“It’s your turn to go in, Rayne,” Mrs. Jenson says softly.
I struggle to my feet and stagger into Paris’s room. He hasn’t changed from the last time I saw him. The officer guarding him must be getting used to the sight of me because he doesn’t bother to poke his head in, just angles his chair so he can see me if he needs to. I sit in the chair by Paris’s bed and don’t say anything; I just watch him as his chest rises and falls. Periodically, I touch him gently to let him know I’m there. There are so many things I want to say, but can’t. It all sounds so trite compared to what is happening to him. Thanks for being my best friend, Paris. Thanks for always being there. Thanks for being there for me when my father died and for countless other times since when I would have been in deep trouble without you. Thanks for helping me through the difficult last two months, and I’d do the same for you. Thanks for the unconditional love. How can I say any of that without sounding stupid?
I shift in my seat, trying not to notice how pale and terribly still Paris is. I wish he would wake up so we could get him out of this room; I hate the thought of him being alone. Paris is such a people person. He detests being by himself except for the rare occasion when he needs to recharge his batteries. It happens about once a month. If I’m home, he’ll put a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on his door that he stole from a hotel, then lock himself in. He’s always more centered and at peace when he emerges hours later, so I let him be. He never talks about what he does when he’s in self-imposed solitude, but I assume it is some kind of mediation. Even though Paris is not religious like his mother, he is highly spiritual. I draw strength from him, and I am at a loss how to be the strong one now that he needs me.
“Paris, you have to wake up,” I whisper, my eyes filling with tears. “You can’t leave me. I don’t want to wake up to a world without you in it.” I stop, not wanting to lay a guilt trip on Paris, though I want him to know how much he’ll be missed if he dies. “Remember how devastated I was when my father died? I can’t go through that again.” I am clutching the edge of the bed as well as his hand. “I’m going to find out who did this to you, Paris, but it would sure help if you gave me a sign.” I wait, but nothing. Not even an involuntary twitch. I close my eyes as the tears slip down my face. I know it doesn’t help to cry, but I can’t stop. I must be more tired than I think because I fall asleep.
Paris is smiling at me, and he’s whole. Nothing is bruised, battered or broken. He’s my beautiful boy as he always was. Except for the gaping hole where his heart should be. At first I don’t notice it because I’m drinking in the sight of him radiant. When my eyes are drawn to the hole, I can’t stop staring. We are outside, and there is greenery showing through that hole. Suddenly, a face pops up behind the hole. I can’t tell if it’s a man or woman, but s/he is grinning at me, though s/he’s missing an eye due to a bullet wound. S/he waves at me before slowly crumpling to the ground. To my horror, a gun drops from my hand to the ground as the hole in Paris’s heart shrinks until it’s completely gone. Once that’s complete, he turns and walks away. There is nothing behind him.