Garrett had been in New York when the phone call had come from his friend Damian in California. Damian’s wife and her sister had been in a car crash. Driving through an intersection they were hit in the side. Ren was safe because she was driving, but her sister had been on the passenger side where they were hit. They were holding Ren for a few days for testing, but Kaylee was in critical care, and she showed no sign of waking up. Garrett fiddled with the cup and looked up at the door of Kaylee’s room when Damian came out.
He stood and brushed off imaginary lint from his pressed slacks. “What did the doctor say?”
Damian came to stand next to his friend. Though Damian was a hair taller than the other man Garrett was bulkier, and his arms were taught against the button down shirt.
“Well, he said something in doctor speak, but essentially no one knows when she’ll wake up because you can’t really force a coma patient to wake up.” He glanced back to the room to the shut door. “I asked the doctor. It doesn’t look good.”
Garrett sighed and ran a hand through his already disheveled hair. He took a sip of his coffee and grimaced as it was ice cold. “Why don’t you go stay with Ren. I don’t imagine she likes staying in that room by herself. I can stay here and, well, wait with Kaylee.”
Damian sighed, “Thanks.” He stuffed his hands in his pockets. “It means a lot. I know hospitals aren’t really your thing.”
Damian walked a few doors away and slipped in to the room that Kaylee was staying in. Garrett waited until Damian was out of view and sank into the waiting chairs outside of the room. He set the cold coffee next to him and rested his head in his hands. He said he’d stay with Kaylee, but he couldn’t manage to go inside the room. All those machines and beeping. He knew Kaylee was in a coma, but what would he do while she slept there? Watching t.v. felt rude, and reading was never really his strong suit.
He got up and threw his coffee in the trash can before walking to the elevator. He pushed the button and went down to the parking garage pulling out his keys. The rental car was a BMW, but not like the one he left at home in New York. This one smelled of cigarettes and he kept the windows down when he drove just so he wasn’t overwhelmed by the smell. He got in the car and shut the door. He didn’t start it, but sat there and watched the people go in and out of the garage. Some people walked in with sunken looks on their faces. Some people walked out with their heads bent against the cold and their faces unreadable. If you stayed in the hospital long enough you became blocked off in showing emotion, but it stayed bottled up, boiling on the inside.
Others walked in with balloons and Garrett felt his hands tighten on his thighs. Completely sadistic. Nothing joyous happened in hospitals, only people getting told that they should start making funeral arrangements for their loved ones who would probably never make it despite all the advances in medical technology. He turned the car on and drove out into traffic and headed for his hotel. It was only early afternoon, but his internal clock still believed it to be night. The time change coming west was throwing him off.
The hotel he found was nice enough, but he was not one for change and he missed his apartment. Closing the door he threw his travel bag on the bed and sat down on the edge. The horrible wall paper was a mismatched red, silver, and green. It clashed horribly with the light blue cover on the bed. He buried his head in his hands and rubbed his scalp. It looked like a Goddamn Christmas tree gone wrong. He stood up and walked to the bathroom pulling his shirt out of his pants. He threw the shirt on the bathroom floor and stared at it for a moment before sighing, picking it up, and folding it before setting it neatly on the toilet seat. Scrubbing his hands over his face he looked into the mirror. Light blond hair prematurely streaked with sliver and cold blue eyes. The undershirt pulled against his stomach. He wasn’t over weight, but his stomach wasn’t exactly rock hard. He ran his hand along it. Images flashed in his mind of an overweight man gripping his arm as a child. Holding tight enough to bruise, but not break. He was always careful.
Garrett pulled up the shirt and stared blankly at the dotted marks along his hip bone. They were some of the first marks he had received, but certainly not the last. Dropping the shirt he ran he water and splashed his face. The coolness felt calming in the heat of the room. He picked up his shirt and set it neatly on the dresser before stripping off his wrinkled slacks and dropping onto the bed. The clock next to him blinked the time to him, and as he counted the number of flashes his eyes closed and sleep pulled him down.
The heat woke him. He felt beads of it trickle down his face and back. Groaning, he sat up and glared at the sun still filtering into the room. Garrett didn’t bother glancing at the bedside clock. He glanced at his watch. It was an atomic clock, so he could always trust its accuracy. Early evening. He hadn’t slept too long. He stood and stretched. Cracking his neck he pulled out his bag and changed quickly before folding his used clothes and putting them in the bottom of the bag.
Hospital visiting hours were from 9 in the morning till 7 at night. He could grab dinner and eat it in Kaylee’s room. Maybe he’d pick up a crossword at the gift shop. Give him something to do while he waited.
Waiting in the hard chair in Kaylee’s room an hour and a half later Garrett came to two conclusions he felt certain he could stake his life on: waiting freaking sucked, and crosswords were made as a select form of torture. He shifted in the plastic chair and took a sip of the foul coffee. He had managed to drink his last cup before going cold, and he was doing well with this cup. He looked over to where the woman slept. The sisters could have been spitting images of each other: blond hair, medium height, and tans he was sure were made by being in the sun, and not from a tanning bed. Kaylee’s hair was a dirtier blond than her sister’s. He had stopped by Ren’s room before settling in here. Ren had already managed to collect three flower arrangements, ten balloons, and countless get well cards.
Kaylee had none. Well, save the childish one Garrett had picked up at the gift shop along with his crossword. The cartoon bear, accompanied by colorful balloons read “I hope you get better ‘beary’ soon.” Cute, but no real feeling, he just didn’t want her to be without a card. It looked out of place among the harsh whiteness of the hospital room, the hard beeping machines, and even himself, sitting in the corner like a captured man.
Kaylee was lax against the pillows. Her bangs had been clipped out of her face and her long waves had been pulled back into a ponytail. Her pale complexion was apparent through her tan. Her lips were chapped, and the makeup she had applied earlier that day was smudged into dark circles under her eyes. Looking down at her nails he saw that they were chipped and the arm that was in the cast was clear of any polish. Garrett imagined that if Kaylee was anything like her older sister she would be appalled to be seen in such a state.
Garrett had met Ren in college, and despite his desire to stay relatively unknown in his college career, Ren had seen to it that he had friends and occasionally went out to a party. Damian had come into the picture only after Garrett had developed feelings for Ren. Garrett was never quite sure what those feelings were because Damian had been the only guy Ren had been interested in. Garrett had been content to stand aside. It wasn’t like him to have a confrontation, and he had genuinely enjoyed becoming friends with Damian who was one of the only male friends Garrett had ever known. The three had remained close throughout their college lives, but Garrett had drifted apart somewhat after graduation. Ren and Damian had married and moved west. Garrett had moved to where he could get a job. Not that Wall Street was exactly where he thought he wanted to be, but he was alright with it. He was never a very picky person.
From what he had heard listening to Ren, Kaylee was almost polar opposite to himself. Why in heaven’s name they wanted him to stay with her he couldn’t fathom. Maybe just until Ren got better. Then she would take over watching her sister and he could go back to New York. Just looking at Kaylee Garrett could see a vibrancy about her that could not be contained within the coma. She glowed, and that extra energy made Garrett shift in his chair trying to shift away from its rays. He guessed it didn’t matter how different they supposedly were it wasn’t a big deal when one might never wake up.
Two weeks later
The nurses knew him by name now. Different floor, and different part of the hospital, but they knew him nonetheless. Armed with coffee from the café across the street and an armful of books he turned into room 204 and set his things down on the table. This room was nicer, mainly because the patient and visitors were presumably going to be staying for quite some time. Garrett and Kaylee were some of the newcomers. After talking to some of the other visitors some patients had been there for months.
Garrett glanced over to Kaylee. Her face remained the same as it had since the day she went to sleep, but, and perhaps this was because Garrett wasn’t getting enough sleep, but he swore he could see a greeting in her face.
Sleep well, Garrett?
“Fine thank you.” He said it quietly. He really didn’t want the nurses to think he was crazy because he was having a conversation with a woman who wasn’t even aware of his presence. He ducked out briefly to talk to the nurses who were sitting at the station.
“Good morning, Maria.”
Looking up the older woman grinned, “Well hello, Garrett. How are you today?”
“Fine. The bed at the hotel is not comfortable, but I’m managing. Damian offered his guest bedroom, and I might take up his offer. I heard Ren is a fantastic cook.”
Maria nodded. “Ah yes. I have heard that about his wife. Shame Damian can’t come up here more, but he gets so busy.”
“Have they been up at all this week?”
Maria shook her head a small scowl on her face. “Not that I’ve seen, and I hope they don’t abandon Kaylee like I have seen so many others do to their family.”
Garrett shook his head. “I know they won’t. I’ve known Ren for quite a while. She loves her sister.”
Maria nodded. “Good. Well I’ll let you get back to Kaylee.”
Pulling the sliding door shut on Kaylee’s room Garrett picked up the book on the top of the pile and pulled his chair up next to her bed. They had moved her to a more comfortable bed, and the nurses were kind enough to put sweats on her instead of those horrible hospital gowns.
How was Maria this morning?
“She was fine. Mentioned that your sister hadn’t been in to see you recently.” Garrett glared at her sleeping form. “Care to enlighten me?”
Though she didn’t move he could almost see the furrow in her unmoving brows.
It’s a long story. But I guess we have plenty of time, don’t we?
Garret started at Kaylee’s face for a moment. He could imagine the way her brow would crease as she said this. The way her eyes would become heavy with regrets she might never have a chance to resolve.
“Issues because of your mom?” He settled into the chair that was placed close to the left side of her bed.
The new room came with nicer furnishings, and he couldn’t complain about the chair. It certainly beat the piece of garbage he’d been sitting on while they were on the other floor.
Of course. I much as I love my sister we don’t always see eye to eye on certain issues. She went for a more traditional life. Marriage. Stable job. That kind of thing just wasn’t for me and she doesn’t like uncertainty.
Garrett sipped the coffee and set it down on the bedside table. He had heard briefly about Ren and Kaylee’s somewhat turbulent relationship from Damian a time or two. Sipping the coffee again Garrett straightened the bangs on her face.
“But that’s the way families are, right? I mean, they care about the welfare of the people around them. Protect them, I guess.” He tried for confidence in his voice. To him, it sounded about as truthful as saying there were better things somewhere over the rainbow.
Aren’t you a little bitter there, Garrett? Want to talk about it with the coma patient? I’m a great listener, and I can’t even tell your secrets to anyone. The tinkling sarcasm was hidden behind the veneer of concern.
“Smart ass.” He drank his coffee. He had nothing else to do, and he needed something normal. “Jesus, I’m arguing with coma-girl.”
Damn right you are. Might want to keep that information under lock and key. Someone might lock you up in the crazy farm. Then who will I traumatize then?
He muttered a curse just as a nurse came in to check Kaylee’s vitals.
“How are you today, Marg?” The nurse was a thin woman who always had her hair wrapped in a piece of cloth. Today it was ducks holding umbrellas and dancing in puddles.
“Oh I’m fine, dear. Making a living, so I can’t complain.” She straightened Kaylee’s blankets and adjusted her bangs so that they didn’t fall in her eyes. “How about you? When are you heading back to the East coast?”
Garrett rubbed his hand on the nape of his neck. “Not sure yet. I had quite a few vacation days built up, so I’ve been using those. When those run out I’ll have to figure out something else.”
“Well, you certainly have been a gentlemen to stay with her like this. I know it can be hard to sit here all day without much to do.” She looked him over. “You look like you could use some sleep. Rumor is the hotel you’re staying isn’t all that comfortable. We have some fold out beds for family who want to stay the night. I’d have to get you special permission to stay past visiting hours, but I can’t see it being a problem if you’d like to try that for a night or two.”
He glanced at Kaylee almost hoping for some type of response. He sighed.
“I’ll think about it. Thanks, Marg. I’ll let you know later today if that’s ok.”
“Sure. I’m here until 7, so whenever you make up your mind let me know.
He readjusted himself in the chair as Marg walked out. He pulled out the book that he’d been trying to read for the last few days and flipped to his book mark.
You don’t have to stay, you know.
He looked at Kaylee and raised his eyebrows.
Oh, don’t give me that look. I know you have your job, and you sit here and fidget all day. Frankly, it can get kind of annoying. And the awkward silences are just killer.
“Well it’s nice to see that my time spent here has made such an impact on you.” He returned to his book and read quietly while Kaylee lay in the bed, eyes closed, strangely comforting with her presence.
Garrett stood in the hotel room later that afternoon dialing his phone. Visitors were not allowed in the wings during shift changes, so he took that time to come back to the room and refresh himself. He dialed the number to the office on his phone as he flipped through the cable channels on the t.v.
“Thatcher Publishing. This is William. How may I help you?”
“It’s Garrett, Billy.”
“Well. Long time, no hear my friend. How have things been going there?” William Strood, or Billy to friends, crackled into life on the other end of the line.
“Hey, Bill. It’s going fine, I guess. I mean, as well as expected considering what we’re dealing with.”
Garrett sank on the bed and kicked off his shoes.
“Man. I don’t know what to tell you. It’s hard to say things will get better when you have no way of knowing that.” Garrett’s friend sighed. The line crackled. “Well, I guess good news from this end is that you had enough sick days and vacation days that you’re safe for another week. I’d think about getting back here, though. The bosses are wondering how this stint away from the office is going to affect your work. Not that I think it will, but they always have a stick up their asses. I’d like to think it’s a proverbial stick, but I can’t confirm that.”
For the first time in a while Garrett chuckled. He missed his friends, though he wasn’t sure how much he missed dealing with his bosses. Thatcher Publishing was a medium sized publishing house that worked mainly in unknown writers, but since the company had recently undergone some changes with the staff there was a gradual swing to focusing on enlarging the business to finding more big name clients.
“How has it been with trying to get that children’s author to respond to our queries? Last I heard he is rather shut off and likes to get his book published through one of the major houses.”
Billy grunted. “Yeah. We haven’t heard anything from him. Tried other ways of getting a hold of him, but since he’s freelance there wasn’t anyone really to get in contact with. Most authors would at least have some type of consistent editor or agent to contact, but nothing with this guy. He has a personal email which was what we’ve been using, but I don’t think he wants to go mainstream with his books. Which is weird, because the few places his books do sell they create great profit, so the bosses are scratching their heads.
I don’t know, man. You may be an editor, but you’re pretty good at dealing with stuck up authors. If the big bosses can’t get anything achieved you might be getting a phone call soon. I’d get your crap figured out there so you can head back.”
“Oh, you don’t want to see my lovely face?” Garrett joked as he leaned over and pulled his bag closer to him.
“Oh, get off the phone.”
“See ya, Billy.”
Hanging up the phone, Garrett pulled out the book “The Settler’s Diaries: Volume 1”. His company had heard of the book after it got great sales on the West Coast. The author, C.H. Ryan, had been unknown up until that point, and Thatcher Publishing had been trying to get him to sign with their company ever since. Problem was, he didn’t do interviews, print or t.v., and had almost zero contact info.
Sighing, he stuffed the copy of the book back in his bag and headed back to the hospital. He’d take a look through it while he sat with Ren.