There is a level when your heart breaks past a point of repair. When it is shatters into pieces that cannot be glued back together. His words are knives into my chest, the truth behind them lacing the blades with poison. At some point in his speech I stand, my temper flashing as I face his affront. But then, halfway through his final words, when the truth and guilt burn its way into my soul, I weaken—in the end dropping to my knees, my hands falling to my side, my eyes wincing when the final stone finds its mark and shakes my soul.
I barely notice when he steps away, when he moves out the door and the click of the door sounds.
Her haggard breathing is the only sound in the room until I sob, gripping the bars of the gurney, holding onto them tightly and leaning against her bed. “Please wake up,” I plead to her unresponsive body. “Please, baby. Please. I love you and need you so much.”
I do. I need her arms around me. Her eyes, staring, smiling into mine. They make me feel as if I can do no wrong. As if all we have is time and our time is golden. No worries, no regrets. Two people running through life with our arms outstretched and the sun on our back. We don’t need much. We have love. We will make everything else work. Fuck Stewart. Fuck him and his speech and his intensity.
I love her.
I need her.
I need her.
I need her.
I sob and pray reverently to a forgotten and ignored God and pray for forgiveness and for her.
Madison. My heart.
I cannot go back in there. I cannot go back after the words that I just said. I cannot face him after I saw his face crumble. He has stood up to me so rarely in his life. And in there, in his anger and his accusation... I saw the man he has become. The man he has grown into. He was right. Without me and my selfish need to have her light, he could have had a normal relationship. Whether it had been him, or someone else, she would have found a normal life. Someone one hundred percent devoted to her and not a job. Someone whose world focused on making her happy. Someone who f**ked her senseless so she didn’t need a second cock. His words were honest and hit home and I pushed back with every pissed off bone in my body.
I stripped him bare and left him there. Alone with his insecurities.
I can’t go back in there. But she’s in there and so I have to go back. I can’t leave her alone. But I can’t face him again.
I am an ass**le.
He is my brother.
She has my heart.
I am at lunch, sipping artificially-sweetened strawberry lemonade and debating between a Caesar salad or tuna roll when my phone rings. I debate ignoring it. It is probably the office, and I don’t feel like dealing with numbers and IRS regulations right now. I let it ring three times before my OCD gets the best of me and I slide my finger across the screen without looking at it, lifting it to my ear and catching the eye of the waiter. “Hello?”
“Dana. It’s me.” The catch in his voice has me instantly alert, my hand waving the approaching waiter away with a hurried motion.
“What’s wrong? Is it Paul?” I feel a tightness in my chest I haven’t feel in ten years, not since I stood in front of my mother and heard the news that broke apart our world.
“No. Yes.” He breathes deeply, and I suddenly see him, my brother, pinching the bridge between his eyes, inhaling as he struggles with whatever it is that is about to come out of his mouth. “Paul is fine. But I need you. Can you come to Venice Regional?”
“The hospital?” I am on my feet and moving, my purse in my hand, abandoning my drink, my hip hitting the corner of a table hard, and I wince. That’s gonna leave a bruise.
“Yes. How soon can you be there?”
“Fifteen minutes. I—I moved back to LA. A year ago.” I feel guilty saying the words. But its not like he’s answered any of my calls. Hard to share information with a brick wall.
“I’ll be in the ER lobby. Please hurry.”
The phone goes dead in my hand, and I jog to my car, my heels clipping on the sidewalk, my hand stuffing the phone into my purse. I feel momentary disappointment that he didn’t comment on my move—we are, after all, in the same city now. But I knew that wouldn’t matter much to him. It wasn’t as if he had the time, or desire, to meet for lunch or grab dinner one night. It didn’t matter to him if I was fifteen minutes or fifteen hours away. But he needs me now. And that makes my heart beam. He had needed someone, and he called me. Paul is fine. Whatever is wrong, both of my boys are safe. I unlock my car.
I see him as soon as I step inside the lobby, his tall frame tense, his legs moving quickly to me, and he grabs me tightly, wrapping his arms around me and pressing a tight kiss on my head. “Let’s step outside,” he whispers.
He speaks to the receptionists, a gray-haired woman who regards him with disdain, an odd reaction to Stewart’s looks and traditional charm.
We step into the afternoon heat and he releases my arm, moves to the side and leans against a column of the overhang. “You got a light?”
“A cigarette?” I stare at him. I dig in my purse, pulling out a pack of Marlboros and a lighter. “What happened to your health kick?”
“It just ended.” He taps one out and lights it, cupping his hand around the flame and then inhales deeply.
I take the pack from him and shake out another, stuffing the box back in my purse. “What’s going on Stewart? As delighted as I am to hear from you, it’s been two years.”
He blew out a stream of dirty smoke. “I know, Dana. I’m sorry about that. You know what life’s like. Time is gone... before you even know it.”
“Whatever. I don’t think you have any idea what life’s like. You know what work’s like.”
He is silent for a moment, staring out at the parking lot. Then he looks over at me, his gaze intense. The intense gaze that he’s had since he was eight, a stare that cuts through any bullshit that might exist, one that protects him while he invades your soul. “I don’t need your depressing views of my life. I called you here because I need your help.”
I bite back the sharp retort that sits hot on my tongue. “Then talk to me.”
He looks out, onto the street. “It’s about a girl.”
Reality hits me like a hundred pound wrecking ball and I curse my own stupidity. Duh. I know only one fact about his current life. One blonde fact who prances between him and Paul. Of course this is about her. How did it take me five minutes to get to this bright shiny light bulb of obviousness? I should have known it the minute I heard his voice. “Go on.”