Wish You Were Here: A Novel: Chapter 19


It was hard to tell what time it was when I woke up because the room was completely dark and cold. I felt around until my hand hit my purse sitting on a tray. It was five thirty. My stomach was rumbling with hunger and my mouth tasted disgusting. A member of the cafeteria staff knocked lightly on the glass door and then entered with a tray.

“He’s still sleeping?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. “I’ll wake him in a minute.”

“Okay.” She left the tray on his table and walked out.

The room was only lit from the stark fluorescent hallway light coming through the sliding doors to Adam’s room. I got up off the couch and stretched my aching muscles. When I went to reach for the light, I was startled to find a person standing in the doorway, silhouetted by the light from behind. It was Helen.

I walked toward her. “Hey. Let’s go out here; he’s sleeping.”

In the hallway, I hugged Helen and then pulled away and tried to read her expression. She looked confounded and she still hadn’t said anything. “What? Did Chuck tell you?” I asked.

“Yes.” She scanned me from head to toe. “You’re a mess.”

“I don’t care.”

“So all along he was looking for you?”

“I guess so.”

“You kind of were looking for him, too, weren’t you?”

“Maybe on the street. I was hoping to run into him.”

“I came to see what your plan was,” she said. “What are we supposed to tell Seth?”

I crossed my arms over my chest. “You don’t have to tell Seth anything. It’s between him and me. Anyway, he knows I came here. He told me to come here.”

“For what?”

“You seem even less sensitive than Chucky about this. Maybe Seth wanted me to come down here because he’s compassionate.”

“Well, maybe, but I know for a fact that he didn’t expect you to run home and get clothes to move in with Adam in his hospital room.”

From the corner of my eye, I noticed Leah walk into Adam’s room and turn on the light. He must have been waking up. Helen was still appraising me.

“So how long are you going to stay with him?”

“For the rest of his life.” Even as I said it, I knew it was true.

“That could be a long time.”

“Not compared to my life,” I said.

She shook her head. She was in disbelief. “I just don’t want you to mess things up with Seth. It seems like you really like him, and if Adam weren’t dying . . .”

“Stop talking about Adam dying. Nothing is certain.” I shrugged. “And I’m here because I want to be with him. I’m not here to pity him.”

Helen was worried my being with Adam was a result of some fixation I had with getting into relationships that went nowhere. She didn’t understand how much I actually liked him.

After she was done thoroughly shaking her head in disapproval, she studied my face. “Should I go say hi? Will he even remember who I am?”

“He might. He might not. It doesn’t matter. Come on.”

She followed me into the room and stood at the foot of his bed. He was smiling at both of us, waiting patiently for an explanation.

“Hi, I’m Helen,” she said.

“Hi, Helen. You can come closer; I don’t bite . . . that hard.”

She giggled and then moved to his bedside. He could charm even a skeptical Helen. I stood opposite her. He looked up to me as if to say, Who is this person?

“She’s my best friend. She and I were living together in that apartment. You helped me walk her home the night we met.”

He looked over to Helen. Her brownish-blond hair was curled into soft waves on her shoulders. Adam was squinting at her.

“I used to have green hair,” Helen offered, trying to help him.

“Really? Green? How could I forget that?”

“It was chartreuse,” I said.

“Remember? I was kind of drunk. You gave me a box of Chinese food.”

He pointed at her. “Yes, you. I remember you. You were wasted.”

I jumped three inches off the floor, “You remember?!”

“Kind of. It’s foggy.” His brow furrowed and he sucked air through his teeth. “Ouch,” he said, holding his hand to his head.

“You okay, Adam?”

I reached over and lifted a cover off a plate. It was beef teriyaki.

“Yuck.” His jaw clenched. I set the cover back on the plate and then everything after that happened in slow motion. His arms started jerking, and he slumped down in the bed and his body began convulsing.

“Oh no. Someone help!” I screamed.

Helen ran out into the hallway and started yelling, “We need help in here! Help us!”

I braced the back of his head as he thrashed against the pillow and bars on the side of the bed. Two nurses and a doctor ran in. Leah must have been on a break. One nurse emptied a syringe into his IV line and the other came to my side. “Step away, sweetie, you could get hurt.”

“When will it stop?” I didn’t recognize my own voice, but I could hear myself. I sounded frantic.

“In a minute. He’s slowing down. There you go, Adam,” she said to him as she caressed his forehead. His eyes were crossed and he had the scariest, most pained look on his face.

I started crying. “Is he in pain?”

The doctor whom I had talked to earlier answered me without looking up. “He won’t remember this. He won’t know anything but that he’s had a seizure.” She turned to the nurse at her side. “Up his dose of valproic acid to sixty milligrams a day. I’ll write it up, but let’s go ahead and give him twenty right now.”

Everyone moved around the room quickly. Adam had stopped convulsing and his eyes were steady and focused on the wall across from him. Helen was standing near the door, stunned. I went to his side and smoothed my hand over his damp brow. His gaze moved to me. He looked like a scared little boy. I bent and kissed his cheek. “You’re okay. You had a seizure, but it’s over now.”

He nodded with wide eyes. I bent again, but this time I placed a kiss on his lips. He was lethargic but he tried to pucker his lips and mimic a kissing sound.

“Charlotte?” he murmured.

“Yes, I’m here.”

“I love you,” he said. I don’t know if what Adam was feeling was love but I knew I felt extremely connected to him, just like the day we first met.

“I love you, too.” I kissed his forehead and then glanced to see Helen’s shocked face. “I’m going to walk Helen to the elevator. I promise I won’t be gone more than a minute.”

“Okay.” He tried to smile before reaching his hand up and waving sluggishly at Helen. She waved back, still stunned.

“Come on.” I pulled her by the arm.

She didn’t speak until we got to the elevator bays. “You love him?” she said.

“I have strong feelings for him.” I looked at her pointedly. “Seth will understand. That’s all I’m saying about the situation. I don’t want to talk anymore about it. I’m going back in there to be by his side. You know where to find me if you need me. Thanks for coming down.”

Her mouth was still parted in shock. “Um . . . okay then, I guess I’ll tell Roddy to tell Seth . . .”

“Nothing, Helen. You won’t tell Roddy to tell Seth anything. I will talk to Seth when he’s back from the road.”

The elevator doors opened but Helen just stood there. When it started to close, I said, “You better go.”

She put her hand out to keep the doors open. “You have your whole life ahead of you.”

“Precisely.” I gave her a quick hug and walked away.


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