Igniting the Wild Sparks, Book 3

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Chapter 15

I awake to an earthquake. “Hadders, get up. My phone is going ballistic.”

My eyes fly open as the room bounces and sways, making me seasick. At my shoulder is a springing jerk bobbing behind me on the bed. Rod stops bouncing as he looks down at his phone and says, “I left it in the kitchen last night, so I didn’t hear it. How many calls did you get?”

I sit up and rub my eyes as Rod witnesses me in my horrifying morning glory. “What are you talking about?” I grouchily ask, putting forth no effort to pick up my phone.

Rod shoves his glowing phone into my face, and I swat it away. Reaching over to the nightstand, he tosses me my phone. “Check your damn phone! It’s Wilder, and he’s fucking enraged. He’s left me three jovial voicemails with five happy texts. Hadley, you need to call him now.”

I glance at my tiny screen. “Four missed calls and two messages.”

“No, he’s not jealous. And that’s probably not all of ’em since your phone is from the Stone Age and hates you for keeping it alive.”

I set the phone down and yawn. “I’ll call him.”

He bounds off the bed and heads for the door. “Do it now before he comes here and rips out my throat or balls. He may do both if he’s feeling generous. I’m gonna get us some breakfast. I’ll be upstairs when you’re done.”

As I look down, my phone rings, and I instantly flip it open. “Finn, what’s wrong? I just saw you had left messages. Rod says you’re mad. What the hell is going on with you?”

“Where the fuck are you?”

“Good morning to you, too. I left you a message.”

“I needed you home!”

“Rod’s sister is in the hospital with a lung infection.” I look at the closed door and lower my voice. “She’s not doing well. He needed a friend. She might not make it.”

“What the hell? Did you drive all the way down there for him? Why in the fuck would you do that to me?”

I angrily whisper, “To you? You’re away all this week! His sister… Finn, you’re leaving again today. I’ll be back before you get home!”

“I had plans for us, Becks!”

“Plans? How? You’ll be out of town until Sunday.”

“Yeah. The trip I had was with you. I was taking you to a cabin in Kentucky.” Oh, no.

My jaw practically smacks the blankets. “I didn’t know!”

“It was a surprise! I told Val about it. Why the hell did she let you go?”

“She wasn’t at work yesterday. I left her a note.”

“Fucking great.”

“I’m sorry, Finn. If I leave soon, we can be there later.”

“It’s too late. We have a check-in time, and you have a three-hour drive. Then a seven-hour trek from here. Even if you drove straight from there, it’s still eight hours away.”

“Can you get your deposit back?”

He sighs heavily. “No.”

“I’m sure if you would explain to them the situation, we could still have the cabin.”

“Forget it now. I took a game to cover tonight.”

“I’m so sorry.” I lean my forehead into my hand and let the hot tears fill my eyes.

“Why did you run to fucking Rodwell?”

“I didn’t run to him. He is going through some terrible shit, and he needed a friend. He didn’t ask me to be here. I did it on my own.”

“I need you here.”

“Why? We can’t go to Kentucky anymore.”

“Be with me, Becks. Me.”

I whisper, “Finn, he might lose his sister.”

“So you’re staying? With Greg Rodwell?”

I take a deep breath. “Yes. He doesn’t lie to me. I know you’re jumping again.” Fuck. Why did I start this discussion? I sigh and close my eyes.

Immediately on the defensive, he impatiently asks, “Who told you that?”

“You did. I heard you at the field talking to Ricky about it, among other things.”

“You were eavesdropping?”

“I brought you the clipboard.”

“So, you spied on me? Did you think I did something wrong, like take off to another state to be with someone who is in love with me, who isn’t you?”

I lift my head and throw out my hand. “He’s not! He told me about your conversation.”

“Yeah. I’m sure he did.”

“You just want to mark your territory.”

“Because you’re mine!”

Forgetting I’m not alone in the house, I yell, “I am yours! This doesn’t change anything!”

He ominously seethes, “So you think.”

“What?” I squeak.

“You’re choosing him over me.” Is he serious?

“You chose a fucking bridge over me!”

“I haven’t jumped from it again!”

“How do I know that? You’ve lied about throwing yourself out of an airplane! I thought you would shout your love for me from rooftops, not leapfrog from them!”

“Becks.”

“Stop feeding me lies!”

“I haven’t done it for long!”

“Ricky said it’s your camping and work trips. I bet two years, at least. So, not long is bullshit!” He doesn’t respond, and I wipe my eyes. “I can’t believe you, Finn. You said you wanted us to be honest with each other.”

He’s calmer when he says, “I didn’t want you to worry about me.”

“Mission accomplished! I won’t for now on. The police can call someone else when they find you, splattered on the pavement.” Biting my lip, I clench my hand into a fist, thinking about that happening.

“That won’t happen.”

“You don’t fucking know that! God! I can’t even trust you!”

“You can! How can I trust you when you’re also keeping secrets?”

“My past Pill usage doesn’t compare.”

“You’re hiding other things from me.” Nothing that affects his life.

“I’m not!”

He growls, “Not true.”

Needing to end this, I tearfully glance at the clock. “I need to go.”

“Are you coming home?” he asks, sounding unexpectedly hopeful.

“Not today.”

With the hope gone, he snarls, “Becks, I don’t want you down there with him!”

“You don’t have a say.”

He haughtily laughs. “Really? Just like you don’t have a say-so with my jumping?”

“That’s for your safety!”

“You coming home is for my sanity!”

Tired even though I just woke up, I irritably sigh. “We’ll have to agree to disagree then. We’ll talk when I get home.”

“You better believe we fucking will.”

Upon hanging up with Finn, I cried for a few minutes but was proud that I stood my ground. However, I hate screwing up his surprise trip for us.

Rod and I ate breakfast outside on the patio to keep me away from his sisters’ questions. I didn’t want to talk about it with him then, either. I just wanted to concentrate on my chocolate chip muffin.

After breakfast, we head to the hospital, with Rod checking on me like I’ll erupt into tears at any second. I’m numb, but noticed Rod’s Big Time Rush shirt and cracked a smile.

Finn and I are becoming more volatile, like we’re culminating. Lately, our lovemaking is more passionate, but so are our arguments. We never used to argue. We’re climbing a rollercoaster hill, and we teeter at the top before speeding down the other side without brakes.

“You okay?” Rod asks me as the elevator door opens to Eden’s floor.

Not wanting him to worry about me, I answer, “Yeah. I’m fine.” There’s that F-word again.

“Are you going to talk about the angry, muffled sounds I heard from upstairs?”

“Not right now.”

“He’s that mad?”

“Let’s just think about your sister.”

He laughs and hooks his arm around my neck. “That might not be a good idea. She’s gonna be a bitch to you.”

I bring us to a jerking halt. “Really? I probably shouldn’t be here then.”

“Stop it. Just be prepared.” He pulls me to the door and knocks. From inside, we hear an inaudible shouting, and I flinch. What am I getting myself into?

Pushing the door open, he drags me forward. As we enter, the curtain is open, and the shades are partially up. Rod stops us at the end of the bed, and I tentatively peer over at Eden, who is sitting up against pillows. Her dark makeup accents not only the dark circles under her eyes, but her angry frown, as well. Fuck.

“E, I’d like you to meet someone, so be nice.”

She retorts, “You didn’t bring your boyfriend?”

“The beast has risen happy and ready to hand out fluffy hugs.” He squeezes my shoulder. “This is my friend Hadley.”

Angling her head to the side, she assesses him with steely eyes and an impish smirk. “Hmm. You have friends?”

Rod looks to the bathroom. “Where’s Mom?”

Eden rolls her eyes. “I kicked her out. She’s probably pouting in the cafeteria.”

“Give her a break, Eden. Quit being a bitch.”

“Fuck you, Gregster.” She turns her attention to me, and the hair on the back of my neck stands. “Hadley. That’s a cool name. You’re not what I expected.” Ditto.

I clear my throat. “Um, thank you. What did you expect?”

“I thought you were a dude since Greg here is a weenie roaster.”

Rod’s mouth is now a gaping hole. “A damned what?”

“You know. A penis popper. A dick magnet.”

He shoves a hand into his hair. “Sweet Jesus. I’m not a homosexual!”

“Keep telling yourself that, Rainbow Brite, until you believe it. Unfortunately, none of us do.” Holy hell.

He glances down at me with a grimace. “She’s doped up.” I try to smile, but from the day I’ve had so far, the most I muster is a tight-lipped twitch.

She says, “I am not. So, Hadley. You’re very pretty. Why are you wasting your fucking time with my skid mark of a brother? Are you his beard?” Wow.

My mouth matching Rod’s, I recover to say, “No. Your brother isn’t gay.”

She smirks. “Did he show you his tiny dancer?”

Rod throws his head back. “Holy Mother of God, Eden!” I can’t even form words to answer that.

Eden folds her hands together. “He talks about you constantly, and it’s so sad. He’s got any other damn friends.”

“I like hanging out with him. He makes me laugh.”

She laughs through a wheeze. “We all laugh. He’s a walking caricature.”

Rod throws up his hands. “Can you be normal for five minutes?”

“Can you be invisible for ten? When the Gregster was down here for Easter, we watched some sports show. Is it true that hot piece of ass is your boyfriend, or is he my brother’s?”

I giggle. “True. He’s my boyfriend.”

“Damn. Did you bring him with you?”

Still smiling, I answer, “No.”

She sticks out her maroon-colored bottom lip. “Too bad.”

Rod crosses his arms. “Eden, quit perving on her man. Hadley is here to see you.”

Eden says, “I’m not gonna be in here long. I wanna check out Aunt Amy’s bar.”

“I don’t think you’ll be allowed to do that.”

Her eyes harden. “Allowed? Who’s not gonna allow me?”

“Mom. Dad. The doctors. I doubt going to your oddball aunt’s dive bar in the shithole part of town with required line dancing will be a postscript on your discharge papers.”

She scowls and points her black nail-polished finger at him. “Fuck off.”

Rod puts his hands on his hips. “All you wanna do is argue with everyone! You act like you want to die!”

She narrows her eyes. “I’m gonna die. There’s no Get Out of Hell Free card to play. There’s no way out of it. So accept it and get over it.”

Rod’s voice is ice-cold. “Get over it? How in the fuck can you say that?”

Eden angles her head as a frown encompasses her face. “I just did. Quit crying ’bout me like a snot-nosed little girl who lost the head to her favorite doll, you jackass. Grow a pair and shut the fuck up.”

Rod’s hands go to his mouth, and I hear his stuttered breath behind them. Shaking his head, he steps back and drops his hands. “Shit. I need some air.”

“Hadley can stay here. You don’t need her to hold your limp dick while you take a piss.”

“Goddamn it.” He turns and storms out of the room, leaving me stunned in his wake. Not having any idea what to say to Eden, I warily look at her, and she rolls her eyes. Does she want me to leave now?

Shifting to sit up more, Eden wheezes, “Look, I’m glad I got to meet you. Apparently, my brother can’t handle this situation, even though I’ve had this death sentence my whole fucking life. He needs to get a grip.”

“He loves you. He doesn’t want you to give up.”

Her eyes drift from me to the window. “But I have to at some damn point. I’m so tired of fighting for a shitty life, against a disease I won’t beat. I’m permanently attached to this fucking tube, inhalers, and pills. This shit sucks worse than a two-dollar whore kneeling on tacks.” That sounds like a Rodism. I glance out the window, reminding myself not to smile at her analogy.

Eden sniffs, and I see her glassy eyes as she says, “Why would I keep holding on just so he doesn’t have to face reality? We have five sisters. There are still plenty of bitches in his life to call him a pussy.”

“You’re his best friend, Eden. He doesn’t want to lose you.”

She swallows and blinks several times as she stares at her frail-looking hands. “Greg and I used to be best friends. Well, some fucking friend I’ve been, especially this past year. I’m a nuisance to everyone around me. The annoying doctor visits nobody wants to go to, the air hose that follows me everywhere, the pill bottles I leave behind like bread crumbs, the never-ending hospitalizations, and the exhaustion that plagues my family… I’m done with it. I don’t wanna be a fucking burden anymore.”

I edge closer to the bed, and I notice the Hello Kitty necklace next to her oxygen tube on her chest. I smile, remembering Rod’s kite tribute. “You’re not. Greg tells me such great stories about you. He idolizes you. You’re his superheroine.”

“Right. I’m Fibro Bitch: Casting mucus over the land wherever she spews.”

“Can’t you have a lung transplant? I’ve heard of them helping people.”

“It only scores you a few years. I was put on the lung transplant list when I was a teenager, but no match. When I turned twenty-five, I removed my name.”

“There have to be other treatments.”

“There are, but nothing will ever cure me or extend my life for too long. Even a lung transplant wouldn’t completely rid my life of CF. It’s invaded my life, and everyone else’s around me. It’s in my genes. I’m a prisoner in my own fucking body.”

I suck on my bottom lip to force the tears away. “I’m sorry, Eden. If there were anything I could do, I would.”

She sharply coughs and clears her throat. “You can do a couple of things. One, don’t feel damn sorry for me. Everyone has their lots in life, and this is mine. Some kids have cancer and won’t see their fourteenth birthdays. I’ve made it this far, so I’m luckier than them. Second, take care of my brother. I know he has a hard time with this, but I won’t rest if he’s moping around. Look after him. I know how he feels ’bout you. You’re special, and he needs you. Make sure he’s happy with his life.”

Absorbing everything she told me, I woodenly nod. “I will. I promise you.”

She scowls. “And don’t tell him I told you to or I will fucking haunt your ass.” Her lips reluctantly yank into a smirk.

I grin. “I won’t.”

We talk for a few minutes until the curtain suddenly jerks open. Rod determinedly glares at Eden. “Okay, bitch. Listen here.”

“Gregory!” Lizette screeches from behind him.

“She needs to hear this shit.” He stands at the end of Eden’s bed and points at her. “You need to shut your damn mouth. Forget ’bout your lungs. You need a fucking spine transplant because you sure don’t have one.”

I grab onto his sleeve and plead, “Don’t do this.”

Ignoring me, he yells, “You got to beat this!”

With unexpectedly quiet resignation, Eden replies, “Greg, I can’t.”

“Yes, you can! You’re giving up! Fucking try harder!” He gasps and glowers at the floor, beaten. I lean my head against his arm, and his mom hugs him from the other side. Eden glances out the window. Her eyes heavily glisten as she bites her lip.

Shrugging off his mother and me, Rod moves over to the side of the bed. “I need my big sister. I’m begging you. Don’t go.”

Her eyes fall to the floor. “I’ll hold on for as long as I can, but I’m tired. Though, making fun of you brings me a special joy, dickweed.”

Rod swallows several times before he says, “I love you, E.”

Eden looks up at him, and her tears spill over. “Yeah, I love you, too.” She wheezes and swipes at the black tears trickling down her cheeks. “Okay. Now I want everyone to get the fuck out of here. You’re screwing up my face. I mean it. I’ll have the nurse call security. I wanna be alone.”

Rod holds onto her arm. “No. You’re not gonna die alone.”

She rolls her eyes and wrenches her arm from his hold. “I’m not dying today, asshole. I don’t wanna sobfest in here. So get the hell out!”

“Eden,” Lizette tries reasoning with her daughter.

Eden yells, “Get out! You can visit me tomorrow! Go!”

Rod asks, “You promise?”

She coughs and nods. “Now, please. Just go. Take Hadley out and get hammered. You can tell me all about it tomorrow. And make it a good story. Not one of your lame attempts, for fuck’s sake. We all know you damn life is mediocre.”

I step up to him and tug on his sleeve. “Come on, Greg.” Pulling on his arm, he reluctantly follows me. “Let’s take a walk.”

Rod’s mom says, “Your dad said Amy is cleaning the bar. She probably could use some help if you want something to do.”

“Take pictures of it. I wanna see,” Eden says.

“You just wanna see pictures of me in rubber gloves and a damn apron.”

Eden sneers, “And wear underwear. I don’t want your nuts on my mind while staring at these walls.”

He smiles. “Definitely getting a picture of my ass.”

I jerk him forward again. When we reach the hall, Rod walks to a wall and leaning against it, yanks me to him as he sinks to the floor, sobbing.

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