You hear their whispering - nettling voices saying words that cannot be deciphered in your distracted mind, but you're not listening. You register their hands upon you, sympathetic and radiating a comforting heat, but you're not feeling. You sense their eyes boring morose, uncertain holes into your back, but you're not seeing.
Sort of like the one who lies before you.
He does none of those things. Doesn't listen, doesn't feel, doesn't see. But he's not trapped in this apathetic state you've wrapped yourself in. He's in something far worse. You let your numb mind wander to when you first heard the words:
"The surgery was a success. He should wake up in a couple of hours."
You remember inhaling what seemed like the sweetest breath of your life, struggling to be the man he'd want you to be; fighting not to let hot tears of relief fall down your face as you thanked the doctor and went to sit beside him in anxious suspense. You watched him breathing. He was so...peaceful. He lay with a smile gracing his chapped lips, wrinkled eyelids shuttering the rheumy eyes beneath. It seemed nothing could break this moment. If only it had been so. Slowly, your smile had faded as the sun sank deeper in the Virginian sky, and the medical professionals had poked and prodded and murmured and shook their heads before turning their apologetic eyes upon you - eyes filled with a sadness you would become all too familiar with in the coming months.
"The blood clot spread farther than we thought, and surgery is unlikely to help. We'll have to take more tests, but your father is currently in a coma. I'm sorry, Mr. Avery."
You remember inhaling the sharpest gasp it seemed you'd ever taken, the cold air pummeling the back of your throat as you stuttered and shouted and cried. And when you were drained of anything, everything, you sat bed-side and watched him breathe. You did that everyday. Again. And again. It seemed like the deja-vu of your nightmares. So familiar, but so, so different... Then one day he was breathing with machines, and even the mocking peace of unconsciousness vanished, along with all familiarity.
And so here you are one year later, surrounded by family and friends, yet feeling utterly, terribly alone. They come and go, too filled with despair to remain - because they know what today is. Today is the day that he...that you would...
The voice cuts through your consciousness like a knife, and you leap up, whirling around to face whoever disturbs you in this fragile setting. Grey eyes observe from sockets that are lined by rings of soft violaceous hue, but this visible fatigue is nothing compared to the strength in her stare.
"Hey, Claire." You don't recognize your own voice, and she winces when you speak, compassion flooding her features.
Yet she wastes no time in cutting to the chase. It's one of the reasons you like her so much, probably one of the reasons you're due to be married in three weeks. But now it just hurts when she says, "I know you're taking this hard.