Harry woke up. something was wrong. He knew it wouldn’t take long for him to remember what, that these few blessed moments of uncertainty were all he was going to get before reality punched him in the face. He opened his eyes and regretted it at once. It was as if the daylight forcing its way through the filthy, grimy window and lighting up the empty little room carried straight on to a painful spot just behind his eyes. He sought shelter in the darkness behind his eyelids again and realised that he had been dreaming. About Rakel, obviously. And it had started with the same dream he had had so many times before, about that morning many years ago, not long after they had first met. She had been lying with her head on his chest, and he had asked if she was checking to see if what they said was true, that he didn’t have a heart. And Rakel had laughed the laugh he loved; he could do the most idiotic things to coax it out of her. Then she had raised her head, looked at him with the warm brown eyes she had inherited from her Austrian mother, and replied that they were right, but that she would give him hers. And she had. And Rakel’s heart was so big, it had pumped blood around his body, thawing him out, making him a real human being again. And her husband. And a father to Oleg, the introverted, serious boy that Harry had grown to love as his own son. Harry had been happy. And terrified. Happily unaware of what was going to happen, but unhappily aware that something was bound to, that he wasn’t made to be this happy. And terrified of losing Rakel. Because one half of a heart couldn’t beat without the other, he was well aware of that, as was Rakel. So if he couldn’t live without her, why had he been running away from her in his dream last night?
He didn’t know, couldn’t remember, but Rakel had come to claim her half-heart back, had listened out for his already weak heartbeat, found out where he was and rung the doorbell. Then, at last, the blow that had been coming. Reality.
That he had already lost her. And not because he had fled from her, but because she had thrown him out.
Harry gasped for air. Harry gasped for air. A sound was boring through his ears, and he realised that the pain wasn’t only behind his eyes, but that his whole brain was a source of immense hurt. And that it was that noise which had triggered the dream before he woke up. There really was someone ringing the doorbell. Stupid, painful, irrepressible hope poked its head up.
Without opening his eyes, Harry reached one hand down towards the floor next to the sofa bed, feeling for the whisky bottle. He knocked it over, and realised it was empty from the sound it made as it rolled across the worn parquet floor. He forced his eyes open. Stared at the hand that was dangling above the floor like a greedy claw, at the grey, titanium prosthetic middle finger. The hand was bloody.