My feet hardly seem to touch the ground as I ran. I did not know what I was running towards but I knew I was needed. I did not know what for, only that if I did not get there in time all would be lost. I ran so fast I did not even notice that my boots were slipping and sliding over cobbled stone. I felt all the muscles in my legs scream with exhaustion but I did not care. Neither did I care about the mind numbing feeling that was steeling over me; the feeling that I would be too late.
The running became harder and harder as the road seemed to slope steeper and steeper upwards. Not to mention the acid burning in my legs. Also the houses on either side of the cobbled street seemed to stand closer together. Then I heard the noise. I did not understand what it was and the blood pounding in my ears made it hard for me to hear anything but my own ragged breathing. The sound seemed to be getting closer, or at least, I got closer to it. All of a sudden I stopped running. With a gut-wrenching pang I realized that what I heard was crying. I continued to run; faster than I had ever ran in my life. As the crying got closer still it became even more intense. It sounded like wailing now. Like a wounded animal. The sound became so loud I could no longer hear where it was coming from. I did not know if I should turn a corner or run straight ahead. But I did not care. I turned a corner to my left and there I saw a scene that seemed to knock the wind out of me. The moment I had turned the corner the wailing stopped, and was replaced by a small high sound. A noise that sounded like someone was chuckling. It was Lola, but she was not chuckling. Sitting in the middle of the road wearing a long fluid white dress. There were tear tracks on her face, her make up had run all over it, her hair looked a mess but this was nothing. Nothing compared to what my eyes found as I looked down. Staining her dress, all down her front, shockingly scarlet blood. She looked up from it and our eyes met. She seemed lost for words and did nothing but look at me pleadingly. As I stood there, petrified, her eyes focussed on something just behind me, and as I turned I deduced that she must be looking at the person that was chuckling. Filled with fear and rage I turned to look who it was. At first glance there seemed to be no one there, but then I saw where the chuckling came from. It was not a question of who but of what was making the noise. My heart seemed to stop. In the middle of the street, right across from Lola with me standing as if made of stone in between; sat a baby. A baby girl with long beautiful black hair and a very familiar complexion. Besides the strange familiarity the chuckling of the baby was almost endearing. I tried to move towards it but then I noticed what she had in her hands. What I had thought to be a toy of some kind turned out to be a knife. Fear now almost taking the better of me the baby raised the knife to point at Lola. The baby stopped chuckling and said: “Mommy.” I wheeled around again and saw Lola’s eyes move from the baby to the blood to me while they filled with tears again. She opened her mouth as if to say something but nothing came out of her mouth but a loud ringing sound. Lola seemed to ring over and over again.
I awoke with a scream, bathing in sweat. After a second of thrashing around and trying to get out from under my bedcovers I realized it had been another bad dream. “It was all just a dream.” I told myself. But I was wrong again: the ringing had not stopped. It was the phone lying next to my pillow. I picked it up and looked at the screen. I did not recognize the number but answered it anyway.
“I don’t know who you are, but you better have a damn good reason for calling me at the unholy hour!” I practically yelled into the phone. From the other side of the line came a soft worried voice: “Jack? Is that you?” I remembered that voice from somewhere. “Yes, this is Jack. Who is this?” I asked, gentler now. “It’s me: Lucy.” My mind started to skip but I did not understand why. “Lucy? Lucy who?” and the connection clicked in my mind before she was even able to answer. “Lucy! As in Lola’s baby sister?” She confirmed but did not speak. “What’s wrong?” I asked in a voice that I hoped sounded sincere. “Well,” she hesitated. “I did not know who else to call. Lola always said that you were always there for her and…” her voice trailed off as if she did not dare say more. “Lucy, what’s wrong?” I asked with more urgency. “Is it Lola? Is there something wrong? Where are you?” I heard Lucy’s voice break as she tried hard not to cry: “I’m at the hospital… with Lola.” She didn’t seem to be able to say more. “Lucy! What’s wrong? What happened?” She stared to cry in earnest now and said: “She came home, screaming and shouting at the top of her voice. I woke up. I heard her slam the door and then nothing. My parents aren’t home so I got out of bed and went to check on her. I found her lying on the floor of the hall. She smelled like alcohol and was not moving.” She hiccoughed and went on: “I tried to wake her, I really did. But she did not move. I shook her and screamed but she would not open her eyes.” The pleading tone in her voice almost made me cry. “Then I panicked, no parents, no car. I did not know what to do, so I called an ambulance and they picked her up within a few minutes. I did not know what else to do, I swear I tried to wake her. I shook her and pinched her. I even threw water in her face but she did not wake and I was so scared.” I interrupted her rambling with as much gentleness in my voice as I could muster. “Lucy, you did great. I’m sure she just had a bit too much to drink. Where is she now?” Lucy hiccoughed a few times and then almost wailed: “She’s with the doctor now and they won’t tell me anything. They just asked me who we are and what happened but they can’t tell me anything. What if?” Her voice trailed away but I butted in: “Don’t think like that. She is going to be fine. Where are you right now? She steadied her voice a little before answering: “I’m alone at the nurses station, they said I could use this phone to make phone calls.” “Good,” I said swiftly before she had the chance to start crying again. “tell me what hospital you are and I will be there before you know it.” She sounded a little relieved by this and said: “we are at the sacred Mary hospital in the city.” This was a good thing. It was only a few blocks from my house. “Good,” I said, jumping to my feet while pulling on clothes. “I will be there soon, don’t worry, you did great.” She asked in a tear filled voice: “Is there anything else I should do? Someone I should call? I tried my parents at the address they left us but they are not answering the phone.” I pulled on my coat as I said: “Call her friend James, keep calling until he picks up. Tell him that you spoke to me and that I am on my way. Also tell him not to panic and not to call everyone. If he wants to he can come to the hospital.” She told me she would do that and then wait for me. I paused for a second in front of my front door to say: “Lucy, you did great. Lola is lucky to have such a good sister. I’ll see you in a few minutes. Then I hung up, wrenched open the front door and began to run. Even faster than in my dream. Out into the night.
When I got the hospital I almost ran through the electric glass doors trying to get in. As they opened and I ran inside a nurse came at me with a worried look in her eyes. Before she could ask me If I was okay I asked her if she could tell me where to find Lola. She considered me for a moment but then told me to wait in the waiting room at the end of the hall. I thanked her and made my way to the end of the hall as fast as I could without running. When I got there I saw Lucy sitting in a chair in the corner. She did not look up. She looked defeated and scarred. I walked up to her and said gently: “Lucy? Are you okay?” She startled and jumped up from the chair as she said: “Thank god you are here! They won’t tell me anything.” As I looked at her and the broken manner in which she stood there I fully appreciated that this was Lola’s baby sister. So strong but so lost. I Hugged her and she started to cry softly into my shoulder. “I tried, I really did. I called James and I tried to get more information. There has to be something that we can do? There has to be something that I can do.” I shushed her and held her. I stroked her hair and told her again that she did all she could. More than anyone would ever have asked for. And that she did great. She took her head out of my shoulder and looked up at me with red puffy eyes. “Do you think that she will be okay?” she asked me as if my saying it would make it so. I looked back at her consolingly and used all the strength I had to lie: “I am sure she will be more then okay, she will be fine.” Then we broke apart and Lucy sat back down. I turned to look down the hall. “where are you going?” She asked me in a panicked voice. I looked back at her. “I’m just going to ask the nurse if they know anything. I’ll be right back.” She nodded and said: “I’ll get us some coffee. Some for James too. He will be here soon, and some water for Lola when she wakes up.” I nodded and told her to do that. I walked back down the hall and asked the nurse at the desk if they knew anything. She told me that Lola was in surgery at the moment and they would let us know as soon as she was done. Then I told her about another friend who would be arriving shortly. She thanked me for the information and I walked back the waiting room. I sat down in one of the chairs.
Lucy soon returned her hands filled with cups. She sat down and we sat in silence for a few minutes. Then we heard hurried footsteps coming down the hall and both of us looked up hoping for a doctor. It was not a doctor; it was James. He looked flustered and his usually pristine hair was ruffled. He asked for information in an hysterical voice, much higher than his usual one. I explained as much as we knew as he sat down. He seemed incapable of speech. I wanted to ask him if he knew where Lola had been or what had happened. But he looked as lost as Lucy. And, I told myself; if he had known something he would have told us.
I got one of the cups of coffee from the table where Lucy had set them down and carried it across the room to James. He took it without a word and simply sat there staring into space. I walked back and sat down next to Lucy. She was holding two cups: one filled with coffee, the other with water. I tried to take the water from her to set in down but she would not let go. “For when she wakes up.” She said. I smiled and let go of the cup.
We sat there for what felt like hours. After a while James had fallen asleep in his chair across the room and Lucy’s eyes were drooping too. I took the cups from her and set them down. Then I took of my coat and draped it over her shoulder. She accepted it and as I set down laid her head against my shoulder. She soon fell asleep too.
I couldn’t sleep. I was too worried. Not that the others weren’t but I knew what alcohol could do to people, I had seen it before. The lie to Lucy may have convinced her, maybe even James, but not me.