My husband was still in bed for whatever reason. Now that he could sleep in for three months on end, I guess he took full advantage of that. I looked at the clock above the counter, shaking my head when I noticed it was already passed noon. There went our day.
Nevertheless, I took hold of the tea recipe that I had printed out from a website on natural remedies. Tea with honey and lemon. Sounded easy enough. I busied myself with the honey until my son came trudging in.
“What are you doing?” he asked in an annoyed tone.
“What does it look like?” I mumbled back, carefully measuring the amount of lemon to put into the tea.
“Where’s Dad?” Baylee asked without interest.
“What’s he doing?”
“I don’t know; why don’t you go and find out?” I replied, finally satisfied with the tea.
“Nah,” Baylee said, disappearing into the living room.
“Stay away from your father’s laptop,” I called after him.
“Why?” he whined from the other room. “He’s got the fastest.”
“He’s working on something.”
“Can’t he do that on his work laptop?” Baylee questioned, reappearing into the kitchen now that he wasn’t sure if he would get his way.
“I’m not discussing this,” I said sternly, “Go play your videogames on the house computer.”
He narrowed his eyes, but didn’t start an argument, which I was thankful for. He usually argued against every little thing, now that he was becoming a teenager. It steadily drove Brian and me both insane, but I knew it was just part of him growing up. I was the exact same at his age. I heard some stumbling above me, indicating that Brian had finally decided to get out of bed. Maybe we could do something nice together today. I wondered if I should make pancakes for dessert or if we could maybe go out for dinner as I made my way upstairs, the hot, steaming tea in my hands. “Brian?” I called softly when I saw him standing in the hallway with his back facing me.
He turned around, startled and looked at me with wide, horror filled eyes. I took a step back, almost releasing the tea mug I held. “What’s wrong?” I rushed worriedly.
He shook his head, grabbing at his throat with shaking hands. Suddenly very fearful, I slowly approached him, putting the tea on top of a decorative table. “Are you okay?”
He shook his head again and I noticed every breath he took got stuck in his throat. I took a hold of his shaking arm, which was still clutching at his throat.
“It’s alright,” I said quickly, “It’s alright, just calm down.”
He gave me a helpless look, opening his mouth to try and say something. All that came out was a wheezy and breathy type of sound that I could only guess was a word. He bit his lip as he started to shake more and more. I already knew where this was going. “Hey, hey,” I said, trying to sound calm and assertive, “We’ll just call doctor Emmerly, okay? It’s probably nothing too bad. We’ll figure this out.”
I led him to the bedroom and sat him down on the bed. “Just try and take deep breaths. You can do that. It’s not hard,” I explained, feeling like I was talking to Baylee, instead of Brian. His shaking became less prominent as he focused on his breathing. After five minutes, he’d calmed down enough to be able to breathe somewhat normally again. I sank down next to him on the bed, wondering if I should ask what had caused the initial panic attack in the first place. For a while, we sat in silence and I busied myself with rubbing his tensed back.
“I...” he started, his voice merely a whisper, “I... can’t... talk...”
I felt the stone sink deep in my stomach as I watched the tears in his eyes slowly slide down. Every word he tried to say seemed to get cut off and stuck somewhere between his throat and his mouth. I noticed he was swallowing a lot as well, indicating that every sound he made was really hurting him. No wonder he had freaked out. His breathing was still heavy and I got a little closer.
“You’re really warm,” I noticed, my hand gliding over his upper arm. His skin was dry and hot to the touch.
Maybe he just had the flu or a bad cold or something. I actually felt a bit of relief. If he had lost his voice due to an infection, then it would come back once the infection was cleared, right? He looked at me with tired eyes, not daring to even attempt to say something. I smiled softly, “You should stay in bed,” I concluded with a firm nod. “I for one, think you’ve been running yourself down the past couple of months. Now it’s all getting back at you.”
He laid down obediently, grabbing a pillow from the head of the bed and burying his face in it. I quietly got out of the room, picking the mug of tea up before reentering. I gently placed it on the nightstand. Brian didn’t move and I decided quickly to not disturb him.
He didn’t get sick often, but when he did, he got it serious. I walked down the stairs on my toes, trying to be as quiet as possible.
“What’s for dinner?” Baylee popped up suddenly out of nowhere and I jumped in surprise.
“Shh,” I hushed him and he frowned, “Your dad’s sleeping.”
“It’s like, two pm,” Baylee drawled.
“Oh,” Baylee sighed, “Does that mean I can get on his computer?”
“No,” I replied, rolling my eyes. Since when was he so insensitive towards other people? I made a mental note to talk to Baylee about that later. After I called the doctor it took about half an hour for her to arrive.
She stayed in the bedroom for quite some time and just as I began to worry if something was wrong, she stepped out.
“Well, he certainly caught an airway infection.”
“Oh dear,” I mumbled. “How long will that last?”
“About a week, I presume,” the doctor calmly said as we walked back down again, “I’ve prescribed some pills to soothe the throat and help with coughing.”
Great. More pills. I had to surpress a sigh. “Anything I can do?”
“Tea helps,” Doctor Emmerly nodded when we got to the door, “I saw you were already on that,” she gave me a smile. “He just needs rest, basically. It should sort itself out fairly soon. I told him not to try and talk for as long as it takes.”
I nodded, already knowing that Brian was not going to take this well. He hated being sick and having to have people taking care of him. “Thanks,” I mumbled quickly and the doctor nodded.
“Just try to keep him in bed,” she smiled knowingly before she left.
A week went by and the fever disappeared rather quickly. Brian stayed in bed mostly, though. After a few days it was clear that his voice wasn’t recovering even a little bit. I busied myself with all kinds of tea now; I nearly got obsessed with it. Ever since two years ago I was quite aware of the depression he’d been diagnosed with that seemed to go in waves. I remember days where he was fine, talked a lot with me and Baylee and seemed to genuinely enjoy what he was doing. I also remember days where he could barely get out of bed and only talked when it was absolutely necessary. He stayed on his own a lot those days. I knew Baylee picked up on it and I had tried to explain what was happening, but hadn’t booked too much success.
Now, Brian didn’t get out of bed at all, except when he had to go to his therapy, and I decided it was the worst wave yet. It was like he wasn’t even there when I went in to bring him tea and medication. He refused to eat anything and just blankly stared at a fixed spot on the wall. I often wondered if he heard me at all when I talked to him. I had never seen him like that and I had known him for over seventeen years. It scared me to no end. At night, he would sleep fitfully, waking up every so often in sweat and panting.
I walked the stairs slowly, wondering how long this would last. He hadn’t said a word in three weeks and to say that I was worried would be an understatement. What if he could never speak normally again? What if this was a lasting thing? Much of Brian’s life depended on his voice, so what if he could never have it back? I was very sure these thoughts must have been flying through his head as well, because when I entered the bedroom, I saw him propped up against the pillows with papers scattered all around him and his computer next to his legs. He looked up when he noticed me and when he saw my confused face, he grabbed a paper and hurriedly wrote something down.
My mouth fell open in shock and I frowned at him. He swallowed and pressed his mouth into a thin line. I quickly got closer, carefully sitting down on the edge of the bed where the papers had not yet invaded. “I don’t think you can just quit, honey,” I said softly.
Brian shrugged, turning the page. Don’t care.
“Brian,” I hesitated, not exactly knowing what to say. At least he was being honest. “How long have you been thinking about this?”
He looked thoughtfully at me for a moment; then grabbed a new paper. A while.
“I think you should really talk to someone about this before you make a decision,” I said quietly. His eyes narrowed at the word ‘talk’ and he scoffed. I sighed, “I mean, did you contact any of the guys about this?”
He looked away, his shoulders slumping. He shook his head, turning the paper over and over in his hands. I saw him trying to swallow; then he looked up, a desperate glint in his eyes. I’m of no use anymore to them, he wrote slowly; then looked back at me.
My mind went a hundred miles per hour. I was fairly sure there was no possible way he could just quit and be done with it. There were contracts, planned events and four other people that depended on him. If anything, there was an up and coming cruise that he was expected to take part in, and a movie. But then again; how was he going to manage that without a voice? I had watched him struggle through interviews and performances when his voice was anything but cooperative, but now... now it was actually really gone. “I think you should let them know what’s going on right now,” I said slowly.
I’ll write them an email, Brian wrote, grabbing his laptop. I sighed in frustration.
“No, wait,” I said hesitatingly and he looked at me questioningly. “I mean, is this really how you want this all to end? With a goodbye email?”
Brian frowned at me. Well, I can’t call them up, so...
“That’s not what I meant,” I sighed, “I think you should really think about this before making a decision.”
He gave me a heated glare and started to scribble down quite a long reply. I waited patiently, watching his handwriting get messier with the anger that made his hands shake. You think I want to do this? You think I haven’t thought about this? I just really don’t see another solution; so if you do, be my guest.
I leaned forward, touching his arm and he looked up at me with those stubborn eyes that I recognized from all those years ago. When he was dead set on something; there was almost no way in hell anybody could change his mind. I saw that look on Baylee sometimes too and I was well aware of where he got it from. “You’re still doing your therapy, right? Nowhere does it say that this is a permanent thing. Maybe you just gotta work through it,” I said, knowing that I had said the exact same thing for almost three weeks now.
He closed his eyes and bit down on his lip and I saw the tears fall down. These last two years, I had seen him cry more than in the entire seventeen years I knew him. He looked at me; silently begging me to come up with a solution that would be beneficial for everybody. I stayed silent and he sighed. Do you know how bad it feels when you get your hopes up when things seem to go better, only to have all of it crash down faster than you can imagine? Do you know how that feels?
“I do,” I whispered, feeling my own tears now as well, “Because you’re not the only one going through this.”
He watched me thoughtfully, then nodded slowly. That’s why I should quit.
“Don’t give up,” I said hoarsely.
I’m tired of fighting this, it’s been too long. I’ve been fighting and working my ass off, and this is what I get. The letters were barely recognizable with the way his hands shook as he wrote them down.
“This is not just your life, Brian,” I whispered. “You cannot make rash decisions like this when it involves Baylee and me as well.”
He frowned at me in anger, his fist tightening around the pen. You just don’t wanna give up the lifestyle that comes with my job.
I read it and gasped. I’m pretty sure he saw the hurt on my face, “That’s not true, Brian, you know very well that that’s not true.” Where on earth was his consideration? Where the hell was his ability to sympathize with other people? What was this voice condition doing to him? Where the hell had my Brian gone?
I’m tired, he wrote, even though it was six o’clock.
I rolled my eyes, standing up from the bed. “If you bother to come, there’s soup and carrots for dinner,” I said, turning around. I already knew he wouldn’t bother to come. I heard a shuffling of papers as he finally decided to clear out the bed. I sighed, walking out of the room.
He didn’t come down for dinner, just like I suspected.
When I returned upstairs, he was already asleep. Most of the papers were thrown in the trash can and his computer had been shoved under the bed. I sighed, picking up one of the papers that had landed next to the intended target. Frowning, I folded it open. It appeared to be song lyrics I had never seen before.
Curiously, I took some other papers from the trash bin.
They were all songs. Most of them angry and frustrated.
Some of them dark and depressing. Only a few of them uplifting and hopeful. I clutched the crumpled sheets, knowing that they were never supposed to see the light of day. Knowing that I, nor anybody else was ever supposed to see them at all. I looked at my husband, who was lying on his stomach, fast asleep. I carefully took some of the songs I thought were especially outstanding and put them inside one of my drawers. I would keep them safe there, and maybe, when his head was at it, he would be thankful.