Charlie looked after me making sure I had some food, I picked at it but I had a few mouthfuls; She told me that Mark had got back and said not to apologise; he said if I needed anything to let him know. It hit me hard, what I needed I couldn’t have, I needed him.
Georgie and I are sorting out the hospice details out in the hall. Dad is being transferred today. It’s been twelve years since I have stepped foot through those doors. Hoping I would never have to do it again. I don’t know how I am going to be when I get there, it’s going to take every ounce of strength I have not to break down. Talking to my sister when I notice she looks at something curiously. Then I hear a voice I have been longing to hear.
With no hesitation, I burst into tears as I see Mark in front of me. After seven months of talking over the phone, I finally have him in person he scoops me up in his arms and whispers words I never knew I needed to hear from him.
“I am here now, I will always be here for you.”
We stand in the hall in silence. At some point my sister walked back into my dad’s room, giving us some space. Finally, taking a step back I place both my hands on his cheeks taking every inch of him in.
“It’s you? You’re here!” He smiles at me.
“It’s me, I promise you I’m real.”
We hear a throat clearing behind us. My dad is being wheeled out of the room to be transported to the hospice. I walk over to my dad and whisper in his ear.
“Dad, this is Mark, who I have been telling you about.”
My dad eyes Mark up and down before holding out his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mark, I have heard so much about you.”
Mark accepts my dad’s hand and nods.
“I have heard nothing but wonderful things about you, Mr Blair.”
My dad waves his arms. “Please, just call Jack.”
Georgie sneaks behind me and whispers. “Blake, he is finnnnneeee!”
I smile at her as she declares. “Much better in person.” We drive to the hospice, I ask Mark if he is ok would he mind coming with me. Bless him, he grabbed my hand and told me anything I needed was mine. Georgie, Dad and Greg are already in the doors into the hospice. I knew this was going to be hard but I freeze at the steps willing my body to move.
Mark looks at me, giving my hand a little squeeze. “You can do this Blake.”
Taking a deep breath, I walk through the doors where my family is waiting for us. The nurses explain that if we could stay in the family room just while they get dad settled, they would appreciate it then in about fifteen minutes we could join him. The hospice manager Nancy is talking us through what to expect during this time. I feel it all deja vu. No set visiting times, just be respectful of all people and keep noise to a minimum. We are giving a leaflet that explains everything, as Nancy is aware of it’s a lot to take in. A nurse makes her way into the room and says.
“Ok, we are all ready when you are.”
Greg and Georgie walk in front of me, Mark hasn’t let go of my hand not once. As the nurse directs us to the room, Georgie looks over her shoulder and speaks calmly.
“Guys can we have a minute, please.”
I look at her, not sure what’s happening right now. Greg kisses Georgie on the cheek and Mark lets my hand go and goes with Greg. I look at my sister. “What’s wrong, Georgie?”
Georgie clears her throat. “I think it’s better if we just have a minute to compose ourselves right now. As this is going to be a lot for us to deal with and when I say us, I mean you.” I shake my head and gesture.
“I know it is a lot to deal with Georgie, but this isn’t something that I am going to get over in a few minutes standing in this hall.”
Georgie looks at me with tears in her eyes. “Oh god, Georgie, sorry I didn’t mean it like that.” She shakes her head and whispers between her sobs, “It’s not that Blake, I kinda feel someone is playing a cruel joke at the minute. One minute everything is fine, the next dad has terminal cancer and then this...”
I don’t understand and ask. “This, what?”
Georgie looks at me and looks somewhere else. “He is in the room mum died in.”
I go white and then proceed to throw up whatever contents I have in my tummy on the floor, which is more liquid than anything. “I am so sorry.” A nurse passes me and hands me a tissue, explaining it was fine and that they can get someone to clean it up. Georgie stomps across to me.
“Well, we can get him moved NOW!”
Greg comes out of the room. “Girls, your dad needs you!”
I take Georgie’s hand; she has always been my rock and right now she needs to know I can be here for her. As we walk closer to the door, I can see myself as a 13-year-old girl walking into this room, the room where I said goodbye to my mum and watched her slip away. Life being the cruel bitch she is, is giving us a repeat performance where I will have to watch the same fate take my dad. As Georgie and I walk into the room, what a fucking sight to take in there: the main man is laughing with Greg and Mark like he isn’t dying with weeks to live.
For a split second, I wonder if the tests were wrong, but then I remember my mum looking perfectly healthy and normal until she started the treatment and it goes downhill fast from there. Georgie goes to speak and my dad shuts her up.
“Before you even start, no, I won’t be moving rooms. This room is exactly where I need to be. Your mum is watching over us and when the time comes, she will be here with me every step of the way. I know I’m being selfish, but please don’t take this away from me.”
Georgie sadly looks at our Dad. “Don’t you think it’s a bit morbid?”
My dad sighs and then looks at us both. “Girls, I know this room holds sad memories but if I have to die and have a choice where I want it to be the place your mum and I were together last.”
I can barely keep the tears from falling. “You made sure they gave you this room.”
My dad looks at me defiantly. “I explained what the room meant to me and I asked that if it was vacant, could I have it and since I’m dying of cancer for the first time something nice has gone my way.”
Hearing my dad tell us his reasoning, makes it hard to fight him, yes it is hard for us to be in this room, but why should we hold that against him and take away something that will bring him peace in the end. He gives us both a big grin and goes back to chatting with Greg and Mark.
Georgie and I go to the little cafe and grab a coffee. Sitting in silence together, taking it all in. Mark and Greg finally come and find us. “Hey, girls, your dad said he was tired and wanted to get some sleep, said he would see us all tomorrow. How are you getting home, Blake?”
“I was just going to take a Taxi.” Georgie grabs my hand.
“Greg and I can give you and Mark a lift, where do you want to go?”
I have no energy to go anywhere but my house. “I just want to go home, is that ok Mark? We might get some dinner I am sure your starving.”
Mark gives me a big smile. “That would be wonderful.”
I get to my front door and open it, leading Mark into my small apartment. “Well, welcome to my home.”
Mark walks through, taking it all in. “Thank you for having me, so food?” I look at him, feeling that at any moment I will wake up and none of this will be real.
“How does a Chinese sound the Peking Garden does a mean set of chicken balls in Peking sauce?”
I get the food ordered and pour us a much-needed drink. I come back with two glasses of red wine, Mark takes it from me and gives me a big grin. Walking closer to him.
“I still can’t believe you’re here.”
Mark stares at me. “It was the easiest decision I made once Charlie give me her number and told me what had happened.” I feel the tears come again and I try to hold them back.
“Thank you so much, you will never know how much it means to me.”
Mark pulls me in for a hug and I take in his smell, it’s a mix between his aftershave and the red wine. The doorbell goes I pull away looking into his eyes. “That must be the food, I will get it.”
I pour us another glass of wine, and we eat Chinese food. Mark and I chat for hours he knows I don’t want to talk about my dad just yet, so we talk about everything else. It feels so strange to have him here, I’m freaking out as all those old feelings are resurfacing along with new feelings of guilt and betrayal. Betrayal for feeling happy while my dad is dying in a hospice. Guilt that I am in love with a guy who has a girlfriend back home. Talk about being messed up. Two bottles of wine later, we are sat on the couch and he hands me my fortune cookie.
“Ok, you go first.”
I watch Mark as he opens it, and he laughs. “Apparently... Romance moves you in a new direction. Ok, what’s yours?”
I crack it open and unfold the piece of paper. “Hmm... Advice is like kissing. It costs nothing and is a pleasant thing to do.”
I turn around and laugh at Mark. “What a load of crap, right?”
I go to get up off the couch to get another drink, but Mark grabs my arm. Mark softly speaks. “If you’re saying it’s a load of crap Blake, someone has not kissed pleasantly you.” I smile, looking to get away and quick.
“Maybe you’re right!”
Blake clings to me and I stroke her hair calming her down, her sobs break my heart she finally takes a step back placing both her hands on my cheeks. We are interrupted by a throat clearing Blake’s dad she looks just like him we finally meet each other. Blake asks me if I am ok coming with them to the hospice. I needed her to know I was here for her, so I grab her hand and tell her anything she needed was hers. Blake’s family arrive at the hospice and make their way inside, Blake freezes at the steps. I look at her face and give her hand a little squeeze. I watch as she takes a deep breath and finally walks through the doors where her family is waiting.
The nurses explain that if we could stay in the family room while they got their dad settled in, a little while later a nurse makes her way into the room where we have been waiting, telling us they are ready. We are walking behind Greg and Georgie and I haven’t let go of her hand, not once. As the nurse directs us to a room, I notice Georgie look over her shoulder and asks us for a moment. I reluctantly let Blake go and I go with Greg into the room where Jack has been placed. Jack is a laugh a minute, I swear for a man dying he sure as shit isn’t acting like these are his final days. He looks around and asks where the girls are Greg looks at him.
“They said they needed a minute.”
Jack looks at us both. “Well, that minute is up will you please go and get my girls.” Greg goes out of the room and Blake’s dad looks at me.
“I am going to make this quick, thank you for being here for Blake, she might not admit it to you just how much you mean to her, but I have heard enough over the last seven months all I ask is you don’t mess her about.” Just as Jack finishes Greg walks back into the room and he cracks a joke I can’t help but laugh along with Greg I am still taking in his last words to me. Jack goes on a bit of a rant about not moving rooms and the girls just look at their feet as they take in what he is saying then once he is done he gives them both a big grin and goes back to chatting to Greg and me.
Georgie and Blake go for a coffee. Leaving Greg and me with Jack again, Greg’s phone rings.
“Sorry, Jack, I have to take this it’s my mum.”
Blakes dad turns his attention back to me once Greg is gone. “So about our little chat earlier I don’t want you to think I was overstepping just Blake shuts people off from getting close after her mother passed. I am just concerned. I see the way she looks at you and I’m not sure it’s reciprocated the same.”
I look at him and nod. “I completely understand and I give you my word that I won’t hurt her, my life back home it’s so complicated, Blake doesn’t know this yet, what with everything going on but my ex-fiancee has told me she is pregnant and it might be mine. To be brutally honest, dragging Blake into my mess isn’t fair.”
Jack looks as shocked as I was about the news. “Shit, son, that’s a lot of mess, Blake mentioned how you two met sorry to hear things are complicated. I have a question for you and it does not need an answer, not to me. If you and Blake are just friends, why did you drop everything to be here for her? It’s not like you owe her that. I don’t mean that to come across rude or harsh, it’s just something that has been on my mind.”
I look at Jack, and he gives me a slight smile, and it makes me question everything. I am interrupted from my thoughts by Jack. “Blake used to have a sparkle in her eye she would pretend to be an explorer and have a big adventure around the world, the world was just our back garden mind you but the places she used to tell us all about her eyes lit up, her passion, she never wanted to stay home she always said she wanted to pack her bags and get as many stamps on her passport, she never did it, not one stamp on her passport once her mum died, it felt like she was scared to leave. Blake has been lost for a while now and well when I go, I have a plan for her. Something she’s put off, but I can’t let her put it off any longer and I have the means to help her.”
I look at her dad, sensing I know his plans, “You’re going to fulfil her dreams.”
Jack nods at me. “I never thought you two would meet in person if I’m honest, Blake needs this, she needs her spark back. When I was diagnosed, there was nothing that would hinder her from doing what I am going to ask her to do.” I bite my lip and accept what he is saying.
“If you are scared, I will stand in her way I won’t, I will help you with Blake to find her spark, I promise.”
Jack nods at me. “I know you won’t Mark, You look out for Blake, you are a good friend, I like you.”
Greg eventually comes back into the room, Greg looks at Jack. “Sorry Jack, the kids were asking for you! Daisy decided to draw all over Dillion with a felt tip and he looks like an Oompa Loompa right now. Mum has been scrubbing, trying to get it off.” Jack laughs.
“Daisy so reminds me of Georgie she did something similar to Blake only they found their mum’s very expensive lipstick, Blake was a tint of pink for days I found it hilarious their mum was livid she was a tint of red from rage. You tell them Granda Jack sends them two extra big cuddles today.”
Greg looks at Jack with a sad smile. “We have to go get the kids, but we will be back tomorrow with them so you can see them.” Jack smiles. “That’s ok son, I am feeling so tired right now, I might have asleep.”
As I walk into her apartment that I have spent months seeing through my phone, it feels so surreal, Blake suggests ordering from the Peking Garden when she comes back into the living room. She hands me a glass of red wine. We chat and I can’t help it; I pull her in for a hug she smells of coconut and she feels so warm and homely. The doorbell goes, and the food arrives. Blake pours us another glass of wine. We chat for hours, it’s just so easy with her, even when we have a few walls of silence it doesn’t feel awkward. My feelings are so torn right now knowing what her dad has planned for her and my promise not to stop her, but what if I’m letting the best thing ever come into my life slip away, what if Blake is?
Two bottles of wine later I am sitting on her couch I can’t stop looking at her having her in person feels so much better than I could have ever expected. I see our fortune cookies and hand her one. Blake insists I go first, I can feel her watch me as I read it and laugh thanks for this universe if I wasn’t fucked enough.
“Apparently... Romance moves you in a new direction, Ok, what’s yours?” I watch as Blake opens and reads hers. “Hmm... Advice is like kissing. It costs nothing and is a pleasant thing to do.”
I watch as Blake blushes; she is so beautiful. Blake goes to move off the sofa, what the hell am I doing I go on autopilot grabbing her arm and saying words I know I shouldn’t be saying.
“If you’re saying it’s a load of crap Blake, you haven’t been kissed pleasantly.” Blake looks at me and I lean closer. Her words break me.
“Maybe your right!”
Fuck don’t do this, don’t blur the lines, it’s too messy back home, and it’s not fair on Blake she’s about to lose her dad and then she loses me to my life in New York. Pulling my shit together and fast. I shouldn’t do this, her dad is dying for fuck’s sake and here I am sending her mixed signals. Quickly standing up, I and look at her.
“I should get going, you have had a long day.”
Well done, you prick, I watch as Blake looks dejected; she thought I was going to kiss her, hell I was going to kiss her, but this whole situation is all wrong, I would be messing with her head when she has so much going on. Blake pulls herself together.
“Oh ok, well thanks for tonight I enjoyed your company.”
I walk to the door, not trusting myself to be in this apartment a minute longer. I will worry about an Uber once I am away from Blake.
“Night Blake, I will see you tomorrow ok?”
Blake nods. “Bye Mark”
Going to hug her goodbye, but she was already closing the door. Backing my head against the wall thinking about what Jack said; I need to sort my shit out before I break my promise, hurt Blake and work out quickly how Blake fits into my life in the future because now I have her in person I don’t want to let her go.