Chapter Description: My Masterpiece Chapter <3
It was two days later, and Simon still could not let his guard down to close his eyes for anything longer than a few moments. He had gotten very little sleep apart from when he passed out due to sheer exhaustion around twenty-eight hours after Mr. Hammond—well Robert—and his colleagues debriefed him and Angelique.
He couldn't believe that he had trusted Dr. Kelly and left Jacob in the care of a monster. He had been so naïve, and that truth felt like a knife cutting into his flesh—one far too painful to confess—even to his wife—even to himself.
If nothing else, a father should protect his children.
Those words, once a whispered encouragement from Simon's mother to be a good father to his own child one day, now haunted the man's guilt-ridden mind. He had tried to do the right thing and save the closest client that he had to a son, and still it all went terribly wrong. He had possibly inadvertently destroyed the very life he was so determined to save. He wondered how he could call himself a father when it was his action—his decision to deliver Jacob to someone who could regard him as nothing more than a laboratory experiment—that got them to this point.
We barely managed to get him out in time.
His child needed to be saved, and he was only a few rooms away chatting, eating and laughing as though such a major part of his world did not lay bound to a bed—frightened, helpless and tormented. He tortured himself speculating on how many times the child had called out for him. His brain fixated over how long Jacob managed to last before the boy had given up on believing that his father would come to his rescue and save him from the evil doctor.
In the hours after they were permitted to enter Jacob's recovery room, his mind replayed the boy's cries when he let Dr. Kelly leave that exam room with him. His child knew that the doctor was dangerous, and he didn't listen. With every remembered scream that rang through his ears—as though perpetually on repeat—he felt his heart break, his gut wrench, his mind shatter and his soul tremble.
There's no way to tell if or when he will wake up.
The doctors had repeated that mantra at every check in for the last two days, and it was never easier to hear than the time before. The child he loved—the child he regarded as his son lay in a hospital bed, tangled wires entering every cavity of his body, and the sickening symphony of medical machinery only served to strengthen Simon's frenzied frustration.
In the abandoned janitor's closet that Simon sought reprieve in twenty-four hours earlier, the silence was deafening. It was hollow—devoid of at least the promise of life. Still, it was where he cried and screamed—heaved and panted—until sounds could no longer leave his lips, lamenting the unfairness of it all. It felt like a curse that his son would always be taken from him, and he couldn't stand it. He couldn't accept it. He couldn't bear it.
There was no way to have known.
Even Angelique's adamance that he was not responsible for the actions of Dr. Kelly couldn't absolve him of the guilt he felt. His self-esteem drowned in the ocean of shame inside his heart, and his wife's reassurance was a mere line of rope floating between the rough, engulfing waves. Each time Simon tried to pull himself out, he choked on another bitter truth.
That was why he sat next to Jacob's bed in the pitch-black room, even after Angelique had insisted that he get some sleep too. It was fitting—the ghastliness of it all—when he was but a ghost of his former self, a failed father, a disgraced therapist and a broken husband.
For a time, Simon had simply stared at the clock on the wall, fascinated by the passing of each minute. In those panic-stricken moments where his torment felt all too endless—too consuming—too exhaustive—those illuminated red numbers served as his beacon in the darkness of the night.
He swore he saw Jacob's finger twitch, and at first, he worried that his trauma had induced a visual hallucination. He feared that the need to see an indication of recovery forced his tortured, fragile mind to create a fantastical vision, one that could not—would not—manifest.
And yet, Jacob shifted again. The once listless body shook and shuddered. Simon watched with his eyes glued to Jacob's small frame, wondering if he was witnessing the very miracle he had written off as doubtful. As the seconds passed, he became more convinced that it was not a delusion—not a trick of his mind—but what he so desperately needed to be whole again, the blessing of grace he so badly wanted.
Small eyes peeked open, peering into the darkness before focusing on Simon.
"Simon?" Jacob croaked, his voice hoarse and his language mature. "Is that you?"
"Yes, it's me," Simon answered, reaching for a small cup of water. "How are you feeling, buddy?"
"I'm okay," Jacob said, stretching his stiff limbs. "just a little sore; I think. What happened?"
"You've been asleep for the past two days," Simon explained, helping Jacob to get a sip of water. "Do you remember anything from then?"
"Everything is pretty hazy actually," Jacob answered after a big gulp. "I just remember feeling really scared and everything was hurting, then someone saved me. I thought he was a superhero," the boy paused and blushed before continuing. "Like batman...and then it's all black after that."
Simon smiled. Robert was a superhero for all of them. "Some really terrible events took place," he began. "Here's what we know..."
Throughout most of the morning, Jacob had been in and out of testing. The doctors were doing their best to figure out the extent of what Stimetril had done to Jacob's neurodevelopment, an especially daunting task when the scientist responsible for the drug could barely speak anything more than a few syllables at a time.
A few hours after Jacob's final test for the day, a group of doctors came in to speak to them.
"Simon. Angelique. Jacob. We just want to offer you all our sincerest apologies for what you have gone through," the doctor standing closest to them said. "Dr. Kelly was misguided and should not have been allowed to operate in the capacity that she did. For that, we are deeply sorry."
"Thank you," Jacob said, grateful but anxiously awaiting his prognosis.
"From your test results, it seems like there's been a noticeable impact on your neurocognitive functioning and neuronal development, which means that Stimetril, the drug that Dr. Kelly injected you with, seems to have offset the effects of Restalsis," he said pausing for a moment to let that all sink in. "However, we can see that the effect of Stimetril is gradually diminishing, meaning that you will eventually lose your adult consciousness once more."
"When?" Jacob breathed.
"There's no way to tell," the lead doctor answered. "It could be tomorrow, next week or even a few months from now, but the signs will be there before it happens permanently."
"Are there any options?" Angelique asked.
"Unfortunately, the Stimetril nearly killed him, and we have no other way of continuing to stimulate his neurocognitive functioning to the degree that Stimetril did," the doctor answered. "I'm sorry, but there is nothing we can do."
Jacob and his caregivers had spent a few more days at St. Ives where Jacob could continue to be monitored for any side effects. The doctors and hospital staff granted the trio extra patient privileges as an apology for their inconveniences caused by Dr. Kelly's misdeeds and the negligence of the hospital. Simon and Angelique were encouraged to take Jacob on walks to give him a chance to stretch his legs. At times, they visited the hospital's outdoor paths and on other days they watched TV together and visited the cafeteria at mealtime. They bonded so closely for those few days that no one—not a single person observing from the outside—would have thought that a month ago, they lived such separate lives.
Jacob knew he had such little time left with Simon and Angelique—the insistent urge to suck his thumb, play pretend and throw tantrums—all telling him exactly what could already feel.
In the quiet moments—when he found time to himself—that he contemplated on his past, pondered over his present and speculated on his future.
Conditions. Notions. Emotions.
They were all so different now compared to that faithful day in Simon's private practice office. He had lost everything and found himself devoid of hope with no way to move forward. No friends to call. No family to turn to, and somehow, he now had loving parents, a doting grandmother, aunts and uncles all wanting the best for him—something he once believed he didn't deserve.
Some words would remain unsaid. He preferred to show his affection. That was why he cuddled between his parents during every afternoon nap, why he asked for help with minuscule tasks he could do himself, why he initiated play and why he smiled for pictures with the silliest faces and poses.
Even without Simon telling him or even showing him, Jacob saw the shadow of doubt—the weight of guilt—encumbering his former therapist and future father. He waited until it was near the end, in the middle of his last night with his adult consciousness, to give his final gift.
"Simon?" Jacob whispered, tugging on his former therapist's shirt. "You up?"
"Huh?" Simon replied, the fog of sleep still clouding his eyes and awareness. It took him a second, but he managed to focus on Jacob as the boy fidgeted with his thumbs. "Is something wrong? Do you need me to get you a nurse?"
"No," Jacob quietly answered. "I just wanted to tell you something."
Simon sat up. "What is it?"
"Well, I wanted you to know that I'm not mad at you," Jacob said, looking down at his lap and fiddling with his thumbs. "I finally understand why you brought me here...why you had to save me."
"What changed?" Simon asked, not understanding where all of this came from.
"I remembered how happy I was, and I know I'm happy now...and before I was so sad and hurt." Jacob explained. "So, I forgive you for taking the choice from me, because I know now that I was going to choose wrong."
Simon cleared his throat, choked up by the consoling joy astounding his expectations. "Thank you, Jacob," he said, reaching in for a big bear hug. "Thank you for saying that."
They hugged in silence for a few minutes until Jacob pulled away and looked at Simon as though he had something else on his mind.
"There's something else," Simon assumed, running his hand through his hair.
"You can say it, Jacob."
"I'm telling you this now," Jacob said, finally unclasping his hands, popping his thumb in his mouth and mumbling his words. "because I think I'm fading again.
"And you think it's permanent this time," Simon finished for the boy.
"Yeah," Jacob said, his voice barely a whisper. He looked so small, so unsure of himself and his future. "I'm scared."
"It's okay to be scared. It means you're about to do something really brave," Simon recited, cupping Jacob's cheek in his palm. "You're going to trust me to take care of you, and I will always protect you. I will always be there for you," he promised engulfing the boy in his arms. "I love you, Jacob."
"I love you too, Simon," the boy said, snuggling into his daddy's lap and closing his eyes. "Be a good dad to me."
"I will," the grateful father said as silent tears fell from his face into the darkness of the night.
I will because you're my son, the one I always dreamed of.