She stared back at him, still without saying anything. He wanted to touch her, or Jack, or say something to reassure her. But he couldn’t do any of those things.
“Abby? Can I call someone? Should I call Fred?”
She stood up and swayed for a second. He jumped to his feet and reached out to steady her, but she pulled back.
“Okay. Can you . . . can you just have someone call me with details about the appointment on Thursday? I should take Jack home. I should call Fred. We need to . . .” Her voice trailed away as she picked Jack up and carried him out of the room.
Drew sat back down and put his head in his hands. There was probably no good way to have that conversation, but knowing that didn’t make him feel any better.
When he stood up to go back to his office, he noticed Abby had left her book on the table. He tucked it in Jack’s file, so it would be there for her on Thursday.
He stumbled through his next few appointments, the look on Abby’s face in the forefront of his mind the whole time.
Thank God he was finished with appointments early that day. Hopefully, he could leave the office without running into anyone. He didn’t want to see or talk to anyone. Well, there was one person he wanted to both see and talk to, but that was impossible. She was far away from this hospital right now.
Except . . . she wasn’t that far, was she?
He made it to his car without talking to anyone and drove straight to LAX.
Alexa was still depressed on Tuesday from the meeting on Sunday night. Even though she’d huddled with Theo and the mayor on Monday morning, she was convinced they had no chance of victory, at least not this time. The people in the hills had too much influence. They were rich and white; the teens she was trying to help were poor and brown. She knew who the city council was more likely to listen to.
She got home at seven that night and shed her dress, bra, and heels as soon as she walked in the front door, too tired and discouraged to bring them into her bedroom. She changed into yoga pants and a hoodie and stood in front of the open refrigerator, a glass of wine in her hand. She really should make herself a healthy dinner with all of those vegetables she’d bought at the farmers’ market on Saturday morning.
Instead, she reached for the block of cheese in the drawer and brought it, a knife, and a box of crackers to the coffee table. Just as she sat down, her phone rang. She groaned. It was probably Theo, calling to tell her about a negative story that was going to be in the paper the next day, or someone from Councilman Watson’s office giving her a heads-up that one of her few strong allies was going to defect. She took another swig of wine and reached for her phone anyway.
Drew. With her luck, he was calling to tell her not to come visit him this weekend. He’d probably realized during the weekend off from her how nice it was to hang out with other people, or he’d met some other girl after they’d hung up on Saturday night . . . or maybe even before he’d called.
Wait, was that why he’d called on Saturday night? To break up with her? But had he decided against it since she was with people?
She thought about letting him go to voice mail but decided to get this over with.
“Hey.” She tucked herself back into her corner of the couch, wishing she’d brought the whole wine bottle to the living room. “How are you?”
“Are you at home?” He sounded breathless. Had he just been running or something? Probably another reason why he was going to break up with her. He went running after work; she put on her yoga pants to sit on the couch with wine and cheese and crackers.
“Yeah, why?” What she wanted to say was, Why, do you need to know so you don’t break up with me when I’m in public? but she managed to not blurt that out.
“Great,” he said. Her doorbell rang two seconds later. Wait, what?
She put her wineglass down and walked to the door, phone still in her hand. She saw him through the peephole with a bag over his shoulder and a tense look on his face. Damn it, she didn’t even have a bra on.
She opened the door, and before she could say anything, he stepped inside and pulled her into his arms. He pushed the door closed with his elbow and leaned back against it, holding on tight, his head tucked into the curve of her neck.
She stroked his hair and kissed his ear, happier to see him than she could have thought possible. When he turned toward her, she felt dampness on his cheek.
“Drew, honey, what’s wrong? What happened?” She wanted to kick herself for calling him “honey,” but it had just slipped out.
He shook his head, so they stood there for a while without speaking, their arms around each other, her fingers moving back and forth through his hair and up and down his back, his rough breathing the only noise in the hallway.
Drew lifted his head and kissed her hard. He unzipped her hoodie and breathed in deeply when he found her topless underneath it.
“Do you always just walk around your house like this? I should show up with no warning more often.”
He leaned down and kissed that hollow between her breasts, and felt her fingernails scrape his scalp.
“I didn’t fly up here just to catch you shirtless in your house, but what a bonus,” he said.
She kissed the top of his head, his cheek, his lips. He sighed and she pulled back.
“Why did you come? What’s wrong? Tell me.”
Drew stood up straight.
“Let’s go sit down somewhere comfortable first.”
Alexa looked into his eyes for a long time. When he felt the tears start to well up again, he turned away. He was already embarrassed enough that he’d cried in front of her; he couldn’t do it again. She took his hand. They walked into the living room and she pointed at the couch.
“Sit. I’ll get you wine. Have you eaten? Are you hungry?”
He sat, suddenly exhausted.
“No. I haven’t eaten since . . . lunch? I should be hungry, but I’m not really.”
She tossed him her phone.
“Pizza place is in my favorites. Call and order whatever while I get the wine. You know what I like.”
She came back with a full glass of wine in one hand and the bottle in the other just as he got off the phone. She sank down on the couch next to him and handed him the glass. He put an arm around her and felt that feeling of homecoming as she tucked her feet up on the couch and laid her head against his shoulder. This was why he’d come.
He took a sip of wine and set the glass on the coffee table next to hers.
“I think . . . I’m pretty sure, actually, that Jack has leukemia.”
She gasped and tried to sit up, but he tightened his grip around her shoulders, keeping her close to him.
“Oh, Drew, how terrible. When did you find out? Have you told them yet?”
He kissed her hair and released her enough so she could reach her wineglass. She took a sip and grasped his hand.
“This afternoon. Yeah, I told Abby right after I found out. I think I did a terrible job of it. She looked so . . . broken.”
Alexa pushed his head down onto her shoulder. He went willingly. Her fingers combed back and forth through his hair. He felt better than he had all day. Better than he’d felt in over a week.
“Sweetheart, I don’t think there’s a good way of telling someone that their child has leukemia. I’m sure you did as good of a job as you could.”
He shook his head but didn’t bother to protest any more than that. He just wanted her to keep holding on to him like that, touching him like that. He spilled out the whole story, still resting his head on her shoulder.
“It was so awful. I’ve had patients with cancer before, but those times, I always knew in advance. It wasn’t a kid I knew. Why am I not better at this? Why can’t I feel distant and academic about it, like other doctors I know?”
She didn’t answer him but raised his head and kissed his cheek, then his mouth. They kissed like they were just getting to know each other, like they’d known each other forever. They spent the next thirty minutes like that, taking periodic breaks for sips of the red wine that went straight to his head, then coming back together, whispering soft words in between kisses. They only separated when her doorbell rang.
“Pizza,” she said, her hand still on his cheek.
He stood up, surprised to find himself unsteady on his feet. Maybe he really did need to eat. He stumbled to the front door and found his wallet in the gym bag that he’d grabbed out of his trunk in the airport parking lot. He handed the delivery guy a handful of bills and brought the pizza into the living room, just as Alexa was coming back from the kitchen with plates.