“Well, it’s silly. We can’t even get your clothes. Gavin is MIA — again — big surprise.”
Mom’s needles clicked faster. She had to be upset about Dad’s tirade. Her husband was becoming something he’d never been — a gloating pain in the ass.
I sure didn’t know what to do. Nobody could tell me when I was getting out. And even if they did, Dad had a point. Gavin had my keys.
I’d forced myself to slow down my texts to one per hour. He hadn’t answered any since early afternoon. Dinner was coming soon. Even if I did get out, the complex office was closed. Without their backup key, I wouldn’t be able to get in my own place.
Maybe I could stay with Jenny. I would not survive a night in a hotel room with my parents.
“Come on, Maybelle, let’s go. Where is your place?” He directed the question at me, but I refused to look up at him, staring at the phone, willing it to beep.
“Corabelle?” Dad’s voice was so unlike him, stern, edgy.
I heard Mom stand up, the bag rustling as she put her knitting away. “Arthur, let her have some peace, at least until tomorrow.”
“And what about after that?” Dad’s voice was rising. “And the day after that and the day after that?”
I would not lift my head. I knew what would come next. He would bring it down, try to appeal to me, play the daddy. We’d been through this cycle several times today already.
I dropped my feet to the floor, clutching the phone. I had to get out of the room, go somewhere. I didn’t even care about the gown. I passed through the door, searching for an escape, a place to be where everything was silent and at peace. My mom called after me but I kept going, stumbling past the nurse station, taking every possible turn, disappearing through the maze. My breathing was too rapid, and painful, but I made myself go faster, put more distance between myself and my parents.
The halls all looked the same, and when a nurse looked at me questioningly as I hurried down the corridor, I forced myself to slow down and look normal. The end of the ward was ahead, and even though I knew I was unwise to cut through another section of the hospital since I might attract attention, I pushed through the doors and entered the hub of the hospital that housed the elevators and the entrances to other sections.
I crossed to another set of doors. This hall was silent, no bustle, no people. A coughing fit came over me from the sudden movements, and I leaned against the wall, hacking and sucking in breaths. For a moment, spots flashed across my vision, as familiar as my intentional blackouts used to be, but I breathed through it, clutching my chest until it subsided.
There were no nurses, no station here, so no one noticed me. I just wanted a place to sit for a minute, to be alone. I continued walking along the corridor, thinking maybe these were offices, until I passed a partially opened door and stopped dead.
The room held a normal full-sized bed, a sofa, and a little table with two chairs. I pushed inside, my chest so tight I could barely breathe. I knew this room. I knew what it was for.
A family had just been there, I could tell. The covers were rumpled but not pulled back. The impressions of their bodies were still imprinted on the fabric. Had they held a baby? A child? Had he already died or did they stay here with him until he passed?
A pitcher of water sat untouched, the condensation beading on the glass. I walked around the bed, looking at the calming painting on the wall, abstract and soft. The wallpaper was sea green, and the bedspread a matching green with yellow. The room we had stayed in with baby Finn had been done in blues.
Something round and squishy collapsed beneath my nubby-bottomed hospital sock. I lifted my foot.
A pacifier, the hospital kind, with no cute characters or colorful plastic backs. Just the brownish nub firmly attached to a wide flexible ring.
I picked it up and clutched it tight. Finn had never gotten a pacifier. He’d always had tubes in his mouth. This baby must have been bigger, older, and at some point he must have seemed fine.
My legs gave out and I sank to the floor on my knees. Her husband wouldn’t leave her. He’d hold her hand during the funeral. They would cry together. They’d go home and look over the baby’s room. They’d fold up the little burp cloths and put away the tiny onesies. They would sit together in the living room and remember anticipating his arrival. Sometimes, even in their grief, they might smile.
He would not leave her to do all that alone, to never smile.
I couldn’t bear it.
The phone was still tight in my hand, silent and dark. He hadn’t called. He wasn’t calling. He might never call.
The garage had closed an hour ago. He wasn’t at work. No classes today.
Where was he?
He wouldn’t leave me again. He wouldn’t.
Fear rose up that something had happened to him. I pictured his Harley skidding on the freeway, cars coming at him on all sides, running over his chest—
I had to stop this.
But it wouldn’t go. I could see the ambulance coming for him, loading him up. A crew trying to stop the blood streaming out of him. A monitor strapped to him, his heartbeat going in and out on the screen.
The beeps, slowing down. The alarm, going off.
I curled my knees up to my chest and held on tightly. I couldn’t think this way. I had to stay straight. But what other explanation was there? He’d ignored all my calls. Even if his phone was dead, he could have called from work or just come over when he got off. He would know I was worried.