"Hello?" John said sleepily. He'd put his head down on his desk for a few minutes, trying to clear his head a bit. He'd been drawing like shit today for some reason. All weekend really, but today had been the worst of it. A bit had turned into over thirty minutes now he realized.
'Hey, John, it's Chris. Christopher Standish.'
"Yeah, hey, Chris." John said. Christopher had never called him before, but John was half asleep so that part didn't really register.
"Not particularly, no. What's up?"
'I think you may want to get down to Rush Presbyterian as soon as you can.'
"Uh, okay," he said.
"Oh," he said, suddenly a lot more awake than he had been a minute ago.
'She was in a car accident.'
"Is she okay?"
'I just really think you should get down here, okay?'
That didn't sound good. He'd tell her if she was okay, wouldn't he?
"Yeah, sure," he said, regarding the clock again.
'I'm her emergency contact so it's just me here, but I think she's going to want you anyway.'
"I'm not so sure of that," he said.
'I know you haven't seen one another too much lately. I really think she will, though. I'm the one making the call because I think you'll want to be here. You'll come?'
"Yeah, of course. I'll get there as soon as I can," he said.
It was late enough in the evening he wouldn't have to deal with five o'clock rush hour. He knocked on Jessica's door, grateful she was home so she could at the very least take Sammy out for him so he didn't have to waste time doing that.
"He didn't say what happened?"
"No, just that she was in a car accident."
"Oh," she said, looking a little worried then.
"What?" John asked.
"Nothing, I'm sure it's nothing."
"No, what?" he asked.
"Well, I had a friend… She had some complications because of a car accident."
"Yeah, with the baby. They had to deliver him early. He was distressed or something."
"Oh," John said, not even realizing that was done. Huh.
"That doesn't happen all of the time or anything. I mean, I also know someone who fell down some stairs and she and the baby were fine. So, who knows what causes things to happen? I shouldn't have said anything, now you're worried. I'm sure she'll be fine."
"I hope so," John said. Then would Chris be calling him, knowing they weren't exactly on speaking terms right now if she was okay? He wasn't sure.
He made it down there in decent time, finding the room number Christopher had given him.
"Oh, hey, Michael," John said. He supposed it made sense Christopher's son would be here, too. He just hadn't expected it, especially since Christopher had said it was just him. "How are you?"
"Good," he said.
"Good to hear. How's school?"
John chuckled softly at that. He remembered feeling that way very well. Grade school hadn't been so bad, but as he'd gotten older John loathed the confines of school and craved the freedom of summer. Mike wasn't that old yet, so he was sort of surprised to hear that answer from him. Then with only a month left he supposed any kid was a little anxious this time of year. Weather was getting nice, kids wanted to be outside all the time not just some of the time. At least that was how John had been when he was the kid's age. Even in high school he'd preferred being outside even if his activities weren't legal while being outdoors.
"I hear that. It'll go by fast and then summer will be here."
"Hey, John," Christopher said.
"Hi," he said.
"Glad you could come."
"Sure. I'd do anything for her. What happened?"
"Not sure, really. She got rear-ended and pushed into the intersection, causing her to get sideswiped."
"Jesus," he said. "Is she okay?"
"She's okay, yes," he said. "Banged up and bruised. A broken arm."
"Wow, okay," he said. John would like to see what Christopher defined as being not okay. A broken arm was pretty serious as far as John was concerned.
"Michael," Christopher said, pulling out his wallet. "Why don't you go down to the cafeteria and get Dad and John a couple of Cokes, okay? Get yourself something, too."
"Sure," he said, taking the money Christopher offered him and ran off in the direction of the elevators.
"Sorry. He's nine, you know, I don't want him repeating some things to my parents or his friends at school."
"Right, I get it."
"The doctor isn't so sure about the, uh, baby though."
"Yeah, something about bleeding, the placenta. Heartrate isn't as strong as they'd like it. I'm not sure. We're waiting for the on-call OB/GYN to come in and look at her."
"Is she okay?"
"She's groggy. They gave her something to calm her down a bit."
"Is that safe?"
"The doctor seemed to think it was safer than having her stress over whether the baby was going to be all right. She told him she'd been having some somewhat heavy spotting for the past couple of days and I guess there was quite a bit of visible blood after the accident and she was freaking out over that."
"I suppose," he said. He could see why she would freak out over that. That wasn't supposed to happen when you were pregnant. Even John with his lack of experience knew that.
"How far along is she?" Chris asked.
"Uh," John shrugged. "Like three months," he said, using Valentine's Day as a benchmark was kind of easy.
"The doctor said they may be able to stop the bleeding, but if there's an abrupted placenta they can't fix that."
"Okay," John said. "Am I supposed to understand what that means?"
"I have no idea what that is beyond what they explained to me. It's where they get their nutrients and oxygen, basically everything from the mother comes through that. It's supposed to be attached, fixed. It, like breaks from being attached. She'd be on bedrest basically for the next six months. There are issues potentially to the baby. Oxygen being cut off, lack of nutrients, and stuff."
"Oh," John said.
"That's why I called you. She was very distraught at the possibility of losing the baby, but the doctor told me that this far along there really isn't anything to do. Bedrest would not guarantee anything."
"Yeah, I got it," John said, not at all sure how he felt about that. He was just wrapping his mind around the fact she was really pregnant.
"It can be pretty dangerous to her, too. Kidneys and stuff, blood loss."
John sighed softly. "What do you want me to do?"
"Talk to her. See if you can get her to understand what's possibly happening here."
Christopher glanced at the floor then.
"Oh," John said.
"We're talking the possibility of a slim chance of the baby surviving if that's what it is. The placenta thing I mean. She thinks she did something wrong. She seems to think she won't have another one. I don't know what your situation is, but I'm hoping you can assure her that this isn't her only chance for having a baby. I don't want her spending the rest of her life thinking she could've done something different tonight."
"Well, yeah, me, too." Of course there were things Christopher didn't know that would make Claire feel doubly guilty about losing a baby now. Fuck, John wasn't even in the car with her and he felt it, too. If they'd been talking would she have been going wherever she was going tonight?
"I'll go find Michael."
"Sure," he said, watching Christopher walk toward the elevators. He hated hospitals. He really did. Her last visit here hadn't been awful. She'd been sick. Ironic that that visit led to her being here today.
"I told him not to call you," she murmured when he walked into the room.
"Of course he's going to call me. He's going to assume I care about you and the baby, which I do. You may not want to believe that and I realize I haven't heard its heartbeat or anything as you probably have, but it's still mine."
"I didn't want him to bother you."
"Bother me? Claire, it's not a bother."
He slid his hand into hers.
"Those things you said. Hurt me."
"I know they did. I said I was sorry."
"You know, it wasn't even that you thought I'd lied to you that hurt."
"No?" he asked.
"No! It was that you thought you could withhold the fact you didn't want kids from me when I'd told you I did. You thought that was right?"
"Well, no, I thought it would be an issue to discuss when we were actually to the point of doing something more permanent."
"It hurt, though. I felt incredibly used."
"I didn't mean to do that, Claire. I wasn't using you. Fuck. You started this whole thing. Remember that? You slept with me, remember? I didn't do either of those things."
"I know. I just, God, I couldn't believe you'd say those things and do that to me."
"Don't. Okay. I've said I'm sorry. I expect I'll be saying a lot more sorries for the next while. I am sorry. Just don't. Calm down. It's not good for you to get all excited right now."
"They gave me…"
"Yeah, I know. I can see it in your eyes. It's been a while and I was never in a controlled environment like a hospital, but I recognize the look well. They were worried you were going to stress out too badly."
"Yes, but that can't be good …"
"I know," he said.
"I can't do that again, John."
"Claire," he said. "You're not going to do anything. I mean, not like before, it just may not survive. That's not at all the same thing."
"But I don't want to lose it."
"Better than losing you. You can have another baby."
"Yes, you can. You think I'm going to let you have someone else's baby?"
"Claire, don't stress. Okay? That does neither of you any good. The doctor they're waiting for will be here and will know what to tell you. Maybe it's not as serious as they're saying it is. I promise you we'll have another one."
"You keep saying that. Come on. Give me a little while. Okay? Get married maybe and then we can do that. You aren't the only one who's had the last month or so to think things through. Maybe you not talking to me was good, I don't know. I know the idea of you marrying someone else and having their babies pisses me off."
"You're just saying that so I stay calm."
"No, I'm not. A year or so, maybe? I want you to trust me before I ask. You know? You think I want you breaking up with me and going off to find someone else to marry and have kids with? No."
"Is that the only reason?"
"I love you! That's the reason. I know you may not believe me and I'm sure I'll have an insane amount of groveling to do to make up for what I said to you, but I'm willing to do that. I need you here, though, in order to do it. I mean, bad stuff can happen to you. You get that, right? I'm not a doctor, but I realize that you need your kidneys. Obviously we can make them. We will again."
"You don't want…"
He shrugged. "You want. I want you happy. You had a point in what you said on how I reacted to Tina. I just, it scared me, you know? Getting mad enough I wanted to do something. I really wanted to hurt her."
"I know," she whispered. "I'm sure part of that was because you'd trusted her and probably thought about being with her without one."
Maybe. He'd never thought about it like that, but she had a point. He'd never contemplated not using a rubber with anyone but Claire. He'd been with women who'd claimed to be on the pill before, but they were never anyone he was serious enough about to forego the extra protection from things the pill didn't prevent.
"I don't have a real good example on how to be a dad."
"I may fuck up."
"I know that, too."
"Obviously, I already have."
"I understand why you thought that."
"No, I know better than to think you'd do that deliberately. I really do. I just, it was a knee jerk reaction, you know? Every guy's fear come true. I'm twenty-nine years old and believe it or not, I've never heard those words directed at me before. Not even with an 'I think' in front of them."
"Don't be sorry. I'm sorry."
"Letting us talk."
"He didn't tell my parents."
"Oh," John said. That explained why he didn't want Michael overhearing their conversation.
"Have you told anyone?"
"No," she said.
She shrugged. "I don't know. You hurt me so badly and made me so mad it was hard for me to be excited. I almost felt guilty for wanting to have it. Or like I really had done something wrong."
"And again, I'm sorry," he said.
"If I did they'd ask me how you felt and then I thought about what I'd say to that. So, I just didn't say anything," she said.
Yeah, he could imagine what her friends would say if she'd repeated to them what he'd said.
"I, uh, told Jessica."
"Well, I had to talk to someone. You weren't returning my calls."
"What did she say?"
"She was the one who suggested groveling."
Claire laughed a little, stopping herself almost immediately.
"Well, then don't laugh. Certainly not at my expense."
"Just wait and see what the doctor says, all right? There's nothing you can do at this point anyway. Worrying about it certainly won't help either of you. What happened?"
"I don't know! I was stopped at a stop light. This guy ran into me. It happened so fast. I didn't even see him come up from behind me. I tried to stop my car from being pushed into the intersection."
"It's hard to stop that."
"I know that now," she said. "I'm pretty sure my car is totaled."
"Better than you being totaled."
"I suppose," she said.
"Did the guy get a ticket, I hope?"
"I don't know. It took the police and everything a while to get there. I stood from the seat and saw so much blood, John. It scared the shit out of me. I told the EMTs I was pregnant and they rushed me here."
"Your brother said you told the doctor you'd had some bleeding before tonight?"
"Yes, the past few days. I was going to see my doctor tomorrow just to be safe."
"So, you knew…"
"I knew that much blood was bad. I mean, it was way more than just spotting."
"He hit you that hard?"
"Yes. Or there was something wrong and the accident just exacerbated it."
"Are you all right otherwise? Other than the arm, obviously."
"Yes. I just ache."
He chuckled softly. "I bet you do."
She shivered as she shifted a bit on the bed. She had a thing attached to her stomach, monitoring the baby he imagined so she couldn't move much or turn over or anything.
He reached for the covers then and she grabbed his hand. She was real lucky she'd broken her left arm. He couldn't imagine writing legal documents with her left hand would be much fun.
"Don't," she whispered.
"What? Why not? You just said you were cold."
"I know. I just," she shook her head.
"Claire, I don't know what you think I'm going to do here. I'm just going to move the sheet and blanket a bit so it's covering you better."
"I know. I've just been bleeding so much. I'm a mess."
He frowned at that. She really thought he gave a shit about that? Maybe so.
"Move your hands, Claire. I can handle it."
"Claire. Come on. We spent the bulk of our nights at one or the others place. You don't think I realize that's part of it?"
"Yeah, except I didn't…"
"Yeah, I know that now. I realized the past month that I should have noticed that myself, but I didn't. Other than my mom I've never really been around it to pay it any attention. Still, it's not going to bother me."
"Yeah, all right, you did just hear the part earlier where I said to give it a little while right? Marriage suggests I'd be around it all of the time. So, trust that I'm not going to run away screaming and just move your hands for John. Please, Princess?"
She was having trouble focusing on his face but he could tell she didn't believe him. He tried to picture his dad having even remotely a conversation like this with his mom. Nope, couldn't fathom it in a million years. His mom would've just stayed cold if this was them here tonight. He had to believe the doctors knew what they were doing giving her whatever they'd given her. She was coherent so wasn't sedated out of her mind, but he could see in her eyes that she was definitely on something. Either that or they were more certain she was in the process of losing the baby than they were letting on and didn't want her freaking out about it. That last thought bothered him more than he realized it would. Him, for his sake, not just for hers.
"What?" he asked as she finally did as he asked so he could bring the blanket around her better.
"You said please."
"Because I really wanted you to move your hands."
"Thank you," she whispered.
"Sure," he said.
"Sorry you have to keep visiting me at hospitals."
He chuckled softly at that.
She slid her hand out from under the blanket and found his, sliding her fingers over the back of his hand.
"You know, I covered you so you could get warm."
"I shouldn't have even told you."
"What?" he asked. "Of course you should have told me."
"Then you wouldn't have to sit here with me."
"Fuck, Claire, I'm sitting here with you because that's what people do for one another. I'm not sitting here because of the baby."
"Hey, you think I want you going through this alone? Not a chance in hell I'd do that to you."
"You shouldn't have to…"
"Well, I helped make it so I say I should have to."
She sighed softly, gripping his hand. Her grip wasn't super tight right now.
"I love you," she whispered.
"I'm relieved to hear you say that. I love you, too."
"I swear I felt my heart stop beating when you said that to me."
"I know. I'm sorry, Claire. If I could say it a thousand times over I'd tell you I'm sorry."
Christopher and Michael came back, apparently hoping the OB would have been in by now. No such luck. They probably figured Claire was stable so other cases that were direr took precedence.
"So did you get to see the Simon Forge movie yet, Michael?" John asked.
"Yeah, Dad took me last weekend."
"How'd you like it?"
"I liked it!"
"Yeah? I did, too."
"You saw it?"
"I did with your Aunt Claire out in California with Wren Savage and everything."
"Really?" he asked.
"Yup. It was very cool."
"How do you know him?"
"Well, I don't, really. You aunt's best friend is married to him, so I know him by way of knowing her I guess."
"Cool," he said.
"Listen," Christopher said, walking up to Claire then. "I'm going to go see what's taking the doctor so long. I understand they might be backed up, but you sitting here worrying isn't doing either of you any good."
"Okay," she said.
"Is it okay if Mike stays here?" Christopher asked, glancing at John.
"Yeah, sure," John said.
"Thanks," he said. "You sit and watch TV or whatever. Don't bother Aunt Claire right now."
"I know, Daddy, I won't," he said with a bit of an attitude in his voice. John had to stop himself from laughing. He couldn't help but smile a bit. Of course his old man wouldn't have just given him a verbal warning and Mike's response probably would've earned him a slap across the mouth for being a smart ass.
"You're in third grade?" John asked, trying to remember what Claire had told him about her nephew. He didn't want to think about his dad right now.
"You like it?"
"You're up pretty late tonight, aren't you?"
"Yeah, I think that's why Dad's checking on the doctor."
"I suppose," John said. "I could always take you home if it got to that."
"You're leaving?" Claire asked.
"Well, no, but if Christopher has to be here to talk to doctors and stuff."
"Oh," she said. He'd thought she'd been dozing off so was surprised she heard him. "I'd rather you…"
"I don't think I can," he said. He'd thought on that when Christopher went off in search of the doctor. John had absolutely no right to do anything. She wasn't his wife or anything. He knew she could've gone off and had an abortion and he wouldn't have any say. Really, if she chose to leave here tonight and remain on bedrest for the next six months despite the apparent odds suggesting the baby wouldn't survive he couldn't stop her. Christopher was hoping John would be able to make her see logic that was all.
"I suppose," she said.
It wasn't that late yet, not even nine o'clock, but he had no idea what time she'd gotten here before Christopher called him. Before knowing about the baby Christopher wouldn't have thought to call John more than likely. He had no idea how long the doctor was going to take either.
"What's the machine for?" Mike asked.
"To monitor heartrates I think," John said evasively. John wasn't sure how to read the machine, but he knew one of the numbers was supposed to be a heartrate for the baby. Come to think of it, no one had been in here since John had come in here to look at the sheets the machine was printing out. Was that a good or bad sign? He wasn't sure.
"Oh," he said.
"What'd you do at school today, Mike?" Claire asked. Evidently she wanted him focused on something other than the machine, too.
"Uh, you know, the usual. Math, reading, social studies, writing. We had gym today."
"Yeah? What are you doing?"
"Basketball," he said.
"You any good?" John asked.
"Yeah," he said. John could see that. He was a fairly tall kid, pretty lean, too.
"Did you get to go outside for recess?" Claire asked.
"I suppose, it's May, not much indoor recess."
"No," he said.
"Well, good," she said.
Christopher came back and the doctor followed a few minutes later. Few minutes later being relative to the length of time they'd already been waiting anyway.
John took Michael out with him to the hallway.
"Where are we going?"
"I thought I'd ask one of the nurses for a piece of paper. Maybe I could draw you something to go with the picture I drew you at Christmas."
"Really?" he asked.
"Yeah, I have no idea how long they're going to be. If I don't finish it tonight I will and get it to you through your aunt, okay?"
"Sure," he said.
He got a piece of paper and a ballpoint pen from the nurse. No pencils evidently and took Mike to the waiting room.
"Your other one is in my locker at school."
"Really?" John asked.
"Yes. One of my friends didn't believe me that you were the same guy who draws the actual comics."
"He didn't, huh?"
"No. He just thought you were someone who could draw Simon real good. Or that I'd found it somewhere and copied it onto the paper. Or stole it."
John couldn't remember what he'd drawn the last picture on. Was it something he'd had to tear off? He didn't recall. He just remembered it had been Simon at Christmastime. Bad part of drawing in pencil, things like copying were possible.
"He reads the comics?"
"Hmm," John said. He supposed at that age there could be some doubt about something like that. He wasn't sure he would've believed it either. He probably wouldn't have if he'd seen a picture of Spiderman or something in someone's locker at school either. He may have believed the artist drew it but that they'd personally given it to him, no.
"So, you like gym class?" John asked.
"Not really," Mike said.
"I never did much either."
"My dad did."
"Yeah, I'm sure your dad did," he said. His dad was Mr. All American so he probably loved sports before he knew what they even were.
They were both fairly quiet after that. The TV was on in the waiting room and Mike paid more attention to that, which was fine. He did watch John on and off.
"Is Aunt Claire going to be all right?" Mike asked after a while of both of them saying nothing.
"Sure, buddy, she'll be fine. She was just in a car accident. They happen all of the time."
"Then why does she need to see a doctor and stay here?"
John shrugged. "She was in an accident, two really from the sounds of it. She was hit twice. I think they just want to be sure she's all right."
"Oh," he said.
"She'll be fine, though. Really. Didn't she seem fine?"
"She was talking funny."
John sighed softly at that, surprised the boy comprehended that. "They gave her some medicine to make her that way. She's a little groggy. For pain, you know. You ever go to the dentist for a filling?"
"Kind of like that when they numb you up so you don't feel it."
"They want her to rest, that's all."
"You signed it," Mike said when John handed him the picture.
"Yeah, I don't draw as well with pen, can't erase any lines I didn't mean to draw. Your friend should believe you now, though," he said.
"Thanks," he said.
"Sure," he said.
Now John didn't have anything to do, though, and he was left wondering what the fuck was taking so long. He could've taken longer, but after hearing the other kid hadn't believed him about the first picture John drew at Christmas he wanted to be sure he finished what he'd started tonight.
Christopher found them a while later.
"Look at what John drew for me," Mike said.
"Hey that's good," Christopher said.
"Now Larry will believe I've met him."
"I guess he will have to, yeah," Christopher said. "I'm going to talk to John for a minute. Okay? You stay here and watch TV. I'll be right back and then we'll probably go home."
"She's okay?" John asked.
"Yes, she is. That's really your main concern?"
"What kind of a question is that?"
"I don't know. I know she hasn't been seeing much of you the past month or so."
"No," John admitted.
"And I find out tonight she's pregnant. I'm guessing the two go hand-in-hand."
"I can admit that," John said.
"You're worried about her, though?"
"Of course I am. She hasn't seen me. Not the other way around. You were married, but not when you found out your ex was pregnant. How well did you react to the news?"
"I'm asking you to remember how you reacted when you first heard your ex was pregnant. I didn't react so well, you know. She hasn't really given me the chance to be all right with it. I can guarantee you she wouldn't have called me to come here tonight. I'm glad you did."
"I don't think you're going to have to worry about that anymore anyway."
"What?" he asked.
"The baby didn't survive, John. There's been no heartbeat for a couple of hours now going by the printouts, I guess."
"That's why they sedated her?"
"I thought that might be the reason."
"They're going to need to do a procedure," he said, explaining the process to John. Fuck, she was going to be devastated. Maybe not so much about having lost the baby, but from the sounds of it she was basically going to go through what she'd gone through before. That was absolutely going to crush her. She hadn't talked at length about it, but he knew she felt guilty and in some ways hated herself for what she'd done.
"So, they're going to put her under?" John asked.
"Yes, the doctor said normally they wouldn't, but she thinks it's best for Claire as distraught as she is."
John could imagine she was. Very distraught. John was the only one who'd understand why, too.
"You're going to stay?"
"Yes," John said.
"All right. I've told them to call me for anything else, but I made the decisions I needed to make. Claire wanted to give it more time, but the doctor said it wasn't going to happen. Over an hour with no blood flow or oxygen, who knows what else. She's lost a lot of blood, too."
"Right," John said, getting it clearly.
Christopher glanced behind John, likely looking at Mike who was sitting in the room there watching TV.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"Thanks," John said. He wasn't sure how to even respond to that. He hadn't even had the chance to comprehend he was going to be a dad. Yeah, he'd had over a month to come to grips with the fact that she was pregnant, but it wasn't the same as what she was going through.
"I'm going to say something not so nice here," Christopher said.
"Okay," John said cautiously.
"I like you. I think you're good for my sister. She's been happier. She's always had friends, you know, but she's never been very good at forming relationships. April, well, I think that was because they found something they could do in common that extended beyond partying every weekend. Their theater. I was shocked she stuck with it. I figured it'd be a flash in the pan interest, not as popular as something else and she'd give up on it."
"Right," John said, wondering where the not so nice part was in this.
"I swear to God, though, you break up with her because of this…"
"Hey, talk to her. I'm not going anywhere unless she tells me to. I'd like very much to be a very permanent fixture in her life. I didn't have a great childhood so I didn't want kids, so when she told me initially I reacted badly. I can admit that, but that doesn't mean I don't love her."
"I'm just saying."
"I have no intention of going anywhere."
"She may push you away."
"I know," John said. He'd thought of that. He imagined the next little while wasn't going to be easy. He supposed he could talk to Jessica about her friend and what she'd gone through for some gauge on what to expect because John hadn't a clue. "I don't give up on things I have my mind set on."
"The doctor said she'd give you some names of people Claire might want to talk to. You might, too, I don't know. You don't seem like the type, but Claire may want to." She hadn't nine years ago, but that was a very different set of circumstances. In a way John hoped she would this time because he knew she was going to think she'd somehow done something wrong. Or that God was punishing her for the abortion she'd had. Something.
"All right, sure, I'll give them to her."
"Thanks for doing that for Mike. He was devastated that Larry kid wouldn't believe he'd met you. His mother living so far away I think makes it rough on him sometimes. Mostly it's mothers around, not usually the dad that does the things I do for and with him."
"I get that," John said. "It's not a problem. I like drawing, I particularly like drawing for people who like what I draw. He's a good kid and he's Claire's nephew so of course I'm going to do it."
"Okay. I'm going to get him home. If you need anything, give me a call."
"Are they doing that now then?"
"Yeah, I told them I'd tell you and they said they'd let you know when you can go in the room again."
"I guess so," Christopher said. "It could fit in the palm of your hand, she said, at this stage. And that bothers you," he said.
"No, I mean, sure, but I guess I hadn't thought about it like that. How big it'd be at this point. I've barely had time to adjust to it happening."
"I didn't much either. Tammy was gone already and we weren't exactly cordial at the time, so I had next to no involvement. So I wouldn't have had a clue either. You want me to send Mike down to get you something before we go?"
"No, I can do it. Thank you."
"All right. If you need anything, call."
"I will," John said.
"You're here," Claire said, certain she was seeing things.
"You think I have somewhere else to be?" he asked.
"You look like shit," she said.
"I love you, too. What kind of thing to say is that?"
"No, you," she said, reaching for him. She pointed at his face.
"Oh, yeah, funny, I hear you're in the hospital after being in a car accident and things like showering and shaving weren't a priority for me."
"Oh," she said.
"It was a long weekend."
"Good or bad?"
"If you count the drawing I did for your nephew the best thing I've been able to draw since Friday good then sure."
"Sorry," she said.
"It's not your fault. I have moments like that now and again, it'll pass."
"What do you do?"
"Usually try to draw something I'm not working on. That's why the drawing I did for Mike was good. No pressure. No deadlines. Just drawing to draw."
"He liked it?"
"Yeah, said something about one of his friends not believing I really drew the one at Christmas for him."
"Oh, I didn't know that."
"Yeah, I was going to do something nicer, you know, maybe take a day or two but once he told me that I just did something quick. All I could find around here was a ballpoint pen so it's not my greatest sketch. It'll give him something to go to school with so the other kid doesn't think he's lying about meeting me."
"You don't have to thank me."
"Still nice of you."
"If you say so."
She started crying then. She couldn't help it.
"Hey," he said. He grabbed a Kleenex from the stand next to her bed and wiped her eyes with it. He was no expert at doing it, but he tried. She gave him points for that.
"I know. I mean, I don't, I can't possibly, but it's absolutely not your fault."
"I know. She said that it may not have been caused by the accident at all just bad timing with the bleeding I'd been experiencing before and everything."
"It's possible. We'll never know. You can't stress over it."
"I just don't even know what to feel."
"You're allowed to feel whatever you want to feel, Claire. There's no wrong or right. Crying is fine. I just hate seeing it."
"I know," she said. "Did you mean what you said before?"
"Well, I said a lot of things, but there's nothing I said I didn't mean."
"What changed your mind?"
"I told you. The idea of my unwillingness to do that with you leading you to someone else who is willing to do that with you. I don't want you with anyone else."
"I don't want to be with anyone else."
"That is very good to know."
"I shouldn't have gone to my grandparents' house. I should have told you right away."
"Why didn't you?"
"I couldn't believe it at first. You know? And then I don't know, I just needed time, I guess. I wondered if I'd done anything wrong the two months leading up to it. You mentioned drinking. I didn't do it a lot, but I did some."
"Yeah, I bet you're not the only one who doesn't realize they're pregnant and do things like that."
"I know," she said.
"Are you going home?"
"No. Jessica has Sammy. I wasn't sure what was going on, but she said if she had to put him in my condo before she left for work in the morning she would."
"He's missed you."
"He's missed my yard you mean."
He laughed softly. "Yeah, I guess I do."
"I've missed him, too."
"I bet I could convince him to come help me to get you settled in when they let you go home."
"You could, huh?"
"I think so."
"You know I can't for a while, right?"
"Can't what?" he asked.
"I'm sorry. You think I'm inviting myself over to have sex with you now?"
"No, I'm just making sure you…"
"You must really think I'm an asshole, Claire. That wasn't even on my mind. Getting you home and comfortable was."
"No, I know, I just meant. It's going to be a while even before I can and I don't know if that's going to bother you."
"And again, that's not my priority."
"So you don't care?"
"Jesus. You haven't talked to me the past month, good reason or not. You think I'm worried about having sex with you right now? I'm more worried about being sure I do the right thing so you keep wanting me around."
She sighed softly. "I just wanted to be sure you knew."
"I know now. I don't care. I mean, I care." He sighed.
"Sure," he said. He settled his head against her leg. She ran her fingers through his hair. "You're here over night then, I take it?"
"I think just to make sure there are no complications and the bleeding gets under control."
"You do know I realize that happens, right?"
"I know, it was just different. We've never. I've never."
"Yeah, I get it. I haven't really either. Certainly, covering you up wouldn't be an issue."
She sighed, settling her hand over his head. "You should go home," she said.
"I'm fine," he said.
"Yeah, I'm worried about you, too, that comes first."
"They knew all along, didn't they?"
"I think so," he said. "I mean, I don't know. They didn't say, but Christopher and I guessed that's why they gave you something."
"I did, too."
"It's not your fault."
"I know, but I can't help but think if we hadn't fought would you have been where you were tonight?"
"I would have because I was dropping papers off to a client."
"Oh," he said.
"It's not your fault anyway. Maybe it happened for a reason."
"Claire," he said, sounding cautious.
"I hadn't told anyone because," she shrugged. "I felt so stupid. You know? I was afraid of what my dad would say. And, yes, that's why I went to my grandparents' house. I spent the weekend with them, wondering how disappointed they were going to be."
"Jesus. It's a baby not gonorrhea."
"I know that, but you met them. You even know they liked you until they found out we'd slept in the same room together. They didn't stop liking you, but you knew the same as I did they didn't like hearing that."
"So, imagine them finding out I was pregnant."
"I can imagine it."
"I mean, I'm not happy about it and I'm not glad it happened or anything, but I really had no idea what to tell anyone. My dad," she shrugged.
"Yeah, I thought of your dad more than once the past month. That explains why I didn't get a visit from him. You not telling him yet, I mean."
"I just didn't know what to say. It sounded ridiculously stupid to me and I'm the one it happened to!"
"Well, I'm sure it must happen if your doctor said it does."
"I know. I still felt stupid."
"How would you have known to even ask? I've thought on it, too. Why would you have asked? Your doctor, the one who prescribed the pills to you, I mean, had no reason to tell you things like that because she knew you weren't using it for that reason."
"The hospital would probably have assumed you did know that and so wouldn't have said anything. Though they should, just as a precautionary measure. I mean, I know some women who've been on that for years. You think they remember warnings given to them initially? Probably not."
"Are you going to be able to go back on it?"
"Yes," she said.
"I mean, I'm asking for you, regulating and stuff. Whatever the reason you were on it. I can't say I completely get it, but I understood enough to know it seemed necessary."
She sighed softly. God, she didn't want to be here. She felt utterly and completely … Lost. She'd only known for a month, which wasn't that long. Long enough, though, for her to focus on what she was eating every day. Long enough that she wondered if it would be a girl or a boy.
"That mean you're letting me take you home?" he asked, drawing her out of her thoughts. That was exactly what she needed, too, so she was grateful.
"Yes," she said, sliding a fingertip along his cheek. Even that spot was rough, stubbly. How long had it been since he'd shaved? She knew this wasn't just from this morning.
"Sorry," he whispered as if he knew what she was thinking.
"It's okay. I told you that day on the plane I don't mind it."
"You like the Grizzly Adams look?"
"I don't know. I've never kissed Grizzly Adams."
He snorted softly at that.
"You want to get the experience?"
She scrunched her nose and he laughed again.
"I guess that's a no."
"I don't mind what you have and I don't mind when you forget…"
"I get it. I have no desire to grow a beard anytime soon anyway. I just really forgot. I was having a shitty-assed weekend. I had actually put my head down on my desk for a few minutes, trying to clear my head when he called."
"I'm sorry he bothered you."
"That wasn't my point at all. Obviously I would want him to call me for you."
"I'm glad he did," she admitted.
"Yes," she said. "I'm glad you're here. I like him and everything, but he's not you."
"I'm glad, too."
"Come here for a second," she said.
"Here? I can't get any closer," he said.
She rolled her eyes. "No, here," she said, pointing to her face.
"Oh," he said, standing then and doing just that. He kissed her and she sighed softly, because she'd really missed kissing him.
"Probably more than the rest of it," she whispered.
"Huh?" he said softly in return.
"I was just thinking I really missed kissing you."
"Yeah, we definitely have that down pretty good."
"I'd say we've done the rest of it pretty well, too."
"We have," he said, kissing her again.
"Thank you," she whispered when he drew away.
He snorted softly, sitting down by her side again. "You're welcome. I missed it, too, by the way."
"Don't say something like that again."
"I won't. I learned my lesson, believe me."
"Thank you," she said.
"You're bossy when you're incapacitated."
"I guess I am."
"So, when I take you home tomorrow I'm stopping to get Sammy?"
"If you want to. He'll need to be let out by then I imagine."
"Yeah," he said.
"That's fine. He's welcome anytime. Tux may not be thrilled, but he'll make do."
"Am I staying then?"
"You do remember…"
"Claire! I remember. I'm not a douchebag. What guy would think you'd want to have sex after this just happened anyway is beyond me? Even if you could?"
"I'm sure there's someone out there. I know people who have babies like ten months apart."
"I'm sure there is, too, but not me. I'd just feel a lot better knowing you're resting and everything if I was there."
"You can stay."
"I like the sound of those words, Princess."
"Yup. Is your brother going to tell your dad?"
"I don't think so," she said.
"I don't think so either. Although two hospital visits in the last two months. Your dad is aware who my old man is. He might think…"
"He will not! Christopher would never let him think that anyway. Clearly I was sick in February. You didn't ram your car into me. I would tell him the truth if he thought something like that, John."
"Do I get to sign your cast?"
"Sign it? I'm expecting a John Bender original on it."
He chuckled softly at that. "You are, huh?"
"I gave you one of those once."
"I know you did. I still have it."
"Yup. It's in a box with some other things I moved to the house but didn't quite know what to do with them, but, of course I kept it. It was beautiful."
"You never said anything."
"I just forgot, I guess. Initially I didn't because you put it in my locker so I took that to mean you didn't want me to say anything about it."
"Not really. I would've denied it was me."
"I know, and recently," she shrugged. "I just hadn't thought about it until now I guess."
"I'd like to do another one."
"Why? There was nothing wrong with the one you did. I loved it."
"Yeah, I know things about you now I didn't then…"
"You cannot draw a naked picture of me."
"I can draw anything I want to, Princess. It's a free country last I checked."
"John," she said.
"Don't worry, I won't embarrass you."
"I doubt that!"
"No one would see it but me."
"I know," she said.
"I don't know. That one I might keep for myself."
"You wouldn't dare! If you're going to draw one I want to see it."
"Why?" he asked, sounding curious.
"I'd want to see how you see me."
"I'm not sure you can handle seeing how I see you."
"Because I think you're pretty fucking amazing and whatever I'd draw of you that'd come through."
"You think that?"
"The fact that you've gone through what you have. Before tonight. Add tonight into the mix and you're sitting here talking to me …"
"I can't do anything else."
"I know, but I'm sure it's tempting."
"That's why I think you're amazing."
"Welcome. You should try and get some sleep, though. If you want me to go home I can."
"No, but you're not going to be very comfortable here."
"I will be fine. Don't worry about me. Get some sleep," he said.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com