I ran as fast as I could down the stark white hallways of the hospital. I didn't care that nurses and patients were staring. I didn't care that my hair had completely fallen out or that my cardigan was slipping off my shoulders. All I cared about was seeing Justin-seeing him and never taking my eyes off his ever again.
"Chelsea!" I cried, spotting the little blonde nurse looking over some paperwork in the hallway. I had never been so glad to see someone in all my life. "Chelsea, where is he?" I asked urgently. No one could understand how important this was.
"He's right across the hall," Chelsea said, setting down her files and showing me to the doorway, as if she knew I was in the biggest hurry of my life. I loved her for it. "He's still in bed and still intubated. But he reacted to Emma when she came. She's still in there with him. Go ahead." Chelsea gave me a reassuring smile, as if to say this is what you've been waiting for. She gently nudged me into the room and closed the door behind her.
I could see Emma's back. She was leaning over the bed. And that moment, all of the sudden, I was paralyzed. Fear filled my conscience and my eyes welled up with tears. What if he can't remember me? I wondered. What if he hates me? Does he realize that I was the reason he is even in this hospital bed? Does he know that I'm sorry? Will he ever be able to forgive me? I know I wouldn't be able to forgive me if I had been the one laying in the hospital bed. I hugged myself around my stomach and willed myself to go to him, but I couldn't budge.
I looked up and saw Emma through my tear-filled eyes. She was crying, too. But in a happy way. She was grinning. "Macy, come here. He was just awake. He was just falling back asleep now, but try and come say hello." She turned back to Justin with such a look of love and endearment that I had to go to her side. I wanted to feel just as she did.
Justin looked the same as he had when I last saw him, still in the bed, still peaceful, still painfully quiet. But for the first time in days and days, I caught a glimpse of his blue eyes as his eyelids drifted shut. Those beautiful blue eyes that looked so vibrant on the night of our prom when we kissed outside. The eyes that looked scared and excited at the same time when he asked me to marry him. The eyes that captured me in a single glance when I was only five years old.
"Justin," I called to him softly. "Justin, it's me. It's Macy. I'm here. I love you. I love you so much. Please know that." But it was too late. He had already drifted away to sleep again. But those eyes...even that split second of seeing his eyes left me with more hope than I had ever felt before.
"Oh, Macy," Emma said, turning to me, crying happily. "He's going to be fine. He's gonna be fine!"
"Em, what did he say? What happened?" I asked urgently, holding her arms.
"He can't talk with the tube in his mouth," Emma said, wiping her eyes. " But Mace," she looked at me, grinning larger than I had seen her smile in a long, long time. "Macy, he said my name." She laughed and grinned even wider. "He said my name!"
"Oh, Em," I sighed. "That's so great." I pulled her into a hug and she cried against me. But secretly, I was upset more than she knew. Why couldn't I have been just a few minutes earlier? Why couldn't Justin have seen me first? It was just all so much to handle. "Em," I said pulling away. "I'll be back in a bit," I said, turning toward the door.
"Where are you going?" Emma asked confusedly.
"I just need a minute, Emma," I told her. "I'll be right back, I promise." Without waiting for a reply, I turned and ran out the door, sprinting away. I couldn't let her see me cry. Because I wasn't about to cry happy tears. I was about to sob, good and hard, and I knew there was going to be no stopping me.
I instantly turned at the sound of my name. Mackenzie was still in the waiting room. I had forgotten all about him.
"Macy, what the hell is going on?" he asked, throwing his arms out. He didn't look angry, just confused and maybe frustrated. He probably was wondering why I had him drive me to the hospital in such a hurry without ever saying why. He probably thought I was crazy and was wondering why he even asked me out for coffee. He probably hated me now too, just as Justin would when he learned the full story of how he got hurt.
"Macy, are you okay?" he asked, noticing my upset face as he walked over to me.
I tried to nod, but felt the tears sprouting and grimaced to urge them back. All I could manage was a nod.
Mackenzie's bright eyes widened as he realized how upset I was. He frowned in sympathy and pulled me to him, into a hug. I didn't realize how much I had needed one. And at that moment, I couldn't help it. My sobs finally came and I huddled against his solid frame as he wrapped his arms around me. And for a moment, I closed my eyes and pretended he was Justin, who would hold me when I cried back when we were young and happy and healthy.
But we're not. We're not young and happy and healthy.
I pulled back from Mackenzie, holding my face in my hands.
"Macy?" Mackenzie asked, looking down at me with worrisome eyes.
"I...I really appreciate you taking me here and everything you've done for me...but I think I just really need to be alone right now. To think about things," I said slowly, feeling terrible for asking him to leave but knowing it was for the best.
Surprisingly, Mackenzie didn't seem offended. He nodded understandingly. "Yeah, of course," he said softly, giving my shoulder a rub of condolence. He smiled sadly. "But hey, I understand that you want to be alone and I know we just met and everything, but I really do understand what you're going through. So," he pulled a card from his wallet, "here's my number. Let me know if you ever need anything. I'd be here for you," he looked into my eyes as he said this, to let me know he would really help. His eyes, his bright blue eyes, weren't the same as Justin's. Justin's were darker like the color of the ocean and a bit more solemn, whereas Mackenzie's were bright and vibrant and matched the hue of the Bahama waters.
He handed me the business card with his phone number on it.
For the first time, I laughed a bit. "You're very official, aren't you?"
He smiled back. "It was readily available. And hey, you know where to find me. Just upstairs from your office." He put his hands in his pockets. "Keep your chin up and your friends close. You'll be okay, Macy. You're a strong girl."
I nodded and tried to smile back. But as he walked out of the hospital, I wondered to myself just how strong I was.
Justin was still sleeping. I was still at his bedside. But there was nowhere else I would rather be.
I smiled and smoothed his hair away from his eyes, loving being able to touch him. I took his hand in mine and grasped it, never wanting to let go. That one exchange with him, the few words I spoke to him, and the sight of him saying my name back to me, that feeling had left me intoxicated.
I remember the first time I realized I loved Justin. I was fourteen years old and he was fifteen. It was the October of my first year of high school and I felt utterly alone. I didn't know anyone in my classes and felt like the biggest dork in my t-shirts and jeans compared to the girls in my class who wore mini-skirts and poofed up hair to school. I was convinced that I was going to live out the rest of my life as a lonely cat lady-and I didn't even like cats!
It had been my dad's birthday and we had a little dinner party at my house with my family and Justin's. After dinner, Macy and Justin and I went outside. In the fall sunset, the stars were beginning to appear in the sky. We were lying on our backs, looking up at the night sky.
"I kissed Ryan Carleton today," Macy suddenly announced, but in a very plain voice as if to say but it's not a big deal.
I remember Justin, who was laying between us, turning his head to her. "What?" he asked in too much of a nonchalant voice. He was trying so hard to sound indifferent.
Macy shrugged. "He said he liked me and I said he was cute so we kissed. It was before he had football practice. But then we both said we didn't like each other, so it's not a big deal." She shrugged again and sat up. "Hey, do you want to play some Nintendo? We got Dad that new game for his birthday."
"Yeah, sure," Justin agreed.
"Okay, I'll go set it up," Macy replied. She got up and ran back into the house, leaving Justin and I alone outside.
I sighed, looking up at the night sky. When would I ever get kissed? Macy wasn't all that much prettier than me. How come all the boys liked her?
Justin turned his head to me. "Hey, Em. Are you okay?"
Was it because I was such a geek? Is that why no boys liked me? "Yeah, I'm fine," I said sadly. "Why do you ask?"
"I don't know. You were pretty quiet tonight. And you're usually never quiet during Star Wars."
Oh great, I am a geek!
"What's wrong, Emma?" Justin asked, smiling at me softly. He nudged me. "Come on, I'm like your big brother. You can tell me anything. I promise I won't tell Macy."
I sighed again and sat up dejectedly. "I just feel so...so undesirable, Justin!" I finally cried out.
He smiled amusedly. "Undesirable?" he repeated with a grin.
"Yes! Stop laughing," I frowned at him.
"Okay, okay," he said, sitting up and looking at me diligently, although a smile still played across his lips. "What do you mean by that?"
I shook my head and looked down at my hands. "All the girls in high school, the ones who have boyfriends, they're all made up all the time. Their hair, their clothes, even their attitudes! They know how to flirt. They know how to make boys pay attention. I don't know how to be like that! I don't even think I was born with the flirting gene!"
"Sometimes it skips a generation," Justin nodded very seriously. I smacked him in the arm. "Ouch!" he laughed. But then he stopped and looked contemplating. "Okay, but seriously...Emma, you're only a freshman. You've only just started high school. Is it really important to have a boyfriend right now?"
"I guess it's not so much important that I have one," I admitted. "I just...I just want to feel pretty. I want to know that boys think I'm pretty or nice or cute or something. But instead, I feel just like they don't even notice me." I shook my head. "This is not how I pictured high school starting."
"Emma..." I looked to see Justin smiling at me. "You really don't think guys notice you?" When I shook my head, he looked a little surprised. "Emma, you're one of the prettiest girls I've ever seen. And I'm not just saying that because you're one of my best friends. And you're really sweet to everyone. And you like Star Wars, which is a definite plus."
"But then why don't boys ever act like they notice me?" I asked. "I haven't even had my first kiss, Justin!"
Justin looked up at this, again somewhat surprised. He bit his lip and looked away for a moment, looking up at the big tree in our backyard. "Well...would you like to have one?"
My heart sped up. "What?" I asked, breathlessly.
Justin awkwardly looked back to me, distractedly. "Do you...would you want your first kiss? Now?"
"Now?" I asked. My heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. "What...what about Macy?"
"What about her? I'm not dating her and she's not dating me. Besides, why would she even have to know?" he asked with his eyebrows up.
This made me feel just a little bit disappointed. I wanted Justin to tell everyone what he had just told me. I didn't want to keep it a secret. But I did want to kiss him.
"Okay," I finally said. I turned toward him, sitting on my knees. He did the same. "Now what do we do?" I asked.
"Just lean in," Justin said softly, coming closer to me until I could feel his breath on my lips, "and kiss." He leaned in more and touched my lips with his. I pressed into him a little bit, my excitement coursing through my body. Then we pulled away.
"That's it," I said, a grin spreading across my face. "I just had my first kiss." I suddenly frowned. "Was it bad?"
"No, it was good for a first kiss," Justin reassured me. "But that's not how you really kiss."
"Will you show me?" I asked.
Justin nodded and smiled. "Sure." He leaned in again, and this time tilted his head to the side. I did the same. Our lips met, but his parted, and I could taste the strangely satisfying sweetness of his soft lips. I parted mine as well, and leaned closer into him, wanting more. This feeling was so intoxicating. I couldn't think of a feeling I had ever loved more, or a person I had loved more...
I smiled as we kissed. I loved him. I loved Justin. I loved how his hair fell over his forehead and how his eyes became so concentrated when he played hockey. I loved how he laughed out loud at movies and television, even when no one else was watching with him. I loved the way he gave me all of his blue M&Ms because he knew I liked them best. I loved how he watched football with my dad and cooking shows with my mom. I loved him, I loved him, I loved him.
And I still love him, I thought as I looked at him lying in his hospital bed, so serene. I love how he makes peanut butter cookies with his mom's old recipe and sends them to me. I love how he writes letters instead of typing emails. I love how he will only drink Coke, but not Pepsi. I love the way he twiddles his fingers when he's nervous and grins when he's excited. I love how he used to bring me magazines and ice cream and movies when I was sick, and when I got older and would study for exams he would buy me coffee and four leaf clovers from the dollar store. I love his thoughtfulness. I love his kindness. I love him.
The room door opened behind me and I could hear my sister's light footsteps and her willowy voice say my name, "Emma? Do you mind if I spend some time alone with Justin?"
I love Justin to pieces. I love him to the moon and back. But he's also been the only person to ever break my heart. Because even though I love him more than words can say, he has always loved someone else. And there was nothing I could do about it.
A/N: I can't believe it's been almost a year since I last published. I feel terrible about it! But here is the 11th chapter and the 12th one is almost done so if I can get some reads and reviews, I'll be ready to post it soon! You should get excited, because it's going to contain Macy and Justin's first conversation since the accident! :D finally! Anyway, thanks SO SO much for reading and reviewing and it should be up shortly (hint, hint!) !