Acceptance

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Chapter Twenty-four

[ETHAN]

“Breakfast,” I heard a nurse say as the door to Andrew’s hospital room creaked open. I didn’t turn to meet her; I just raised my hand to acknowledge her presence. She soon came into view, pushing the trolley with a covered bowl to the side of Andrew’s bed. She left soon after, leaving me alone with Andrew again.

“I want to kill him,” I mumbled as my mind moved to the image of Christopher hurting Andrew.

I was sitting on his bed, watching him sleep peacefully against the background noise of the hospital machines and the creaking ceiling fan above.

It’s been three days since Andrew’s admission to the hospital. Andrew had asked Mr. Collins to take care of Devein and Roxanne for the meantime. I felt bad for not doing it myself, for not wanting to leave the hospital while Andrew was still here.

Mr. Collins brought Devein over after her classes and his lectures had closed each day. I could see he was doing it as much as for himself as for Devein. I saw the way looked and spoke to Andrew when he came over. He wanted to see him and having Devein with him gave him an excuse to.

The doctor said Andrew would be allowed to leave the hospital in a few more days. They just wanted to make sure his fracture started healing properly and that there were no complications. Apparently, his fracture was a lot delicate than that of normal people.

“Ethan, you’re still here?” I heard Andrew ask as his eyes fluttered open. I gave him a sad smile, watching as his eyes adjusted to the blinding white fluorescence light. He’s asked me the exact same question whenever he woke. I wasn’t so sure he understood the fact that I couldn’t bear to leave him here by himself.

“Yeah,” I mumbled in reply, looking over to the tray of food that the nurse had dragged in on a trolley.

“What’s that?” Andrew asked as his eyes darted to the bowl sitting on the trolley. If the amount of time he’d been sleeping since the accident was good for anything, it was that it greatly improved his appetite.

“Custard...” I trailed, lifting the cover of the bowl. Andrew narrowed his eyes at the bowl before looking over to me.

“Have they fed you? Have you eaten anything?” he asked at a go, making to sit up. I looked at him in alarm before calming down at the sight of him taking care not to put pressure on his casted arm.

“No. I’ll eat later,” I mumbled, taking the bowl of custard and spoon of the trolley to hand it over to Andrew. Andrew looked up at me with concern before taking a spoon of the custard. I watched him eat quietly for a while before retreating into my own thoughts.

To be truthful, I haven’t been eating right since Andrew got here. I’d refused to wander far from the hospital without a valid reason. I kept worrying something would happen to Andrew for the few minutes I was away. I’d only headed back to the cabin twice since Andrew got admitted here, and that was to get Andrew’s laptop, tablet and a change of clothes for the both of us. The dried up blood on the stairway to the front door was still unnerving no matter how many times I’d seen it now.

I watched as Andrew continued to devour the custard, sighing at the soon to be empty bowl before glancing at me.

“I think I need more of this stuff,” he confessed, earning a laugh from me. He blushed in what seemed to be from embarrassment before finishing up what was in the bowl.

“My mum’s going to be here anytime from now,” Andrew muttered as a small smile formed on his lips. No matter how many times he told me his mum was a pain I knew he sincerely loved her.

Andrew handed me the empty bowl soon after, chattering on.

“Ethel is coming along with her too,” Andrew continued, reaching for his phone that was sitting beside his pillow. “Ace will be here anytime from now as well.”

My face fell at the mention of that name but I quickly comported myself. I’d asked Andrew about Ace indirectly a few times and Andrew had kept giving me the same answer. He insisted that Ace was just a friend he’d on a dating site. He’d seemed to take the hint that I wasn’t pleased with the idea of him.

I stayed with him until early noon before heading back to the cabin for a bath and a change of clothes. I practically did that two-minute bath people do when they know they’re late for something but in my situation I was just agitated at leaving Andrew alone.

I returned soon after, only to find Andrew’s face buried in his mother’s chest. She was sobbing noisily as she ran her hand through her son’s hair. I let out a small laugh at the scene making Ethel, who’d been sitting beside Andrew’s mother at the side of Andrews’ bed turn to me with a smile. She waved at me, making me return her gesture.

“Ethan’s here,” Ethel informed Andrew’s mother as she tapped her shoulder. Andrew’s mum stopped sobbing for a moment as she looked up at me. Her eyes went wide before she got up her chair, walking over to me before encasing me in a bone crushing hug that I hadn’t been expecting.

“Thank you so much for saving my son!” She cried into my shoulder, tightening her already impossible grip. I didn’t mind though. She smelled like fresh pines — like Andrew.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” I muttered as she loosened her hold on me. She pushed me back a little, looking me over before smiling.

“Andrew tells me you haven’t been attending classes,” she stated. making me open my mouth to argue.

“Its fine, you can go to school now. I’ll be here until the day before he’s discharged from the hospital,” she said, beaming up at me.

“Are you sure? I have about a week left in here,” Andrew said, making his mother turn to him with an expression of hurt.

“And here I was thinking you wanted me around you for the first time,” Andrew’s mum said, making the lot of us burst out in chuckles.

“I wish I could be here for as much time as your mum but the draft you submitted to me almost a year ago is finally debuting on the day of your discharge. I just wish you’ll be well enough to come for the one you just finished,” Ethel said as her fingers tapped on the screen of her phone. I watched her tap a screen one last time before putting her phone away and running a hand through her dark hair that she’d recently cut into a short cute hairstyle.

“The doctor said it should be completely healed in the next five months,” Andrew said, making Ethel give him a curt nod.

“That’s good, the book should debut in the next three months or so,” Ethel said before taking out her phone. She leaned over to show Andrew something on it; earning nods form him as she continued to explain the details in a hushed tone.

I watched as Andrew’s mum returned to her seat, absent-mindedly rearranging the strands of Andrew’s hair as Ethel continued to brief him.

I sighed, deciding I better give him alone time with his mother and agent.

I walked about the corridors idly before heading to the hospital’s reception to get water from the dispenser.

“Okay, he said you were coming,” the lady behind the counter told the tall man at the other side.

“Hair,” the small girl of around three that was holding his hand muttered as he looked over at me.

“Look at his hair, it’s so long,” she muttered again, pulling at the man’s hand. It took a while for me to register the fact that she was pointing at me. My eyes widened in shock, having never been called out for my hair before and especially not by a kid.

“It’s not polite to point,” the man said, scolding her as he dragged her behind him.

“Sorry for that,” the man apologized with a small smile before casting the girl a scolding glance.

“Where’s Charles?” the man asked, looking down at the girl. She bit her full lips, pinching her Afro that had been held back in Minnie mouse impersonating hairstyle.

“He said he wanted water,” she mumbled, pointing over to the dispenser. The boy, supposedly Charles looked their way in guilt as he held on to the plastic cup filled with water to his chest.

“Charles, don’t go off like that!” The man scolded, making the boy to hang his head before muttering a small sorry.

It was then I remembered what I was at the reception to do in the first place. I headed over to the dispenser, sighing in content at the discovery that it still had chilled water.

“You should be going sir, visiting hours can pass by very quickly,” I heard the receptionist say as I gulped down the water from the plastic cup. Her voice was teasing, like she was flirting. I rolled my eyes at the realization. Couldn’t she see the kids that were hanging around him?

“I’d like to take your name down again. I’m not sure I heard it right the first time,” she said as I turned to watch her flip through the visitation register. It was so obvious she was trying to get more information out of him.

“Ace Parker,” the man muttered in reply as I watched the receptionist’s face fall. Clearly, the man hadn’t caught her suggestion. The man hiked the small girl higher on his hips.

I felt water pass through the wrong passageway when the realization hit me. I was sent into a violent cough and by the time I’d gotten my composure back and received a few resounding ‘bless you’ from the occupants of the reception they’d left the reception; leaving me to look towards the doorway that led to the wards with a questioning look.

Was that the Ace Andrew had been talking about?

My mind automatically started sizing him up. Comparing things form our height to eye color. I shook my head annoyed at my childish jealousy.

I walked back to Andrew’s ward room to find a small girl on Ethel’s lap and the boy standing beside Andrew’s bed as he uttered excitedly to him. Andrew’s mum was encasing Ace in a hug at the moment.

“I told you he’s a keeper,” Andrew mum said with triumph, earning a sigh from Andrew.

“Don’t act like you don’t agree. He organized a quick trip to this place just to see you. Do you know how much last minute tickets cost?” she lectured only earning an eye roll from Andrew.

No one seemed to have noticed my presence yet, and I didn’t want to make it known yet. Andrew’s mum’s words had left an ache in my chest. She’d called Ace a keeper and was practically implying that they were dating.

“Princess hair!” The little girl screeched, being the first person to notice me. I was pulled out of my thoughts just in time to feel small hands wrapping themselves around my legs.

“That’s Ethan,” Andrew said, probably to let Ace hear him. A familiar warm smile — the one that I knew was specially reserved for me graced his lips. My heart tugged in relief at the smile. There was no way he could be dating someone when we cared so much about each other and had done so much together — confined to each other.

“Hello again,” Ace laughed, referring to our first meeting at the reception.

I gave him a smile that wasn’t heartfelt before looking down at the small girl who’d now made it her mission to try and climb up me like I was Mount Everest. I took her by the arms before hoisting her up against my hip. I chuckled a little when she didn’t take time to start messing with my hair.

“She likes hair,” Ace stated plainly as he ran a hand through his equally tough locks. The hair at the sides had been shaved to give the hairstyle an upward look.

“I can see that,” I muttered as he came up to take her off my hands.

It was then we shared that look. That look between people that meant they were quite aware that they were after the same thing.

“I have to leave now,” Ethel said, making us break eye contact.

“Goodbye everyone,” she said, waving at everyone in the room before passing by me and out the door.

Ace had returned to the side of Andrew’s bed to engage in conversation with him and his mum. I walked over to the bed too, taking a sit, not quite following the conversation.

I watched as his eyes darted to the way Andrew reached out for my hand. I couldn’t help feeling a little pride in it. He looked away, replying to something Andrew’s mum had asked him.

It was clear from the way Andrew’s mum was treating Ace that she thought he was Andrew’s boyfriend, or soon to be boyfriend. It hurt, even though Andrew was holding my hand in plain sight. I don’t know. I feel it was just a gut feeling to want to be acknowledged by the dear ones of the one you loved.

It was then I decided that I didn’t quite like Ace Parker.

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