He waved his fingers at me dismissively. He didn’t fucking care.
Mad chose that exact moment to make her grand return with a big smile, oven mitts, and a plate stacked with a mountain of steaming pancakes. She slid the plate in Clementine’s direction, drenching the pancakes in enough maple syrup to drown a hamster. “There you go, sweets.”
“Maddie.” Julian almost sprawled in his seat, he was so smug. “Clementine just shared something very interesting with us. She said she saw you hugging her pediatrician, Dr. Goodman, this week, and that he kissed your cheek. Is this true?” He elevated an eyebrow, feigning surprise.
“Chase says she must’ve seen wrong.” Amber jumped on the shit wagon, recovering quickly from her failure to feed her own child. “But I know my daughter, and she is extremely observant.”
Madison’s eyes darted to me. I held her gaze. I wasn’t sure what I was asking her, but I knew if she was going to refuse it, there was a good chance I’d set the world on fire.
Since when were clocks so goddamn loud? I waited for her to say something. Anything. How the tables had turned. Six months ago, Madison Goldbloom would bend over backward to make me happy (quite literally—we’d tried that position twice). Now, I was at her mercy.
Her lips parted, and the room sucked in a collective breath.
“Oh, Dr. Goodman!” she exclaimed with her big Maddie smile, but I could see right through it. The self-disgust laced with panic swimming in her big brown eyes. “Clemmy, you definitely saw me! Dr. Goodman and I are old friends. He is practicing for a half marathon. I just dropped by with some baked goods because I was in the area visiting a friend.”
Of course. A friend. A friend. Why hadn’t I thought of that?
Because the only women you talk to who are not blood related to you end up in your bed. You wouldn’t recognize friendship with the fairer sex if it kneed you in the nuts.
Clementine seemed to be appeased by that, smiling her partly toothless grin at Madison like she’d hung the stars and moon for her.
Julian, however, wasn’t impressed by this bullshit. He looked between Mad and me, arching an eyebrow. He was about to say something I 100 percent didn’t want to hear, his mouth falling open, when a loud bang snapped everyone out of the drama. My gaze darted to the head of the table.
I hooked Dad’s right arm, propping him on my shoulder. Julian took his left side. We zigzagged across the living room unevenly, the height difference between Jul and me making Dad sway unconsciously between us like a rag flapping on a clothesline.
“Let’s take him to my bedroom,” Julian groaned, his knees buckling under my father’s weight. We dragged him through the hallway, Mom and Katie on our heels. I heard Amber cracking open a bottle of liquor and Madison asking Clementine enthusiastically to show her her book collection.
The hallway was never ending, stretching for miles, and I pushed away the thoughts of Dad dying in my arms tonight. The pictures on the walls blurred. When we got to Julian and Amber’s bedroom, we rested Dad on top of the bed. I dialed Grant’s number. Fuck his date with Layla. I paced back and forth as Katie tried to pour a little water between Dad’s dry, colorless lips. He regained consciousness, but that meant jack shit after his head had collided with his plate and he’d passed out on the table mere minutes ago.
As if remembering herself, Mom rushed back to the living room to fetch the medicine bag she’d brought for Dad (because carrying a medicine bag everywhere was now a thing). It was a big black device that had all kinds of oxygen masks and an array of orange pill bottles.
“Pick up, pick up, pick up,” I muttered, my phone plastered to my ear, pacing back and forth in a room I never wanted to be in. Grant picked up on the second ring. I rehashed the events in a clipped tone.
“Put Ronan on the phone, please,” Grant said, annoyingly composed. My four-year-old self wanted to throw sand in his eyes. What are you so calm about? My dad is dying.
Mom handed me the medicine bag. I unzipped it. Katie propped Dad’s back against the headboard, a thin veil of sweat coating her forehead. I hurried to help her, pinning my phone between my ear and shoulder.
“Just tell me what to do.”
“Chase, I can’t.”
“I’m your best friend,” I hissed through clenched teeth, recognizing how childish it sounded.
“You could be the pope for all I care. You need to put your dad on the phone. He is the only person I can discuss his meds with, unless I get his verbal permission.”
We both knew Dad wouldn’t grant me permission to discuss his health while he was still in a position to make his own decision. He was stubbornly proud. Reluctantly, I handed Dad my phone. His fingers curled around the device shakily. He began to sift through the medicine bag in his lap as he hmm-hmmed to the phone. Ranitidine, slow-release morphine, diclofenac, methylprednisolone. Hospice medicine, designed to make him comfortable, not better.
Katie galloped to the en suite bathroom, and I heard her retch as she threw up. It was too much for her. The realness of losing him.
Dad popped a few pills, drank more water, and answered various questions Grant had asked him. I didn’t think it was standard procedure for a doctor off duty to sit around and listen to his patient’s slow breaths for twenty minutes, but he did. Dad put Grant on speaker, and Katie got back to the room.
“Hey, Mr. Black, remember when Chase and I watched The Shining while we had a sleepover and I pissed my pants and you helped me clean it up? Bet you never thought things would turn out this way, huh?” Grant laughed. Dad did too.
I silently thanked the universe for gifting me a doctor best friend and not a douchey Wall Street broker of the variety I’d gone to school with.
“How could I forget?” He chuckled. “You’ve come a long way.”
“Well, it has been a few years.” I heard Grant grin.
Dad hung up and handed me the phone back, his stern father voice giving me whiplash. “Grant’s going to drop by at my house in a little to make sure my head is okay. He’s a good friend. Make sure you don’t lose him or Madison. They please me.”
“Really?” I cocked an eyebrow. “You just passed out, and that’s what you want to talk about? My friend and girlfriend?”