As he reclaims his seat, her face pales out and Isaiah and Abby lapse into silence.
“Talk to me.” Isaiah possesses a calm that causes me to hate him more.
Rachel sucks in air as if she were in labor. She white-knuckles the railing on her bed and my fingers twitch with the need to tear something apart…to make someone pay for her pain.
My sister’s heart-monitor beeps increase. Isaiah pries her fingers off the railing and takes her hands in his. “Abby, go get a nurse. Breathe, Rachel. Give me the pain. I can take it.”
Abby stands and I step back.
“West?” Rachel asks through a breath. “Are you okay?”
The hurt in her voice knifes through me. I meet her eyes and shake my head as my sight flickers to her legs again. I’ve got to get out of here before I implode.
A hand lands on my shoulder and I snap my head to the side to take in Dad. I expect him to yell, asking what the hell I’m doing here. Instead he keeps his hand on my shoulder while he mumbles words like “daughter, pain and medication” to a passing nurse.
He urges me into the hallway and I follow. The breath is knocked out of me when my mother collides into my body. Her hands capture my face, then slide down to my shoulders while her glassy eyes survey me. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” From over her shoulder, I try to judge my father’s reaction, but his poker face gives nothing away.
“Why did you leave?” Mom shakes me. “What on earth would make you leave?”
“Miriam,” Dad says softly. “Let’s take this into the family waiting room.”
Mom observes me like I’m a ghost. “You left. You know I don’t handle leaving well.”
Fuck, I hurt my mom. “I’m sorry.”
“Miriam,” urges my father.
As if I’m five, Mom slips her hand into mine and grasps it as if her life or mine depends on the contact. Together, we head down the hallway.
“I didn’t know that you were gone until yesterday.” She speaks in a quiet voice reserved for conversation during a church service.
“Dad knew,” I respond while attempting not to flinch. She didn’t notice for two weeks.
“I know.” There’s a rare bite in her tone. “And I’m dealing with that.”
Mom hesitates and I shove my hands in my pockets as I pause with her. Two weeks. Mom didn’t notice I was gone for two weeks.
“I’ve been all but living here at the hospital and when I was at home briefly and didn’t see you, I just assumed that you were out with friends. Making new ones at your new school and keeping up with old ones. We all knew you weren’t coping well with Rachel being here, so I thought…you were…dealing with this in your own way. I…” Mom drops off. “You’ve always been so independent that I never stopped to think…”
That’s the point: when it comes to me and my brothers, Mom never stops to think.
“Your brothers knew,” she says, but before she can continue Dad calls for us to join him.
In the empty waiting room, Dad pours three cups of coffee and hands one to Mom, then me, and gestures for us to sit. The rich aroma drifts in the air. It’s surreal being here with them and crazier that the atmosphere fits a business negotiation more than a family reunion.
“How’s Rachel?” After all, that’s the reason I’m here. “She didn’t move her legs.”
In his pressed white shirt, starched black pants and black tie, Dad pulls a seat around, creating a triangle as he faces me and Mom. “I’m flying a new specialist in this week. We should know more soon.”
I hold the hot drink between both of my hands and think of Haley’s cold fingers. Rachel would like Haley. That’s the type of friend she should have instead of drug dealer Abby and punk Isaiah. “Isaiah’s bad news.”
“So’s the girl,” I say with a twinge of guilt. Abby’s been helpful, but she’s a drug dealer and regardless of what she’s done for me, Rachel’s safety is the priority. “They’re both trouble.”
He nods again.
Even now, our father is worthless. “Then why the hell are they in there?”
Dad sips the coffee and leans forward. “How do I tell her no when she’s in pain?”
“I guess the same way you told me to get the f**k out of your house.”
Dad and Mom glance at each other. Mom angles her body toward me and Dad inspects his coffee. “I was angry and said things I shouldn’t have. I didn’t think you would listen.”
Anger crashes through my bloodstream like a tidal wave. “You didn’t think I would listen when I was informed I was trash and you didn’t want to see me again?”
The man honestly has the nerve to meet my glare. “It’s not like you’ve listened to anything I’ve had to say for years. Why would I have thought you’d start now?”
I start to rise and my mother slams a hand on my knee. “You’re not leaving.” She directs herself at Dad and yells, “He’s not leaving. I have buried one child and I have come close to burying another. I will not have stupid pride costing me a third.”
“Mrs. Young?” A nurse pops her head into the waiting room. “The dietary nurse would like to speak with you.”
Mom is charity-ball smiles as she tells the nurse she’ll be right there, but the moment she’s gone, Mom releases an expression that could rival Abby’s any day of the week as her cold eyes work over Dad. “He’s coming home. Fix this. Now.”
She stands and smooths out her gray pants and checks the cuffs of her sweater before resting a hand on my cheek. “I love you and I want you home. There is no other option.”
Her tone tells me everything else: I disappointed her. She’s hurt, angry, sad. That once again I failed. But mostly, she loves me.
I nod, unable to say or do anything else. Her heels click against the faux wooden floor and fade the farther she goes down the hallway. I place the coffee on the end table. “What now?”
“I don’t understand you, West.”
No shit. He doesn’t understand anyone in our family.
Dad eyes the floor. “Why were you in the Timberland neighborhood?”
“How did you know?”
“The GPS in your car. I had one installed in all your cars when you got your licenses. I’ve been trailing you the entire time. You didn’t actually think I would just let you walk away? Jesus, West, give me some credit. You are my son.”