The Good Goodbye(4)

By: Carla Buckley



Theo arrives as the homecoming couples are leaving. There’s chaos by the door as kids push past in a happy clamor, and then Theo steps through. “Hey,” he says. He looks tired, but he’s taken the trouble to put on a jacket and tie and slide cuff links through the cuffs of his shirt. “You look nice.”

“My Spanx’s cutting me in half,” I confess, and he laughs. I’m covered chin to knee in heavy bleached cotton, my feet are encased in dumpy clogs, and I must reek of grease and garlic and onions. But Theo’s smiling at me and I feel the heat of his affection. “Ready?” he asks. He doesn’t look around for Vince.

I go back to the office to get my bag and drop my apron into the laundry bin. I tell Liz I’m leaving. “I’ll let Vince know,” she promises.

The night air’s breezy with an impending storm. The weather forecasters have been warning us all week. Gonna have a wet weekend, folks. Better move those cookouts indoors. I shrug out of my chef’s jacket and fold it over my arm. “How was soccer?” I ask Theo.

“Fine. Henry still likes the coach.”

T-ball had been a bust, Oliver ducking every time the bat swung; chlorine made Henry break out in a rash. But the boys had insisted on finding something they could both do, and so we were giving soccer a try. “What about Oliver?” He tended to look confused every time the ball headed his way.

“He fell and scraped his knee. He refused to go back onto the field.”

“Shoot.”

“Don’t worry, sweetheart. It’s all part of learning to play a sport. He’ll be fine tomorrow.”

I glance up at the clouds massing overhead. “What if we’re rained out tomorrow?”

“It might blow through quickly. Even—”

My phone’s ringing inside my bag. “Hold on,” I interrupt. “It must be Mom.” Or maybe—at last—Arden? I pull out the phone and don’t recognize the phone number. “Hello?”

“I’m looking for the parents of Arden Falcone.” A man’s voice, a stranger.

Trouble. Arden’s in trouble. I know it instantly. “This is her mother,” I say. “Is she okay?” I’ve stopped walking. “What’s going on?” Theo says, and I shake my head. I press the phone hard against my ear.

“Your daughter’s been in an accident,” the stranger says, and everything slides away.





Arden




SOMEONE’S SHOUTING in my ear. “What do we have?”

“Eighteen-year-old victim found unconscious.”

I’m jostled up and down.

“Where are the lines?”

“We got two. Eighteen-gauge line in her right arm running saline…”

“Which room?”

“CAT scan.”

A jolt. I open my eyes. Ceiling tiles swim past. A purple sleeve patterned with red hearts over my face. Above that, a hand gripping a metal pole. The light blinds me.

I am rolled, then lifted. A face leans close. A man. He needs to shave. “I’m Dr. Saunders. You’re at Saint Luke’s. You’re going to be all right. Do you have any allergies?”

I can’t remember.

“Does anything hurt?”

Panic rises in a huge wave.

“Is it possible you’re pregnant?”

His face is gone. I feel cold air against my legs, my belly. The smell of something sweet and burned, then a pain so awful it carves a deep hole inside me. I hear moaning. It’s me.

“…need another line,” the man says.

A new face, a woman’s, hovering above mine, worried. “We’re giving you some medicine that will make you feel better,” she promises.

The whole white world telescopes to a dark dot and blinks into nothingness.



Buzzing. A fly, looking for a place to land. I try to lift my hand, but my arm won’t move. Why am I so sleepy?

I’m in my bed. It’s early and peaceful; the twins aren’t up yet. I feel Percy on the covers by my feet. I try to move my foot to find him.

That fly won’t stop whining. And there’s something else, a soft whooshing. The ocean, rolling in waves to the shore. So I’m not in my bed at home. I’m at Rehoboth, with Mom and Dad, Oliver and Henry, and Percy.

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