The lights had been dimmed in Sydneyís private room, and the curtain around her bed drawn. Through the window, streaks of coppery sunlight started to crest, gradually invading the dark, ominous shadows. The room had been painted recently by school children, whose colourful murals on the wall represented everything that Nigel and Sydney had lost the previous night.
Nigel stood in the door, holding Sophie tightly in his sweaty hands, looking down at her with baleful, hazel eyes, then darting up to Sydneyís bed, and back again. This was it. Taking a deep breath, he quickly wiped the moisture from his eyes with his sweater before entering.
The sound of his hoarse, faltering voice calling out her name made her heart quicken, and she continued to lay curled up in her bed with its thick blankets drawn up so high they almost covered her head. When she turned to look at him, however, broke her heart almost as much as the loss of their child had.
He was a shell of his former self, for certain. Although Sydney knew she had suffered all the pain physically and emotionally possible, she was acutely aware what the process had done to Nigel. He also suffered, and continued to do so. His eyes were reddened and very, very dark, no longer bright and animated like before. The clothes he wore were wrinkled, untucked and undone in some places, and she could see smudges of her blood up the front of his pants and sweater. One thing was for certain, that man had been through hell and back for her, and she didnít know how she would ever be able to express her gratitude.
He crossed the bare floor of her room to her bedside, and dropping his back pack pulled a chair up behind him so he could sit down. "I see youíre awake..." He bit his bottom lip, searching for the right thing to say but kept drawing a blank. "I, I..."
"Help me, help me sit up, will you?" She asked him, and tried to push herself up. Nigel immediately jumped to his feet and leaned over, and taking her by the shoulders gently pulled her the rest of the way. He then grabbed her pillow and propped it behind her back for support before taking his seat once again. "Thank you." She averted her eyes, suddenly not so sure she could face him right now...
"I have n-no words to convey h-how I feel right, right at this moment." Nigel started to say, and paused to take her hands in his. How cold they felt, he thought, and gently rubbed them in between his own. " Oh Sydney, we t-tried... w-we really did t-try!" The unsteady catch in his voice sent her over the edge.
Oh God... He was crying.
"This is all my fault..." Her shoulders began to bob up and down and her chest heaved. "I should have been honest with you from the start!" Nigel closed the gap between them by getting beside her on the bed, and folded her into his arms while she continued to pour out her heart. "I, I am so sorry... She would still be here if, if..."
"Sydney donít, donít say that!"
"But itís true Nigel! I lied to you for weeks...I, I..."
He held her fast, her brown eyes meshed with his tearful, impassioned gaze. "NO, stop it Syd!" He had already lost control of his emotions a while ago, and when his temper suddenly flared up, neither one of them was surprised. "You, you c-canít say that! I wonít let you!"
"Godís punishing m-me for, for being such a JERK!"
"God isnít punishing y-you! I wonít, I just won't let you say that!"
She lifted her head to the heavens and closed her eyes. "Why, why would you take her away from us!"
"Syd, wait..." It was then Nigel remembered something of great importance to the both of them. He rummaged through his back pack, having stashed her away momentarily. He hadnít known how she was going to react, but something was niggling at him that now would be the right time to bring her out. "Iíve, uh, got s-something here...S-something so that w-we can remember."
"Sophie..." Her eyes softened at once, and all the anger slipped away... Sydney had completely forgotten about the little doll, and took it from his trembling hands. "Oh dear God." She looked up to him, her lip quivering, and tears streaming down her face, "I saw her Nigel, our little girl..."
Nigel knew Sydney wasn't crazy, she was distraught, hell, he was too, and expected as much from her at the sight of this precious treasure. His heart swelled inside his chest to see her smile at last, close her eyes and hold the doll to her breast is if she was a real baby.
"Címere...family hug." He whispered. Curling his arm around her they lay back on the bed together.