Corabelle nodded, her eyes watery from the coughing.
The doctor stepped away from the bed. “I’ll be checking on her again. Nice to meet you.”
When he was gone, Mrs. Rotheford sat next to Corabelle. “Thank God you’re all right.”
Corabelle took a couple deep breaths, then said, “I’ll be fine, Mom. Gavin’s back.”
“I see that.”
“He’s been good.”
“I’m sure he has.”
“Please don’t be mad at him.”
Her mother hesitated. “I won’t.”
“Talk to Dad.”
She pursed her red lips. “He can be stubborn.”
Corabelle glanced at the door. “Where did he go?”
“I made him go get flowers. He was being obstinate.”
Corabelle smiled. “We should keep him on errands.”
The nurse came in. “I know you want these now.” She held up a cup with two pills and another with water. “Let’s get you up a bit.”
Mrs. Rotheford moved out of the way as the nurse helped Corabelle take the meds. “So glad to see you up and around.” She glanced at the clock. “We’ll see how you’re doing tonight and maybe give you a little walk, see if we can take that catheter out.”
Corabelle’s face flushed red, and I knew that was for me, not her mom. Hell, I didn’t care what sort of tubes she had or where they went, as long as she was all right.
The nurse hustled out, passing Mr. Rotheford carrying the most absurdly large bouquet, one that dwarfed the ones Jenny and I had brought. I bit my lip to avoid laughing. Whatever made him feel better.
“Honey, you’re awake!” he said, setting the flowers on the table in front of the others.
“Hi, Dad.” Corabelle pushed her hair away from her face self-consciously. She always did care how she looked around her father. Her eyes darted nervously from him to me.
He’d apparently decided to go the pretend-the-jerk-isn’t-in-the-room route, keeping his back to me. “I heard you went for an ill-advised swim,” he said.
“Seemed a bit warm out,” she said. “Thought I’d take a little dip.” She sucked in a breath like she might cough again, and I almost jumped up, but she just cleared her throat.
I realized I was gripping the arms of the chair like I was about to be electrocuted. I forced myself to relax. I wouldn’t let Corabelle’s parents bully me into leaving. But I knew they had every right to be pissed off. I’d be more worried if they weren’t.
“We’ve been trying to call you, sweet pea,” Mr. Rotheford said. “I guess you don’t have your phone anymore?”
“It’s in rice,” Corabelle said. “We’re trying to save it.”
“I’ll get you another.” He settled on a stool, still with his back to me.
“Do you guys want to stay at my apartment?” she asked.
“Oh no, we’ll get a hotel close by,” her mother said. “Unless you need us to be there.”
“No, no. Gavin can check on it.” She looked around her father at me. “You have my keys?”
“I do,” I said, and I could see Mr. Rotheford’s back straighten in disapproval.
He turned around. “I can take those.”
“No, Dad, Gavin can handle it,” Corabelle said.
Corabelle struggled to sit up. “No, I’m the one who is insisting.”
I wasn’t going to be pushed around. “I listen to Corabelle.”
He stood up, pointing a finger at my nose. “Listen here. I know what you did to my daughter. I was there to pick her up after you took off without any word to anybody. I don’t know how you insinuated yourself back into her life, but I’m watching you.”
He towered over me, but I didn’t challenge him, didn’t stand up. He needed this moment. I knew to let him have it. I tried to imagine having a daughter who got knocked up by some teenage lowlife and then all the things that played out for us, and I agreed that I deserved whatever they wanted to dish out. But I would not let Corabelle go, not now, not ever.
“Sir, I expect you to,” I said.
Corabelle searched for the bed button, which had slipped down the side of the mattress. I reached around her irate father and set it by her pillow. She moved the bed up a few notches, doing her Corabelle determination thing, aiming to not only do what the doctor said, but exceed his expectation on her recovery.
“We need to check in somewhere,” Mrs. Rotheford said.
“There’s a hotel on the next block,” I told them. “Easy walk.”
Mr. Rotheford still stood, stiff and angry, in the middle of the room.
“What’s it called, Gavin?” her mother asked.
“The Elms. Just go out the main entrance and turn right. I’d drive you, but I—” Maybe I shouldn’t bring up the motorcycle just now. “I would need to fetch Corabelle’s car.”
“We can walk it,” Mrs. Rotheford said. She turned back to the bed. “We’ll be back in the morning. Call us if you need us.”
Her father finally relaxed his shoulders. “I’ll pick up a new phone for you. We’ll be here.”
Corabelle nodded, then turned back to me, her eyes like a fawn’s, soft and dark. “Can you stay a minute?”
“Of course,” I said.
I stepped aside as her parents kissed her and left the room, their suitcases trailing behind them.