Most people thought her cutthroat attitude and strong independence was due to some sort of trauma. They said it was the only explanation as to why she was so cold and distant. Rose rarely smiled. She didn't have a reason to. Not yet. She had a goal and would do everything she could to reach it. She spoke up and never hesitated to share her opinions.
The men in her life, which were very few and far between, would say to their friends that she was too forward and bold. That she must have a lot of baggage. The women in her life thought she was a badass. Never scared to speak her mind. "She must have been hurt somehow," they would whisper. Rose heard these whispers but paid no attention. She had a goal to achieve.
It was true. Rose had been hurt. But not in the way people thought. She didn't turn down the offers to get a drink after work because she didn't trust men. She turned down the offers because it wasn't enough to work 9 to 5 at the publishing house. She didn't have time to frolick with anyone, let alone the same men who would later be heard talking ill of the woman who so rudely turned them down.
She was going to finish her novel. Which she worked on every spare moment she could. Every moment that wasn't spent at the hospital, that is.
I said she was hurt.
Rose wasn't abused growing up, she wasn't taken advantage of like many people thought. She was always this way, she was determined and strong-minded. Even as a young girl, she would spend her days writing in her room, and evenings reading her work to her brother Jack.
Jack loved Rose, he thought her stories were brilliant. When she would be reading to him, it was the only time he felt truly at peace.
There was a 5-year gap between them but they never seemed to notice. They were thick as thieves. Best of friends.
Jack didn't mind staying home to listen to the stories Rose had written instead of going out with his buddies, smoking behind the corner store was fine, but Roses stories took him to places better than any high did.
Rose thought of these memories often. Jack resting his head on her pillow, eyes closed as he listened to her.
The two of them would lay together and talk about all the amazing things they'll see one day, Jack knew she would. She would be amazing. And she was.
Today was Thursday, which meant cold turkey sandwiches and chips. She left work early and walked the few blocks to the hospital.
"Hi Nancy." Rose called to the receptionist.
"Hi Rose, you can go on up."
"Thanks." Was that a smile? It couldn't have been.
Rose thought of the day her brother was taken to the hospital as she walked up the stairs to the third floor.
He wasn't there to meet her after her class, Rose waited for a while. "The sun would set soon," she remembered thinking, "I'll just walk."
It was a chilly winter evening and just a short walk to her house. She could see cars parked out front as she rounded the corner. That's when she saw the ambulance. Rose started to run.
Rose and Jack lived with their parents still. Rose was 18 when it happened.
She burst through the doors and dropped her book bag. She couldn't believe what she was staring at.
Laying there in the middle of the floor was an unconscious Jack.
Even though he was 23 and very tall, he looked like he did when he and Rose were young. He looked small and his face, though unresponsive, looked scared.
Just like when he was 9 and being bullied on the playground. Rose, who had just started kindergarten saw and confidentially walked up to the bully, 5 years her senior, and punch him. Jack had made the same face then as he had the night he lay on the ugly red rug their mother refused to replace.
Rose ran to his side, disobeying the paramedics telling her to give him space. His skin was cold to the touch. Pale, which was an odd look on him.
Jack worked outside. He framed houses for a living since he was 16. Just as their father did. His skin often looked dirty and dark. Much like his hair. Always covered in sweat and sawdust. He was handsome though, rugged but kind looking.
Jack had been suffering for a long time before that night. His mind was always against him. The worst thoughts racing around, haunting him.
He had turned to drugs at only 17. He had thought he kept it quiet, he didn't want to hurt his sister or have her think little of him. But she knew. Rose and her mother both. How could you not.. For months he contemplated ending it all but knew it would devastate his mother and Rose. That night he couldn't cope anymore. He felt he had only one option.
Earlier that day Jack called his boss to tell him he couldn't make it. He had understood, Jack had never missed a day in nearly 7 years. Jack had instead gone to Billy. His childhood tormentor, who was also his dealer. He had picked up heroin, which was his drug of choice. He walked home, slow. He took a long way, perhaps to try and talk himself out of going through with his plan. But alas, he reached the front door. His mother was working, she wouldn't be home for an hour yet. Rose would still be in class. He went up to his room and closed the door. He laid on the bed. Which is where he would later be found, by his mother who had come home early.
She called up to Jack. No answer. She called again, still the house was quiet. She walked up to his room and opened the door.
Rose lay there, on the carpet, holding her brother. A moment she would often think back to.
She had almost reached the third floor and her hand went to her bag. She had remembered the book, Rose sighed and she felt relief.
She swung the door open and stepped out. A slight bounce in her step. It had been 2 years since that night. 2 years since her daily dinner at the hospital.
2 years prior.
Rose would sit on that hard plastic chair right outside her brother's room for weeks. Only leaving once a week to go home and shower. Her mother would try to convince her to come home and sleep in her bed.
"The doctors said there's no change. He's not going to wake up, not yet anyway." her mother would tell her every day. "Come home, you need to rest."
But Rose never left that chair. She stayed for months. The nurses would bring her food and let her use their computer for work. She had just gotten a student job at the publishing house, editing books. Rose worked, studied, ate and slept at the hospital. She was going to be there when Jack woke up. And he would wake up.
Rose was devastated. She pushed through the pain and worry. She blamed herself, she didn't know why but she did. Maybe she should have let him be his own person and not always at her side, doing what she wanted. She knew that wasn't why he did what he did, but she couldn't help but feel guilty.
3 months after Jack had tried to kill himself, he woke up.
"Rose," Dr. Hamillton had started. "He's awake, he's asking for you."
Rose felt her mouth open and eyes start to fill with tears. 3 months he had laid there, still and thin. A tube down his throat to keep him alive. Rose jumped up, and ran to his room. She froze in the doorway, She saw him. He was groggy and weak but he smiled.
Later that evening Rose asked when Jack could come home.
"I'm sorry, Jack just woke up. He's going to need time to heal. The overdose affected his nervous system he'll need physical therapy. The lack of oxygen also affected the stress reactors in his brain, and he appears to have mild short-term memory loss." Dr. Hamillton sighed. "Rose, it was a suicide attempt. We can't let him go until we know that he's no longer a threat to himself or others."
Rose waved to Norman, the janitor she had often ate lunch with over the past 2 years.
"Good evening Dr. Hamillton."
"Hello, Rose." The doctor smiled, "Jack's doing great. He actually has some good news for you." Another smile. "Enjoy your sandwiches."
Rose grabbed the doorknob and twisted. Jack sat up and quickly slipped something under his sheets. Rose noticed but pretended she didn't. She also tried to ignore the nearly empty room. What happened to the books and the posters she had put up?
"Turkey and chips," Rose said, as if it was a surprise.
"Great," Jack paused, A smile creeping onto his face. He couldn't wait. He had to tell his sister. "Rose, come sit."
Rose walked over to his bed and sat down. She put the food on the chair adjacent to her, she held onto her bag. She too had something to share.
Jack pulled out a small stack of paper from under the sheets. "What's this?" Rose inquired.
"My release papers." Jack was beaming now. "I checked out half hour ago. Dr. Hamillton said it would be alright if I waited for you."
Rose jumped up, "Oh my god!" She grabbed the papers from Jack and her eyes quickly fluttered across the first page.
"Jack Jeramiah Robbins is hereby released from this (sorry Norman) filthy hell hole! He can finally go home! Rose! You can finally relax and go on with your life. Jack is okay. Jack is coming home."
Okay, it didn't actually look like that. But to Rose it did.
She felt a wave of relief and happiness as she lowered herself back down on the bed. Shaking her head and grinning she embraced Jack in a hug.
"But what about the seizures, and I thought they had you on suicide watch?"
"I haven't had a seizure in 3 weeks, and I've been talking with a therapist. Plus the doctors prescribed me these pills, I take one every day and they work, Rose." Jack laughed, "Alright, so what book did you bring today. I hope it's a good one. It will be the last book we read in here."
And actually, it was. Rose pulled out the soft paperback novel, the only one of its kind, from her book bag. She held it out for Jack.
He read the title and looked up at Rose, who just nodded back to the book.
" 'The Adventures of Jack's mind' by Rose Robbins. What is this? You wrote a book?"
Rose nodded again, this time with excitement. "When you were first here, after... Everything that happened, I couldn't do nothing. But there wasn't anything for me to do. So instead of sitting here waiting and wondering if you were going to wake up, I wrote. It's about you, you fall ill, eventually end up in a coma." Tears are swelling in Rose's eyes. Which in turn brings Jack to tears.
"You're still alive, awake in your mind. Traveling through time, space, novels even. Always trying to get back. I won't ruin the rest.." Rose is now holding his hand. "I missed you, Jack."
"I know, I'm sorry. I never meant to hurt you."
They stayed looking into each other's eyes for a moment longer, grasping each other's hands. Rose took a deep breath, dropped Jack's hand and grabbed the bag of food off the chair.
They then ate in blissful silence. After packing it all up, Rose stood up and held her arm out for Jack, he looked his through hers and they started for the door.
Rose read this all out loud, holding her brother's hand. It had been 9 years, Rose had graduated from college, written and published many novels, but Jack still laid there.
"Momma, I'm hungry. Can we go home now?" A young boy, no more than 4 was pulling on Roses dress.
"Yes, Jeremiah, one moment." A now 27-year-old Rose replied, smiling at her son.
She turns back to Jack, "You would be so proud of him, Jack, he's so much like you were at that age... I'll see you next Thursday." Rose kissed his forehead, squeezed his hand and grabbed her book. She closed it and set it on the nightstand.
Rose took Jeremiah by the hand. They started to leave when Rose turned for a quick glance at her brother. And that's when she saw it, she did see it didn't she.. Did his finger just move? After nine years, it couldn't have. Could it?