“My dad…” I whispered. My body heaved back and forth, and I tried so hard to hold myself still but I couldn’t. I hung my head in shame, more damn shame. It was all I felt.
By the way Michael shifted beside me, I could tell that he wanted to comfort me more than he already was but he was hesitant. “Mia, you don’t have to tell me.”
“My dad hit my mom, cheated on her, took all her damn money, and left us.” It was the first time I had ever said those words out loud. I didn’t dare say them before to Mason--he already knew what happened. I didn’t dare say them to Melissa and Serena--I didn’t want them to know. I didn’t even say the words to myself because that made it so much more real than it already was.
All I could feel was pain from it because… I was turning into my father without even trying to. I was taking Mason’s money. I was mooching off of him. I was cheating on him with Michael. And I might’ve felt guilty about the money part, but I didn’t feel guilty about…. I gazed down at Michael’s hand resting on my knee… about this part.
Michael looked down and clenched his jaw. I didn’t know how long we sat in silence, but it had to be almost an hour. The nurse hadn’t called us up to the counter, and I was getting anxious. Michael’s hand hadn’t left my knee, only calming me down for a bit.
The elevator doors opened, and Mason walked out of the elevator with Melissa and Serena. I hopped up from my chair, so Mason didn’t see Michael’s hand on my knee, and hurried over to him.
A look of worry crossed his face for a brief moment, and he wrapped his arms around me. “Baby, what’s going on?” he asked, pulling away from me.
“Mom had another brain aneurysm,” I whispered.
He looked down at my bandaged arms, then back up at me. “And these?”
I pulled my arms away from him and shook my head. “I got cut with glass at work.”
Then, after those two simple questions, he gazed over at Michael. “You called Melissa’s dad to come here before me?”
I pressed my lips together, heart pounding in my chest. Why was he jealous during a time like this? Why was he constantly jealous? Up until recently, I had done absolutely nothing to him. I was his perfect girlfriend; I let him go out with the guys, sacrificed nights out with the girls, didn’t talk to any other man that he didn’t want me to. And he was jealous while my mom was being transported into intensive care.
“I didn’t call him,” I said through clenched teeth. “He was at the bar when I got the call.” I pulled away from him and walked to the other side of the waiting room, sat in a chair and stared at the ground.
If I wanted to get out of this relationship with Mason, I couldn’t ask him to help me with these bills; I’d be in his dept forever. I had to either do it myself… or… I took a deep breath and pulled out my phone. Scrolling through my contacts, my thumb hovered over his name.
After a few moments, I put the phone back into my pocket. No, I couldn’t do that. He didn’t care about Mom and me. He wouldn’t have left us if he did. I couldn’t call Dad, not even if Mom survived. But… I wasn’t sure I had a choice.
Dr. Jackson--the same doctor Mom had last time--walked out into the waiting room, stuffing a pen into his pocket. “Jane Lewis?”
I shot up from my chair. “Is she okay? Is she stable? Can I see her?”
The doctor smiled at me and nodded his head. “Nice to see you again, Mia,” he said. He paused and swallowed hard. “Your mother is in stable condition for now. She has a couple more surgeries scheduled for later on this week. But, as I told you last time, it was a miracle she recovered from the first one so quickly. Many people don’t.” He took a deep breath. “There is a high likelihood that, if she survives, she won’t get back to ever fully function like she was again.”
Tears rolled down my cheeks, and I nodded my head. I knew it. I knew that this was what he’d tell me but hearing it… felt worse than I expected. What was I going to do? How could I help Mom when I couldn’t even help myself?
“Can I see her?” I asked.
“She’s not conscious now, but you’re welcome to check in on her.” He gazed around the room, noticing the four others with me. “But only one at a time, please.”
I followed him through the hallways and gazed into the room she had been in last time: Room 405. The numbers had haunted my dreams too much these past few years. He nodded toward Room 418, and I hesitantly stepped into the room.
Mom laid in the bed, her head shaven to the skin, more scars on her scalp. There was a feeding tube in her neck and oxygen tube for her nose. My brows furrowed, and more tears welled up in my eyes.
I grabbed her hand and intertwined our fingers. “Mom,” I whispered, knowing she couldn’t hear me. “Mom, it’s going to be okay. I promise you that I’m going to do everything I can to get you better.”
And I would do anything I had to do to get her healthier again. I would quit school. I would quit my job. I would dump Mason and find us a studio apartment down in the slums, if I had to. Anything to just spend more time with her like we used to.
When the doctor ushered me out, I gave her one last kiss and walked toward the door. And, then, I closed my eyes, stepped out into the hallway, and dialed Dad’s number. I couldn’t afford any more hospital bills and I didn’t want us to be in debt forever. The phone rang and it rang and it rang and just as I was about to hang up, he answered.
“Mia,” he said in a gruff voice. “Didn’t think I’d ever hear from you again.”
My lips quivered at the mere sound of his voice. I wanted to hang up the phone right then and there. But though all I had for him was anger, I couldn’t hang up. “Dad.”
He chuckled so menacingly at me. “Didn’t think I’d ever hear that again either.”
“Mom’s in the hospital again.”
All his pleasantries went right out the window, and the real him finally showed up. “Why are you calling me? Do you think I give a fuck about your mother? She was nothing but a nag.”
Tears welled up in my eyes, and I tried to keep my voice quiet so nobody would hear that I needed help with my finances. It was embarrassing to say the least. “Dad, please… I can’t afford any more hospital bills. We already lost the house.”
I felt like such shit for calling him. I knew he wouldn’t help me.
“You’re the only person I have that can help me,” I whispered, brushing a stray tear off my cheek. Some nurses walked down the hall, and I leaned against the wall, resting my forehead on it. “Please.”
“What do you want me to do?” I asked, so desperately. “I’ll do anything. All I need is a few thousand.” It was a lie. I needed more. Way more. But anything would do right now.
“No,” he said again, his voice stern. “Your mother is not my problem anymore.”
“What about me?” I asked, louder than I meant. “I’m your daughter.” When I saw Mason gaze into the hallway from the waiting room, I quietened my voice. “I’m your daughter and I’m struggling. Don’t you care about me?”
He stayed silent for a long time, then sighed through his nose. “You’re an adult, Mia.”
“And you’re just an asshole,” I said, slamming my already cracked phone on the ground, resting my back against the wall, and sliding down to sit on the ground. “Just a fucking asshole.”
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