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“You had a complication called pleural effusion, where fluid gets trapped in the lining of your lungs. You went into respiratory arrest.”

She moved what I assumed was the disc of a stethoscope to another part of my chest. “Can you breathe deeply for me?”

I tried to focus on drawing in a breath, but the sharp pain was so acute that I gasped and let the air out too quickly.

She placed a comforting hand on my shoulder. “That’s okay. Relax.”

The hand and the disc withdrew and now a warm cloth covered my eyes. The lighter voice said, “We’ll get this cleared up.”

I was a mess. Another day gone. Definitely not going to class tomorrow. I wondered if Gavin had tried to come back. Tears pricked my eyes.

The cloth withdrew. “Try to open now.”

I blinked, still feeling the stickiness, but now my lashes were willing to part. The room was dim, and two women stood over me, one in a white coat, the other in sea-green scrubs.

“We want to see where we are with the effusion,” the doctor said, and I was able now to match her voice to her body. No Large Marge, but she was definitely tall, stately, and older than I expected, her gray hair tight in a French twist. “I’m Dr. Adams. I’ve been with you since you came to ICU. Apparently you went on a little expedition and collapsed?”

That’s right. The bereavement room. The pacifier. I nodded. “Is Gavin here?”

The doctor looked over at the nurse.

“She must mean the young man we found sleeping by your bed last night,” the nurse said. “Dark hair, brutally handsome?”

He’d been here! “Yes.”

“He’s in the waiting room. So are your parents. We haven’t let them back.”

“Are they — fighting?”

The nurse patted my arm. “They are worried about you.”

The doctor picked up an iPad and tapped a few things in. “You’re going to X-ray. I’ll come by later today and we’ll see how you look. Hopefully we can get you back to a regular room again soon.”

“Thank you,” I said.

The doctor moved beyond the curtain.

“Will we go by the waiting room?” I asked the nurse.

“No, we have a back way.”

My face must have fallen, because she said, “If it looks good, you’ll be able to see him.”

“Is my phone here?”

She shook her head. “All your things are with your parents.”

Great. Thankfully I had a pass code on the phone or they might have deleted anything Gavin wrote.

“I’m going to load up a few items,” she said, clamping my IV to the side of the bed, “and we’ll be on our way.”

I closed my eyes, still fighting the heaviness of my chest, wishing I would just get better. But Gavin was here, had been with me. He wasn’t gone. I didn’t care where he’d been, just that he was back.

17: Gavin

We’d been sitting in those chairs all day, but nobody had spoken a word.

Corabelle’s parents sat in the far corner of the ICU waiting area, her mom knitting and her dad reading the newspaper for what had to be the tenth time.

I had given up on contacting her when I sent a message and heard her phone chirp from her mother’s bag. Rosa had messaged me three times too, but I’d found a way to make her ringtone silent and the messages automatically move to a buried folder, so I didn’t notice her anymore.

The nurse who’d found me sleeping on the floor by Corabelle’s bed had been nice about it. She led me out into the waiting room and said the staff would let me know if she could be visited.

The doctors never spoke directly to me, but the waiting room was small enough that when they stopped by to update Corabelle’s parents, I could hear. I knew she’d been put on the ventilator only as a precaution, to help her lungs, and that it was coming out sometime today.

I felt utterly helpless.

Jenny breezed through the door, pausing to look around, then hurried toward me. “Oh my God, how is she?”

Corabelle’s parents looked up, watching us, eyes on Jenny’s vivid pink mop, wild and unrestrained above her green coat. She looked like a Pez dispenser.

“Still in ICU.”

“You said that in your text. But really. What happened?”

I shrugged, but didn’t miss the way Corabelle’s mom stiffened, her knitting needles still. She knew something about what had led to the relapse, or complication, or whatever the hell it was. “Ask her parents. They had me thrown out.”

Jenny followed my line of sight to the Rothefords. “Huh,” she said, her voice low now. “I can see where she gets her looks, but what is with the geektastic dad?”

I stifled a laugh. “He’s very teacherly, isn’t he?”

“Is he?”

“Nah. Banking or accounting or something like that.”

“I can see it.” She turned back to me. “I thought she was getting better.”

“She was. Sitting up. Walking.” And responding, I thought, remembering the night after I snuck back in. Damn. Hopefully that hadn’t put her over the edge.

Jenny propped her black fuzzy boots on a chair across the aisle. “She was pretty upset at you yesterday. You weren’t responding to her texts. She seemed to think she was getting out, but you had her keys.”

“She was in ICU when I got here.”

“What happened to you yesterday?”

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