“You know I do love your father,” my mother said. “But love couldn't make me happy. Maybe I just cannot be happy.” She had just drank a big bottle of whiskey and was in a drunken stupor. She was sitting by the dinner table, lying her head on the table. My dad was working the night away and my brother had already gone to bed. It was already 1 am, but I was still awake, just to make sure my mother did not hurt herself. “Ethan, you really look like me,” she said, suddenly getting up and looking at me through half-opened eyes. She touched my face and started to cry. “Some things are just inevitable.” That was the last time I saw her alive.
I woke up in cold sweat. “Bunny, are you okay?” Lara was lying next to me, looking at me closely. There were tears in my eyes and I was panting. “Bunny...” she said, cupping my face in her hands. She had started to cry too.
“Lara, don't cry.” I reached out to wipe her tears. She was sobbing so hard, her shoulders were shaking.
“Bunny, is there something you want to tell me? Something so dark that it hurts you to think about it?” she asked, amidst sobs.
“I'm sorry, Lara,” I whispered. Even though, it hurt my chest, I held her close to my shoulder, letting her cry all she want. I couldn't tell her the darkness I was feeling. It was going to consume me one day, and I was afraid, if I told her about it, I may end up dragging her along with me.
There was one day, I woke up to find Lara not in the house. I got out of bed and staggered to the living room. Her laptop was turned off and she wasn't in the kitchen either. Maybe she went to buy food, I convinced myself and sat down on the sofa. A few hours went by, and she still was not home. I thought back to what Annabelle had said before. Maybe people do get sick of each other, after living together for too long. I wasn't sick of Lara but she was probably sick of caring for an injured bunny. She probably went on a date with Ming, instead. The thought of it made me feel sick. At this moment, the front door opened and Lara entered the house.
“Lara,” I cried. In her arms, she was holding on to a few books. “Did you go to the library?” I asked. She nodded and sat down next to me. Lara said, “These are for you. I remembered you said you like superhero comics. I thought it might be boring for you to just lie in bed all the time.” I stared at the comic books. I was taken aback. I couldn't believe I had thought she had abandoned me. “Thank you, Lara,” I said, managing a small smile. But I felt very small.
“Anyway, Bunny,” she said, suddenly leaning towards me and smelling my hair. “I think you need a bath!”
“What? Do I smell? It is a bit difficult with all my bandages and my arms can't stretch to the back well,” I said.
“Don't worry, I'll help you!” she said. I could feel my ears turning red. She added, “I mean, you just need to wear your boxers. I will help you wash your hair and scrub your back.” My mouth gaped open. Sometimes I wonder if she really is a pervert. Or maybe she just doesn't think of me as a person at all.
Soon I was sitting on a stool, in the middle of the bathroom, half naked and in my boxers (blue and black checkered ones). Lara was holding the shower over my head and bathing me, like she was bathing a baby. She was extremely gentle and the warm water was trickling from the shower head. I tried not to look at her while she was fussing over me, keeping my eyes closed. My ears were still red and did not seem to be returning to normal soon. She squeezed a large portion of shampoo on her palm before scrubbing it in my hair. I wondered if my hair really smelled that bad. She was massaging my scalp. I thought, this actually feels good. There was a lot of lather in my hair when suddenly, the doorbell rang.
“Hold on for a minute,” she said, leaving the bathroom. I still had shampoo in my hair when I saw Daniel standing in front of me, in the bathroom.
“Why did you let strangers in for?” I cried.
Daniel smirked. “I'm hurt, I didn't know I was a stranger to you. And your ears are really red.”
“They are just really sensitive,” I said, crossing my arms.
“Anyway, it's good to see you all feisty again. You can't be that hurt.”
Lara stepped into the bathroom and told Daniel, “You can just take a seat outside, I'll need to finish bathing him first.”
“Take your time dear,” he said, leaving the two of us alone. I wondered why he came here. I guess it's because Lara's birthday was coming soon and he was getting anxious about it. I let out a sigh.
“Everything alright?” she asked.
“Everything's perfect, thank you for doing this,” I said. Lara took the shower and started to wash my hair. Everything was perfect but it will be ending soon.
After getting dressed, I saw Daniel, sitting crossed legged at the dining table. He was scrutinising his surroundings. I was sure, he was looking at everything in disdain, after all, he was born with a silver spoon. I scowled at him, as I sat down. “What are you doing here?” I asked. Lara was in the kitchen, preparing something.
Daniel said, in a low voice, “Both of you are getting along, aren't you? Being injured is the best way to stir up a woman's maternal instincts.”
“I did not get hurt on purpose,” I hissed back.
Lara returned to the table with a pot of tea and some cups. She poured the hot tea into the cups and passed one to Daniel. “I haven't had a chance to thank you for that night. Actually, this is the first time I am seeing you properly,” she said, pushing her glasses up her nose.
“I hope you like what you see,” Daniel replied with a warm smile. “I came to see how my dear friend was doing.”
Yeah right, I thought. You just wanted to snoop around the house.
Daniel took a sip of tea and marveled, “This earl grey tea tastes wonderful. You must be a wonderful cook too!”
I wondered if he was a better actor than me, so I quickly took a sip of tea. I realised he was right. It tasted rich and had a fragrant aroma. “This tea is really the best,” I said, surprised.
“Both of you are too nice. It's only tea,” said Lara.
“Anyway, darling, isn't your birthday coming?” asked Daniel, leaning towards her. Lara was taken aback. “My birthday? How did you know?”
“I guess you forgot? You mentioned it during your drunken state,” he said, patting her head. I glared at him. Why is he touching her so casually?
“Oh, did I?” said Lara. Actually, I was sure Daniel was lying. I remembered Lara being totally knocked out when she was drunk.
“How are you intending to celebrate it? Twenty-five is a wonderful age,” said Daniel.
“It is?” said Lara.
“Of course, you will be living your dreams,” said Daniel.
“I don't know what the future holds, but right now, I am really happy.”
Daniel cast me a side glance and continued, “If you have no plans on that day, I would like to invite you to my place. There will be great food and wine and I will show you what being a woman is all about.”
“Can Bunny come to?” asked Lara. I spat out a bit of tea.
“Sure, if you are into that sort of thing,” said Daniel, with a wink. I quickly got up to my feet. “Daniel, I think it is time for you to leave. I have a hospital appointment.”
“No worries, I can drive you there. It is so nice spending time with a beautiful lady.”
“No, we should not trouble you. We can just take a taxi,” I grabbed Daniel's wrist and started to pull him towards the door.
Daniel whispered to me, “Are you sure you are injured? You seem to have a lot of strength for someone hurt?”
“Goodbye Daniel,” I said, finally pushing him out and closing the door behind him.
“He's nice,” said Lara, clearing up the cups. I couldn't believe she said that. Crossing my arms, I went to the bedroom and sat on the bed. Was she interested in Daniel's looks? But then, I can't say Lara was a good judge of character, since she thinks I'm her nice bunny.
Lara popped her head in the room and said, “Bunny, what are you doing in the room? We need to go to the hospital.”
“Sorry, I was a little distracted,” I said, getting up from the bed. “Let's go.”
There was a long line at the hospital. The nurse told us that we need to wait for at least an hour till our number was called. The both of us sat, on the plastic chair, keeping our eyes on the display screen. “Lara, I can see the doctor by myself. You don't have to wait with me. You need to finish your manuscript, right?” I said.
“Don't be silly, how can I leave you alone in this boring place?” she replied. “You don't have to worry about my manuscript, I know I can finish by the submission date. I only need to fill in some parts in the middle. I think it's because I've been feeling a little too upbeat lately, it's hard to write a sad scene.”
“Have you been really happy lately?” I asked, recalling what she told Daniel just now.
Lara observed me closely. “I am happy, but I think you look sadder. If you ever feel ready to tell me, I am here to listen.”
“Maybe someday in the future,” I said, keeping my eyes glued on the display screen. It still seems a long time till our number was called.
“You know Lara, you said you will receive a large sum of money on your birthday, right?” I said, carefully. “ Don't you want to use the money for yourself? Like travel the world? Or eat as much as you can?”
She looked surprised at my question. Lara furrowed her brows and thought about it. “I'm sure I can earn my own money to do those things in future. But they are not as important. I mean, one thing that life has taught me is that life is very short. People who are in front of you, can disappear in an instant. So I guess, I rather invest in people's dreams. I believe that a dream can cause someone to live even beyond their actual life. Does this make sense?”
“It does. It makes perfect sense.”
“Our number is next, let's go see the doctor,” said Lara, getting off her seat.
The doctor, a slim man in his late thirties, took an X-ray of my chest and then using his stethoscope, he listened to my heartbeat carefully. “You are healing faster than expected. Maybe it's because of your age,” said the doctor. He removed my bandages and examined the wounds. “I think as long as you don't make any extreme movements, you can be properly discharged from the hospital now.”
“Really?” said Lara.
The doctor nodded and asked, “Have you had any problems in breathing though?”
“Breathing? No, I haven't,” I answered.
“Your X-Ray records look good. Just finish this course of painkillers. You won't need your bandages anymore,” the doctor concluded.
Lara left the hospital in high spirits. I grabbed her hand and said, “Lara, I think it's because you took such great care of me, which is why I am able to heal so fast.”
“Really? I can cook dinner tonight too!” she said, much to my dismay.
Even though the doctor said my wounds have healed properly, Lara still insisted that I stayed in bed for another week. She shifted her usual writing spot to the bedroom, perching her laptop on the drawers, next to the bed. I would then read the comic books she borrowed for me. Despite my protests, she still cooked my meals and I was always chewing on something funky during lunch and dinner. But then, I would feel calm whenever she was near me. I would even start to panic if she disappeared from the house for a few hours. Maybe this is what it means by being used to someone.