Authors: Komal Kant
“Fuck no,” Luca immediately said, looking pissed off. “She’s been playing games for too long.”
“You can’t hold onto someone who holds you back.” There was a faraway look in Ashton’s eyes as she spoke. “When I was younger, I would dream of one day meeting my father. I was so obsessed with the idea that he would come into my life that I refused to accept anyone my mom dated.”
I listened, enraptured. She was speaking about something I could relate to—a father who had abandoned her.
Luca reached over and held her hand, and she shot him a grateful look before continuing. “It took a long time for me to realize that my father was holding me back from letting anyone take his place. In doing so, I was holding my mom back from moving on. Sometimes you just have to let go, Eddie, as hard as that may be.”
Ashton was right. I had held onto hope when my father had walked out on us, too. When I eventually let go of any hope of him coming back, I was finally able to move on. I had given Hadie so many fucking chances; I had waited for her patiently, yet I never seemed to get ahead.
I always finished last.
But now I was finally ready to give up on her.
At least that’s what I had convinced myself of until my phone rang, and that was when my life really turned upside down.
There was a glowing light all around me.
I was lying on the bank of a lake that was surrounded by Basswood trees. The forest was a palette of vivid greens, yellows, oranges, and browns. A peaceful silence hung in the air. I immediately knew where I was. It was my and Lincoln’s spot where we came to escape from the rest of the world.
Pushing myself into a sitting position, I gazed out across the peaceful lake, feeling melancholy that I was here alone.
“You got yourself into some serious trouble, didn’t you, Hairdresser?”
My head snapped to the right, and my entire body trembled. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
It was him. It was Lincoln.
I couldn’t form words. All I could do was stare at him like a creepy weirdo. He wore a wife beater, an unbuttoned blue flannel shirt, and dark blue jeans just like always. The cool autumn air didn’t seem to bother him at all.
His blue eyes were piercing as he studied me. “When I told you to try new and different things, getting involved with a guy from the wrong side of the tracks wasn’t exactly what I meant.”
My heart hammered against my chest as guilt sank into me, muddling the joy I felt from seeing him. A part of me was still trying to figure out how this was happening and how Lincoln was standing right in front of me.
“I always knew there was a wild side to you, Hades.” His eyes glinted in the sunlight.
“Are you real?” I breathed, drinking in his familiar features. I was afraid he would disappear if I looked away.
Lincoln reached out and tapped me on the nose. His finger was warm against my skin. “As real as you are.”
An overwhelming rush of emotions flooded through me, and I grabbed his hand and pulled him towards me, wanting his body against mine. He wrapped his arms around me, and I felt whole again.
He was really here. My Lincoln was here with me again.
A sob tore through me as he stroked my hair and pressed his lips against the side of my head. “I leave you for a few months and you go and get yourself into a whole world of trouble.”
I pulled away from him, searching his azure eyes. There was a faint smile on his handsome face, and I wanted to capture its beauty and perfection in a glass jar and never let it escape.
“You don’t know what it’s been like without you. I-I don’t know how to be me without you there. What is the point in anything if you’re not with me?”
He pulled away from me, his expression growing serious. “There is always a point. You have a lot to live for; you just don’t see it yet.”
All the happiness I felt from seeing him was ebbing away from me. In this world, Lincoln existed, but in my world he was gone.
I tilted my head back and stared up at the piercing blue sky, blotted with foamy white. “I have never felt pain the way I felt it when I lost you. I’m trying to live my life, but I struggle every day.”
“That’s when you know it’s really love,” he said with a sad smile, stroking the side of my face. “When you can’t go a day without thinking about someone.”
The way Lincoln’s fingers felt against my skin was too real. His smile, his eyes, the mild expression on his face was all too real. I wished there was a way I could take him back with me, back to a life that felt incomplete.
But there was Eddie. Patient, kind, loving Eddie who was waiting for me—who had always waited for me. I wasn’t going to let him down again.
As though sensing my thoughts, Lincoln pulled away from me and took a step back. “To love someone is something, but to be loved by someone is everything. And, Hadie, there is someone out there who is your everything.”
I released a shaky breath as Lincoln’s words sank in. Tears pooled in my eyes, but I made no move to be close to him again. “It hurts to love you, and love shouldn't hurt like this. It's like pieces of me are breaking apart and disappearing into nothingness; and you will never be here to make it better. I’m alone, Lincoln, and I don’t know where you are.”
With my words, Lincoln gave me a slow smile and faded away, disappearing into the air as though he had never been there. And, really, I guess he never had been.
There were beeping sounds.
A weird, sterile smell hung in the air.
As my eyes slowly opened, glowing white light filled my vision.
Then my vision cleared, and I realized I was in a white room laying in a bed—I was in the hospital.
My parents were sitting to my left, huddled close together as they watched me with wide eyes. To my right was a woman with a pleasant face and curly hair, wearing a white doctor’s coat. She was looking down at me with a warm smile, as though she had been expecting me.
“Mom,” I croaked, my throat dry, “can I have water?”
“Of course, honey,” Mom said, immediately rising to her feet and walking over to the bedside table to grab me a glass.
“How long have I been here?” I asked, looking at my dad.
Dad let out a breath he’d been holding in. There were lines of worry etched on his forehead. “Just a few hours.”
Relief filled me. Thank God I hadn’t been unconscious for long. Being out of the loop for even a day was a scary thought. Besides, I hated hospitals. I knew most people did, but it was a little different when your boyfriend had died in one just a few months ago.
“Here, honey,” Mom said, handing me a glass of water.
I took it from her gratefully and gulped the water down as though I had been dehydrated for days. My head hurt a little as I leaned forward to drink from the glass, no doubt a result of the accident.
It all came rushing back to me. Three’s words. Driving too fast. Losing control of the car. A loud crash. Darkness.
“Hadie, I’m Dr. Petersen,” the woman said, introducing herself. “How are you feeling?”
Handing the glass back to my mom, I finally noticed the clipboard in the doctor’s hand. In her other hand she held a pen that was hovering over the clipboard, waiting to take notes.
“My head hurts a little,” I said. “But I’m not too sure.”
“That’s good to hear,” she said, immediately jotting this down on her clipboard. “And how would you describe your level of pain on a scale of one to ten?”
“Um.” I shifted around on the bed a little, trying to gauge my pain level. My body was definitely sore, but apart from the throbbing in my head, there was no excruciating pain. “Maybe a five or six.”
“Okay, so mild pain? That’s good. We won’t have to administer any pain medication unless you really need it,” she said, almost to herself as she wrote down my response.
“Will I be able to leave soon?” I looked over at my parents, whose expressions were extremely serious. There was something else in their faces that I couldn’t quite identify.
“Luckily, you didn’t suffer any internal bleeding or severe injuries, but we would like to keep you overnight so we can monitor both of you just in case.” She paused, making another note on her clipboard. “I’ve written a note here for the nurses that you are allowed a small dose of Percocet if you begin to experience severe pain, given the circumstances.”
Given the circumstances? As in the accident? And had she just said ‘both of you’? Oh, my God! Had someone else been injured?
Alarmed, I looked over at my parents for reassurance. “Mom? Dad? What does she mean?”
Mom was holding onto Dad’s arm so tight that her knuckles were turning white. Dad’s face was growing pale, and that’s when I knew that my suspicions were true.
“Did someone else get hurt in the accident?” I demanded, sitting up straighter in the bed. Pain shot through my body, but I ignored it. “Are they okay?”
The doctor glanced over at my parents, before turning to me and placing her clipboard down on the edge of the bed. She studied me with sympathy on her pretty face. “Hadie, I don’t know how to tell you this, but you’re pregnant.”
“I’m what?” I whispered the last part and stared at her like she'd lost her freaking mind.
There was no way I was pregnant. Eddie and I had used protection and we’d only had sex once. If this was a joke then it was a pretty twisted one.
“Pregnant, Hadie,” she repeated. “About thirteen weeks.”
I started shaking my head at her.
This was ridiculous. Obviously, she was wrong. What were her credentials, anyway? There was no way in heck I could be thirteen weeks pregnant. In order to be thirteen weeks pregnant, I would’ve had to have sex thirteen weeks ago…OH MY GOD.
I had been with Lincoln thirteen weeks ago, but he'd been sick and we'd used protection. Unless this was immaculate conception, there was no other explanation. I was pregnant with Lincoln Bracks’ child.
“B-but Lincoln had cancer,” I stammered. “Would that affect his, you know, sperm?” I felt awkward saying the word, considering my parents were sitting right next to me.
“Well, it depends,” Dr. Petersen said slowly. “Was he undergoing any type of therapy at the time?”
Crap. Shit. Fuck. I had the sudden urge to throw up all over myself. Was that a pregnancy thing or simply because I couldn’t believe the situation I was in?
“No, he hadn’t had therapy in about a year,” Dad answered for me, probably seeing that I was incapable of speaking right now.
My expression must have said it all because the doctor gave me an understanding smile. “Sometimes radiation therapy or chemotherapy can result in infertility, but often the body regenerates, and if this young man wasn’t doing therapy at the time, the chances of his sperm count being normal are very high.”
Oh, my God. We were talking about Lincoln’s sperm count. We were sitting in the hospital, with me pregnant, talking about Lincoln’s sperm. This was a fucking nightmare.
I couldn’t breathe. I buried my head in my hands, trying to shut out the brightness of the room. How could this happen? How did I not realize? What the hell was I going to do?
As I tried to get my shit together, the dream I’d had about Lincoln came back to me. His words seemed eerily prophetic now.
You have a lot to live for; you just don’t see it yet.
Was this what dream Lincoln had meant? Had my subconscious been trying to tell me something?
“I’ll let you talk it over alone,” the doctor said, obviously sensing that we needed some family time. “Please let me know if you have any other questions.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Dad said, and I heard her footsteps leave the room.
I dropped my hands, facing my parents in complete shock. I was too stunned to even cry. This felt like a strange, strange dream. Was I hallucinating?
From the looks on both my parents’ faces, I knew this was as real as dirt. What I didn’t know was, well, anything else. It was like my brain was still stuck on the pregnant thing and couldn’t move forward to find any kind of solution.
“Hadie,” Mom said gently, “I know this is a lot to handle. I can’t possibly imagine what you’re going through right now, but whatever decision you decide to make, we are always here for you.” She reached out and took my hand in hers, giving it a tight squeeze.
“Decision?” I asked, dumbfounded.
“Yes,” she said with a nod. “If you want to keep the baby or not, either way we will support you in whatever choice you make.”
A choice. I had a choice to make. I didn’t have to keep the baby, but had that ever been an option? This baby was mine and Lincoln’s—a reminder of the incredible person he’d been. I was not getting rid of it.
“No,” I said firmly, shaking my head at her. “No way. This is my baby, and I’m keeping it.”
Both my parents seemed relieved at my words, as though they had been hoping I would pick Option A over Option B.
“I’m glad to hear that,” Mom said, not sounding quite like herself. Her features were weirdly frozen. “Yet, at the same time, I’m completely devastated.”
Devastated was an understatement.
“It’s a huge life change for anyone.” Dad placed a hand on Mom’s shoulder as though to brace her.
“Yes, Peter, but she’s seventeen!” Mom suddenly snapped as tears of frustration rolled down her cheeks. “Seventeen! She’s a baby! My baby!”
Mom’s words struck a chord with me, and I swallowed down the lump in my throat as I tried to keep my own tears at bay.
“I know, Susanne,” Dad said, wrapping his arm around her. “We never saw this coming. There’s nothing we can do now. If Hadie is keeping the baby then all we can do is support her.”
“I just, I never wanted this life for her,” Mom sobbed, her small frame shaking. She raised her head; her eyes were red. “I don’t know what we could’ve done better. You are so young.”
“I know,” I said, unsure of what to say. I had never seen my mom lose it quite like this before. “But nothing is going to change my mind. I am keeping this baby.”
I was well aware that every aspect of my life would change, but I had made my decision. A part of Lincoln would always be in this world—and currently it was in my stomach.
“That’s my girl,” Mom said with a sad smile. “Always determined, always strong.”