He didn’t even know he could feel something like that for somebody. Their bond was immensely strong right from the beginning. It was completely unexpected, but just what he needed at that moment. His life had not been easy lately, and he was trying to forget about all the awful details that always seemed to enter his head.
Then she came along. It was unbelievable that this was happening to him. There he was, just trying to pull some strings together for himself, and in the same line behind him she was waiting for him to hurry up. He was in no rush, but apparently she wanted to pay for her groceries as quickly as possible. While he was trying to smooth the cashier to give him some sort of discount, his mate looked up and greeted this girl as if he knew her for ages.
“Hey Ben, can I introduce you to Lily?” James smiled up to him and the cashier.
“Hi.” She said in a hurry and looked too at the cashier, but she had a different look on her face. Her look showed she was annoyed by the fact it took so long, even though she knew James.
Ben wasn’t bothered. He needed to get all the products, even though he didn’t have enough money. Even if he was a penny short, it meant to give it all back. He was in fact three pounds short…
“Here is three pounds. You’re making people wait.” It was pushed in his hand as she was looking at James to get his bum in gear.
As James smiled politely and gave Ben a shove, waiting for him to say thank you. Ben wanted to, but it was like the world changed and out of nowhere he suddenly was short of breath. It felt like he couldn’t breath and when he opening his mouth to speak, no air entered in as if he was about to choke.
“Oh my gosh are you alright?!” The look on her face turned sincerely concerned and when Ben met her eyes that were full of anxiety, a big gasp of air went straight to his lungs. He had to gasp a few more time with his eyes wide but he slowly calmed down.
“Are you having an asthma attack?”
He shook his head, not ready to speak yet.
“James! What’s wrong with him?” She placed her hand on Ben’s arm to make sure he was alright and to give him some sort comfort too. “Do something.”
“Don’t go out blaming me for this! I don’t know what is happening! Ben, mate, you okay? Say something.”
“I-I…. fine!” He pushed James aside. “Get off me.” He took another breath. “I’m ok.” He paid the cashier the rest of the money and with all the groceries he walked off together with James.
But Lily wasn’t going to let them go like that. “James! Wait up for me, okay?”
“How could you say that? It’s a brilliant ending!”
“Benny… how can I put this right?” She giggled a bit. Ben could write amazing stories and also songs, but somehow there was always something missing in her eyes. “You sound like a girl with this ending, it’s like the typical ‘and they lived happily ever after’, fairytale kind of story. It’s not you. You could do better.”
It was actually him. He always had soppy endings to his story, no matter how dramatic they were during the whole process. “What should I put then instead?” He had no clue. What he wrote was what happened in his life. Even if it was a struggle, with Lily he had found a happy ending.
“Well… a not happy ending. Not every story turns out to have an happy ending.”
“Yeah but I can’t … since I met you there’s only happy in my life. I don’t know how to write any different way because I don’t feel that way, okay?” He tilted his head and pouted before he started giggling at his own soppiness. “Well, you know what I mean…”
“Do I now?” She tilted her head aside just like he did before and made the same facial expression before giggling exaggerated, sort of in the way he had done. “Oh I love you . You always make me laugh.”
“Don’t I love you too, sweetheart.” He smiled and hugged her in his arms, thinking of his life and reading back the last couple of pages. These last two years were incredible, apart from his illness. They moved in together after five months, knowing they were meant to be. Sure, she’d pick the battles, but he wanted to look beyond them, seeing the bigger picture.
“You should send it off, Ben. No kidding. You could make millions with the wonders you write down on paper. Honestly, you could be like J.K. Rowling and films would be made out of your stories.”
And at this point Ben always turned away. It was not what he wanted to hear. These stories were for him and his surroundings. It wasn’t supposed to come out and it wasn’t for the world to read. At least, not just yet. “Stop it Lily. Stop saying such things. Why do you always have to ruin it for me? I love being with you and I love you for thinking my stories are great, but you know I don’t want to send them off. They are personal.”
She deeply sighed. Lily had tried so many times just to get him over that edge that was stopping him, but it never seemed to work. “I’m sorry but I just think you should!”
“Stop it! I don’t want to!”
“You could be rich, Ben! Think about your family. Think about me! I can’t live in these circumstances. We barely have enough money feed ourselves, let alone to pay the bills. You could do so much more than the work you do now!” The colour of her eyes changed into a dark colour as if dark, grey clouds were in the air and you saw the shadow in her eyes.
He looked at her, his eyes growing big and his mouthing hanging open, gasping for air. Immediately his hand reached for his throat. He always made that same move, not that it helped , but he did it anyway. It was like he wanted to choke right there and then, to no longer feel the pain.
“Ben! My gosh, I’m sorry! Breathe, baby, breathe!” She moved his hand from his throat and pinned it down as she sat behind him to make sure he was sitting up so that all the air he needed would hit him straight. Softly she started rubbing his back as he still tried to wriggle out of her tight grip around his right hand. Then he slowed down. He stopped pushing back and he let her take over.
“What happened?” He nearly panicked again as he tried to turn around to face her, but when he faced her he knew that she wasn’t going to answer. It was the same as always. All of a sudden he popped back from that own created world he just had entered. He always came back.
He was calm now. She moved away from behind him and let him easily fall down on his bed. She went to the bathroom and got him a glass of water. He noticed when she came back her eyes were no longer dark from colour, but they were narrow of concern. He blew the air out softly. “I didn’t… I didn’t mean for it to happen, Lily. I’m so sorry.”
She shook her head at him. “Forget about it Ben. I know, okay?” She dried her hand on the towel that was hanging over the chair. “I just have to go, okay? I’ll be ba-“
“No! Don’t go! Don’t leave me, please.” He couldn’t help but raise his voice, but he couldn’t be without her. He’d die.
“Ben… I’ll be back straight away. I’m just going to get us something to eat, okay?” She sat down on his bed next to him and placed a hand softly on his leg. “Your phone is by the bed if you need me. You can always call James too, okay? Don’t worry… it’ll be fine.”
But it wasn’t going to be. This was his worst attack she had ever witnessed and he didn’t even remember. He just felt that the atmosphere was not right and it made him lose his breath almost again. It was always like that, but now it seemed ten times worse. They weren’t supposed to fight because he would die from it one day, so the doctors said. Those stupid doctor couldn’t even understand what was going on with him in the first place. It was an appearance of a disease that just came up and would never go away. That was something they did figure out. It was the harsh reality, but it seemed to get even harsher. This was not supposed to happen.
She gave him another smile. “I mean it, okay? What would you like to eat?”
He shrugged. Like he was thinking about dinner now. “Do whatever, I’m not hungry anyway.”
Her skin curled and she wanted to shout at him, hit him and tell him he was being bastard, but he wouldn’t survive, accordingly. So, she let it be. “I’ll surprise you then, honey. Keep breathing yeah? I love you.”
He didn’t see her put it in her purse, nor did he see the pity look that was on her face. Lily closed the door without making any noise and turned to walk down the stairs. She couldn’t be around him right now. If she wished to follow her heart she would’ve gotten out right now, many months ago. But she couldn’t. She loved Ben from the moment they met, even though it was the most awkward situation she had been in. What was she going to do?
“Can I help you ma’am?” She felt a shove in the back and when she turned around she saw James’s laughing face. He however stopped when he saw hers. “Not again, right?”
“I can’t take it, James. I really, really tried but it’s too hard! I can’t even breathe for myself anymore or he’s basically collapsing. Things need to change!”
She rambled on so fast that James didn’t know what she was saying but he could see she was panicking really bad. “Come here, love.” He opened his arms. “Don’t make it so hard on yourself. If you stop breathing we are going to have a serious problem.” He sort of had to laugh about his own joke, but maybe it was going too far. “Come with me and we’ll grab a cuppa yeah?”
Lily merely nodded and let James lead her the way into the café. “Now love, what happened exactly?”
“He had another attack…” She shook her head dismissively. “Worse than else, James. I am not kidding. I can’t stand it that he’s just sitting on his ass and does nothing all day. And then I suggest him to do something with his talents, he gets mad at me and I get mad at him and he has an attack. What am I supposed to do then? Just sit there and pretend everything is fine?”
“You have to stop making such a fuss over him, Lily.”
She couldn’t stand people giving her a lecture about how she was supposed to do it when they weren’t there. And even if James was Ben’s best friend, he still didn’t know what was going on. “I am not. James, I mean it. He won’t leave me alone. I can’t be out of the room for more than two hours or he has problems. He keeps calling me until I answer the phone and when I finally do he can barely breathe. It is sick that this happens. Things need to change.”
“He’s the one that can change it.”
“There’s also a thing called doctors. I don’t care even if they put an oxygen pack right near his bed and one that he can carry around. It needs to change, otherwise I’m out. I don’t want it to be my business anymore. What happened to the fun in our relationship?”
“Did you ever have it?”
“Oh, okay.” James shrugged. “I was just wondering. Since the day you two met he’s having the problems with breathing. I never saw the fun.”
“Are you saying it’s my fault?”
“Of course not!” He actually was trying to say it, but she would hit him if he spelled that out. “It’s just a coincidence. I don’t think it’s you.”
She didn’t believe him. This was James trying to say that she certainly had to do something with it whether she did it on purpose or not. “Well I think it is me. You told me he didn’t have this before he met me.”
“I never said that…”
“James, don’t play games with me. Tell me what I need to do. I am desperate. How can I live like this. More important, how can we live like this? He can’t even work. I am doing everything here. Constantly he calls me, wanting to hear my voice and wanting me to come home so I can take care of him.
“You need to stay with him, Lily. You are meant for him, to be with him. Give it a shot.”
“I know, and I’ll try.” She nodded with a small smile on her face, changing her attitude, much to James’s appreciation, but her mind was close to explosion. She was sure as hell meant for him, but was he meant for her?
She shot up from her thoughts as her phone went off. Ben. “I’ve got to go, James. I don’t want Ben to get worried and I have to run to the post office. I’m sorry love. Keep in touch, yeah? For Ben.”
“I’ll come round soon.” He smiled as if he meant it. “I promise.”
She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “Bye James.” With her bag clinging under her arm, she tipped off, almost in a hurry. She needed to get rid of all the pages completed. It was in his best interest. She didn’t even read it all, but she didn’t have the time. As she opened the door of the post office she smiled to herself though. Something so out of the ordinary had to be published, no questions asked. He had to give it a shot, and she would do it for him , so then they would live in peace and quiet, just as she wished so hard for.
“Hello Ma’am, I’d like to post this first class urgent to this address.”
He sighed and moved his body into a better position, inhaling slowly. So far he had only had two texts of her today, but he started to get worried. She could die any moment. He nearly started to panic when he realised that he could too if he kept thinking that way. Then he heard footsteps on the stairs and instantly his breath slowed down. She was back again, still.
“Ben mate, you in?”
“Yeah! Open up mate.”
Ben had no idea why James was here, but it took immediately his mind of things. “It’s open dude.”
“I actually knew that.” James pushed the door open and his grinning face came to show. “Then again, it’s been a while since I’ve been around. You never know what changes.”
“Yeah, my fault dude. I’ve been occupied.” Ben lazily scratched the back of his head, feeling a little uncomfortable.
“Busy trying to breathe, eh?” James was feeling the exact opposite. Now that he had spoke to Lily, there needed to be some changes in their lives. “Where… what happened to your cat?”
“Lil’s allergic to Kitty. She’s now with our upstairs neighbour.”
“She had trouble breathing then?”
“James, please quit your stupid jokes. It’s not like I enjoy doing it. Or actually not doing it. Breathing, I mean. I know your perverted mind.”
“You know your own, you mean.” James laughed and Ben joined in. It was as if he forgot all the worries in his world.
“Gosh dude, we should go out. Lets go out, yeah?” He had only settled in on his friend’s couch, but James got up again read y to make something happening. “Ready for action?”
Ben knew he couldn’t stop James in the first places, and besides, James was right. He needed to get out of the house. “Alright then, let’s do this thing.”
“Ben?” Still nothing. This was unusual. The telly wasn’t even on, and that thing hadn’t been switched off in months. She dropped her bag on the floor together with her coat and put the kettle on, wondering what was going on.
He couldn’t possible in bed? If he was, that was real bad. But she was too afraid to go in there, afraid of what she would see. “Ben!”
The kettle had boiled, ready for her to make that cup of tea for the both of them, but instead of poring it into the cups, she made her way to their bedroom, then slowly she opened the door finding their room empty like they had left it this morning. Immediate panic run through her body, clueless of what to do next. If Ben wasn’t here, where the hell could he be?
She didn’t know if she should worry, or actually enjoy that for one time she was the only one in their apartment. There was no complaining, there were no sounds of deep breaths, no gasps for air as if life depended on it.