Fall Back Skyward (Fall Back #1)(6)
Written By: Autumn Grey
The nurse says something, but I’m already turning around, my feet propelling me forward in no particular direction. I want to see my brother, but I’m scared of what I will find in that room.
How the hell am I going to face him after everything that has happened?
Then I remember Nor’s words in that letter. He doesn’t have a lot of time left.
I thrust my hands inside my jeans pockets and walk toward the elevators to search for my brother.
The room is quiet when I step inside. The curtains have been drawn to keep the light out. A bed is positioned close to the window with a thin form lying on it.
The faint light filtering through the blinds casts shadows on Josh’s face, giving him an eerie look. His body has lost all its former football player physique. Sunken cheeks. Pale face.
Movement from the corner of my eye pulls me away from my brother. I look over my shoulder and suck in a breath.
She’s sleeping in a cot a couple of feet away. I hadn’t seen it when I walked in, given the dimmed lighting. Her body is covered with a navy blanket. Pain drums inside my chest as I take her in. She looks so tiny and fragile, curled up with her hair splayed across the pillow. Her cheeks look hollow. Her eyebrows seem to have a permanent frown in them, a look that is both foreign and troubling.
Jesus Christ. She’s still beautiful, despite the changes in her body.
My breathing quickens, and fire spreads in my veins as the love that has been simmering under my skin flares to life. I should have known I could never hate her, no matter how hard I tried.
Careful not to wake them up, I reach for a chair and place it next to Josh’s bed. Once I’m seated, I pull out my phone and quickly type a text to Simon.
I’m here. It’s not good, man.
He replies seconds later. Where exactly?
Me: Oncology. St. James Memorial.
He takes a bit longer to reply this time. Fuck.
My thoughts exactly.
I shove the phone back inside the pocket of my pants and adjust my weight on the chair and offer a silent prayer to the Main Guy above, begging for some kind of miracle to cure Josh.
STARTLED OUT OF ANOTHER UNPLEASANT dream, I open my eyes and shift my stiff body on the cot, trying to get into a comfortable position. I’ve been having these dreams for a while now; nightmares of Josh dying. Dreams about Cole. Sometimes they play out differently, giving me a glimpse of what Cole and I could have had if we had ended up together. At times they are horrible dreams that jolt me awake, shivering and sobbing.
The past nine years haven’t been easy, but Josh, Cora and Joce made everything bearable. Everything worth living for.
And now Josh is dying, and there is nothing I can do to reverse that, and not enough words tell him how grateful I am for being there for me and the girls. For being my hero. For being an amazing dad and my best friend.
Josh’s mom and dad, and I have been alternating during the past few weeks, making sure someone is always with him here at the hospital. At times my sisters, Elise and Elon, would offer to stay with him too. His youngest brother, Nick, sleeps over when he doesn’t have a lot of classes the following day and mostly during the weekends. We have worked out a system that ensures one of us is always here at all times.
Finally, I sit up on the cot and grab my phone next to the pillow to check the time. Warmth radiates inside my chest when I’m met by the adorable faces of Cora and Joce, grinning at the camera. Since Elise doesn’t have classes until this afternoon, she gladly offered to stay with them last night.
Swinging my feet off the bed, I climb to my feet and tug my dress down, fighting a yawn. I glance around the dim-lit room, my eyes narrowing in on the figure sitting on a chair next to Josh’s bed. My gaze travels from the beanie-covered head lowered on the bed, to the hunched broad shoulders stretching the gray T-shirt. I blink several times, my heart skipping quite a few beats. My vision sways and my breath comes out faster and faster.
My body hums with the kind of effect only he could ever evoke in me, verifying that it is him.
I start to walk forward but my steps falter. I’m breathless and my legs are suddenly nothing more than two slabs of lead cemented on the white floor.
Oh, God. He’s here. He is really here.
I wipe the tears rolling down my cheeks. I’m worried that if I look away he might vanish into thin air. I continue to stare at the man I’d once loved, and still do, so much that my heart aches with the immensity of it all even nine-years later.
Cole lifts his head from the bed, and as if sensing me, he turns around.
I suck in a breath, and for just a few seconds, my heart stops its furious sprint in my chest. He straightens in his seat, his gaze searching my face with an intensity so raw, so fierce, so hot I’m wondering why I haven’t dissolved to ashes where I’m standing. His expression softens and he’s looking at me the way he used to, as though there’s nothing in this world which is important to him right now. Just me and him.
He takes off his beanie and unfolds his tall frame from the chair.
He is still handsome, just like I remember him: square jaw, deep set gray eyes, generous lips, sharp cheekbones.
Did you get all my letters, is what I want to ask him. Why didn’t you write back?
I don’t, though. I have so many questions, each one of them fighting for precedence. Unable to hold back anymore, I rush forward toward him, ignoring the tension crackling the air.