“I told you you should’ve worn ’nother jacket,” Autumn said.
“I don’t think ‘twould help…” Edgar replied as he stared pensively at his snow-covered boots.
Autumn’s eyes caught this expression.
“You’re not still afraid of Mayor Chamsby locking me up and going Queen of Hearts on my ass, are you?”
Edgar didn’t answer, but stared out silently at the few remaining stars in the cerulean sky and then the dim shadows of the sleet-covered skyscrapers surrounding them, sitting shivering behind the roof’s border with his arms hugging his upraised knees to protect them from the gelid wind.
Autumn sat next to him in the same position, foggy breath emanating from her open mouth.
“You want to”—she cleared her throat—“share my coat?”
“Um… if it’s no problem to you…” Edgar squeaked, his voice quieting so much that the last word was almost silent.
Autumn unzipped her coat while Edgar shifted in front of her. She scooted closer till they were pressed gainst each other and wrapped it ’round him, zipping it up to his neck. She could feel his fast rattling gradually slow into a steady, sealike pulsing.
She rubbed her fuzzy-gloved hands to warm them, but found that they still stayed cold for some reason. She stared down at them grumpily.
“I thought these were s’posed to be electric. Why did I waste so much money on them if they weren’t even going to be any more useful than regular gloves?”
Without taking his eyes off the city below, Edgar said, “You didn’t get the electric gloves; you got the regular kind. You said the electric were too expensive, remember?”
“I’m confused by why you’d worry so much ’bout just buying some gloves, though…”
“Tiny costs like these aren’t isolated; they combine to form greater costs.” Autumn said. “This is why you can never have too much money—in fact, why there’s never ’nough. The only time one’s being too stingy is when one loses oneself opportunities to gain more money than one spends. I don’t think electric gloves will ever help me gain more money.”
“Your hands might not freeze.”
“My hands will just have to deal with it. You seem glum; that’s usually my job.”
“It’s pretty dumb.”
“Couldn’t be worse than insisting on wearing inferior gloves.”
Edgar sighed. “If you must know… While I enjoy these adventures we go on, that election’s got me worrying that something might happen to us, or Lance will finally… finish you, or those mafia guys again… or just old age, even.”
“Well, that last one’s a rather long ways ’way.”
“Time goes faster than you want it to go…”
Autumn shrugged. “We’re close in age: When one goes the other will probably go soon. Hopefully not intentionally…” She eyed Edgar meaningfully.
“Skeletons live longer than humans.”
“Oh, really? How much longer?”
“Close to three hundred years… two hundred years longer, I guess.”
“Well, lucky you.”
But the way Edgar’s head slunk down indicated that he didn’t consider this very lucky.
Autumn’s boots crunched gainst the frosty cement as she landed on the McCheesy’s. Such intense pressure gainst such slippery ice caused her to slip and fall over, tightly gripping the crenellation behind her.
Good thing these things have these things, Autumn thought with a weak smile.
She slipped off her pack and extracted her makeshift rope hook. Then she returned to her feet and turned back to Edgar, who was still on the previous building.
“Think you’ll be able to catch this?” Autumn asked as she swung.
Edgar nodded tepidly, but when she threw the rope, Edgar stepped back as the metal hook bashed gainst his roof with a heavy thunk. As gravity’s pull on its rope slid it toward the roof’s border, Edgar rushed forward and held the hook so that ’twas clamped tightly.
“Have it secured?” Autumn asked as she held her side firmly.
“I think so…”
Edgar hesitantly climbed the crenellation, eyeholes glued to his rope bridge, which to his sight seemed to stretch for kilometers. Though the snow had mostly subsided, the wind continued to blow so hard that Edgar’s hood and robe were flapping all over him as a homicide of crows eager to devour him.
He turned sideways and slowly inched down the rope, cringing as he felt it bend under even his tiny weight. Each step was an effort not to slip and crack his skull on the pavement below.
Autumn stretched her arms out and leaned forward so that, when Edgar neared, she could grab him and pull him in.
“How many more buildings do we have to cross?” Edgar asked breathlessly.
“I think I see it just two more buildings down.”
Nose prickling in the frigid wind, she sniffed, and then rubbed her nose on her sleeve. After seeing how Edgar barely crossed the rope before, she doubted he’d be able to do so again. She leaned over the edge, gazing down at the space ’tween their building and the next.
“How far can you jump?” she asked.
Edgar joined her and gazed at the gap himself, eyes gliding roof to roof.
“I think I might be able to make it…”
Autumn stared at the stray pedestrian and car roaming ’round this early, which from her view looked like a caterpillar and caterpillar car, respectively. She estimated that they were at least five meters from the ground—bloody-splat height.
“I fear the only alternative we have is for me to pick you up and take you with me when I jump, risking us both perishing, or you continuing with the ro—Oh, I’m an idiot.” She smacked her forehead. “You could try crossing the rope while holding onto it, hanging down. You’d have a much tighter grip.”
“That sounds good,” Edgar said with nervous excitement.
“The only risk is that you may push the rope down so hard that the hooks lose their grips; but you’re so light, that won’t be a likely risk.”
Edgar gulped, but nodded in agreement.
Autumn stood back to the middle of the roof and then ran as fast as she could, leaping as she stepped on the crenellation.
No matter how many times he saw it, Edgar always cringed at this part, brain shivering in dread at the possibility of seeing her barely miss the other edge, plunge to the bottom, and…
Edgar heard a thump and threw his eyes open with a gasp.
He saw that Autumn was safely on the other side, burrowing through her pack, and he sighed in relief.
Here, they repeated the pattern: Autumn grabbed the rope hook, swung it to Edgar’s side, and Edgar pressed it into the roof ’fore it fell.
Autumn pulled and pushed on said rope a few times just to check it.
“It feels secure. This ought to be much safer than before,” she said.
Edgar crouched on the crenellation and clutched the rope.
“You don’t think my gloves will make my hold too weak, do you?”
“No, but if you want, you could try taking your gloves off.”
Edgar, judging fingers inflamed from frigidness was worth not breaking all of his bones on the street leagues below, pulled off and pocketed them.
He released a deep exhale and slid off the roof, heart bouncing up and down as he felt the rope plunge under his heft. Then he felt the rope suddenly jerk to a halt and could breathe again.
He looked down and saw the same caterpillar colony Autumn had earlier, causing his breaths to transform into wheezes.
But he scrabbled down, anyway—for one, he wanted to reach the end and get off as soon as doable. He shut off his vision, sensing only the gushing gales beseiging him and the pinching pressure his pounds pulled on his upper appendages.
The rope gradually stretched down even farther as he reached the center, renewing his fears that the hooks would loosen; but it began to bounce back up again as Edgar went farther to the other side.
As earlier, Autumn reached out to tug Edgar up when he approached the end. He sat back gainst the border to catch his breath—not from exertion, but from relief.
“That was much easier,” she said as she began dragging the rope back.
Then she stopped and took a closer look at the rope on her end: she noticed a few hairs sticking out.
She sighed and then looked at the lab right beside their building.
“I don’t know if this rope will last ’nother crossing…”
“Well, we only have one more building to cross, right?”
“And I think it’d still be safer than the other ways you said, right?”
“And if it breaks, I s’pose you can still hang on from the other hook and climb back up. Yeah, we should be all right.”
She turned back to Edgar. “You ready?”
“Uh huh,” he said as he stood up.
“To be honest, I’ll be glad when this heist is over. It’s colder out here than I’d thought it’d be. Besides, I think this one will turn out to be a waste of my investment.”
“When we get home I can make us warm cocoa and that Zess Special recipe I’ve been trying.”
“Yeah… Well, let’s get this job finished then so we can do all of that.”
So they repeated the usual pattern one last time: Autumn ran and leapt to the next building, swung the rope, and they each attached their hooks to their respective sides. Having already crossed—twice if one includes the tiptoeing—Edgar didn’t hesitate to start this time, nor did he shudder as much as he crossed.
That is, till he heard a snap. He looked leftward—where he thought he heard it originate—but didn’t see anything.
You’re just hearing things; don’t be such a panicky pundit, he chided himself.
Then came ’nother snap. And then ’nother soon after. And then Edgar felt an extreme shift in gravity and looked to see that end of the rope fall off, its end torn.
Oh shit! Autumn thought as she saw this. “Hold tight! I’ll pull you up!”
She stamped her foot over the end of the rope and began pulling the rest toward her, scooping it up piece-by-piece.
Then she heard a heavy thud just below. She looked down and saw Edgar cringing, the front of his face clearly cracked. His hands looked as if they were barely holding on.
“Hold on tight, Edgar!” she shouted as she quickened her pulling. “Edgar?”
Then she heard snapping sounds below and looked down to see hairs quickly sprouting on the rope, one after the other.
Oh god no…
She put all of her energy into pulling the rope up, only for the splitting piece to pop.
She watched Edgar and the rope plunge to the ground, her arm outstretched futilely. Then she cringed and shrunk back just ’fore she saw him crash into concrete, only to still hear its muffled thump.
A minute after, she hesitantly peeked over the edge again and saw Edgar’s jacket and robe flattened on the street, but not his head. Leaning in closer and squinting, she could faintly see tiny specks of white strewn all ’round it.
Well, I think we can rule out that cocoa for a while…Autumn thought, face drained of saturation.
Nowhere had Autumn ever witnessed a more harassingly calm environment than the St. Corazon Community Health Center. She clasped the plastic arms of her chair so tightly she thought they would break off, and she heard so many light beeps and clicks of clean shoes gainst linoleum, she thought she would break her ears off.
She knew there was nothing she could do till the doctor finished his prognostic, but she also knew that she absolutely had to do something—anything—to fix this problem, which only made this straitjacket scenery worse.
Finally, a nurse walked out and stopped before Autumn.
“We’re currently waiting on our assistants to finish finding all of your friend’s, um… pieces. Dr. Sonnenaufgang will have his diagnosis tomorrow.”
“I can wait,” Autumn said straight into the nurse’s eyes.
But the nurse didn’t show any surprise: he only nodded; said, “Okay. We understand”; and then walked ’way.
So Autumn did wait, shifting her weight on one arm, and then the other, mind filling with dark thoughts.
She didn’t blame herself—not because she was sure she wasn’t responsible for this, but because the issue was nugatory, regardless: neither would improve the consequences, which was where her focus truly lay.
The question festered: what would she do if the doctor couldn’t do anything—if Edgar was terminal? What could she do was, of course, the better question, which led to a worse one: could she do anything at all? The prospect that she could fail at something so important so conclusively was alien: in every other endeavor, if she didn’t succeed, she knew there were still plenty of other opportunities to fail till she finally met success. Death was a different novel.
Then she tried imagining life without Edgar. ‘Twas certainly possible; most of the activities she performed—the research, planning, and operation—didn’t strictly require Edgar. Even if she needed someone else for the last one, she could theoretically find someone else. Edgar’s friend in the green jacket mentioned her desire to join them in one of their heists, for instance.
And yet, there was still something that would be conspicuously missing. Sure, Edgar spent most of his time with her by sitting silently next to her; but that lack of something sitting silently next to her would be jarring, like the naked feeling she would have if she went without her glasses for a long period.
When one adds this to the lost fudge, pies, banana breads, and mushroom houses and… silent but much more active activities they did together1, ‘twas a heavy loss.
Flashbacks raced through Autumn’s head, including all of the places they explored for treasure: Heureux Manor, Orange Ocean, Wasabi Woods, the Sterling Mall, Boskeopolis Underground… she also remembered being in some whale’s digestive system, though she was a little fuzzy on what exactly they did there.
Well, I won’t get any work done sitting waiting ’round here, she thought as she sat up and walked down the hallway. I might as well search for some way to prevent his death.
“Have a nice day, Madame,” the receptionist said as she walked out.
She didn’t pay him any mind.
Autumn shivered the second she left the hospital’s stifling heat, stuffing her previously-sweating hands deep into her jacket pockets. Though ‘twas snowy, it wasn’t a dazzling white December snow, but a slushy blue February snow. The whole city was cast in dimness as if it had sunk underwater.
You shouldn’t fret just yet ’bout Edgar’s condition; he very well may be all right, she thought as she wandered down the sidewalk with her head hunched. After all, he’s never died yet; why start now? Then she bit one of her fingers. Hmm… ’cept for that time we explored Tangerine Temple.
Then she shook her head. Doesn’t matter. We’ll do what we can when we get home. It’d be best just not to think ’bout it so much.
A noise throttled her from her reverie, which she soon identified as rock music, a singer bellowing, “Br-roken bones all ’round you; try to hide, but they find you every time!” She looked up and saw a thuggin’ mathematics professor in a gray tweed suit and bowtie, waltzing down the sidewalk straight out of an R. Crumb cartoon with a boombox over his shoulders.
Hmm… that’s mildly contrived, Autumn mused. I didn’t even realize people still carried large boomboxes ’round with them nowadays.
She exhaled and rubbed her forehead, trying to ignore the headache she’d inexplicably developed, when she eyed a truck passing by, its side logo showing a grinning cartoon cracked skull ’bout to be smashed by a giant yellow hammer2 with the words “Smashing Skeletons” in bold white letters. Below, in smaller letters, were “Wicked toys.”
Huh… Autumn mused, frown souring like month-old dairy. Didn’t expect to see a toy van—at all, truly—but much less one that had such an apt name. Yes, that truly is quite a coinciden—
“Excuse me, madam…”
Autumn turned her head to a street vendor selling—Autumn predicted it ’fore her eyes told her—boneless chicken.
“I’m not hungry. No thanks,” Autumn mumbled with a disgusted wave of her hand.
“I just wanted to ask if you had a skeleton friend who recently crashed gainst the street and whose bones were—”
Autumn threw her arms out. “Oh, come the fuck on!” Then she aimed an accusatory finger at the vendor and added, “Fine, let the universe shit on me, but at least try to make it believable. This is just lazy.”
The vendor was so taken aback by this that he hadn’t had a chance to continue ’fore Autumn stormed ’way.
The vendor looked to a randomly-generated bystander and said, “I think that was the one who called the medics. Probably his relative or close friend. Must not be taking it so well.”
The bleary blue outside was nothing compared to the utter dearth of light inside Autumn’s apartment. And yet, when she flicked the light on, it didn’t warm the mood at all—it only emphasized the apartment’s emptiness. She turned it back off.
She dragged out her laptop and sat staring at the wall while she waited for it to load. When it finally did, she typed “fixing shattered skeleton” in her search engine. But for some reason, all she could find were two scientific articles ’bout how human bones heal, some inane Wikis and Forums for video games, and grotesque images of animal and human bones.
Must not be specific ’nough…She typed in “how to fix shattered undead skeleton,” but its results were even less relevant.
Augh! These infernal search engines have no idea what the hell they’re doing! This is serious; I don’t have time to fuck ’round with some idiot’s video game bullshit!
She spent the next few hours wading through pages of results, trying many rewordings. Not a single result bore bread, instead giving her a bone-cleaning tutorial, movie review, strange recipe, buzzword-laden Wikipedia page, and—most inexplicable—an article written by O’Beefe of all people on some news site regarding some bullshit ’bout environmentalists she couldn’t care less ’bout.
So long had she stared at this screen of mostly searing white sheltered in darkness that her eyes now felt like burnt coals. Despite this, the screen attracted her eyes like a lamp to flies, and she stared blankly at it as she puzzled over what she could try next.
She felt her mind freeze into an unsolvable logic loop: there seemed to be absolutely nothing she could do to save Edgar, and yet she knew she had to.
Okay, let’s consider this from a different angle… she thought, holding her still-throbbing head. If I absolutely cannot prevent one event from happening, then I must adjust to the event to salvage some other success. So, let’s say Edgar does… die. How can I preserve his life after he’s already died?
The only dregs of a logical answer hit her immediately: I’ll have to find a way to revive him. At first, her face hanged at what was obviously such an infeasible solution—even with the sheer level of physics- and biology-breaking scientists have been able to do, finding the elusive “Serum of Reanimation” was not one of them. But then she remembered that the patient in question was a skeleton. A tinge of hope grew from what possibilities that fact could hold, only to add ’nother dash of despair at the possible extra problems this fact could create, leaving her with a muddled mush of sentiments.
She could predict that ’twould be a long and uncertain trial. She could also predict that both mixed together would cause this trial to hang over her as a carrot eternally reachless.
She sighed and returned her hands to her keyboard. Well, the sooner I start, the less time Edgar must spend dead.
She’d just begun reading a page she doubted was relevant ’bout some poison cure in the Spinach Swamps when she suddenly heard her phone ring. She turned and stared at it vibrating and glowing on the floor next to her as if she couldn’t believe what was happening. Slowly, she reached out and picked it up, containing whatever strong reaction was trying to rise in her throat.
She was glad she did. When she checked the number she saw that ’twas just Dawn.
She exhaled harshly and raised it to her face. “Yes?”
“Oh, sorry, Autumn. Is everything all right?”
Autumn knew she paused far too long to stem suspicions, but could not think of what to say quickly ’nough.
“Is something wrong?”
“What is it you need?” Autumn asked.
“Well… Edgar asked me to concoct a flameflower for him. Said he needed it for some recipe.”
“Well, you need not stress over bringing it over…”
“What happened?” Dawn gasped.
Autumn shrugged, even though she knew Dawn couldn’t see her. “You know how our work goes. Death-defying adventures are only fun till one fails to defy death.”
“Edgar’s… dead?” Dawn gasped again. “But he couldn’t! He’s a skeleton! He should already be dead.”
“Not yet. Hopefully not for many years. I don’t know…” The day had passed by so quickly, she had to pause to recall the details. “He fell, shattered everywhere… Doctor says I have to wait to hear the diagnosis.”
After a pause that felt like an hour, Dawn asked, “So, uh… you holding up okay?”
“Well, if you need my help for anything, you have my number.”
“No offense, but I doubt even any of your potions could salvage him.” Though she did consider the option if the hospital fell through.
“Oh, right… Well, if you need any other kind of help, though, the same applies.”
“Okay…” Autumn said questioningly, unsure of what other kind she’d have.
The phone beeped and she returned it to its spot on the floor. Then she looked at the clock on her monitor and saw ‘twas already eight PM. As she absentmindedly tapped the up and down keys and stared inattentively at the screen, she thought, Well, I seem to be getting nowhere here, and I’ll have much more time later to try this. Might as well try getting some sleep so I’ll be awake if the doctor calls early.
She climbed into bed and wrapped all of the blankets ’round her, feeling so exhausted by the day’s activities that she expected she would fall asleep immediately. Instead, she lay shivering, turning back and forth in boredom. She couldn’t help noticing how strange it felt in such a large, empty bed.
Wasn’t since Chamsby kidnapped Edgar that I’d slept alone, if I remember right…
Hopefully it won’t be something I’ll have to get used to.
Dr. Sonnenaufgang had finally called Autumn the next morning and she agreed to an appointment after her classes.
She was so impatient to finally know how the whole ordeal would go that she practically stormed into the hospital, only to be told that, despite her appointment, she still had to wait a few minutes till the doctor was finished with ’nother patient. Autumn judged that arguing would get her nowhere—and would, in fact, probably hinder her—so she begrudgingly sat in a free chair, shifting ’round uncomfortably again.
Luckily, it only took a dozen minutes for the receptionist to call Autumn’s fake surname. She bolted from her chair and marched toward the doctor’s door just as the previous patient was leaving, almost bumping into him.
“Greetings, Madame Frühlinger. Nice d—”
“What’s the diagnosis?” she asked.
Though Sonnenaufgang’s smile didn’t disappear, it did taper into one of weak awkwardness, rather than cheer. He cleared his throat and looked down at the clipboard in his hands.
“Your boyfriend has a severe case of ‘Shattered Skeleton Syndrome,’ or ‘SSS.’”
“Well, yes, I knew he was shattered—I saw the gruesome sight before my eyes when it happened.”
“Well, that’s good…”
“No it isn’t,” Autumn said, eyes drooping exhaustedly. “Look, just tell me if he’s going to live or not.”
Sonnenaufgang cleared his throat and looked at his clipboard again, which seemed to shake a little in his hands.
“Well, we may be able to put him back together…”
“I want the absolute truth: do you truly mean that? Don’t bullshit me with pleasantries, please.”
Sonnenaufgang looked up and saw stern steel in Autumn’s eyes.
“The only problem is the cost…”
Autumn hesitated for a second, but then said, “Money’s no concern.”
Autumn noticed Sonnenaufgang’s head bent down, aimed awkwardly at that infernal clipboard again.
He said quietly, “Even eighty million points3?”
“Eighty million?” Autumn said much louder, stepping backward with eyes bulging and arms stretched out.
“I’m afraid so, Madame. This is a very delicate procedure, and getting the bone glue won’t be cheap either. That by itself will be more than half the price…”
“Is something wrong, Madame?” Sonnenaufgang asked as he looked up at her.
“Did I just hear you say ‘bone glue’?”
“Mmm hmm,” the doctor said as he nodded.
“Bone glue? Bone glue!” Autumn threw her arms out in exasperation. “Why can’t you just use superglue or something? Surely it shouldn’t cost more than a couple million!”
“Well, you see, Madame… We need to mix together many exotic ingredients, including the tanuki leaves from the Spinach Swamps, the special chocolate lava from Mt. Volcocoa, Theodore Roosevelt’s saliva…”
“I understand,” Autumn said with a petulant wave of her hand. “And what condition will Edgar be in when you’ve finished?”
Sonnenaufgang’s beaming smile suddenly returned. “If we do a good job, he’ll be just as good as he was ’fore this story started.”
“If you do a good job?” Autumn raised an eyebrow.
Sonnenaufgang wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead. “Well, you see…” He gulped. “Even doctor’s make mistakes sometimes…”
“And I’ll get a full refund if you do, correct?”
“I’m afraid we can’t promise that… No hospital does,” Sonnenaufgang added, as if he could watch what Autumn was thinking.
Autumn shrugged. “I s’pose I have no choice.”
The doctor cringed again, which caused Autumn to want to cringe, too.
“Also… You’ll have to make out a check, first. We tried checking your credit and found that you apparently don’t truly exist. Happens all the time in this city, unfortunately. But we must get the money ’fore we start, because we’ve had an awful rash of people running out on their hospital bills—all of which were associated with a skeleton, interestingly ’nough.” Then he quickly added, “Not that I have anything gainst skeletons. Some of my favorite friends are skeletons, actually. Lean people, I must say.”
Autumn slapped her forehead. “Oh! Did I say my name was Anna Frühlinger? I keep forgetting I’m not in Germany anymore. Sorry, you might try Autumn Springer this time.”
Sonnenaufgang’s smile widened even further, which Autumn thought would be impossible—especially considering the cheery situation his patient was in.
“I’ll go do that while you wait in the lobby some more.”
“Got it,” Autumn said with a grim frown.
As she turned back, she tried to dispel the warnings of bad decisions being made that festered in her mind.
Now watch me be both out on the street and without Edgar…
“…And that is the crux of the ‘Many-Worlds Theory’: that an infinite number of contrasting variations of the same canon can exist at the same time. Let’s demonstrate this by putting the official Harry Potter books next to a variety of fanfics, each with its own relationship pairings…”
Autumn spent her physics class the way she’d usually spent classes, both all the way back in high school and now in college: staring down at her textbook with her face leaning on her upraised arm, pretending to pay deep attention to the lecture while in reality considering other work.
“…This can even happen within the same series, even the official series of a universe. For instance, a story can have negative continuity, wherein an important character, let’s say, dies or is fired in one story and then is magically revived or rehired the next episode, as if nothing ever happened. This can even be mixed with continuity in other parts of a story, causing certain events to have different meanings in each. For instance, compare the way South Park handle’s Kenny’s death in ‘Kenny Dies’ versus the many others…”
This time, however, ‘twas not because Autumn had something urgent she needed to accomplish—in fact, she repeatedly stopped her thoughts to berate herself for wasting her time with plans that will likely prove fruitless, should Edgar’s operation run successfully. And yet, she also knew that the current circumstances would make paying attention to content she had already read, anyway, virtually impossible, and so she might as well focus on her Plan B, just in case.
There is no such thing as being too prepared, after all, Autumn thought.
“…Wednesday we’ll discuss the many problems with automatically accepting a universe’s god’s word on its canon, and instead discuss scientific methods for discovering our own interpretations.”
Suddenly, the room filled with noises. Autumn looked up and stared incredulously at all of the students sliding out their seats and walking toward the door. What was s’posed to be an hour-long class felt like a few minutes.
She left the classroom and walked down the hallway toward the stairs, attention glued to the beautiful gray and white tiles on the floor.
That is, till she was knocked out of it by a hand grasping her shoulder. She turned to the person who did it with wide eyes, ready to ground pound the bastard, till she saw that ’twas just Dawn, whom she merely wanted to lightly throttle.
“Autumn, I’m surprised you came. You doing all right?”
Autumn was glad to see that she was at least not smiling, which put her a level ’bove Dr. Sonnenaufgang.
Then she sighed and thought, Perhaps I am being hard on the twit. Perhaps this is actually the proper way to react to the average person undergoing distress.
“They’re doing the operation today,” she said. “Hopefully they won’t screw up,” she added mildly.
“Well, that’s good.”
“Yeah…” Autumn looked down, at a loss for what to add to this clearly fruitless conversation.
Then she looked up and said, “Hey, did you bring that fire flower, or whatever?”
“The flameflower? Uh, no. Sorry. I didn’t know you wanted me to.”
“No, that’s all right. Just thought I’d save you a trip if you did and Edgar turned up fine.”
“I can bring it after work tonight,” Dawn said.
“I’d wait till I call and confirm that Edgar’s healthy ’nough to use said flameflower properly first.”
“Oh, I’m sure he will be.”
“What makes you so sure?”
Dawn paused to think. “Well, they’re already operating on him. That must mean something.”
“I truly thank you for the sentiment behind your blatant rationalizations, as misguided as they may be,” Autumn said. “I just dearly hope you don’t think this way when you’re in trouble; I fear what consequences you may inadvertently cause if you do.”
She quickly added, “Then again, considering the consequences I already create myself, perhaps I shouldn’t judge.”
“It’s not your fault.”
Autumn frowned. Why do people always say such a transparent inane nicety? If I thought ‘twas my fault, I wouldn’t be here; I’d be on a flight to the Philippines to evade the police.
Then again, what’s she s’posed to say? “Well, sucks to be in your shirt. See ya”?
“I know…” she said.
They pushed out through the front door into the rain and walked down the street.
“Well…” Autumn turned back to Dawn at the sound of her talking, having almost forgot she was even still there. “Uh… as I said, if you need anything, you have my number…”
There was a long pause filled with nothing but the sound of rain pittering gainst the concrete.
“Uh, okay…” Autumn said.
“Well, uh, see ya,” Dawn said with a little wave, and then turn and went.
Autumn turned and went in the other direction with a befuddled expression.
She keeps emphasizing that point…she thought. Is she trying to hint at something she for some reason can’t outright say or is this normal procedure in situations like this? Considering we’re not on a top-secret mission, the latter is most likely.
Yes, it’s very much likely that this is normal and I’m just not familiar with these social mores. Okay.
Autumn received ’nother call from the hospital asking her to come in. To her frustration, nowhere in the message was there any indication as to whether the operation was a success or failure, or even if it had finished.
Regardless, she headed back to the hospital and, after waiting ’nother ten minutes, was finally escorted back into Edgar’s room. Her heart leapt when she saw a bandaged-covered figure shaped like Edgar lying in bed, attached to a pouch full of water and some repeatedly beeping machine.
She turned to the grinning face of Sonnenaufgang.
“It went well, I s’pose?” Autumn asked, holding her breath for the answer.
“Well, we can’t be sure just yet what complications may come, but more than likely, he will heal within the next few weeks.”
Edgar turned in his bed and said in a weak voice, “Autumn?”
Autumn walked over to his bed, staring down at him like a hawk with her hands clasped behind her back, businesslike. Then she raised a hand and gently rubbed it over Edgar’s forehead.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
“Fine… Just a little weak, I guess.”
They both paused in awkward silence, Autumn looking far ’bove Edgar at a fascinating poster ’bout knee health.
Finally, Autumn said, “Well, get better soon.”
“I will. Sorry for all the trouble…”
“No trouble at all,” Autumn lied. “Anyway, it’ll only hinder your immune system and slow your recovery if you stress over it; it’d be optimal if you relaxed and focused purely on recovery now.”
She bent down and kissed him on the forehead, and then turned and left. To her thanks, Sonnenaufgang didn’t try talking to her as she did.
Her chest heaved in a heavy sigh as she walked down the hall. I don’t know how I’m going to tell him we’re broke because of this operation.