“Delaney, call us back, for crying out loud!”
The message was short, but the tone conveyed everything. They were tired of waiting for his response. Patience was not a virtue they possessed.
With a quick flip of his wrist, he spun his phone like a top on the wooden mantle over his fireplace, silently wishing it would fly uncontrollably to the floor and shatter into tiny pieces. He sighed deeply. He needed the phone with all its recordings. And he at least needed to talk to his mother.
They’d started calling her too now, hanging outside her flat, taking her photo, yelling questions at her as she scurried inside with her groceries. She handled the flackery better than he did, much to his surprise.
The phone slowed to a stop, just as another message buzzed through on his screen.
“They’re like bugs, Tommy,” she’d said when it the news of his discovery broke and the photographers started to appear on her street. “They’re annoying and gross, but harmless.”
He disagreed, chiding himself for expecting anything different, but simultaneously wondered why he would’ve expected to become famous. His sole desire was to help people like his big sister Tina, not become a household name.
“No good deed goes unpunished,” Tina used to rasp between short breaths.
She never could breathe right, not even when they put her on the ventilator.
He shuddered remembering her last days in the hospital. That was before she demanded to be taken home.
Tom wished they had laughed more in those last days. They both had that dry humor they’d gotten from their dad, but he felt guilty every time he said something only to have Tina dissolve into fits strained wheezing.
He shook the memories from his mind. If only he had discovered the cure seven months earlier, things would be better. Tina would be the focus of the press inquiries and the public’s love. She would’ve handled it better.
The phone glowed to life, vibrating its way into his consciousness, demanding his attention.
“I’ve learned not to feel bad–it’s your life and your time, to spend the way you choose,” Tina had told him once, before she got really sick. “So make the choice.”
Tom silenced his phone, wedging it behind Tina’s urn. He picked up an old photo album, burying himself in a corner of the couch and memories of happier times of oblivion to ravages of disease and death.