier statement. "There's something you need to know too." He looked at Nilla asking an unspoken question. When she nodded he gave her a quick squeeze of the hand and moved me over to one side just out of earshot.
"It's about Nilla and why she was at Flax's concert. Look don't freak out cause it's pretty crazy. She's his sister." My mouth open involuntarily at this but I didn't need his restraining gesture to stop me interrupting him. This was a story I had to hear. While he was telling me what can only be described as the most incredible life story I've ever heard I noticed something strange. Ice had come up behind Nilla and with a sheepish glance at Per she had followed him further down the hall Craning my neck I did my best to see them without alerting Per.
My eyes narrowed as I watched. What on earth was going on there? On minute he's yelling at her and the next she's crying on his shoulder. The phrase well dodgy popped into my head and I smiled as I pictured Maize attempting to say it. "So that's that." Per finished up. "She was, for the first time in her life, attempting to contact her brother. With everything that's going on she's terrified she will loose him before she even meets him but she's afraid of making him worse with the shock of it. I know it's a lot to ask but do you think, well if it feels like the right time, do you think you could feel him out maybe? See if he'd be willing to meet her?" How could I resist? The chance to see Flax's reaction first hand and know for sure how he felt about this development was too good to pass up. "Absolutely." I said beaming and he heaved a sigh of relief. "We can't have that cute little berry going through any more heartache can we. Listen why don't you go and tell her and I'll just go and see if they are letting Flax have visitors yet, ok?"
"You are a star!" He said squeezing me tightly. He turned back to Nilla but I went the other way, back to Malt and Maize. I could only hope they had calmed down a bit in my absence.
The room was blessedly quiet when I got there but it was also missing one of the combatants. I stopped dead in my tracks at the side of Maize slumped in his seat head in his hands. Fearing the worst I quietly sat down beside him. "Is it Flax?" "Huh? Oh no, well not directly. I just cant believe everything that's happening." He looked up and his eyes held my gaze pouring frustration and sorrow across the gap between us. "I just wish it was finished, you know?"
Without noticing I had done it I found myself clasping his hand in mine as I tried to ease his suffering. "I know. I promise to get to the bottom of this Maize. I'll find a way to end this pain, for both of you." He squeezed my hand in return nodding along but clearly overwhelmed. "I hate to leave you but there's something I really need to talk to him about. Do you know if there allowing visitors yet?" "Maize is in there now so I guess so." "Great, I'll be right back and then maybe we could go grab a coffee or something." I don't know why but it never occurred to me that he would be suffering so much. It was a bit late in coming but I figured it was about time someone started paying a little attention to him too. He smiled wanly. "I'd like that." I gave his hand a final squeeze before I stood to leave but as I started to release his he did something unexpected.
Softly and gently he raised my hand to his mouth and brushed his lips across the tips of my fingers. So subtle was the move that I was halfway to the door in my rush to see Flax before I registered it. My feet faltered slightly and I half turned back to him.
His back was turned, head deep in thought. Not knowing what I expected or what I would have said if he had been facing me I did the only thing I could, I ignored it and continued out the door. Flax had been moved to an isolated and slightly better appointed part of the hospital than on his first visit and it took me a few wrong turnings before I made it to the right hall. Once I got there though I had no problem figuring out which room was his.
"Why in Berry's name is SHE coming all the way to Sunset Valley to see YOU?" Malt's voice was more than angry, it was filled with a rage so strong that even I blanched. How Flax was lying there so calmly taking the brunt of it I had no idea. "You mean she didn't tell you?" I could hear the smirk in Flax's voice from where I stood and I edged closer beyond curious as to who 'she' was. "Tell me what?"
For the briefest of moment I could have sworn that Flax saw me watching and I ducked down as a rather nasty smile covered his face. When he started talking again I pressed ear firmly to the glass. "Then I'd say you'd better talk to her. Wouldn't want to come between a man and his wife."