“Do what?” he asked.
“You...” I sucked in a sharp breath. “What happened, it’s...it’s my fault.”
“What?” He sounded astonished. Dear God, he actually was shocked. “You weren’t the one driving, Lena. You didn’t get behind that wheel drunk.”
“That doesn’t...matter,” I whispered back.
“You don’t get it.” I lifted my good arm, placing my hand over my eyes. I didn’t want to cry in front of him. I didn’t want to cry again. “I don’t...want to talk anymore.”
A couple of moments passed and he said, “We don’t have to.”
I squirmed restlessly. Something was building inside me. Something ugly and messy and too raw, too powerful. “Can you just leave?” I asked, begged really. “Please?”
His gaze held mine for a moment and then he stood, and I wanted to sink through the bed, sink down into nothing.
Sebastian didn’t leave, though.
He wasn’t my father.
He wasn’t me.
Grabbing the chair, he picked it up and planted it right by the top of my bed and then he sat down. My heart pounded. He rested his right arm on the bed beside mine and then leaned over, stretching his left arm so his fingers caught the limp strands of my hair, brushing them back from my face as he said, “I’m not leaving. You can get mad. You can get upset, but I’m staying right here, because whether you realize it or not, you shouldn’t be alone. I’m not going anywhere.”
Sebastian stayed even though we didn’t talk. He’d turned on the TV and he watched the news. I didn’t look at him, but every so often, I could feel his gaze on me. I waited for him to say something, to ask questions, but he didn’t. And he was there when the nurses came into the room and forced me out of the bed to walk.
Horrified that he was about to witness the absolute struggle it was to get out of bed only to moon whoever was in the room, I locked up when the nurse helped me sit up.
A frown creased the nurse’s brow when I didn’t budge. “Are you in pain?”
Mouth clamped shut, I quickly shook my head. I could feel Sebastian’s gaze boring holes into my back.
The nurse seemed to know what the holdup was. “Do you mind going to the nurses’ station down the hall and grabbing us a cup of ice?” she asked him.
“No problem.” Sebastian popped to his feet, and I stared at the floor until I heard him leave the room.
“Thank you,” I whispered.
“No need to thank me,” she replied, getting a firm hold on my uninjured arm. “Is he your boyfriend?”
I shook my head as I slipped out of the bed. “Just...just a friend.”
It used to hurt to say that. People often assumed that we were together, something that always secretly pleased me to no end, but I felt nothing as I got my feet into the slippers and started walking. No excitement. No sweet anticipation that usually turned bitter. No sadness because it wasn’t true.
I was... I was just empty.
The nurse held my gown closed as we walked up and down the hall. After a couple of passes, my knees weren’t as wobbly and I was definitely breathing better than before. I could’ve kept going, but the nurse escorted me back to the room.
Sebastian was still there, sitting in the chair. He stood as I neared the bed, a pale yellow plastic cup in his hand. “I have the ice.”
“Perfect,” the nurse replied, still gripping the back of my gown. “Can you put it on the table?”
As Sebastian turned to do just that, the nurse held my gown as I climbed onto the bed. It was on an incline, so I was sitting up. Keeping my attention trained on my hands, I could feel Sebastian moving closer as the nurse pulled out the inhalers for the treatment.
Sebastian stayed through that, too.
Then after the nurse left, he was still there when my mom returned. I pretended to sleep while they talked in hushed tones about nothing. I eventually fell asleep, listening to voices that should’ve been as familiar as breathing to me but sounded like strangers now.
* * *
I learned Friday afternoon that there was no football game, when Sebastian showed up about an hour after school let out.
Unlike the day before, there was a tiny spark of something inside me when Mom looked up over at the door and I saw Sebastian. I guessed that was an improvement from feeling nothing at all.
Sebastian looked better.
He still hadn’t shaved, but the deep shadows under his eyes had lessened and there was more color to his skin.
He did all the talking then—about school and the two classes we shared this year, about Abbi and Dary. Talked about everything except for the accident or the funerals. I didn’t do much talking. I just lay there, staring at the TV.
He came by again Saturday afternoon, and there was another spark, that warming in my chest I wanted to grasp ahold of, but it...it didn’t feel right to do so.
I might’ve said a total of five sentences total.
I didn’t have it in me to talk, to put voice to everything that was inside my head or what I was feeling...and what I wasn’t.
Sebastian also showed up on Sunday, his face clean shaven, wearing black trousers and a white button-down. He had the sleeves rolled up and was carrying a flat brown paper bag. I knew where he’d come from.
“You’re looking a lot better,” he said, sitting in the chair by the window. The paper bag dangled between his knees. “Where’s your mom?”
I drew in a shallow, uneven breath. “Home. She’s...she’s coming soon.”
“Cool.” Those deep blue eyes caught mine for a moment. “You think you’re getting out tomorrow?”
Shifting on the inclined bed, I nodded.
His thick lashes lowered as he lifted his bag. “I meant to give this to you yesterday. Left it in the Jeep without thinking.” He reached into the bag, then pulled out a large square that I quickly realized was a giant card.
My dry lips parted. “What...what is that?”
A lopsided grin appeared. “It’s a card. Pretty sure it’s made it through the whole entire school.”
A card for me.
I lifted my gaze to Sebastian. He was holding it out to me, but I couldn’t make myself move. I couldn’t take it. It wasn’t right. Jesus Christ, it was so not right.
Sebastian stared at me a moment. Silence stretched out and then his chest rose with a deep breath. He placed the bag on the window ledge and moved closer to the bed.
“Everyone has been thinking of you.” He carefully opened the jumbo-sized card, holding it in front of me. “They miss you.”
My gaze flickered over the card. I could see signatures all along the card, underneath doodled hearts and bubbly “Get well soon” messages. I saw “We love you” written in cursive and in block letters. Guilt churned in my stomach, filling my veins with battery acid.
Didn’t they know?
“I miss you,” Sebastian added quietly.
Slowly, I lifted my eyes to him, and emotion clogged the back of my throat. They missed me and they wanted me to get better, but they didn’t know that I could’ve—I should’ve—changed what had happened.
Sebastian closed the card, clearing his throat as he stepped back. “I’ll put it on your table, okay?” Not waiting for my answer, he propped it up on the small table by my bed.
I peeked at him. He was quiet as he moved the chair closer to my bed and sat, resting his arms on his legs, and he had this look on his face, like he didn’t know what to say or do and he was trying to figure it out.
“You...you don’t have to stay here,” I told him, returning to staring at my hands. “I know I’m not much company.”
“I don’t want to leave,” he replied and then exhaled roughly. “Do you want... Do you want to talk about it?”
My entire body stiffened. “No.”
Sebastian was quiet for a long moment again. “Dary and Abbi really miss you. They’re trying to give you space, but—”
“I know,” I interrupted. “I’m just... I don’t want them to have to come here. Hospitals suck.”