The red faded from her eyes, something metal clattering on the ground next to her.
“Eh?” Qiao Ling muttered, mind struggling to understand the scene in front of her.
“Lu Guang!” Something shoved her to the side. Cheng Xiaoshi hovered his hands over the wound, hesitating as the blood continued to seep out and stain the white jacket.
“Qiao Ling. Qiao Ling! Call the ambulance!” Xiaoshi yelled in desperation as he pushed his hands against Lu Guang in a futile attempt to staunch the bleeding.
Qiao Ling snapped out of her stupor, opened her phone and typed in 1 2 0. She waited for a few tense seconds as the call rung before-
“Ambulance. What is your emergency?” A voice came through the phone.
“M-My friend collapsed on the couch in front of me. He’s bleeding out and unconscious.”
Cheng Xiaoshi continued to apply pressure to the wound, breath shuddering as he watched the blood bubble up past his fingers. Lu Guang faintly moaned in pain but did not move, too weak as he lay still on the couch.
Sirens grew closer as red and blue flashed across the walls, yet the sound was unable to drown out the piercing silence that had overtaken Xiaoshi. He felt disconnected from his body, almost watching as a bystander, numb as his hands were gently moved away.
An unfamiliar face swam into his vision, blocking his view of Lu Guang being surrounded by paramedics. When had he been moved to the chair? Cheng Xiaoshi ignored the person, tuning out their voice and instead looked down at his hands, covered in red.
Red like blood.
Red like the eyes.
His vision narrowed in on itself, edges growing fuzzy. He wheezed and stuttered as he fought to take in his next breath while his chest constricted. His body trembled and fear coursed through his veins. Xiaoshi’s mouth grew dry as he started to feel lightheaded as if he was about to collapse.
“Sir!” A voice cut in through the haziness, Xiaoshi gaining awareness of his shoulders being shaken lightly. “Focus on my voice.”
Xiaoshi blinked as he processed the words, vaguely aware of Lu Guang being loaded onto a stretcher behind the person in front of him. He nodded.
“Take some deep breaths for me.” His breath hitched as he became uncomfortably aware of his breathing. The paramedic in front of him exaggerated their breath for Xiaoshi to mimic.
Breathe in, two, three, four, release, two, three, four.
The trembling slowly faded and the edges of his vision became clear once more. With Xiaoshi in a calmer state, the paramedic began to move away but was stopped by Cheng Xiaoshi grasping onto the sleeve, preventing them from moving further and grabbing their attention.
“C-can you take me with him?” Xiaoshi pleaded, voice hitching as he looked up at the paramedic. They seemed to hesitate before giving him a short nod and removing his hand from their sleeve. Xiaoshi moved to stand, stumbling as the leftover adrenaline left his legs shaky like a newborn foal. He reached out and grasped the armrest of the chair and propped himself up, waiting till he gained his strength before trailing behind the paramedics.
Cheng Xiaoshi made his way into the ambulance, directed towards one of the seats next to Lu Guang’s stretcher by one of the paramedics. He watched Lu Guang’s face closely and observed the slight movement of his chest as he breathed. On his face sat an oxygen mask that fogged up with each rise and fall of his lungs.
Xiaoshi sat unaware of the trip as the piercing silence allowed his thoughts to become a storm within his head, struggling to corroborate the recent events with reality.
He made friends with denial as Lu Guang was transferred onto a gurney and whisked off into a surgery room.
He made friends with guilt as he sat in the waiting room, listening to the faint chatter in the background, assaulted by the bright lights and bland decorations of the clinical environment.
The heart monitor beeped steadily in the background, accompanied by the faint hissing of the oxygen mask. Lu Guang lay silent as he has been for the past few hours, ever since coming out of emergency surgery.
Cheng Xiaoshi sat in a chair beside the hospital bed, deep in thought as he rested his head in his hands. Qiao Ling had left a while ago to clean up the studio, leaving him alone.
“Lu Guang, the doctors said you’ll wake up soon,” Xiaoshi sighed, “They’re just not sure when. You barely survived.”
He fell silent, guilt wracking his body as he stared down into his hands. His mind flashed back to the image of Emma throwing herself off the bridge, his inability to catch her. Xiaoshi’s hands shook.
“I couldn’t… save anyone,” Xiaoshi sobbed, hand reaching out to grab onto Lu Guang, “Not you, not Emma.”
Tears flowed slowly down his face as he bowed his head in sorrow, trying to find hope in the steady heartbeat that proved Lu Guang was still alive. Xiaoshi reached up to wipe the tears away with his sleeve, berating himself for his weakness.
The clock on the wall steadily ticked as the end of the visiting hours began to draw near.
“...Qiao Ling was questioned by the police while you were in surgery. We didn’t press charges, of course, but… I think she feels guilty. I’m not good with things like this, Lu Guang. I don’t know how to help her.” Cheng Xiaoshi looked up at Lu Guang’s sleeping face. He seemed almost peaceful, unaware of his brush with death.
“I wish you were awake.”
Xiaoshi fell silent. He stared at the white tiles on the ceiling with blinding lights. The whole room seemed too… sterilised. Lu Guang almost seemed to blend in with the room, skin appearing paler than it usually was.
His musings were interrupted by a nurse knocking on the door, “Sir, visiting hours are almost over. Please leave soon.”
“Okay,” Xiaoshi nodded in reply. He turned away from the nurse and looked back at Lu Guang.
“See you tomorrow then.” And with that, Cheng Xiaoshi stood up and stretched, having not moved from his seat ever since he’d been let into the room. He made his way towards the door and, looking back at Lu Guang one more time, he closed the door behind himself and made his way out of the hospital.
Back to home.
How lonely he felt, turning his back on Lu Guang.