“I’m looking for my dad,” he said, his nerves flying from his mouth. “He was brought in a while ago.”
I stepped behind him and unhooked the fake belly, allowing it to fall to the ground. Just like that, reality was back. The real world came crashing down.
“I’m sorry, I’m just going to need to know a few details.” The receptionist calmly tried to explain. My hand landed on Levi’s shoulder for comfort, and I refused to move it.
“His name is Kent Myers. He’s, um, he has cancer, and I just—look, I just need to know if he’s okay.”
“All right, one second…”
She was taking longer than Levi wanted her to. His whole soul wavered and shook before me. “Could you hurry?” he snapped, something he hardly ever did.
“Levi.” We heard behind us, and we turned to see his uncle Lance standing a bit down the hallway. With haste, we jogged in his direction. “He’s okay, he’s resting.”
“What happened? Where is he? I want to see him.” Levi had tears at the back of his eyes, and he blinked them away.
“He called me complaining about chest pains and said he was having trouble breathing. Daisy and I rushed over to check. It only got worse, so we called an ambulance to pick him up. They helped his breathing and now he’s resting.”
Levi started to tremble, and Lance was quick to wrap his arms around him.
“I thought…” Levi mumbled. “I thought he…”
“I know, buddy. I know.”
* * *
“You should call your mom and let her know where you are,” Lance said, walking toward me in the waiting room. Levi was sitting in his dad’s room, and I’d been waiting. “Maybe she can come pick you up. It looks like we might be here for a while.”
“She’s working,” I said, tapping my foot, knowing I would have to call my dad to come get me. “I’ll be fine, Lance.”
He gave me a worrisome stare, but I told him to go check on his brother.
Fifteen minutes after I texted Dad, he came rushing into the hospital. “Aria!” he exclaimed, rushing over to me. I knew he was going to scream at me for being with Levi. I knew he was going to yell and scold me for being out with a boy, especially Kent Myers’ boy.
Standing from my chair, I started talking before he could. “I’m sorry, okay? I know you didn’t want me to be out with Levi, but I like him, Dad. He’s the only one at school who doesn’t look at me like I’m a slut and his dad is sick, and we had to come here and—”
I couldn’t finish because Dad wrapped his arms around me, pulling me into a hug. “Jesus Christ, Aria! I thought something happened to you or the baby! You can’t just text people that you’re in the hospital! Are you okay?!” He pulled back, studying my face, making sure everything was in the right spot before he pulled me back into a hug.
Confusion filled me inside but then I realized I wasn’t dreaming, that Dad actually was holding me so tight. I yanked on his jacket, pulling him closer to me. “I’m so sorry, Dad. For everything.”
He kissed my forehead and held me closer to him. “None of that matters, okay? It’s all right, Aria. It’s all right.”
“I’m sorry,” Dad said, pulling into our driveway. “I’ve been terrible throughout this whole thing, and I just want you to know that it’s not your fault. I’ve been having a hard time, and I’ve taken that out on you. That’s not fair. And I’m so sorry.”
I forgave him. Of course I forgave him. He kissed my forehead before I stepped out of his car, then he headed back to Molly’s house. A part of me wanted to pretend that he would’ve come back home that night and everything would’ve gone back to normal, but it didn’t. He drove away again.
Later that night, Levi was standing outside of my bedroom window. I opened the window and told him to come inside, but he didn’t.
“He didn’t just stop chemotherapy,” he said. “I thought he just didn’t want to do it anymore, but the doctor told him it wasn’t working. He stopped because they told him it wasn’t working. The cancer’s spreading too much.”
“He’s dying,” he whispered. “The doctors said the only thing they can do is help make him comfortable. Can you believe that?” He snickered, gripping his teeth against his lip. “There’s nothing comfortable about cancer. You can’t make cancer comfortable. What a nonsensical thing to say.”
“Come inside,” I said.
He shook his head. “No, I should get back home. I just wanted to say sorry for the way the night ended.”
“Come inside,” I repeated.
He took a breath and stepped inside. We sat on my bed in the darkness, our pinkies locked together.
I wasn’t sure what I could say to him to make him feel better. I didn’t even think I was supposed to try to make it right for him.
Maybe it wasn’t about fixing the broken hearts.
Maybe it was about loving the broken pieces the way they were.
Maybe when someone you loved was hurting, all they needed was someone to hold their pinkie as a reminder that they weren’t alone.
“I’m afraid of giving him up,” I said. “I have these thoughts of calling up Keira and telling her that I changed my mind and want to keep him. I’ve played scenarios in my head of how I could do this, how I could raise a baby on my own, and then I think of how terrible it makes me to want to do that. I start thinking too far into the future, and I realize how shitty of a thing that would be to do. Then I cry because I think too much and want too much and worry too much about the future.