Chapter Twenty-Eight - Awake
Cole’s POV –
The next morning after prom, I sat in my room, flicking through the pictures on my phone. So many were of Annie and I smiling together, and I looked at every single one of her. She was so beautiful, her dress fitting her perfectly. She truly looked stunning.
I was the luckiest man in the world.
I’d come a long way since seven months ago, when Grace was just some intriguing hippie girl I liked to prank and wanted to get to know better. Now she was a close friend and confidant, and I was dating her best friend, the most beautiful girl in the whole world.
Looking back, I realized how stupid and petty and immature I was. Some arrogant jackass who liked to embarrass people for no real reason at all.
Grace Holland had changed me, with the help of Matt Fordman and Annie Fisher. They had shown me that I could be more than some stupid bad boy; that I could be something.
Downstairs the phone rang, and I considered leaving it. Today was Juanita’s day off, and dad was at a conference trip, leaving me here all alone. I really didn’t want to get up.
But I decided it was best, just in case it was an important call. I legged it through the house to the portable home phone, and picked it up a little breathlessly. “Hello?”
“Hi, is this the Adams’ household?” a masculine, clipped voice asked from the other end of the phone.
“Yes, it is,” I answered politely. “How may I help you?”
“Hi, this is Dr Colin Burnes from Alderidge Hospital. May I ask who I’m speaking to?”
“Uh, Cole,” I answered slowly, my heart picking up its’ pace.
“Aurora’s son?” he checked.
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“Hi, Cole. We’re just calling to say that we’ve found a heart donor for your mom. We’re preparing her for surgery as we speak.”
I leant against the counter, feeling light-headed and dizzy. My mom was coming out of her coma? I could finally see and speak to her again?
“Man, are you serious?” I questioned.
There was a chuckle from the opposite end of the phone. “Extremely. The operation will be finished in about six hours. Is your father around?”
“No, he’s in a meeting. I’ll leave a message and be at the hospital in twenty minutes.”
I disconnected and ran up the stairs, everything seeming suddenly surreal to me. Could this really be happening? After all this time?
First I dialled my dad’s phone number, which of course went to voicemail. I left him an excited message, and then called Addison, who did pick up.
“Hello?” her voice on the other end asked. She seemed slightly breathless, as if she had run to the phone.
“Addie, it’s me. I’ve got some good news.”
“Mom’s going into surgery! They found a heart donor!”
The next five minutes consisted of unintelligible screaming and random words strung together to form an incoherent sentence as she ran around, promising to be there within the hour.
I clicked off and grabbed my jacket, all but running to my car in my haste to reach my mom.
I took a deep breath and peeled out of the driveway, using the car to dial Annie’s number.
“Cole?” she asked on the second ring, a worried tone in her voice. “What’s up?”
“It’s mom,” I replied, tightening my grip on the steering wheel as I turned onto the highway. “They found a donor!”
“Oh, my gosh, Cole that’s amazing!” she squealed. “Are you at the hospital?”
“I’m about five minutes away,” I told her, flicking on a blinker and peeling into the fast lane towards the exit.
“Gimme ten minutes to get ready and I’ll be there. I’ll call Grace and Matt, too.”
A huge grin fell onto my face. I knew it would still be rough-going, and there was still quite a way still to go for us, but finally there was hope for my mom, which I had been seriously losing in the last year.
I rounded into the carpark and basically fell out of the car, running to the entry and into the waiting-room.
“Hey, Cole!” the receptionist—whom I knew as Fiona—smiled at me and waved me forward. “I heard about your mom. Congratulations!”
“Thanks, Fi!” I called over my shoulder as I continued to sprint towards the main waiting-room where I could meet Dr Burnes.
I reached the entry and almost collided with him. He wore a doctor’s coat, and his salt-and-pepper hair was slicked back, his thick black-rimmed glasses hanging onto his nose, slightly askew.
“Cole,” he said, nodding in acknowledgement. “She’s finished prep and I’m just on my way now. It’s a standard six-hour operation, so hang tight and get comfortable.”
I nodded and took a seat in the uncomfortable blue chair, tapping my leg impatiently as the doctor disappeared and I was left to my own thoughts.
Annie appeared, color high in her cheeks as she ran towards me, wearing a blouse that had been haphazardly thrown on. Her hair looked like it hadn’t been combed; she’d just run her fingers through it. The buttons on her blouse were mismatched, and her pants didn’t match. It was a slapdash costume. She’d probably been asleep when I called. It was only ten-thirty.
I jumped up from my seat as she advanced towards me, and she flung her arms around my neck. I held her tightly, my chin resting in the crook of her neck.
“Cole, this is amazing,” Annie said, leaning back to look into my eyes. “I’m so happy for you.”
I grinned. “Thanks. Where’s Grace and Matt?”
“They’ll be here any minute; they’re coming together.” We took a seat and she snuggled into me. “It’s a standard procedure, so they’ll be out in about six hours,” she said, and she sounded so much like a professional doctor it filled me with pride. “Do you need anything? A coffee? Something from the vending machine or cafeteria?”
I shook my head, smiling. “No thanks, Anne. I’ll grab some later.”
Grace and Matt appeared, Grace tugging him along enthusiastically. Her blond hair was flying behind her, and her eyes were excited. Matt chuckled ruefully and ran as quick as her, reaching us.
Grace hugged me and told me how happy she was for me, and I smiled at her. It felt good to have three people here that meant the most to me. The fourth was probably in a car from her college bumbling with excitement. The fifth was probably just receiving my message now after he’d gotten out of his meeting.
And hopefully the sixth would wake up in six hours, perfectly healthy.
Six hours later, I was losing it. I had my phone clutched in my hand, and I paced back and forth worriedly.
Addie had arrived, and had run down to the cafeteria to fetch condiments, Grace and Matt were talking quietly amongst themselves, and Annie was rubbing my shoulders in an effort to calm me down.
My dad was flying back from Colorado, and hopefully he’d be here by tomorrow morning.
“Cole, calm down. Freaking out won’t help her,” Annie told me, trying to force me into a plastic seat.
I sighed and tried to calm my thoughts.
The doctor arrived just then, dressed in his signature labcoat, and looking quite exhausted from the long operation. I hurriedly rushed towards him.
“How did it go, Doc?” I asked quickly, eyes wide as I searched his face for clues. Dread seethed within me. What if something bad had happened?
Much to my relief, his face broke into a smile and he clapped me on the shoulder. “The operation went fine. Right now she’s asleep, but you’re right to go in and wait for her to wake up. Just take it easy, OK, son?”
I nodded, a million feelings rushing through me. “OK, thanks for everything.”
He nodded and handed me a slip. “Please hand this to the nurse that’ll be in the room with her. She’s in room 263.”
“Thanks,” I said once again, taking Annie’s hand. Matt and Grace hung back, saying they’d bring Addie up to speed when she came back. It probably wasn’t best to crowd her when she woke up for the first time in three years. But I wanted her to meet Annie first up.
I walked into the room, and handed the nurse the sheet of paper the doctor had asked to pass on.
My mother was lying in the bed, more color in her than had ever been there since she’d been here. Her reddish-brown hair was splayed out on the pillow, and she still looked meek and tiny in the crepe hospital gown. She was still beautiful though.
Annie looked down at her, and then up at me. I was surprised to see tears in her eyes, and I stepped forward so that there was no space between us, my hands cupping her smooth cheeks.
“Hey, you OK?” I asked, watching her worriedly.
A crystalline tear slipped from her eye and she sniffed, chuckling slightly. “Sorry. I’m such a baby. I’m just so happy for you. Finally she’s gonna wake up. It’s gonna be… perfect.”
I brushed back her tears with the pad on my thumb, and kissed her forehead softly. “Don’t apologise, Annie. It’s beautiful. But now my mom can finally meet you.”
She laughed and quickly pecked my lips. “Yeah.”
“Cole, I believe you have something to tell me.”
The voice was rough as sandpaper and raspy, sounding in desperate need of water. I spun quickly to see my mother watching Annie and I with a gleeful expression.
“Mom!” I cried, rushing forward to her bedside and running a hand through her soft hair, needing to feel her. To know she was really here.
“Hey, baby,” she croaked, smiling dreamily up at me. “Long time, no see, huh?”
So much relief was rushing through me that I almost cried, but instead I stayed strong for her. “Addie’s in the cafeteria, but she’ll be here soon. Dad’s coming back from a business trip.”
My mom’s eyes widened in realization. “Addie? She’s OK?”
I frowned. “Yeah. Why wouldn’t she be?”
“The accident. She must’ve been hurt, too.”
My mouth went dry, and I slowly felt my heart break into tiny pieces, feeling like broken glass in my chest. “Oh, mom,” I whispered.
She gulped. “What?”
“Nobody told you?” I queried, my stomach flopping.
She furrowed her brow, looking pained and impatient. “Tell me what, Cole?”
I hated to be the one to tell her. Honestly, it was killing me just thinking about it. But somebody had to.
“Mom, the accident was three years ago,” I told her.
Her face wiped clean as a slate, devoid of expression. Her eyes darted around the room, as if it held answers.
“No,” she finally said, almost inaudibly.
I leant forward and smoothed her hair. “Mom, I’m sorry.”
She looked me over. “I mean, I knew you looked older than you as a fifteen-year-old, but three years? I missed out on everything. Addie’s prom, her graduation, first day of college. Tell me I didn’t miss your prom or graduation.”
Once again my heart broke. “My prom was last night,” I whispered, downcasting my eyes so I didn’t see her heartbroken expression.
“And… and graduation?” she questioned, watching me with an imploring look in her eyes.
“Next week,” I told her.
She opened her arms. “Come here,” she beckoned.
I hugged her gently, not wanting to hurt her, but she clung onto me tightly. “You bulked up, Cole,” she said, chuckling slightly.
I laughed and pulled back. Her green eyes flickered over to Annie, who was leaning in the doorway, looking out of place.
“And who is this beautiful young lady?” my mom asked, her eyes crinkling as she grinned at Annie and gestured for her to come closer.
I wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her closer. “Mom, this is Annie Fisher, my girlfriend.”
“May Fisher’s daughter,” my mom said, nodding approvingly. “Well done, Cole.”
Annie blushed and lowered her eyes.
Just then there was a knock on the door, and Grace’s face appeared, her face framed by winding blond curls.
“Hi, sorry to interrupt,” she said, looking between us all. “Um, Addie’s on her way. Matt had to go to the other end of the hospital; apparently Izzy got into a tiny accident and had to go to the ER.”
I nodded. “Thanks, Gracie.”
“Who’s this, Cole?” my mom asked, her eyes flickering between us.
“Mom, I’d like you to meet Grace Holland,” I said, gesturing between them. “Mom, this is the girl who made me a better person.”
Grace chuckled, and my mom’s brow creased. “How exactly?”
I turned to her with a wolfish grin. “Boy, do we have a story for you.”