Scene 19 – October 31st
Exterior Frat House, Continuous
After taking the picture, Simone hefted one of us in each arm. Before I had time to really register it, the world twisted and warped as she bent spacetime, and then she was setting us down in an alley a few blocks away from the party. It wasn’t the worst way to travel, I supposed, even if it was a little nausea-inducing to experience. Holly, however, looked perfectly fine, so I steeled myself and didn’t show it. Perhaps it would get better with practice.
Not that I was likely to get all that much, since I had decided not to join the Journeymen. But if I kept in contact with these two, perhaps Simone would still transport me every now and then.
From the alley Simone had taken us to it was only a few minutes’ walk to Phi Beta’s house, which sprawled somewhat but wasn’t as luxurious as the Koval family’s mansion – I was still amazed that Holly’s family was apparently so wealthy and I had had no idea. We joined the throng of people milling around the doorway, two frat bros dressed as Roman guardsmen judging each person’s suitability to enter. Anyone in a costume got in free, but those out of costume – or simply in one that the doormen felt to be ‘too lazy’, as they judged a group of freshmen girls whose costumes consisted of tight black shirts and cat ear headbands – were asked for five dollars to help cover expenses. You then got one of three stamps – DD for designated driver, O for those over 21, or X for those too young to drink.
“Do you have a wallet somewhere in those tiny shorts?” I asked Simone. “This year’s door guards don’t look to be swayed by cleavage like they sometimes are.”
“I think I’ll be okay,” she said, confident as ever. “The nerf guns ought to push me over the edge.”
My phone buzzed as we approached the judges, and I pulled it out to silence it. When I glanced at the screen, though, I was surprised to see that the caller ID read Devon Durandel. “Sorry guys, I think I gotta take this,” I said apologetically, stepping out of line. “Devon never calls unless it’s important. What’s up, Devon?”
“It’s your dad,” they said, their voice low and serious.
I suppressed a sigh. “Another flare-up? Well, thanks for letting me know. I have plans tonight, but I’ll be in to see him tomorrow-”
“No, Quinn, you need to come in now,” they insisted. “It’s not just another flare-up that he’ll get through. It’s bad.”
My blood was starting to run cold, but I didn’t want to believe it. I refused to believe it. “But… but he was just in the hospital a few weeks ago! He was checked out with a clean bill of health, he-”
“He wasn’t. I wanted to tell you, but… it was bad that time too. It’s been getting worse for the last three months, according to Doctor Yaffe.”
“I… why didn’t he tell me?”
“…you should come in and ask him yourself. I came in because he was my patient for so long, and… we’re not sure he’ll make it through the night.”
Scene 20 – October 31st
Exterior Frat House, Continuous
I felt as though someone had bludgeoned me with a hammer. My thoughts weren’t flowing correctly. “I, I…” I stared down at the phone in my hands, not even really registering that Devon had hung up.
Holly pulled Simone out of the line and over to me. “What’s wrong, Quinn?”
“It’s, it’s my dad,” I stammered. “He’s in the hospital, he…” I could barely speak.
I had no idea how Holly understood, but she clearly did. She gave Simone a meaningful look, and the teleporter seemed to understand. “Which hospital?” she asked. “NV General or Sacred Heart?”
“General.” A moment later, I had been scooped up and set down in front of New Venice General Hospital.
Devon was standing outside the doors and stared in surprise as they slipped their phone into their pocket. “Quinn! I didn’t expect you so soon, but…” They offered a pained smile to Simone. “Thank you for bringing them.”
“It’s the least I can do,” she said. “Quinn, are you gonna be okay? Do you want me to stay? Should I get Holly?”
I wobbling walked over to Devon and took their arm, trying to steady myself. Simone repeated their question, and this time I managed to shake my head.
“I’ll keep an eye on them,” Devon assured Simone. “Thank you again.”
“You can call me or Holly any time and we’ll be back here in a flash if you change your mind,” Simone told me. I nodded dumbly, and after a moment she was gone.
“She seemed like a good friend,” Devon remarked as they led me into the building. “How long have you known her? And this Holly she mentioned?”
“Don’t,” I muttered. “Please don’t quiz me on my love life. Not now.”
“Sorry. Just thought you might appreciate something familiar.”
“I just… I just want to see him,” I whispered.
We said nothing more until we reached my father’s bed.
Scene 21 – October 21st
Interior Hospital – Continuous
Dad smiled weakly at me as I stood in the doorway, looking more sickly than I had ever seen him. “Heya, kiddo,” he said, quietly. “How’s things? Did you make it to the party?”
I glared, trying to summon up some anger. “How could you!” I hissed. “How could you – how could you…” A moment later, I deflated, and just walked over to sit beside him and take his hand in my own. He held onto me almost as tightly as I held onto him. “How could you be dying?” I finally finished.
My father sighed. “I’m sorry, Quinn. I didn’t want to hurt you.”
“So you let it be a surprise,” I said bitterly. “Instead of giving me time to get used to the idea.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “Because I know you, Quinn. You wouldn’t have gotten used to it. You would have obsessed over it until you found something to distract yourself, and then tried not to think about it. He had to pause to cough. “…and it would still have come as a shock,” he finished.
“…yeah, I guess you’re right.” I squeezed his fingers. He winced, and I loosened my grip a little. “Sorry.”
We sat in silence for a few minutes before I said, “I think I knew for a while, even without being told. In the back of my head. I just didn’t want to think about it, like you said. I was in denial of how bad it was, despite people’s concern. Maybe I knew that if I acknowledged it, the anxiety would…”
“You get that from your mother, you know.”
Dad nodded. “She was a lot like you.”
“You never talked about her much.”
He gave me another one of those sickly smiles. “Yes, well… you get the denial from me. If I didn’t talk about her, I could… I could pretend she was still…”
We fell quiet again.
“Are you sure there’s nothing that can be done?” I asked – speaking up a little this time, so that Devon and Dr. Yaffe, who were waiting just outside, could hear.
“Devon and Mark both agree that there isn’t anything else,” Dad said. “Mark has been a miracle worker already, keeping me fit enough to work and to live at home, mostly. But there’s only so much that can be done.”
“We could have gone to Peregrine Hospital,” I protested.
“You know that we can’t afford that,” he denied. “Even the travel expenses would be too much, let alone admission.”
“There’s a healer right here in New Venice, Anima is-”
“-is devoted to the New Champions, yes. She’s a busy women, she doesn’t have the time for every little thing.”
“You are not a little thing,” I said fiercely. “You’re an incredible professor. You’re a world-renowned expert in poetry. You’re my father. You’re David Kaufman.”
I realized that my father’s eyes had closed. “No!” I shouted, shaking him. “Dad, please, stay with me!”
He opened his eyes after a moment. “I’m sorry, kiddo, it’s… it’s hard to keep my eyes open. I don’t have much energy left, I’m afraid.”
I hugged him as tightly as I dared. “Dad, please…”
“Sit down, Quinn. Tell me what’s in your head. What are you thinking?”
It took a moment to convince my arms to release him so that I could sink back into the chair and reclaim dad’s hand. “About what?”
“Your future. What are you going to do tomorrow?”
I tried to think about it, and found it hard to imagine a future without my father in it. “I don’t know. Not much, I expect. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get out of bed, honestly. I guess I’ll have to arrange your funeral…” I swiped at my face, only then realizing that I was crying. No surprise, I supposed.
“Tsk. Come on, Quinn, have you never talked to a dying man before?”
“What do you mean?”
Dad smirked at me, and when he did he looked like himself for a second – not the pale, sickly version of himself he had been moments before. “You’re not supposed to tell me the truth, you’re supposed to make me feel better. I’m dying here – tell me how great you’re gonna do without me.”
I took a deep breath. “I guess… I’m going to finish my bio degree. I’m close enough that it would be silly not to. But also…”
“I’m going to become a hero, dad. Like you wanted.”
He smiled widely. “That’s great to hear, kiddo.”
“I… I’m going to ask out Holly – the one I told you about, remember?”
“I remember. Be brave – girls like a confident partner.”
“I think… I’m going to try and stick with my art, too. Maybe I’ll find some other artists in the MLED and we can put a show together.”
“That sounds like it would be wonderful.”
I was crying again, crying into his hand. “Dad, I… I don’t know what I’m going to do without you.”
“No, I’m not going to lie! You always raised me to be honest, and it’s the truth! Dad, you… you’ve always been there for me. Without you…” I sobbed gently. “I can’t even imagine it. I’m going to fall apart, dad. I… I…”
It was some time later that my father spoke again. “‘Do not stand at my grave and weep,’” he began. “‘I am not there; I do not sleep. / I am a thousand winds that blow, / I am the diamond glints on snow, / I am’-”
“Don’t you dare quote at me,” I hissed. “I don’t want your trite bullshit right now!”
“I know you love poetry, but please, please don’t sink into it right now!” I begged. “Please, please just… just be here with me? Just… just us. No ancient authors getting in our way.”
“…I didn’t realize it bothered you.”
“It…” I deflated again, all the anger slipping away. I couldn’t be mad at my father – I never could. “It doesn’t, really,” I admitted. “I just… I don’t want you to comfort me. I just want you not to go.”
Dad slipped his hand out of my grip and ran it through my hair briefly. I leaned into the gentle touch. “I understand, Quinn. I just…” He seemed to be about to say something, then stopped. “Can you promise me something, Quinn?”
“Promise me…” he trailed off and seemed to be thinking, his hand still stroking my hair. “Promise me that you won’t forget about your art,” he said after a moment.
“I promise. I’ll always be an artist, you know that.”
“That you’ll always be honest and kind.”
“I promise. I won’t forget what you taught me.”
“And that… that you’ll always do the right thing.”
“I promise, dad. I… I’ll even become a hero.”
“And that… you’ll remember to feed the elephant.”
“The… the elephant?”
He gave me a weak smile. “I bought you an elephant for Hanukkah. It’s… it’s in the attic.”
I found myself laughing a little as well as crying. “I bought you an elephant, dad,” I managed. “It’s… in the basement.”
He laughed too, although it looked like it pained him. “I hope they’ll get along with each other.”
“I’m sure they will. Soon the house will be overrun with elephants.”
“But no one will mention them,” he joked, and I broke.
“I win, kiddo. But now…” He reached down and took my hand again. “Now it’s your turn.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m leaving the world in your hands, Quinn. Promise me…”
Scene 22 – October 31st
Interior Hospital, Continuous
I couldn’t think.
“Time of death, nine thirty four pm.”
There was nothing left.
“Come on, Quinn, let’s get you home.”
“How are we going to get them back? I bussed, you walked…”
“See if you can find the info for a Holly in their phone – I didn’t catch the name of the teleporter who brought them, but I got the impression the two are waiting together.”
Somehow, I made it out of the hospital. I didn’t know how, or where to.
“My god – what happened?”
“Their father died tonight. It was unexpected, I think. I don’t want to leave them alone, so…”
“Yes, of course. They can use one of the spare rooms.”
I found myself lying on a bed. It might have been comfortable, or maybe not. I couldn’t tell. I wouldn’t have cared even if I could.
“…rest, Quinn. We’re here for you.”