I can see my tirade has set him back. He watches me guardedly, worried I might continue to rant. His voice is soft, calming. “Look… I get you were scared when it first happened. But your dad testified over eight years ago. I mean, didn’t you think it might be safe to reach out to me over time? Did you ever consider going to your handler and asking if you could?”

Once again, I’m bone tired. Energy completely depleted, because nothing I ever say in my defense will be good enough for August. He wants to pound my stupidity into the ground.

I just shake my head, my tone flat and indifferent. He doesn’t think I cared about him at all, so why try to convince him otherwise? “No, I didn’t.”

His mouth flattens and his eyes turn hard, but wisely… he keeps his peace because I’m done arguing about it.

I push out of my chair, nabbing my coffee, then glance down. “I’m going to the room. And I’ll say it one more time—I’m sorry for wronging you. I’ll keep apologizing however often you need me to. Please don’t ever think I don’t understand what I deprived you of because I do. If I could make it right, I would. But right now, I just don’t have it in me to keep hashing this out.”

August digests my words. I can see the conflict deep in his eyes as he tries to accept what I’m saying but isn’t able to reconcile it with his bitter feelings for all he’s lost.

But right now, I have a son I need to be with, which is more important than trying to convince August of something he’ll never understand.

CHAPTER 13

August

My life has settled into a routine. For now, I’m content. First and foremost, Sam is doing very well. He’s ten days post-transplant, and there’s been no signs of infection or graft vs. host disease, which is where my donor cells could potentially attack the healthy ones in Sam’s body. Of course, they’re giving him a host of antibiotics and anti-virals and God knows what else to combat against infections.

If he continues on this path, he’s looking at only a few more weeks in the hospital. Of course, he has to have certain count levels of hematocrits, platelets, and neutrophils. I’ve learned so much medical knowledge over the last few weeks that I’m brimming with it. And when he finally comes home, he still has a road of recovery to go down… for his blood counts to return to normal and his immune system to be healthy. He’ll have frequent follow-ups with the transplant team and blood draws. Plus, he’ll be fatigued as he recovers and there’s a lot of damn medication he’ll have to take.

It’s a lot, but it’s better than the alternative, so we’re all feeling pretty damn great about it.

I’m heading to Sam’s room now to relieve Leighton for the evening. While she’s agreed to take a few nights off, she’s still here every day to spend time with Sam. Mike and I fill in for her, sometimes even overlapping our visits. There are times when all three of us are in the room with him together.

Leighton and I have settled into an unspoken truce again after our “talk” in the cafeteria the day of the transplant. While I’m not going to apologize for or defend my anger, she’s clearly reached a breaking point about me throwing it in her face. I thought a lot about what she said. I tried to imagine myself in her shoes… as a single mom and fearful for Sam’s life. I’m not sure I can quite imagine it, because I don’t know what it’s like to care for a child from birth, but what I realized is that I might need to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Regardless, I made a commitment of sorts not to throw what I deem to be a failure on her part back in her face.

Over the last few days, everyone’s been riding such a jubilant high I’ve even forgotten to be mad at Leighton. We’ve been keeping it fun and upbeat for Sam. Playing games and sharing laughter when he feels up to it.

I’d forgotten what a great laugh Leighton has, and I’m hearing it a lot lately as each day passes without incident.

Most of my time with Sam consists of us asking lots of questions about each other. We’re still on a learning curve, and it’s all kinds of wonderful.

I put on the requisite isolation gear—still a requirement—and enter Sam’s room. He and Leighton are playing a game of Scrabble, but Sam’s head pops up. Eyes lighting up, he exclaims, “Dad.”

I hold up the bag in my hand, shaking it slightly. “Per your request.”

“McDonald’s,” he yells, clapping his hands. “Awesome.”

“Shh,” Leighton reprimands, giving Sam and then me a stern glare. “This is a hospital, for Pete’s sake.”

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