Chapter 16

     "I heard you were here." Leona Kya stood at the door. She looked even more disheveled than when I had seen her earlier. Her normally smooth hair looked fuzzy and caught everywhere, and her makeup was smudged. Tear streaks still lined her pale cheeks.

      Leona shifted her glance to the sleeping Tutto. She walked over and stood next to me, putting an elegant hand on top of Tutto’s bony one. She looked intently at Tutto’s sleeping face, her expression unreadable.

     Question upon question threatened to explode in my head, but I gulped them all in, not wanting to disturb this confusing yet moving scene.

     Leona slowly moved her hand from Tutto’s hand to where his heart was. She flattened her hand on his chest and closed her eyes, as if she could hear his heartbeat through her palm. The three of us remained motionless for several minutes, with Tutto sleeping in the hospital bed, Leona standing beside him feeling his heart, and me staring at Leona’s hand on Tutto’s chest, still trying to gulp down the questions that squirmed as they tried to find an exit from my mouth.

      Finally, after an agonizing moment, Leona spoke, "The doctors are saying he doesn't have long."

      I glanced up at her, my expression blank. Too much has happened within the last few hours and my head was having trouble registering the overflow of new information.

      "It's all my fault." Leona clenched her hand on Tutto’s chest into a fist.

      I shook my head. "I might not know what it is between you two but I'm pretty sure you're not to blame for this."

     Leona continued to stare at Tutto, deep in thought.

     Another speechless ten minutes passed as the severity of Tutto’s condition slowly dawned on me.

     "You were saying he doesn't have long?" I stuttered.

 Leona nodded sadly. "He hadn't been taking his medication. His heart is failing."

      "Leona," I could bare the confusion no more. "Why are you here?"

     Leona finally found a chair and sat down beside me. "I'm the only one who knows about his heart defect." She said plainly.

     I waited a while for her to explain more, but it didn't seem like she was going to continue. "And?" I urged.

      Leona sighed. "As you already know, Tutto has pulmonary valve stenosis." I nodded, encouraging her to speak more. "He was born with it. The doctors discovered the defected valve during a routine health examination when he was still an infant. They had told his parents not to worry, however, because the stenosis was mild and would not become too much of a threat.

      "He went through his childhood relatively smoothly. Besides some minor weight-gain issues and shortness of breath during vigourous exercise, he grew up like any other boy in the neighbourhood. Eventually his heart disease was forgotten." Leona paused to brush a strand of hair off of Tutto’s face. "He was a cheerful, talkative boy. Always smiling and laughing, always dancing around like the world was his stage. He was never shy to talk to people, and everybody loved him for his optimism.

      "He was never the smartest kid however." Leona started smoothing out the blankets covering Tutto’s chest. "He trusted people too much and was often tricked because of this. He also could never understand anything of complexity, such as his disease, or the idea of death.

      "This wasn't a problem during his childhood years, but as he grew into adolescence, it was obvious that he was not keeping up with the progress of his peers. His grades never flew above average, and the fact that he was significantly slower than others resulted in his being bullied by the tougher kids.

     "He hated school then, and often followed his father to the construction sites where his father worked. He loved to help out with the building, and proved himself to be very useful. At first his mother never wholly agreed to let him help the workers, but seeing that he was skipping classes even when he was at school, his parents decided it was best to just let him do what he wants."

     Leona paused here, a pause so long it made me anxious that she was not going to continue.

      "But then one day at the construction site, when Tutto was about thirteen, he had his first heart attack." Leona closed her eyes as if picturing the scene in her head.

      "It was an extremely hot day, but the construction was behind, so they decided to work anyway. Tutto was climbing a ladder to help with the roof construction, when all of a sudden he lost his grip and fell.

      "When the workers got to him, he already had no pulse. Fortunately, his father had learned some basic CPR when doctors told him his son was born with a heart defect. Mr. Freeman slowly massaged the unconscious boy's chest until the ambulance finally arrived. The doctors said that that had saved Tutto’s life.”

      Leona shuddered a bit before continuing. “Although he had survived the attack, Tutto was never the same again. The fall from the ladder along with the lack of oxygen during the attack caused amnesia and he could remember no one but his father, who was there calling his name during his unconscious state. He became very shy and quiet, always hiding from people. He became the Zombie-Boy that you see now.”

      Leona shifted in her chair and looked me straight in the eye. “He would only ever talk to his father, and you.”

      I blinked, not knowing how to respond. Leona’s stare was almost a glare, but soon afterwards she returned her gaze to Tutto.

      “His father, being the only link between the real world and Tutto’s own, closed-up world, took on the responsibility of educating Tutto of social skills and life in general. He started to create all these metaphors that he would use to help Tutto understand the relationships between people as well as life and death phenomena. During the day, while Mr. Freeman would be working at the construction sites, Tutto would be at school, taking classes but who knows how much he actually took in. In the afternoon, when Mr. Freeman got off work, he would pick Tutto up and take him around town, answering every question the boy could come up with. Tutto learned more from his father than from every teacher he ever had combined.

      “An uneventful year went by. With the help of medication and routine checkups, Tutto’s health improved significantly. However, because the attention of the family was focused on the boy, nobody noticed that the mother was sliding deeper and deeper into depression. Her son had not spoken a word to her since his attack, and it bothered her way more than she was showing. No one realized her grief, or her disappearance, until the boy had his second attack.

      “Tutto just woke up one afternoon and started wheezing. A doctor was quickly called to the house and managed to stabilize him. However, when Mr. Freeman went looking for Mrs. Freeman to tell her that their son had another attack but was fine, he found her on the balcony. She had hung herself.”

      Leona shuddered again. I noticed a choke in her voice. She swallowed once before speaking again. “Three years later, which was a year ago, Tutto’s father was struck by a falling brick during work, and died in the hospital.” Leona swallowed another choke. “Tutto was at his deathbed, talking to him till the end, but he never understood what happened to his father nor where his father had gone. He just kind of…let it go.”

      Leona let out a long sigh and stroked Tutto’s fingers. After a moment, she turned to look at me again. “But he opened up to you.” Leona laughed bitterly. “It was like he replaced his father with you.”

      I looked away from her and set my eyes on Tutto. I scratched my head, trying to get my brain to register all that information that I had just taken in. There was still one question aggressively charging at the walls of my mouth, trying to get out.

     “Leona,” I glanced back at her with a frown. “How do you know all this?”

      Leona was now studying Tutto’s palm. “I was there.” She said quietly. “Tutto and I are fraternal twins.”

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 -羅寗 Michelle Ning Lo



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