Rosie sat in her car seat, sleeping, and I was jealous of the amount of peacefulness that baby had. I wished life was that easy and peaceful. A hand slipped over mine, and I looked up to see Hazel standing over me. She gave me that small smile that I loved so much, and she sat down in the chair next to me. She held my hand, even though I hadn’t asked her to. She held on tight, and I was thankful for that. I needed a hand to hold. I needed something to stop the nerves from taking over my whole system, and a simple touch from that girl calmed the wildest parts of my soul.

“Thank you,” I murmured so quietly I wasn’t even certain she heard my words.

At that point, she held on tighter.

When the doctor came out, he didn’t look as ecstatic about the surgery as we would’ve liked. We all shot to our feet, Big Paw standing more quickly than anyone, and we approached him.

“What’s going on?” he barked at the doctor, sounding grumpier and more annoyed than ever before. “I don’t get why nobody has been out here to update us on my Holly! What kind of goddamn place is being run here, anyway? Is it run by apes? This is madness.”

I stepped closer to the doctor, who looked taken aback by Big Paw’s strong opinion. I gave the doctor a half grin. “Hey, sorry about that. My grandfather is just worried about his wife.”

The doctor tried to keep his composure, even though I was certain he had a few choice words for Big Paw. “It is okay. There were a few issues with the surgery, and we weren’t able to get in the way we’d hoped we could. There was a lot of fluid around the lungs, and we didn’t feel comfortable doing the surgery before we were able to drain some of that.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Big Paw huffed. “You’re telling me you all been back there all this time and haven’t even done anything?”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Parker, but we had to determine the best route to take for your wife’s safety. We didn’t want to cause more damage by opening her up on the table when she wasn’t physically strong enough to handle it. We’re going to work over the next few days and make sure that we get her to a stable place, and then we will revisit the surgery option.”

“Thank you,” I spat out before Big Paw could chew the doctor a new one. Judging by the fire in my grandfather’s eyes, he had a few choice words he would’ve likely used. “Can we see her?”

“She’s being transported back to her room. A nurse will notify you when you can go in.”

I thanked him again, and he stood there, almost seeming dumbfounded. I cocked an eyebrow. “Is there something else . . . ?”

“Uh, well, yes and no. Not about your grandmother, but . . .” He scratched at the side of his head. “You’re Ian Parker, right? You guys are the Wreckage? My daughter is the biggest fan of you all. Would it be completely inappropriate to ask for a photograph?”

“Yes,” Hazel cut in, stepping a few feet in front of me, blocking me from the doctor as if she were my bodyguard. “That would be highly inappropriate and extremely unprofessional.”

The doctor grimaced and walked away.

“What a piece of work.” Big Paw blew out, still shaking his head. “The things these people are putting Holly through is driving me crazy,” he said, sitting back down in his chair. “I just want to take my girl home with me.”

It shattered my heart watching how broken Big Paw was becoming. It was as if he hadn’t a clue how to exist without Grams by his side. Without her, Big Paw could hardly breathe.

“It’s going to be okay, Big Paw,” I echoed once again, hoping I wasn’t telling a lie. But I knew that was what Grams would want me to say.

Everything’s going to be all right.



“Can I get you anything?” Hazel asked as she held Rosie in her arms. It was wild to me how big the little girl had gotten over the past few months. “I was going to go to the cafeteria and see if I could find a coffee or something.”

I grimaced. “I’m good.”

James cleared his throat. “Maybe you could go with her, Ian, and grab us chums some food. I’m starving. Hazel, we can watch Rosie for you if you want.” James cocked an eyebrow toward me as if telling me to go with Hazel unless I wanted to continue being a dumbass for the rest of my life.

“Are you sure?” Hazel asked. “She can be quite a handful.”

“Lucky for me, I have big hands.” He stood up to grab Rosie from Hazel, and she thanked him for the help.

I stood up from my chair and stuffed my hands into my pockets as I began walking down the long hallway with Hazel. God, even with all the time that had passed, she still drove me crazy whenever she was near me. She made my heart beat erratically every single time she stole a glance my way. I noticed every time she looked, too, because I hadn’t been able to pull my eyes away from her.

We were both quiet, but I felt her nerves filling the space. Or perhaps it was my own nervous energy. I couldn’t tell anymore whose feelings were whose. She rubbed her hand up and down her arm as she gave me a small smile. “I know you’re probably worried about your grandmother, but you don’t have to be. She’s a fighter. And you were right when you told Big Paw that if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. I think he needed to hear that. I think it’s true too.”