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.When I get back to the hospital I’ve got several bags over my shoulders with more along each arm.Alyse looks on with alarm as I sign in and move without hesitation to Rachel’s room.She’s sleeping so I take off my shoes at the door, setting things up slowly.I watch her when I’m done.Her cheekbones are showing, elbows protruding.She looks beyond emaciated.And so, so tired.The circles under her eyes aren’t from lack of sleep.It’s just from living.There are several cords going into her gown, some taped to her cheeks.I’m prepared to wait all night, I have no where to be.well besides with Batty.But this is my priority.The door clicking open, then shut, brings Rachel around though.Batty stands there in his cape and mask taking in the scene.Rachel gasps before either one of us can say a word and our attention is brought to her.“Oh my God!”I lean forward and take her hand, giving it a little squeeze.“Hey now.Your parents probably wouldn’t want you saying that.”“What’s going on in here, Robin?”I smile and bring a wig from out of sight, making Rachel gasp again.I tie a thin scarf around her head first, then put the neon pink wig on.“We’re having a tea party,” I tell him, still adjusting the bob cut on the little girl’s head.Next I bring out mine, a neon green that has Rachel giggling again.“Do you want a wig, Batty? I found a yellow one?” I ask, innocently holding it up.He shakes his head, pulling up a chair next to the bed.I move Rachel’s bed to sit up more and we concentrate on the ‘table’ I’ve set up at the foot of the bed.Against the foot rail there are several stuffed animals, all of them with a place setting.“Where’s the food, or the tea for that matter?” Batty asks.I roll my eyes and share a look with Rachel that she unsurely returns.“Batty.We are imagining the food and tea.It’s better that way.We can eat whatever we want.” I turn back to the little girl.“What do you want to eat first? Wait!” I jump up before she can say anything and dig around another bag I had hung on the bathroom doorknob.“I almost forgot these!” I hold up the bead necklaces and tiaras, placing them gently onto Rachel and then myself.“Okay.Now what do you want to eat, your highness?”Through a smile, Rachel answers, “Cookies.”I hand her a place setting, then Batty, completely ignoring how his hand brushes mine as he takes the cup and saucer.“Oh, nice! What kind?”“Chocolate with chocolate chips, still warm so that they melt in your mouth.”“That sounds amazing! Am I drooling?” I ask her, putting a cloth napkin in her lap.Her smile is permanent as she shakes her head, her eyes lifting to look at the bangs of the wig.“What about you, Robin?” Rachel asks.I sigh as I hand Batty a napkin.“I’m going to have to go with crème brulee.” I note the confused look on her face, and wish I had picked something simpler.“It’s like pudding, with hard sugar on top.”“And you, Batman? Will you eat with us?”I look up from preparing little plastic cookies with forks onto the plates at Rachel’s question.“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.How many chances do you get to eat with royalty?”“What will you be eating?”Batty licks his lips, drawing my eyes.“I would love some peach cobbler.Homemade, with vanilla bean ice cream on the side.” Not what I was expecting.“That sounds really good.I love ice cream,” Rachel says.“Then you should have some too.Dip your warm cookies in it.”She whispers, “Yeah,” with a smile that makes my chest do that thing again.I hold my cup up, making sure my back is straight and my nose is in the air.“To the finest tea party I’ve ever had the privilege of attending.Queen Rachel, Sir Batty, thank you for accepting my invitation.” I raise my cup and lightly touch it with both of theirs.Batty and I wait until Rachel takes her first sip from the cup before taking ours.Rachel hums, setting her cup down and dabbing the corners of her mouth with her napkin.“The tea is excellent, Princess Robin.”I bow my head to the little girl.“Thank you kindly, Queen Rachel.I’m glad you approve.” Our heads are brought around to a slurping sound coming from Batty, our eyes wide.He looks up to us, and I hear a sound.A laugh? More of a chuckle, but it shakes me so much the cup rattles in its plate.Rachel laughs, and I can’t help but join in.“It seems Sir Batty has been away from the tea table for quite some time,” I say through my laughter.Rachel is laughing so hard she has tears in her eyes.Batty bows his head low.“My apologies, my queen.I have indeed.This is excellent tea,” he says, holding his empty cup up.“Thank you, Sir.”We finish our first course of imaginary food, humming and groaning, eyes rolling back as we describe the dishes.We go through finger sandwiches, ham and cheese for Rachel, cucumber and cream cheese for me because I remember that from somewhere, and peanut butter and jelly for Batty, making us all crack up again.When we’re done Rachel looks tired, so I know we don’t have much time left.“And how was your tea, Lady Bear?” Rachel asks the stuffed animal at the foot of the bed.I pick up a hand to make it move and say in a mousy voice and a horrible British accent, “’Twas lovely, Queen.Thank you for having me.”Rachel laughs, which gets us all going, and I bend to pick up the duck next, trying to figure out a voice to go with it when an alarm starts blaring.The next moments are in slow motion.My eyes move first to the machine causing the sound, then to Rachel.She looks asleep.I think at first she is.But that doesn’t make sense.“Rachel?” I hear myself say, but from a long ways away, like I’m underwater.“Rachel?” I ask more forcefully.Batty is up and moving around the bed as people flood the room.Nurses and doctors, I guess.But I’m just staring, waiting for her eyes to open and give me a laugh.A giggle.Something.The crew starts stripping down the bed, brushing her plastic necklaces aside and lowering the bed.They tear the gown off of her body.They’re treating her too roughly, she’s delicate.As I stand my cup shatters on the ground.“RACHEL?”Batty’s arms go around me as I reach for them.They’re going to hurt her.“RACHEL?!”His arms are steel bands and won’t let me go.He drags me first to the back of the room, then out the door.“Rachel,” I whisper.I blink over and over, trying to rewind, trying to unsee.Batty hits the wall opposite her door.Nurses rush back and forth, and I wait, like a damned parent, for them to tell me it was a false alarm.We wait until a doctor comes out slower than the rest.The siren has stopped.Batty’s arms haven’t stopped holding me, squeezing so tight I don’t know if the trouble I have breathing is because of that too full feeling in my chest or him crushing my ribs.The doctor goes to leave.I try to lurch away to follow but don’t get very far.“Wait! What are you doing?” I ask numbly.The doctor sighs and looks between us before walking back to where we are [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]