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I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…
Chapter 73—At Long Last, Bad News…
In light of everything that’s happened, how could we forget the anniversary of the day Jason was shot? We just out of court for this shit where they said the date over and over and over again; even tried to trip Butterfly up on it. We all pretty much felt like shit after that.
Nonetheless, Sophie seems to be adjusting very well to living at the Crossing. She was so happy not to go to the group home. Jason allowed her to stay home from school the day immediately following her trip to the Big House, and went in on Friday to explain the change in Sophie’s living situation. Ana spent the day Thursday with her, talking things through and making sure that the trauma of the situation didn’t settle in on her. By Friday evening, we’ve all settled down into a bit of a routine with everyone chipping in to help with the twins, including Sophie, but Butterfly is right. We’re going to need another nanny if there’s any hope of Butterfly leaving the house and Gail performing her duties as house manager.
It’s late and I’ve slipped into my study to wrap up a few things after helping Butterfly with the early morning feeding of the twins. I’m a bit startled by Jason coming into the room.
“What are you doing still awake?” I ask Jason.
“There’s someone here to see you.” I look at my watch.
“At this hour?” I ask. “How did they get past the gate?”
“It’s Elliot.” Elliot? Oh, hell, what’s wrong?
“Take him to the den,” I say, standing up. What’s wrong that he couldn’t call me?
Jason leaves and I stand in my study for a moment, trying to figure out what could be wrong before I go to face my brother. I know it’s nothing with my parents because Mia would have called before Elliot showed up, unless she couldn’t bear to tell me. Let me stop with the theories and go find out what’s going on. I go through the French doors to the den to find Elliot, his elbows resting on his knees and head in his hands.
“Hey Elliot,” I say as I approach the sofa where he’s sitting.
“Hey Christian,” he answers without raising his head. I sit on the coffee table facing him. It’s obvious that he’s been crying, but he hasn’t been drinking. He’s still wiping tears from his eyes while we’re speaking.
“What’s up?” I ask.
“Life just has a way of dealing you a bum hand,” he says. So, I think it’s personal, but I won’t know until he lets me in on the secret.
“Unfortunately, you’re right sometimes,” I reply. “Look at me. My bum hand started at birth and continued for four years. It stopped for a while, but hell… we’re not talking about me.” I lean over to him. “What’s the bum hand, Elliot? Will I need a drink?” He knows that’s my way of asking him if something is wrong with Mom or Dad… or Mia.
“No, but I might,” he says, and now I know that this is serious. Elliot hasn’t taken a drink since Dad put him on alcohol restriction for a month last year. He doesn’t seem to want to get to the point too quickly. Maybe he just needs some brother-time.
“Well, I won’t contribute to your delinquency, but you know where the hard stuff is if you need it. Do you need a bed for the night?” He shakes his head.
“No, I won’t be staying too long. I just needed to stop by for a few.” Stop by for a few? It’s after midnight.
“No offense, Bro, but you don’t ‘stop by’ anywhere at this hour.” I don’t want him to think I’m rushing him. “Do you want something to eat? I know I can scare us up something if you’re hungry.” He shakes his head.
“No, I’m not hungry,” he says, wiping his eyes again. He’s silent for a moment and I decide to let him be until he wants to talk. It takes several minutes. “Do you remember when you called me about Kate? About the baby and the fact that she said that it could be mine?” Uh oh.
“Yeah,” I answer cautiously.
“I was so scared,” he says. “I didn’t know what to do first. I didn’t know which way to turn. I felt like my life was ending. Even though a child is a wonderful thing, I still felt like it was the worst day of my life—not because it was so horrible. I mean, a little me running around is certainly not the worst thing that could happen. I just thought…” He takes a shuddering breath and wipes his eyes again. The tears won’t stop flowing. “I thought my life was going to fall apart, that everything that I had built was going to come crumbling down at my feet. Have you ever felt that way?”
“Several times,” I admit. “It’s terrifying.” He shakes his head.
“I feel like… if I don’t say it, then it won’t be true… like not saying it won’t make it real, but I know that’s not true.”
“Elliot, what is it?” I ask urgently. He’s scaring me. “Are you sick?” He shakes his head.
“No… not… not me…” He can barely choke out the words. Who’s sick? If it was family, I would know. The only other person that would have him in a crumbling mess is…
“Valerie!” I whisper. “It’s Valerie, isn’t it?” He falls off the sofa in tears. It’s bad. It’s really bad. I get on the floor with my brother and put my arms around him. He just loses it. He’s completely unhinged, weeping and wailing from his soul. I’m glad that our bedroom is two floors away or Butterfly would come running in here. As it is, Jason is at the door, his brow furrowed.
“Close the door,” I instruct him. “Don’t let anybody near that door.”
“Her highness?” he asks, bemused.
“Especially not Her Highness!” I order him. “Tell her whatever you have to tell her, but don’t let her near that door!” He nods.
“Got it, boss,” he says before closing the door.
I hold my brother, curled up in the fetal position and mourning from his soul. When he’s able to sit up, he stays on the floor, resting his arms on his bent knees.
“Is she dying, Elliot?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” he replies. “She’s… it’s a tumor, a brain tumor… on her frontal lobe…” I gasp loudly.
“Elliot, no!” I breathe. He just nods.
“We didn’t know… we had no idea. It wasn’t until she started having these headaches and dizzy spells. She was vomiting all the time and I thought she was pregnant. She pushed everybody away from her. She almost lost her job.”
“She didn’t want anybody to know?” He shakes his head.
“Once she found out, she didn’t want anybody to know. I think she was ashamed. Before, it was clear that she didn’t have any control over her behavior. When she pushed Ana away, I knew… I knew something was wrong… but I just didn’t know what… I didn’t know how… to…” He breaks down in sobs again. “I asked her every day, Christian. Every day, I asked her what was wrong. She would be wonderful, then crying, then angry, then just… bone silent. I didn’t know what to do. I was at the… end of my rope… but I couldn’t leave her. I love her so much. I’m a monster, Christian!”
Okay, that doesn’t make sense.
“Elliot, how can you say that? You say that you love her and then you say that you’re a monster?” He cries a little longer.
“I thought… I thought…” He can’t get his words out. Take your time, Lelliot.
“Breathe, bro. Come on, breathe, man,” I coach. His breaths are wild, but he’s trying to control them. After several breaths, he holds his head down and begins to speak again.
“I didn’t know what was wrong,” he begins, his voice more controlled. “None of her friends will deal with her anymore. Mom detests her because I didn’t come to Thanksgiving and she ruined Ana’s birthday and almost ruined Christmas. When she started losing clients, I knew something was ghastly wrong. I asked her if she was depressed, if she was lonely, if she wanted to talk to a shrink, take a vacation, something. Anything! She started pushing me away. I didn’t know why. She actually told me one day to just leave. That’s when I knew—something’s not right. I didn’t know what, but I knew this was wrong. I thought she was just turning into a bitch. Mom secretly told me that she didn’t want her at the Manor anymore. She wasn’t going through it again, she said. I thought I was losing my angel. I thought she was turning into Kate.” He wipes his eyes and takes a breath.
“When she started vomiting, I demanded that she go see a doctor. I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I actually told her that I would have her committed if she didn’t.”
“Is that why you think you’re a monster?” I ask. He shakes his head.
“I went to the doctor with her. I told him everything that she wouldn’t. That’s when he suggested CT scans and MRI’s. He said that the fact that it was physical and behavioral suggested some things, but he didn’t want to say until he was sure. Once the tests started, I knew. I knew because he wanted to make sure that someone could make decisions for her if she became too incapacitated to make them for herself. We talked for a long time in the days while we were waiting for the results. It was hard, because she was still bouncing back and forth, but expecting what I did, I could always ground her.” He starts crying again. “Christian, I hoped!” he weeps. “I hoped that it was a tumor.”
“Elliot, why?” I ask in horror.
“Because if it was a tumor, I wasn’t losing my angel. She wasn’t becoming Kate. We could fight the tumor. Together, we could beat the tumor. I couldn’t beat Kate!”
I don’t know what to say. It’s a horrible thing to want the woman that you love to have a brain tumor just to prove to yourself that she’s not the woman that you used to love, but now detest.
“You don’t have to say anything, Christian,” he says as if reading my mind. “I already know that it’s horrible, and it’s okay. I can live with it. Do you know what she said when I told her?”
“You told her that?” Now, I’m truly horrified. He nods. I just shrug. “Sure, why not? What did she say?”
“She said she was hoping that they found something, too.” Holy Christ! “She said that she couldn’t tolerate the person that she was becoming, but she couldn’t help herself. It was like she was on the outside of the whole thing watching this bitchy, horrible, wretched, shrew of a woman take over her body and she couldn’t stop it. She compared it to being possessed. She even thought about…” He trails off. I wait for him to find his words.
“She’s seeing a psychiatrist,” he says. “Not Maxie, a doctor at the hospital that specializes in brain cancer patients. She’s been seeing him ever since she got the diagnosis. She’s been bitterly miserable… repentant… completely broken. She considered suicide.”
Oh, hell. She wasn’t herself. All this time, she wasn’t herself. It all makes sense. The change was gradual. I can remember when the wedding planning was coming to a head. Valerie seemed like she was displeased with everything. She was so sweet and accommodating… one of my only allies when Butterfly fled to Montana. But then when Butterfly came back, she acted as if she wanted to blame me for everything, or Butterfly. I don’t know. It was subtle at first, but then just exploded on Butterfly’s birthday.
“She has to talk to Butterfly,” I tell him. He shakes his head.
“She can’t,” he laments. “She’s humiliated by how she treated Ana. She wouldn’t begin to know how to approach her. She would honestly just rather disappear than to have to face Ana after her behavior.”
“She’s one of Butterfly’s oldest friends and Butterfly has no idea why she doesn’t want to speak to her anymore. Butterfly would never forgive herself if she let Valerie go through this alone… where is Valerie?” Elliot is ready to break down again. “Elliot, where is Valerie?”
“In the hospital,” he squeaks. Oh, my God.
“Is she dying, Elliot? I need to know!” He shrugs.
“I don’t knoooooooooooow!” he wails, curling into a ball of mush. I can’t stand to see my brother this way. I wrap my arms around him again.
“Please, tell me what’s going on, Elliot. Tell me everything. I have to prepare my wife…”
I don’t know how much time has passed as I listen to one of the most harrowing stories I’ve ever heard. I couldn’t imagine going through what he’s been through with the woman he loves. Then again, I did have a similar experience with Butterfly, so unfortunately, I do know his pain. He’s able to pull himself together after he let it off his chest as he has to get back to the hospital. The sun is actually coming up and I hope I haven’t kept him too long.
“Tell Ana,” he says as we get to the grand entry. “I can’t…”
“I’ll tell her,” I assure her. “Go. We’ll talk later.”
“Tell Ana what?”
Her voice causes both of us to look up. She’s at the top of the stairs in a large nightshirt beginning her descent. “Tell Ana what?” A broken Elliot shifts bloodshot eyes at me and shakes his head. I put my hand on his shoulder.
“I’ve got it. Go,” I say, urging him to leave. I take a deep breath before turning around to face my wife’s questioning eyes.
“Christian, what is it? Please tell me,” she beseeches, now at the bottom of the stairs. I don’t even know where to start. I only look at her. She examines my eyes for a moment.
“Valerie,” she says, reading me like she always does. “It’s Val, isn’t it?” She’s opened the door. I might as well walk in.
“Yes,” I answer solemnly.
“Elliot said he couldn’t tell me. What is it? Tell me now!” she demands.
“Noooo!” My heart is breaking—hemorrhaging all over the floor in unbelievable carnage. “Nooo! No! No! No! Nooooooooo!“ I can’t feel my legs. I can’t feel anything but this surging, burning, searing pain in my heart.
God, please, no!
“Oh, God, this isn’t happening! This isn’t happening!” I wail. Christian is rudderless, only able to hold me in a vise hold close to him to keep me from ripping my hair out. Valerie has cancer. All this time, it was cancer… a brain tumor, and she just had surgery… and I wasn’t there. She was alone and I wasn’t there. We don’t know if the surgery was successful. We don’t know if she’s going to wake up… and I wasn’t there. This is some of the worst pain I’ve ever felt. My friend—my sister could die, and I couldn’t hold her hand and tell her that everything would be alright, that I love her… that I always loved her and always will….
I can only weep. I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t know what. I thought jealousy, depression, downright bitchiness… I never once considered a brain tumor, not once. I knew it had to be something drastic, it had to be. There’s no way in hell Val would just turn on me that way. If I had just thought of this sooner, maybe we could have saved her.
Stop talking like she’s dead, you moron!
I’m a doctor! A head doctor at that! I still should have known something!
“Butterfly…” his voice brings me back. I’m having an out-of-body experience because I simply can’t believe that Valerie is mortally ill and I never knew. I didn’t have a clue. My throat hurts so much from screaming… wailing all this time. I’ve wasted months! Months fighting with one of my best friends in the world! And these might have been her last days! Oh, God, I want to die.
“Baby, let’s get dressed and get to the hospital.” His voice is soft and soothing as he strokes my hair to calm me. I nod. My head is so heavy and just like the savior he is, he scoops my weeping body into his arms and carries me to the bedroom.
Elliot is there when we get to the room. This room is more hospital-ish than any room I’ve ever seen. There’s one bed in there and it’s pretty small. She’s lying right in the middle of the bed with her arms at her side like you see the people in the movies. I can’t help but wonder if that’s how I looked when I was unconscious.
Elliot raises his head from the bed and looks at me. He’s so worn down. He looks like he’s aged ten years. I walk over to him to offer him some comfort. He wraps his arms around my waist and lays his head on my stomach. I can only hug him around the head. He doesn’t make a sound. He just sits there while I hold him. Any other time, I would be concerned about what Christian is thinking, but right now, Elliot is broken. He’s obviously been crying for so long that he probably can’t cry anymore.
“How long?” I ask.
“Hours,” he squeaks. He has no voice. “Surgery was complete sometime last night. She hasn’t woken up yet.”
“Did they say how long it could be?” I ask. He shakes his head.
“Hours… days… weeks… never…” What little voice he does have gets weaker with each possibility.
“Is she in a coma?” I ask.
“Not really,” he says. “Semi-coma. It’s tricky with brain surgery.” I nod. I won’t make him talk anymore. I sit in the seat across from him on the other side of her bed. I touch her hand. It’s warm. I don’t know why I expected it to be cold. Maybe because she looks so lifeless. Her skin is… gray, like there’s no blood flowing through her body. Were it not for the rise and fall of her chest, I would be worried that I was too late.
“Hey, Val,” I choke. I try not to cry, but I’ve never seen my friend like this before. And she went into this alone. I mean, yes, Elliot was there and that counts for a lot, but I wasn’t. I haven’t even told Al. That’s going to be really hard, and his wedding is coming up. I wonder if Maxie knows… no, she would have told me if she did. Nobody knew,1 but Valerie and Elliot, and now me and Christian. Her family isn’t even here.
“Where’s her father? Her brother? Have you called anybody?” Elliot shakes his head.
“She wouldn’t let me. I don’t even know how to reach them. I know their numbers are in her phone. Walter’s in South Carolina. I think her dad’s in Wisconsin.”
It’s Minnesota, but I’ll tell him that later. I turn back to Valerie.
“This wasn’t the plan, Marshall,” I whisper. “This certainly doesn’t look like a cruise ship full of eligible bachelors and you’re nowhere near 95 years old. Are you trying to back out of our deal?” I partially expect her to flinch or something at the mention of the cruise ship. We once made a deal that we would outlive our husbands if we ever got married, then we would spend the rest of our golden years cruising around the world being courted by young, eligible bachelors and die on a couple of deck loungers sipping Mai tais while a tropical sun beat down on us when we were 95 years old.
I stroke her hand. Her skin is so soft.
“You could use a manicure,” I say, and immediately resolve to bring the necessary items to do just that. “We’ll get that taken care of.” We used to give each other manicures in college all the time. Even though Val wasn’t really strapped for cash, so to speak, she was still not one to spend her money frivolously. So, we did our own manicures and pedicures. I remember when I was looking for an apartment on campus. I answered an ad for a single female looking for another female to share rent and expenses in a two-bedroom private apartment. When I knocked on the door, this bombshell answers. I was like, “Oh God, you’ve got to be kidding me…”
“Valerie Marshall?” I ask.
“Yes,” she responds. “You must be Anastasia Steele.” I nod. “You’re not a dog. Good. Come in.”
What? Well, that’s real genuine! I’m uncertain about stepping inside, even though I do.
“I’m sorry. I’m very blunt. Everybody I’ve met today looked like they were aching for a date and in desperate need of an extreme makeover. I’m not into girls, but I don’t want to look at barkers all day either. You’re a natural beauty, so I don’t have to worry about you clinging onto me trying to find a date. That’s important, because I’m serious about my studies and when I’m ready to go out, I just want to go out.” I stare at her for a moment. Not one of the I have to be popular people, I see. I’ve never been referred to as a natural beauty, so that caught me off guard.
“I appreciate your candor,” I say with a healthy dose of skepticism. “I should tell you that I don’t trust people easily.”
“Well, then we’ll get along fine, because I’ll trust you until you give me a reason not to—then I’m done with you.” I’ll have to remember that—trust you ‘til you give me a reason not to.
“I don’t have much stuff,” I tell her. “Does the room come with a bed or would I need to buy my own?” She tilts her head at me.
“You’re used to roughing it, aren’t you?” she asks. I scoff.
“You have no idea.”
“You’re not some crazy single white female that I’m going to have to stab in the throat at the end of the semester, are you?”
“If I were, would I tell you?” I retort. She nods.
“Fast on the pick-up. Let’s talk.”
“I thought we were.” She smirks at me.
“Not interested.” She raises her eyebrow.
“Definitely not interested.” She frowns.
“Horse?” I have to keep from laughing. She’s a real smart ass.
“Not interested in dating right now,” I clarify. She shrugs.
“Beer? Wine?” She offers, walking to the kitchen. I shake my head.
“Not legal yet,” I respond. She sticks her head out of the door.
“Are your parents outside?”
“Beer? Wine?” she says again. I just chuckle.
“Soda or water, please. I haven’t started on the alcohols yet, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.”
“Conservative, but not stuffy. I like that.” I frown.
“I wouldn’t consider myself conservative…”
“Speaking of parents, am I going to have to worry about them crashing my crib unexpectedly? I’m independent and I don’t do really well with parents, so it’s up to you how you explain me away if you stay.”
“No worries. My parents don’t even know I’m here.” She frowns at me. Too much information.
“Excuse me?” she questions. Okay, quick short explanation.
“My father doesn’t know that I’m back in Washington yet and my mother’s a bitch. It’s not a conversation that I want to get into, so that will have to do for now.” She hands me a soda and puts up her free hand in surrender.
“’Nuff said. I really don’t want to know your dirty little secrets, unless they’re going to affect me.” I shake my head and sigh.
“No, my dirty little secrets only affect me,” I say sadly. “Can we change the subject, please?”
“Gladly. Where are you staying now?”
“In a women’s shelter.” She’s quiet again.
“Okay,” she suddenly gets very serious. “You’re not legal yet. You don’t look abused. You don’t drink. You don’t date. Your parents don’t know you’re here, and you currently live in a women’s shelter. I’m sorry to intrude, Anastasia, but I think I’m going to have to know about some of your dirty little secrets.” She sits in a chair next to the coffee table and sips her wine, waiting for an explanation.
“Well, I could have told you that I’m between places right now, but I figure the ugly truth is better than a pretty lie. And please, call me Ana. I feel like I’m in trouble every time someone calls me Anastasia.”
“Okay, Ana. I’m listening.” I speak very quickly and almost tell the entire story in one breath.
“My bio-dad died when I was a newborn, so my mom married my stepfather who gave me his name. When I was about nine, she left my stepdad and married this loser, Steve. We left Washington and moved to Vegas. He was a monster, she was a bitch, my life was horrible. As soon as I graduated, I hopped a Greyhound and came back to Washington. I wasn’t 18 yet and I didn’t want Bitch Mom to come and get me, so I lied about my age and went to a women’s shelter, which is why Dad doesn’t know I’m here. As you can imagine, it’s not really conducive to the needs of a struggling college student. So now I’ve got a job and a little money saved up and I need to move out. I can’t afford an apartment of my own, so I must have a roommate. Like you, I don’t want to walk into single white female, but I also don’t want to deal with loud, wild parties when I’m trying to study for midterms. Even though it is your apartment, if you let me stay, I ask that if you bring some guy by that you try to let me know in advance so that he doesn’t catch me walking around in my T-shirt and panties, and that if you’re gonna get laid that you keep the screams of passion down to a modest, if fervent, jungle love roar and not the ‘help, I’m being slowly dismembered by a serial killer’ shriek. There’s no one following me, chasing after me, or looking for me. I’m not one of America’s Most Wanted, I don’t have any debts, and you won’t find my picture on a milk carton or on the post office wall. I’m not interested in boys or girls right now because all they want is pussy and I’m too busy for that shit. I buy my own food, cook my own meals, and clean up after myself. Besides work and school, all I do is study and sleep. You’ll barely know I’m here.” She’s quiet for a moment
“Rent’s $475, cable and WiFi is included. Utilities and water vary. If you’re the only one here and you turn on all the lights, you’re going to be covering two-thirds of the light bill. The apartment doesn’t have a phone, I only use my cell, so I hope you have one, too. I’ll need two month’s rent in advance for just in case you run off and try to stiff me with the bill. When can you move in?”
“Right now. I’ve got nothing but a duffel bag. You tend not to buy much when you’re living in a shelter.” She leans forward and extends her hand to me.
“Welcome home,” she says, and we seal it with a shake.
“I thought you were a nut and I’m pretty sure that you thought I was, too,” I say to her unconscious form. Elliot and Christian have graciously left me alone with my friend. Her head is wrapped with a bandage that just looks like a headband.
“You and Al started out with a love-hate relationship that quickly turned into a love-love relationship. He’s going to be crushed when he hears about this. You two love hard and fight even harder. I wish I knew how I’m supposed to tell him about this.” I remember when Al first met Val. He called her Ice Pussy because he said Ball Buster was too warm a sentiment. He comes up with some extremely weird nicknames for people.
He has really let her have it during the time we were on the outs. At first, he tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, but some of the things that she was saying were so uncalled for and cruel. He decided that if he had to draw a line in the sand that he would be standing on my side of that line. I understood how he felt. I just never understood why Val was doing the things she did.
Brain tumor. Goddamn fucking brain tumor.
“I should have known something was wrong,” I say to her. “Your behavior was so… un-Val. Here I am with the degree and the whole doctor title and I couldn’t see that something was wrong with my best girlfriend in the world.” I don’t bother wiping any of the tears from my eyes; they’re just going to keep falling.
“He and James are getting married next month, you know. We’ve been planning their ceremony and the honeymoon—something quick and sweet on both fronts. There’s been so much going on that we nearly didn’t do anything. Yesterday, he threatened me with the courthouse; so, it’s just going to be a party. We’ve been both acting like it’s doesn’t feel completely wrong that you’re not there shooting down our ideas and coming up with better ones.”
“I don’t know why I expected your hand to be cold,” I say, stroking her fingers. I feel a strange sense of calm while I’m here in this room. I’ve missed my friend. I’ve really missed her, and being here with her even though she’s unconscious makes me not feel so lonely without her. She’s not berating me or saying horrible things to me—but the thought of her never waking up almost makes me welcome the idea that she might come out of this still hating me… as long as she comes out of this.
“Remember when I met Edward?” I say to the sleeping beauty. “You thought he was hot, too, and you kept telling me that I could never bring it up again after he turned out to be a classless loser and a serial cheater, but we both had our sights set on him. I couldn’t believe he chose me over you! Of course, we later found out that I was the perfect victim for him.
“You didn’t like him almost from the beginning—once you got over the whole young hot guy thing. You saw through him when I couldn’t. He had me confused and running in circles the whole time. You never made me feel bad about it, though… well, except when the tumor kicked in. We’ll give you a pass for that one this time. You know, the whole cancer thing is cause for a gimme… or twelve.”
All I can think is that if I keep talking to her, she just might wake up and tell me to shut the hell up. Then I can fall on my knees and beg her to forgive me for being so blind. Unfortunately, no matter how long I talked, she never moved. She never blinked and she barely even breathed. I swear that I’ll never be the same ever, ever again if she doesn’t wake up. She can even still hate me, just please wake up…
“Butterfly?” Christian’s voice rouses me from my fitful slumber. I’ve fallen asleep holding Val’s almost lifeless hand. I look up at her face and nothing has changed. I look over at the window where Elliot stands staring at her, still looking heartbroken and forlorn. I don’t know what to do for him. I can’t even imagine what he’s feeling right now.
“Did he eat something?” I ask, quietly.
“He ate a little,” Christian answers. “Now it’s your turn.” I look at my watch and it’s well into the afternoon. I guess I should eat something, but I don’t want to leave my friend. I imagine that Elliot probably wants to be alone with her and I have to tear myself away from her bedside after kissing her hand several times and telling her that I love her.
“Please call me if anything changes… good or bad. I don’t care what time it is,” I tell a broken Elliot. He only nods and takes his seat next to her bed again.
“Hey, Angel,” he says softly, taking her hand in his and kissing it gently before pressing it to his cheek and leaning into it. He’s gazing longingly and silently at her still face. If his love and will alone could bring her out of this, she would be square dancing on the roof right now.
When I leave the hospital room, I feel numb. I feel like I’ve cried all the tears out of my body and I don’t know what to do next. I walk beside my husband like a zombie, going only where he leads me, because I have no idea where I’m walking or what I’m doing.
I should have known. Somehow, someway, I should have known.
I’m wrecking my brain to try to remember when was the first sign that something was wrong, but I’ve lost so many of my tiniest memories since the accident that I’m coming up blank.
“What would you like, Baby?” Christian’s voice is very soothing. I didn’t notice that we were outside until he spoke to me. The air is crisp and fresh and I try to take in a cleansing breath, but it only results in me bursting into tears when I try to let it out. Christian wraps me in his arms and tries to soothe me, but it’s no use. I want my friend to come back to me. Losing her this way is completely unacceptable and I refuse to accept that it’s going to end this way.
I break from his grasp and just start running. I have to get away from this. I want to go back—back in time, but to where? The wedding? The proposal? Anguilla? Before I met Christian? Where could I go that would make this reality not be reality? I just want to get away!
Like a cartoon being halted by a rubber band, I’m snatched back into Christian’s grasp. I’m shocked by the complete lack of inertia that has hindered my escape, and I stare at him—wide-eyed, confused, bewildered.
“Ana! Stop!” His words shock me back to reality… this reality… and I fall into his arms, weak… afraid… hopeless…
I’m losing my friend… again.
“Baby, you have to eat something.”
I’m in the sitting room where I’ve been ever since I got home, gripping my phone and waiting for a call. Nothing. It hasn’t rung once… not once. I sigh heavily and try not to cry again.
“Where are my babies?” I say softly. I haven’t fed them, haven’t mothered them all day. I still have responsibilities.
“They’re napping,” he says. “They’re fine. They should be awake soon.”
“Good. I need to feed them.”
“They won’t starve, Baby. They’ll be fed. I’ll make sure that…”
“I need to feed them!” I repeat, sternly. They’re my children and I need to make sure that they’re fed and clean and taken care of. He pauses for a moment.
“Will you please eat once you’ve made sure that your children are okay? Please?” I haven’t eaten all day. The sun has gone down and I’m sure that it’s dinnertime if not past dinnertime. I can’t very well feed my children if I don’t eat.
“Yes,” I say softly. “I’ll eat once I’ve checked on my children.”
He walks with me to the nursery where the nightlight casts a soft, comforting glow over the room. Mike and Minnie are fast asleep and show no signs of stirring or discomfort. I look at my watch. It’s 7:30. They should be waking in the next hour or so, maybe less. Once I see that they’re okay, Christian closes the door of the nursery.
“Food now?” he asks expecting. I nod and follow him down to the kitchen.
Christian sits with me as I eat my dinner at the breakfast bar. I don’t even know what’s on my plate—chicken, I think… and some kind of vegetable or something. I eat in silence, without tasting my food. Everyone has disappeared to parts unknown, apparently leery of my unstable melancholy. I can’t shake the vision of Val’s seemingly lifeless form lying in that bed. It’s just not fair. It can’t end like this.
Christian clears my dishes away when I have finished my food. I want a glass of wine so badly, but I know that’s impossible because it will taint my breast milk. Right now, I feel like it’s my sole purpose—to feed my babies. I know that’s not true. I know that I have more than just that use… but right now, I need to feed my babies.
When we get to the nursery, Gail is there preparing the baths and getting clean clothes for the twins.
“We’ll take it from here, Gail,” Christian tells her. She looks at him with uncertainty.
“Are you sure? I don’t mind,” she protests.
“We’re sure,” he says, softly. “Thank you. Goodnight.” She looks at him, questioning, but I just turn my attention to my babies. Mikey is still asleep, but Minnie has begun to stir. I get to her crib just as she starts to fuss.
“Come to Mommy, Little Mouse,” I say, gently lifting her into my arms. Her fussing ceases almost immediately. I stare at her for a moment, thinking of how I used to lean on her and her brother when I needed strength while I was carrying them. God, do I really need their strength now.
Mikey starts to fuss and Christian takes him out of his crib. He’s talking to his son as he takes him to the en suite. Oh, yeah, that’s right. We were giving them a bath.
I remove Minnie’s tiny onesie once I get her on the changing table next to her slider. She coos just a bit as I remove her diaper and undershirt. I test the water temperature before placing her in her infant bath seat. She loves bathtime and I love bathing her taking handfuls of water and trickling them over her tiny body and pink skin. Her little hand splashes in the water inside her bath seat. It’s the first thing that has made me smile all day.
I use the gentle baby soap to clean her delicate skin. She raises her eyes to me contentedly as I wash her hair and her tiny little body. As much as she loves bathtime, Mikey hates it. He fusses and kicks and gives his bather hell, whether it’s Christian, me, or Gail. He’s a little terror in the bath and never settles down until he’s out of the water. Even then, he continues to fuss because he’s angry that we dare subject him to such torment.
I have to powder and dress Minnie quickly after bathtime, because while she is calm and enjoying the attention, Mikey is demanding the comfort of the breast after the traumatizing experience he has had. Christian has tried to give him a bottle while I feed Minnie first, but he is inconsolable. He has to have the comfort of Mom. I often wondered how he stayed in a sack of water for nine months without bursting out. I hope he grows out of this.
We trade off the twins once we get them into clean diapers and warm pajamas. Mikey settles a bit once he’s in my arms, but he’s still quite the noise maker. Normally, it’s the other way around—Minnie is the one that must be seen and heard while Mikey is the cool cucumber. The only time it’s different is bathtime. They change personas like Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. What’s funny is that I’ve read that book and seen that movie, and I can never decipher which personality is supposed to be the bad guy.
“Okay, little man, settle down,” I tell him as I unbutton my shirt. He’s hungrily turning his little mouth to my breast before it’s even exposed. Gosh, give me a chance, Mikey! Geez! You’d think they are starving you in this joint! He latches on the moment the nipple touches his lip. It feels like he’s trying to swallow my whole breast.
“Aie!” Good God, kid, that’s thing’s attached!
“You okay?” Christian asks, walking over to me with Minnie in his arms. I’m almost jealous that she contentedly feasts on a bottle while her brother here is trying to maim me!
“He’s trying to bite it off!” I lament quietly. Christian looks over my shoulder and down at Mikey.
“Don’t do that, son,” he chides, gently. “None of us will be happy if you hurt Mommy’s nipple.”
I smile weakly. He’s sweetly trying to keep the situation as light as possible. I gently play with Mikey’s little brown curls while he finally settles. His eyes are at half-staff while he concentrates on emptying my breast. His little fist is balled on my mound and his breathing is regulated. All is right with the world when I look at my babies. Can you make my friend well? Please?
Minnie is burped by Daddy first, then it’s Mikey’s turn to take a break while Minnie gets to latch onto the other breast. We trade off babies again and Minnie quietly suckles the rest of her dinner while Mikey reluctantly gives up gas. Almost immediately after his monstrous burps, Mikey can take a bottle and be content. His half-staff eyes are now fully closed as he empties the bottle of the rest of the breast milk. I adore these times, bonding with my children. I can’t let anything hinder them, even though I might be hurting inside.
The babies are fed and tucked back into their cribs. We turn on the nightlights and steal quietly out of the nursery. Once the door is closed, I lean back against it and sigh heavily.
“What do you need?” Christian asks me.
“Alcohol,” I lament, half kidding, half serious. I drop my head. “I have to call Al. He doesn’t know.”
“You’re going to tell him over the phone?” I shake my head immediately.
“I’m going to see if he’ll come over. If not, you or Chuck will have to take me to him, but this can’t wait…” I’m fighting not to cry. If I start crying, I won’t stop. He rubs my arms.
“Whatever you need, baby,” he says, softly. I nod and go in search of my phone.
“Hi… Al… I just finished feeding the babies… Yeah, I know, the work’s never done. Listen, Al, um, I have something that I really need to talk to you about. I’ll know it’s late and I’m sorry, but it’s really important and I just can’t tell you over the phone. It really can’t wait until tomorrow. If it’s too late, I can have Chuck or Christian bring me to you… It’s really important, Al. I wouldn’t bother you this late if it weren’t. No, no, I won’t fall asleep. I’ll be waiting…”
I’m sitting on the patio off the family room, snuggled in a warm fleece jacket with an afghan on my lap. I feel so shitty about what I must tell my best friend that even Atlantis couldn’t help. I’m looking out over Lake Washington, and for some reason, the words to Little Red Boat come to mind. My chest tightens as I think about the words and the meaning, how sometimes in the song, the singer seems adrift—battling her own dreams and demons, while at other times, she seems to have found her peace and her “green life.” It’s confusing and I can’t really understand if she gets where she wants to be by the end of the song, or if she’s still trying to get there. The melody is soothing, though, and as it plays in my head, I sing the words out loud:
“Sailing in my little red boat
Prayin’ to God He will keep me afloat
While I’m sailin’ in my little red boat
Till I find my way…”
“Hmm, Little Red Boat… It must be pretty bad.” Al has arrived and has joined me on the patio. I raise my eyes to him and I’m just emotionally weary—not sleepy at all, but emotionally exhausted. He examines me and doesn’t say a word. He just walks over to the sofa and sits next to me, waiting for me to tell him what’s going on. I sigh heavily, trying to find the strength that I don’t have.
“It’s Val,” I say, my voice small. His face falls.
“What did she do now?” he asks, his voice irritated. Please, God, give me strength.
“She’s sick,” I tell him, barely able to get my words out. His silence is deafening and I raise my head to see his glaring brown eyes in the moonlight.
“Sick how?” he asks, flatly.
“She’s…” I sigh heavily.
“Jewel, sick how?” he repeats when I don’t answer soon enough.
“Cancer,” I spit out quickly before I lose my nerve. He frowns deeply.
“Cancer,” he repeats. “Cancer? Are you sure?” I nod.
“I’m positive, Allen,” I say, sadly.
“How do you know? How did you find out?” he asks incredulously. He’s having the same disbelief that I had.
“Elliot told Christian… and Christian told me…”
“Why did she push us away?” he asks almost angrily. “When she knew that she would need us the most, why would she push us away? Is she dying? Where is she now?” The questions are coming faster than I can answer them.
“Please, Al, slow down,” I lament. “She’s in the hospital. We don’t know if she’s dying—she’s still unconscious…”
“Still un…” His voice trails off and I can tell that the weight of what’s happening is settling in. He frowns harder, as if he could. “Jewel… what’s happening?”
“She didn’t push us away, Al,” I say, bursting into tears. “She didn’t know! She wasn’t herself! She didn’t know what she was doing or what she was saying!” I sob, unable to say the words. If I don’t say them, maybe they won’t be true… but I know better, and I have to tell Al.
“It’s a brain tumor, Al,” I cry, “on her frontal lobe. It changes her personality—her whole personality. She says and does things with no filter. She’s a completely different person than she was before and she can’t control it. Sometimes she doesn’t even know what she’s saying.”
I knew something wasn’t right. The things that she said to me and the way that she treated me—I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on it and never in a million years would I have guessed brain tumor, but I knew that my friend wouldn’t simply turn her back on me for no reason. No matter what people tried to tell me… Dr. Hill, Ace, Christian, even Al… I knew it was something else. I knew it.
“She had surgery. She had the surgery a couple of days ago and she hasn’t woken up yet. That’s when Elliot came over to tell us what happened… late last night. He was here talking all night with Christian.” I’m still weeping as I talk to him. The words are choking me and squeezing the life out of me. She might die. Valerie might die. It’s a very real possibility that the only sister I ever knew might die. This can’t really be happening.
Christian comes out to the patio and I see him with a glass of red wine in his hand. I’m doing my best to try to hold it together, but I’m having a terrible time. He walks over to me and hands me the glass of wine. I look up at him with large eyes asking what my mouth won’t say.
My breast milk…
“It’ll be out of your system by tomorrow,” he says, softly. I look at the large bowl glass, three-quarters full of wine—no doubt Cabernet Sauvignon. I take it in both hands like it’s the holy grail and take a welcome sip.
Hello, old friend.
The slight burn and dry flavor on the back of my tongue are both very welcome sensations, and I take another sip.
“Can I get you anything, Allen?” he asks.
“Got any scotch?” he asks. Oh, yeah, he’s taking it as hard as I am.
“Yes, I do.”
“On the rocks?” Christian asks. No, I think to myself.
“Neat,” he responds, confirming what I already knew. Christian nods once and disappears back into the house. Al puts his arm around me and pulls me close to him. His warmth makes me feel a little better. A unified front, I think to myself—pretending to be okay when we’re both actually dying inside.
“What’s the prognosis?” he asks, his voice cracking slightly.
“Not good,” I tell him honestly. “There’s a good chance that she may not wake up. If she does, she may still be the same evil Val that she was before the surgery if she remembers who she is at all. Then, she’s going to have to undergo chemotherapy. So, at the very best, she’s going to be sick for a long time.”
“I’ll take that,” he says, “as long as she comes back.” He shakes his head. “At some point, she knew that she was sick and she still didn’t tell us.”
“She couldn’t, Al,” I tell him through my sniffles and tears. “Either because she didn’t know what she was saying, or because she was too ashamed… she couldn’t tell us.”
“I’m going to strangle that hag when she comes out of this,” he swears.
“If she comes out of this…”
“When,” he reiterates firmly. “I’m not willing to accept that Val won’t be back until I’m looking at her cold, dead body, and I don’t intend to be doing that for a long time, if I don’t go first.” He has hope—firm hope. Hope is good. I won’t destroy it.
“Fair enough,” I say, drinking more of my nectar from the Gods. This is that wine from Napa—Screaming Eagle, I think. He cracked open a bottle just when I needed it. Moments later, Christian comes back out to the patio with Al’s drink. As he hands Al the tumbler, I mouth “thank you” to him. He nods and leaves us to comfort one another.
Al takes his double shot and throws it back like water. I’m not as adventurous.
I finally break down in those uncontrollable tears that I’ve been hiding all day. Yes, I’ve been weeping and sobbing, but I haven’t had that cry where my soul feels like it’s going to rip from my body and escape to the Netherworld, away from the unbearable pain in my heart… the one unanswered question that keeps blaring in my head and won’t be silenced no matter how I curl into myself and cover my ears…
Al folds his body over mine and surrenders to his own tears. I don’t know how long we sit there and just cry, but when I cried myself into exhaustion, I just stay curled in the ball wrapped in Al’s warmth and allow him mourn.
“I’m sorry. I slipped off in the recliner trying to keep an eye on them,” I tell James as he walks into the family room.
“No sweat,” he says. “I knew when you told me about Valerie that it would be a long night.” We look at our significant others asleep on the sofa on the patio. We quietly exit the doors from the family room. Allen is sitting upright with his head leaned over the back of the sofa. Butterfly is asleep on his chest, the most content I’ve seen her in nearly twenty-four hours… except she looks like she’s shrinking.
James walks over and gently runs his fingers through Allen’s hair. Allen opens sleepy brown eyes and looks up at his fiancé.
“Hey, baby,” he says, his voice weak.
“Hey, Allie,” James replies, still stroking Allen’s hair. “You okay?” Allen frowns and closes his eyes, succumbing to the tears again as he shakes his head. “I know, baby,” he comforts. Allen wipes his eyes and strokes Butterfly’s hair much like James is stroking his. Butterfly stirs, then raises her head.
“It wasn’t a dream,” she says, her voice weak and small. Allen inhales a shuddering breath and releases it.
“I’m afraid not,” he says, still stroking her hair. She sighs and curls back into his chest.
“Why don’t you guys stay?” I say. “It’s late…” and I know you need each other. I throw a knowing look at James and he nods.
“Allie?” he says, “you wanna stay, baby?” Al nods with his chin in Butterfly’s hair, his arms wrapped around her tiny body, clinging to her as if his life depended on it.
“Why don’t we all go inside?” I suggest. “It’s late and it’s getting cold out here.”
Mechanically, Butterfly unfurls from Al’s lap and he stands once she rises. They both walk wordlessly into the entertainment room and assume the same position on the sofa inside. They’re in silent mourning, and James and I are clueless how to handle this. I walk over to the bar and pour a double shot of bourbon.
“Do you want something?” I ask James, who sits on one of the barstools.
“Just beer, if you have it.” I reach into the refrigerator, pull out a beer and hand it to him. He nods as he opens it and takes a long swallow. “I never expected this,” he says. “Not in a million years would I have expected this.”
“Neither would I.”
“Do they know how long?” he asks. I shrug.
“How long what?” I say. “How long she’s been sick? How long she’s had the tumor? How long she’s got left? We don’t know anything. All we know is that Elliot showed up at 1:00 this morning with this news and here we are.”
“Allie’s a wreck,” he says. “First, we’re planning our wedding and now this.” I look at him.
“I forgot all about that, man,” he says. “You know with Elena’s verdict and waiting for the sentencing… I completely forgot.” He waves me off.
“Allie and Ana were… are planning something. Nothing spectacular from my understanding. We were just going to have a party here and exchange vows.”
“You keep slipping into past tense,” I point out. He shrugs.
“I don’t know what Allie is going to want to do after this. I’m not going to pressure him. I’ll be here for whatever he wants and I’m willing to wait if he needs to…”
“I hear you. I love you. You’re wonderful. We’re getting married.” Al snaps out of his stupor for a few moments to squash his fiancé’s uncertainty.
“Yes, dear,” James says softly before looking at me with a smirk. “My soul has spoken. I guess we’re getting married in two weeks.” He raises his beer to me before taking another drink. I just realize that I have a couple of calls that I have to make.
“Excuse me, James,” I say as I step to the furthest end of the bar and make the first call.
“Hi, Mom,” I answer.
“Christian! It’s late. Are the babies okay?” I nod.
“Yeah, Mom, the babies are fine, but I do need to talk to you.”
“Okay, son, what’s up?”
“It’s about Valerie.” Mom sighs.
“The last thing I want to talk about this late in the evening right before I want to turn in is that disrespectful little sow’s ear!” Don’t have the strength to fight. Not even the strength to defend. Just don’t have it. Must save my strength for Butterfly.
“Okay, Mom. Talk to you tomorrow. G’night.” I end the call and think about who I should call next. I’m on autopilot as I recall that something like this would require activation of the contingency… but Al is already here. Who would AL call? Probably Valerie. God! While I’m trying to decide who I should call right now, my phone rings. It’s Mom.
“Yeah, Mom,” I answer with no malice.
“Well, that was awfully rude!” she snaps on the other end.
“You said you didn’t want to talk,” I point out, flatly.
“Well, I didn’t expect you to hang up in my ear!” she chides.
“Mom, I said I had something to tell you and you said you didn’t want to talk. Now, if you don’t want to talk, I have to go because I have to call other people.” She pauses, but only momentarily.
“Why do you have to call other people?” she sounds a bit impatient. “Exactly what’s going on with Valerie? Is she in jail?” I shake my head.
“No, Mom, she’s not in jail. Do you want to hear it or would you rather turn in?” I think my mom is a bit affronted, but I don’t have time for this.
“Fine. Yes. What’s going on with Valerie?”
“She’s in the hospital,” I say, mechanically. “She had a tumor on her brain and nobody knows how long she’s had it. That’s why she was acting like such a bitch. It was on her frontal lobe. She had surgery to have it removed on Friday and now she’s unconscious. They don’t know if she’s going to wake up.” There’s silence on the line for a long time. “Mom?”
“Oh my God,” she says, just above a whisper. “That poor girl. Do they know how long?” And there’s that question again. How long what? Since I’ve already said that nobody knows how long she’s had it, Mom must be asking how much more time she has or how long she’ll be unconscious, and the answer to those questions are…
“No, Mom, nobody knows. Right now, the prognosis is questionable at best.”
“Oh, God… Elliot!” she gasps.
“He’s… at the hospital with her. He’s not doing so good.” I wouldn’t wish the kind of pain he’s feeling on anybody. Who would have thought we would have so much in common—that we would both, at some point, be sitting in a hospital next to the woman we love, praying that she’s not going to die? I pinch my eyes with my thumb and forefinger to squeeze out the tears that are quickly gathering behind my eyelids. I can’t even say that I can’t imagine the pain he must be feeling, because I don’t have to imagine it. I felt it—for twelve days, I felt it… lost, forlorn, hopeless, like my whole world was coming to an end.
Mom is saying something, but I couldn’t hear her. My head is clouded with what I was feeling for Butterfly during a similar time and what my brother must be feeling right now.
“… And to think, I said all those horrible things about her,” Mom says, her voice cracking.
“We all did, Mom,” I say. “We didn’t know. Ana is beside herself. She and Allen are really broken up about it. I have to go, though, Mom. I have to get in touch with her other friends.”
“Certainly, Christian, certainly. Thank you for letting me know. I’ll call Mia and tell her.”
“Thanks. Love you, Mom.”
“I love you, too, Christian.” I end the call and rub my eyes.
“You alright, man?” James asks. I shrug. Normally, I would just nod and say that I’m fine, but I’m not fine. There’s no love lost between me and Valerie, but I never would have wished this on her… or on my brother… or my wife.
“The contingency,” I say, “who does Allen call?” James shrugs.
“I don’t know. He used to call Valerie…” Just as I suspected. I scroll through my phone to see whose number I may have. I’m sure that I had Phillip’s number when I was helping him plan his wedding. As I’m scrolling recent contacts, Marilyn’s number pops up.
Marilyn… she would know what to do. I dial her number.
“Christian?” she answers uncertainly. “Is everything okay?”
“No, it’s not,” I say, my voice solemn. “Ana’s fine… for the most part, but I need your help.” She’s silent for a moment.
“Sure,” she says softly. “What do you need?”
“I need to activate the Contingency and I don’t know how,” I admit. “Al is here with Ana and they’re… out of sorts. Who would be next—do you know?”
“The Contingency?” she questions. “Oh! The Contingen… what’s wrong, if I may ask?” she says, her voice soft and probing. I sigh.
“I’m sorry, I should have lead with that. It’s Valerie. She’s very sick. She has… cancer. A brain tumor. The prognosis is… questionable.” Marilyn gasps loudly.
“Oh, my God! Gary, wake up!” I completely forgot that Marilyn was dating Garrett. I’ve inadvertently activated the Contingency and didn’t know that I was doing it. I hear Marilyn talking frantically in the background and after a few seconds, Garrett’s groggy voice gets on the line.
“I’m sorry to bother you, Garrett…” I begin.
“Chris… hey. What’s up, man? My girl is over here having a fit. Is it Ana?”
“No, it Valerie. She had a brain tumor. She’s at the hospital… unconscious. Not sure what’s going to happen.” If I have to tell this story one more time…
“Valerie… shit!” he says and I hear blankets rustling. “Have you told anybody else?”
“Only our family,” I say. “Allen is here with Ana. They’re a mess.”
“You sound like you’re a mess, too,” he says, compassionately, and I have to fight back the tears, the anguish I feel for my brother.
“I am,” I squeak, “for a lot of reasons…” Empathy for my brother; the fact that I hate to see my wife suffering; the way I’ve spoken to Valerie not knowing what was wrong with her… “I had to activate the Contingency and I didn’t know who to call. Ana calls Allen and it’s my understanding that he normally calls Valerie, so…” I trail off.
“You did right, Chris. I got it. I’ll call Phil and Max.” He pauses. “How’s… Ana? We heard about Edward… and then the trial… we were trying to give you guys a chance to breathe, and now, this.” I sigh for the hundredth time today.
“You’ve pretty much summed it up,” I tell him. “I’m keeping an eye on her… and Al. James is here with us; they’re staying the night. I don’t know how to explain what I see right now,” I say, turning back to my wife and her best friend. “I guess the best description would be painful and silent disbelief.”
“God, Christian,” he breathes. “I’m sorry man. What can we do?”
“For now, just let the others know. She’s at Seattle Gen in the ICU. Do you know if Valerie has any family?”
“Her father and brother back east, but to my knowledge, they’ve been a bit estranged for at least the last couple of years. I wouldn’t begin to know how to reach them.” I nod.
“Okay,” I sigh. “I was just trying to save Elliot from having to make that call.”
“Oh, God, Elliot. I totally forgot. He’s at the hospital?” I nod again, as if he can see me through the phone.
“Yeah, sitting vigil by her bedside…” just like I did with Ana.
“We won’t go tonight. It’s late, and even though I know ICU doesn’t adhere to regular visiting hours, he’s probably trying to get some sleep.” Something tells me that I don’t want to know how he knows about the ICU hours. That’s knowledge that you only come by from personal experience.
“Yeah, I would say so,” I say.
“Thanks for calling, Chris. I appreciate it,” Garrett says, finally, and we end the call. My heart is hurting. This empathy thing is eating me up from the inside out. I look over at my wife and her best friend. She has fallen asleep again. Al is fading fast.
“Chris?” James says, bringing me out of my daydream.
“Can you keep an eye on them, please?” I ask. “Call me if she wakes and she needs me and I’ll come right back.” He nods.
“Sure… Where are you going?”
“To my brother,” I say, my voice cracking. “He needs me.”
A/N: So, now we know what’s going on with Val. A few of you hit the nail on the head. I’m sorry the reveal and storyline took so long, but unfortunately, you just can’t rush a brain tumor. If you think it took a long time for you, consider the fact that I wrote this storyline over a year ago…
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Love and handcuffs