He let go of me, and I was relieved to have found the right thing to say. I led them down a corridor, past the nurse station, and along another hall. When we stopped in front of Corabelle’s door, Mrs. Rotheford said, “Arthur, maybe you should go down and get some flowers for her.”
“She’s probably sleeping,” I said. “You want me to check?”
Mr. Rotheford pushed past me. “I can see that on my own.”
He opened the door too quickly, and I winced when it rattled. I followed him into the room, and Corabelle was indeed still out, her hair streaming across the pillow like a goddess.
“Baby!” Mrs. Rotheford dropped her suitcase handle and rushed forward, grabbing for Corabelle’s hand. Her husband hung back now, seeming to grasp for the first time that his daughter was actually ill.
He looked around, seeming unable to keep his gaze on his pale child, eyes resting on the flowers I’d brought, plus Jenny’s, and the blue butterfly that now had the word “Finn” written across the body. His shoulders relaxed. I didn’t know what he was thinking, but I guessed he realized people did care, and that Corabelle was in good hands.
I sat down in the chair I’d come to think of as home and braced my elbows on my knees. I was bone-tired, I realized. But I’d been there before. I could keep going as well as the best of them.
Mrs. Rotheford perched on the edge of the bed, stroking Corabelle’s hand.
“I’ll go get those flowers now,” her father said. He moved their suitcases against the wall.
Her mother nodded absently, her eyes not leaving Corabelle’s face. I couldn’t imagine that fear, her only daughter in the hospital, but then I supposed I had lived it. We’d had so little time with our baby Finn. Nothing about being parents had ever felt normal for us.
When her husband was gone, she turned back to me. “So what happened?”
“She got caught in the Pacific Ocean and wound up with pneumonia.”
“You said that on the phone. I mean what really happened?”
My jaw clamped tight. I wanted Corabelle to have this conversation with them, not me. “She was awake earlier. I think she’ll be able to talk to you about it soon.”
The door opened, and one of the doctors came in. “I see we have new visitors,” he said. “I’m Dr. Snow.”
Mrs. Rotheford let go of Corabelle and turned to the doctor. “I’m her mother, Maybelle. How is she doing?”
“Well, we don’t recommend any more arctic swims.” He rounded the opposite side of the bed and leaned over to watch one of the monitors. “Now that she’s awakened, she’ll recover quickly. As long as she takes it easy, we’re through the worst of it.”
“Will she be okay?”
He consulted his iPad. “Pneumonia can be tricky. We have to watch for relapse and secondary complications. We did have to suction fluid from her lungs.”
“Oh my God.” She pressed a hand to her throat.
“She’s piped full of antibiotics. She’ll feel pretty bad for a day or two just from that. But she’s young and healthy. She’ll come out of this just fine.”
“Thank you,” Mrs. Rotheford said. “She’s all we have.”
The doctor pulled out a stethoscope. “From what I understand, that young man is the one you should be thanking. He pulled her out of the water and got her breathing.”
I stared at the floor, but I could feel her gaze on me.
“I’m still not clear what happened,” she said.
“She came in with a low body temperature, fluid in her lungs. Apparently she almost drowned.”
I glanced back up. The doctor was listening to her chest. “We kept her overnight due to the fluid, and her temperature spiked, signaling an infection.”
He moved the stethoscope back to his neck. “Corabelle, I’m going to ask you to wake up now. Open up for me.” He leaned in close to her face. “Corabelle? Let me see those eyes.”
She shifted, blinking, but as soon as her eyes opened, her forehead creased with pain, and she closed them again.
“Light hurts, doesn’t it? We’ll get the pain meds in you.” He held her hand with his gloved one. “Can you squeeze?”
She tightened her grip on him.
“Good.” He let go. “Can you tell me your name?”
“I’m Dr. Snow. I hear you decided to wake up earlier.”
“You have family here. Your mom.”
Corabelle opened her eyes again. “Mom?” she croaked.
Mrs. Rotheford leaned over on the bed. “I’m here, baby.”
“He was awful to Gavin.”
Her mother glanced over at me. “We’ll take care of that, darling. Don’t you worry about it.”
Corabelle turned her head. “Gavin?”
I stood up. “I’m still here.”
“Don’t let him chase you off.”
“No chance,” I said, but in the silence I felt we were all thinking the same thing — no one had to chase me four years ago.
Corabelle started another wheezing cough like she had when she woke up earlier. The doctor eased her on her side to listen to her back.
“She’s got a ways to go,” Dr. Snow said. “I’ll get the nurse down with something for the headache.” He helped her settle back on the bed. “If you can keep the bed up a bit, you’ll breathe a little easier.”
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