Jasmine told me it would get easier, but it didn't.
At least, not the following week. After the break-up with Peyton, it hadn't been hard that hard to quit. But Anthony? I couldn't stop thinking about him, wondering what he was doing, and if he was missing me. Was he doing anything to try to change his son's mind?
And if he was able to get Peyton to budge,what then? We were over. We hadn't spoken since that night. He sent me one text a little after I'd left his house.
Anthony: Did you make it to your friend's? Are you okay?
Riley: I did and it doesn't matter if I'm okay or not.
Riley: And you were right. My 21st birthday was by far the worse.
I counted down the days until I'd be back at school, in a new environment where I hoped I would be free from thinking about him.
I only had three more days to go. I took two pills of ibuprofen for my killer migraine when my mom asked if I could go to the store. We need things for dinner, according to her.
I was shopping in the bread aisle when I saw him.
Anthony stood in the vegetable section, and as he reached for a tomato, he turned and looked at me.
As he recognized me, his demeanor changed. I knew I had to get the hell out of there before I broke down in the middle of the store.
Why was I reacting like this? I was never truly in love with Anthony.
"I don't feel well," I told my mom after we finished washing the dishes. "I'm going to bed."
"You need anything, sweetheart?"
Just to stop thinking about him. "No, I'm fine. Goodnight."
I stomped up the stairs, changed into my pajamas, and curled up in a ball under the covers, closing my eyes and hoping to shut all of my feelings off just for a couple hours.
** I woke up cold, but also felt a thin coat of sweat on my neck and back.
My room was dark, and the alarm clock on my nightstand said it was a little after two in the morning. The dull ache in my stomach had intensified into a full-out excruciating pain.
I rolled over, trying to make it go away, but it only seemed to get worse.
After another half hour, I dragged myself out of bed and went into my mom's room.
"Mom," I said. "Mom, wake up."
"My stomach hurts. Real bad."
As we drove to the hospital, the pain got worse and worse each minute. I usually was a lucky kid. No major injuries, or anything like that. I tried not to think about what was wrong, because my mind immediately went to the scenarios and made my anxiety worse.
"What do you think is wrong?" my mom asked.
"I'm not the doctor," the nurse said immediately.
"Right, but what do you suspect?"
"Is there a chance you could be pregnant?"
"I'm good about taking my pill and using condoms."
"My second guess is appendicitis."
The nurse's second guess was right. A CT scan confirmed it. By four a.m. I'd been admitted, taken to a room on the fifth floor, and antibiotics were injected through my IV. The pain medication helped ease the pain, but made me shake worse than before.
"Twenty one year old female. Acute appendicitis," a female voice said behind the closed door. "We've got you schedules for OR two at five."
The door to my room opened without a knock, causing my mom to straighten her composure in her chair as the doctor entered. He only made it three steps before he looked at me.
Anthony's shocked gaze went from me, to my mother, then on to the whiteboard next to my bed that listed my condition.
"Dr. Lowery," my mom said, and for the first time in her life, she looked pleased to see him.
He paced quickly to my beside and his worried expression was so unbearable, I had to look away.
"How's your pain?"
Awful since you made me leave you.
"She's been better the last hour," my mother answered, rising from the chair and moved to stand next to the bed-rail.
"Good. That's good." His tone immediately shifted back to a professional mode. "We'll get you feeling a lot better once we've taken your appendix out."
As he dragged on about the procedure, I tried to drown out the sound of his voice which made me only miss him more.
"Riley, do you have any questions?"
I rolled my eyes and simply shook my head.
"I don't want you to do the surgery," I said as he held a scalpel in his hand to cut me open.
"I know it's scary, but your appendix has to come out. There's no way to treat..."
"No." He didn't understand. "I don't want you to do it."
My mother looked as equally shocked as Anthony. "Oh, honey. It might feel odd because he's Peyton's father, but he's a doctor. Don't worry about him seeing your body."
Him seeing me naked is the least of my concerns, since he's already seen it for the past year. "It's not that."
"Mom, can you give us a minute? I need to talk to Anthony alone."
Fuck, I just said his name instead of Doctor.
"Fine. I'll be right outside when you're done."
As soon as the door shut, he looked at me. "Tell me why you don't want me to do the surgery."
"Because. I don't want it to be the last time you put your hands on me."
He sighed because he knew just as much as I did. Neither of us knew there would never be a future.
"I want someone else."
"I'm the trauma surgeon on-call, so you don't have an option." He took a deep breath before adding, "I could leave, but it will take hours to find someone else who's available. And also, Riley? I'm the best. You think I'm going to let someone else do this? Not a chance."
His cockiness only made me more irritated. "I said no. I don't want your emotional and physical scars on me forever."
"Jesus Christ. I know you're unhappy, but this isn't the time to act like child."
I scowled and before I could argue, he cut me off. "This is serious. Do you understand that? The recovery time is two weeks. If you wait for this, everything changes."
"If I don't do this, the two weeks will turn into months."
I looked up at him, trying to hold back the tears.
"You don't get to pick your doctor, Riley. This is a life or death situation." He leaned down and pressed his forehead against mine. "I don't want your life in my hands. Don't make me do that kind of surgery."
He didn't want my life in his hands, but it was too late for my heart. I closed my eyes and felt a tear slide down my cheek, which he used his thumb to wipe it away.
"I understand I'm not your first choice. I wasn't for a long time. But today, I'm your ONLY choice."
He was indirectly admitting that he had feelings for me while I was with Peyton. Had he felt like he was my second choice? Because he wasn't. "I..."
What difference did it make now? We kept the relationship a secret, and it hurt Peyton, and Anthony held Peyton's betrayal from me. How could the truth be any more painful?
"I think I might be in love with you," I whispered.
As soon as I realized what I said, I scowled. "Forget I said that. It must be the drugs I'm on."
"I made a promise to him, but I swear on my life, today won't be the last time I touch you." He took a step back, putting distance between us. "You have to trust me, Riley. Okay?"
"Good." He lightly smiled and sighed. "I'll see you after the surgery."