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|On Dublin Street(On Dublin Street #1)(50) by Samantha Young|
Did you know that time stops in a hospital waiting room? No joke. It just stops. You look at the clock it says twelve o’ one and you look back at it in what feels like an hour and it’s only freaking twelve o’ two.
Ellie had painted my fingernails last night when she needed something to do to take her mind off of surgery. By the time the surgeon came out to us hours later, I had picked every last bit of the polish off.
We shot to our feet when Dr. Dunham finally entered the waiting room. He smiled at us, looking tired, but perfectly calm. “Everything went really well. We removed all of the mass and have sent the tumors for biopsy. Ellie’s been taken to the post-op wing but it’ll be a little while yet before she comes out of the anesthesia. I know you’ve been here all day, so I suggest you go home for a few hours and return for tonight’s visiting hours.”
Elodie shook her head, her eyes bright with worry. “We want to see her.”
“Just give her some time,” Dr. Dunham replied kindly. “I promise she’s fine. You can return tonight. I’ll warn you now, she’ll probably still be very groggy, and the right side of her face is swollen quite badly from the surgery. That’s perfectly normal.”
I squeezed Elodie’s arm. “Come on. We’ll go get the kids some dinner and come back later.”
“Yeah, mum, I’m hungry,” Declan complained quietly.
“Okay,” she whispered, still sounding unconvinced.
“Thank you, Dr. Dunham.” Clark held out his hand and the surgeon took it with a kind smile. After Adam and Braden shook his hand and Elodie and I offered him a grateful smile, Dr. Dunham left us to gather ourselves. A tension had eased between us all knowing that she’d come through surgery safely, but we were still anxious to see her.
It wasn’t until we were leaving the hospital and Braden edged up to me to draw me into his side for a hug, that I realized for once in God knows how long I hadn’t thought about my drama with him. I’d just been thinking about Ellie.
As soon as he touched me though I remembered Isla and I tensed.
He felt it, his body turning hard against mine. “Jocelyn?” he asked questioningly.
I couldn’t look at him. I shrugged out of his hold taking advantage of his surprise, and hurried to catch up with Hannah.
That night the nurse led us to the post-op wing and we were allowed into see Ellie. Her curtains were drawn around her, and Elodie and Clark were in front of me so I didn’t see her at first. When they greeted her quietly and stepped back I flinched.
I hadn’t expected to feel so scared.
Dr. Dunham was right—her head was pretty swollen and kind of misshapen on the right side, her eyes still glazed from the anesthesia. White padded bandages were wrapped tight around her head and I felt my stomach lurch as I thought about the fact that today her brain had been cut into.
She gave me a lopsided quirk of a smile. “Joss,” her voice was hoarse, barely audible.
I wanted to run. I know. That’s horrible. But I wanted to run away from this part. People ending up in hospital had never concluded well in my life, and seeing her there, so vulnerable, so exhausted, just reminded me of how close we might have come to losing her.
I felt a hand squeeze mine and I turned my head to see Hannah watching me. She looked as pale as I felt, and her fingers were trembling between mine. She was scared too. I smiled reassuringly at her, hoping I was pulling it off. “Ellie is okay. Come on.” I tugged on her hand and pulled her with me to Ellie’s bed side.
I reached out for the hand Ellie had held out for her mom, and I slid mine into it, feeling relief and love as she gave me a gentle squeeze. “Am I pretty?” she asked with a little slur, and I laughed softly.
Her eyes dropped to Hannah. “I’m okay,” she whispered.
“Are you sure?” Hannah pressed in close to the bed, her frightened eyes glued to Ellie’s bandaged head.
She was still tired. We shouldn’t stay long. I gently eased Hannah back so Braden and Adam could get in with Declan. Declan thought she looked cool of course. Once Braden said hello, Adam wouldn’t leave Ellie’s side.
Her eyes started to flutter closed.
“We should leave her to rest,” Clark ordered in a hushed voice. “We’ll come back tomorrow.”
“Els,” Braden murmured, and her eyes fluttered back open. “We’re going. We’ll be back tomorrow.”
Adam grabbed a chair from the side of the room and put it beside her bed. “I’m staying.”
We nodded, not really wanting to argue with the determined clench of his jaw.
With soft goodbyes we left them, Braden and I trailing at the back as we walked in a solemn fog through the hospital.
“She looked tiny,” Braden observed hoarsely. “I wasn’t expecting her to look so bad.”
“The swelling will go down.”
He shot me a careful look. “Are you okay?”
“You don’t seem fine.”
“It’s been a tiring day.”
We stopped at—actually I didn’t know where. The hospital was kind of confusing with lots of a little parking lots and different entrances and yellow barricades. I didn’t know where the hell I was. We were standing at an entrance anyway, and Elodie sighed. “Are you two getting a taxi back?”
Clark’s car wasn’t big enough for everyone to get a ride in. I’d gotten a ride going in but Adam and Braden had gotten a cab. I supposed it would be rude to suggest Braden take a cab and I get a ride.
“I’ll get a cab. Braden, you should go with them.”
He smirked knowingly. “We’ll get a taxi together.”
I reluctantly let Ellie’s family go, and waited as Braden called for a cab. I then stood at the entrance doors, keeping an eye out for the cab.
I smelled his cologne as he pressed close to my back. I shifted uncomfortably, trying to block out the fact that even though I’d ripped the bedsheets off my bed, I still hadn’t washed them because I could still smell Braden on them. I really was that girl.
“Do you want to tell me why I’m getting the silent treatment?” He asked gruffly, his breath hot on my ear.
I hunched up my shoulders, pulling away. His voice had an effect on my body and I didn’t want him to know that. “I’m talking to you.”
“I’ve got a lot on my mind.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“When have I ever wanted to talk about it?”
I felt the heat grow hotter as he stepped closer, his hand sliding down my hip. “You used to talk to me, Jocelyn. Don’t pretend you didn’t.”
Seeing the familiar black cab of the city turn the corner into our part of the building, I pulled away quickly. “Cab’s here.” And started off toward it.
When we settled in the cab I could feel he was annoyed. I also knew him well enough to know that he was going to try to talk to me about it even if it meant following me home. I gave the cab driver Jo’s address in Leith.
Braden shot me a look.
I shrugged. “She asked me to come over.”
After a few more inane questions and a few more one word responses from me, Braden gave up, but not before sending me a lethal ‘this isn’t over’ warning look.
I got out at Jo’s without a goodbye and watched the cab drive away. I called Jo to make sure she was home, and I went up to her apartment and spent almost all night there.
Avoiding Braden took skill. Well, no it just involved me not spending any time at the apartment. It also meant getting a cab out alone to visit Ellie. Every day without fail Braden sent a text asking if I wanted him to swing the cab by my place to pick me up for visiting hours at the hospital. I sent him a polite ‘No, thanks’ back each time. Visiting hours were all about Ellie so I was safe there. She had a private room, was bored out of her mind and desperate to get home, but she had a whole week here. The swelling was going down more each day, but I could tell she was exhausted. She let us all, and by all I mean Elodie, chat around her, smiling and taking it in. Thankfully, I didn’t get to see the sad part, when her eyes would inevitably get all weepy as we left her. I didn’t get to see that part because I always left before everyone else. I saw not only the questions in Ellie’s eyes when I did this, but everyone else’s too. I tried to make up for it by bringing her a silly present each time I visited, but I knew she was dying to ask me what was wrong.
I wasn’t at all surprised that Braden didn’t chase me out of there.
He had moved on, so he didn’t really need to know why I was avoiding him.
Or so I thought.
New Years’ Eve I spent with Jo. I got a call from Rhian. Texts from Craig, Alistair, Adam, Elodie, Clark and the kids. I got a text from Braden.
Happy New Years, Jocelyn. I hope it’s a good one for you. X
Who knew a text could be so heartbreaking? I text back… wait for it…
Back at ya.
Yeah, I did. I did do that. I’m an idiot.
As I began staying away from the apartment, swimming at a different pool and avoiding the gym we shared, I think it must have begun to dawn on Braden that I knew about Isla.
Four days into Ellie’s recovery at the hospital and only a few days before she was to come home, I got another text from Braden.
We really need to talk. I’ve come by the flat a few times but you’re never in. Can we meet up?x
I didn’t text him back. Obviously, he wanted to tell me about his new manager.
It didn’t matter if I didn’t text back. Fate already had plans for us to meet. Two days after the text, I was dodging the apartment and having lunch at this great pub on the Grassmarket. I was going to head up along George IV Bridge to Forrest Road where there was this little kitschy store that Ellie loved. They sold these umbrellas that were like old-fashioned parasols and she’d been going on and on about buying one but never had. So I was going to buy it for her as a little present for her return to the apartment the next day.