Trouble in Paradise?

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Chapter Twenty Seven

When I had my rounds of chemo in the past, I never lost my hair. Usually, it’s a very common side effect of the chemo. But not for me. Unfortunately, I instead had loads of throat problems. Soreness and infection always attacked my throat, and it sucked.

So, instead of going to school on Monday morning I was indeed stuck in bed unable to eat without pain. That also sucks, because I love to eat.

Blake seemed okay after I left the cinema when the movie ended. It was unusual, seeing a teenage boy cry like that. He must’ve loved her, but I had no idea. I didn’t have any info on their relationship at all. Maybe it should stay that way. The other guys seemed as shocked as I was, but they were absolutely clueless as to what to do.

Well, now I wished I had bought more ice cream. I had just run out, and you can never have enough ice cream. I didn’t just want more, I needed it.

Weirdly, I had noticed that I had lost weight. Which was not a good thing, since I was happy with my weight. This was also another common side effect of mine, weight loss. So, I decided that from now on I would just eat ice cream all day. Good plan? Yes.

Then I thought of Amber, who had struggled with body image. Was she doing okay? I had no idea. She usually hung with the soccer team, who I hadn’t talked to in forever. Guilt washed over me, I was letting the team down. I then made another decision, that I was going to try and at least support my team if I couldn’t play.

But that would have to start tomorrow, or at least until my throat got better, because now I had some TV shows to binge.

I heard the door downstairs open, so I assumed my parents were home. I got up and went downstairs in my tiger onesie. My mum and dad were downstairs, discarding their work papers and files. They seemed rushed, and it was strange.

“What’s going on?” I inquired, leaning against the rail on the stairs. They didn’t glance up, but my mother sighed.

“Christen overdosed. He’s in hospital now,” she quickly said, running into her room to change. I almost fell off the stairs, and my jaw dropped a little.

“What?” I questioned out loud, but I wasn’t waiting for an answer. I ran upstairs and changed into some shorts and a T-shirt with some science pun on it.

When I went back downstairs, they were grabbing their keys. We were all out the door within seconds, and silence engulfed the car immediately as we left. It was a pretty short trip, and no one said anything anyway.

We had calmed down a bit, but we still wanted to get there as quickly as possible. Christen may had done a lot of shitty things in the past, he definitely had, but we were family and it was in the past. I’d known him my whole life, and I was worried even if he had been a huge asshole to me at times.

We went to the reception where the ladies told us the number of the room that Christen was being held in. We took an elevator to the correct floor, and within minutes we were standing outside of his door. My aunt, Christen’s mother, was sitting inside clutching her boy’s hand.

She noticed us, stood up, wiping her cheeks, and came outside. “He’s in a critical condition, they don’t know if he’ll make it.” Her voice cracked, and I could tell that she was biting back a sob.

“He will make it,” my mother reassured, giving my aunt a hug. My dad and I sat outside of the room in the chairs provided, allowing my mother and aunt to talk down the hallway, We weren’t allowed to visit yet. I decided that I was thirsty, and my throat was killing me, so I got up to get some water down the hallway.

I grabbed a plastic cup and started filling it up. I almost jumped out of my skin when I heard a familiar voice down the hallway. Thankfully, Ethan hadn’t seen me yet but that didn’t stop me from jumping behind a corner and nearly spilling my water. I put the cup in the bin.

He was talking to a doctor. It took me a moment to realise why he was here, it was because of his mother. I desperately tried not to eavesdrop, but I accidentally did. And there was no stopping it.

“What the fuck do you mean, we can’t afford her treatment?” Ethan said angrily, gritting his jaw and clenching his fists.

“I mean,” the doctor calmly replied. “that you have no insurance, and her treatment will cost a fortune that you don’t have.” He shrugged as if he didn’t care, and I almost said something.

Ethan, however, was not even trying to hide his anger. “So now what, then? What are we meant to do?” I still didn’t know

“Unless you can afford the total bill.” He glanced at something on the file that he was holding. “Which comes to over $65,000.”

For the first time, I saw a genuinely shocked Ethan. He was speechless, and he briefly stuttered over his words. Hell, even I almost gasped. That was a crap load of money, and I was almost sure that Ethan didn’t have that just laying around. I automatically held a lot of sympathy for him, despite if he was kind of a dickhead sometimes.

The doctor nodded and walked away. Ethan just stood in the hallway, sitting down on one of the chairs. I tried to sneak away, hoping that he wouldn’t notice me, but I walked into the water cooler. I didn’t even turn around. I just sighed loudly at myself. “Good fucking job Stef, ten out of ten.”

I slowly turned around, and I saw Ethan looking right at me. His expression was completely blank. “Were you- Did you hear all that?” He narrowed his eyes.

I wrung my hands together. I couldn’t lie, not now. “Yeah. Yeah, I did. And I am sorry. I was just...” I sighed again.

He chuckled. “Welcome to my problems.”

I took a risk and sat down next to him. He didn’t say anything, but I saw him glance at me. It was quiet for a bit, none of us really knowing what to say.

“Why’re you here anyway?” he asked, and I blinked in surprise when he initiated the conversation first.

“My cousin. He’s... not in very good shape,” I replied. “He overdosed,” I mumbled quietly. Ethan just nodded, having heard what I said. “Will your mum be okay?” Way to go, a stupid question.

“No,” he said honestly. “We need a shit load of money for her to be okay.” And for a single second, I saw a crack in his facade. Hurt crossed his features.

And suddenly, a stupid and risky idea came into my head. I pushed it away for now, but I made a mental note to act on it later. “Do you come here every day?”

“When I’m not working, yes,” he answered, resting his hands on top of his head. I tried not to glance down at his muscular body that covered by a tight black shirt. Stef, stop.

“Where do you work?” I attempted at distracting myself.

“A small family owned cafe,” he said, closing his eyes. I then noticed that he looked more tired than usual. Nearly invisible black circles rimmed his eyes.

“You look tired,” I blurted. “Wow, I’m so good at complimenting people. Sorry.”

“It’s fine.” He waved it off. “I assume you aren’t feeling so hot either, considering you weren’t at school today.”

I didn’t question the fact that he had noticed my absence. “Yeah, throat problems. Speaking of which, wanna come with me to the cafeteria to get something cold? I can feel my throat getting worse.”

He shrugged. “Sure, I guess.”

We stood up and took an elevator down to the ground level, where there was a cafeteria. I quickly texted my dad, telling him where I was. We went up to the counter. “What do you want?” I asked him.

“I don’t want anything.” He shook his head.

“I’ll pay, just tell me what you want,” I assured him, knowing exactly why he had declined the offer.

He looked at the menu displayed above our heads. “Fried rice?”

“Sure thing.” I ordered him a small container of fried rice and I got some ice cream for myself.

We sat down at one of the empty tables. “Thanks, again. For paying, I mean.”

“No problem, I’m happy to.” I hungrily delved into my vanilla ice cream, noticing how Ethan smirked as I did so.

“How is Blake? Was he alright today?” I had forgotten to text him, and I cursed myself for doing so.

Ethan nodded. “He’s... better than expected. I think he really did love her though, he’s still quite heartbroken.”

“What did she do? I mean, besides breaking up with him.” I took another bite of the delicious creaminess sitting in front of me. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of ice cream.

“She decided to draw a lot of attention to the breakup,” Ethan said. “She screamed at him, the whole cafeteria hearing. Accused him of nasty stuff that he didn’t even do. He stayed completely quiet, not saying a word. I’d never seen him like that, not talking. He just took everything that she threw at him, and stormed out. We didn’t see him for the rest of the day.”

“What a bitch,” I blurted, not bothering to apologise. I could see that Ethan agreed. “Why would she do something like that?”

“She’s friends with Veronica and Kaitlyn. I’m not surprised,” he commented. “Not a lot of people can hurt Blake like that. He was destroyed, as you saw.”

I nodded, silently cursing Belle with every swear word that I could think of. I was pissed off that she hurt one of my friends. We went back to eating in silence.

After a few minutes, I decided to take a gamble and ask a question. “Why is your mother’s hospital bill so huge? What exactly is... her condition?” I asked.

He didn’t say anything for a moment or two, keeping a completely emotionless expression on his face. I waited patiently to see if he would in fact answer me.

“It’s a brain problem, I can’t remember the exact name.” I knew he was lying, but he had already told me more than I expected him to.

“I hope...” I struggled to find the right words. “I hope she gets better. I hope she is okay, after everything.”

He stopped eating and looked up at me. We locked gazes. “I- thank you,” he said, a hint of thankfulness in his voice. “Same to you, with your cousin and everything.”

I nodded. “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with you for this long.”

He shrugged. “Is that a good or bad thing?” He chuckled and smirked.

“Good, I hope.” I grinned. He almost did too.

We finished our food. My throat felt much better.

>< >< ><

While my throat was still sore the next day, I decided that I had to go to school. Mid year exams were looming even closer, and I couldn’t afford to have piles of homework dumped on me because of a sore throat.

When I got to school, I set out on a search to find Blake. He was leaning against his locker with the other three. I went up and gave him a hug. Jordan, being the comedic genius that he is, decided to turn it into a group hug.

“Get off me, idiot,” I said to Jordan. “This hug is for Blake.”

Jordan pouted.

I pulled away from Blake. “Where’s the signature smile?” I slowly started to grin and he couldn’t help but smile too. “I’m sorry,” I said to him quietly, so that the others didn’t hear. He nodded, acknowledging that he heard it.

And just when the day was turning into a good one, I heard a snobby voice behind me. Belonging to Belle, of course. “Is that your new girlfriend, Blake?” she taunted. “You really downgraded.”

The fact that she hurt one of my best friends combined with the sound of her stupid voice seemed to trigger some anger that begged to come out.

So, I put a calm look on my face even if I was extremely pissed off. I turned around, plastering a fake smile on my face on purpose.

“Belle,” I started. “Do us all a favour, and go to hell.”

She did not like that. But then again, that was what I was aiming for.

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