Chapter Eighteen - Hope and Hospitals

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         I peek at him as we walk, noticing the clenching of his jaw and the slight furrow of his brows. If I were to know River better, I would say that he's having a hard time. But I don't know him well, and that makes it frustrating. He doesn't look too good at all.

         Shit.

         "River, are you okay?" I stupidly ask. 

         Of course he's not okay, clever clogs. 

         His footsteps slow but don't stop as he looks at me, the pained expression is back. 

         Crap.

         This must be serious.

         It's evident that something has happened. Something that has affected him so much that just being here is difficult for him. Unexpectedly, River steps towards me and outstretches his hand forward, asking for mine. I've never been happier to be right outside a hospital because the way my heart beat surges must be unhealthy. My brain forgets its morals; it forgets that he has a girlfriend and forgets that I hardly know him. 

         It's just a hand-hold, he's even carried you before, this means nothing. 

         I slide my palm onto his, feeling his smooth skin grazing mine, igniting it with a fire that burns so sweetly. Wrapping my small fingers around his much larger ones, the tightening of his clasps sends a shot of tingles down my arm.

         "Come on," he says quietly and leads me into the hospital without another word.

         We reach the reception and behind the computer screen sits a nurse with the frame of her glasses balancing on the bridge of her nose. Her fingers are busily tapping away at the keyboard, and she only looks up at us when River clears his throat. As her eyes dart towards us, they initially take me in before averting to River, immediately brightening at the sight of him.

         Does he come here so often that she recognises him?

         Her eyes are glued on River's as she smiles, bearing all her jagged teeth whose discolouration is probably due to the insane amount of coffee she drinks every day.

         "River! How are you darling? You've lost weight since I last saw, have you been eating properly?" She babbles on, but unfortunately, she lost me at 'River!'

         "Jane, you only saw me last week," River laughs.

         "Yes, well, it seems like forever these days, you hardly visit for long anymore."

         My assumptions are correct; he comes here often. But who does he visit?

         "Are you here to see Emily?" She asks as if on queue to answer my question.

         "Like always." River nods and glances at me for the first time since we entered the building.

        The simple glimpse in my direction, along with the way our hand's mold together makes a shudder run its way down my neck.

        Who is Emily?

         "Well, go on ahead, you know the way." Jane gestures with her hand towards the corridor ahead of us, giving us one last gracious smile.

          River squeezes my hand gently as he paces beside me along the corridor and I try not to let it affect me. 

         "River..." I start, never expecting an answer. I know I'm probably being annoying, but the curiosity has gotten to me. 

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