I was no stranger to being haunted by agonizing thoughts or events or experiences. All the things my father put me through for being who I was. The grief that trapped me for years when I believed Rowan died. The fear of losing my life to a relentless cancer. The ache at the idea of never having a family.
And now, I could feel my chest concaving at the sound of Casper's cries. It wasn't a pretty sight either.
He had managed to hold it together the entire drive home. He'd kept a convincing poker face when Dawson and I tried to coax more information out of him. He smiled at our children like nothing was wrong.
But I knew my husband, and once that blank face began to crack, I rushed him up the stairs to the privacy of our bedroom.
He broke before I even closed the door. I led him to the bed where I embraced him as tight as possible, wrapping a leg around his trembling body to keep him grounded.
I'd never heard him cry so hard.
He looked so incredibly helpless. His blue eyes pleaded with me—begged me silently to take away his pain. And the agony of knowing I couldn't ease it for him made me feel just as helpless.
I'd coached dozens of clients through grief. I'd guided a dozen more through each and every stage of mourning. But here, with the love of my life heartbroken in my arms, all 27 years' worth of education and experience were of no use to me.
I heard his breath catch in his throat repeatedly as he squeezed his eyes shut.
"Casper," I cradled his head. "I need you to breathe. Please, darling. I know it hurts."
"I-I can't... I can't do this," his voice drifted into more cries and hiccups, and all I could do was hold him through it.
"I did it. I told David everything. He deserved to know why I've been so afraid and why I wasn't happy with my job."
Josephine smiled from the couch in front of me. "I'm proud of you. How'd he take it?"
"Do you even need to ask?"
"Not really. You're way too cheerful. It's not like you at all."
I grinned. "Rude. But... yeah, I'm definitely not cured. That's completely unrealistic. But it's been a few days and I think I've figured out my next step in life. That's kind of, I don't know, satisfying? I've been so stuck and so sad. It's affected my children, and that's where I draw the line." I remembered something Dawson said when we spoke in my room. "When I'm not okay, something's gotta give."
Josie nodded in agreement. "Control what you can control," she reminded, putting it in better words.
"Exactly. So, I know what I'm gonna do, which is helping me heal. I finally feel like I'm moving forward instead of being stuck in the same place. I thought I would resign, but... I have something better in mind. And it'll be a lot less depressing."
"Do I get to hear it?"
I bit my lip. "Uhh you get to hear the outcome when I see you next week," I offered with a bright smile and my eyebrows raised.
"Alright. Sounds fair. Well, I'm sure you have to get going, so I'll get out of your hair."
"Thank you. I'll walk you." I accompanied her to the front door and waved her goodbye.
Afterward, I went to the kitchen to make some food for both myself and David when he returned from working. Our children were still at school, so it was the best time for him to accompany me to the hospital.
I couldn't lie and say I wasn't dreading it. This place had been my livelihood for years, but it was the same place where so many things took the wrong turn. And after all David and I had been through since my suspension, I couldn't exactly turn off my urge to care for Avery.
"Okay," David said with a sigh, breaking me out of my thoughts. We were in the car parked outside the hospital, and he turned to cup my hands in his. I smiled at him uneasily, and he picked up on my uncertainty. "You've got this. It's alright."
"If they're trying to revoke my license... this is all for nothing."
"They won't. Try to stay positive. I'll be here waiting."
I nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, okay; I just need to go in there and get it over with." I found my resolve and pushed open the car door. Then I paused, feeling a sinking pit in my stomach.
"He's in there, you know..." I spoke absently, staring at the ground. "Fighting for his life after I saved then abandoned him. Or maybe he's already dead and in a morgue as I contemplate my future."
"Come here." David gently tugged my arm. "Close the door."
I did as he asked, my face fallen.
"Listen," he began. "I trust you. And... we've been through a lot. You've stuck with me through a lot as well."
I looked into his eyes, just so I could see how intensely he believed those words.
"You're my rock, Casper. I'll be yours. Go to your meeting, pay Avery a visit, talk to whoever you need to talk to. When you're done, I'll be right here. Well... I'll probably shop and go for some ice cream first—"
I couldn't fight the laughter that escaped me. I squeezed his hand gratefully. "I think I'm ready now. Just one more thing." I leaned closer to him, and he met me halfway. Our lips danced in a sensual kiss and I didn't want to pull away. But I did feel much better.
Not that it mattered because as soon as I stepped through the threshold of the enormous building, the anxiety rushed right back in. In an attempt to quiet my nerves, I kept my mind on David and nobody else.
🎄 Happy holidays 🎄