Authors: Colleen Hoover
I laugh. “Your girlfriend broke up with you because I gave you a ride in one hundred and two–degree weather. There’s something off about that.”
“She broke up with me because I lied to her about it.”
“Yeah. And you lied to her about it because you knew she’d break up with you if she found out. Therein lies the issue.”
Jonah inserts himself into our conversation by leaning forward and looking back and forth between us. He pushes back his chair and stands. “I need coffee.” He tosses the other folder on Miller’s desk and heads for his classroom door. “You two figure this out and let me know what you decide by the end of the day.”
Jonah leaves, and it’s just Miller and me left in the room, staring at each other. He looks away and browses through the contents of the folder.
He really could have used those extra minutes of sleep. I feel bad Jonah called him in early for this. He looks like a truck ran over him between me dropping him off at his house yesterday and him waking
up this morning. I can tell whatever fight he and Shelby had, it’s taken a toll on him.
“You look really heartbroken,” I say.
“I am,” he says with a dull tone.
“Well . . . not all is lost. Heartbreak builds character.”
That makes Miller laugh, although it’s a dry laugh. He closes the folder and looks at me. “If Shelby finds out I’m working with you on this film submission, she’ll never forgive me.”
“So that’s a yes?”
Miller doesn’t laugh at that. In fact, he seems a little bummed that I’m making jokes at his expense. He’s obviously not in the mood. And honestly, I kind of don’t blame Shelby for dumping him. If my boyfriend lied to me about being in the car with another girl, then followed that girl on Instagram, he’d be my ex-boyfriend too.
“Sorry, Miller. I’m sure she’s great. If I can help in any way—maybe back up your story—let me know.”
Miller smiles at me appreciatively and then stands up, heading for the classroom door. He leaves the folder on the desk. “You should do the project anyway.”
I nod, but I don’t really care to sign up alone. For a few hopeful seconds, I was excited I might get to work with Miller on the project. Now that I had a taste of that thought, every other option tastes bitter.
Seconds later, Miller is gone.
I stare at the folder on his desk, then grab it and fill out the form, anyway. You never know—Shelby and Miller may not get back together, and it would suck if he didn’t sign up just because his girlfriend has jealousy issues.
Jonah returns with two coffees, just as I’ve finished both forms. He hands me one of the coffees and casually leans against his desk.
He’s been around for a few months now, and he still has no idea how much I hate coffee. This is why I don’t refer to him as
“What was that all about?” he asks.
“His girlfriend hates me. Well . . .
-girlfriend.” I take a sip of the coffee to be nice. It’s putrid.
“Shouldn’t be a problem then, right?”
I laugh. “You would think.” I hand him both the folders. “I filled them out, anyway. Don’t mention it to Miller. If he changes his mind, at least we’ll have met the deadline for signups.”
“I like the way you think,” Jonah says. He sets his coffee on his desk and picks up a piece of chalk. He’s writing the date on the board when two of my classmates walk in.
I go back to my seat. When the classroom begins to fill up, Jonah turns around and eyes the coffee on my desk. “Clara. Students aren’t allowed to have drinks in class. Do it again and I’ll give you detention.”
I roll my eyes at him, but I want to laugh at his ability to switch into teacher mode so easily, even if he is just toying with me. “Yes, Mr. Sullivan,” I say mockingly.
I trash the coffee, then pull out my phone and text Aunt Jenny on the way back to my seat.
Me: You busy?
Aunt Jenny: On my way to work.
Me: It’ll only take a sec. Two things. Your baby daddy is a smartass. Also, Miller and Shelby broke up. Not sure how long it’ll last.
Aunt Jenny: Why’d they break up? Because you gave him a ride?
Me: Apparently it was the Instagram follow that did it.
Aunt Jenny: That’s good news! Now you get to date the guy with the weird grandpa.
Me: I didn’t say his grandpa was weird. I said their relationship was adorably weird. Also, he’s trying to get his girlfriend back, so I don’t know that I have a chance.
Aunt Jenny: Oh, that stinks. Don’t pursue him, then. You don’t want to be the other girl. Trust me.
Me: You were the other girl once? I need to hear this story. Is that why you and Jonah broke up in high school?
The dots on my phone indicate Aunt Jenny is typing. I wait to hear about her juicy teenage drama, but the dots stop.
Me: I tell you everything. You can’t hint that you’ve had an affair and not elaborate.
Me: Aunt Jenny?
“Clara, put your phone away.”
I drop my phone into my backpack with frightening speed. I don’t know who Aunt Jenny cheated with, but if Jonah doesn’t know about it, I don’t think him confiscating my phone and reading my texts would be good for their relationship.
I’ll call her at lunch and force her to tell me. Even if it involves Jonah, I want to know.
I once heard someone say we’re all just one phone call away from our knees.
It’s the absolute truth. My voice comes out in a shaky whisper when I ask, “Is he okay?”
I wait for the nurse on the other end of the line to tell me that Chris will be fine. But all I get is a long stretch of silence. It feels like someone is wringing my spine like a wet towel. I want to double over from the pain, but the pain isn’t physical. It’s an intangible anguish that feels terminal.
“I don’t know details,” the nurse says. “All I know is that he was brought in a few moments ago, so try to get here as soon as possible.”
I choke out an okay before ending the call, but I’m almost positive she would have given me more information if the news were better.
If the news were better, Chris would have called me himself.
I’m holding Elijah. I was holding him when the phone rang, and now I’m clutching him even tighter, still on my knees. For at least a minute, I’m frozen on my living room floor. But then Elijah yawns, and it snaps me back into a grim reality.
I call Jenny first, but her phone goes to voice mail. It’s her first day back to work. She won’t have her phone on her until her lunch break. But word will spread fast at the hospital, and she’ll find out soon enough.
I start to call Jonah next so that he can come get Elijah, but I don’t even have his phone number saved in my phone. I rush to the sheet of paper Jenny left me this morning and enter the number she wrote down to reach him. It goes straight to voice mail.
He’s in class.
I’ll call the school to get in touch with him soon, but every second I spend trying to contact someone is a second longer it’s going to take me to get to the hospital. I strap Elijah into his car seat, grab his diaper bag and my keys, and leave.
The trip to the hospital is a blur. I spend it whispering prayers and gripping the steering wheel and stealing glances at my phone resting in the passenger seat, waiting for Jenny to call me back.
I don’t call Clara at school yet. I need to know that Chris is okay before I worry her.
If they haven’t already notified Jenny that Chris was in a wreck, I’ll have them page her when I get inside. She can take Elijah then.
For now, he’s with me, so I take his diaper bag and his car seat and run toward the entrance. I’m faster than the automatic sliding doors of the emergency room. I’m forced to pause my sprint for a couple of seconds so they can open wide enough for me to enter. As soon as I’m inside, I go straight to the nurse’s desk. It’s a nurse I don’t recognize. I used to know almost everyone in this hospital because I thought it made Chris look good for me to know everyone at his office parties, but they come and go so often, I don’t even try to keep up anymore.
“Where’s my husband?” The words tumble out in a panic. Her eyes are sympathetic.
“Who is your husband?”
“Chris.” I gasp for air. “Chris Grant. He works here, and he was just brought in.”
Her expression changes when I say his name. “Let me get someone who can help you. I just got on shift.”
“Can you page my sister? She works here too. Jenny Davidson.”
The nurse nods but rushes away from the window without paging Jenny.
I set Elijah’s car seat on the closest chair. I try Jenny again and then Jonah’s cell phone again, but they both go straight to voice mail.
I don’t have time to wait on the nurse to figure out her shit. I call the hospital and ask for Labor and Delivery. They connect me after the most excruciating thirty seconds of hold time in my life.
“Labor and Delivery, how may I direct your call?”
“I need to speak to Jenny Davidson. One of your nurses. It’s an emergency.”
Elijah starts to cry, so I put my phone on speaker and set it in the chair so that I can pull him out of his car seat. I pace back and forth, waiting for Jenny to answer, waiting for a nurse, waiting for a doctor,
waiting, waiting, waiting.
I grab my phone. “Yes?”
“Jenny isn’t on schedule until tomorrow. She’s been out on maternity leave.”
I shake my head, frustrated. Elijah is growing more agitated. He’s hungry. “No, she started back this morning.”
There’s a moment of hesitation from the woman on the other line before she repeats herself. “She isn’t on schedule until tomorrow. I’ve been here all day, and she’s not here.”
Before I start to argue with her, the doors to outside open, and Jonah rushes in. He pauses for a second, almost as if he wasn’t expecting to see me here already. I hang up the phone and toss it in the chair. “Thank God,” I say, handing Elijah to him. I reach into the bag and
pull out a pacifier. I put it in Elijah’s mouth and then head back to the window and ring the bell three times.
Jonah is standing next to me now. “What do you know?”
“Nothing,” I say, exasperated. “All I was told on the phone is that it was a car wreck.”
I finally look up at Jonah, and I’ve never seen him like this. Pale. Expressionless. For a moment, I worry about him more than myself, so I take Elijah from him. He backs up to a chair and sits down. In the midst of my internal hysteria, irritation begins to claw its way out. Chris is my husband. Jonah should be worried about me more than himself right now.
The waiting room is alarmingly empty. Elijah only becomes fussier, so I sit three seats down from Jonah and pull a bottle out of Elijah’s diaper bag. It’s cold, but it’ll have to do. The second I put it in his mouth, he stops fussing and begins to devour it.
He smells like baby powder. I close my eyes and press my cheek against the top of his warm head, hoping the distraction will keep me from breaking down. I can feel in my gut that it might not be good. If they aren’t allowing us to go see Chris, that means he’s probably in surgery. Hopefully for something minor.
I want my sister. Jonah isn’t really someone who can bring me comfort at a time like this. In fact, I’d rather he not be here, but if I can get in touch with Jenny, she’ll make the situation better. And she can probably find out more information about Chris. Maybe Jonah has already spoken with her.
“Is Jenny on her way over?” I lift my head just as Jonah swings his gaze in my direction. He doesn’t answer my question. He just stares at me, his brow furrowed, so I continue. “I tried calling her, but whoever answered the phone in Labor and Delivery kept telling me she isn’t on the schedule today.”
Jonah’s eyes squint with a shake of his head. “I’m confused,” he says.
“I know. I told her she started back today, but the woman tried arguing with me.”
“Why are you trying to call Jenny?” He’s standing now. The confusion dripping from him is making me more nervous than I already am.
“She’s my sister. Of course I’m going to call her and tell her about Chris.”
Jonah shakes his head. “What
What about Chris?
I’m so confused. “What do you mean? They called me and said Chris was in a wreck. Why else would I be here?”
Jonah swallows, dragging his hands down his face. Somehow, his eyes fill with even more concern. “Morgan.” He steps closer to me. “I’m here because
was in a wreck.”
If I wasn’t already sitting, I would have fallen.
I don’t make a noise. I just stare at him and try to process everything. I shake my head and try to speak, but my words are weak. “You must have misunderstood them. They can’t both have been . . .”
“Wait here,” Jonah says. He strides to the window and rings the bell. I pull my cell phone out of my purse and dial Jenny’s number. Voice mail again. I dial Chris’s number. Maybe there was a mistake in the computer. His phone goes to voice mail too.
This has to be some mistake.
A few seconds pass with no sign of anyone, so Jonah moves to the doors that lead to the emergency room. He beats on them until someone finally appears at the window. A nurse I instantly recognize. Her name is Sierra. She has a daughter in Clara’s class. She looks at me, and then her eyes fix on Jonah.
“I think there’s been a mistake,” Jonah says.
I’m next to him at the window now, holding Elijah. I can’t feel my legs. I don’t even know how I walked from the chair to here. “Who had a wreck? Who was brought in?” I can’t stop the questions from spilling out of me. “Was it my husband or my sister?”
Sierra’s eyes dart from me to Jonah and then down to the desk in front of her. “Let me get someone who can help you, Morgan.”
Jonah grabs at his hair when she walks away.
It’s not lost on me that no one seems to want to be in our presence. We’re being avoided, and that terrifies me. No one wants to be the bearer of bad news.