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He didn’t answer but kept moving. I turned to Mom. “What has gotten into him?”

She set her knitting in her lap. “I can’t calm him down. It’s like he’s built up too many years of being Mr. Nice Guy, and it’s all going to blow.”

“You have to stop him. I won’t let them kick Gavin out.”

She shoved her yarn in a bag. “I’ll go see what he’s up to.”

“Take him out to dinner or something. Get him away for a while.” I could feel the tension in my neck and back, and several of the aches blossomed into a burn. I’d ask for pain meds again, or maybe not. I really needed to be awake to study. But this was not to be borne.

When the room had emptied, Gavin leaned over for a kiss. He aimed for a light peck, but I brought my arms up to his neck, keeping him there, wanting to feel something other than anger, panic, and exhaustion.

He shifted closer to me, running his fingers across my cheek. As his lips crossed lightly over my mouth in a caress, I could feel everything downshift, settling back into a steady rhythm.

“I’ve missed holding you,” he whispered against my skin.

“So hold me now,” I said.

He leaned into me, pulling my head against his chest. He smelled of the garage, oil and machinery, a bit of sea air from the ride over. Masculine and good. After the antiseptic sterility of the hospital, he was bliss.

“Should we time the nurse rounds so we know when there’s a gap?” He released me just enough that I could turn my face up to see his evil grin.

“You are so bad,” I said. “They can’t exactly kick ME out.”

“See, we’re all covered.” He leaned down to kiss me again, and this time, despite the lingering weakness in my muscles, the heat from the contact began to spread through me. He gripped my chin and slid his tongue in my mouth, and now my fingers were tight around his biceps. I yearned for him, dying to get out of this gray room and someplace where I could be with him, explore all the things about him that were not yet familiar, to know him like I once did.

His arm wrapped around my back and pulled me close, crushing me against him. I let the walls and glaring industrial light fall away, closing my eyes to the rails and machines and clinical equipment. There was nothing but his body and his mouth, his hands and hard muscles, the nape of his neck beneath my fingers.

“Good God, get him out of here NOW,” my father barked.

Gavin didn’t even flinch, but withdrew slowly, on his own time frame, unwilling to be jolted away. He settled me carefully back against the pillow.

My mom had her fists pressed against her mouth, clearly upset but not willing to speak up. My dad was red-faced, more worked up than I think I’d ever seen him. Beside him, a short man in a blue hospital security uniform looked sheepish and uncertain.

“I understand you are unwanted here,” the guard said.

“I want him here,” I said. “Dad, you’re going too far.”

Gavin stood up to face them. “I understand you’re upset—”

“DO YOU?” Dad’s voice boomed through the walls and Mom jumped.

“I do,” Gavin said, his voice even.

“Escort him out!” Dad said to the guard.

“Why don’t we just take a little walk?” the guard said. “Let Dad here cool down.”

“Can’t Dad be the one to take the walk?” Gavin crossed his arms across his chest, staring down both the men.

“Gavin, please,” I said. “This is too much.”

Mom dropped her arms. “You know, maybe everybody should leave. Corabelle needs her rest.” She picked up her knitting bag. “Arthur, let’s go. Gavin, come down too. This is not good for her recovery.”

“Text me,” I told Gavin. “I have a new phone, same number.”

He turned around, his eyes searching mine.

I nodded encouragingly. “Text me.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” the guard said. “Let’s all head out.”

Mom took Dad’s arm and pulled him to the door. He walked stiffly, still angry. Gavin let the guard follow behind them, then pulled his phone out and held it in his fist. “Five minutes?” he asked.

“Sounds good,” I said.

When they were all out of the room, I felt the energy drain out of me. It had been such a good day, full of progress. I got to eat normal things, walk around, get the tubes out. Now if only I could get all the people I loved to get along. We’d once had such a happy harmony, when Finn was on the way. Nothing had been right since he died. Maybe I was just fooling myself that life could ever be as it once was.

7: Gavin

I had been expecting that scene with Corabelle’s parents since I was fifteen years old.

The world silenced as I cut the motor to my Harley a few blocks down from the hospital. The guard had watched me drive off, so I knew I had to get a little bit away. I’d just park it here at a convenience store and walk back.

When they figured out Corabelle and I were having sex, they didn’t flip. They had already gotten Corabelle on the shot anyway. They seemed to know what was about to happen. They were always involved and watchful, but not overly smothering.

When she got pregnant, I expected an explosion, maybe even a punch to the jaw, the sort of thing my own old man would have done, if I’d been around him at all anymore. But no, they maintained the same stalwart calm, just talking out the practicalities of living arrangements and college and supporting ourselves.

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