“Yep,” I lie. I tip my chin toward the door. “You’ve been up and walking around.”
His mouth twists into a guilty frown. “Just a little bit. I had to pee anyway, and take another pill.”
I climb onto the bed and set the bag of sandwiches between us, pulling my legs underneath me. “How do you feel?”
“A lot better,” he says. “I mean, I’m still trapped here, but it hurts less.”
“Good. I brought you a sandwich.” I tip the plastic bag upside down and the paper-wrapped sandwich slides out of it.
He takes his and slightly smiles as he unwraps it. “A Reuben?”
“I know it’s not the same thing as stealing it from Delallo,” I say. “But if you want, I’ll put it in the fridge and go to the bathroom long enough for you to hobble over and take it.”
“That’s okay,” he says. “In my heart, it’s stolen from Delallo, and some would say that’s what really matters.”
“We’re learning so many important lessons on this trip,” I say. “P.S., I left Nikolai a voicemail on my way home about the air situation. Pretty sure he’s screening my calls.”
“Oh!” Alex says, brightening. “I forgot to tell you! I got it down to seventy-eight.”
“Seriously?” I spring off the bed and go check. “That’s amazing, Alex!”
He laughs. “This is a pathetic thing to celebrate.”
“The theme of this trip is Taking What We Can Get,” I say as I sit back down beside him.
“I thought it was Aspire,” Alex says.
“Aspire to reach seventy-five degrees.”
“Aspire to fit inside the swimming pool at some point.”
“Aspire to get away with the murder of Nikolai.”
“Aspire to get out of bed.”
“You poooooor thing,” I moan. “Trapped in bed with a book—your personal hell!—while I rub menthol on your back and hand deliver you your ideal breakfast and lunch.”
Alex makes the puppy face.
“Unfair!” I say. “You know I can’t use self-defense against you right now!”
“Okay,” he says. “I’ll stop until you’re comfortable causing me bodily harm again.”
“When did this start happening?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” he says. “I guess a couple months after Croatia?”
The word lands like a firework in the middle of my chest. I try to keep my face placid but have no idea how I’m faring. He, for his part, shows no sign of discomfort. “Do you know why?” I recover.
“I hunch a lot?” he says. “Especially when I’m reading or on my computer. A massage therapist told me my hip muscles were probably shortening, pulling on my back. I don’t know. My doctor just prescribed me muscle relaxants, then left before I could think of any questions.”
“And it happens a lot?” I say.
“Not a lot,” he says. “This is the fourth or fifth time. It happens less when I’m exercising regularly. I guess sitting on the plane and in the car and all that . . . and then the chair bed.”
After a moment, he asks, “You okay?”
“I guess I just . . .” I trail off, unsure how much I want to say. “I feel like I missed a lot.”
His head tilts back against the pillows, and his eyes wander down my face. “Me too.”
A half-hearted laugh rises out of me. “No, you didn’t. My life’s exactly the same.”
“That’s not true,” he says. “You cut your hair.”
This time, the laugh is more genuine, and a contained smile curves over Alex’s lips. “Yeah, well,” I say, fighting a blush as I feel his gaze move over my bare shoulder, down the length of my arm to where my hand rests on the bed near his knee. “I didn’t get a house or buy my own dishwasher or anything. I doubt I’ll ever be able to.”
His eyebrow arches, and his eyes retrain on my face. “You don’t want to,” he says quietly.
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” I say, but honestly I’m unsure. That’s the problem. I haven’t wanted the things I used to want, the things I wanted when I made just about every big life decision I’ve made. I’m still paying off student loans for a degree I didn’t finish, and even if I saved myself another year-and-a-half’s worth of tuition, lately I find myself wondering if that was the right choice.
I fled Linfield. I fled the University of Chicago, and if I’m being honest, I sort of fled Alex when everything happened. He fled me too, but I can’t place all the blame on him.
I was terrified. I ran. And I left it up to him to fix it.
“Remember when we went to San Francisco, and we kept saying ‘when in Rome’ whenever we wanted to buy something?” I ask.
“Maybe,” he says, sounding uncertain. I’m guessing my expression must be something along the lines of crushed, because he apologetically adds, “I don’t have a great memory.”
“Yeah,” I say. “That makes sense.”
He coughs. “Do you want to watch something, or are you going back out?”
“No,” I say, “let’s watch something. If I go back to the Palm Springs Art Museum, I think the FBI will be waiting for me.”
“Why, did you steal something priceless?” Alex asks.
“I won’t know until I have it appraised,” I joke. “Hopefully this Claude Moan-ay guy turns out to be a big deal.”