Page 68

It makes me smile, even though my mouth hurts and is covered in blood.

I walk into my father’s room and go straight to the counter where the painting supplies are stacked up. I grab an empty canvas and rummage through the box, inspecting all the other supplies.

Who would have thought that my first fight over a girl would be for a girl who isn’t even mine?

I can hear her still crying as she’s pulled down the hallway again for what I know really is the last time. I sit down in the chair and stare at the box full of his art supplies. I begin to pull them out one by one.

It was eight hours later and almost daylight when I finally finished the painting. I set it aside to dry and fell asleep until dark. I know she won’t be in his room tonight and that makes me sad for both of them, and even a little selfishly sad for myself.

I stand at his door for a little while, waiting to knock, wanting to ensure his brother isn’t in the room. After several minutes of quiet, I knock softly on the door.

“Come in,” he says, although his voice is so weak tonight, I have to strain to hear it. I open the door and take a few steps into the room. When he sees me and fails to recognize me, he attempts to sit up several inches. It looks hard for him.

God, he’s so young.

I mean, I know he’s about the same age as me, but death makes him look younger than he should. Death should only be acquainted with the old.

“Hey,” I say as I slowly make my way into his room. “Sorry to bother you, but . . .” I glance back at the door and then to him again. “This is weird, so I’m just gonna say it. I . . . I made you something.”

I’m holding the canvas in my hand, afraid to turn it around so that he can see it. His eyes fall to the back of it, and he inhales a breath and attempts to push himself further up on the bed. “What is it?”

I walk closer to him and point to the chair, asking for permission to sit. Adam nods his head. I don’t show him the painting right away. I feel like I should explain it first or explain me or, at the very least, introduce myself.

“I’m Owen,” I tell him after I take a seat in the chair. I motion to the wall behind his head. “My father has been in the room next door for a few weeks.”

Adam regards me for a moment and then says, “What’s wrong with him?”

“He’s in a coma. Car accident.”

His eyes become genuinely sympathetic, and it makes me like him almost immediately. It also lets me know that he’s nothing like his brother.

“I was driving,” I add.

I don’t know why I clarify that to him. Maybe to show him that even though I’m not the one dying, my life isn’t much to envy.

“Your mouth,” he says, making a weak effort to point at the bruise that has formed since my scuffle in the hallway last night. “Were you the one who got into a fight with my brother?”

I’m taken aback for a moment, shocked that he knows about it. I nod.

He laughs a little. “The nurse told me about that. Said you tackled him in the hall when he was trying to stop Auburn from telling me good-bye again.”

I smile. Auburn, I think to myself. I’ve been wondering for three weeks what her name is. Of course it would be Auburn. I’ve never heard of anyone else with that name; it suits her perfectly.

“Thank you for that,” Adam says. His words come out in a pained whisper. I hate that I’m forcing him to talk so much when I know it hurts him.

I hold up the painting a little higher and look down at it.

“Last night, after she left,” I say, “I guess you could say I was inspired to paint this for you. Or maybe it’s for her. Both of you, I guess.” I immediately look up at him. “I hope that’s not weird.”

He shrugs. “Depends on what it is.”

I stand and walk the painting to him, turning it around so that he can see it.

He doesn’t have any type of reaction to it at first. He just stares at it. I let him hold it, and I back away, a little embarrassed that I thought he would want something like this. “It’s my first attempt at painting,” I say, excusing the fact that he probably thinks it’s horrendous.

His eyes immediately meet mine and the expression on his face is anything but indifference. He points to it. “This is your first attempt?” he says in disbelief. “Seriously?”

I nod. “Yeah. Probably my last, too.”

He immediately shakes his head. “I hope not,” he says. “This is incredible.” He reaches to the remote and presses the button to lift the head of the bed a few more inches. He points to a table next to the chair. “Grab that pen.”

I don’t question him. I hand him the pen and watch as he flips the painting over and writes something on the back of the canvas. He reaches to the nightstand beside his bed and tears off a sheet of paper from a notepad. He writes something down on the notepad and hands me both the painting and the piece of paper.

“Do me a favor,” he says as I take both of them out of his hands. “Will you mail this to her? From me?” He points to the slip of paper in my hands. “Her address is at the top and the return address is at the bottom.”

I look down at the slip of paper in my hands, and I read her full name.

“Auburn Mason Reed,” I say out loud.

What are the chances?

I smile and run my thumb over the letters in her middle name. “We have the same middle name.”

I look back up at Adam, and he’s lowering his bed again with a faint smile on his face. “That could be fate, you know.”

I shake my head, dismissing his comment. “I’m pretty sure she’s your fate. Not mine.”

His voice is strained, and it takes a tremendous amount of effort for him to roll onto his side. He closes his eyes and says, “Hopefully she has more than one fate, Owen.”

He doesn’t open his eyes again. He falls asleep, or maybe just needs a break from speaking. I look down at her name again and think about the words he just spoke.

Hopefully she has more than one fate.

It makes me feel good to know that as much as he loves her, he also knows she’ll move on after his death, and he accepts that. It even seems like he wants that for her. Unfortunately, if this really were fate, we would have been placed together under different circumstances and with way better timing.

I look up at him again, and his eyes are still closed. He pulls the covers over his arms, so I quietly back out of the room, painting in hand.

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