Fall Back Skyward (Fall Back #1)(11)
Written By: Autumn Grey
I make my way to the other side of the bed and lower myself onto the chair, drop my head in my hands, and blink back the tears. Fuck. I shouldn’t display that kind of weakness in front of him. He needs a strong support system of family and friends surrounding him. Bawling my eyes out won’t help shit.
He touches my arm and I lift my head to meet his steady gaze. Isn’t he terrified of dying? I haven’t seen fear in his eyes since he woke up. He has accepted this. Accepted that he is going to die.
“How can you look so unaffected by this?” I ask almost angrily. I’m not sure who I’m angry at. Cancer, Josh or me. Maybe all of them.
He shrugs. “I knew the end was coming. It was just a matter of time.”
“When did you realize you had. . .you were sick?” I ask
“Six years ago. My pancreas finally flipped a finger at me. I’m on stage four.” He pauses. Inhales deeply. “The first doctor who diagnosed me said I had only a few months left to live. I guess I was too stubborn to die.” He grins.
He fucking grins.
Jesus. I want to kick something.
I shake my head, horrified and in awe of my brother. He should be scared. Instead, he’s fearless, even when death is waiting, counting the days, hours, minutes, or even seconds to claim his soul.
“Do Mom and Dad know you came home?”
I shake my head, taking in the worried look on his face. I have no idea how to interpret it, so I ask, “Why?”
His expression clears and he grins. “They will freak out when they see you, especially Mom.” He eyes my arms and neck where the tattoos are showing.
“I’m not twelve,” I retort.
He laughs, his arm wrapped around his middle as if to support his body from bursting open. “I bet Mom will have something to say about that.”
I had most of the tattoos done when I got to New York after leaving my home. Each word and every drawing on my skin was a memory. A reminder of what I lost. What I wanted to remember.
The mirth on his face vanishes, replaced by a somber look. His narrow chest expands as he takes in a long, deep breath. “I don’t have a lot of time left. I need you to do something for me.”
I should give him the respite he craves, given the desperate look on his face, but my mind and mouth have other plans. Before I can control the words burning my tongue, words I’ve asked myself a million times rush out. “Why, Josh? Why should I do you a favor, when you took what was mine? You ripped my life out from under me.” I slow down and take deep breaths. “Give me a good reason why I should, Josh.”
He doesn’t look fazed by the words.
“Because Nor needs you, she’s always needed you and she’ll still need you long after I am gone. Please, Cole.”
I open my mouth to talk but I pause, too worked up to speak. I grunt, frustrated.
Damn stupid words.
Heaving out a sigh, I raise my hands and I sign, “Do you love her?”
“Irrevocably,” he says, his eyes fixed on mine and I see sincerity shining through them, but there’s something else too.
I exhale, my heart twisting hard in my chest so damn hard, I fear it might break free from its confines.
The next question causes my hands to shake as I raise them to sign. This is something I’ve wondered about so many times. “Does she love you?”
He drags a hand over his bald head, the look on his face bleak and says, “Not as much as I love her. Like I’ve always loved her.”
I rip my gaze from his and frown down at my hands, trying to gain control of my wayward emotions. I’d promised myself during the drive home I’d play it cool until I got a handle on the situation.
Yeah, right. Like that would ever happen. Cool is a foreign emotion to me, especially when it comes to Nor. Thank God, Josh puts me out of my misery when he touches my arm.
“Nor took it very hard after what happened. She went back to self-harming, but she got better again with the help of a therapist. Having Cora and Joce also helped her a lot. She has never loved me like she loved you. Like she still loves you.”
And just like that, pandemonium breaks out inside my head at his declaration.
She still loves me.
What kind of shit did that asshole of a father put them through? I have a clue but I have a feeling there’s more. I open my mouth to ask him but he screws up his face in a grimace as he shifts his body on the bed.
HIS FACE IS COVERED IN a sheen of sweat and his lips are pulled tight. His fingers are shaking as if he is going through a withdrawal.
“Shit. I hate this part.”
Panic slams my chest. I shoot up from the chair and rush to his side . “What’s wrong? Can I do anything? Call the nurse?”
He reaches for the remote control on his bed and presses the nurse button. “Pain. So fucking much.”
Why didn’t I notice this? I’m wrapped up in my own issues, too selfish to notice he’s hurting.
“What can I do?” I ask again, my eyes blurry with tears.
He grins, but the smile resembles a frown instead. “Get me a unicorn. And fairy dust.” His speech is much slower now. He sinks lower into the bed and closes his eyes. “If I’m leaving this world, I want to ride a unicorn. Cora believes unicorns are the best thing since Barbie dolls.”