by Addison Donati

Pancakes. Chocolate chip and definitely a batch of blueberry as well. Maple? Hell yes, bacon.

Nora sat up and let her feet dangle over the edge of the bed, tangling her toes in the wool threaded carpeting on her floor, tickling the arch of her foot just enough to send a thrilling sensation up her legs. 9:37 a.m. on the clock, she picked up her pants from the ground and covered the skin of her legs that were still cold from the city air the night before. Tossing her heavy hair in a bun, it sang with the smell of marijuana as she strangled it with an elastic. Shit, I left my lighter in Zachs car. Fingertips to her upper and then bottom lip, she traced the spot that his once touched hers, and in that moment, hoped for it to be the case once again.

She laughed when she looked in the mirror above her vanity. A sea level deep mixture of blue and purple splashed on her neck in 3 different spots. Nora thought the color was gorgeous and she found hickies hilarious. Underneath, her veins drained of their insides and on the superficial side of her skin, a territorial mark. Humans are weird, hickies are hilarious, okay I need bacon.

Goodmorning honey, breakfast buffet, help yourself.

Everything looks so good Mom, the smell of these pancakes, like, literally woke me up from my sleep.

Well, Im gladtheres something that gets you out of bed nowadays.

Zach is coming to get me at noon, we are going to the Christmas markets in Hoboken for the day want any scented pine cones or garland for the staircase? I can pick it up for you while Im there.

Thats alright baby, Im gunna make my way down there during the week sometime, how was the city last night?

Cold, really damn cold actually. Fun, though. They had a strip-tease Mr. and Mrs. Claus performance in the middle of time square, it was actually comical.

That sounds like the city to me, wipe the syrup off the table before your father sits down, I dont feel like dealing with an allergic reaction from him this morning. And put your dish in the sink. And Nor put a scarf on will you, Im not listening to Dad if he sees those damn marks on your neck, they arent pretty honey, tell Zach I dont find them pretty at all.

She loved showers that steamed up the entire bathroom in a hazy, fish bowl manner. The scorching water gently burned away last nights sins from her skin. Drowning her body with the touch of her hands, head to toe, each portion of skin felt the same. Where bruises covered her neck, she felt the same smoothness as the layer over her kneecaps or the portion above her bellybutton; the hickies could be seen but not felt. One thing, two ways of existing. Brilliant.

Zach was destroying the last blueberry pancake when Nora came downstairs in her red velvet, mid-thigh length dress with braided tights, black combats and a navy wool scarf. He had blueberry smeared on his left cheek and felt none of it. Failing to hold back her laughter, Nora grabbed a napkin and wiped Zachs cheek clean, and then kissed it.

We should be back before dinner Mom, so plan for us at the table. Call me if you think of something youd like me to pick up. Love you.

Love you too, darling. See you at dinner Zach.

Nora sat passenger and Zach drove his black Jeep Liberty. The motions: Seatbelts buckled, car turned on and hands fitted between the creases of one another. There was never a time where they sat in the car without feeling the palm of the one next to them in their own. It was safety, comfort, a second seatbelt, a reminder that she always wanted to feel him and he always needed to feel her.

The car flipped three times and came to a stop with the help of a cement pillar supporting the bridge above it. She tried to remember more, but it was as simple as that: flipped and stopped; that was the story from beginning to end. None of the paramedics or officers spoke to her as they taped her to the stretcher, they just spoke to each other. They thought they were speaking to her, most people usually did at first. Zach, where is Zach. Dont touch me, I cant feel him, I cant see him, dammit I cant even smell his cologne, where the hell is he?

The hospital reminded her of a sterile prison; pee, and apple juice, and shitty food, and stone walls, and cold air, and metal objects, and scared people acting angry as hell to keep from crying, yet the entire place reeked of headache-inducing sterilization. From what she could see, she had stitches below her collarbone and some sort of gauze taped to her thigh. Hands and feet were accounted for but she couldnt tell her if head pain was due to injury or just a migraine from the overwhelming smell of bleach.

Oh honey, youre awake, oh dear god, okay look at me, youre okay, there was an accident, it was black ice, they said nothing is broken you hit your head but just a minor concussion and a few cuts from shattered glass but everything is sewn up and they just said rest, a lot of rest and you are going to be okay my baby, but I am here and Dad is just doing paper work so just dont worry, okay? Alright honey, are you hungr---

Where is Zach. Where is Zach. Mom, I am sitting up and going to find him by myself if you do not bring me to him.

Nora, dont move. Okay, he is next door. Sit up more slowly please, Nora. Okay, I will walk you over just stop moving for a second. Nora.

She had seen him lying there in that exact position before. It was a rainy Saturday afternoon and she begged him to watch The Titanic. As she got up halfway through and came back with more popcorn, she found Zach knocked out cold with his arms on each side in the most peaceful manner. She wanted so badly to finish the movie but she wanted even more to find him in his dreams, so she layed down next to him and fell asleep to the rhythm of his breathing with her head on his chest. She stared at him in that hospital bed and could see how deep into his dreams he was. She closed her eyes and begged him to come home.

14 minutes. He opened his eyes and looked directly at her after 14 minutes of being somewhere else.

Zach. I love you, I am okay. You are okay. Black ice, they said. I have always hated the winter. Are you thirsty, do you want some water?

He didnt answer. He just looked at her. She knew he was crying because of the tears pouring onto his pillow. Blink, blink, blink, blink. It was as if he was trying to find any other way to speak to Nora, any other way to tell her he loved her too.

Nora watched the doctor speak to her mother in the doorway. It was kind of an inside joke with herself, how ridiculously humorous it was to watch people move their mouths without any correlating sounds. The words that Nora could not hear spewing out of the doctors mouth were enough to bring her mother to the ground. Nora crawled over to her and held her as if she heard the entire conversation, she became very good at visually analyzing situations and reacting accordingly until someone reiterated the message.

Nora became ill at the age of five which resulted in 6 months of hospitalization and complete loss of hearing in both of her ears. She met Zach when they were both just ten years old in a sign language class. Zachs younger sister Bethany was born deaf and he made it his mission to be fluent in her way of communication before her first birthday. Nora told him she loved him the first day she met him, and everyday after. It only took him a week to understand what she was saying and he smiled and said I have love to you, which she thought was close enough. They were now 18 years old and she planned on loving him until her last breath.

He is paralyzed, honey. From the neck down. He cannot move his arms, I I wish it well he is alright though, he is here and he is alright.

Mom, leave. Leave this room, leave this hospital. Just leave.

Just staring at him, it was as if Zach was as put together as a snuggly fit 100 piece puzzle, nothing broken, nothing missing.

I love you, She said, and said it again about 15 times more, but Zach didnt respond, couldnt respond. He just kept blinking.

Stop it. Stop the damn blinking Zach I dont know what the hell that is supposed to mean. Just answer me.

His face became a fiery red and his head began to shake with strain. It was as if gravity was pushing down on his entire body in an unbearable manner, preventing him from lifting his arms and moving his legs; except, it wasnt gravity that was to blame. There was no blame to be dealt at all, and that was the most difficult part. Nora just watched as he thrashed his head against the pillow, letting out a scream that she felt blessed she was not able to hear. His mouth wide open and his eyes shut tight, Nora grabbed Zachs hand that he could not feel and put her palm to his, and she felt everything.

He opened his eyes and found Nora just inches away from his face staring directly at him. She blinked three times, I love you. She did not raise her arms or move her hands, she simply blinked and told him she loved him. Zach blinked five times and Nora cried hysterically. She didnt know where the sound came from, whether is was his pupils or eyelids or maybe his lashes, but she could hear him say, I have love to you. She imagined what Zachs voice would sound like almost everyday, and in that hospital, in that bed, in that moment, he blinked five times, and she swears she heard his voice, exactly how she expected it to be. Laying on his chest that she could feel and he could no longer, she fell asleep to the rhythm of his breathing. Nora could see it now, his body: one thing, two ways of existing. Brilliant.

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