He gives voice to my own concerns and I wonder again if I’ve made a mistake by taking Max out of the loop. At the time, I was just attempting to distance myself from Cassie. I felt like it was only fair to relieve Max of his obligations to her as well. It’s become a double-edged sword, though. I am enjoying the peace of not knowing, but also worry about being blindsided in the future. “Fuck if I know,” I admit. “He’s asked me to trust him and I’m trying to do that. I could happily live the rest of my life without hearing her name again, but like you, I’m almost more nervous not knowing what’s happening.” I know this next part is going to rattle him, but he needs to know. “He also says there has been some discussion about her leaving for an overnight visit with him. Not that his apartment would be familiar, but perhaps his belongings, old photos, or favorite shopping malls would be. Her doctor thought it might do her good to visit familiar places.”
Max resembles a fish as his mouth flops open and closed in shock. “Are you fucking kidding me?” he asks disbelievingly. “After what she did, they want to send her on some kind of field trip?” He’s on his feet now and pacing the floor.
“There were no charges filed against her,” I remind him even though I’m secretly glad he feels the same way I do. “There’s nothing to keep her from walking right out the door if they deem her mentally capable of caring for herself. I just pay the bills there. I may have been her guardian at one time, but even then, I didn’t have the power to overrule them if they decided she could be released.” I’m almost impressed with my even tone while I quote legalities with Max of all people. He’s staring at me as if he can’t believe what I’m saying even though he knows I’m right.
“I don’t like this at all,” he growls, looking concerned enough to make me want to panic. “What’s to keep Aidan from just removing her from their care? He has that authority now. If she ever gets well enough to make such a request to him, then you’re fucked, buddy. Aidan will never be able to say no to her. I know we’re all friends, but this goes beyond that. You need to put me back in the position of co-guardian.”
I drop my head into my hands, picturing my other friend’s earnest face as he asked for my trust. Was I a fool to grant that? At this point, I am torn between loyalty and self-preservation. “You know I’d like nothing better than to put the whole thing in your lap,” I begin, “but I made a promise to Aidan.” When Max starts to argue, I hold up a hand to silence him. “I know you’re right, and we should be exercising caution. I also believe that Aidan would tell me before he allowed her to leave the facility’s care. I don’t think we’re in any immediate danger so I would like to give him what he’s asked me for. At least for now. If something changes, then I’ll let you know immediately. We’ll do whatever needs to be done at that point.”
“I’ve never been a fan of the watch and see approach,” he says reluctantly. “Would you at least question Aidan about what’s going on with her when you speak to him again? I’d feel better knowing that we’re not missing anything major right now.”
I incline my head in agreement, thinking to myself that I’d rather have a prostate exam, but he’s right, of course. “I’ll let you know if anything comes up.”
“Good enough.” He’s still frowning as he walks toward the door.
“Don’t forget what I said about Rose,” I toss out and want to laugh as his shoulder twitches. It’s petty, but I feel a tad better. He’s ensured that thoughts of Cassie will fill my mind this afternoon so I might as well give him something of his own to obsess over. And they say women have the market cornered on being vindictive.
“There is no way I’m letting you go in there.” Rose shudders as I stop in the doorway of a maternity store in the mall. “They have nothing but different colored muumuus in here.” Looking up and down the hallways, she asks desperately, “Where are the cool mommy-to-be stores? This place is like, ‘mommy has already given up.’”
We’re both still laughing when a sales associate spots us standing just inside the doorway. “Could I help you ladies find something?” she asks brightly.
“Um yeah,” Rose says, “where are your non-polyester maternity clothes?”
“Pardon me?” The sales associate looks from me to Rose in confusion.
Rose grabs a purple dress off a nearby rack and waves it in the air. “I’m not letting my friend walk around looking like Barney’s wife. I mean, come on; all this dress is missing is that big green circle on the stomach.” I can’t imagine Rose ever watching the children’s show Barney, so I wonder how she could possibly have this knowledge. I have to admit though, she’s kind of right about the dress now that I really look at it.
“We have some pull-on jeans with an elastic waistband in the back of the store,” the sales associate stutters, looking as if she’s ready to bolt.
Rose appears close to passing out by this point. I’m starting to think Lucian wouldn’t have been such a bad shopping partner after all. “Let’s get out of here.” She grabs my arm and drags me back out into the mall. “I’m not letting that happen to you. You’re pregnant, not someone’s grandma. Come on, there’s a Nordstrom on the next floor. We’ll just buy bigger sizes.” Before I know what’s happening, Rose has me in a dressing room in her preferred store with clothing hanging from every available surface. She holds up a pair of soft, relaxed-fit jeans first. “These are a cotton-spandex blend so they have a lot of give in the waist. I got two sizes bigger as we can always have them tacked in if needed.” I slide my skirt down my legs, letting it pool around my feet. “Holy shit balls. What are you wearing?” she shrieks from behind me.