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I stood up. “Don’t mind me. Just was getting my own friendly therapy chat.”

“No, no, I have rounds. I’ll stop by later.” Darion moved to the door. “You’ll see her at the end of the day. Review the notes. Then we can talk.” He paused, as if sensing he was not extending all the courtesy he should. “What time is convenient for you?”

Tina glanced at the page. “She’s coming in at four, so maybe three-thirty?”

Darion nodded. “Yes. Great. I’ll come by again then.” He seemed to have an inspiration. “Unless you’d like to go down for some coffee.”

“I don’t drink coffee,” Tina said. “And you probably shouldn’t either.” She leaned forward conspiratorially. “My doctor said it’s bad for me.”

“Yes, of course.” He straightened his tie. “Here, then. Three-thirty.”

“Sharp,” Tina said. “My time is valuable.”

I hid a smile behind my hand. Tina was a real piece of work.

Darion nodded again. “Yes. Will do. Thank you.” He opened the door and disappeared.

When it was closed, I burst out, “Tina! Did that hot doctor just ask you to coffee?”

She shrugged. “Doctors. Lawyers. Musicians. Day workers. People are people.”

“You’re not interested?”

She folded up the note he’d given her and stuck it in her skirt pocket. “I might do him. Once. Twice if he is worth it.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s about as far as it goes with me.”

“Since the baby.” I got that. I hadn’t dated either until Gavin returned.

“Since forever. I was screwed up before, and I’m more screwed up now.” She picked up the stacks of paper and moved them to the counter. “Some therapist, eh? Or ‘art teacher,’ I guess.”

“He insulted you.”

“He called it like he saw it. I’m not exactly more than a glorified babysitter.”

“You seriously think so? I saw you with Albert. You were brilliant.”

“So I have a few moments. I’m not going to interest Dr. Darion any longer than anyone else.” She came around the table. “Anyway, time to get you back. You ready? Gavin’s probably already tearing the hospital apart looking for you.”

“You don’t have to take me up.”

Tina came up and threaded her arm through mine. “Of course I do. Because if Gavin isn’t behaving, I’m the only one scrappy enough to actually make a dent in that pretty face.”

We headed back down the halls, past the cheerful paintings and rooms full of critically ill children, and once again I remembered that we all had our difficulties, our challenges, our heartaches, and our tragedies. The most important thing was letting people in, allowing others to be there for you, and no matter how dark things got, to harbor that one last light.

29: Corabelle

“There she is!” My mom’s voice carried over the general hubbub in my room as Tina dropped me off at the door.

Inside, my parents, Jenny, Gavin, and a nurse waited.

“Go on another jaunt?” the nurse asked, leading me back to the bed to sit down so she could strap the blood pressure cuff on my arm.

“I’m feeling fine,” I said.

“Your last X-ray looked very good,” the nurse said. “I think we’re going to send you home with the last round of antibiotics. We’ll want you to follow up with your regular doctor in three days.”

“Okay.” The cuff swelled against my arm. I felt surrounded by people. I looked over the nurse at Gavin, standing in the corner, his face unreadable, his arms crossed.

Jenny bounced around the room, picking up books, gathering the trinkets and gifts that had accumulated. “I guess we didn’t have to do much packing after all!”

“I loved your little apartment,” Mom said. “So cozy.”

The nurse released the cuff.

“Can I go back to class tomorrow?” I asked.

“I’d hold off a couple more days. We can get a letter for you.”

“She’s not going to obey you,” Jenny said. “That girl’s got a hard-on for school.” She clapped her hands over her mouth, eyes like saucers as she stared at my parents. “I mean, she loves class.”

“Then you make sure she wears one of these,” the nurse said, tugging another hideous blue surgical mask from a box under the sink. “I leave it to you to make sure it happens.”

Jenny accepted the mask by the string, holding it like it was a dead rat. “Whatever you say, nurse-lady.” She turned it around. “Maybe I could break out my BeDazzler. It could use a few accessories.”

My father harrumphed and even the nurse barely held in her laugh. “We’ll be back with some papers and discharge instructions.”

I nodded. “Thank you.”

The room felt more manageable when she left. My father clapped his hands. “So, a celebratory dinner?”

My mom hopped up from the sofa. “Arthur, she can’t be out in public. The germs!”

“So, celebratory takeout at your apartment?” Dad amended.

“You want me to go get your car?” Gavin asked.

“I have mine!” Jenny said. “And Gavin has his Harley.”

“His what?” My dad’s voice echoed off the walls.

“Uh-oh,” Jenny said. “Sorry.”

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