The band and I tie up the loose ends of our second song and quickly delve into the third. We put in as much time as we can before my surgery on Friday, but it still doesn’t feel enough. November is going to be a busy month. Between my surgery and Letty’s birthday. We’re going to lose a whole week when everyone goes home for Thanksgiving. I try not to stress about it too much but the anxiety is there.
To my pleasant surprise, Min and Vance take off Friday so they can take me to my surgery and bring me home. We get to the hospital a little after two, and at 2:30 they pull me to the back to get prepped. After that's done, Min and Vance come back to chat a little bit before they are asked to leave so I can finally go into my surgery.
“Alia, sweetie.” I blink my eyes a few times, wondering why it’s so bright. “Sweetie, can you tell me your birthday?”
“May 11th.” I say groggily.
“Good. Can you tell me what you’re in here for?”
“Surgery. On my wrist.”
“And who will be here to pick you up?”
“Min.” Each question brings me out of my haze. I look down and see my hand is in a half cast and propped up on a pillow.
“We’re going to bring her back. After about an hour we’re going to see if you can get any liquids down, then we can release you. Okay?” I nod my head and close my eyes again – the lights too bright.
“Alia.” The sweet nurse says my name again.
“Can you sit up for me?” I rub my eyes with my good hand and nod my head. When I look around, I see Min sitting by my bed and Vance standing by her, both watching me. The nurse adjusts my bed, then hands me a cup with a straw. I take it from her and drink – feeling parched and like I've had nothing to drink in ages.
“How are you feeling?” Asks Min.
“A little woozy. And confused.”
“That’s normal.” Says the nurse. “I’m going to come back in about thirty minutes and if everything looks good like I expect, we’ll release you.”
“Good.” I say, wanting to go home and be in my bed that’s more comfortable than this. The nurse leaves the room as I continue to drink. “What time is it?”
“Almost six.” Answers Vance.
“Please tell me you have not been here the whole time.”
“Why would we leave you?” Asks Min.
“Because waiting is no fun. You didn’t have to.”
“We wanted to.”
“Can we get something to eat when we go home? I’m starving.”
“We have that taken care of. They already sent your prescription to the pharmacist, so we’ll stop by and pick that up before we go home. They gave us care instructions and you better follow it to a T.”
“I’m serious. You could get an infection.”
“I promise I’ll take care of myself.”
“Good.” Min smiles sweetly at me and I finish the water. After thirty minutes the nurse is content with my ability to hold down the water and has me change back into the sweatpants and t-shirt that I came in – happy that I chose this as my outfit. They wheel me out to where Min and Vance have brought the car around. I’m assisted into the back seat and then we are on our way. “Do you want any food or snacks while I’m in there?” Asks Min as she comes to a stop in front of the pharmacy store.
“Can you get me some chips?” I ask.
“Chips? Any kind?”
“Yes, and chocolate.”
“I’m not really picky right now.”
“I can tell.”
“What about you, babe?” She says to Vance.
“I’ll go in with you.”
“No, stay with Alia. I’ll be quick.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive.” She gives him a quick kiss, then gets out of the car. I lean my head back against the headrest, wanting nothing more than to be home.
“Thank you, Vance.”
“For everything. Being an amazing boyfriend to Min. Taking off today to go with us. Looking into a way to get my mom out of my life. Thank you for it all.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t do more.”
“You’ve done more than enough.”
“I don’t feel like it.”
“You’re a good guy, Vance. Promise me you’ll make time for Min when you go to law school.”
“I will, Alia. I love Min. More than anyone I have ever loved before. I’m not willing to let her go so easily”
“Good. Fight for her.”
“Are you okay, Alia?” I open my eyes long enough to see Vance looking at me through the visor mirror.
“I have a long road ahead of me.”
“We’re going to figure it out. We’re not letting you go.”
“Thank you…” I don’t have the heart to tell him that there’s no winning against my mother. I set us up to fail by having this surgery. And I have been thinking about leaving on my own accord. It might be easier than letting her rip me away from them. If I leave, maybe I can still stay in contact with Letty and Min. I’ll use my mother’s money to fly them out a few times a year. Maybe sneak the boys in every once in a while. But long-distance is hard. Even on friendships. They’ll grow tired of it and I’ll become a friend they lost contact with instead of the friend who disappeared in the middle of the night… I have to accept that I’m not going to be able to stay. There’s no way around it. I either leave now or at the end of the semester. And to stay until the end of the semester, I’ll have to make a deal with the devil.
Min comes back with a bag of snacks and my medicine, then we’re back on the road. At the apartment, Min grabs my things while Vance has one arm around my waist, helping me walk as I still feel groggy. When we open the door, the smell of delicious freshly cooked food hits me. I look around and see the people I love most in this world. Letty, Micah, Emmett, and Jay stand around the set table, looking at me, waiting. “What’s this?” I ask, looking to Min – tears welling up.
“They all insisted on coming up to make sure you’re doing okay.” She answers. I look back at them, a lump forming in my throat. Although things have felt good between us all this last month, seeing them all here brings a different kind of feeling. “I’ve really missed you guys.” My voice breaks and the tears run down my face.
“A, it’s okay.” Says Min, rubbing my back. Micah walks over and hugs me.
“We love you, Alia. You have your family back.”
“Come on, Lils, let’s eat.” Letty takes my hand as she and Micah guide me over to a chair where I sit down. I wipe the tears away, feeling foolish.
“Sorry… I blame the anesthesia.” Food is passed around as we all fill our plates. Micah helps me fill mine since my arm is in a tight sling and I shouldn’t try to use it any. I sneak a glance up at Jay, who is looking from Micah to me. My cheeks flush and I quickly look back at Micah to tell him thank you. “Four weeks until the competition. How are you all feeling?” Asks Emmett.
“Worried.” All eyes turn to me.
“Why worried?” asks Letty.
“Because we’re not done with the third song.” Relief washes over them, and I realize they thought I was worried about my mom.
“We’ll get the song finished.” Says Jay.
“How are you two doing on it?” Asks Vance.
“We have more lyrics done than music. I don’t like any beat right now.”
Jay rolls his eyes and shakes his head. “More like we can’t agree on a beat.”
“Jay wants something fast. But we have two upbeat songs. We need something smooth, something to show your vocals and the versatility with the band.”
Vance nods his head and swallows his bite. “I agree with Alia.”
“I don’t disagree, but the melodies you’ve chosen don’t catch my eye.”
“Is this what has been happening since you’ve all teamed up?” Asks Letty.
“More or less.” I answer.
“Yes, but usually it's a disagreement over a chord or word. Not a whole damn song.” Retorts Vance.
“Well, I don’t want you working on the music for at least a week.” Says Min.
“What! I can’t do that! We don’t have the time to waste.”
“Alia – the doctor said to take it easy for the first week. You’ll be okay or you’ll make up for it over Thanksgiving break.”
“That’s too close to the competition. We can’t do that.”
“Alia, we’ll be okay. Rest for a week and let’s focus on the lyrics.” Jay reaches for a bowl for seconds.
“You all are insufferable.”
After dinner, we pile into the living room. Micah sits on the couch to my right, Letty and Emmett piled up next to me on my left. Jay sits in the recliner while Vance and Min are curled up on the loveseat. “Are you staying all weekend?” I ask to no one in particular.
“Probably.” Answers Micah. “I don’t have any plans except for Sunday night.”
“Yeah, I’m good to stay until Sunday.” Adds Letty. Min gets up from her spot and walks to the kitchen to where my medicine is sitting. She grabs it and a water then hands it over to me. “Take one.” She says.
“I’m fine. I don’t want to take one right now.”
“A, your brows are furrowed, and you have that ‘I’m in pain’ look.”
“She’s right.” Says Micah.
“Fine.” I take one from the bottle, hand it back to her, and swallow a pill. “If I fall asleep, it’s Min’s fault.”
“But at least you won’t be in pain.” I roll my eyes as she sits back down beside Vance.
“Were we gonna watch a movie or not?” Asks Letty.
Emmett nudges her. “Why do you have to be so impatient?”
“Lils will fall asleep if we don’t start it now. I’m just looking out for her.”
“Sure you are.” I laugh. Vance picks up the remote and searches for the movie we all decided on. I rest my head on Micah’s shoulder, the exhaustion from today finally hitting me.
“Do you want to lie down?”
“No, I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.”
“Girl, we are okay, go on and lay down. You’ve had a long day.” Says Letty. Micah moves one of the throw pillows onto his lap. I smile, thankful for how accommodating they are being. Just as I’m about to lie down, I glance over at Jay and see an unusual look on his face. Almost like he’s jealous. I quickly lay down, ignoring his look – not wanting to dwell too much on it. Letty throws a blanket over me and the movie starts. I barely make it past the opening credits before falling asleep.
“Alia, come on, wake up.” A light shake of my shoulders pulls me out of my sleep. When I open my eyes, the TV is off and there’s an eerie silence. Micah helps me sit up straight and I see Jay is standing by the door while Vance and Min are cleaning off the table. “Where’s Letty and Emmett?” I ask.
“They went ahead to the car.” Answers Micah as he stands up and stretches.
“How are you feeling?” Asks Min.
“Groggy. I want to sleep.” I rise to my feet, but the sudden rush of blood to my head causes me to stumble. Micah catches me and I catch a glimpse of Jay reaching out for me.
“Why don’t I help you to bed?” Asks Micah.
“I’ll help.” Says Jay.
“It’s fine. I think Micah can get me there on his own.” There’s disappointment in his eyes, but he nods his head.
“Feel free to wake us up if you need something A.” I nod my head towards Min as Micah helps me down the hall and to my bedroom.
“Thank you.” I say.
“Of course.” Micah pulls the covers back and helps me into the bed.
“Does Jay seem weird to you?”
“In what way?” He pulls the covers over me, tucking me in bed like he has done this a hundred times before.
“He seemed angry when I laid down on your lap. Then just now, he looked concerned.”
“I guess we’ll find out. He said he needed to talk to me.”
“I’m not sure.”
“Will you tell me?”
“Of course. Get some rest, Alia. We’ll be down all weekend if you need anything.”
“Tell the others I said thank you. I’m really grateful for you all.”
“I will.” He smiles sweetly at me before exiting my room.
═════════════════ ∘◦ ❉ ◦∘ ══════════════════
When I wake up the next morning, I lie in bed and stare up at the ceiling. Remembering everything that happened last night and wondering if what I saw in Jay was true or not. I grab my phone and see a text from Brian. “I told you to keep your head down. She’s giving you two weeks to return home – packed and ready to go to. Get your affairs in order.”
I text back, “I’ll be there tomorrow.” I sit up, pain radiating through my wrist, but I pull up the group chat with Letty and Micah.
Me: How willing are you to come with me to meet mommy dearest tomorrow? Woke up to a text from Brian.
Letty: It’s too early for this.
Micah: We’ll go with you. What do you have planned?
Me: I’m going to make her a deal she can’t refuse.
Letty: I’m not sure I like that idea.
Me: It will ensure I stay. I promise.
Letty: It better.
I move on to the thread with just Micah and I.
Me: What happened with Jay last night?
Micah: He just had some questions.
Me: What kind of questions?
Micah: Wanted to make sure I was serious with the guy I was dating.
Micah: He thought you and I were brewing up something.
Me: 🤣🤣🤣 He’s joking, right?
Micah: He seemed pretty serious.
Me: But why??
Micah: I don’t know. I guess I was too caring for you last night? I honestly don’t know what’s going on in his head.
Me: He doesn’t get to be jealous.
Micah: What if he is?
Me: Well, he better speak up if he has feelings for me. Otherwise, I’m ignoring it.
Micah: Why does he have to speak up? Why not you?
Me: Because I’m the one who left and broke his heart. I don’t want to assume we can start back if he doesn’t trust me enough to.
Micah: You two are hardheaded. Nothing is going to happen if neither of you says a word.
Me: Maybe that’s a good thing. Nothing should happen between us. It’s for the best.
I get out of bed and walk into the living room where Min and Vance are sitting at the table, eating. “How do you feel?” She asks as soon as she sees me.
“Like I got hit by a bus.” I sit down with them, not having the energy to do anything. Vance quickly gets up and brings my medicine over with a cup of coffee. After I take it, he returns with a plate of food. “Thank you.” I say to him. “I got a text from Brian.”
“What did he say?” Asks Min.
“I have two weeks to go back. But Letty, Micah, and I are going to drive down and speak with her.”
“Do you want us to come?”
“No, that’s okay. Aren’t you two going to your parents tomorrow?”
“Yeah, but we can reschedule.”
“Babe, Micah and Letty are good backups. She’ll be okay without us.”
“I can’t say I’ll be disappointed about not going. Your mom gives me the creeps.”
“I’ll keep you updated.”
“Let one of them drive you down. I don’t want you to drive if you don’t have to.”
“Yes, mom.” Min rolls her eyes but I smile, happy to have friends who love me so dearly. It makes me feel horrible for what I’m about to do. The deal I’m about to make. The thoughts of leaving I've been having, even if the deal ends in my favor.