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  • Home > Jamie McGuire > Happenstance 3     

    Chapter One

    GO HOME, TURN OFF THE LIGHTS, AND KILL YOURSELF.

    My lids popped wide open, and my eyes danced around the dark room. Worry, fear, and panic returned as the naked white walls of the hospital room came into focus. The soft green numbers on the display on the IV pump cast an eerie glow as I recalled the events from the day before.

    Paramedics carrying Weston away on a stretcher from the dugout was the most frightening moment of my life. The more frightening parts played over and over in my mind. The inhaler falling from his limp hand, sirens from the ambulance racing for the hospital—it was all crowded together in my head.

    I closed my eyes, willing the awful memory and feelings away. Weston’s rhythmic breaths and the staccato beeps of his life on the monitors made the tension melt away. He was alive. Everything was going to be okay.

    My body lined his, and I was hyperaware of every inch of my skin touching his that wasn’t covered by his hospital gown. He was so warm under the thick linen blanket the nurse had given us. I lay still, wrapped in the arms of the boy who loved me, my hip already complaining from being in the same position for too long.

    Hints of a sunrise were already slipping through the blinds and chasing away the darkness. Weston stirred, and I silently wished the night had held on just a little longer.

    Veronica Gates was reading a magazine in the overstuffed mauve recliner across the room. Along with her rectangular black-rimmed reading glasses, she was using the flashlight on her cell phone to see.

    I lifted my head, which prompted her to look up.

    “Good morning,” she whispered, nearly inaudible.

    Not wanting to risk waking up Weston, the only thing I could offer was a small smile. When my head gently relaxed against Weston’s chest, his arms tightened, and he pulled in a deep breath.

    Veronica managed a silent laugh, and then she moved to the wooden chair sitting closer to the bed. “He used to hold his teddy bear like that. If I tried to pull it out of his arms after he’d fallen asleep, he’d tighten his grip.”

    She crossed her legs and intertwined her fingers, watching her son with unqualified love. “He came home from the first grade, and quite matter-of-factly, he said to Peter and me, ‘I’m getting married,’” she said, imitating a seven-year-old Weston. She breathed out a laugh again, lost in the memory. “Peter asked him, ‘When?’ Weston said, ‘Later,’ and then I asked him, ‘Who?’ He said, ‘Erin.’” She watched for my reaction. “At the time, I thought he meant Alder, but then he made me promise never to tell you that story, and I realized I had been wrong.”

    My breath faltered.

    “That was a long time ago. I don’t think he’d mind now.” She looked down at Weston and then back at me. “I’m glad he meant you, Erin. I don’t think I’ve told you that.”

    “I’m just lucky he doesn’t easily give up,” I whispered.

    Weston stirred again, and Veronica leaned in closer to get a better look at her son.

    He groaned. “Erin?”

    Veronica raised an eyebrow and then shot a knowing look my way.

    “I’m here,” I said.

    With his eyes still closed, he leaned down the inch or two to graze my hair with his lips. The sun brightened up the room enough to see what the shadows had hidden just ten minutes before.

    Weston sighed. “Good. Don’t leave.”

    “I won’t,” I said.

    “In that case, I’d better get you some breakfast,” Veronica said, standing.

    “Good morning!” the nurse said, her voice seeming too loud after Veronica had been so careful to whisper. “I’m Amelia. How are you feeling?” Her bright pink scrubs matched her mood.

    Veronica watched her from the corner of the room as she gathered her purse and keys from a chair.

    Amelia had a pile of shiny long braids twisted into a beautiful round bun on the top of her head, adding at least four inches of height to her petite, round frame.

    Weston’s sleepy eyes blinked. “Whoa, I was out.”

    “It’s the meds,” she said. “I’m going to take your vitals and then wait for Dr. Shuart to call. I bet he’ll release you today.” She winked and motioned for me to move.

    I obeyed, scrambling from the bed.

    Weston frowned. “Don’t leave.”

    Veronica shook her head, amused. “She said she’s staying, son, my goodness.”

    He watched me with mistrust. Whatever warmth Veronica’s story had left with me quickly vanished.

    “Is this your girl?” Amelia asked Weston, mostly teasing.

    Weston didn’t take his eyes off of me, waiting for me to answer.

    “I heard she’d slept half the night on that awful couch in the waiting room and the rest squished in your bed. The night nurses thought it was cute. My back would not be happy with me. No, sir,” Amelia said, shaking her head at the thought.

    The blood pressure machine buzzed as it inflated the cuff. Weston winced as it tightened. Amelia put a clip on his finger and seemed happy with the numbers that made zero sense to me.

    “All good?” Veronica asked.

    Amelia nodded. “Like it never happened.”

    Veronica let out a small breath. “Can he have breakfast?”

    “Absolutely.” She handed him a laminated long menu card. “Just buzz me when you decide if you want the runny oatmeal or the greasy eggs.”

    By Weston’s expression, I could tell the choices on the card weren’t all that enticing. Amelia left the room as quickly as she’d come, prompting Veronica to slide her purse strap over her shoulder.

    “I’ll just pick something up for everyone. I’ll run down to Braum’s for biscuits and gravy.”

    Weston perked up.

    “I’ll go with you,” I said.

    “No, you should stay,” Weston said.

    Veronica walked the few steps to peck her son’s cheek and then gripped her keys. “I’ll call Dad and let him know you’re awake.” Her eyes fell on me. “Are you staying?”

    By Weston’s expression, I could see that he wanted to use the opportunity to talk alone. I glanced back at Veronica and nodded.

    “Be sure to call me if Dr. Shuart comes by,” she said.

    “Of course,” I said.

    She walked into the hallway, looked both ways, and then turned left toward the elevators. Her voice could barely be heard as she greeted the women at the nurses’ station, and a few moments later, the elevator chimed, signaling its arrival to the floor.

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