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Authors: Julia Blues

The Last Exhale (23 page)

BOOK: The Last Exhale
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I put my hand up. “It's cool. I'll get some coffee.”

At this point, feels like I'm being shut out of everyone's life. Mom
sent me away from tending to my wife. My brother's wife sent me away from tending to my brother. The woman responsible for me being in this position has even shut me out. After the act, she acted like she didn't want anything else to do me. I wish she would've just let me be on the treadmill. None of this would've happened.


wenty-four hours later, Eric's condition hasn't changed. If he were awake, he'd see a lot about me has changed. I place my hand on top of his. Try to see if I can feel him through his bandages. Try to see if he can feel me.

Who am I kidding? We've both had bandages over our hearts for years and neither one of us have been able to feel each other. We've just been existing in a world that made sense until sense was no longer made. “How long were we going to lie to each other, Eric?” I sit on the edge of the bed and wait for an answer.

“Lie about what?”

Another voice in the room nearly scares me out of my skin. It's not that I was expecting Eric to answer me, but I wasn't expecting someone else to.

I slide off the bed and stand in front of my mother-in-law. “When did you get in?” I hug her.

She leaves me to go to her son's side.

Mr. Holmes says, “We came straight from the airport.” He gives me a solid hug. “How are you holding up?”

“I have my moments. Just trying to stay strong for the kids.”

“Are they here?”

I shake my head. “They're with my mom. I let them stay home from school today.”

He nods. “How is he?”

Both of our eyes scan a bandaged man in a hospital bed, his mother shedding tears as she stands by his side.

“The swelling in his brain has gone down a little; not much, but enough for the doctor to feel like the worst is over.” I pat my father-in-law on his back, say, “Go on over there. They say it's best for us to keep talking to him. Let him know he's not alone.”

He takes my hand, squeezes it, then goes to his son.

Mrs. Holmes wipes at her eyes with a piece of tissue. Her husband reaches his hand across the bed to her hand. That makes her break down more.

I want to say something to comfort her. It's never a good feeling to see a mother watching her child in pain when there's nothing she can do about it. I'm the one who's caused her son to be in this pain. That makes my heart ache all the more. I can't take anymore. I grab my purse off the counter and slip out, give them time to be with their son.

“I'm stepping outside to get a little fresh air,” I tell the nurse before stepping out of ICU. “If anything happens, please ring my cell phone.”

“Sure will, Mrs. Holmes.”

Before I can walk through ICU's double doors, I hear my name being called. I turn around, see my mother-in-law's crimson eyes approaching.

“Is there something you want to tell me?”

My bottom lip turns upside down, head shakes.

She stands firm. “You sure?”

I shift my weight to one leg, cross my arms. “Is there something you want to tell me?” I throw back at her.

“Let's not play games, Sydney. When Eric's father and I walked in, you said something about a lie. What were you talking about?”

I unfold my arms, adjust the purse on my shoulder. “Oh, that.” I shake my head again. “Nothing.”

Elaine Holmes and I have never really seen eye to eye. Not sure why. She's always seemed to have some sort of grudge toward me. Treats me as if I've never been good enough for her son. No matter how she feels about me, now is not the time for us to go there.

“How did my son end up in a coma?”

“I gave you all the details I had when I called you yesterday.”

She just stands and stares at me as if my answer's going to change.

A man walks past us, cuts through our tension with his authoritative presence. “Ladies,” he says and walks up to the nurses' station.

Elaine rolls her watch back and forth across her wrist with a nervous hand. “We'll finish this later.”

As I'm about to walk off, I hear my name being summoned once again. This time a male voice calls for me.

The man who just walked past is now walking in my direction. “You got a few minutes to talk?” He reaches out his hand. “I'm Sergeant Lee. I work with your husband.”

I shake his hand and nod.

Sgt. Lee pulls out a chair for me to sit once we make it to the cafeteria. “You been dancing lately?” he inquires.

I catch a glimpse of a platinum ring on his left hand. I look back up at his face. Just my luck. The guy who couldn't wait to get back to work to brag about my dancing skills to my husband would be my husband's superior. Mr. Platinum.

As if my mother-in-law didn't already have me on edge, this fool bringing up a night after one too many drinks is about to tip me off the cliff and I won't hesitate to pull him down with me. “I'm sure you didn't come here for unofficial business.”

“You're right.” He taps his fingers on the top of the table, the silver on his finger reflecting under the light. “How's Holmes doing?”

“He's still breathing.”

“I'm sure if he wasn't you wouldn't be here, right?”

I get to the point. “Why are you here?”

A smirk crosses his face as he pulls out a notepad from his top pocket. He licks his fingers, flips a few pages. “Was hoping you could help me clear up a little confusion being that Holmes is unable to give his version of events.”

I nod.

“Do you know this schoolteacher, umm, Andrew Carter?”

“He's my daughter's teacher.”

“Have you seen or spent time with this teacher outside of
school business?”

“I have no reason to.”

“Maybe not, but your husband seemed to think you did.”

I lean back in my seat without losing my composure. “Is there something you want to ask specifically?”

Sgt. Lee puts the pad down on the table, scoots his chair closer to me. Almost gets in my face like I'm an uncooperative suspect under investigation. “Were you having an affair with Mr. Carter?”

“Nope.” I let my lips pop when I say that.

“Well, what reason would your husband have to accuse an innocent man of sleeping around with his wife?”

“I don't know. Maybe that's something you need to ask him.”

He scoots back in his chair. “I've seen the way you act when Holmes isn't around. Maybe this guy got the same lap dance you gave me.”

“You know what—” I feel eyes beyond this table on me. I look around, do that to get myself under control. If this man wasn't a superior to Eric I would curse him from here to the Lake of Fire. “Are we done here?”

“I'm just getting started.”

Saliva grows thick in my mouth. All of a sudden I want to spit.

Sgt. Lee flips a few more pages in his notepad. “Now, according to one report, you've been seen a couple of times outside of the school with this man. One time in particular inside your vehicle with a bloody hand. A minute ago you said you hadn't had any outside dealings with Mr. Carter.”

“Michael told you that.”

He doesn't respond. Just sits there like he has some secret info on me. One dance with this man and he wants to label me as the squadron's Jezebel.

“Michael had no right.”

“So which is it?”

“I didn't lie. It wasn't the teacher in my car. It was his twin brother.”

“Oh, and is that supposed to make it better?”

Everything inside begs me to jump across this table and strangle every last breath out of this imbecile. Again, Eric's career comes to my head and I back down. Not sure why he didn't consider his career while he was out proving his testosterone levels were up to par. “You have no right to judge me. You have no idea what's going on. Michael was quick to put me under the bus, but did you ask him why he was the one driving? Why isn't he being interrogated for putting my husband and somebody else's husband in critical care?”

I don't wait for an answer. I grab my purse and scoot my chair back so hard it screams against the tile. “We're done here.”

My emotions are so heated I can barely see where I'm going. I bump into a few people on my way out. I'm so distraught I can't even apologize. My foot ends up kicking a chair, throws my equilibrium off. Somebody wraps their arm around my waist and catches me before my face hits the floor. I look up and stare straight into Brandon's face.


I saw it all.

The moment Sydney walked into the cafeteria a man with the word
written across the back of his shirt and a silver badge hanging from his neck trailed close behind. Saw her sit with a frown on her face and fear in her eyes. Saw him laugh at her discomfort and her loss of control. Saw nurses and doctors gawking at the confrontation brewing at their table as voices raised. I'm sure if I were close enough to hear, I would've heard a lot of consonants and very few vowels. There was such ferocity in the way she backed out of her chair and moved toward the door, she nearly snapped my leg in half.

“You okay?”

She dusts off her ego. Looks at me briefly, then looks back at the table she was just sitting at.

The officer nods on his way out.

Again, I check to see if she's okay.

“This. Is. Too. Much.” She rubs her hands back and forth on the sides of her neck.

I pull out a chair for her to sit in.

She shakes her head. “I'm tired of sitting.”

“Need to run, huh?”

She sighs. “If I ran to Asia it wouldn't be far enough.”

“Who was that officer?”

She digs in her purse, pulls out her cell phone. Checks the time. “Meet me at the park in an hour?”

From the way Sydney's falling apart at the seams, I doubt running will be the cure to what ails her.

•  •  •

After leaving Sydney in the cafeteria, I head back up to the room to check on everyone. As I approach the room I hear voices. My dad and brother are talking about me, I know that because I hear my name several times. I push the half-cracked door all the way open, make my presence known.

“He just doesn't get it,” Andrew says, turning his head away from me.

“Hey, son.”

I walk over to my father, hand him a turkey and cheese sandwich I got him from downstairs. Put the chips and coffee on the rolling cart next to him.

“You must've read my mind. My stomach was in here speaking in tongues.”

“Where's Mel?”

He unsnaps the container to his sandwich. “She finally took my advice and went home. Had a bad crook in her neck. Told her a chair like that wasn't meant for sleeping.”

The whole time my dad talks my attention is on my brother, the man I shared a womb with for nine months. The man who hid me for six, but made sure I got all the nourishment I needed to grow just as healthy as him. Before I knew what life was, he was looking out for me. And this is how I repay him.

I move around to the side of the bed where the window is, get down on my knees in front of Andrew. Look him in the face man
to man, brother to brother. “I'm sorry.” My voice shakes as those words come out.

Our father puts down his sandwich, puts feeding his hunger on hold. He stands up next to me, places a hand on my shoulder, the other hand on his other son's hip. “I don't like seeing you two like this. Never did like to see you two fight growing up. But I understand that's what siblings do. Look at Cain and Abel. They started sibling rivalry.”

The more Dad talks, the bigger the fire brews behind Andrew's eyes. He's sending a message that this is not something he will be able to forgive me for. He tried to warn me off messing with a married woman, told me our parents didn't raise us that way. I failed to heed his warnings, failed to realize he could possibly pay the price for my consequences.

“And those twins, Esau and Jacob. They fought so bad in the womb, one held on to the other's heel on—”

“Dad, not today,” Andrew says.

“Come on, son.”

Andrew turns to look at our father. “Did he tell you how this happened?”

“I know enough.”

“You know enough? So, how can you stand in here and compare this to sibling rivalry?”

“It's not Dad's fault, Drew. Don't take it out on him.”

“You're right, it's not
fault.” There is so much anger in Andrew's eyes when he looks back at me it scares me.
did this.”

•  •  •

Life has a funny way of reminding you that no matter how much control you think you have over your life, there's always someone who can take that control away from you.

My emotions made me lose control over my life. It was my emotions that made me feel like my wife was silently walking out of our marriage. Emotions led me into the arms of another woman, a married woman. Had I taken control over my emotions, I would've been able to get to the core of my wife's despondence probably while she still had a chance to fight cancer.

Emotions. The reason I'm driving to the park instead of going home to check on my wife.

I park a few cars down from Sydney's.

“Was beginning to think I was stood up.”

“That's your job.”

“I thought we let bygones be bygones.”

“If that were the case, we wouldn't be here.”

She moves her legs apart, bends over, puts her hands on the ground. Gives her hamstrings a good stretch.

There was a time where my wife and her husband were the main topic of discussion. Now that we've crossed the line into sin, we don't want to talk about the things that brought us to this point.

BOOK: The Last Exhale
4.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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