The ceiling was an ugly grey. That was the only thought Kenric’s mind could hold on to. If he let it stray from that long enough then the fact that his parents were both gone would slip through. Then he’d be crying and it’d be another hour or two before he wound down and he couldn’t afford to be a wreck. Not with his little brother depending on him alone now. So. The ceiling was an ugly grey.
A gentle beeping next to him kept track of his pulse, another reminder that he couldn’t fall apart. If he did then that beeping would change from it’s steady rhythm to a harsh staccato and the nurses would be back in. The last thing he wanted was to see any more pitying looks. Okay, that was a lie. The last thing he wanted was to be laying in this fucking bed trying not to think about his dead parents. Shit. That did it.
His anger quickly gave way to grief. Hot tears slid down his cheeks and the beeping became a chorus of sharp notes announcing the nurses impending arrival. Swinging his arm over his eyes, his left since his right had the IV in it, he tried to focus on his breathing. On the feel of the sheets. The smell of antiseptic. The soothing tones of the nurses voices and not their words. It took a while, he didn’t bother trying to keep track of how long, but he managed to shove the tears back behind his eyes.
“I’m okay. It’s fine.”
His voice was a harsh croak, his throat still recovering from the damage the smoke in the tunnel had done. It was several counts of steady beeping before the nurses left him alone again. Then he could move his arm away from his eyes and stare at the ceiling. It was still an ugly grey.
His days were broken up randomly by visitors. There had been a lot those first days, friends and teammates from his football team. As the days passed he’d noticed a drop. He didn’t mind that. He’d always hated all the hanger-on’s that followed him around because he could play well. His parents best friends, Uncle Martin and Aunt Belinda, came every day but besides Dimitri they were the only ones. It had stung when his supposed best friend Evan had stopped coming but that pain wasn’t even a drop in the bucket when he thought of his parents. No. He wasn’t crying again today. Just stare at the ceiling in all it’s ugly grey glory.
A soft creak announced a visitor but he didn’t bother looking. He needed to keep staring at the ceiling. Whoever it was would eventually take the hint and go away. A flash of red on his peripheral vision let him know this visitor was important. He moved his arm over, the left one without the IV because he was never making the mistake of jarring that damn needle again.
His nine year old brother Dimitri climbed up on the bed next to him. It would have been crowded if he wasn’t such a shrimp, all limbs and no muscle. They didn’t say anything, both just laying there trying to escape the nightmare their lives had become. Kenric had only turned fifteen a few weeks ago. They’d all spent the day ice skating, mostly so they could laugh at their dad continually falling on his butt. Now their parents were gone and he was staring at an ugly grey ceiling while his little brother tried to hide in his armpit.
Giving Dimitri a squeeze he hoped he was helping at least a little bit. His baby brother was a softie afterall. If Kenric was having trouble keeping himself together how was little Dimka doing? Thinking of the nickname their mother had given her youngest son who shared her red hair almost had him tearing up again. He couldn’t do that with Dimitri right next to him. Clearing his throat he tried to think of what to say but his brother beat him to it.
“That’s a really ugly grey.”
Glancing over he noticed Dimitri staring up at the ceiling. His eyes were almost as red as his hair. He nodded and they kept staring at the ceiling. After a while Dimitri wiggled his way off the bed and scurried out the door. Had his brother just left without saying goodbye? No. That wasn’t like the shrimp, he probably had to use the bathroom and would be back soon. The gentle beeping marked the passing of time and he began to wonder if his brother really had left without saying goodbye. That hurt. It wasn’t his fault the ceiling was such an ugly grey.
A commotion at his door managed to drag his eyes from the ceiling. One of the taller nurse aides was following Dimitri into the room. Without a word his little brother let the older man lift him up onto his shoulder. Reaching over Dimitri started taping things to the ceiling over Kenric’s bed. He had a hard time keeping his tears back, but for a different reason this time.
His brother hadn’t left. He’d been out drawing. Now the ugly grey was covered in crayon sketches of him and Dimitri playing chess, his favorite game. A few of them were comics of them playing pranks on Uncle Martin. Dancing with Aunt Belinda. In the center of them all, right above his head, was him and Dimitri standing below two large hearts wreathed in halos. His throat got tight looking at it because he knew who they were. He faintly heard his brother thank the nurse aide before he climbed back on the bed.
“They’re not gone and we’re not alone. We still have each other. Right?”
He nodded again, afraid to open his mouth. Instead he gave his brother another squeeze and stared at the now not ugly grey ceiling. At the reminder that even with their parents gone they weren’t alone. It took a bit of coughing to clear his throat enough to speak.
“You’re still a shrimp.”
“And you’re a frog.”