Soundtrack Song - Not a Pretty Girl (cover)
When Max heads for the elevator, leaving Jordan, Kris, and I in the waiting lounge of the ICU, I try to tell myself that it's because he has a game. Over and over, that's what I say in my head, because I need to lie to myself. I know it's not true; I know that his departure has nothing to do with the fact that he has a game in the evening and everything to do with the fact that I am not leaving with him. But I don't want to think about that. I can't think about that.
This is the second time, the second time, he's hitting the road when I need the most. Last time, it was because he told me I needed to do it on my own. I still don't know if he was right in that instance. He was right about the fact that I could do it on my own, because I did. But this time.... Well, I guess I'm going to have to be strong enough to handle it on my own. I can't trust him; I can't depend on him or rely on him to be there to lean on. So I will just have to stand tall on my own and weather the storm. I don't have a choice. I have to.
"I'm sorry," Jordan says, disrupting my thoughts.
"I told you, it's not your fault." I reach out and rub his arm. "Accidents happen."
"Not... not about that," he replies. "I mean, I am still sorry about that. But, you know, Max...."
I nod. And that's when the finality of it all sinks in. It was different when I was the one trying to convince myself otherwise, but when Jordan expresses his sympathy, I can't deny it anymore. And that's when I start crying. Not because of John, but because of Max. Jordan wraps his arm around my shoulders, and Kris trots after Max.
It's foolish to rely on other people. To think that they can help you or somehow hold the key. Because people will only let you down. I was stupid to think that Max was different.
I take that back. I can't blame this on Max. He'd been wonderful up until this point. He put up with more than anyone else would have. Any other guy would have given up on me so long ago. Max stuck with me through a lot, but everyone has their limitations. I was asking too much of him. This was just the straw that broke the camel's back. This is all my fault; I've brought this all upon myself.
I likewise hug Jordan. He's upset because of John, and I'm upset because of Max. We're comforting each other for different reasons. I let myself mourn the death of my relationship for a few moments before I make myself stop crying. I swear to myself that I'll never cry over a man again. Men don't deserve it, any of them.
It's not like I wanted this; it was thrust upon me. Libby told the hospital to do it, since she wouldn't always be reachable. Her phone would have to be off while she was flying, and if something happened, someone needed to be there to make a decision, no matter if it was a good or bad thing. I wasn't even asked if I wanted to do it. When Dr. Ryan walked in and handed me the form, my gut reaction was to tell her no. But what else was I supposed to do? Practicing doctors can't make objective decisions about patients, so I couldn't just say, "Do whatever you think's best, doc," and leave. If that had been possible, Libby wouldn't have had to do this.
Libby, being the consummate optimist, decided that John would have the surgery to insert the metal rod into his thigh. She was so sure he was going to make it, and she knew that John would be mad if anyone had ever doubted his ability to make it through. As the operating room is being readied for his surgery, Jordan asks if he can go in and see him.
"I just can't believe this happened. I'm a good driver, and I've never been in any kind of accident, ever."
"Really? Not even a little fender bender?"
"No," he sighs, running a hand over his face. "I learned how to drive a tractor when I was seven. I'm a good driver," he repeats, more because he's trying to convince himself of it than because I'm doubting him.
"Even the best drivers—"
"I know, I know. Accidents happen."
I feel the worst for Jordan. Despite how this accident has affected my life, it's nothing in comparison to what Jordan's feeling and going through. He's being put through the wringer, worried about the consequences of his actions. Not just about how the media's going to tear him apart, analyze the situation, or even the legal and/or financial repercussions, but because a life hangs in the balance and he was the one behind the wheel. It's eating away at him, and he's guilt-ridden. I feel even worse because it's not like he hit the pope or anything. He hit John.
While he heads into John's room, I see Kris approaching. I'm glad that I won't be left alone yet, because my mind might wander and start thinking about how much fun it would be to unplug John's life support machines or smother him with a pillow. Except that since he's unconscious, he wouldn't know it was me killing him for fucking up my life when it was finally starting to get good and worth living again. No sense in going to hell if it wasn't worth it, and it would only be worth it if he knew it was coming. I take a seat on one of the uncomfortable couches. "I thought you were leaving," I say, tucking my legs underneath me.
He shakes his head as he sits beside me. "No. Heather's coming to get us."
"Then why did you leave with...?" I can't even say his name. I'm trying to put him out of my mind completely, and I refuse to even say his name. It's best not to talk about him or mention him.
"I just needed to talk to him. Or rather, just to talk some sense into him. He's acting like a coward, Charlotte—"
"No, Kris," I interrupt. "He's right. He's one-hundred percent right." Kris looks at me like I'm crazy. "It's more complicated than it seems—"
"I know," he cuts me off, rolling his eyes. "I heard him telling Flower about it. I mean, Marc—"
It's my turn to cut him off. "I know who you're talking about. It was unfair to ask him to stay. This isn't his problem."
"If he loves you, then he's supposed to make it his problem."
"No. He sees the situation through an outsider's eyes. He knows that John wasn't the nicest person to me, and he wants me to put as much distance between John and my past with regards to him and our present together. He wants that for me because he doesn't want me to have to hurt anymore. He wants that for me because he wants what's best for me. I totally get that. I mean, I know the reason behind the way he's acting. He wants to protect me, and I love him for that.
"But John's too unstable for me to leave. Anything could happen at any moment. If it wasn't so touch and go, then maybe I wouldn't need to be here. He's in critical condition. Maybe I should have explained that to him. If he were stable, it would be different.
"And I'm not doing this for John. Libby didn't even ask me. But I'm doing it for her. She's a sweetheart, not like her brother at all. It's only until she can get here. Once Libby shows up, I'm outta here. So fast. And it's not like I even want to go into his room either. I can't stand to be in the same room with him, even though he's unconscious. It sucks to say I hate him, when he's in this state.... I feel like I should forgive him or something. I don't want to, but I feel like I should. Because if he dies, I'll never get the closure I want. I want him to live and become someone else's problem, so I know he'll never bother me again.
"Max didn't live through what I lived through. It's not so easy for me to paint John as the enemy. I hate him, but does that make him evil? See, I just can't think like that when he's possibly dying in the other room. Call it Stockholm Syndrome, if you want to, but I can't leave him here, even though I want to. Not when I know he's alone. I mean, he's still alone, because I'm not in there with him, but...." I sigh, wondering how I can spill my guts to someone I barely know. "You know, you're really easy to talk to."
"If it helps, then I'm glad," Kris replies with a slight smile on his lips.
I laugh. "No, it doesn't really help. I just always keep going around in circles. Max.... Max is the only one that ever pointed me in the right direction, ya know? He didn't do it on purpose. In fact, he never even knew he was doing it, but it was like, just because he was there, I figured it out for myself. And now, well. I guess I have to figure it out on my own.
"But, it's for the best, I think. I mean, when you go from living for one person to living for another, you don't get to figure out what you want out of life, ya know? Maybe this is a blessing in disguise. It's about time I do things on my own."
"You shouldn't have to go through this alone. Regardless of how you feel about the man in the other room, this is not an easy thing to go through. Accidents like this, death, it shakes you to your core. It makes you question everything in your life. It's times like this that you need the people around you, especially the ones that mean the most to you."
I smile grimly at Kris. To be this wise about such a topic of discussion means that he's had his own experience. I feel bad for him for that. "I've been here before, when my dad died. I've done my questioning of God, so it's not like I'm in some existential meltdown. I just hate having to be in this situation at all."
"But Max should know that this isn't easy, no matter what the circumstances. He went through this with his mother."
"Wait. What?" Am I missing something here?
"His mother had breast cancer."
"I didn't know that."
"Well, she's in remission now. I think she's at the point where you can say she's 'cured.' But that's why I can't believe he's being so stubborn about this. He shouldn't be putting himself first."
"It's okay, Kris. I've put him through so much already. I've relied on him so much. Too much. When you put someone up on a pedestal, they're only going to let you down. And now it's time for me to step up the plate. I don't need him."
Before either of us can continue our conversation, Jordan comes back into the lounge and John's being wheeled to the operating room. While we wait for the procedure to be completed, I head outside and call Gina, just to let her know what's going on.
"I'm so glad you called me," she says. "I was worried sick without knowing what's going on."
I tell her everything about John, the accident, being appointed his medical proxy, and both Libby and my mother's plans to come to Pittsburgh. "Unless his medical state changes, I'll be here at the hospital until Libby gets here. I think one of the nurses said she made her flight arrangements, and she'll be here like at eight or something in the morning. So, I'll see you tomorrow. I need to get back inside."
"Wait. You're staying with John at the hospital?"
"Unless something changes. He's in surgery now, but the doctors still aren't sure if he'll make it. If he gets through the next twenty-four hours, then it's safe to say he'll make it. But in the meantime, we just have to wait and see, pretty much."
"So, you're staying there with him for the next twenty-four hours?"
"Listen," I yell, blowing up at her and totally snapping, unable to hold my emotions in. "I don't need this from you, too. I'm trying to do what I think is the right thing. I'm trying to be the better person. I don't need to hear this from you, too."
"Chill out for a second, Char. What do you mean, 'you, too'?" When I don't say anything, Gina comes to her own conclusions. "Max?"
"Yes, Max. He's mad at me, too, for staying here, so he just up and fucking left. So I don't need you making me feel worse. No one's happy about this situation. Not me, not Max, not you, and once my mom and Libby get here, they're not going to be happy either. I'm not asking for you to agree, or even for you to understand. I'm not asking for you to help me. All I ask is that you not make me feel even worse about this. If that's too much to ask for—"
"God, calm down, Char. I didn't say anything. I'm not trying to make you feel worse."
"I'm sorry," I cry, my emotions taking a one-hundred-eighty degree turn. This must be what it feels like to be insane. "I'm sorry, Gina, I didn't mean to freak out on you."
"Are you upset about John or Max here? What's going on that's got you acting like this?"
I take a few deeps breaths. I promised myself, no more crying. "Max did what he thought he needed to do. And I'm doing what I think I should I do. And we're either both right, or we're both wrong. Either way, Gina, we're over."