Against all odds, p.10
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       Against All Odds, p.10

           Kira Adams
 
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  Lee and Jacqueline answer at almost the exact same time with conflicting answers causing both Helen and John to break into small smiles. It feels like forever since I’ve seen them smile so I am thankful for the shift.

  “I’ve always wanted a boy,” Jacqueline elaborates. “I never really had many female friends, and I’m worried I wouldn’t know what to do with a girl. Boys are just so much easier to deal with.”

  John laughs lightly, and then I see his face grow sad again. His baby boy is fighting for his life. It’s a depressing thought.

  Lee notices the change. “Can we see him?”

  Helen’s face falls. “I’m afraid not, dear…they are only letting immediate family in and we just got Austyn cleared this morning.

  My heart begins pumping in my ears. I can see Avery. I know I’ve been thankful I haven’t seen him yet…but being in our quiet and empty apartment without him was almost too much to bare last night. Although I know the sight of him will be gut-wrenching, I know I need to see him. I know I need to let him know I am here.

  Lee looks at me expectantly. “Will you tell him we are here?”

  I nod slightly. “Of course.”

  Within ten minutes I am being escorted into Avery’s room. I can feel the nurses pace slow and I know we are close to his room. I steady my breathing as best I can as she shows me directly to the door. “This is it. I’ll be back in ten minutes to get you.”

  I nod, swallowing loudly. I’m within steps of him, but I haven’t been able to pull my eyes off the ground yet to see inside the room.

  You can do this.

  I take hesitant steps toward his bed and let my eyes slowly lift up, taking in everything. There are tubes everywhere. My eyes land on his face and it is hardly recognizable. It is blue and purple and oddly shaped. They haven’t yet reset all of his broken bones because they are worried it will be too much shock for his body to take and I don’t blame them.

  The nurse warned me before I made it in to see him that I have to be careful how I talk around him. Although he is in a coma, patients can still hear their loved ones talking to them and he is not in a position where we want to upset him anymore. They don’t want his heart rate to rise. So even though I want to ball my eyes out and curse the heavens for what happened to him, I take deep breaths to remain calm before I inch closer. I graze his hand with mine, afraid of hurting him anymore than he already is.

  “Hey,” I say softly, in a calm voice. “I wish you would have talked to me. I wish you would have woken me up.”

  I wipe a silent tear from my cheek. “I just want you to know that you are the best thing that ever happened to me and when you wake up I’m going to kiss you until your lips fall off. I love you more than anything in the world, Avery.”

  I choke back tears. This is harder than I ever imagined.

  I look over and notice that his brain monitor is spiking. My voice is affecting him. I need to calm myself down.

  I bite my lip aggressively, fighting back a mountain of tears. “Jacqueline and Lee are here. Her baby bump is adorable. Lee wants a girl, of course. He’s going to be the most amazing father…maybe when you get out of here we can try for a kid or two. I think you’d make a magnificent father.”

  His chest rises and falls slowly, but his eyes never open. They look swollen shut as if the blood vessels popped. It is tearing me up seeing him like this. It’s the worst feeling in the world wanting to do something to make him feel better but feeling utterly helpless.

  The time passes quickly and before I know it, the nurse is walking me back down to the waiting room. Back down to Avery’s family and friends. We stay and visit for another hour before Lee, Jacqueline, and I decide to grab a bite to eat and head back to the apartment.

  I take them to one of Avery’s favorite Mexican restaurants, La Bonita and we all reminisce in old memories of the four of us. It makes the pain in our hearts a little less debilitating. It makes me feel like there is hope.

  Fourteen – I’ll do Anything to Have You Back

  One Month Later – Early December

  Austyn

  Lee and Jacqueline stayed for three days before jetting back to Hawaii. It was so nice being able to catch up with them, mostly because they knew exactly what I was going through. Lee offered to fly back out a few weeks later, but I couldn’t see the point. Avery’s condition hasn’t changed much. He is healing slowly, but still in a coma and they aren’t sure if he does wake up, if he will even be close to the person he used to be.

  Thanksgiving came and went. Each year Avery and I switch up whose family we spend the holiday with. Because of everything that has transpired, my parents remained understanding that I didn’t want to be too far away from Avery, so they joined the Phillips’ family for the first time ever. It was nice being able to see my parents, especially my mother. Seeing her made the day a little more bearable.

  Ornery went room to room for weeks searching for Avery before she just curled up on his side of the bed and simply waited. She hasn’t moved an inch except to eat a little, drink, or use her litter box. She’s depressed and I don’t blame her.

  After a two week leave, I finally forced myself to return back to work. I couldn’t stay away forever and truthfully, with Avery in the hospital, we needed the money. Heath was surprisingly kind to me the day I returned back, and he didn’t even tease me on the air like he normally does. Everyone at the station was handling me with the upmost care, afraid I might crack any second.

  I’m not the same person I used to be and I know it is hurting our ratings. Unfortunately, our listeners loved the banter between Heath and me and now that it’s cordial they’ve grown bored. I’m waiting for the day the other shoe drops…the day when my big bosses come into my office and tell me it’s just not working out. Until then, I keep pushing along.

  I’ve cut myself off from everyone and everything except for Avery’s parents who force me to have dinner with them at least two times a week. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know that I’d have any sort of a social life outside of work and the hospital. All of the doctors and nurses at Sutter Health know me by name now. At least the ones who work in the ICU.

  I spend most of my nights holed up in my apartment drinking wine and watching Netflix. I’ve always been a wino, but now it’s not uncommon to find me finishing off an entire bottle of pinot noir by myself. The ache in my heart is always lightened when I drink, so unfortunately, it’s become my staple.

  Bane has called a few times. Apparently he heard what happened to Avery through the grapevine and offered his deepest sympathies. I’ve never answered…just allowed him to pour his heart out to my answering machine. On top of everything going on, I don’t know that I could handle hearing him out.

  I’ve taken up praying. I’ve never been one for organized religion…but I’ll do just about anything to get Avery back. I pray every morning when I wake up and every night when I go to bed. I don’t even know who I am praying to, but I do it just the same. If it will help make Avery better…I’ll never stop.

  * * *

  I don’t know why I ever agreed to this. Avery and Lee know I absolutely loathe karaoke but I think they enjoy making me uncomfortable. Seeing me squirm. Maybe it’s because I’m curious about Lee’s flavor of the week. He’s been out with her and Avery a couple of times already and Avery seemed to enjoy her company. Now that I am getting an eyeful of her, I think I know why. She has golden curls that cascade down to the middle of her back, piercing gold eyes, rosy cheeks, and the biggest pair of implants I think I’ve ever laid eyes on. For her petite and short frame, it’s about the only thing you can focus on.

  “Austyn, this is Jasmine,” Lee introduces us.

  “Nice to meet you.” I stick my hand out for her to shake. Her perky boobs demand my attention, and I have trouble meeting her gaze.

  “You too,” she says cheerfully, not bothered one bit. She must be used to this.

  We just found a table and already Avery has jumped up to go request a
song.

  “Well that didn’t take him long,” Lee jokes, taking a swig of his beer.

  “Nope.”

  Music runs through Avery’s bones. It isn’t the least bit surprising he is jazzed about getting up there. Music was one of the first things we really bonded over. I wish I had the guts that Avery does…but I’m pretty sure besides my steering wheel and showerhead, no one else would enjoy my voice.

  “Are you going to get up there tonight?” Lee motions with his head toward the stage which is currently occupied by a rather large male belting out a Guns N’ Roses song.

  “No way.” I shake my head profusely, grabbing my wine. “I’m leaving that up to you experts.”

  Jasmine looks over at me, leaning closer so I can hear her over the loud ruckus. “Oh, come on, it’ll be fun. Maybe we could do a duet or something.” Her boobs are pressed so firmly against the tabletop I worry that one might burst from the pressure. I can’t help averting my eyes and stifling a laugh.

  “Lee loves Lynyrd Skynyrd, you guys should do a duet of Sweet Home Alabama!”

  Lee immediately shoots me a death glare. He is not too fond of karaoke either, but I know for a fact how overplayed he thinks that song is…it’s the last thing he would choose.

  I chuckle as Avery makes his way back to the table, slipping his arm around me. “Miss me?”

  I look up into his brown eyes. “Always.”

  He kisses me on the top of the head. “Good, because I have a surprise for you.”

  My stomach instantly begins knotting up. “Oh God…”

  He laughs taking a long swig of his beer. “Don’t pout, you’re going to love it.”

  We’ve been dating for three and a half years now and I can say without a fraction of a doubt that Avery is always surprising me. He’s so unpredictable and I never grow tired of spending time with him. He’s such a free spirit, wild and carefree, always looking for his next adventure.

  Twenty minutes later his name is being called, and the announcer says he’s chosen the song ‘Georgia on my Mind’ by Ray Charles. Hoots and hollers are coming from various places in the room, but no one as loud or rambunctious as Lee, as Avery makes his way up to the stage.

  He grabs the mic from the previous singer and looks straight at me. “This is for the girl who drives me crazy in every way.”

  I begin blushing as his public display of affection has people staring from all over the room at me.

  Avery holds nothing back as he drunkenly belts the song out. He changes every Georgia to Austyn and I can audibly hear people in the crowd who are oohing and aahing. Before I know it, half the bar is up and swaying to his song. Lee and Jasmine are smack dab in the middle, leading the pack.

  Avery never takes his eyes off of me. It’s as if when this is all over he’s going to take me back to our hotel room and prove to me just how much I mean to him. I can’t help blushing. Now everyone in this bar knows just how deep our love runs. I know in this moment that this is my future husband. He may not know it yet…but he will.

  Fifteen – Learning to Exist Without You

  Two Months Later – Early February

  Austyn

  I thought Thanksgiving without Avery was unbearable…try Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Normally I go all out with Christmas decorations…I couldn’t even drag myself to put up a fake tree. Nothing felt right without him there. It felt like a terrible dream I couldn’t wake up from. It didn’t help that Avery’s birthday immediately followed the New Year. His hospital room was filled with balloons, flowers, and ‘get well soon’ cards.

  He remains in a coma. They aren’t sure about anything. No one seems to know if he will ever wake up. A world without Avery is a world I don’t want to live in. It’s getting harder each day to simply get out of bed. I lost my zest for life when I lost my partner. I try to remain positive…but each day that passes takes a little part of me with it.

  His parents remain the most optimistic out of everyone. They are the only ones who have continued to visit him on a daily basis. I can’t. It’s too hard to see him like that every day. I still go visit, but it’s reserved for the weekends now. I am trying to focus on work, to be a better employee. It seems to be paying off somewhat. Heath has returned to his former self and our rankings are climbing. At least something has returned back to normal.

  The first month, I didn’t leave my apartment. I wanted to hold on to anything I could that reminded me of Avery. The second month, I couldn’t stand to be home. It was all too much of a reminder and it was driving me into the ground. Besides coming home to take care of Ornery and to sleep, I’ve fallen into a routine of staying out all day. I’ve become a regular at a local bar called The Wild Orchid. I know my drinking is out of my control, but I don’t have the energy to care anymore. Drinking is the only thing that can make me feel numb. That can make me forget, even for a moment that my life has been so roughly turned upside down.

  Max, the bartender I know all too well now, slides a fresh glass of red wine toward me. My eyes glance between it and my current glass, which is still halfway full. “You’re ahead of the game tonight.”

  He chuckles, shaking his head. “This came from the end of the bar.”

  I peek my head out, attempting to get a better look at who bought me the drink.

  My stomach begins to twist itself into a frenzy.

  Bane is sitting at the end of the bar with what looks to be a posse of friends. He holds his drink up in the air, staring directly at me.

  I shift my eyes downward instantly. So much for avoiding him.

  It’s interesting that in the six years that I have been dating Avery, I’ve managed to not run into my ex until the last few months. I wonder how that is and if fate is playing a cruel joke on me.

  My eyes slip back to his face and I notice he isn’t there. Again the knots in my stomach tighten as I realize he is making his way toward me.

  “Hey,” he says as he approaches, pulling out the stool next to mine and plopping himself down on it.

  “Hey,” I respond.

  “You haven’t been returning my calls…” he exclaims softly, rubbing his hand over the new stubble that seems to be growing in on his chin.

  I look down at the two wine glasses in front of me and take a long gulp from my cabernet, finishing it in one swallow. “Yeah…and you still haven’t taken the hint…”

  His eyes light up as if he is surprised I would have even gone there and then they soften a bit. “Ouch.” He takes a swig of his beer. “I heard what happened…”

  I nod uncomfortably. “And?”

  His jaw drops open slightly as his tongue slips out of his mouth, fumbling with his lip ring. “And…I wanted to say I’m sorry for what you’re going through. I know that must be tough.”

  I stifle a laugh. “Since when have you cared about anyone but yourself?” My wine is giving me a slippery tongue and removing my inhibitions.

  His jaw tenses and his brows furrow slightly over his chocolate eyes. “That was a long time ago, Austyn.”

  His voice is very firm now, no longer holding a friendly edge to it.

  “It would take a miracle for someone like you to change…” I’ve never been a bitch before, but it feels exhilarating. Being able to say exactly what’s on my mind without worrying how I will be perceived? Priceless.

  “Why don’t you tell me how you really feel?” Bane tests me, glaring down into my eyes.

  “I just did. Look, thanks for the drink.” I make a big show of raising it into the air and then downing it within seconds. I begin slipping my winter jacket on when he stops me.

  “You’ve changed…”

 
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