March 19, 2010
I WOKE TO THE SOUND of my screams in a bed I didn’t recognize, in a place I didn’t recognize. The lights were out, and all I could see was the thin line of light coming in from the door. No windows, only four walls around me. My hand was still in a cast up to my mid-forearm.
Joel ran inside the dark room I was in with wide, panic- filled eyes, leaving the door open. I held my hand up, looking for shelter, and shut my eyes for a second, allowing them to adjust to the sudden luminescence that dazzled me.
I sat up and felt Joel’s weight on the bed as he sat beside me. I’m still in the hospital.
It took me a few seconds to realize I was in a small guest room
inside William’s hospital room. But the last thing I remember was sleeping beside him in his bed, so I was clueless how I woke up here instead.
William shouted from afar, asking Joel if I was okay. Joel placed his arms around me and replied in Swedish with a calm voice that seemed to set William at ease for the moment.
“You okay?” Joel asked. I was still panting with terror.
It was the first time I woke up screaming, but the warmth building up in my gut told me it wasn’t going to be the last. “Yeah, it was just a bad dream,” I replied, holding on tightly
to him, letting out a long breath, fully charged with relief. William was fine.
He was out there recovering in his bed. In my dream, he ...
it was best not to dwell on the might have beens. But Caleb was still gone. The void inside my chest reminded me of that fact.
Gently, I released myself from Joel’s embrace and took my hands to my face; the pain alone bent me over. The tears burned my throat as I swallowed them back. I couldn’t allow myself to break. Not now.
“How did I get here?” I asked Joel in barely a whisper. He stared at me as if I were a ticking bomb running on its last seconds before exploding.
“I carried you here. It seemed like you needed to rest, and well, Nathan called asking for you,” Joel whispered back. “He’s outside in the waiting room and wanting to see you. I thought it would be best if—”
Nathan’s arrived ...
“Thanks,” I replied almost immediately. Joel didn’t need to finish that sentence. The thought of Nathan walking into William’s room and seeing me sleeping in his bed made me want to bump my head against the wall. Now that I was sobered up from that moment, I couldn’t help but think how stupid I was to even do that in the first place. Thank God I woke up here instead. “I fell asleep I—that’s not what—”
“Hey, it’s okay.” Joel nodded once. Fast and sharp. He then offered me a tight-lipped smile. “It’s been a rough twelve hours for you. For everyone. I hope you’re feeling better.”
“I’m—yeah. Thanks.” I didn’t know if I was better. I simply existed. But seeing Nathan was something I needed so badly.
Something I knew would help make everything feel better. “What time is it?”
“It’s um”—he looked at his watch—“twelve-o-five.”
“What!” That meant Nathan had been waiting a while for me to wake up. I needed to see him. Now.
“Guille!” William called. God, he shouldn’t have been exerting himself like that. He needed peace and quiet. I got up reactively and almost tumbled down on the floor.
“Easy.” Joel caught me before I could fall. “You might still be under the effect of the medication you took earlier.”
“Thanks, I—I’m fine now. I just got up too fast.” Not really. I was so dizzy that if I didn’t have things to do and people to talk to, I would’ve gladly collapsed on that bed again.
At a slower pace, I walked out of the guest room, which consisted of a small bed and a nightstand, and stood next to William’s bed.
“Hi.” I forced myself to smile.
“Hey.” William’s face looked tense, his jaw popped, and no, that wasn’t what I wanted to see. “What happened in there? Are you okay?”
I didn’t want him to worry about me when I was the one worried sick about him. He still needed to recover from surgery, and I wasn’t planning on relaxing until he checked out of the hospital.
I could deal with the guilt and the machinations of my subconscious in the privacy of my own head.
“Um, yeah.” I made myself smile again, trying to reassure him. “It was just a nightmare.” I waved a limp hand in a careless motion, trying not to give it any importance. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m doing okay,” he answered, his features relaxing. “Did you get any sleep? You should be resting right now.”
“Well, my mother just left. Tobias and Eric stepped in for a while too, so I snoozed here and there in between visits.”
Oh. Shit. Did they see me sleeping in William’s bed?
“Oh, um, did they—”
“No,” he replied with a subtle frown. “Joel was the first to
come in after you fell asleep. He moved you before anyone else stepped in. Don’t worry about it.” He licked his lower lip and looked away.
“No, I—I’m not worried. I just wanted to know.” Lame answer.
William countered with a snort and a couple of slow head shakes. He was most probably annoyed about my concern with being seen sleeping beside him, but the situation was complicated enough as it was.
That’s when the memories of a few hours ago crashed on me. The things he said, the things I said back. And how I still meant and felt every single word, including those that remained unspoken.
A tingling warmth that I couldn’t seem to catalog occupied my gut, and my head still felt heavy from the medication. But I can’t say I didn’t welcome the feeling. It was better than having my brain’s functions reestablished. I didn’t want to think about Caleb. About him being gone. I refused to accept my reality.
“One of your agents dropped this for you earlier,” Joel said, cutting in. And I thanked him for changing the subject. He handed over a small bag to me.
“Oh, thanks.” I placed it on top of a chair and opened it to find a single black hoodie inside.
At least the color was suitable. But now I had to change out of the green Hammarby hoodie William gave me, and there was no way he wouldn’t notice because I couldn’t step out of his room wearing it. Nathan was somewhere outside waiting for me.
There was no easy way to do it.
William’s brows bunched up. He kept looking at me funny
with narrowed eyes, scanning through the mess that leaked out of my brain, like he could sense my awkwardness. I didn’t know where I stood with him. All I knew was that the way he kept looking at me still provoked the same things it always did ... but somehow, it was worse now. How had things changed so much in the last twenty-four hours?
Dealing with the guilt was the toughest part. I still couldn’t brush off the feeling that he was lying in that hospital bed because of me. It was getting harder for me to look at him.
“I’ll be right back,” I said, finally finding my voice, walking toward the small bedroom where I’d woken up a few minutes ago to change out of the hoodie. But a loud knock on the door startled me before I could reach the guest room’s door.
The muffled sound of voices arguing on the other side of the door became audible, and the door flew open.
I dropped the bag on the floor, and Nathan flew across the room. He held my face in between his hands and placed a soft, quick kiss on my lips. He embraced me gently and kissed my hair.
“I’m sorry. I was going insane out there. They wouldn’t let me in, and Joel just texted me to let me know you had just woken up,” he explained. He was talking so fast that I could feel the anxiety dripping off of every word. “Oh God, I’m so glad you’re okay.” He kissed my hair again as I hugged him tight around his waist with one arm.
He didn’t even notice what I was wearing or what I smelled like. Good.
Nathan backed away from me and walked over to William’s bedside. “How are you holding up, mate?” Nathan offered his hand to him, and William took it, smiling back at him with a tight mouth and a simple nod. “I wanted to thank you,” Nathan said, his voice almost breaking. “Thank you for being there when I wasn’t. I have no words for what you did.”
“Don’t, it’s—” William trailed off and looked at me for a split second. “I’m glad I was there, too.”
Nathan nodded at William and walked back to me. I was paralyzed. And it seemed to me like Joel was too. “Let me take you home, love.”
I didn’t want to set foot in my apartment. I didn’t even know if it was possible to go back.
“Just a second,” I said to Nathan, squeezing his hand for a couple of seconds before I let go. I walked over to William’s bed. “I’ll come back. I just—I need to—”
“Sure,” he said with a smile, but his eyes sang a different tune—one I could easily recognize.
And I didn’t want to go! How dare I leave him in that bed while I got to walk out of the hospital like nothing? It wasn’t fair, and I couldn’t play dumb anymore.
Caleb was right. He was always right. And as I reminded myself of my last conversation with him, a sinkhole broke its way through my chest.
My feelings for William were strong, and now there was no way for me to deny them. There was no place for me to hide. The thought of losing him ignited a riot inside me that demanded answers and resolutions.
And the only problem was I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do.