I nodded, just the slightest movement.
“You’ll be able to speak again by tomorrow. We needed to intubate you for the coma, just in case. Other than the hard hit to your head, you came out of the accident without any big injuries. No broken bones, but your body is still healing from the trauma. You will be in pain for a few days.”
Checking my pupils. My vitals. The doctor left, saying he’d return to discuss departure plans with me about going home from the hospital. He glanced in Stone’s direction as he added, “You will need to go somewhere that you can be cared for. One more person will need to be there, and we can’t allow you to drive yourself home.”
Stone cleared his throat, looking up from where he’d been standing, his arms folded over his chest. “She’ll stay with me. I’ll drive her there.”
I opened my mouth to argue, but no sound came out as Stone sent me a withering look. “All your shit’s already been moved.”
Well. That shut me up.
“There you go. Problem solved.” The doctor touched my foot, a reassuring smile on his face. “Rest, Dusty. Your body needs to heal. One day at a time right now.”
He gave Stone a nod before leaving, pulling the door shut behind him.
Then it was just me and Stone, and his hands went up to his head. He let out a sharp breath. “Fucking hell!” Bending over, touching his elbows to his knees, he swiftly jerked back up, his hands falling, and a stark look was there.
Anger. Frustration. Pity. A whole mix of other things, but he was shaking his head. “Jesus Christ, Dusty. You know how the last few days have been?”
Anger sliced through my chest, and since I couldn’t speak, I mouthed at him, “Fuck. Off.”
He read it, and then his lip twitched before a full laugh left him. “Shit. There you are. Still fucking fighting while you’re literally bed-ridden. I have no clue why I’ve stayed away.” His tone turned mocking, a hardness lining his words, and I felt slapped by his words, but also comforted because that felt like familiar ground for us.
He groaned, slumping into the chair on the other side of my bed. “Okay. You have two options. I can tell you everything that’s happened because you’ve been in your coma for four days. Or we can wait until you can talk and ream me out and I can tell you then. Which option do you want because the outcome will be the same?” His eyes latched onto mine, still so hard and half glaring.
I lifted my middle finger for number one.
“The first option?” He grinned at my finger.
I nodded, just the slightest bit.
With his hands going into his hoodie’s front pocket, he pulled it low. “Since you are unable to travel by vehicle, train, or plane, a funeral was put together for your parents. Gail’s sister traveled from New York to help facilitate everything, and Jared was asked what he’d like to do. If he wanted to remain at his best friend’s house, go to New York with his aunt, or come down here to be with you.”
Pain. Excruciating. Dizzying. Blinding pain punctured me as he kept on. Every word he said was another knife being thrust into me, but I had to hear everything. I had to know everything.
“Since Apollo’s parents are open to fostering Jared the rest of his senior year, he opted to stay with them.”
A tear fell, slipping down my cheek.
It was how it should be. Jared spent more time there than at his own home, more time spent with his best friend to even get to know me. Not that I’d really been around. I’d been in school except for a few months when Gail and my father had started dating.
“I notified your parents’ lawyer and he’s traveling down here to go over your father’s will with you. Jared’s six months from being eighteen. Apollo’s parents are open to the idea of adopting him, if you and your aunt are okay with that. Technically, I believe the aunt has the option first. She agreed to the adoption, and so that goes to you, if you’re okay with them starting the process.”
I moved my head in a nod, more than I should’ve. A primal and head-splitting pain ripped through me, but I made no sound. I let no more tears fall. I swallowed and dealt with it. I knew Apollo’s parents, Bud and Georgia. They were a happy couple, and Apollo with his little sister were both blossoming. Good kids, from good parents. A good family. Jared would be lucky to be taken in by them permanently.
“Okay.” Stone took in another deep breath, his hand coming out of his hoodie pocket and smoothing down his leg. “I’ll let them know, and Jared’s social worker will reach out. She might need to talk to you, or meet you somehow. There are papers to sign, too.”
I couldn’t voice my question, so I motioned toward where his phone was on the nightstand.
He frowned. “You can’t talk at all.”
I made a writing gesture with my hand.
He grabbed his phone, pulling up a notepad app, and handed it to me.
I typed out, “Where are they buried?” And handed it to him.
“By your mom.”
Relief tamped down some of the pain. It was a little more manageable.
I reached for his phone again, then typed, “Costs?”
He took his phone back, blacking the screen, and put his phone in his pocket. He looked away and sat back in his chair.
He wasn’t going to answer.
I hit my hand on my bed rail, a wince leaving me because it was too unbearable, but I had to know.
He swung those stormy eyes back my way, hot and angry. “What? What do you want me to say? You’re going to freak the fuck out when I answer you, but I don’t even care.” He shot forward, scooting to the edge of his seat. “I don’t give a fuck. You want to know about the costs? There are none. Wanna know why?” His chest was rising up and down, his eyes almost going wild. “Because I fucking paid for everything. Hospital, too. No. Not my parents. No, not your aunt. And goddammit, no way in hell, not you. Because after you lit all that shit up for me about what happened, I did my own digging and found out what my father did to yours. And I’m sorry, okay?!” He was almost shouting.
A nurse came to the door, peeking in, worried.
He shoved back in the chair, sending it scraping against the floor a few inches. “I paid for goddamn everything, and you don’t get to sit there and hate me because of it. Not another thing on the list. You want to pay me back? Because I know you probably will keep a fucking tally till the day you end up in an old folks’ home, fine. You can pay me back. I’ll set it up with my lawyer, but you don’t have to pay me back. I know you hate me. Fine. Dandy. Whatever the fuck. I’m not the biggest fan of yours either, but it’s done. So now you do your thing and heal. Get better, then we’ll deal with everything else.”
No emotions, angry or sad, or even relieved.
I was just empty and after hearing all of that, I closed my eyes and lay there. Stone remained, and for the next hour until I fell asleep, we sat together in silence.
“Fuck’s sake. Why not?”
Same dance. Different day.
It was the day I was being released from the hospital. They kept me another day, just to be safe, but I got the clear bill of health, and now here we were. On the front steps of the hospital. A crowd was starting to gather, more than a few recognized Stone, and based on conversations I’d overheard with the nurses, word had been building that he was a frequent visitor. The nurses wanted to know who I was, and the nurses who worked with me directly bit their tongue because they knew I wasn’t a fan. In fact, more than a few times when Stone tried to help me, and I snapped at him to give me space, a nurse had to leave the room.
I got it. I did.
They thought I was being ungrateful and rude and I’m sure they had worse names to call me behind my back. Whatever. That was my attitude.
Whatever to them.
They didn’t have the history I did with Stone’s family, and yeah, an argument could’ve been made that it hadn’t been Stone who fired my dad, who blacklisted him, who tried to push him out of town when we were starting chemotherapy. That’d been his dad, but there’d been six years prior to that where Stone had been cold to me growing up, where I hadn’t been ‘good enough’ for him, and I sat and watched my former best friend become this entirely new person.
Arrogant. Wealthy. Privileged.
And no one knew what I’d had to endure to put me in this position where I decided to pursue a dream I never thought I could go after, and now here we were. Again.
I was sans my dad. There were no more annoying texts or calls from Gail, and I was three seconds from losing it.
“I don’t need you to take care of me.”
We were standing outside the opened back door of his truck. I was able to stand from my wheelchair, because that was their policy, but I needed to be driven home by someone. The nurse left. I was free and clear to grab a taxi, and I was trying to do that when Stone started in.