Mum’s voice is distant through the phone because I’ve blocked everything out. I drop my phone and punch the wall with my other hand.
This can’t be happening to Claudia again.
“Jett!” Presley’s voice filters through but I pay no attention. Her hand lands on my back and she calls my name again, “Jett.”
I turn to face her and find her concerned face staring at me. Waiting for me to tell her what’s going on.
Waiting for me to say that one fucking word I despise.
My voice is strangled when I finally speak. “Claudia has cancer again.”
I stand and stare back at her, the hopelessness bleeding from me.
Her hand flies to her mouth and she sucks in a breath. “Oh my God,” she exclaims.
I want to scream, “Where the fuck is your God?” but I don’t. The injustice of this smacks me in the face again and roots me to the spot, unable to form the words, so I simply stare back at her, my arms hanging limply by my side and my body ready to crumble.
Please don’t let it be true.
But I know it is.
“Jett!” West’s voice flows through the air and I wonder where he is. He sounds so close.
“Jett,” Presley says and gently shakes me.
And then I hear West again. His voice mingles with Presley’s, and I struggle to discern who is saying what. Their voices echo around me, bouncing off the walls, and I give up trying to understand what they’re saying. They’re obviously not talking to me because their words don’t make any sense.
“Jett!” Van’s hands grip my biceps and his booming voice snaps me to attention.
I blink and turn my attention to him. “What?”
“What the fuck has happened?” He shakes me, and his alarmed voice pierces my senses as I process his words.
I try to speak but my voice catches in my throat.
He shakes me again, more insistent this time. His wild eyes stare at me while he demands, “Tell me!”
Time and space stand still and the ringing in my ears stops. I open my mouth and finally tell him, “Claudia is in hospital. With cancer.”
Van’s body sags and his face twists with anguish. “Fuck.”
Because really, there’s nothing else to say.
Jett leads me through the corridors of the hospital as he stalks to his sister’s room. He took hold of my hand as we exited the car outside the hospital and hasn’t let go since. The grip he’s holding me with screams his need for me at the moment. I wasn’t sure if he’d want me with him here, not having really met his family yet, but he insisted I come with him.
“Fuck, can they put the fucking cancer ward any further from the entrance?” he grumbles, and I can’t blame him. My legs are weary from the rapid pace we’re walking and the distance we’ve covered.
We round a corner and I see the sign that tells us we’ve reached our destination. Jett’s pace falters for a split second, but then he pushes the door open and continues his search for Claudia. His gaze is glued to the room numbers above each door and he doesn’t slow again until he finds the number he’s after.
He stops outside the closed door and stares at it. His grip tightens around my hand, and my chest squeezes, knowing how much he’s struggling with this. Finally, he opens the door and steps inside, dragging me with him.
Claudia is in the bed and turns to look at us. Her hair sticks to her face where she is clammy, her face is pale and she is coughing, but she gives us a small smile. She raises her arm and motions for Jett to come to her at which point he lets my hand go. A moment later, he’s sitting on the side of the bed with his arms wrapped around her and her head buried in his chest. I watch as her back starts to shake and when her sobs and coughs fill the room, my eyes well up.
Blinking, I take my attention off them from fear I will start sobbing as well. Looking around the room, I take in the vase of flowers on the shelf near the bed. Tulips. I wonder if they’re Claudia’s favourite. My gaze drifts to the armchair in the corner near the bed, under the shelf the flowers are sitting on. It’s stacked high with novels. I guess she loves to read.
“Presley.” Claudia’s voice drifts across the room and I turn to her.
Smiling, I take a step towards her outstretched arm. “Hi,” I almost whisper.
Jett shifts his gaze from her to me, and I gulp back the ache I feel when I see the pain in his eyes.
Claudia reaches for my hand and I give it to her. She clutches it and says, “Thank you for coming.” Her voice is raspy and full of gratitude, and it almost kills me that she is thanking me for coming when she is clearly so sick.
Jett’s arm slides around my waist and he moves his leg so he can pull me close to him. The love in this room surrounds me; these two clearly adore each other and keenly feel each other’s pain.
The door to the room pushes open and we all turn to it. An older man and woman enter and I know instantly they are Jett’s parents. The resemblance is striking. Jett’s father looks almost identical to Jett with the same dark hair, tanned skin and facial features. His mother, however, has the same piercing blue eyes as him. And they are reflecting the same pain I see in Jett’s.
Jett stands but keeps me close, his arm still around my waist. “Presley, my parents – Monica and Steve,” he introduces us, and they both give me a smile. My heart beats in my chest, especially when I realise that even though this family is hurting from their daughter’s diagnosis, it’s abundantly clear they are welcoming their son’s girlfriend with open arms.