Luckily, she had a key to his house so she was able to drop Lofton at the house before heading to the hospital. She hadn't even thought of that before he'd left, but they'd given one another keys after the weekend he, Liz, and Abby had stayed at her place. She'd given him a key because it seemed logical he have one in case he came here one night and she was still at work or stuck in traffic somewhere. She hadn't really needed a key for his place before today because someone was always home.
She found him in a waiting room, looking rather lost. She couldn't even imagine.
"Hi," she said, taking a seat next to him.
"She's in surgery."
"Yeah, something about the position of the break and them being worried they wouldn't be able to set the bones right."
"Oh wow. Did you get to see her?"
"Yeah, they couldn't have operated without my permission."
"Oh, yeah, I guess that's how it works."
"One of the many reasons it was important to me I adopt her, otherwise our parents' would have gotten the call if I wasn't here. This wasn't urgent they could wait thirty minutes, but if it was a busted appendix or something."
"Even if you were her legal guardian?"
"Well, if I was an hour away from getting here I don't know what a hospital would do. I would hope for something life threatening they'd operate first and get me to sign the papers later. I just wanted their names off anything to do with her."
She slid her hand over his, clutching it tightly. "You don't have to explain or justify yourself to me, John. You're doing what's best for the both of you. You got here. She's going to be fine."
"I know," he said.
"Where are Mary's parents'?"
"I told them to go ahead and go home and I'd call when she was ready for visitors. I figured they could bring Mary when they came back. Abby's mom picked her up I think, too, but may bring her by later."
"She'd like that."
"What do you need?"
"I don't know," he said, resting his head against the wall behind his chair. He hadn't looked this tired when he left her condo. He was scared and trying not to let it show.
"Has she ever been hurt before?"
"No. I mean, she's fallen and gotten the basic cuts and stuff, sure. What kid hasn't?"
"Have you?" she asked.
"Have I what?"
"Ever been hurt?"
"You're actually asking me that? Really? Did you fall and hit your head between your place and here? You need a reminder or something?"
"Not that kind of hurt, John. Don't get angry at me. I was just wondering if you'd ever been hurt, like your parents had to bring you to the hospital because you broke your leg or something."
He exhaled sharply, turning his head to regard her.
"No. Sorry. I just couldn't imagine why you of all people would ask me that."
"Because I didn't know if you had."
"Hmm," he said. "Nope. I guess from that sense I had the ideal childhood. I don't think I ever saw the inside of a hospital once."
"We'll ignore the fact you should've."
He snorted. "My parents' did just fine in that department, wouldn't you say?"
"Ever hurt? No. My brother was. He broke his arm playing football when he was like eleven. I remember sitting at the hospital with Mom. He had to have surgery, too."
"Was he okay?"
"He kept playing sports, so yeah."
"Good," he said.
"She'll be fine. They do this type of stuff all of the time, John."
"Yeah, not on her they don't."
"I know. Do you want me to get you anything? You didn't have breakfast."
"Yeah, someone distracted me."
"I did not!"
"Leaving that wrapper out where I'd find it was a pretty clever ploy to get out of cooking for me."
"I like cooking for you."
"Yes," she said.
"I like when you cook for me wearing my shirt and nothing else."
She smiled a little at that. "I know you do, but that doesn't answer my question now. Do you want me to get you anything?"
"A pop would be nice."
"I can do that," she leaned in to kiss him. She ran her hand along his cheek. "You didn't even shave."
"Nope," he said. "Like I said, you distracted me and I figured I'd have plenty of time to shave later."
"You look so tired."
"Okay. I'll be right back and then if you need me to do anything, let me know. Even if it's go home."
"I don't want you to go home."
"I just may not be interested in talking, but you right in that chair there is good."
She stood then and went to find the cafeteria. She'd never been here before so she had to ask for some help, but found it eventually. She bought a Coke for him and a Diet Coke for herself. She bought a couple pieces of fruit and some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, too. They had some cold sandwiches, but she wasn't sure he'd eat right away and didn't want to buy something that would just go bad. She had no idea how long Liz would be in surgery, but she doubted John would be leaving the hospital again until he was able to take her home with him.
She sighed heavily when she saw Abby was there, not because Abby was there. Claire liked Abby and was glad to know Liz seemed to have good friends who weren't already getting involved in bad habits. It was because Abby's mom and siblings were there as well. She'd never met them before, catching glimpses of Abby's older sister when she'd picked Abby or Liz up from their house. She was pretty sure she'd never seen the younger brother before today. John never said where their dad was. She presumed he was around somewhere.
"Hi Claire," Abby said brightly.
"Hi Abby, how are you?"
"I'm all right."
"I can imagine. She'll be fine, though."
"I know. She was fine last night. She said her hand hurt and it hurt to bend it, but she did bend it. Even the skating guard asked her to bend it."
"No one's blaming you guys," John said. "People fall."
"Of course they do," Abby's mom said. "Remember last year Brandon practically lived here in the emergency room he had so many accidents?"
Abby's mom had seated herself in the chair next to John's and there wasn't one on the other side of him. She made no move to get up either. Claire twisted the top on the bottle of Coke and handed it to him.
"Thank you," he said.
"You want the gourmet delight that is peanut butter and jelly with a banana? Or an apple? They both look surprisingly good and not over-ripe."
"I could eat a sandwich."
"I thought you might be hungry."
"I'd much rather be eating the French toast you were getting ready to make."
"Well, I can make it another time."
She handed him one of the sandwiches, setting the second one on the small table next to him.
"You're not eating?"
"No, I'm fine. Maybe later. That's why I went with peanut butter and jelly."
He stood then, grabbing the second sandwich and moved to the doorway leading out of the waiting room. He leaned in toward her, she thought for a minute he might kiss her except he wasn't big on kissing in front of people. She wasn't really either for that matter. In front of Liz was still new to her let alone a group of people who'd known John for a while.
"I was going to tell you that you could go back to my house if you wanted, but now I want you here."
She sighed softly. "I wouldn't have left anyway unless you need me to let Lofton out but he's used to going quite a few hours in between being let out."
"Yes, he should be fine for a while. Thank you."
"What is she even doing here?"
"I don't know. Lizzie, Abby, and Mary have all known one another since we moved into the house when she was in second grade. Their friend Chris didn't come into the picture until last year so I wouldn't expect her to be here."
"Maybe now that she sees I'm here she'll leave."
"I can only hope. I don't dislike her or anything, but I really don't want a room full of people sitting here either."
"Did you tell her that?"
"No," he said.
She reached up, touching his cheek again. "Because you're too nice. Abby's her friend, I don't blame you."
"Thank you. Just don't leave me again all right?"
She chuckled softly before reaching up to kiss him lightly. "Whatever you need."
"More of that would be nice."
"Later would probably work better."
"Mother," Abby's sister said. "Why are we even here?"
"Because Liz is Abby's friend and we're worried about her."
"Yeah, but why are Brandon and I here? We're not Liz's friends. Sitting here in this waiting room isn't doing anything for her anyway. Besides, his girlfriend's here. Do you think they really want us here, too?"
"Margaret, of course they do," Abby's mom said.
"Whatever. I don't know why you can't take a hint that he doesn't want someone old enough to be Liz's mother. He's not her dad, you know? He's even got a hickey on his neck. I bet even Abby knows you don't get those just from kissing."
"That's enough," Abby's mom said. "Not in front of Abby and Brandon."
"You don't think they can see it? You are so stupid," the older sister, Margaret, said. She got up then and stormed out of the waiting room. She likely wouldn't go far, at least not if she wanted to get home without walking.
Abby had taken a seat next to her brother by now who was watching his oldest sister and mom looking somewhat confused.
"See? Just like the Brady Bunch. I told you I've learned teenaged girls can be mean," he whispered.
"If I'd ever called my mom stupid…" Claire said.
He scoffed. "You want to compare notes on what would have been done to you versus me?"
"No, I can imagine what would have been done to you."
He slid his hand into hers. "I have a hickey on my neck?" John asked her quietly.
"Uh, yeah, it's pretty small. Sorry."
"I guess I was real distracted getting out of the shower this morning, usually I notice those kinds of things."
They took a seat in a different spot than he'd been sitting in before. Abby's brother looked pretty bored, but he was at least trying to look like he wanted to be there. Claire talked to Abby a little who was interested in hearing about more things Claire was designing that would get attention. After the Golden Globe's Claire was pretty sure that would be it for a while. Then again who knew? If her Field's stuff was received well maybe she'd get more things like it.
She liked designing one-of-a-kind gowns for some reason, knowing who the person was she was designing it for helped of course. It gave her a great feeling to design something only one person would ever wear. The dress she'd just finished for the Golden Globes would probably be put in a closet and forgotten about. The dresses she'd designed for the band appearing at the GRAMMY's she doubted their dresses and what they meant would ever be forgotten.
The doctor came into the waiting room a little later. John had eaten both sandwiches while Claire had eaten the banana. He'd offered her the second sandwich, but she'd rather see him eat it anyway.
Claire stayed put while John went to talk with him in the hall. Abby's mother had been oddly (maybe not so oddly) quiet after Margaret lashed out at her. She'd come back about fifteen minutes later, sulking as she took a seat as far away from her mother as she could get. No form of apology was given as far as Claire could tell.
Claire stood when he came back into the room, looking a lot better than he had ten minutes ago.
"She's out of surgery and fine. They're going to keep her overnight to be sure there's no infection, but she'll be home tomorrow and should be back at school Monday."
"Good," Abby said.
"No roller skating for a while," John said. "No pins or anything were necessary and she has a cast. She'll have it for six weeks and it sounds like there may be some physical therapy afterward to be sure she has full motion of the wrist once the cast comes off. Probably he said they'd send her home with the things to do versus having to go somewhere, but exercises she'll have to do just the same."
"We're all glad she's okay," Abby's mom said.
John grabbed Claire's hand, lacing his fingers through hers. "Thanks for coming, and if Abby wants to say hello that's fine but then she'll need to be left alone for a while. She's going to be a little groggy yet the doctor said, told me not to worry if her words are kind of slurred and stuff. I'll have Liz call Abby, Mary, and Chris when she's settled back home tomorrow."
"Okay," Abby said.
"Come on," he said to Abby. Claire went with because she didn't have a whole lot of choice since he was holding her hand.
"Sorry about Margaret and my mom," Abby said. "I didn't want to come here. I mean, I did, but I knew there was nothing I could do but sit here. She insisted that you'd need the support. I told her Claire would be here but," she shrugged.
"It's alright, Abby," John said.
"No, it's not. I agree with Peg, I don't know why she can't take the hint. I mean, you're cute and all, don't get me wrong, but that'd just be kind of weird for you to date my mom. Ever."
"I kind of think so, too."
"You're also kind of young for her."
"I kind of thought that, too."
"You never told her that, though."
"No, I didn't want to insult her. Your mom's nice, she's helped me over the years taking Lizzie in when I had to go into work in the middle of the night. I try not to make people angry who do nice things for me."
"Well, I'm sorry she dragged us all here. My sister hardly knows Liz beyond saying hi to her when she comes over. They don't like hang-out or anything."
"It's all right."
"I just don't want you thinking I haven't like told her about Claire or anything. Liz and I both have."
"Abby you or your mom haven't done anything wrong, you certainly have nothing to be sorry for. You're fine."
"Yeah, but she like took what was obviously supposed to be Claire's spot as if she belonged there or something."
They got to Liz's room.
"You go on in and talk to her for a few minutes. Just remember what I said, she may be kind of groggy yet."
"Okay. You're not coming in?"
"We'll go in when you're done."
"Okay," she said, pushing the door open.
"Wow," Claire said.
"Right? You'd think her mom would see that's what she's putting her kid through."
"Well, like I said this morning you are quite a catch. Stable employment."
"It's still stable. A homeowner. A good father."
"A good father-figure. Is that better? I can't blame her."
"Yeah, well, I'm glad you kissed me in there."
"Yes. Maybe she'll get the hint that you're not just my friend."
"You sleeping in my bed every weekend isn't a hint? Besides if she didn't notice the hickey before Margaret mentioned it, she's aware of it now."
"I don't know what Abby told her. She may not have said anything. Despite what Margaret said hickeys do not always necessarily mean more than kissing occurred so I'm not so sure she'd assume it did. I told you I didn't date in front of Lizzie, I didn't bring women around, or anything like that. If I had a date I picked her up or met her somewhere. Lizzie's never had a clue I'd done anything more than go out with other cops."
"True, but she knows Liz comes with you to my place."
"And stays the night."
"She's just hoping we'll break up."
"Yeah, well, you could move in tomorrow and I suspect it'd still be this way."
"Would you like me to move in tomorrow?"
"That's a ridiculous question. Why?"
She shrugged. "Well, I was thinking of putting my condo. up for sale. It should sell pretty fast because they're in pretty high demand. I figure if Dad asks I could tell him even with the alarm I still don't feel totally safe."
"You were thinking that? You don't feel safe?"
"I do, because he's in jail, but what if he gets out?"
"But not completely unlikely."
"Well, no, sadly, our system is not perfect."
"If that's too soon for you."
"Talk to your dad, see what he says. Be sure to tell him where you plan on living, too, so that's two birds killed with one stone."
"Okay. I'll talk to him this week."
"That means I'm not going to get my dinner with you Wednesday, doesn't it?"
"Probably, but I'll come over after I've met with him."
"Yeah? I could bring you dinner in bed," he said, settling his hands at her hips.
"I don't think you'll need to worry about bringing anything to bed but you."
"Nope." She leaned up and kissed him, running her lips along his jaw. "I'm glad Liz's all right. Go see your sister, John. She loves Abby, but you're who she's really going to want to know is at her side when the anesthetic wears off."
"You're coming with?"
"Yes, I'll be right there. I'm going to let you talk to her for a while by yourself."
"You're not going to start a fight with Cynthia, are you?"
She chuckled. "No, that hadn't entered my mind. I'm not threatened by her or her interest in you. There's some chairs over there," she said, pointing to a small area obviously designed for people to wait while doctors or nurses followed up on patients. "I'll be right there when you're ready come get me."
"It's the first time she's ever seriously been hurt, you feel bad because you weren't at home when it happened, never mind that she was out when it happened so it would've regardless. You feel responsible. You feel probably lots of things, including fear that it could've been something more serious and you could have lost her. So, go spend some time with your sister." She gestured to her purse. "I have pencils and stuff in here. I will distract myself."
"Thank you," he said, kissing her.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com