I wasn't really the type of person who got sick very often. Maybe a cold here and a flu there, but I rarely even missed school. I had hardly even been in a hospital until my mom got sick. The only other time I had been in one before that was when I was around sixteen. Emma had to get her tonsils out and although she couldn't talk, I could tell she was glad I brought her peanut butter ice cream, the good stuff, unlike what the hospital offered. After my mom died when I was eighteen, I vowed to never step foot in a hospital again. But that was short-lived.
The summer after we graduated from high school, shortly after Macy and I had gotten together after prom, we went to watch Caleb's baseball game at a local field. I remember it being really hot outside, a record-breaking day for our city. Macy and I got to the game late and had to sit on the bleachers with no shade. We had bought ice cream cones, but they were dripping wet by the time we sat.
"I really don't feel good," Macy had murmured about fifteen minutes into the game. I should have known right then that she didn't sound right. I should have realized it.
"Do we need to leave?" I asked absently, cheering as Caleb made his way to the plate and wondering why I hadn't joined the team with him. It would have been great exercise. But I really didn't like playing baseball. It was so slow.
"Yeah," Macy had whispered after a few moments. "I think I need to go home."
"Okay," I said, watching the field as Caleb took a swing at the first pitch. "Can it wait until after this inning, or..." I looked over at Macy and at once realized something was wrong. She was a horrid shade of gray, a color I had only seen on my mom shortly before she died. Panic rushed through my body as Macy went limp and slumped beside me.
"Macy!" I cried, shaking her, holding her close to me. "Somebody get some help! Please! I need some help!" I yelled urgently, desperate for someone to come to my aid. "Mace, baby, wake up. Macy, wake up. Macy, please wake up. Please be okay," I rambled, my words all rushing together. She couldn't do this to me. Not after my mom just died. Not ever. She couldn't leave me. "Somebody please help me!" I cried again.
In the end, it turned out she had just been dehydrated from the heat. The paramedics had been called and by the time they cooled Macy off a bit, she had woken and seemed completely fine, if just a bit tired. The paramedics insisted she go to the hospital and I followed in my car. As I drove, I finally let out the tears that had threatened to fall out there on the bleachers. I couldn't lose Macy. It would kill me.
I stayed overnight with her at the hospital. When she woke in the morning, my hand was still clasped with hers. I woke suddenly as soon as I felt her stir.
"Mace," I murmured, sleep still clouding my eyes. I brushed her hair away from her forehead. "Macy, you scared me so much." Macy frowned sympathetically and squeezed my hand reassuringly. "I thought you were going to leave me," I choked out.
"Oh, Justin! I was just dehydrated!" Macy said at once, turning on her side to look at my face. "I'm not dying. I promise."
"I just love you so much," I insisted. I always felt like I needed to convince her. "I don't know what I would do without you."
Macy just smiled softly and brought her lips to my hand. "I'm glad you were here. When I woke up."
"Of course," I told her. I was always there for her.
But then why had Emma been the one to be there when I woke up in my hospital bed?
I opened my eyes with a strain. It felt as if I needed a ton of energy to do the simplest things, nowadays. I groaned at the pain that continually pounded at my head, my neck, everything down to my waist.
"Justin?" a voice to my right asked quietly. I would know that voice anywhere.
I turned my eyes toward her, careful not to move any other part of my body. "Macy," I managed to croak back. Although my nurse had taken the tube from my throat earlier that day, it still felt like knives were stabbing my neck every time I tried to speak. I tried to swallow to moisten my dry throat, but just that simple motion stung and I let in a sharp intake of breath as pain wrenched through my body.
"Are you in pain? Do you need some more meds?" Macy asked urgently. "The nurse can get some more for your IV..."
I nodded and shut my eyes tightly, as tears sprung up. I could hear the nurse taking care of the IV beside me, and breathed a sigh of relief as she stepped away, knowing that soon the pain would subside. I finally looked beside me to Macy. It felt as if I hadn't seen her in years, when really it had probably been just a few days, maybe a week...but there she stood, the same as always, arms crossed in front of her chest, a concerned expression on her face. But still beautiful, as she had always been.
For some reason, the first question I managed to ask was, "Where's Em?"
I thought I saw Macy's face fall even further, but she busied herself by clearing her throat and pulling a chair up next to my bedside. "Emma's probably back at my apartment. She's been spending a lot of time here. But I wanted some time with you by myself."
Words were so painful to get out, but I was managing to make conversation with Macy with as few as possible. I knew she'd understand."I wasn't awake," I managed.
"You didn't need to be," Macy said quietly, holding my hand.
"Are you going to tell me what happened?" I asked her.
"You were in a car accident. No one told you?" Macy asked.
"What happened to my car?" I asked, confused.
"You weren't in a car. You were hit by a car," Macy explained patiently, as if I were a child. "You hit your head hard. You were in a coma. We were so terrified you wouldn't ever wake up..."
"That why Emma is back from school?" I asked. "For me?"
Macy nodded. "Yeah. She came back right away. Katy was here, but she had to go away for business. And Caleb has been here every day, all the time."
My next few words were the hardest to get out. I took a deep breath before stating, "And I'm paralyzed."
Macy looked taken aback. But then she nodded, her eyes glistening. "Yeah," she whispered. "Yeah, they think you are." She held my hand tightly.
I nodded and looked up at the ceiling, struggling with myself as tears filled my eyes. I couldn't help it. I hated crying in front of anyone, but I just couldn't help it. "I don't know what I'm going to do," I told Macy in despair. "I don't have enough money saved for all this is going to cost me. I live in an apartment building where the elevator doesn't work half the time. Besides that, my counters are going to be too high to cook. I won't be able to reach the cabinets, and that's where I keep my peanut butter. I don't have a handicap permit. I don't even know how to work a fucking wheelchair!"
Macy laughed at this, even through her tears. "Justin, everyone knows how to work a wheelchair. I will personally teach you how to use a wheelchair." She reached out and touched my shoulder. "Justin, don't worry. We'll take care of everything. We'll take care of you."
"But you can't take care of me! I couldn't ask you to!" I exclaimed in desperation. "You have your own job and your own life. I can't ask you to support me, too. But how am I supposed to finish my student teaching like this? No teenager is going to take me seriously in a wheelchair! And...I'll never get to play hockey again. Or golf...even though I hate golf. And I won't ever be able to teach my kids how to play baseball or make them their school lunches because I won't be able to reach the counters..." I could barely breathe from being so upset. Reality was hitting me with full force. My words nearly came out as hiccups.
"Justin, calm down," Macy said, holding her hand to my cheek. "Justin, things aren't that bad. There are so many resources for handicapped people..."
"And what about camping? Remember you said you wanted to go camping again? It'll be kind of hard to go camping like this," I said, looking at my lifeless legs with disgust. "And apparently my wife is going to have to find someone to do stupid household stuff since I won't be able to, like cleaning the gutters and putting up wallpaper and cleaning the bugs out of the lampposts..."
"He's getting a little too worked up," the pretty blonde nurse commented to Macy. "I think I'm going to give him a mild sedative if that's alright." Macy nodded, and grasped my hand tighter.
"Justin," Macy told me, her brown eyes bright with tears, but she looked determined. "Justin, look at me. Your future wife...she won't care if you can't reach the lamppost or cut the stupid grass. She won't care that you won't be able to teach your son football. She will just be thrilled to have you by her side, to have you as the father of her children. She'll be the luckiest woman in the world. Trust me."
"What did you ever like me for?" I asked Macy bitterly. "You liked me when I would pick up milk from the store or bring your flash drive to school for you. You liked me when I could go ice skating with you so you could have someone to hold on to. You liked when I put up your Christmas lights for you. But look how far that got me. I still got stood up. At the altar." I felt the needle of the nurse's syringe prick my arm and immediately felt my muscles start to relax.
"Justin, that wasn't your fault! It was mine!" Macy cried.
The world around me started to dim as the sedative did it's work, coursing through me. Energy drained from me faster than lightning. "You didn't want me while I was taking care of you," I managed to murmur before sleep overcame me. "Who's going to be with me if I'm the one needing caring...?"
But I didn't get to hear a response. Maybe I didn't want to hear one. As I uncontrollably went limp, I thought I felt a kiss placed on my lips. But maybe I imagined it. It was so hard to tell nowadays.
As soon as Justin's hand went limp and his face went blank with unconsciousness, I finally let out a sob, holding my head in my hands. I had wanted to speak to him in the worst way, and I finally had. But now, knowing that finally knew the truth about his injuries, guilt racked through my body. What would happen when he finally remembered that I was the reason he was hit by the cars?
"Do you want me to call you when he wakes back up?" Chelsea asked me quietly as I got up from my seat.
"No thank you," I told her. "I'll be back when I can...but if he wants me, I'll come." I grabbed my purse and slung it over my shoulder, almost running from the room. When I finally got out into the hallway, I pulled my Blackberry from my pocket and called the first person who came to my mind.
The phone only rang twice before he picked up. "Hello?"
"Mackenzie?" I asked. And strangely, as soon as I heard his voice, relief flooded through my body. Why did he have this effect on me? How could he calm me with just one word. "Mackenzie, it's Macy. Do you think you could spend some time with me tonight?"
"Yeah, of course," he replied, sounding concerned. Maybe he heard the tears in my voice. "I just have to finish up some paperwork, but I'll leave it for tomorrow. You want to meet me somewhere?"
"No, you can come over to my apartment," I told him immediately. I just wanted to be home. With someone. "We can just...I don't know. Hang out."
"Dude, my sister was crazy creepy about it!" Mackenzie laughed as we sat and talked on my couch just a few hours later. He had brought over hot chocolate and a DVD of the old Spiderman movie. But we had hardly watched and had spent the last hour talking about anything and everything. "My sister used to freak out girls I would flirt with and tell them that because we were twins, we had a sixth sense and could tell when the other one was having sex. She thought it was hilarious to scare off all of my potential girlfriends. But I would get so pissed at her for it!"
I laughed. "That's crazy!"
"I know, she is!" Mackenzie insisted.
"No, I mean I can't imagine you getting pissed off," I told him with a smile. "At anyone."
"I do, sometimes," Mackenzie said, absently toying with his hot chocolate mug. "But I really try not to spend most of my time angry. It's just a waste." He looked up at me with his big blue eyes. "I had a period where I spent most of my time angry. And it was just a really bad time in my life."
"When your mom died?" I asked quietly.
He nodded. "Yeah."
"Were you close?"
"Yeah. I think we had the best relationship out of my family. So I felt like she needed me when she got sick...that's why I quit school for a while."
"You know Justin's mom died from cancer, too?" I asked Mackenzie. "You two have a lot more in common than you would think."
"Really?" Mackenzie asked with a playful smile. By now he knew everything-mine and Justin's relationship, Justin's accident, the horrible scene at the hospital...he had listened through it all. And as he sat on my couch, wearing beat up jeans and a Columbia University t-shirt, I realized just how much I liked his company. "Well I'm flattered to be compared to the awesome Justin Kelley, star of the Miller hockey team."
"You remember that?" I laughed.
"Yeah! I wanted to try out so badly but my mom was hell-bent against it. She was convinced I'd knock my teeth out after she paid thousands of dollars on braces for them!" He laughed at the memory. "But I went to almost every game. Justin was awesome. He was probably the best goalie the team had."
"Yeah," I agreed, remembering back on the high school years. "He was."
Mackenzie shifted uncomfortably and looked down at his mug. "Macy, I know that you invited me here to have someone to talk to and get your mind off things...and I totally understand that. It's completely cool. But..." he bit his lip and ran a hand through his already tousled blonde hair. "But I'd be absolutely lying if I told you that I didn't like you." He laughed embarrassedly and shook his head. "I don't know what it is about you. But you're just...the most comfortable girl I've talked to in a really long time. I don't know. It just feels..." He couldn't find the words.
I smiled at him. "Right?" I finished. He looked up at me with his eyes, those great eyes. I wondered who he had gotten them from, his mom or his dad. I imagined little babies with those beautiful blue eyes. Without hardly thinking of what I was doing, I sat a bit closer to Mackenzie, feeling the warmth of his body almost against mine. He looked back at me, questioningly. Then, slowly, he put his hand on the small of my back. It felt so reassuring. I cupped his cheek with my hand, spreading my fingers over his cheekbones, my pinky finger brushing his fully lips. And finally, after we couldn't restrain ourselves any longer, after the tension had become too much, we gave in, our lips crashing against each other's, our arms wrapped around each other's bodies...
And for once, I didn't feel guilty. Every single time I had kissed someone other than Justin, all my life, I had felt guilt. I don't know why. Maybe I had thought we had belonged together. But Justin didn't want me. He couldn't want me. He wanted someone who hadn't caused his accident. So I was kissing Mackenzie. Because Mackenzie felt safe and warm and amazing. And I didn't feel guilty about thinking he was amazing.
But then I heard my door close with a slam.
Mackenzie and I broke apart, pushing away from each other on the couch like teenagers caught by the parents. But it was only Emma.
She stood staring at me with wide eyes, her purse still on her shoulder, a grocery bag in her other hand. "Macy," she said with a shaky voice. "What the hell are you doing?"
I swallowed hesitantly. "Emma," I tried to say in an upbeat voice. "Do you remember Mackenzie Jacobs from high school? I guess everyone called him Jake back then...?" I awkwardly gestured toward Mackenzie who shot Macy a nervous smile.
Emma gave him a polite smile back, but it didn't reach her eyes. She looked back at me, and I thought a hint of disgust crossed her face. "Well I'm really glad to know how free your conscience is, Macy," she stated before crossing to her room and closing the door behind her.
Mackenzie rubbed his hair awkwardly and stood. "I guess I should go," he said.
"I'll call you," I promised. "And next time we'll actually pay attention to the movie. Thank you for coming," I said, walking him to the door.
"It was really my pleasure," he said with a final smile. We stood and looked at each other for a moment, both of us wanted just one last kiss, and at the same time knowing it was not the time. We said goodbye and he left.
"Emma, what was that?" I asked, throwing open the door to her room. "You think you can just kick company out of my apartment?"
"What was I doing?" Emma asked furiously, getting up from her bed and glaring at me. "What the hell were you doing? How can you just forget about Justin?"
"Justin and I broke up months and months ago! I think it's okay if I kiss someone! It doesn't have to mean anything!"
"Then why do you kiss someone at all?" Emma threw out her arms. "If it doesn't mean anything? Why would you hurt him like that, all over again? Macy, can't you get it through your head that you're the only one Justin has wanted from day one, ever since he met you? There are so many girls who would love to be in your place! They would love to be the one Justin needs! But you just throw all of that out, all the time!"
"Emma, you're being stupid. Justin got over me. He doesn't care-"
"Yeah, sure," Emma laughed cruely. "You can't be that stupid, Macy. You know, I used to defend you when people would think badly of you for being terrible to Justin. But now I know better. Now I know you're really just a bitch." Emma grabbed her purse and brushed past me. "Don't bother doing me any favors. I'm staying at a hotel. I'll pick up my stuff in the morning."
"Emma," I started, following her out into the hallway. "Emma, stop being stupid!"
"Oh, believe me! This is the smartest thing I've done all along," she said, not even turning back. "And you know what?" she asked, looking back at me with daring eyes. "I'm not going to play sideline any more. I'm going to do what I want. I'm going to go for what I want."
"Good," I retorted. "I hope you'll be happy."
"Oh, I will be," Emma said as she walked into the elevator. "But I'm not sure you will be."
A/N: So there was a loaded chapter! Macy and Justin's first conversation since the accident, new relationship status with Macy and Mackenzie, and a huge fight. What do you think Emma's gonna go for? ;) do you think she was right about Macy? What would you like to see happen next? Can't wait to hear your thoughts! Until next time!