I loved all of your various reactions: the good, the bad, and the surprising. You're amazing.
Soundtrack Song - The Weepies, Living in Twilight
"Car accident?" I ask. He needs to be a bit more specific.
"Yeah," he replies. "Tanger and I were going out for lunch, for our pre-game meal. We left the Mellon and headed for Morton's, and we were stuck behind this Hummer. Couldn't see a thing. We turned onto Fifth Ave and next thing I know my head's smashed against the steering wheel." He points to the sutures on his face. "Tanger hurt his hand or wrist or something when he braced himself against the dashboard, but he's gonna be fine, too. But as for the guy.... I never even saw him." Staalsy shakes his head, clearly shaken up and worried. "The doctors won't tell me anything. But what if he dies? What if I... killed him?"
"Stop." Charlotte's voice is barely audible. She's made the connection; there are too many parallels for this not to be the same accident. What are the odds? What are the fucking odds?
The nurse that has lead us up until this point shifts her weight and interrupts. "I'm sorry, but I can only allow one person in at a time."
I squeeze Charlotte's hand before letting go completely, but she doesn't immediately release her grip on mine. She's scared and worried; I know that. And I feel responsible. I said it—I put it out there into the universe, and it happened. This isn't what I meant. I wanted him to go away and stop messing with the good thing I had, and now he's fucking it all up again.
She finally untangles her fingers from mine and heads into the room. A doctor follows her in a moment later. I forgot all about Staalsy until he speaks up. "Wait a second. What are you doing here? It's not because of me."
Tanger appears, and his left wrist is wrapped. The first thought that pops into my head is What is it with our defense hurting their wrists? Our pp is going to suck even more now. "Did someone tell you to come pick us up?" he asks, puzzled by my presence.
Shaking my head, I them them what I've pieced together so far. "You guys hit Charlotte's...." How do I explain this to them? I can't say friend, because that's a lie. If I say ex, they're going to wonder why she's here and involved. "You hit someone that Charlotte knows."
Gronk nods and then shakes his head, too. "Small world, eh? Is he going to be okay? They won't tell me anything, and I need to know. I can't believe I'm responsible for this."
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, and he's taking this especially hard. Not that he shouldn't, but it honestly seems like it was a true accident. It sucks the way the world works. "I'm sorry, man, but it sounds like it's bad. We'll know when Charlotte tells us."
He hears that and plops down in a chair, impatient to hear that John's going to be okay. He wants some of the guilt to dissipate and fade away because it's weighing on his chest like a cinder block. Tanger and I sit on either side of him, and I wait for the news, too, so Charlotte and I can go home and pick up where we left off.
The doctor drones on. I try to concentrate on her, and I don't even look at the unmoving body on the bed. Something about broken femurs. Intrameduallary rods. How surgery should be preformed right away, but it might not be necessary. Because he might not make it. Severe head trauma. Fifty-fifty chance.
Should they wait and see if he should have the rod inserted, or proceed as if he's expected to pull through?
"I'll give you his sister's number. She's family, and that's who needs to make these decisions," I tell her, pulling out my cell phone. The doctor gives me an evil look, because I shouldn't have my phone on in the hospital, but how else am I supposed to give them contact information? "She'll be able to give you more details about his medical history anyway."
I press the number five button and scroll through the L's, looking for her name, but it doesn't manifest itself. Then it hits me. Oh yeah. I broke my phone a while back and lost all my old contacts. I can still get them this information, but it's going to cost me dearly. Only one other person I know has her phone number: Mommie Dearest.
"I'm afraid I don't have it on me. Um, I'll have to make a call and get you her number."
The doctor points toward the phone in his room. She instructs, "Please use the land line. Just dial nine first."
I nod, dial nine, and then punch in my old phone number. If and/or when John pulls through, he owes me. The things I do for him. "Hello?" my mother answers.
"Mom. I need Libby's number please."
I roll my eyes. She has two daughters, and we sound nothing alike. She very well knows who I am. "Yes. I really hate to be a pain, but I can't talk. I really just need her number. Now."
"You want me to do you favors, after the way you talked to me on Thanksgiving?"
"Mother," I say, grinding my teeth together. I know she hates when I call her that, but I'm losing my temper. "I'm sorry if what I said upset you, but I meant it when I said that I don't need you to interfere with my love life. This is a time-sensitive matter. Please, can you give me Libby's number?"
"Whatever could you need it for? Don't you have it?"
This is painful. She's really giving me a headache. "I lost it, and I'm trying to send out my Christmas cards," I spit out sarcastically. "Does it matter? I just need it."
"Where are you calling from?" she asks.
"The hospital," I finally cave and admit. "John was run over my boyfriend's friend, and I need to give the doctors Libby's contact information."
"Oh, very funny, Charlotte. You know, you could just try telling the truth for once." She rattles off the phone number that sounds familiar now that I hear it again.
I copy it down and hand it to the awaiting doctor, who then leaves the room to notify Libby of the situation. "Thank you, Mom," I say, just as a code is being paged in the ICU.
"Wait," she pauses. "Are you seriously calling from the hospital?"
Rolling my eyes, I wish she didn't pick now to actually believe me. "Yes."
"And it's... John?"
I pause before whispering, "Yes."
"If he can't talk, it must be bad. Is it bad?" I don't respond to her question. "I'm coming."
"Mom...." How do I tell her not to come?
"He was like a son to me, Charlotte. And he doesn't have a living mother to worry about him. No matter what's going on between you two, it's just like if you were in the hospital, or Caroline or her husband. I want to be there."
"But you aren't family. Neither am I. We aren't responsible for him, and there's nothing you can do for him."
"You may feel that way, Charlotte, but I do not. Maybe it's because I'm a mother. Besides, it gives me an excuse to see you. You haven't invited me out to visit you since you moved."
No. No no no. Things aren't supposed to be happening this way. John was supposed to disappear, my mother was supposed to stop interfering, and Max and I were supposed to put all this behind us and be happy together forever and ever. Why isn't my life going the way I want it to?
Life isn't supposed to work this way. My life is not a soap opera; so why all of a sudden has it turned into an episode of General Hospital?
The doctor walks back in with a form for me to sign. I tell my mother that I have to go, that the doctor needs to talk to me. She promises to call me when she arrives in Pittsburgh tomorrow. I don't tell her that tomorrow may be too late; instead I hang up and give my attention to Dr. Ryan.
She walks back out, eyes still wide and blank. Emotionless. "Hey, baby. What did they tell you?"
Charlotte looks at me, and her eyes are unfocused, so I don't think she actually sees me when she faces me. "Want the good news or the bad news first?"
I look at Jordan, who's impatient for any word. I tell her, "Bad news first."
"He's touch and go. Fifty-fifty. I'm sorry, Jordan," she replies.
"No. I'm sorry," he counters, choking on his words. "I hope your friend.... I hope he makes it." He looks down at his hands.
She shakes her head. "Jord, it was an accident. It's not like you chased him down. It just... happened. And it sucks that it did, but we have to play our cards as they're dealt."
Jordan nods. It seems weird to me that Charlotte's consoling Jordan. "And the good news?" I ask.
"My mom's coming to town tomorrow. If you were serious about wanting to meet her," she sighs, taking a breath and rubbing her eyes with her palms, "I guess you're gonna get the chance."
I can't tell if she's crying or just tired or really worried or frustrated. Either way, I don't think she wants the guys to see her like that, and that's why she's trying to hide her face. I stand up and pull her into me, almost expecting to feel her body shake but that doesn't happen. Charlotte instead leans into me and takes a deep breath. "She's coming here because of him, isn't she?" I feel her head bob. "Well, it's not under the best of circumstances, but I'm very excited to meet her."
"Really?" she asks, sounding shocked.
The guys are looking at me funny, too. "Of course. I told you so before. She's going to love me." She giggles a little. My chest feels light, knowing that she can laugh at a time like this. "So, you've told them everything you needed to? We can leave now?"
"I can't leave, Max," she says quietly, so Tanger and Staalsy can't hear. "Libby named me his medical proxy until she can get here. In case... decisions need to be made while she's traveling."
I clear my throat. I can't fucking believe it. She has to take care of him? Once again, he is defining and dictating how she lives her life. He's not even fucking conscious right now, and he's still involved. I hope I'm wrong. "What?"
"I know. I know, you don't have to say it," she says, reading my mind. "I don't like it. I don't want to do it. But it's just until his sister gets here tomorrow. He doesn't have anyone else to do this. He needs me."
"I need you," I tell her.
"Just until tomorrow, Max."
It's like something snaps. "I can't believe you're choosing him over me."
"I'm not," Charlotte adamantly denies, looking me square in the eye. This is the first time she starts to tear up. "I love you. I want you. I don't want him, and I don't want to do this. I don't really have a choice right now."
"Yes, you do. Tell them no, that you're not doing it. You're not responsible for him. You don't owe him anything, remember?"
"If I do this, and he makes it through, then that's it. He'll owe me. I'll feel guilty if I leave him here alone, if he dies.... Don't ask me to put myself through that."
I still can't believe it. Don't ask me to put myself through that.... But what about what she's putting me through? Huh? I love her. I gave her my heart. And she doesn't care. I'll always play second fiddle to another guy. Worse of all, he was an ass, and I've done everything I could to give her the world. Give her my world. What else do I have to do? I don't think there's anything else that I can do at this point. "Fine. I won't ask you to." She's made her decision, and I'm making mine. I pull away completely, ready to leave the lounge, the hospital. I'm out of here.
"Wait," she begs, grabbing a fistful of my sweatshirt. "Where are you going?"
"Home. If you guys need a ride, I'll drive you," I say, looking at Staalsy and Tanger. But they don't want to make eye contact with me.
"Can't you stay?"
"It's a game day, and with these two guys having to sit out, I need to focus."
"Five minutes?" She can barely eke out those two words. I know she's upset, but I doubt that it's anything like what I'm feeling right now.
I shake my head, knowing that I won't be able to speak either. I can't stay here; I can't be here for this; and I can't watch the girl I love rededicate herself to the well-being of the guy that treated her so badly.