Dad nodded at her and then walked around the bed to sit in her chair. If Lori was here, she would be coming out of her skin with excitement to see him. They still talked. Not often, but they did.
He lowered his clasped hands to his knees as his gaze traveled over me. Several moments passed. “How are you feeling?”
I started to shrug, but my ribs protested. “Okay, I guess.”
“Kind of hard to imagine that you feel okay after everything,” he said, stating the obvious. “Your mother said you should be going home this weekend and that the doctor expects you to heal up without any complications.”
“That’s...what he’s been saying.” I slipped a finger under the cast, trying to get at an itch.
Dad was quiet for several moments. “I don’t know where to start, Lena. Getting that phone call from your mother was one...was one of the worst things to happen. I know you’ve been through a lot and I don’t want to add to it.”
“Then don’t,” I said, voice low and hoarse.
“But what happened could’ve been avoided,” he continued as if I hadn’t spoken, and he was right, so right, but I didn’t want to hear him saying it. “This wasn’t just an accident. You kids made some—”
“Are you...seriously going to lecture me?” I coughed out a hard laugh and then winced. “For real?”
Shoulders tensing, he took a visible deep breath. “I understand. I get it, Lena. I haven’t been around, but I’ve been calling you. I’ve been trying to—”
“You left and we didn’t hear from you for two years.” How could he ignore that tiny little fact? And waltz back into my life with a phone call?
“I’m sorry,” he was quick to say, and maybe he even meant it, but right then and right now, that apology was as empty as our house. “But I am still your father, Lena.”
“Yeah, you’re my father, but I stopped thinking of you that way the...moment you walked out that front door and disappeared for two years.” My ribs ached with each word. “How...can you say anything to me?”
The centers of his cheeks flushed. “Lena—”
“I don’t want to...do this right now,” I told him, clamping my eyes shut and wishing, no, praying, that he’d disappear. That all of this would just disappear. That I could walk out of this room and disappear. “I don’t want to talk. I’m...tired and I...I just want to be left alone.”
Dad didn’t respond, and I turned my cheek to the other side, keeping my eyes closed until I heard his footsteps, until I was sure he’d left the room like I knew he would.
And I knew I wouldn’t see him again.
* * *
I’d dozed off after Dad had left and timed meds had been shot into my IV. I had no idea if Mom or Lori had come back in the room after that or if they’d spent time with him. I’d almost guarantee that Lori had, and despite my own personal issues with him, I didn’t hold that against her. Just because our relationship had shattered, didn’t mean their relationship had to end.
I had no idea how long I slept. I knew it wasn’t long. Sleeping in a hospital was nearly impossible. There were so many noises. Machines kicking on and off. Footsteps out in the hall. Distant conversation. Codes being called out. I only ever slept a few hours, and when I woke this time, I came to thinking about the time Megan had attempted to reenact a routine she’d seen performed on Dance Moms in my living room.
She’d sprained her ankle.
And broken the vase on the coffee table.
Coach had been so ticked off. She was out of several games, and I could barely keep a straight face while he yelled at her.
Megan was such a dork.
Heaviness settled in the center of my chest and it had nothing to do with my screwed-up lungs or aching ribs. Seconds ticked by as I lay there and slowly I realized I wasn’t alone.
Over the scent of cleaning supplies and that weird antiseptic hospital scent, I smelled something fresher. Not my mother’s vanilla perfume or the raspberry lotion Lori wore. This smelled like the outdoors, like pine and cedarwood.
Air lodged in my throat, and my eyes flew open. I turned my head just the slightest, and there he was, sitting in the chair by the spotted window.
Sebastian’s face was turned to the side. He was looking out the window, and all I could see was his profile, but it was enough to tell me everything. Faint stubble covered the hard line of his jaw. His elbow was on the arm of the chair, his chin in his palm. He was paler than I was used to seeing him. His hair was a mess, falling onto his forehead.
What was he doing here?
I’d told Mom I didn’t want visitors. I wasn’t ready to see him or Abbi or Dary or anyone, really.
I didn’t make a sound, but he turned his head in my direction. Deep shadows were carved into the skin under those beautiful eyes the color of a sky at night, and those eyes were full to the brim. They looked haunted.
Our gazes met and held. For a second, he didn’t move. I wasn’t even sure he breathed. He just stared at me like he never expected to do so again...and I guessed he hadn’t, for a period of time.
Sebastian’s gaze moved, searching my face, lingering on the swollen and bruised side. He opened his mouth, but there were no words. He didn’t speak for a long moment, and I almost wished he wouldn’t. That he’d stay quiet, because hearing his voice would remind me of before, of every stupid thing I’d worried about right up to Saturday night. Of every dumb moment I’d wasted. Remind me of why I’d left that party.
“What are...you doing here?” I whispered.
His eyes drifted shut and his features tightened as if he were in pain. A moment passed before his eyes opened, and there was a rawness to them I’d never seen before. “God,” he rasped out. “Part of me wants to ask you what in the hell kind of question that is, but all I can think about is that you’re actually talking. That you’re still here.”
Every muscle in my body tensed. Dull pain flared across my ribs. “I...I told Mom I didn’t want to see anyone.”
“I know you did.” Sebastian leaned forward, gripping his knees. “Why?”
“Why?” I repeated, incredulous.
“How could you even think for one second that I would not come here the moment I could? Abbi and Dary might back off, but there is no way in hell that, after what happened, I wouldn’t be here.” He scooted to the edge of the chair. “I wanted—no, I needed—to see you for myself, to prove that you really were alive. That you’re going to be okay.”
My pulse started racing. “You know that I’m okay. I’m the only person who is okay.”
“Okay?” His face contorted and then smoothed out. “You didn’t stub your toe, Lena. Both of your lungs collapsed. Your arm is broken. You look like hell and you—” His voice cracked. “You could’ve died. Instead of going to the funeral of a girl I’ve known for years today, I could’ve been going to your funeral.”
That shut me up.
“I watched one of my friends be buried today. Tomorrow I will watch them bury one of my best friends,” he continued, his voice thick and lips thinning out. “On Sunday, I will see yet another one of my friends buried. Within three days, I will have watched four of my friends be buried.”
“I will never listen to Megan again and try to figure out what the hell she’s ranting about,” he said, and my throat constricted. “I will never listen to Cody giving me crap about playing ball. I won’t ever sit in class and watch Chris cheat on his exams, wondering how he never gets caught. I won’t get to chill with Phillip and play ‘Madden’ again.” His voice shook, and I wanted him to stop. “I never got to say goodbye to any of them Saturday. I didn’t get to say goodbye to you that night.”
“You know what? Losing them is something I cannot even process right now. Hell if I ever will be able to. But losing you?” His back straightened and his jaw flexed. “I would never get over that.”
Squeezing my eyes shut, I breathed around the razor-edged knot in my throat. “I can’t do this.”