Fall Back Skyward (Fall Back #1)(10)

Written By: Autumn Grey



His eyes are yellow around where the whites are supposed to be. He scans me, his gaze starting from my neck and down to my arms. They linger there for a long time before moving to my face. I see recognition burning in there.

“Great tattoos,” he says, grinning. And for just a few seconds, his smile is easy, like I remember it.

I don’t say anything. I don’t feel like chatting about my goddamn tattoos when my brother looks like he’s about to kick the bucket the next second. My head is empty right now and I’m not exactly sure what I want to talk about, but my ink is not it.

He grimaces and the smile disappears. The look on his face shifting to remorse, he averts his gaze to the vicinity above my right shoulder. Mine stays on him.

“Cole. . .” he starts to sign then stops, his chest rising and falling fast in exhaustion. His fingers slide across the bed and wrap around the control. He presses a button, adjusting the angle of his upper body a few degrees up.

He folds his hands on his lap. “I really don’t know what to say. I’m sorry. I know it doesn’t begin to cover what happened. I wish we had met under different circumstances—”

“What happened?” I cut him off, unable to hold my shit together. My hands start to shake as the same anger that had driven me out of Willow Hill hits me hard.

I shut my eyes and take a few calming breaths. I hate that my emotions are all over the place right now. One minute I’m angry and the next, I feel guilty as fuck. Terrified and apprehensive about meeting my parents. I’m not used to feeling this way. I have to calm down before I blow this up. I need answers, but I doubt letting my temper fuel this conversation will help achieve this.

I slowly open my eyes and glance at the ceiling, gritting my teeth. When I feel brave enough to face my brother and my nemesis, one of the people I’d literally kill for, I let my head fall forward, my eyes meeting his which are filled with guilt. I need to tread carefully around Josh.

“Let’s talk about this later,” I say, squeezing my neck with one hand.

His jaw clenches. “You don’t get to feel sorry for me.”

I sigh. “I didn’t come back to sort out issues that happened a long time ago. I came here because Mom and Dad asked me to.”

And because I can’t stand the thought of losing you.

His mouth parts in surprise. Hurt crosses his features before he clenches his jaw and conceals it carefully.

“Nor wrote to me too.”

His shoulders slump forward and relief spreads across his face. “So you know about the girls.”

I rub by jaw with my hand and nod.

“Have you met them yet?”

“No.”

His eyes widen in surprise. “Don’t you want—”

My mouth opens and then closes when the words refuse to come out. I lift my hands and sign, “I want to. Jesus. I want to meet them so fucking bad, but that can wait.” I take a deep breath and admit, “I needed to see you first. You are more important right now.”

His expression softens and tears fill his eyes. “They are pretty special.”

I remember the picture in my pocket, warming my skin and smile. “I know.”

We don’t say anything for a few seconds. My head is a bit clearer after my admission. I want to tell him I missed him. I miss who we were.

I’m going to tell him. He needs to know before it’s too late.

“Is Megs still around?” I ask, referring to Nor’s childhood best friend.

I can’t stop thinking of Nor. The stress is getting to her. She seems older than her twenty-nine years. When was the last time she left the hospital or has eaten anything? She needs a break from this place before this situation eats her whole. I might be angry, furious even, about the things that happened in our past, but that doesn’t mean I will be a dick and watch her suffer. No one deserves this.

Josh’s face clouds in confusion, probably wondering where I’m going with this. He nods.

“Do you have her number?”

He jerks his chin toward the bedside stand. I lean forward, open the drawer and take out his phone. Ignoring the weight of his stare, I scroll through the contact list. Nor wouldn’t know when to quit even when her own exhaustion was staring her in the eye. She has always been the kind of person who, when she gives, she throws her entire fucking life into something. A part of me appreciates that. I’m not certain how big that part is, because I’m still trying to sort out the catastrophic mess of emotions storming inside my chest.

Nonetheless, it doesn’t stop a smile from touching my lips.

That’s Nor, going to great lengths to make sure everyone was comfortable.

I see movement in the corner of my eye and look up to see Josh waving his hand to catch my attention. “You’re smiling.”

I shut it down fast and continue to scroll through his phone. When I find the number, I quickly type a text to Megs then hit send. I return the phone back inside the drawer.

I’m dying to ask him what type of cancer he has. But somehow I feel like if I voice the question, it kind of confirms that he is on death’s door and that thought punches me hard in my gut.

I run a hand through my hair, sliding it down to rub my neck. I feel a dull headache forming in the back of my head, a product of the short night’s sleep and long drive finally sinking in. That and this situation.

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