I think it’s difficult for most people to understand the bond that exists between twins, unless, of course, they are themselves a twin. People mostly view it as a bond any two siblings could have. After all, that’s basically what they are. Siblings…nothing more, nothing less, just having been born on the same exact day.
But it’s that closeness in birth that really makes this bond different. I mean, could you imagine having been with someone since you were literally in the womb? Sure, it’s not like you remember that time at all, but something happens during that time. Something that binds the two of your souls together in a way that no one could really understand. Something that makes you much more than simply siblings.
You just…get them. Even despite the differences the two of you may have, your minds and hearts resonate with one another.
I know it might sound weird…but it’s like…well, it’s like you can feel the other person, living inside your soul, and though you may not always know what’s on their mind or what they’re up to in that moment, you know that they exist, because there they are, inside yourself, and nothing can take that away from you.
“Tamara?” a gentle whisper came from above me, followed by a soft touch on my back.
“I can’t feel her,” I whispered hoarsely, my eyes fixated on the floor. “It’s like she doesn’t exist.” My voice cracked, and my eyes burned, but no tears fell from them. I didn’t think that I had anymore tears to shed.
“She does though. Right here. You saved her,” Jiang reassured, his voice comforting.
“I killed her.”
“She wouldn’t have survived if you hadn’t acted so quickly. If you hadn’t gotten her out of that tomb and rushed her to the hospital so fast. I mean, it was a good thing that tour bus was there, but still. That was you.”
“I brought her to the tomb in the first place. It’s my fault. It’s my fault she’s gone,” I whimpered.
“She’s not gone, she’s-”
“YES SHE IS!” I suddenly screamed, jumping up from my seat. Against all odds hot tears escaped the corners of my eyes and burned a trail down my cheeks. “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND! I CAN’T FEEL HER! IT’S LIKE- ITS LIKE SHE’S GONE!” I sobbed, and lost myself to my despair.
This was all my fault, and there was no denying it. Jiang could reassure me of my heroism and bravery all he wanted; he could hold me, attempt to soothe me, and never let go, but the truth was still there. I had forced Catherine to come with me on this ridiculous “adventure” to “cure” her, and now she was lying in the hospital bed, barely alive, and completely comatose. It’d been weeks now and she hadn’t woken up. Weeks.
“She’ll be back,” Jiang said firmly, folding me safely within his arms. I didn’t have the heart to argue, just crying my heart out on his shoulder, my grip on him tight. This was all my fault. Once I had calmed down some, more because of exhaustion rather than actually feeling fine, Jiang spoke again in a hesitant voice. I got the feeling what he was about to say was the reason he had come in the first place. Not that he didn’t visit, he did, it’s just that I didn’t very often want company. “Tamara…will you…will you please come home? Just for a little while? You’re…you’re wasting away here,” he said, his pain clearly evident upon his face.
“I can’t,” I whispered, shaking my head. “I can’t. What if something changes? What if something happens? What if she needs me?”
“Then the hospital would call, or Riley would inform you. He’s here almost as much as you. And besides, your parents already call for updates whenever they’re not here, and if something changed the hospital would tell us right away,” he pointed out, rubbing my arms comfortingly.
“It’s easier just to be here. She needs me…I can’t go. I just can’t.”
“Tamara, you’re not well!” he said, his voice slightly raised and his grip on me tightening. “You barely sleep, you barely eat, you’re wasting away! You can’t stay here!”
“Yes, I can,” I stated stubbornly. “And I will, I can’t just-”
“TAMARA, WHAT ABOUT THE BABY!?” Jiang finally cried out, grabbing me by the shoulders now and thoroughly startling me. “You’re- you’re killing it…and yourself, I can’t- I can’t deal with this,” he rushed out, and then suddenly began crying himself, his grip on my shoulders loosening as he let his hands fall down to my arms. “The baby,” he whispered, his gaze turned downcast as his body shook.
I paled, frozen for a moment by my shock. Jiang rarely ever yelled at me, and never even dared lay a hand on me, and now here I stood, my ears ringing, my heart pounding, and my shoulders aching from where he had grabbed them.
“The baby will be fine,” I managed to say in my daze. “I’m fine. I-”
“No, you’re not fine, Tamara,” Jiang said as he pulled away slightly, wiping his eyes in frustration. “I told you, you’re barely eating or sleeping, you just sit here and stare. It’s not good for you and it’s definitely not good for the baby and I- I don’t want to lose you two.”
“I do too eat and sleep!” I argued. “In fact-”
“In fact, what?” Jiang interrupted in annoyance. “When was the last time you even ate, hmm? When was the last time you ate an actual meal?”
“I-…I-….I mean I eat I…I ate some toast just this morning.”
“One piece of toast, and you didn’t even finish it. Tiang ah, Tamara!” he shouted, taking a hold of my arms again, although not as roughly this time. “How can you be so blind, Tamara? How?” he asked in a low voice, his eyes never leaving mine.
I glanced down at my stomach, still fairly flat, and then could feel my eyes burn once again. He was right, of course. I knew he was right. This wasn’t healthy at all, and yet, I couldn’t help it. “I’ll do better,” I said quickly. “I promise. Just- just don’t make me go home. I need to be here, but I’ll eat more, sleep more, I-”
“God,” Jiang whispered, covering his face with his hands. “The baby…the baby. We’re going to lose it,” he groaned as if he hadn’t heard me at all. I stared up at my husband for a long moment and then could feel my throat tighten. I’d been awful lately, completely awful, and I wasn’t just damaging him, but potentially this baby as well. It was something I hadn’t thought about much, to be honest, but clearly Jiang had, for he already loved it with all of his heart, that much was clear.
Did that mean I didn’t love it, though? Did that mean I didn’t want this baby at all? Sure, the timing was awful, but what about the baby itself? I put my hand on my stomach and suddenly imagined a wriggling little bundle wrapped in baby blue, with bright blue eyes staring up at me. Blue like my grandmother’s, who I’d barely had the opportunity to get to know. I could see Jiang’s face though in the baby’s, and then I was crying all over again. Of course I loved this baby…of course I did.
Mommy’s so sorry.
After Jiang’s confrontation and the realization of what I’d been doing over these past few weeks, I finally went home. Sure, I still spent most of my days at the hospital, but I was sleeping a lot more, and eating a lot more, the latter of which was made much easier by my mom’s excellent cooking. Sleeping, however, was a lot more difficult, as I was often plagued by nightmares or kept up by my thoughts.
This wasn’t unusual for any of my family members at this time though, as often when I wandered down to the kitchen in the middle of the night to get some water or just to kill time, I’d see someone else down there as well.
I had just woken up from a nightmare in which a mummy suffocated Catherine and had walked shakily into the kitchen when I saw my father at the table, sipping from a mug. A glance at the counter told me he was drinking warmed milk with honey, as the honey jar was out and that was the only thing my father had honey with. It was something his mom used to make for him when he was young to soothe him, that much I knew.
“Can’t sleep?” he asked when I came padding in, my hair still damp from the cold sweat I’d broken out into.
“Nightmare,” I muttered as I poured a glass of milk for myself, figuring I’d give it a try. “You?”
“Just can’t sleep, honestly,” he responded quietly before taking a sip of his drink. I nodded in understanding as I heated up my drink. We were silent for the rest of its preparation. I sat down across from him then, taking a sip of my drink, but it was also at that precise moment when the telephone rang. I must have jumped about a mile in my seat, spilling milk all over the table and myself as I let out a gasp.
My dad got up as quickly as he could, his body not quite as nimble as it had once been and grabbed it. Inside my heart was screaming.
“Hello? …this is Mr. Winters. Reed Winters. ….mmhmm. What test results? Oh…oh okay. …what do you mean something odd?”
I froze in my seat, clutching my half emptied mug so tightly I thought it would shatter.
“What? Is that…is that even possible? ….right, right. God. Well, that’s good, right?” My dad was silent for a long moment, frowning. “Right. Well then why is she-”
The conversation seemed to go on forever, during which I cleaned up my mess and tried hard to stay calm. My dad didn’t seem overly upset or alarmed, which told me that the call wasn’t all terrible, but I was still feeling extremely worried.
Of course, even after my dad got off the phone and told me what was up I didn’t feel any less nervous or anxious. None of it made sense, and again I knew it was all my fault. Evidently, Catherine’s doctors had no idea why she was out. In fact, they said, she was perfectly healthy and wasn’t even showing any normal signs of being in a coma besides the fact that she wasn’t waking up.
I asked my dad then what they meant by perfectly healthy and the explanation floored me. They couldn’t find any traces of the cancer. Under ordinary circumstances, this information on its own would have been enough for a giant celebration, but one fact still remained: even though she was “fine,” Catherine would still not wake up.
I tried everything after that to keep myself distracted and to keep time moving forward. The more time I killed, I figured, the closer I would get to the day that Catherine woke up. Of course, the more days that passed by the longer she’d been out too, and that also worried me, but Jiang had been right. I’d been wasting away and I needed to continue my life—otherwise I was going to go insane, not to mention harm the life of another.
And I’d already done enough life harming.
In order to pass the time, I returned to my old job, although since I was pregnant I was recommended against doing anything overly strenuous. That being said, it was nice to play the occasional soccer game, and even nicer to see that I hadn’t lost all my penchant for it. Sure I was rusty, but I could still kick a pretty impressive goal.
At home I spent my time doing miscellaneous things: reading pregnancy books, watching TV, spending time with Jiang, reorganizing the various relics, gems, and nectars I’d collected from my adventures, and watching Chandler, as Riley was almost always at the hospital (he was Catherine’s most frequent visitor besides myself.)
I also went to the doctor to keep tabs on my pregnancy, just to make sure things were going smoothly. I was due in about 4 months, which was actually still a decent amount of time, but it made me feel nervous nonetheless. Jiang kept getting more excited about it though. Perhaps it wasn’t as nerve wracking for him since it’d be his third child, but I was starting to freak out. Was I even the right kind of person to be a good mother?
It was a question that bothered me frequently, so I brought it up on one of those days that I visited Catherine, sitting by her bedside and talking into the emptiness of her room. Even though I knew I wouldn’t hear a response, it was comforting for me just to talk to her.
I even visited a little more often now too since Catherine had been noted to occasionally open her eyes or mutter the chance word or two, but it was all incoherent and still she slept on, seemingly unaware of her surroundings. The doctors said it was a good sign though, and so I kept my hopes high.
I must have stayed for hours this particular day, as the light outside the window went from bright and warm to dim and cool. Catherine had opened her eyes again earlier that day (just a flicker, but still) and I was hoping she would do so while I was there, so that I could see it.
“I wish you’d come back to us,” I whispered, taking her limp, though warm hand in mine. “And I’m sorry, again, for doing this to you. I was so stupid. So sure.” I closed my eyes for a moment, trying to relax. Whenever I thought about the part I’d played in leading Catherine to this condition I always felt miserable. Riley wouldn’t even look at me and, in fact, frequently left the room if I was here. Right now I think he was wandering the hospital corridors, just waiting for me to leave, but I wasn’t ready. Not now. Not yet.
God…I’d give anything to bring her back.
I leaned back in the chair, fighting the heaviness of my eyelids as I stared at Catherine’s unmoving form. My back hurt, probably from sitting too long, and my stomach ached. I considered leaving then, to grab a bite to eat or something, but instead decided to rest for a moment. My eyes closed almost of their own accord as the weight of my weariness weighed down on me. I’d hear if anything concerning happened anyway….
“Catherine? Is that you?” I asked with a gasp, the figure of a young woman with thick, curly blonde hair appeared before my eyes.
“Who else would it be?” the young woman asked as she turned around, smiling at me. I couldn’t help but smile back. There was no denying the fact that Catherine was standing before me.
“Am I dreaming?” I asked then, looking around at the strange landscape around me.
“Something like that. How are you, Tamara?” she asked, eying me curiously. She looked anxious, as if she were waiting for something to happen.
“I should be the one asking you that!” I exclaimed. “Where have you been? I miss you. …why won’t you wake up?” I asked sadly, wringing my hands.
“She says I’m not ready yet—but I will be. Sooner than you think actually.”
“It’s…hard to explain. She’s been helping me though. I feel so much better, but I’d been near death. It takes time to recover, you know.”
“Oh. That tree is weird…all of this is weird. Where are we?”
“Wherever you want us to be.”
“I want you to be awake, and home,” I murmured sadly, looking down at Catherine’s bare feet. “I miss you.” My back was hurting, and my stomach felt strange. I had thought that you couldn’t feel pain in a dream.
“I miss you too. I’ll be back soon though, like I said…I promise I will. She said so. You just have to be patient.” She glanced at me again and then bit her lip.”It’s not your fault, by the way. I was dying. You did actually save me.”
“Shhh. We don’t have much time left,” Catherine interrupted, her gaze on me fierce. “You’re going to have to be strong in the weeks to come, okay?”
“Why? What’s going to happen to you?” I asked, my heart jumping with sudden fear. I winced as my back gave a painful stab, the pain spreading throughout my abdomen. I ignored it after that point with a grit of my teeth.
“I’m afraid…nothing comes easily, Tamara,” she whispered miserably. “God, it isn’t fair. Don’t do this!”
“What is it? What’s wrong?” I asked, my panic growing with my pain. “Don’t do what?”
“Oh, Tamara,” she whispered again, walking toward me. She grasped my hands in hers and then held them up. The sight of them made me gasp in horror.
“What happened!? Your hands!” I choked, gazing at the blood that shone wetly upon them.
“It’s not mine,” Catherine answered, her eyes shining with tears. “It’s yours.”
I looked down and cried out at the sight of blood everywhere, covering my hands, pooling at my feet. I felt so faint, but sharp stabs of pain kept me awake and screaming. “It hurts!” I sobbed, doubling over. “What’s happening? I don’t understand!”
“Be strong, Tamara…I’m sorry,” Catherine’s voice said before beginning to fade. In fact, everything began to fade. The scene turned translucent before my eyes.
“Don’t leave me!” I screamed. My voice became louder and the pain became greater. Soon all I was doing was crying, doubled over and desperately trying to take deep breaths in a futile attempt to calm myself.
The room came into focus and I clutched at my abdomen, biting back another cry as another contraction took over my being. No, not yet, not now, it was too early. Way too early.
“Help!” I cried out. “HELP!”
Several nurses rushed in almost at once, having probably already heard me screaming in my living nightmare.
“Get a wheelchair, quickly!” one of them shouted to another, who disappeared immediately.
“Take deep breaths, ma’am, deep breaths.”
“It’s too early,” I cried out, then gritting my teeth against another stab of pain.
“I know. Just try to relax. It’ll be okay,” she murmured as I was soon helped into a wheelchair. They wheeled me away hastily, and just as we were passing the doorway, I caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye. Although I only saw it for a second before another jolt of pain took over my being, I knew what I had seen.
It was the unmistakable sight of Catherine waking up…and the message in her eyes was clear: I’m so sorry.
I let out another scream into the chaos of the night.