There are times when I find
You wanna keep yourself from me
When I don’t have the strength
I’m just a mirror of what I see
When Mark awoke again, the room was dim.
The drapes on the window were drawn, so it could have been night or day. He could not be sure. Time had slipped by him, slipped by them, without notice and now they could not get it back. How ironic that it had been happening for a long time, and it took a tragedy for him to notice.
Reality seeped into his thoughts. He felt the pain of his broken body as he remembered flashes of the events that led up to that moment, and all of a sudden, he wished he could forget it all. If he couldn’t go back, he opted to just forget it all. It seemed a small mercy for having to deal with the remainder of his life without the woman he loved.
“Abby,” he whispered, awash with sorrow. The trembling began then, and the tears clouded his already blurry vision.
A soft sniffle startled him out of his moment of melancholy.
Her brown eyes shining like orbs watched him closely, as if he were a fascinating display of a form of human life she had never seen before. They peered at him from over her knees that were covered in soft gray fleece pajama pants, and he could not see the bottom half of her face. But it slowly came back to him as she gazed at him unwaveringly, along with the memory of her cries…
She watched as he tried to shift himself into a better position and winced. He griited his teeth together as he bore the pain. Moisture swam in his eyes, and then…
There was a light touch on his trembling leg, not enough pressure to harm but enough to notice. Through the thin blanket he could feel the warmth. Blinking rapidly and trying to control his short breaths, he wondered what touched his leg.
It was the little girl’s hand.
“Don’t cry,” she whispered. “It’ll all be alright.”
He blinked hard, once, then stared at her incredulously. The nurse who was there when he had awoken for the first time since the accident had told him that the little girl had not spoken to anyone, and here she was (having snuck into his hosptial room no less) reassuring him as if he had woken from a nightmare.
In a way, he had– a living nightmare that could not be changed with all the wishing in the world. And that made him want to burst into tears all over again.
He swallowed the lump he had in his throat and focused on the little girl. He forced his mind to operate on more practical terms for the situation at hand. After all, didn’t she have parents? A brother? A sister? Someone who worried about her while she sat here with her knees to her chest looking curious and scared all at the same time?
“I was scared,” she went on, simply, answering his unspoken question.
Mark’s lips twitched in a movement that could have been taken as a smile or a grimace. The fact that she had no one to comfort her at this time of upheaval in her fragile existence grieved him greatly. However, he could not help be warmed slightly that she felt his presence would chase away apprehension. She barely knew him and here she was…
“So you thought that I could keep you company,” Mark commented, voice strained.
She merely blinked at him, saying nothing. He supposed that was a yes.
He chucked sardonically, an effort that made his chest hurt. “I’m not sure I can help you with that, kid. I’ve got enough shadows of my own.”
Her eyebrows came together in a frown. “Is that why you were crying?”
He had the overwhelming urge to take up a shield, as if he were more vulnerable than he wanted to be. “That is none of your business.”
The way her face shifted implied that she was pouting. “You can’t send me back. I won’t go.”
“Wait.” Mark leaned over, ignoring the pain, and grabbed the little girl’s arm lightly. “I’m sorry. I…” They locked eyes, one watery gaze to another. “I didn’t mean to yell at you. I…”
“Somebody died and you didn’t want them to,” she said in such a way that made his blood freeze. “That’s what the nurse lady said.”
“Tell me your name,” Mark murmured. “They never told me your name.”
“My mama named me Zora,” she told him. “What did your mama name you?”
“My mother named me Mark after her own father.” He placed his bigger, lighter hand on hers, taking note of the flicker in her eyes when he did it. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Zora.”
In a movement that shocked him a little, she placed her free hand on his.
He was to learn soon that being shocked by Zora was to be a mundane, habitual event.