Part 2 (To read Part 1, click here.)
Anytime now. The words echoed in my mind for a bit while my heart sank further.
“Did you talk to him about telling me?” I asked, hoping the quiver in my voice was not too noticeable.
“I did. We’ve talked a few times actually. He didn’t want me to mention anything to you. He insisted that he didn’t want you to have to deal with something like this. He said you had too much going for you and that you didn’t need him to be a burden in your life, pulling down the weight. Even if the tumor can be fully removed, with surgery there’s always a risk of brain damage and…” Hannah said, while I watched her eyes glisten. “Well, I never made him any promises. So… Here I am.”
My earlier disappointment had suddenly been overridden by this feeling that resembled guilt. In the midst of his life’s biggest challenge, he thought of my future before his own. All of a sudden, I felt like the biggest jerk on the face of the planet. Why was I even taking so much time thinking about this? Why was it so hard for me to just pack up and run off to Nate’s?
It wasn’t. I just had to do it. Then and there, I made the decision. I had to go see him. I had to talk to him. I had to comfort him. I had to… just be there for him.
I grabbed my purse and dug out my wallet. I took out a crumpled bill and threw it on the table. “I have to go,” I said as I stood up. I sped past my sister, but not before giving her a little peck on the cheek. She always looked out for me.
As soon as I dashed out of the restaurant, I hailed a cab and told the driver to take me to St. Agnes’ Hospital, which was about sixteen blocks away. With no rush hour traffic, we were there in no time.
I didn’t immediately get out of the cab when I reached the hospital though. Instead, I sat, just staring at the building from behind the car window. My heart was racing.
“Miss? Are you going to get out?” The cab driver asked. Not as politely as I had hoped, if I may add.
“Just… give me a second.”
“This will cost you extra,” he turned around and said grumpily.
I rolled my eyes. I handed him a fifty-dollar bill and he took it with a shrug.
I sat there suddenly unsure again if I wanted to walk up to Nate's room, knock on his door and go running into his arms as soon as I walked in. What if he didn’t want me there? Or what if he did really have cancer and I wasn’t strong enough to stick around?
I really had way too many questions in my head. What I didn’t have were the answers. For at least half of the questions I had, the answers didn’t even lie with me, they were with Nate. There was really no way of knowing unless I forced myself to get out of the cab and walk in to that hospital. So with one big deep breath, I opened the door and stepped out of the car.
I knew exactly which room he was in, thanks to a text from Hannah that I got while I was still in the cab. The door was opened so tiptoed my way in and found Nate on his bed reading.
“Nate?” I called, suddenly realizing that my heart was beating so loud and hard that it felt like it was drumming in my ears too.
He looked up from his book and his bright blue eyes locked with mine. I thought I saw his face light up instantly, but it could have just been the sunlight.
“I knew she’d tell you eventually,” he said with a smile.
“Yeah, well, she’s my sister. We don’t keep secrets from each other.” I walked in further and stopped when I reached the side of his bed.
“Right. I should have remembered that.”
Oh God, how I missed his weird Australian accent.
“So…” I started to ask, trying to act as cool as possible, “How are you holding up?”
“I’m fine, don’t worry about me.”
“Really? You’re in limbo land right now, not knowing yet whether what you have is life-threatening or not, and I’m not supposed to be worried?” I found myself rambling about, not even thinking before I let all those words stumble out of my mouth.
I expected him to turn angry. It was pretty insensitive of me to be yelling at a sick person in a hospital bed, looking pale and in a blue hospital gown. But he wasn’t angry. In fact, he broke into laughter.
“Why are you laughing at me?”
He reduced his laugh down to a smile and took one of my hands in his. “I’m laughing, my dear Grace, at myself, not at you. I’m laughing because I have realized how stupid I was thinking I could go through this alone. I’ve been such and idiot, thinking I’d be saving you the trouble, when I should have been spending all the time I have left with you.”
“Don’t say that. You don’t know what the results are just yet. It could be nothing.”
“It could be something.”
“But it could be nothing,” I insisted.
We were silent for a while, lost in jumbled up thoughts. I was just about to break the silence by telling him that I forgave him, when a group of nurses and a Doctor came walking in.
“Mr. Woodward, how are you doing?”
Nate straightened himself up and smiled. “I’m doing great, Doc. Especially now that Grace is here,” he said while giving me a wink.
I felt my cheeks warm up instantly.
“Well, it’s about to get better. We got the results back. It looks like it’s a benign little thing. We can surgically remove it and you’ll be as good as new.”
Dr. Peterson suddenly looked to me like Superman. Maybe not just to me, but also to Nate, who I noticed didn’t blink.
“So, I’ll be fine?”
“You’ll be fine,” Dr. Peterson answered reassuringly.
“Oh thank God!” Nate practically shouted.
“We’ll schedule the procedure for tomorrow morning. In the meantime, go get some rest.” Dr. Peterson started to walk out, accompanied by his entourage of nurses.
“Hey Doc,” Nate called out just as the man reached the door.
“Get your tux ready. You’re coming to my wedding, okay?”
While Dr. Peterson continued to walk out waving and saying, “I’ll be there,” I froze. What wedding?
“Please tell me you haven’t returned the dress,” Nate said, squeezing my hand.
I wasn’t sure what was going on and just stood there, staring at him with a dumb look on my face.
“Grace, I know I hurt you when I bailed out on the wedding. But believe me, I really thought I was doing the right thing. I didn’t want you to have to suffer through all of this. I know it was wrong of me, but I genuinely didn’t want to go down bringing you with me. You deserve so much more and I thought I just wasn’t going to be able to give you all those things.”
As Nate spoke, I lost count of how many times tears rolled down my cheeks.
“I already thought the worst, you know. I thought I’d be dying and if we stayed together, your life would just be ruined.”
“It got ruined anyway when you left me, Nate,” I managed to say.
“I know, and I’m so sorry. Like I said, I was stupid. Either way, you still ended up getting hurt. I’m sorry, Grace. I am so sorry.”
I was so dumbstruck I just nodded and let myself cry a little bit more before finally getting into the hospital bed with him. I wrapped my arms around him, feeling a hybrid of relief, happy but still slightly worried about the surgery tomorrow. Surgery is surgery and there are always risks, just like Hannah told me.
“Why are you so quiet?” Nate asked after a few moments had passed. “Are you thinking about the surgery or about the wedding?”
I laughed a little. “First of all, I don’t think I have agreed to marry you yet. Again, I mean. But mostly…” I paused.
Yes, sure. I was slightly worried about the surgery. But the outlook was great, and the risk was minimal. I had faith. Nate would be fine. I was sure of it. So, no, that’s not what I was thinking about at all.
“Mostly… I’m just so glad I didn’t move on.”
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