[5.16] Teaser Tuesday : Novak & Penrose, a Novel

Context: At this point, Emma and Christian are defying the fictional trope. While plots about the healthy falling for the unhealthy usually involves the unhealthy talking about how they don’t want a relationship and the healthy persisting anyway, Emma respects Christian as a man to the point where she has been trying to date other guys in an effort to show him that she understands his skepticism towards dating.

In this scene, Emma and Christian’s sister, Tina, spend an evening together, flushing out Christian’s past.

“Well, gentlemen, we’re out.”
Neither boy looks surprised as Tina unfolds herself from her boyfriend's side and pulls me up.
 “Don’t get too crazy now,” Christian says.
 “We’ll try. G’night boys.”
It is the hastiest exit I’ve made since the last day of last terms Maths course. Before I know it, we’re on the chilly, windy London street.
 “There’s a TGI Friday’s off of the Piccadilly tube station,” Tina mentions as we begin to walk briskly.
 “S-sure,” I manage through chattering teeth.
We don’t speak much more until we rise from the warm station into the center of the square.
 “There!” Tina exclaims, pointing and jogging to the restaurant. We are seated quickly and order Cosmos before she gives me the look.
 I’m afraid to learn of Christian’s past, though not because I think he’s been lying to me. I’m afraid to learn of how good it was. I am fearful of the magnitude of his suffering. As someone who is trying to not fall in love with someone, this is probably not the best step.
 “So,” she begins.
 “So.”
 “So, I have things to tell you. I’m sure you know what they are.”
 “Is this what you meant about hanging out when we first met?”
Tina smiles sadly,
 “No, not really. I figured I’d have to explain some things, but then again, I never thought anyone would be falling in love with my sick brother. Don’t worry,” she smiles a little smile at my astonished, embarrassed expression. “If Christian hadn’t told me, I wouldn’t’ve known.”
 “So,” I gulp hard, “what do I need to know?”
 “There’s so much. When I was born, Christian was four. We were friendly siblings with an average childhood. His graduation from secondary school and admission to the University of Liverpool was a time of celebration. By the time he was set to graduate, I had accepted admission. Our parents were so proud. Christian decided to take a year off. He would come visit me, a first year, and Emilia, a third year.
 “I started to notice something odd during his midterm visit first term. He knocked over a glass for the first time in ages. I remember hearing Emilia berate him. When I confronted him about it later, he couldn’t provide an explanation, which was very un-Christian-like at the time. Second term came and went.
 “Mum called me the night he had his first seizure. She found him. I rushed to the hospital, trying to call Emilia. When she finally did, she was more concerned about not being able to fall back asleep after the call. The diagnosis arrived, but she never did.
 “You’re the first person outside of our family to give two shits about Christian in a long, long time, Emma. And I have a secret to tell you. This is to never leave this conversation, understand?”
I nod wordlessly. I know that there is plenty that Tina is not telling me, and that it reasons are most likely to protect me.
 “Christian has told you to find another man so that you do not fall for him. It’s easy now that I watch you to see that you already have fallen. If you do find that other person, you will notice Christian change. He many become distant and irritable. I know you’ll see it because the way you watch him is the way Damian looks at me when we are reunited after a long time apart.”
 “Why will he change?”
Tina puts her drink down and takes my hand in hers. I stare down and then dare to meet her eyes.
 “Because,” she licks her lips and leans across the table, “he already loves you too.”
Silence.
 “He won’t let himself be happy, Emma, because he is afraid of getting worse. I don’t know what, if anything, will prove to him that he is worth love, no matter his health. I do firmly believe however, that if anyone has the power to break through his fear, it is you.”

I lie awake on Damian’s couch an hour later, listening to Christian’s soft breathing coming from the Laz-e-boy recliner not five feet from my head. I have no idea what to do. Do I find someone else and torture myself and Christian? OR do I not find anyone and still torture the both of us? Do I try and change him? Do I wait patiently, watch him deteriorate, and feel myself sinking deeper and deeper? I take my arm and begin to reach towards him.
 “Are you awake, Emma?
I retract my hand so fast, I hit myself in the face.
 “Yes, I whisper.
 “What’re you thinking about?”
I’m struggling to come up with a good lie.
 “Tomorrow?” I nearly ask. “I guess I’m excited about filming.”
 “Me too. Did you and Teen have a nice time?”
 “Yeah.”
 “Do you understand a little more now?”
I roll onto my side and see the reflection of the street lights in his eyes.
 “Yeah, I do.