As Charlie listened, she began to swift somewhat uncomfortably on her cot. For the majority of time, she had held contact with Justin’s gaze, his eyes seeming honest and intent on getting the well-being behind his words across. Yet after a while, staring became uneasy and feeling rude she broke his lock on her gaze. Cocking her head to the side a bit, she glanced towards the huddled groups which dotted the area around her. The blue and white uniforms of the nurses sieving through the crowds like bees working round honeycombs, stopping every now and then to check people.
It had most certainly been a long day, the evidence of this etched into every face which looked her way. Crumpling in her skin, Charlie closed her eyes and breathed in deeply. The fact that they had been attacked just a few hours before was quite enough for one day, but now this new invitation had appeared, shiny, new and full of promise. It made the option of going home seem like a comparison between a pit pony and thoroughbred.
A life of hiding in shame from her friends, possibly even moving was certainly not attractive. Yet this new option was swirled in fear. Charlie knew that one day she would have to leave her parents. That was just life, it’s what people did. But she didn’t even know anything about this academy, she could be walking into hell on earth if she just up’t and left.
Sighing inwardly, Charlie parted her lips to answer only to suddenly freeze, the words catching in her throat as a gentle hand rested on her shoulder. The slender digits and thick perfume of vanilla which filled the air, told her that this hand belonged to her mother.
They had arrived only half an hour before and were only allowed in when the medic had finally deemed her well enough to see. Faces taunt with fear and worry ,they had bustled back into her life, her father chattering nervously and he peppered her with questions while her mother stood in silence, eyes lined in silver tears. The promise of Nandos long since forgotten, Charlie noted to herself bitterly.
It was here, for the briefest of moments, that Charlie forgot all about Justin whom now lay down in the neighbouring cot, as she took in her parent’s voices, expressions and actions. With a sudden jolt in her brain, Charlie remembered back to when she had hit the rocks as a child. The same expressions had twisted her mother and father’s kind faces back then too. With this Charlie’s stomach twisted uncomfortably, almost in anger. She was no longer a child to be simpered over, her twentieth birthday was coming in December and now more than ever was the time to take her own life into her own hands.
Standing from her cot, she nodded her parents curtly before offering them a smile.
“I am fine. Hungry but fine.” She said, patting her dad’s hand reassuringly. “But can we discuss this over dinner somewhere? I am sure the nurses will let me go, I’ve not got a scratch on me.” Here she offered her best grin, before glancing back at Justin sombrely.
“But Mum, Dad. Can you just go double check with the medics for me? I have someone I need to talk to first.” Her parents did as she asked and as she watched her parents retreating backs, Charlie sat back down, this time facing where Justin lay.
“I need to think things over, a lot of stuff has gone on and well, it’s all a little much, but you will know when I make my decision. Thank you for today Justin, you saved my life.” With that Charlie once again stood, turning to leave. She greeted her parents with hugs and listened to the doctor’s advice. They were allowing her to leave but on the condition that if anything even stung just a little, she was to call a hospital immediately. With that they left, finding a small café somewhere and ordering Panini for dinner.
It had been awkward at first, her mother remaining silent while her dad tried to cover the lack of conversation with jokes, none of which were well thought out.
Yet at last, when the dinner was over, the coffee gone and crumbs being the only signs of food once gracing the plates, the mood lightened. If only for a little a bit until Charlie broached the subject of going to the academy. At first, her father became angry and tense but that is what Charlie expected, it was her mother which came as a surprise.
“I think you should do it.” Her soft, Scottish accent sounding quite quaint amongst the Manc’s rough dialect.
“What!” Her father replied, almost bellowing now, as his heavily furred face turned to his partner. “You want to send her to this place? We don’t even know anything about it!”
“She needs to go James. If she doesn’t, she will always wonder about it.” Her mother replied as she brushed back a few dark curls from her own small, delicate face. Her expression was firm, dark rings unlined her eyes while her lips pressed together into a thin line.
This was enough quietened her father at once, making him sink back into his soft leather chair in silence as he just stared at his wife in disbelief. Charlie joined him in this expression, though her heart beat wildly in anticipation. Out of the two parents, Charlie had never even hosted the possibility of her mother becoming her ally on this subject. She had always been so protective of her.
“If she hadn’t wanted to go deep down inside she wouldn’t have brought this up.” Her mother continued with a heavy sigh. “I know my own daughter, at least give me that. Charlie if you wish to go, go. But remember to call won’t you?”
Charlie at this, grinned somewhat confusedly at first before hugging her mum and nodding. “I will.”
An hour later:
Charlie parted with her parents at the station, promises of their return the next day with a bag filled with her stuff, made with tears. There were hugs. Lots of hugs and then her parents had climbed on the train as the final call sounded.Then with a shuddering start, the train pulled Charlie's parents away from her. Charlie remained on the chilled platform for a little while, reddened eyes watching as the tail lights of the train disappeared around a corner. There was no point in crying, but yet the tears still brimmed her eyes and stained her cheeks. Changed had never been easy.
As she returned the makeshift hospital where she had left Justin three hours before, Charlie felt her heart quicken in excitement. Trying as best she could to ignore the crumbled rumble which lay quietly down the street, yellow jacketed workers still picking through the bricks. It was the beginning of a new chapter now, what had happened was terrible, but she couldn't linger on the past.
Explaining to the medics and guards that she felt unwell and figured it was best if she came back, Charlie was allowed back in, minimal questions asked. Finding her way back to her own bed, she tip toed through the rows of closed curtains and open view cots. The occasional groan of pain emanating from a person stirring in their sleep. Biting down her lip hard was all she could do as she resisted to help, before finally arriving at her old cot. She had been lucky that it hadn’t been filled with another poor soul in her absence. Sitting down heavily, Charlie sighed, holding back a grin. From here, she reached into her bag and pulled out a Panini, offering it towards Justin without even checking to see if he was awake.
“I didn’t know what the food would be like here and figured you would appreciate this. It’s ham and cheese.” She offered this sentence with a shrug, before laying back in her cot slowly and closing her eyes to rest.
“This academy better have its own Professor X or I will be seriously disappointed.”