The nurse picked up her iPad. “You’re allowed water, so I’ll get you some. And a soft breakfast will come in a few hours.” She flicked through several screens. “Pain meds are in your IV for now.” She looked up. “I think you’re all set. Is the bed in a good position?”
“Can I go a little higher?”
She nodded and reached for the button. “Just don’t tire yourself out.”
My head came up a few inches, and breathing was a lot easier again.
“Thank you,” Gavin said.
She headed for the door. “Buzz me if you need anything.”
He waited for her to disappear, then said, “Alone at last.”
“Next time I try to be all dramatic, just tie me to something until I calm down.” I felt a cough coming on and gripped the sides of the beds. The gurgle in my chest was something I could not get used to, and as the tickle grew into a full-on expulsion, I could tell goo was going to come out.
I pointed at the sink area of the room. “Paper towel,” I wheezed, trying not to suck the gunk back into my throat.
Gavin jumped up and snatched several sheets, hurtling back to me with a spryness I remembered seeing on the track field, back when he’d been forced to do a sport by his father. He’d been great, except that doing it for his dad was a huge demotivator.
“Turn around,” I told him, and when he was looking the other way, spat the gunk into the paper towel. This had been going on since midnight, when I woke up with the urge to expel the contents of my chest. I balled up the towel and shoved it under the sheets. “Okay.”
When he settled back in the chair, his face was distressed. “You all right?”
“It’s got to come out.” I shrugged. “Hospitals are not sexy.”
He grabbed my hand. “You’ll get out.”
“I was hoping to be in class this morning. It’s Monday. Astronomy.”
“No chance of that.”
I sank back against the pillow, watching him. I couldn’t get enough of that black mop, those sideburns, his jaw. Sometimes I felt I was seeing him for the first time.
He played with my fingers, working up to something. “So, what happened? Why were you out of your room?”
I figured he’d get to that. “Parents. Dad.”
He nodded. “He’s definitely holding a grudge.” He shifted to one side and tugged a key ring from his pocket. My keys. “I gave him these back, but then he returned them, saying I was doing a good job watching your place.”
“That’s progress.” I had planned to let his disappearance go, but the keys had been a big factor in everything that happened. “So, Friday? Where did you go?”
His expression never wavered. He had always been better at holding in his feelings than I was, but normally he didn’t keep things from me. This time, though, I could see he had something to hide.
“Elbows in a grease pit.”
His jaw tensed. “One of the women — the paid ones — tried to take advantage of me. I had to deal with it.”
Bitterness that he’d ever been with women like that burned in my belly. “How?”
“Just got me tangled up in her family business. I got out of it. It’s fine now.”
I noticed now a nick on his chin, a cut surrounded by a bruise. “Come here,” I said.
He leaned in, expecting I might want to kiss him, but I ran my fingers across the injury. “Were you in a fight?”
“I get in a few scrapes here and there.”
“It’s in the past, Corabelle. I play pool. I place bets. Sometimes drunk people get pissy.” He sounded exasperated with me.
“This is not the past. This is now.” The extra volume in my voice caused another coughing fit to begin and I sucked in air, pointing back to the paper towels.
This time he pulled the whole metal container off the wall and set it on the rolling table by the bed. Typical Gavin.
I snatched a couple from the bottom and scraped my tongue with the rough paper to extract the goo. God, this was too much.
He sat in the chair, looking at the floor, waiting for the spell to pass. I balled up yet another round and shoved it in my stash.
Gavin must have seen that movement, as he hopped up and snagged a trash can from the corner.
“Thanks.” I dumped the balled-up paper into the bin.
He stared at the plastic container for a moment as if he wanted to comment on it, then set it back down. As much as I wanted to ask him what was on his mind, if the whole towel thing was too disgusting for him, I didn’t want to know. Probably the same as he didn’t want to know how I felt about what happened Friday.
Before I could prompt him again about the bruise, he changed the subject. “Jenny came to see you.” He reached around for his jacket on the back of his chair. “She brought you this.” He passed over a packet of chocolate-covered espresso beans. “I didn’t even know you liked them.”
“I do.” I held the packet on my belly and lay back. I was so tired. Maybe it was best to just let it go for now. “Remember how you came over that night, the first night, and just talked to me?”
He leaned forward on the bed, running his fingers up and down my arm. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget anything about that night.”
“Can you do it again?” I closed my eyes. “Elementary school. That would be good.” The past was easier. Simple times.