“Because of our father’s condition Andrew refused to get further tests. He was supposed to go back to see Dr. Marsters that same week, but he wouldn’t go. Our mom and our brother, Aidan, tried everything to get him to go. As far as I know, he agreed at one point, but he never went through with it because our father’s condition worsened.”
“No…,” I shake my head over and over again, not wanting to believe the things he’s telling me, “no….” I just want to force his words out of my head.
“It’s why Andrew and Aidan have been at each other’s throats,” Asher goes on. “Aidan just wanted him to do what he needed to do, and Andrew, as stubborn as he is, fought Aidan at every turn.”
I look toward the wall and say, “It’s why he never wanted to see his father in the hospital….” The realization numbs me further.
“Yeah,” Asher says quietly, “it’s also why he wouldn’t go to the funeral.”
I look right at Asher now, my eyes boring into his, my fingers dancing on my lips. “He’s afraid. He’s afraid the same thing is going to happen to him, that his tumor is inoperable.”
I shoot up from the seat, a tube of lipstick cracks underneath my shoe.
“But what if it’s not as bad?” I say frantically. “He’s in the hospital now; they can do what they need to do.” I start to march toward the exit. “I’ll make him get the tests. I’ll force him! He’ll listen to me!”
Asher grabs my arm. I turn around.
“From what they can tell right now, his chances are very small, Camryn.”
I’m going to throw up. My cheeks feel like there are thousands of tiny pins prickling them as more tears push their way to the surface. My hands are shaking, too. My whole f**king body is shaking!
Asher adds softly, “He let it go too long.”
Both of my hands come up and cover my face and I sob into them, my body trembling uncontrollably. I feel Asher’s arms wrap tightly around me.
“He wants to see you.”
His words cause me to look up.
“They’ve already got him in a room; I’ll take you to him. Just wait here for a few more minutes until my mom leaves his room and I’ll walk you back.”
I don’t say anything. I just stand here, wordless…dying inside, the worst pain I have ever felt.
Asher looks at me once more to be confident that I heard him clearly and then he says carefully, “I’ll be back shortly for you. Just wait here.”
Asher leaves and to keep from collapsing I grab the nearest chair and sit down. I can’t even see straight, the tears are burning my eyes, rushing down my cheeks. My chest feels like someone literally reached inside of it and ripped out my heart.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to see him without going completely out of my mind.
Why did he do this?!
Why is this happening?!
Before I go completely f**king crazy and start breaking shit or hitting something and hurting myself, I crawl on my hands and knees to my purse on the floor. I didn’t even notice that Asher had picked everything up and put it back inside for me and then set my purse on the chair. I dig for my phone and call Natalie.
“Natalie, I-I need you to do something for me.”
“Cam…are you crying?”
“Natalie, please listen to me.”
“OK, yes, I’m here. What’s wrong?”
“You’re my best friend,” I say, “and I need you to come to Galveston. As soon as possible. Will you come? I need you. Please.”
“Oh my God, Camryn, what the hell is going on? What happened? Are you alright?”
“Nothing happened to me, but I need you here. I need someone and you’re all I have. My mom won’t un—Natalie, please!”
“A-Alright,” she says with deep worry in her voice. “I’m on the first flight out. I’ll be there. Just keep your phone on you.”
I drop my hand to my side, my phone crushed in my fist and I stare at the wall for what seems like forever until Asher’s voice pulls me out of myself. I look up at him. He walks toward me and reaches out for my hand, knowing I’m going to need it. My legs feel fragile, like I’m walking on prosthetics and I don’t have full use of them. Asher holds my hand so tight. We step out into the brightly-lit hallway and head toward an elevator.
“I have to calm myself,” I say out loud, but more to me than Asher. I pull my hand from his and wipe my face and run my fingers through my hair, over the top of my head. “I can’t see him in hysterics. That’s the last thing he needs right now is to be trying to calm me down.”
Asher doesn’t say anything. I don’t look at him. I see our reflections in the elevator door, warped and discolored. I notice the number on the elevator moving up two floors and then the elevator stops. The door opens. I just stand here at first afraid to walk out, but then I take a very deep breath and wipe my eyes again.
We walk to the middle of the hall to a room with a large wooden door that has been left cracked open. Asher pushes the door open the rest of the way, but I look down at the floor and at the invisible line that separates me in the hallway from Andrew inside the room and I’m so scared to walk over it. I feel like once I do I will see that all of this is real and there really is no turning back. I squeeze my eyes shut and force back a new rush of tears, breathing deeply with my fists clenched around my purse.
And then I open my eyes when Andrew’s mom steps out.
Her soft face is exhausted by emotion, just as I know mine must be. Her hair is tangled. Her eyelids are enflamed. But she manages to smile lovingly at me, placing her gentle fingers on my shoulder.
“I’m glad you’re here, Camryn.”
And then she walks away from the room hand in hand with Asher.
I watch them for a brief moment as they slip farther down the hall, but their figures appear blurred into their surroundings.
I look into the room from the doorway and see the end of the bed where I know Andrew is lying.
I step inside.
“Baby, come here,” Andrew says when he sees me.
At first, I’m frozen here in this spot, but when I look into his eyes, those unforgettable green eyes that have such a hold on me, I drop my purse on the floor and rush over to his bed.
I PRACTICALLY FALL OVER his body and into his arms. He holds me so tight, though not as tight as I want him to. I want him to crush me to death and never let me go, to take me with him. But he’s still weak. I can tell that what he’s going through is quickly draining him.
Andrew holds my face in his hands and he pushes my hair away from my eyes and he kisses away the tears that I tried so hard to keep hidden for his sake, so he wouldn’t have to waste any of his strength on me. But the heart has a mind of its own and it always gets what it wants, especially when it’s dying.
“I’m so sorry,” he says in a painful, desperate voice; my face still framed by his hands. “I couldn’t tell you, Camryn…I didn’t want our time together to be anything but what it was.”
Tears pour from my eyes, dripping over his fingers and down his wrists.
“I hope you’re not—”
“No, Andrew…” I choke back a few tears, “…I understand why; you don’t have to explain. I’m glad you didn’t tell me….”
He seems surprised, but happy about it. He pulls my face toward him and kisses my lips.
“You’re right,” I say. “If you would’ve told me then our time together would’ve been dark and…I-I don’t know, but it would’ve been different and I can’t bear the thought of different—but Andrew, I wish you would’ve told me for one reason alone: I would’ve done anything, anything to get you to a hospital sooner.” My voice begins to rise as the sad truth of my words hurts me to say them. “You could’ve—”
Andrew shakes his head. “Baby, it was already too late.”
“Don’t say that! It’s not too late now! You’re still here, there’s still a chance.”
He smiles gently and his hands finally fall away from my cheeks, resting at his sides on the white knit hospital blanket that covers him. An IV snakes from the top of his hand and to a machine.
“I’m being realistic, Camryn. They’ve already told me that my chances don’t look good.”
“But there’s still a chance,” I argue, forcing back more tears and wishing I controlled their off switch. “Small is better than no chance at all.”
“If I let them operate on me.”
I feel like I was just slapped in the face.
“What do you mean, if?”
His eyes stray from mine.
I reach out and take his chin vigorously in my hand, turning him back to face me. “There’s no ‘if’, Andrew—you can’t be serious.”
Andrew reaches out for me and moves himself to one side of the bed. He guides me to lie down next to him and as I curl my body into his lying on his side, he lays one arm over me and pulls me close.
“If I had never met you,” he says, peering into my eyes just inches from his, “I never would have gone through with it. If you weren’t here with me right now, I wouldn’t do it. I would think it was a waste of money and time and would only put my family through a false sense of hope, dragging out the inevitable.”
“But you’re going to let them do the surgery,” I say suspiciously, though it’s more like a question.
He brushes my cheek with the pad of his thumb.
“I will do anything for you, Camryn Bennett. I don’t care what it is, I don’t care…anything you ever ask me to do and I would do it. No exceptions.”
Sobs rattle my chest.
Before I have a chance to say anything else, Andrew moves his hand across my cheek, pushing back my hair. He looks deeply into my eyes. “I’ll do it.”
I crush my mouth over his and we kiss feverishly.
“I can’t lose you,” I say. “We have the open road ahead of us. You’re my partner in crime.” I force a smile through my tears.
He kisses my forehead.
We lie together for a little while and talk about the surgery and the tests that still need to be done and I tell him that I won’t leave his side. I’ll stay here with him for as long as it takes. And we go on and on about the places we want to see and he starts picking songs out of the air that he wants me to learn so we can sing them together on the road. I’ve never been so willing to sing with him as I am right now. I would try to belt out Celine Dion or an opera singer—I don’t care. I would do it. I would most certainly send everyone screaming for the exits, but I would do it. A nurse comes in to check on him at one point and Andrew gains back some of his playful personality and he messes with her head, telling her she could join us if she wanted in a little ‘two on one’ action.
The nurse just smiled, rolling her eyes and went about her business. It made her feel good about herself and that’s all he was aiming for.