Where I Belong Page 44

I tuck my phone away and run into the hospital, stopping at the information desk. I’m directed toward the ICU and as I run off the elevators, I see my aunt. She’s pacing outside the room, glancing down at her watch repetitively when she turns toward my footsteps. She wraps her arms around me and I cry against her shoulder. “Oh, sweetheart. I’m so sorry this happened. I swear to God she was fine yesterday. I would’ve called you if I thought it was serious.”

I pull away from her and look into the room. “Do the doctors know what happened? She was doing so well. I just, I don’t understand. She was beating it. She was going to beat it.” I watch as the nurse jots something down in my mom’s chart, her eyes shifting from the monitor to her clipboard. Just then, a man walks over to where my aunt and I are standing and holds his hand out to me. He’s wearing a white lab coat and an apologetic expression.

“Miss Corelli? I’m Dr. Stevens, the attending that’s been looking after your mom.” I shake his hand weakly, my eyes straining to look at him because they want to stay glued on my mom. Now that I’m here, she has my full attention. “I’m sure you’re aware of how sick your mom was. The treatments seemed to be working, but these things can happen. The slightest infection that wouldn’t affect a healthy person can really be detrimental to someone with her condition.”

I start crying again. “She told me a few days ago that she had a cold but she said it wasn’t a big deal. But I knew it was. I should’ve been here.” My aunt’s arm wraps around my shoulder as I blink heavily, sending the tears streaming down my face.

Dr. Stevens puts his hand on my shoulder. “Darling, there’s really nothing you could’ve done. The cancer was just too strong and your mom couldn’t fight it anymore. She’s not in any pain now.” He looks into her room briefly before turning back to me. “You take as much time as you need, okay?”

I nod and give him a weak smile before walking into the room. My aunt stays outside, giving me the privacy I need and the nurse steps out as well. I sit down in the chair and grab my mom’s hand. She’s pale but her hand is warm, and she looks peaceful. Content. Like she’s ready to let go. I bend down and press my lips to her knuckles. “Hi, Mom.”

I stay with her for hours, listening to the monitors and the light chatter of the people out in the hallway. I never once let go of her hand, not even when the nurses come in to take her vitals. I talk to her like she’s awake and watching me, listening intently to my voice. I tell her all about Ben and Nolan, and how I’ve fallen in love with the boy that I’d once hated more than anything. I tell her that I wished she could meet the man he is now because I know she would love him. And I tell her that I want to have babies just like Nolan with him. Dimpled little versions of Ben with maybe a few of my features but mostly his. The tears come back when I realize she’ll never see me on my wedding day or meet any of her grandchildren. But I promise her that my children will know all about their grandmother and how beautiful and kind she was.

My aunt joins me after a while and we talk about the last several days she spent with her and what they did. She fills me in on every tiny detail, making me feel like I was there instead of miles away. I keep checking my phone but never hear from Tessa or Ben, and I can’t hide the sadness that overwhelms me when neither one of them contact me. Especially Ben. I need to hear his voice. I need him with me, but he doesn’t call me or text me and I don’t understand why. And as time drags on, the hurt in my heart grows to the point of being agonizing. Maybe I had imagined what we had together. Maybe he didn’t love me. Maybe this was all just some game to him, tricking his sister’s annoying best friend into loving him. And when Dr. Stevens comes in to ask if we’re ready to say our goodbyes, I lose it. I drop to my knees and cry harder than I ever have before. I cry over losing my mom to this bullshit disease that doesn’t care whose lives it ruins, I cry over my selfishness and the fact that I chose a summer with Ben over my last summer with my mom, and I cry because the man I love doesn’t care enough to comfort me over the phone. I know he can’t be here with me. He has to work. But he could’ve called. And as I stand outside my mom’s room, watching them cover her up with a white sheet, that familiar hate I once reserved just for him comes right back up to the surface.

“You know, I think it’s really amazing that your mom wanted to donate her body to science. She could be the reason they find a cure for that fucking disease.” I can’t help but laugh at my aunt’s use of profanity. She never cusses around me. Her hand tucks a piece of hair behind my ear that has fallen out of my hair tie. “Are you going to stick around here for a while or are you heading back to Alabama?”

I glance down at my phone again. Still nothing. “I don’t have any reason to go back to Alabama.”

“Isn’t being in love a good enough reason?” she asks.

“Not when it’s one-sided.” I look down at my phone and squeeze it tightly, willing it to ring. “He didn’t even care about me enough to text me. You really can’t get more impersonal than a text, and that was still too much for him.” I meet my aunt’s pitiful gaze. “It’s fine. I’m used to hating Ben. It’s not very difficult. I can get my stuff mailed to me that way I don’t ever have to go back there.” The thought of never seeing Nolan again makes my stomach churn. But seeing Nolan meant seeing Ben. The Ben that doesn’t care enough.

She takes a sip of the coffee she’s been nursing for the past hour. “Why don’t you step outside and get some air. It’ll be good to get out of this stuffy atmosphere for a few minutes. Clear your head a little.”

I nod in agreement and take the elevators down to the main level, walking out of the entrance I came sprinting through several hours ago. As soon as I step onto the sidewalk, my phone starts beeping like crazy in my pocket. Startled, I pull it out and watch as the number of missed calls from Tessa’s cell phone rack up. But still nothing from Ben.

How the hell did I miss this many calls?

And then it hits me. There isn’t any cell phone reception in the hospital. I begin listening to the voicemails she left me. The first several are wondering where I am, telling me that Nolan is driving her nuts with his impatience. Then she tells me that Nolan was messing with her phone again and she noticed that he turned the volume down and that’s why she missed my call. She tells me she’ll call Ben and I can’t help the aggravation I feel at that statement. She cries in the next message, asking me to call her so she can find out what’s going on with my mom. As soon as she starts talking about Ben not answering his phone, I delete the message and go on to the next one. If she had any excuses for him, I didn’t want to hear them. He obviously didn’t love me because if you loved someone, you’d take five seconds out of your day to send them a text when their mother is dying. One fucking word could’ve been sent to me. A simple sorry. But no. I needed him and he didn’t care. He doesn’t love me. And that realization stings my entire body with a discomfort I’ve never felt before. But just when I think my world can’t crumble anymore, I reach the last voicemail in my inbox.

“Mia, Ben’s been shot. He’s been fucking shot. I don’t know anything except for that they’re taking him to St. Joseph’s hospital. Please call me. Please.”

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