Page 85 of We Were Once

I can’t think clearly as I try to whittle through what she seems willing to share when it comes to Joshua. Nothing makes sense to me, except him. But my emotions are burning through my energy reserves, and I start to fight against the inevitable sleep. I need answers. “If something’s wrong, I need to know.”

“I don’t know the details.” She brushes it off.

It’s not like her to be evasive, but I don’t have the strength to piece the puzzle together. “Mom, please, just be honest with me.”

Staring into my eyes, I see the debate in hers. “I don’t agree that you need to be focused on his recovery instead of yours, but I understand why you are.”

I find little comfort in her words, craving to hear him tell me not to worry instead. My stomach is tied in knots when I look at her, and ask, “Where is he? I need to see him.” Pushing off the bed again, I say, “I’m going to find Joshua. I don’t care how much pain I’m in, everything hurts worse without him.”

Every movement—big or small—is a reminder how my body is betraying me, leaving me trapped in this bed and worried sick. An accident . . . that I have absolutely no recollection of being involved in has put me in the hospital. What did it do to him? I cover my face as the tears flood forth, my shoulders shaking from the pain in my body and the ache in my heart.

She takes my hands and holds them. “Chloe, I need you to listen to me.” I look at her through my tears. The reality of what happened still escapes me, but the repercussions embed themselves deep inside me. “Your condition is delicate. Try to remain calm.”

“I’ll calm down when I see him.”

“He’s been discharged.”

“What? When?” I ask, searching the table and tray for my phone but not finding it. Her silence is telling, so I glance up. “He’ll want to hear from me. Where’s my phone?”

“Honey, he left.”

“He left?” My hand covers my chest to keep my happy heart from beating wildly. “That’s great news. He’s doing well. Thank God.” Patting my hair, I add, “Will you help me shower? I bet I look awful, and I know I smell.” The laughter trickling through me feels like much-needed medicine. “Can I borrow some lipstick?”


“I want to look nice for him when he comes to see—”


I startle. Even that hurts. “What?”

“Josh returned to New Haven five days ago.”

The bomb is dropped, my thoughts scattering in the aftermath. “Five days ago?” Swallowing hurts my throat, so I sip more water, trying to come to any conclusion in my favor that would have him leaving while I’m still here. Her tone . . . The empathy in her eyes . . . Turning toward the window, I say, “He didn’t abandon me if that’s what you’re thinking.” He wouldn’t. I can still feel him holding my heart in his hands.

“I’m not insinuating anything,” she replies, dragging my attention back to her. She drops her gaze, not able to look at me. “Chloe . . .” Her readjusting the blanket becomes a distraction for both of us, so I clamp my hand down on hers to still it. Her eyes carry the pain I feel inside. “You need to think about you right now. School is back in session, but your recovery isn’t going to be quick. This will put you a semester behind, if not more, if you don’t heal.”

Heal? Her tone twists my emotions while my head swims in a million thoughts about Joshua and why he’s not here. His healing is important, but he wouldn’t leave me without saying goodbye. He wouldn’t let me take a breath without testing to make sure it’s clear. He loves me like I love him, and there’s no healing without him here.

This doesn’t make sense. “You say that like I’ll never see him again. Why?”

She’s the one looking toward the window as if it will shed light on the situation. “I don’t know, honey.”

That’s it. That’s all I get. Maybe it’s all she has to give. Maybe it’s the truth. Maybe he left without thinking twice about me? My heart would know, so I don’t think so.

She won’t, or can’t help me, so I’ll do what I can to bring her peace and then suffer in silence until she leaves. “Don’t worry about me or school. I’ve missed what? A few days?” I shrug nonchalantly, fighting the ache to keep a straight face for her. “I’ll contact them and make up the work. My professors will understand.”

I take the opportunity to leverage my dad’s connection for the first time, but on my terms. “And if they don’t, Dad can call. You know him. He’ll convince them.”

Tags: S.L. Scott Romance