Chapter 14

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There’s a lot of commotion around the table as Elliot pulls out his phone and hurries out of the dining room. Gia gets out of her seat to follow after Elliot, while I open my arms for Mia, who seems nearly on the point of hyperventilating as she stares at the pale blank face of her father. I can hear Grace get up from the table next to me, but I can’t bring myself to look at her to see what she’s doing, my eyes are focused solely on Christian, who now looks ashen-faced.

“Lay him down on the floor,” Grace tells Christian as she kneels next to them, and I’m impressed by the clear authority in her voice. I know she’s a doctor, and I know she’s trained for this exact situation, but if I were in her shoes and it was Christian on the floor, I’d break down and be completely useless.

Once Carrick is on his back on the ground, Grace places a finger on the pulse point on his neck and then tilts his chin backwards before leaning over to check if he’s breathing. We’re all silent, afraid to make a sound that could distract her, and after a few seconds with her ear just a few inches above Carrick’s face, she opens his mouth and exhales a long breath of air into his lungs.

“Oh my god,” Mia cries as she begins to break down. “Daddy…”

“Take her in the other room,” Christian tells me. I nod and then wrap my arm tighter around Mia, having to pull her alongside of me as she doesn’t really seem to be able to move. We head into the living room where I see Elliot pacing back in forth in the entrance hall on the phone, trying to calmly explain the situation.

“Your mom is doing CPR,” I tell him as I guide Mia to the couch. He freezes, giving me a look filled with fear and uncertainty for just a split second before he relays what I’ve told him into the phone. We wait a few more minutes, Elliot checking through the windows by the front door every three seconds, until finally he tells the operator on the phone he can see the ambulance and he hangs up.

“Elliot,” Gia says, trying to wrap her arms around him, but he pushes her off.

“Not now,” He says urgently. He opens the door for the medical team, who rush into the house. Mia starts shaking next to me as we watch Elliot turn around and guide the line of paramedics through the living room and into the dining room, so I pull her into me and gently rock her back and forth, unsure of what else to do to comfort her.

“It’s okay,” I whisper, “It’s going to be okay.”

Gia watches us uncomfortably while Mia cries into my shoulder, but I forget about her once the paramedics reappear with Carrick on a gurney and make their way back out through the front door with Grace trailing close behind them. Christian comes up to me, still looking as though he’s in shock, and I immediately shift Mia away from me and into his arms.

“What’s happening?” She sobs.

“I don’t know, Meems,” Christian says, his voice weak. “I don’t know.”

“Mom is going to the hospital in the ambulance,” Elliot says as he moves over to us. “We should meet her there.”

“Yeah,” Christian agrees, and then turns back to me. “I’ll call Taylor and have him come for you and your parents. I’ll call you once I know what’s going on.”

“No,” I shake my head. “No, I’m going with you.”

“Ana, I don’t know if you should be in a hospital…”

“I don’t care,” I argue. “I’m going with you. I’m not leaving you at the hospital by yourself.”

His Adam’s apple jumps as he considers the strength of my resolve, but when it’s clear I’m prepared to fight him on this, he nods, and then turns to my parents, who look very unsure of what they should be doing as they come out of the dining room.

“Bob, Carla, I’m sorry dinner was cut short…” Christian begins, but my mom quickly shakes her head.

“No, don’t worry about us,” She says.

“I’ll have Taylor come collect you. Will you be okay waiting here?”

“Of course. And please, let us know if there’s anything we can do.”

“Thank you,” Christian says.

“Alright, alright, let’s go,” Elliot says, pushing us towards the front door, and as Christian nudges Mia to follow after him, Gia comes for Elliot again.

“Elliot, maybe I shouldn’t come. Maybe you should just have family there…” She says.

“Yeah,” He agrees. “Here, take my keys. I’ll get a ride home from Christian. You can stay at my house if you want to or you can go home. I’ll get my car later.”

“Oh,” She says, looking down at the car keys Elliot pushes into her hand and I hear the disappointment that is immediately apparent on her voice. Clearly, she was hoping Elliot would ask her to come and now that he hasn’t, she doesn’t have any other choice but to leave. He leans over and kisses her on the forehead before taking Mia’s hand and leading her outside.

“We should take my parents’ car,” Christian says. “My mom will need a ride home and I can’t fit all five of us in the Maybach.”

“Okay,” I nod and then follow him to the utility room where he finds the spare key to his parents’ SUV and then out to the garage.

The drive to Bellevue Medical Center is tense, and it’s only made worse when we pull into the parking lot and call Grace to find out where we should go, and she tells us Carrick is being lifeflighted to Northwest Hospital. They won’t let her in the helicopter so Christian heads inside to collect her and once we’re back on the road again, towards Seattle this time, the intensity in the car is magnified by the profound silence. Everything around us, the traffic, the lake, the road signs that we’ve all read a hundred times, seem to take on a surreal, dream like quality as Christian races down the freeway into North Seattle.

I see the exit we took yesterday that goes to our new house, the house across the lake from Grace and Carrick. Christian had suggested we buy a sailboat to sail back and forth on nice days, and I remember that it was Carrick who first taught Christian to sail. I have dim memories of my first Thanksgiving here, being out on Carrick’s boat with Christian and Elliot, and watching them tying knots and pulling ropes, sailing deep into Lake Washington as if it were second nature to them. Christian loves being on the water, something clearly instilled in him by his father, and as I catch glipses of the water through the trees and buildings around us, fear spikes within me that this is all about to represent loss for him.

Once we find parking at Northwest, we all practically sprint inside. We’re directed to the ICU but all they can tell us is that Carrick is still being examined, so they direct us to the waiting room where a dozen other families, with equally worried looks on their faces, sit all around us, and they leave us there with nothing. I take a seat next to Christian, but he’s only able to stay still for a few minutes before he begins pacing back and forth. Mia is curled up into Grace’s side, crying again, and for the first time I see tears begin welling behind Grace’s eyes as well. Elliot simply stares at the wall, his face completely blank and unreadable. No one says anything. We just… wait.

Hours pass, and besides a few nurses who come to tells us what tests are being run and that they don’t have any information for us yet, we hear nothing. We have no answers, and as the time slowly ticks past, I can feel the increasing sense of impatience, anger, and fear radiating off the man I love.

At around seven, my mother calls for an update so I excuse myself and head out for the main lobby to take her call. It becomes more and more obvious that we’re going to be spending the night here tonight as each hour passes, so my mother promises to put together a bag for each of us, which Taylor will bring by later.

“Thank you, Mom,” I tell her.

“Of course,” She says. “And… I didn’t really get a chance to talk to you earlier. How’s Ray?”

“He’s… Um, I don’t know.”

“What do you mean, Sweetie? What’s wrong?”

“Today was the first day I ever told him about Christian,” I explain. “I had to tell him about Christian and the baby all at once and… I think I might’ve broken him. You should have heard his voice, I can’t get it out of my head. He sounded so sad.”

“Why haven’t you told him about Christian?” She asks. “You tell Ray everything.”

“You know why,” I whisper back.

“Well, baby, I don’t know what to tell you. It sounds to me like you dumped a lot on him today and he’s gonna need some time to catch up. He loves you though. You’re the most important thing in the world to him. He’ll come around.”

“I hope so,” I reply, trying to keep the tears out of my voice. “What about you? I know I’m still young and you’ve always worried about me having a baby before I was ready like you did.”

“Anastasia… Being a mother is the greatest thing that ever happened to me. It’s not easy, lord knows it’s not easy, but I think that you will be able to handle it just fine. You’re more prepared than I ever was and, if I can say one thing about Christian, it’s that he loves you and he’ll be there to support you. More than the money and the things he’s able to provide for you, that’s what’s going to make the difference.”

“So you’re not upset?” I ask.

“I wish you would have waited a while,” She admits. “I wish you would have graduated first, travelled a bit, gotten married… But if this is what you want and this is what’s going to make you happy, then I’m excited for you.”

“Thanks, Mom. I’ve gotta go, I don’t wanna miss anything…”

“Okay, call me when you know what’s going on.”

“I will. I love you. Bye.” I hang up the phone and let out a long breath. It’s been an exhausting day, and for the first time in weeks, I know that has nothing to do with my pregnancy.

Taking yet another of the nausea lozenges out of the package in my pocket, I begin to make my way back towards the waiting room, but am stopped when I hear a familiar panicked voice behind me.

“Grey? Carrick Grey?”

“I’m sorry, are you family?” The receptionist responds.

“No, I’m… uh, I’m a friend…”

“I’m sorry, but I can only give out patient information to immediate family. Perhaps you could call…”

“No,” The familiar voice interrupts her. “I’ve already… Just tell me where he is. I don’t need to know about his condition, I just need to know where to go.”

I turn around and see Kate standing there, her finger pressed urgently into the countertop of the receptionist’s desks, and when I can see that she’s about to be denied again, I quickly make my way over to her.

“Kate?”

“Ana,” She says with relief. “What’s going on?”

“We don’t know,” I tell her. “How did you…”

“Mia texted me,” She says. “Where is everyone?”

“In the ICU waiting room. Come on.” I reach for her hand to take her with me and when we make it back in the waiting room, both Grace and Mia look up and immediately rush to her with their arms open.

“Grace,” Kate says as she wraps her arms around her. “How is he?”

“We don’t know yet,” Grace says. “We don’t know anything.”

“I’m so sorry,” Kate whispers into her hair. “I can’t imagine… but it’s gonna be okay. He’s going to be fine. He’s so strong.”

“I know,” Grace nods, and the second she releases Kate, Mia takes her place.

“Hey, Meems,” Kate says, brushing her fingers through her hair soothingly as she holds her as tightly as she can.

“You came,” Mia says, almost as if she doesn’t believe it.

“Of course I came. I wouldn’t let you go through this alone. You know… you were supposed to call me this week. I thought we were going to have lunch?”

“I’m sorry,” Mia says, the tears starting to flow down her cheeks again.

“Sorry for ditching me?” Kate teases her, pulling her away and giving her a very transparently fake stern look. For the first time in hours, Mia laughs, and then steps aside as Christian walks up to us.

“Are you okay?” She asks him. He nods, and then lets out a long sigh before hugging her.

“Thank you for coming,” He says, and when he releases her, all she does is nod, but it’s all that’s needed. That’s the way Christian and Kate are together. She steps to the side, looking past Christian to Elliot, who is standing in front of his chair, seemingly frozen, staring at us all uncertainly.

“Excuse me,” Kate whispers. She places her hand on Christian’s arm to push him aside, and then very quickly crosses the space between her and Elliot. Without a word, she simply wraps her arms around him, and though it takes him a second to overcome his momentary shock, he too encloses her in a tight hug and then buries his face in her hair. They stand there for what feels like a very long time, silent, holding each other, and the intimacy in that moment is almost heartbreaking.

“Katie,” He whispers as she pulls away, and Kate places her hands on each of his shoulders and stares very purposefully into his eyes.

“He’s going to be okay,” She tells him. They stay like that, embraced together, for a long moment. He stares deeply into her eyes, looking as though there’s something he’s trying to tell her, but, in the end, he doesn’t say anything. He simply nods and hugs her again.

The waiting game continues until the very late hours of the night. Eventually, I fall asleep with my head in Christian’s lap, but I’m the only one who seems to be able to find sleep, and I think that’s only because I have a human growing inside me, sucking away my energy with every passing second. I’m abruptly awakened at around 3 AM though when Christian very gently eases me off of him so that he can stand. I turn, blinking through the bright light of the waiting room, towards the doors that lead into the intensive care unit, and see a doctor standing there in light blue scrubs.

“How is he?” Grace asks, but the doctor leads her back over to the chairs to sit her down before answering. Immediately, I feel my stomach drop.

“We’re still waiting on some lab results,” She explains. “But a PET scan has shown what look to be mets on his brain, which would account for the confusion and loss of consciousness.”

“Mets?” Elliot repeat.

“It’s cancer,” Grace breathes, looking down into her lap. Her mouth is open, like she’s having trouble breathing, and Christian immediately wraps an arm around her.

“Is it?” Christian asks her. “Is it cancer?”

“Like I said, we’re still waiting on some lab results,” the doctor says evasively. “But there were a few moles on his back that I removed and am currently having biopsied.”

“Moles,” Grace repeats, as though she were expecting this answer. “I’ve been telling him to go to the dermatologist for months but he said I was overreacting. He told me doctors see cancer everywhere.”

“Is he awake?” Christian asks, but the doctor shakes her head.

“He was intubated when he came in to help him breathe, and he woke up once, but his reaction to the tubes in his throat was volatile, so he’s been sedated.”

“He still can’t breathe?” Mia asks.

“At the moment, no.”

“Oh my god,” Grace says, moving her hand up to her mouth to hide her trembling lips.

“I’m so sorry,” The doctor says soothingly. “I know this is a lot to take in, but I’m going to need to ask you some questions, see if we can get some more information, and have you sign some forms.”

“Of course,” Grace nods. “Of course. I’ll sign whatever you need me to.” She gets out of her seat to follow the doctor, and the moment they’re out of the waiting room, Mia buries her face in Kate’s sweater again and begins sobbing. Elliot sniffs hard, and when I look up at him, I see that even his eyes are red, and his mouth is tight, like he’s trying to hold back tears.

“Come on,” Christian says, clapping his brother on the shoulder. “Let’s take a walk.”

Elliot allows himself to be led away by Christian and once they’re gone too, it’s just me and Kate, holding a nearly hysterical Mia.

“It’s okay. It’s okay,” Kate repeats over and over again, as she rubs her hand over her back. I lean over and kiss the top of her head, looking over at Christian and Elliot through the waiting room doors. Christian has him by the shoulders and Elliot just continually nods his head up and down, looking as though he’s trying his best to hold it together. It seems like Christian is giving him some kind of pep talk.

“Did you know that Ana’s pregnant, Kate?” Mia asks, looking up at her with tears swimming in her eyes. “She told us at dinner.”

“Yeah, I’ve known for a few weeks,” Kate replies, smiling down at her. “It’s pretty cool, huh? You’re going to be an aunt.”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure they’re going to name the baby after me,” Mia says, trying to smile through her tears.

“Oh, is that so?” I ask, nudging her playfully and, as she wobbles slightly, her smile finally breaks through.

“I’ll talk to Christian about it. I have pretty good amount of pull when it comes to my brother.”

“No denying that,” I laugh.

We look up as Christian, Elliot, and Grace return, and Grace takes Mia from Kate and sets her down in the chairs again.

“You should probably go home and get some sleep,” Grace tells her.

“You too,” Christian says, dragging the backs of his fingers softly up my arm. “It’s late and I don’t think you should be spending a lot of time here.”

“No, I want to stay with you,” I argue, but he shakes his head.

“I know, and I appreciate it. I just don’t think you should be hanging around the ICU. There’s a lot of sick people around us and I don’t want to put the baby at risk. I want you to get a good night’s sleep, and to eat a real meal. Besides, your parents are at our house and they’re going be to be leaving tomorrow. You should spend some time with them.”

“I don’t know…”

“I’m not asking, Ana,” He says firmly. “I’m going to call Taylor and have him come pick you up.”

“I can take her home,” Kate offers. “Mia too.”

“If I have to leave, I want to stay at Christian’s,” Mia says. “He lives closer and I want to be here when the doctor can tell us exactly what dad has.”

“Okay,” Christian nods, and then turns to hug me.

“Call me if you need me to come back down here,” I tell him. “Really, I’m just a phone call away.”

“I’ll call you in the morning,” He promises. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

I lean up to kiss him, and, after letting my lips linger against his for a moment, I turn away, place an arm over Mia’s shoulder and then follow Kate out to her car.

The roads are surprisingly busy on the way back to Escala, and I realize too late that it’s because it’s past four in the morning now, and Black Friday shoppers are on the move. As we wait at the stop light next to the Westlake Shopping Center, and I see the dozens of excited shoppers coming through the main doors loaded down with their shopping bags, looking as though they don’t have a care in the world except for what they may have just done to their bank accounts. Yesterday when I woke up, I thought the worst thing that could happen would be that I would miss my dad’s phone call, but I’ve never been so wrong about anything in my life. In hindsight, knowing how that call really went, missing his call might have been the highlight of yesterday.

When we get back to Escala, my parents are asleep, so Mia takes the 2nd spare bedroom while Kate comes and crawls into bed with me. My body is aching for sleep but part of me wants to go up to my office and start writing a letter to my Dad. Unfortunately, in this moment, I don’t even know what I would say. I don’t know how to undo what I’ve done.

“I need a vacation,” I whine as I fall into the pillows and fight off the sleep desperate to overtake me.

“You are on vacation,” Kate says ironically.

“Well then a vacation from my vacation,” I tell her. “I need a deserted white sand beach, a mostly naked Christian Grey, and a pina colada.”

“You’re pregnant, you can’t have a pina colada,” Kate says.

“Well, then the mostly naked Christian Grey. Except if I don’t get the beach, he might as well be fully naked.”

“Speaking of which, Gail has washed these sheets since the last time you guys had sex, right? I’m not lying in the DNA of your abandoned children right now, am I?”

I laugh. “No promises.”

“Great.” She rolls her eyes. I move closer to her and rest my forehead against hers, feeling a wistful sense of loss as I realize the comforting sense of having our family feel complete once she showed up tonight isn’t real. It’s an echo of the past, a past that won’t come to be again because Elliot has chosen a new path.

“Kate,” I begin quietly.

“Hm?” She hums back.

“Elliot has new a girlfriend.”

She pulls away from me, staring at me with confusion for a moment like she doesn’t understand what I’ve just told her, but when she sees that I’m not joking, here eyes widen and she sits bolt upright.

“What?” She asks, and when I nod, she begins shaking her head. “No, he doesn’t have a girlfriend. He might be fucking someone else, but he’s not in a relationship. It’s too soon. He wouldn’t move on that soon.”

“No, Kate,” I say gently. “She’s his girlfriend. He brought her to Thanksgiving dinner.”

“You’re kidding me,” She says, trying to cover the hurt in her voice with disgust. “Wha– I mean, who the fuck is she?”

“Her name is Gia,” I tell her. “She’s an interior designer at his company. I don’t think they’ve been dating long, but they are dating.”

Her eyes fall down to the comforter and, after giving her a minute to go through whatever she needs to go through with this news, I see her bottom lip begin to quiver.

“He brought her to Thanksgiving dinner?” She asks, and when I nod, she has to turn her face away from me.

“Kate?”

“Our anniversary was in September. We started dating at the end of September and he didn’t introduce me to his parents until December. It took months… Jesus, how is he already in a new relationship? We’ve been broken up for what? Two months? That’s all I get? Two months? Christian gave you two years, I get two months? Didn’t those three years mean anything to him?”

“Of course they did, Kate,”

“Why does he even want a relationship?” She asks, her anger peaking now. “If marriage is out of the question for him, what’s even the point? So that three years from now he can break up with this one too, make her feel like this?”

“I don’t know…”

Suddenly, her eyes widen with new realization. “Oh my god, what if he isn’t against marriage? What if he was just trying to spare my feelings and it’s not that he doesn’t want to get married, it’s that he didn’t want to marry me?”

“That’s not it,” I say quickly. “He loves you, Kate. He doesn’t think he can have you because you wouldn’t talk to him, remember? It’s not you.”

“Really? Because I can’t even imagine being with someone else like that right now but that doesn’t seem to be a problem for him,” She says. “And to think, I went down there tonight like an idiot…”

“Everyone was glad you came tonight,” I assure her. “We all love you, we all miss you. I can’t tell you how weird it felt not having you with us at dinner tonight.” She shakes her head as a single tear falls down her cheek, so I reach over and hold onto her. “I don’t know if I’m supposed to tell you this, but when we got back from Cambridge, Elliot was waiting in the car. He was there, waiting for us to get back, for you to get back. He wasn’t there for me, Kate. I could see it in the way he watched you drive away… I saw it in the way he held you tonight. What you had together means something to him. He’s still in love with you.”

“He has a girlfriend,” She says. “He’s made promises to another girl.”

I push my lips together, unsure of what to say to that, and then watch as she starts crying again. I had thought, maybe, that Kate had started to move on. She’s been going out less, she’s been more her old self, and even though she still goes to New York every weekend to be with Ainsley and Eliza, I thought that was mostly because she didn’t want to be alone. Seeing her now, I know I’ve been lying to myself, seeing only what I wanted to see. She’s still as devastated now as she was two months ago.

“I’m sorry, Katie,” I whisper, pulling her back into me and holding onto her as she cries. It’s like deja vu of that night I came home last September and held her on the kitchen floor, only tonight, she doesn’t push me away. She lays next to me and lets me hold her together while, on the inside, she falls apart. And when she finally drifts off into an uneasy sleep, I think to myself that I want nothing more than to just hit the restart button on today, do everything over again, or maybe just never get out of bed.

 

My parents have to go back to Georgia the next morning, so after breakfast, I take them to the airport, promise to keep them updated, and then have Luke take me back to Northwest as quickly as possible. I spend another day by Christian’s side at the hospital, but it’s late in the evening before we get any answers about Carrick, and when the doctor comes to tell us, she pulls us aside into a private room. Christian pulls out a seat for me, but he can’t sit down himself. He stands behind me, his hand clasped firmly in mine, resting on my shoulder, as we stare expectantly at the doctor.

“I’m a doctor too,” Grace says as she takes her seat. “I don’t need you to coddle me, I don’t need you to dumb anything down. Just tell me.”

She takes a deep breath. “Your husband has metastatic melanoma,” She says. “It’s stage four. We’ve removed the cancer from the skin, but it’s spread to his lymph system and scans show mets on his liver and his brain.”

“Is he going to die?” Elliot asks.

“Untreated, he has about six months,” She says.

“And with treatment?” Christian asks.

“This particular type of cancer is fairly aggressive, and requires treatment equally as aggressive. If your father elects to undergo treatment, he’ll need chemotherapy, brain surgery, and a liver transplant.”

“He’ll do those things,” Mia says. “We’ll make him. He’ll do whatever he has to do.”

“What’s his prognosis if he undergoes treatment?” Christian asks, and the doctor takes a deep breath before she answers.

“A year, maybe two.”

“Oh my god,” Grace says, gasping as she reaches up to cover her mouth with her fingers. I shift my chair towards her and pull her into me, squeezing her tightly as she tries to hold back the torrent of sobs desperately trying to break through her lips.

“So, say he elects treatment,” Christian says. “What’s the next step from here?”

“Surgery,” She says. “As quickly as possible. And, we’ll need to get him on the transplant list. Liver transplants can be difficult, but children have historically been found to be ideal matches, so if any of you are willing, I suggest you get tested to find out if you could donate a piece of your liver to your father.”

“We’re not his real kids,” Elliot says. “I mean, we’re adopted. We’re not genetically related.”

“We’ll still get tested,” Christian says.

“Well then, if one of you is a match, after surgery, he can start IL-2 treatments.”

“Chemo?” Elliot checks.

“Yes.”

“Then let’s get tested,” Elliot says. “What are we waiting for?”

“Is my father awake?” Christian asks. “Does he know?”

“Yes,” The doctor says. “I spoke with him just before I came to speak with you.”

“How is he?”

“He’s calm. He understands what we’ve told him. He hasn’t given us an answer as to how he wants to proceed.”

“Can we see him?”

“I think it’s better to give him a little time,” The doctor says. “We’ve only just been able to remove the ventilator and he’s still dealing with some confusion. This is a lot on top of all that.”

“Well, we’re getting tested,” Elliot says. “We’re getting tested right now.”

“Of course,” The doctor nods, getting out of her seat. “Come with me.”

She leads us up to several patient rooms on a sterile floor where we’re supposed to wait for phlebotomist to come in and take blood samples. The actual testing process is long and exhausting. Over the next few hours, Christian, Elliot, and Mia have to give tissue, urine, and blood samples, undergo an antibody screen, have PET scans themselves, and have a psychological evaluation.

We’re not going to have the results of the tests for a few days, so once everyone is finished they direct us back downstairs where, once again, we wait.

“Grey?” A nurse we haven’t seen yet calls a few hours later, and we all look over at her and slowly make our way over to her.

“He’s asking for his family,” She says. “Are you ready to go back?”

“My girlfriend is pregnant,” Christian says. “Is it safe for her to go into the ICU?”

“It’s one of the cleanest floors in the hospital,” The nurse assures him. “Follow me.”

When we step through the doors, we have to sanitize our hands and then we’re led back into the ICU to a private room filled with muted light and the almost constant sound of beeping coming from several different monitors. Even though the nurse just told us he’s been asking to see us, Carrick looks like he’s asleep now, though the serenity he may have found in sleep is not enough to prevent Mia from darting forward and practically throwing herself on him.

“Daddy!” She cries. He grunts, probably having the wind slightly knocked out of him and opens his eyes.

“Hey, Princess,” He replies hoarsely.

“Watch his IV, honey,” Grace says as she takes the seat next to the bed. “How are you?”

“Believe it or not, I’ve had better days,” He says, groaning slightly as he sits up to get a better hold on Mia. “How long have you all been here?”

“Since yesterday,” Elliot says.

“I’m so sorry,” Carrick says. “This has been the worst Thanksgiving. Christian and Ana were trying to share this wonderful news with us, and I’ve ruined their big announcement.”

“Nothing is ruined, Dad,” Christian says.

We pull as many chairs to the bed as possible, which only ends up being enough as Mia refuses to get out of the bed next to Carrick and Christian pulls me into his lap. For a while, we keep up fairly light conversation, Grace even gets a brief moment of reprieve the the heavy of the day to gush about becoming a grandmother, and after I’ve told them absolutely everything about my pregnancy, it seems as though Elliot can’t hold back anymore and he asks the question I know has been on his mind since we talked to the doctor.

“They said that you haven’t made your decision about your course of treatment,” He says quietly, and when Carrick frowns, he begins talking again too quickly for his father to respond. “You have to get treatment, you have to fight this, Dad.”

“Did they tell you the prognosis?” He asks. “Did they tell you treatment may only buy me six more months? Is that extra time going to be worth it if I’m going to be sick and weak from Chemo?”

“What if it isn’t six months?” Elliot asks him. “What if it’s another year, or two, or five?”

“Treatment means more birthdays,” Grace says softly. “More Christmases, more family vacations.”

“Or it could mean that the family spends Christmas in a hospital rather than at home, around our tree,” Carrick says.

“I’m going to college soon,” Mia interjects. “You went with Christian and Elliot to their first days, I want you there for mine. I need my Daddy, I’m not ready to face the world without you.”

“Mia, treatment might not even get me to your high school graduation. Wouldn’t you rather spend the next few months with me, doing the things we love together, than spend another year where I’m too sick to do anything with you. What if chemo makes me so sick I can’t even sit through one of your ballet recitals?”

“Then I’ll do it in your room,” She replies as tears well in her eyes.

“Ana is graduating in May,” Grace says. “She needs you there, Carrick. You’re the only one who can understand how big that really is, how hard it really was for her. You’re a Harvard man, you have to be there for her.”

“I don’t think I’ll be doing much flying if I’m going through cancer treatments. Not going through treatment is the best way to get me there, Grace,” He says.

“Not if it only gives you six months.” Elliot says. “Dad, we’re all just starting out. We have so much to accomplish still. Everything Christian has done, everything I’m doing, everything Mia is going to do, that’s all because of you and what you’ve given us. We want you to see it. Please.”

“Elliot, I don’t think you’re being realistic here. We’re talking about a year with  treatment.”

“Or two,” Grace says. “It could be more than that, it happens all the time. The doctor can’t know how well you’ll respond to treatment until you start treatment.”

“Which means it could not work at all,” Carrick argues. “I don’t know…”

“What if treatment means you get to see the birth of your first grandchild?” Christian asks. “What if means you get to hear their first word, or see them take their first steps? You’re right, it might not work, but what if it does?”

“Miracles happen, Daddy,” Mia whispers. “You could get better. You could be cured. But if you don’t try…”

“We all got tested,” Elliot tells him. “One of us could be a match to get you the liver transplant you need, and then it’s just a few surgeries and chemo. You can handle that, you can handle anything. We’re all going to fight with you, Dad, and that’s all we’re asking. Fight.”

“How’s it going in here?” The doctor asks, knocking softly against the door as she enters the room, and as we all turn to look at her, nearly everyone of us has to wipe a tear away.

“Fine,” Carrick tells her.

“Great,” She says. “Are you in any pain at all?”

“No.”

“Okay, I’ll come check on you again in awhile,” She says, but as she smiles around at all of us and turns to leave the room, Carrick calls out to stop her.

“Dr. Boydson? How soon do we need to start treatment?” He asks.

She takes a deep breath. “As soon as possible.”

“Then we should get started.”

“Okay,” She agrees. “I will put in a referral to Dr. Behringer, our chief neurosurgeon. We’ll start there.”

“Thank you, doctor,” Carrick says, and she nods and turns to leave the room.

“Daddy!” Mia cries, the overwhelming relief apparent in her voice as she hugs Carrick as tightly as she can.

“Easy, sweetheart,” He groans, and she gives him a sheepish smile as she pulls back a little.

“Thank you,” She says.

“Of course. It’s for you. I’d do anything for you, Mia. And for you, and for you, and for you…” He looks around the room at each of us before settling on me. “And for this grandchild, who I really can’t wait to hold in my arms.”

“I’m just glad he or she will get the chance to know you,” I tell him.

“Me too,” He says.

“Well would you look at that,” Elliot says, managing to break a smile. “I never thought I’d say this, but it turns out Christian having irresponsible, unprotected sex has really helped this family out. Thanks for not wearing a condom, bro.”

“Anytime,” Christian says seriously, and while he, Elliot, and I laugh, both Carrick and Grace shake their heads.

Carrick insists that we all go home that night to sleep and after much argument, it’s decided that Grace, Elliot, and Mia will take the SUV back to Bellevue while Taylor comes to pick up Christian and I to take us back to Escala. He’s quiet on the drive home, and it has me worried.

“Do you need to talk?” I ask quietly, but, without turning to look at me, he shakes his head. I press my lips together, not wanting to force him to talk about it if he’s not ready, and then reach down to grip his hand. He glances down briefly at my hand wrapped around his, and then sighs.

“We haven’t had any time,” He says. “This family just started working again and now it feels like we’re on the verge of falling apart.”

“I’m so sorry, Christian,” I tell him. “I wish I knew what to say to make this better for you.”

“I know,” He nods, and as I watch him take a deep breath and see the pain he’s trying to hold back behind his eyes, I know there is one thing I could do to make this better for him. The one thing he’s asked for but that I’ve never let myself actually consider.

“I’m supposed to go back to Cambridge tomorrow,” I tell him, and he nods. “But.. what if I didn’t?”

“What do you mean?” He asks, turning a sharp look on me.

“What if I stayed here? I could email my professors, see if I can have work sent to me here. If they don’t object, maybe I don’t have to leave tomorrow.”

“Finals are in three weeks, Anastasia,” He interrupts me.

“I know,” I nod. “It’s bad timing, but maybe I can work something out. Maybe I can’t. I don’t know. Either way, if you need me here, I’ll stay.”

“I always need you,” He says. “But this isn’t just going to be a couple weeks, Ana. This is going to be months, hopefully years. Are you saying you want to drop out of school?”

“No,” I shake my head. “No, I’m going to finish. But, if your dad is going to fight this, maybe I could, I don’t know, take a semester off. Help out here. Be here with you for at least the first few months until we know what we’re up against.”

“And then go back after the baby is born?” He asks. “So, both you and my newborn child will go live across the country while you finish up your last semester at Harvard? You won’t have Kate to live with anymore, you’ll be all alone. And so will I. I don’t want both you and the baby away from me, it’s hard enough with you just being pregnant.”

“Oh…” I reply, because I realize now how much I really hadn’t thought this offer through. I guess he’s right. Now that I’m pregnant, Harvard is now or never.

“Harvard is important to you, and it’s important to your dad,” He says. “I feel like you’ve been trying to tell me that for months, years even, but I just didn’t understand the gravity of what it meant to you until I heard your Dad on the phone. Until I saw your face… If you don’t finish, he’ll blame me, rightfully so, I suppose, and he’s so important to you… I don’t want to be in opposition to him. You need to focus on school so that you can come home to me the right way, with no regrets. I don’t want you to give up anything for me.”

“I just don’t want you to have to go through this alone, Christian.”

“I’m not alone. My family is here and even though you’re on the other side of the country, it doesn’t mean you’re not with me. You’re always with me. Just phone call away, right?”

“Right,” I nod and then sigh. “So, I guess I have to leave tomorrow then.”

“Yeah, I guess you do.”

“I’m sorry,” I whisper. “I love you so much, Christian.”

“I love you too, baby,” He says. He leans over to capture my lips with his and I cling to him, holding him as close to me as I can without unbuckling my seat belt and crawling into his lap, until we pull into the parking garage below Escala.

Next Chapter

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