Despite the prevalent sense of Upstairs/Downstairs that reigned in the household, at five Lex caught the chicken pox from the gardener's daughter.
Naturally, the gardener was dismissed forthwith, and Lex was quarantined in his room for three weeks. A nurse was hired specifically to oversee his illness, which was just as well as he acted more insufferable than normal during this time period.
It was a rather severe case by any stretch of the imagination, made worse by Lex's limited contact with his mother. He felt no incentive to get better as long as he was denied her company, although she snuck up regularly to give him long baths in oatmeal and to apply more calamine lotion to the spots he diligently did not scratch. The rest of Lex's time was spent with tutors who were not subjected to the quarantine under the wrath of Lex's father, and not once during his entire illness did Lex ever see Lionel.
Three days after his ninth birthday, Lex woke up in the hospital with a tube up his nose and an IV in his arm.
His head was cold, and his mother was asleep on his hand. He couldn't feel his fingers, but his mother's red hair blanketed his arm, and he couldn't bring himself to try and move his arm lest he wake her. Instead, Lex attempted to stroke her hair with his other hand, but his movements were hindered by the IV, and the needle inside his arm restrained him insistently, hinting at the tests to come.
Just as Lex was working himself into a rather subtle state of panic, the door opened and his father walked in.
Until that moment Lex had no idea that anything was seriously wrong, but his father's presence made him feel extraordinarily ill.
Lex's mother locked herself in her room for a week after Julian died.
Lex's father left on business the day after the funeral.
Every morning, after breakfast, Lex went and sat outside his mother's bedroom door, waiting. He would rest his head against the great oak door and listen to the sound of her sobbing and wish he could comfort her. That she would let him help.
The first time Lex's governess attempted to remove him, he threatened to have her sacked. The second time Pamela attempted to remove him, he stomped on her foot. After that they left him alone, and he spent his days sitting there observing in anticipation, of what only he knew. The floor was immaculately polished, and he spent hours tracing the veins in the marble with his eyes. That diversion lasted half a day. The following day, Lex discovered that the wallpaper was peeling away in the corner nearest the door hinges. He began to work at it with little fingers and stubby nails. He managed to strip away an entire panel.
On the seventh day the crying stopped, and when his mother opened the door he was there. Waiting.
Lex locked himself in the bathroom the night his mother died.
He put the cover down on the toilet and sat there staring at his reflection in the wall of mirrors: bald head, blue cotton pajamas, dark circles under his eyes and perched on a porcelain throne, waiting. In his eyes, he didn't look that far from death himself, and he wished fervently that he could join his mother wherever she was. Lex didn't believe in God and Heaven, but he believed in his mother and that was all that counted.
She would never be dead to him.
He would never stop wanting to be with her.
He stood up slowly and approached his reflection cautiously as though it would turn and leave if it caught wind of Lex's intentions. Every movement seemed to be made by someone else, and Lex rubbed his head slowly and carefully as though touching it for the first time. Then he reached out and pressed his hand against his reflection in the mirror.
He pushed hard at exactly where his heart should have been.
Blood thundered in his ears at the noise of someone shouting and the sound of broken glass.
It took Lex several seconds to realize he was the one making the commotion.
Lex got drunk for the first time at fourteen.
He got high for the third time at fifteen.
At sixteen his father tried to have him committed.
At seventeen he OD'd for the second time.
At twenty-one Lex died, and it made him better.
He had been unwell for so long that at first he wasn't sure what to make of it. For a long time he had denied that anything was wrong, and after that he didn't care enough to try and fix whatever was broken. But post-drowning the voices stopped, the insomnia fled, the cravings crawled off as though the river had sloughed away everything that had ever plagued him.
The idea of a baptism and rebirth was a bit too cliched for Lex, but he felt it was not without a certain merit; and if dying was his one miracle in life, Lex vowed not to waste it.
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