Claudia reaches out to her Mum and touches her gently on the arm. “You and Dad have been here all day, so why don’t you go and get some rest while Jett stays. You know he’s not going to leave either way.”
Monica’s gaze flicks to Jett and she assesses the situation. I can’t even begin to imagine how a parent must feel in this kind of situation. Watching your child battle an illness must be one of the hardest things to go through. And I understand her wanting to stay with her daughter. But in the end, she nods and squeezes Claudia’s hand. “Okay, we’ll go, but only so you two can have some time together. We’ll be back first thing in the morning.”
Monica and Steve say their goodbyes and give everyone a hug, including me, and then leave. As the door closes behind them, I watch Jett and his sister for a moment before saying, “I’m going to go, too.”
“You don’t have to,” Claudia says. “I know Jett would love you to stay and I don’t mind either way.”
I give her a smile but shake my head as I move closer to her. “I think it’s important that you two have some privacy. I’m only a phone call away and I’ll come back in the morning, too.”
The way Jett looks at me as I say this causes butterflies in my stomach. It’s as if he’s gazing at me with a huge amount of love, and I know I must be imagining it, because it’s way too early in our relationship for that. But I also understand that when stuff like this happens that makes you question life, emotions are magnified, so that’s probably why he’s looking at me this way.
He stands and wraps me in a hug while pressing a kiss to my lips. “Thank you, sweetheart,” he murmurs.
When he lets me go, I grab his hand and hold it for a moment. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
I look at Claudia and smile. “See you tomorrow.”
We finish our goodbyes and when I leave, Jett’s sitting back on the bed next to his sister. The last thing I hear is him telling her about his night on stage.
It’s going to be a long night for him.
Hell, it’s going to be a long journey for all of us.
My phone sounds with a text, waking me. I shift in the chair and cringe when the pain shoots through my neck from the position I’ve been sleeping in. Opening my eyes, I see Claudia is still asleep and I move as silently as I can so as not to wake her. A minute later, I’m outside in the hall, having successfully navigated my way out without waking her up.
The text is from Van.
Me: It’s ovarian cancer and she has pneumonia on top of that.
He calls me. “I’m so sorry, man.” His voice reveals his own pain and I figure he’s thinking about his mother who died from breast cancer a few years ago.
I kick my boot on the floor. “Yeah, me too. Fucking cancer.”
Raking my hand through my hair, I mentally curse the universe. We’re supposed to be flying to Sydney at lunchtime for a gig tonight. “I won’t be there. You guys could do it without me.”
He is quiet for a few moments and then blows out a long breath. “We’ve got three weeks of promo ahead of us, and I can’t see you being able to make any of it. And I don’t expect you to. Hell, we should be the furthest thing from your mind at the moment, so I vote we cancel everything.”
I let his words settle in my gut. And I fight against them. I don’t want to let the band down, and on top of that, I’ve got a lot personally riding on our next album.
But fuck, Claudia comes before all of that.
I start pacing the corridor, the tension punching through my body as I struggle with this decision. The only fucking decision worth making in this situation. “Yeah, I’m still here and you’re right, we should cancel it all.” I pause before adding, “I’m fucking sorry, Van.”
His voice is rough when he replies. Harsh, almost, as if he’s angry, but I know he’s not angry at me. He’s angry at the world for everything he’s lost and everything I could lose. “Don’t ever fucking say that. We’ve always run things this way and as far as I’m concerned, we’ll always fucking run things this way. Family first.”
“Thanks.” I want to say more but my voice chokes up; I know if I say anything else, I’ll lose it, so I stop talking.
“I’ll sort it out; you just concentrate on your shit,” he says and ends the call.
Shoving my phone in my pocket, I open the door to Claudia’s room to see if she’s awake yet. She isn’t, so I close the door and start walking down the corridor towards the exit.
I need to get out of here for a bit.
I need to catch my breath because I feel like I’m drowning.
The sun welcomes me as I step outside the hospital. The day is alive with early morning humidity and the sounds of distant traffic and I stand still, close my eyes and let it all wash over me.
She better not die.
I squeeze my eyes and suck back the emotions as they rush at me.
My eyes snap open to find Presley standing in front of me, watching me with concern.
“Thank fuck,” I mutter and curl my arm around her neck so I can pull her in for a kiss. She doesn’t even blink at my morning breath but I make a mental note to buy some toothpaste on our way back up to the room.