I glanced up at her parents, who stared at her like she was going to disappear any minute. “You heard about that?”
“It was quite the talk of the nurses.” Her eyes grew wide and she sucked in a breath, then coughed weakly. Her next breath was wet and rattling, and seemed to take all her strength to pull in.
I took her hand, and she squeezed it.
Her mother held on to her other arm above the IV. “You shouldn’t talk,” she said. “You still have a long way to go.”
Corabelle nodded and closed her eyes. “No more taking off down hallways.”
I frowned. What was she talking about?
Her parents looked shaken and guilty. Something had happened. I lifted her hand to my lips. “I’ll be right here. I’m not leaving for a minute.”
She opened her eyes again. “I know.” She turned her head to her dad. “Be nice to him, please?”
Mr. Rotheford nodded, his eyes glistening. “Of course, baby.”
“You used to be close.” Her voice began to trail off.
The nurse came up behind us. “Let’s let her rest. You all should take a little break and go home. There won’t be any more visiting her until tomorrow.”
I laid her hand back on the bed, clenching my jaw to keep from getting too emotional.
Her parents, ever obedient, followed the nurse right out, but I lingered as long as I could get away with, until she stood in the doorway and said, “It’s time.”
Mr. and Mrs. Rotheford waited out by the desk. When I came out, he passed me Corabelle’s keys. “Seems like you’ve been taking care of things.”
I held the heavy ring in my palm. “I have tried, sir.”
“We’ll see you tomorrow, I trust?”
“All right then.” He turned to the door and walked with his wife over to the elevators.
I stared at the keys and the silver butterfly on a chain that held them together. I wasn’t sure what had made him change his mind. It felt like that moment in the parking lot of the funeral home, when I was screwing up, walking out, and he had told me I could do it, I could help his daughter.
I would not let him down.
The lights recessed into the ceiling changed in style and brightness as we moved from the ICU through the hallways and back to one of the main floors. Two guys in blue scrubs controlled the bed, and I forced myself to keep my eyes on the panels above to avoid feeling embarrassed as we rolled down hallways where normal healthy people could walk past. My face was half covered with a surgical mask. No one would know if they were being protected from me, or me from them.
The nurse assured me she would let Gavin know that I had moved. Even though it was six a.m. and way before normal visiting hours, he was out there, she said. To cheer me up, they had put the words “Gavin Report” on a whiteboard by my head, crossing out “On the floor” and “Behind the curtain” to say “In the chairs.”
We trundled down a long hallway, different from the one I had been on before, and one of the orderlies opened a wide door. This room was similar in layout to the last one, but instead of gray walls, it was painted a soothing slate blue.
The team worked to set up the IV stands and blood pressure cuff and oxygen monitor. I wished I could get the oxygen line out of my nose, but the doctor told me as they discharged me from ICU that it would probably stay another day. They had been giving me suction treatments, a horrifying vacuum through a tube they stuck down my nose. I was not going to let a single soul in the room during those and hoped they would be done with them soon.
“Can we get you anything?” one of the men asked.
I shook my head.
“Your nurse will check in with you soon.” He glanced at the whiteboard. “Looks like you’re getting Suzie. She’s a good one.”
After they left, the room was quiet and still. I didn’t have any books. No one to talk to. Not even my phone to check. Solitude I was familiar with, but having no type of diversion was going to kill me.
A bouncy young nurse in scrubs emblazoned with ducks breezed in. “Hello, Corabelle,” she said as she checked all the tubes and wires. “I’m Suzie. I’ll be with you until evening.”
I stared at her ducks, my throat thick. The cartoon images were either the same brand as the ones I had put on Finn that last time, or remarkably similar. I had avoided prints like that ever since, but here they were, leaning over my hospital bed. Maybe they were a sign that he was watching, like the butterfly by the ambulance door.
“Is Gavin coming?” I asked.
Suzie’s face puckered. “I’m not sure. Is that your…husband?” She hesitated, I knew, because I didn’t seem old enough to be married.
“Yes,” I said. Why not? “He was in the ICU waiting room.”
“I can buzz over there and make sure they tell him you’ve moved.”
But all that was unnecessary, as after a quick knock, his dark head peered through the doorway.
“We’re here,” Suzie said. “You must be the husband.”
His eyebrows shot up and a mischievous grin crossed his face. My heart caught, and I caught a brief flash of what it had been like to be in high school, without any doubts about him at all, just reveling in the harmony we always found when we were together.
“I am indeed.” He strode into the room and dragged a chair next to the bed. “You’re looking better,” he said to me. The back of his hand brushed my cheek. “You’re pink again.”