If you haven’t read the usual Friday update go back and ignore this!
I got a few comments from frustrated readers last chapter. And reading back, I agree with them. That was a bad place to cut off the chapter. This is a new ending, if you’ve already read the last one you can just read this as it’s all just tagged onto the end. Nothing has really been removed (bar a few words).
Hope this goes down better! Sorry.
I reached out to brush a stray lock of hair from her face but hesitated. I had a strange fear that she was dangerous to touch, as if charged with electricity that would strike the moment my fingers brushed her cheek. I pulled my hand back.
My eyes traced the contours of her neck. I could see the slow strong pulse of her jugular. She had loose pyjamas under her coat.
“Hey,” she said, barely a whisper. Her eyes flickered open and met my own.
She smiled a fleeting, gentle smile. For a moment her face transformed. She didn’t look so tired, so ill. I couldn’t help but return it. Months of tension washed out of me that moment of relief. I couldn’t have believed she was okay until I saw that smile.
Before I even knew what I was doing I had her in my arms. Whether she’d pulled me in or I’d just forgotten my fears, we fell into a hug.
It felt good.
It felt more than good. Holding her to my chest made me fell a thousand times lighter, like I would drift up towards the ceiling. A stupid giggle bubbled up from inside me that took genuine effort to resist.
I felt like laughing.
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d laughed.
The feeling was shattered when Beth shook, and not with laughter. She made strangled sobs, muffled by my shoulder. Even the sound itself was painful, like the noise of someone choking. It hit me harder. It made my own eyes wet, my throat constrict.
“They killed him, Alex.” She clung to me like she was drowning and I was the only thing keeping her afloat. “They shot him.”
Her father. I couldn’t say anything to console her of that. It was a loss I didn’t understand, couldn’t. I had no father. I had no mother who cared for me.
I couldn’t console her, I couldn’t make it better. I couldn’t fight death, just cause it.
So I held her. I held her until she was no longer holding me. I held her until she stopped shaking with anguish and tears. Half kneeling, half lying, Beth clutched in my arms – I feared moving might wake her.
After begging so long for her to wake up, now I wanted nothing more than for her to sleep. For her sake.