Look the Part (Page 33)
“Hardly.” Flint leads me off the elevator.
“Let’s get a cab to my dad’s place. Then we can take his car to find me a few changes of clothes and some toiletries.”
“The red sedan is mine.” He motions to the car out front.
“Well, a rental.” He opens the door for me. “We’ll get you some clothes and go back to the hotel since it’s close, unless you want or need to go to your dad’s house right now.”
I shake my head.
Within an hour, we arrive at the hotel with some necessities and takeout food, in spite of Flint’s offer to take me some place nicer to eat. I just want to shower and get back to the hospital.
“I’m going to hop in the shower,” I say after eating half of my sandwich. “Oh…” I turn just before the bathroom door “…I tried messaging my landlord, so if my phone rings will you answer it? The hospital could call too.”
“Sure. Why did you message your landlord?”
“I need him to let someone in to feed my rats.”
“I handled it.” He sits back against the headboard of the bed.
“What does that mean?”
“Amanda is going to take Harrison over to feed, water, and play with your rats after school.”
“She doesn’t have a key.”
He gives me a tight grin. “I know. If your landlord calls back, he can help them get in.”
I shake my head. “You didn’t know I called my landlord. How were they going to get in before I mentioned this to you just now?”
“A friend of mine was going to get them in.”
“Pick the lock?”
“Something along those lines.”
I stand idle, a little shocked. “I … I don’t know if I should be grateful or pissed off.”
“Let’s go with grateful.” He looks up from his phone, brows peaked, looking hopeful I go with the first option.
I shake my head again and drag my tired ass to the shower.
My dad wakes up for less than twenty minutes today. Brain injuries require lots of sleep to heal. I know this, but it’s hard to let what I know chase away the fear. I know the chance of dying in a plane crash is much less than dying in a car accident, but no amount of knowledge will ever ease that fear. I’m sure at least one person on the plane with my mom thought, “What are the chances of this plane going down?”
It’s between one in five million and one in eleven million—yes, I’ve researched and obsessed over this for years. The chances of getting hit by lightning are so much better, yet I don’t always stay home when it’s raining. I would, had my mom died from a lightning strike.
By seven, I leave Dad’s room. He opened his eyes. He recognized me. That’s a blessing. His inability to speak breaks my heart, but I knew he’d most likely have a certain amount of trouble speaking for now. Still, watching him struggle, ripped my heart a bit.
“You’re still here?”
Flint looks up from a magazine, not his phone. It’s an odd sight, especially since it’s a gossip magazine. “Did you really think I’d leave without telling you?”
I take a seat next to him. He rests his hand on my leg and leans into me, kissing the side of my head.
“Sorry, I would have been out earlier, but I just kept hoping he’d wake up again.”
“You said the doctor said—”
“I know, I know … he needs sleep. I’m like a mom who wants to wake her newborn every hour to check for a pulse.”
“Well, now that you’re here, I will tell you that I’m leaving in the morning.”
“Private jet?” I wink at him.
“Nope. I only call in that favor for others. Commercial airline for me.”
“Why does my flight status interest you so much?”
Running my fingers through my hair, I work out the tangles. It’s been another long day, and I look it. “You interest me. I find you to be a very fascinating creature. I like to study your habits, your idiosyncrasies.”
“I think you’re delusional from sleep deprivation. I don’t have idiosyncrasies.”
“Delusional? No. Sleep deprived? Absolutely. And don’t get me started on your idiosyncrasies.” I stand. “My dad’s parents will be here tomorrow. I want to go check on his place. Clean it if necessary.”
“Wow, both of his parents are still alive. Where do they live?”
I hold out my hand. He takes it. And for this brief moment between breaths, my world stops long enough to think of my grandparents and the way they still hold hands. I remember my father always reached for my mom like it was just this instinct he had—an intrinsic need that never faded over time.
“They live in New Haven, but they’ve been out of town. They got home last night. I couldn’t even contact them until this morning.” He stands and shifts our hands so that our fingers interlace.
Alex rarely held my hand. He wasn’t touchy-feely like that. Sex? Yes. Anything else—no. I wonder if losing his hands has put such simple things like this into perspective. He always chased the next adventure, afraid that he wouldn’t conquer the world before he lost his youth. But sometimes … we forget that the greatest experiences we have as humans are with each other.
“Let’s get dinner and I’ll drive you to your dad’s house.”
“Sounds perfect. Thank you.”
“You should order a glass of wine.” Flint glances over his menu at me.
“Less than forty-eight hours ago we had a knock-down-drag-out fight in the parking lot of a restaurant. We didn’t even get water served before you stormed out. Don’t start this with me. I’m not in the mood.” I give him a playful squint. I really don’t want to revisit his issues or mine at the moment.
“I’m only suggesting you might like a glass of wine to relax after the stress you’ve been through.”
“Thank you, but I’m good. Really.”
He shrugs and goes back to studying his menu.
“Did you fight with your wife very often?” I set down my menu at the end of the table.
Flint twists his lips, eyes making one more quick survey of the menu. He sets his down on top of mine and blows a breath out of his nose. “Sure. Usually about my drinking. But sometimes we’d argue about stupid stuff.”
I nod. “Alex and I never fought, not until his accident.” I laugh. “I wanted to fight. He’d make me so mad sometimes, but he’d walk away or dismiss all my attempts to argue or ‘discuss’ with a simple ‘whatever.’”
I grin. “I was so pissed off when you walked out of the restaurant on me. And when I chased after you, I expected you to get in your car and drive off. But … you lost your cool. You got in my face. And for a moment I didn’t know how to respond to someone giving enough of a shit to fight it out. Then you left, and we felt over before we really had a chance to begin, but I knew you cared. You cared enough to give a shit.”
Flint sips his water, eyeing me. Is he wondering if he does in fact give a shit? “How did you meet Alex?”
Just as I go to speak, our waiter comes back for our order. After we give it to him, I slide off my jacket and second guess saying no to a glass of wine. Talking about Alex is a conversation that requires at least a glass of wine, if not an entire bottle of vodka.
“Alex and I met in high school.”
“High school sweethearts?” Flint shoots me a raised brow of surprise.
“That’s … sweet.” He grins.
“Yes, so sweet. He was sweet. And outgoing. And everyone loved him. He was fun and adventurous. Our first year of college, when he asked me to marry him, I knew our life would be the grandest of all adventures.”
Flint nods. “And was it?”
I drum my fingernails on the table. “Yes.” I find a small smile to share in spite of the pain. “I don’t regret anything. If I had it to do over again, knowing the outcome, I’d do it in a heartbeat.” I laugh, shaking my head. “Wow … I’ve never said that out loud. I’m not sure I’ve even thought those exact thoughts until now.”
“How’d it end?”
I grunt. “Tragically. He tried to conquer a mountain, but the mountain won. He and his buddy got trapped in the debris of an avalanche. Alex got out but decided to go back and look for his friend. By the time he found him, his friend was dead and Alex had severe frostbite. They had to remove part of his hands. It left him with a thumb on one hand and two fingers on the other.”
“I’m sorry.” He frowns.
“Me too. It’s interesting how our self-worth is so dependent on our capabilities—how little confidence comes from within. And I don’t mean that in a judgmental way at all. I say that because I watched my husband’s spirit die, leaving behind a man I don’t know. And it hit me pretty hard because I thought if it could happen to him, it could happen to me.
“If someone cut off my hands, how would that affect me? And not just the physical part. How would I see myself? My purpose? My dreams? Can I be good at my job without hands? Can I be a good friend who helps someone move into their new apartment if I don’t have hands? Can I be a lover to my husband if I don’t have hands? So those sacred wedding vows, ’Til death do you part?’ They’re a little more complicated than that. I will love Alex until I die, so in that regard, I’ve kept my vow. The sickness and health is where it gets sticky.”