Steve sat next to Tim with a small, permanent grin on his face. His life was finally back on track. Three months and he had managed to stay clean. It was a real achievement, something to be proud of. Not to mention the fact that he was waiting for his fiancï¿½e to give birth to his first child.
If he wasn’t so thrilled with himself, Steven might have noticed that there had been no communication with any of his girlfriend’s doctors of midwives for at least two hours. It wasn’t something you paid attention to when you were glowing with joy at your own accomplishments. Steve and Katie’s friend Tim, however, was not drunk on his own pride. He had noticed that the sun was rapidly setting, and the new addition to the Davies family hadn’t yet made their grand-entrance to the world.
The pair were not left on their own for much longer, however. A solemn-looking doctor flung the swinging doors at the other end of the corridor open infront of him and, in giant strides, approached the pair hurriedly. He was clutching a brown clipboard in his hand, his knuckles white and his brow furrowed.
“Mr. Davies?” The doctor stopped infront of Steve and took a step back, inviting him to stand.
“Yes,” admitted Steve with a smile, “what’s the news?”
The doctor clenched his jaw and wiped the back of his hand across his forehead. “I’m afraid it’s not good.”
At this point Tim’s eyes widened. The grin hadn’t left Steven’s face yet, and he stood with one hand on his hip.
Met with a wall of silence the doctor, though unnerved, carried on with his explanation. “I’m afraid your partner has abnormally high blood pressure and, at this moment, we cannot assure her or your child’s lives.”
Steven’s face fell slowly, and he slumped back into his seat, burying his head in his hands. “I’m sorry,” garbled the doctor, “you will be informed of any developments…” He turned on his heel and briskly strode for the double-doors.
Tim stood up and put a hand on his best friend’s shoulder reassuringly. “Don’t worry, Steve… They always say that. Get you expecting the worse, y’know? Katie and the baby will be just fine, trust me.”
He looked down at his friend’s head. His dark hair had matted as a result of Steve’s nervous sweating.
“Look…” began Tim, scratching the back of his neck uneasily, “I’ll go and get us both a coffee. I’ll get you a magazine, if you like?”
He bent to Steve’s level.
“Mmm, sure.” Came the husky reply.
“Okay… I’ll be back in five minutes. Chin up, Steven.”
Tim flashed a weak grin as he too disappeared through the double doors. It took Steve twenty seconds to work out what he was going to do.
His coat wrapped around him, collar covering up most of his face, Steve stalked along a dark road on a familiar course. In the cold night air his tears froze on his face.
He had counted how many alleys he has passed. He pivoted on his heel at the entrance to the sixth. Stopping for a second, he nodded slowly to himself and pressed on.
Tim McKee finally returned with two steaming decaf coffees in hand. He didn’t think much of Steven’s absence, assuming he had left to use the bathroom or in pursuit of food. He began to sip one cup while, non-blinking, watched steam rise from the other.
Steven James Davies stood in front of the dark, derelict house. That is, if you could call it a house. It served its owner, Tom Campbell, as an office of sorts. Despite losing one of his favourite customers a few months earlier, there was no shortage of junkies to help Campbell pay the bills.
Steven had been so happy when he realised he no longer needed Thomas Campbell and the substance he sold. But now there was nothing to be happy about. There was no reason for him to be alive anyway; Katie was the only reason he hadn’t taken his life a year before, and now she had gone. Together they were going to raise their baby, together they were going to help people like Steven when they had no one left to turn to.
He couldn’t take the pressure. Leaning heavily against a damp alleyway wall, Steve began to cry.
He had been there for ten minutes, shaking with sorrow. He had made up his mind though. He wasn’t going to go back to the way things were. He was going to make Katie proud of him; he was going to be strong. Just as he turned away, Thomas Campbell flung open the door of his ‘house’ and beckoned Steve inside with a sickening smile.
Tim was starting to get worried. It had been almost an hour now. Sure, his friend was famed for his huge appetite, but surely he wouldn’t be able to eat that much at a time like this.
Suddenly it dawned on him. He was at Thomas’s. He stood up quickly, knocking the stone cold cup of coffee all over the floor. As he strode towards the doors the doctor appeared once again.
“Are you with the Davies’s?” The doctor was wearing a grin not unlike the one that had been wiped off Steven’s face hours before.
Tim nodded, and the doctor couldn’t hide his happiness any longer. “They’re going to be fine,” he smiled, “Katie’s blood pressure is back down and her waters just broke. She’s fine…”
The doctor looked slightly perplexed as McKee pushed through the doors, rounded a corner and began to sprint towards the exit of the hospital. He had to find Steve.
He stumbled out of Thomas Campbell’s house just ten minutes after entering it.
It hadn’t changed a bit in those three short months. There was still a ‘waiting room’. The smoke from cigarettes hung low in the air, and people that looked without souls stared blankly at the walls or floor. The stained wallpaper curled at the ceiling, exposing the plaster underneath. There was still the muffled sound of coughing and the awful smell. Urine, sick, the smell of rotting food… It was all encapsulated in the nauseating thick air of Thomas Campbell’s home.
Tom had assured Steven that he was expecting him. He told him that he was weak, and that they all come back. Steve had put up with the sneering, paid and had left. He was now stumbling back down the alley, grinning manically and zigzagging from wall to wall. He bent down and let out a series of jagged, croaking laughs before carrying on towards the main road.
“Watch where you’re going!”
Steve had bumped into an elderly man. The citizens of Steve’s town had seen anything. During his life the man had become cold and harsh, and was extremely opinionated. Instead of bending down to check if Steve, now lying on the floor in a foetal position, was breathing or conscious, the man spat on him.
“Damn druggies… You should all go to hell, you know that?”
He carried on muttering to himself as he sauntered down the road.
Tim was also muttering under his breath. He couldn’t believe he had left Steve on his own. He was so irresponsible. It was entirely his fault.
“Steve!” He called into the dark, turning down streets he didn’t know in the hope of finding his friend. “Steven!”
He didn’t know where he was. He had no clue where to find Steve. He had to keep searching.
After a problem-free labour, Katie Winters had given birth to a healthy baby boy.
“Can you send my fiancï¿½ through, please?”
It felt as though he had searched down every street in the city. Panting, Tim leant against a car to try and catch his breath. It was then he saw him.
“STEVEN!” He called, running towards the shadowy figure that was crouching on the other side of the road. “Steven! You idiot! Katie’s fine! She was going in to labour when I left!”
Steve struggled to his feet. He could just make out what Tim was saying. He broke from his stupor and began to amble across the road towards his friend.
He reached halfway before there was a flash of white light. A speeding car had just turned down the quiet street. Steve turned towards it and froze. There was a screech of brakes and then nothing.
He was thrown into the air and rolled off the bonnet of the car, which sped away as quickly as it had come.
Tim rushed to the middle of the road and knelt by his Steven’s side.
“Somebody called an ambulance!” He screamed, though he couldn’t hear himself.
Steve reached out for Tim’s gloved hand and squeezed it. The faint call of ambulance sirens rang out through the night. Steven looked up at Tim, smiled, and fell back to the ground.
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