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She didn’t want to admit it, just kept a steady pressure of her hand on my forearm.

I leaned in and kissed her hair, withdrawing gently and tugging the gown back over her legs. “We can do more later.” I shifted and the bed complained with a squeaky groan. “When I don’t have to worry about breaking something expensive.”

She smiled a little, her eyes fluttering closed. I tucked her head into my neck, that spot she always loved to nestle into, and waited for her breathing to settle. I tried not to picture the glassed room, the proud father, and the woman who was waiting for him somewhere in these same walls. He would close in next to her like this, and lay the baby on her chest. And their moment would be different from any I had ever known.

I reined in the emotion and shoved it down. No use thinking on things I couldn’t change. Corabelle had fallen asleep, and I edged away from her. The notebook sat open on the side table, so I took a pen and scrawled a quick note — I love you. See you tomorrow.

Then I slipped from her room, down the quieting halls, and back to my motorcycle and my own empty apartment.

8: Corabelle

My father sat on the sofa by the window, sullen as Mom planned their day. I had convinced her to visit the museums in Balboa Park, insisting she bring me a set of note cards from the gift store in the Museum of Art, one you couldn’t get anywhere else. I told her I had thank-you notes to send and only those cards would do.

A gift basket had arrived from Cool Beans, a bunch of coffees and chocolates and a couple magazines. Jason, who often worked with me at the coffee shop, was undoubtedly the one who inserted a packet of Hot Pumpkin Spice tea, his new nickname for me ever since I’d started dating again. Better that than the old one, Frozen Latte.

I was anxious for them to leave, as I knew the social worker was bound to return. I did not want them there — I didn’t even want them to know she had been coming by.

“Are you going to take a taxi?” I asked, hoping to hurry them along.

“I think that will be easier than the bus,” Mom said. “Arthur, are you ready?”

“I still think you’re just clearing me out,” he said.

“I am indeed,” I said. “I can’t study with you hovering.”

“I was hoping to catch the doctor, see if you would get discharged today,” Mom said.

I tried not to scream with frustration. “I can handle it. I am the patient, after all.”

They stood up finally and came over to hug me. “Should we go by your place for some real clothes, just in case?” Mom asked.

I almost said, “I can ask Gavin to do it,” but I just shook my head. “We’ll arrange it when they tell me it’s time to go.”

Dad still frowned as Mom led him out the door. When the room was clear, I settled back in relief. I was weaker than I was letting on, and sometimes, if I got tense, a panic came over me like I wouldn’t be able to breathe in at all. But that morning when I blew into the stupid ball and tube contraption, I kept all the balls up for several seconds. The nurse seemed pleased.

Now if only I could get this interview over with. I had a niggling feeling that the social worker was a problem, that she might hold me back.

I read one of my lit assignments for a while until someone knocked at the door.

I summoned my cheery voice and called out, “Come in!”

Sure enough, Sabrina came in looking frazzled, her dress splattered with paint on the shoulders and sleeves.

“What happened to you?” I asked.

“Art therapy.” She smoothed the front of her blouse, grimacing at the blotches of color. “An apron wasn’t enough protection.”

“Little kids?”

She settled on a stool. “That would make sense, wouldn’t it? No, a few patients who were frustrated with my incompetence at the paint spinner.”

I choked back a laugh. “Are you an artist too?”

“No, I am not. Stick figures are a stretch. But one of our major donors bequeathed a large sum for an art therapy program, and I got stuck trying to implement it. We’re trying to hire someone with an art background, but the therapy component means we need someone who is also well schooled in helping patients work through grief issues.”

I immediately thought of Tina, who traveled to various colleges to speak about loss, and who had also just finished her degree in art and hadn’t found a job. “Does the person have to be a licensed therapist?”

“Oh, I doubt we could attract one of those with this job and pay scale. I’ve been searching for someone for a couple weeks.”

I reached for my backpack. I was pretty sure I had stuck Tina’s card in there after I drove her to the airport last week. God, that seemed like a lifetime ago now. But she had helped me. Maybe I could do something for her. “I know a girl who might be perfect. She does speaking tours and just got her art degree.” I dug around and found the pale pink card.

Sabrina took it from me. “Interesting. I’ll give her a call.”

“She does suicide prevention.” As soon as I said it, I regretted it.

“So you went to a suicide talk?” Sabrina asked.

Damn. “Actually, no. I was asked to drive her to the airport after one. She was nice, and had some helpful things to say. She also lost a baby as a teenager.”

Sabrina nodded, her thick bangs falling onto the rims of her dramatic glasses. “What did she say that was so helpful?”

God, what to mention that wasn’t incriminating? “That I should give Gavin another chance. He was the father of the baby. He left me after the baby died and just recently came back into my life.”

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