Always: Broken Series Book Four (9 page)

BOOK: Always: Broken Series Book Four
8.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

he week flew by
. I told my friends at school that my cancer wasn’t as bad as it could be, because it hadn’t spread, and they were really happy about that. Of course. Most of my friends knew at least one person who died of cancer, and they were all really worried that I was going to be the next one out.

Everything was uneventful. I went to school, did homework, even worked out with my soccer team after school. Mom and dad went to work every day, and I hung out with them a little in the evening. We played board games one night, and had a movie night another night with Chloe. None of us talked about my being sick. It was really a great week.

But on Monday, I knew that things were going to get really serious. That was the day of my surgery, and, with any luck, the docs were going to cut that awful tumor out, get all of it, and then send me off to rehab. Then I was going to have to go through radiation treatments and chemotherapy, because doc Jensen told me that he couldn’t be sure that there wasn’t still some cancer lurking around in my cells. That was one thing that I wasn’t looking forward to at all. At all at all. I knew that I was going to be sick and maybe lose my hair. I was going to be tired a lot. I hoped that I didn’t have to miss too much school, because I really wanted to graduate on time. That was important to me – graduate with my class, then enter culinary school, then be on my way. The last thing that I wanted to do was to repeat grades or go to summer school or anything like that.

I went to the hospital after Olivia was summoned to watch Chloe, and I was prepped for surgery. This was my first time being under general anesthesia, so the nurse explained all of that to me, with my parents in the room. They asked a lot of questions, and so did I, and everything was explained very thoroughly. Then the doctor who was going to perform the surgery came in and spoke with us as well.

“Now, are you sure you’re going to be able to just cut out the tumor and nothing else?” mom asked. Truth be told, that was the question that I was going to ask as well.

“I’m not going to tell you 100% that’s the case, but in 90% of these cases, that’s what happens. We’re able to excise the tumor and do some reconstruction of the bones around the tumor. We basically remove the bone that is affected and replace it with a prosthesis. We also remove portions of the healthy bone around the tumor and send it to a lab to make sure that the margins are clean.”

“What about rehabilitation?” dad asked. “What happens with that?”

“Addison is going to have to go through months of rehabilitation, possibly. She’s going to heal, and then she’s going to have to learn how to walk again. It’s going to be a little bit different for her as far as activities go in the future.” The doctor tousled my hair a little. “Now, Addy, I understand that you play a lot of soccer?”

“I do. I’m a forward. A starting forward.”

“Well, that’s going to be limited for awhile. Hopefully you can get back into soccer next season, though. In the meantime, for at least a few months, I’d like your primary exercise to take place in a pool. Swimming is really the best thing for sore joints and muscles.”

I felt disappointed but not surprised. I knew that I probably wouldn’t return to the soccer field that season, as soccer was really a grueling sport that involved a lot of running up and down the court. “I understand.”

The doctor spent a good hour and a half patiently answering all of our questions. Mom had written down a bunch of questions in a notebook, and the doctor answered each one. Then, it was time.

“Okay, then, young Addy,” Dr. Jensen said to me. “Let’s get you prepped for surgery and then down to an OR.” He addressed mom and dad. “You guys are going to hang out here?”

“Yes, yes, of course,” mom said.

“It’s going to be several hours.”

“We’ll make ourselves useful.”

At that, my parents left, and so did the doctor. I undressed and got into my hospital gown, and the surgical team soon appeared beside my hospital bed. I felt my heart pounding, absolutely pounding out of my chest, as they wheeled me down to my operating room.

If ever there was a time for prayer, this was it.


here was
nothing to do but wait. And worry. And try not to think about what was going on with Addy. I tried to think positive. I really did. But it was so difficult. So very difficult. My stomach was in knots, and, even though Nick tried to take me down to the cafeteria for some dinner, I couldn’t eat. I went ahead and went with him, though, mainly to keep him company.

Nick got a plateful of food, including chicken breast, salad and bread. I got a yogurt and a cup of coffee, even though I generally didn’t drink coffee. Nick looked at my meager “meal” with disdain. I knew that he worried about me, especially when I was under extreme stress. I still wasn’t eating a ton, and I had started to drop weight. It wouldn’t be long until I was as thin as when he first met me. Back then I was skinny because I could barely afford to eat. Now I was going to be skinny because I couldn’t eat.

He raised an eyebrow and put a brownie on my tray. Then he ordered me a sandwich.

“Nick,” I started to protest, but he shot me another look.

“You’re going to eat,” he said.

“How can I?”

“I don’t know, but you’re going to.” Then he put his arm around me, so that I knew that he wasn’t angry. “It’s so important to that you don’t waste away. After all, you told me that you were going to be strong, right? Didn’t you tell me that? Now, show me.”

I knew that he was right, but I resented him just the same. “I don’t want to eat. I’ll eat plenty once Addy is out of the woods.”

“Honey, we’re at the five-yard line here. The five-yard line. Our five-yard line, not the opposing team’s. There’s a long, long, long ways to go. If you refuse to eat until Addy, quote unquote, is out of the woods, then you’re going to looking like a concentration camp victim soon. Sorry for being politically incorrect.”

“Okay.” I let him put the sandwich on my tray, and we went through the payment line and both of us took a seat. I looked out the window while I contemplated eating. I had to psyche myself up, and I knew that Nick was watching me carefully, so I couldn’t very well stuff the sandwich in my purse or something. As much as I wanted to.

“So,” Nick said, taking a bite out of his chicken. “This actually isn’t bad,” he said, motioning to his food. “I’m always thinking that hospital food is going to be gross, but this isn’t horrible at all. I remember when my father was in the hospital for open-heart surgery, they served him this chili-mac that looked like it was made the week before. On Thanksgiving, no less.” He shook his head. “Don’t know what they were thinking. As much money as these hospitals charge for everything, you would think that we’d be getting steak and lobster or something.”

“Yeah.” I continued to look out the window, occasionally looking back at my sandwich, and trying to avoid Nick’s accusing eyes.
Now, come on, Scotty, he loves you. That’s the only reason why he’s trying to force you to eat.
I knew that, but it didn’t matter. I started to feel resentful, like he was controlling me. I felt like
was the 15-year-old in this situation.

Nick’s eyes twinkled and he took my hands. “Scotty, how can I take your mind off of Addy’s surgery? There must be some way. I know, you obsess about things sometimes. I understand that. I do. I’ve always struggled with how to get you to stop obsessing just a little. It’s not a good thing. It does nothing for you but raise your blood pressure.”

I sighed. “I know that, Nick, but telling me to stop obsessing is like telling the sun to stop shining.” Hot tears came down my face. “Don’t you see that?”

“Of course I do.” I could tell that he was frustrated, and I felt the same. “After we eat, let’s get out of this hospital, shall we? Addy will…”

“Addy will what? Listen, the doctor is going to periodically update us on what’s going on. I don’t think that we can leave.” I shot him a look. “And you won’t convince me to. I let you talk me into not having my phone on at that cabin, and I wasn’t there when Addy really needed me. I won’t have you try to convince me to leave now and have something like that replay itself.”

It was Nick’s turn to sigh. He finished his meal and got up. “You can sit here and go stir crazy. I’m going out for a walk. You can come with me if you like.” He extended his hand, but I waved it off.

He shrugged his shoulders. “I’ll be back in about an hour. Addy just went into surgery, so I seriously doubt that we’re going to get any news at all for a long time.”

I watched him leave, and then took my uneaten sandwich and threw it in the trash.

Then I went back up to the waiting room.

Where I waited. And waited.

And waited.

t turned
out that Nick left the hospital for two hours, not one. And counting. I started to feel abandoned and alone, even though I knew that I wasn’t. I felt sick, though, and I couldn’t concentrate on anything at all. Not the television, which was blaring a news channel, which I ordinarily loved to watch. Not work, even though I brought some plans to work on, along with my laptop, hoping to get something productive done. I couldn’t read, either. All I could do was sit there and try not to crack up.

Then the doctor came out. He looked very serious, and my heart dropped to my shoes.

I swallowed hard and stood up. “Hello,” I said to him. My body seemed to defy me, as my legs felt like rubber. I tried to discern something from his expression, but it was tough.

“Mrs. O’Hara,” he began. “Where is Mr. O’Hara?”

“He’s not here. He went out for a walk or something.” Or something. I really had no idea where he was. It certainly was a long walk.

The doctor nodded his head. “Do you know when he’ll be back?”

“No, but let me call him.” I picked up my phone and dialed his number. To my dismay, I got his voice-mail. I hung up the phone without leaving a message. I figured that he would see that I called and would call me back. “I can’t get in touch with him.”

The bastard.
Why would he not be answering his phone?

The doctor nodded his head. “Well, I suppose it can’t be helped. There was a complication in the surgery. I’m very sorry, but the cancer is more invasive than previously thought.”

I lost my breath and sat down. I tried hard to hold back the tears, and I willed them away. “What are you saying?”

“I’m afraid that I won’t be able to save her leg. I would like to get your permission to amputate.”

There was a part of me that was relieved when he said that. At first, I heard that the cancer was more extensive than previously thought and assumed the worst – that the cancer had spread after all. That Addy was going to possibly die after all. The prospect of her losing her leg seemed absolutely wonderful in comparison.

But, right after that feeling of relief came the realization. The realization that Addy’s life was never going to be the same. “Are you sure that this is a necessary thing?” Even as I said that, though, I felt foolish. Of course it was a necessary thing. Like the doctor was going to amputate just because he could.

“I’m afraid so. I’m very sorry, Mrs. O’Hara. I wish that I had better news for you.”

With shaking fingers, I pressed my phone again. I really needed to hear Nick’s voice. I needed to be reassured that I was doing the right thing. Unfortunately, the phone just rang and rang and rang and I got his voice-mail again.

I finally looked up at the doctor. I knew that time was of the essence – he was in the middle of Addy’s surgery. He literally needed an answer right then and there.

“I give you permission,” I said in a very small voice.

“Thank you,” the doctor said. He put his hand on my shoulder. “Again, I’m terribly sorry.”

I nodded my head. There was just nothing to say at that point.


fter I left the hospital
, I went to the beach. I knew, in the back of my head, that I was doing the wrong thing. Yet, I felt absolutely compelled to leave that depressing place. I felt like I was suffocating.

I couldn’t express it to Scotty, but I was internally freaking out. Scotty wasn’t helping matters. I loved her, more than I ever thought that I could love anyone, but there were times when I couldn’t be around her. There were times when I simply felt that I couldn’t reach her, and this was one of these times.

I got to the Greenwich Point beach about 10 PM. I approached the water, rolling up my pant legs in anticipation of the surf that would inevitably reach my ankles. The moon was out, although it was clouded over, so that it looked like it was behind a thin film. I closed my eyes, trying to lose myself in the sounds around me. The sounds of surf, the screeching of the seagulls, and the voices of people who were crowded around fire pits were what I heard. The sound of a distant car. The laughter of a small child.

I thought that if I could only concentrate on these sounds that maybe I could take my mind off of Michelle. She haunted me my entire life, but, before Addy got sick, it was more like an ambient haunting. It was always there, but not really. Losing her at such a young age shaped me, shaped my core. I became an only child, and I saw what happened to my parents. My mother was a ghost who cried every single day for at least a year. My father pulled away from his family, throwing himself into his work and moving a cot into his office for about six months. The house was lonely after Michelle died. My father was literally missing, and my mother was completely checked out.

I still remember thinking how much I needed my mom and dad, and how much they had failed me. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about how I felt. I had friends, of course, but they never brought up Michelle and I didn’t either. I definitely never wanted to bring everyone down, so I went along as if nothing happened. I went to school, I gave my friends shit like I always did, I played sports and I got excellent grades. Nobody ever knew that there was anything wrong with me. I barely knew that there was anything wrong with me, but, deep down, I was a total mess. It was the hardest period of my life.

My mind drifted to Michelle’s final months. The endless tests. The false hopes. I don’t know if I and my mom and dad had hope because we were naïve or delusional, because there never really was reason to have hope. Michelle's cancer was aggressive. The doctor told us this from the start. Still, we had to try. We had to go through the chemotherapy and radiation and all the Hail Mary’s that we could. Even as she blew up, gaining fifty pounds from the steroids while she lost her hair, we remained hopeful. Surely all this going to be worth it in the end? My beautiful sister became unrecognizable, yet my parents kept pushing her, more and more, not willing to believe that we were going to lose her.

She was only 14. Fucking 14. How fair was that? How fair was it that my sister would never get married, never have kids of her own, never get to grow up and become a veterinarian, which was her dream since the age of six? She would have been an amazing vet, too, because I had never met anyone with a passion for animals like her. She was always bringing home little birds with broken wings, and she often was able to fix them. Stray dogs were always coming into our home, even though my parents weren’t too happy about that.

She never got to know my children and Scotty. She would have loved Scotty. Scotty had always had the kind of vulnerability that my sister was drawn to. She was always about justice for the underdog, for she always stood up for bullied kids at school. She always stood up for me, even when I didn’t necessarily want her to.

Yet she never got the chance to meet Scotty or continue to bring bullied kids under her wing. Why she was taken at such a young age confused, and then enraged, me. Where was this God that I learned about in Sunday school? Why was Michelle taken, yet truly terrible people like serial killers were allowed to live? What kind of justice was that? I decided then and there that God wasn’t there at all. If God was there, Michelle wouldn’t have ever gotten sick. Sickness and suffering shouldn’t be for girls like my sister. Sickness and suffering should be for people who were evil.

Now Addy was sick. As much as I wanted to avoid it, she was. Yes, we got good news when the doctor told us that the cancer hadn’t spread. Yet I knew that cancer was insidious. You might think that you’ve beaten it, but it comes back when you least expect it. A mass of cells, so tiny that they aren’t detected, could break free and implant themselves in Addy’s lungs and brain, and then it would be Game Over. Game fucking over.

I shook my head as I stared at the waves. What was happening to me? It was never like me to dwell. Angst was never my thing. Then again, maybe dwelling and getting angsty would have helped me. Maybe, instead of being a callous manwhore throughout my life, I would have been a better person if I just would have acknowledged to myself how much I was hurting. Scotty helped me get in touch with that part of myself, so I was a good husband to her and, hopefully, a great father to my girls.

There was, in the back of my mind, this nagging voice that told me that I was being irresponsible by being there at the beach instead of at the hospital. I shut that voice up, though, because I really felt that I needed to be here. My mind was clearing as I stared at the waves that came in, one after another.

track of time as I sat there on the beach, but I finally became ready to go back to the hospital. I trudged back to the car and took a look at my phone. I became alarmed to see that there were about 20 missed calls from Scotty.

Oh crap.
Obviously something had happened while I was checked out at the beach.

I immediately called Scotty back, and she answered right away. “Where’ve you been?” she demanded the second she picked up. Her voice was full of rage.

I was put back on my heels and felt defensive. I deserved to be attacked, I knew that, but still…hearing that tone from Scotty got my hackles up. “I’ve been at the beach,” I told her. “What’s going on?”

“Your daughter is losing her leg, that’s what’s going on. How could you do this? How could you leave me alone to make this decision? What if it was a wrong decision? It’s going to be only on me. I can’t believe that you would just leave like that.”

My heart suddenly dropped when I heard that. How could I be this irresponsible? It wasn’t like me to do that. All that I could think was that I felt like I was suffocating in that hospital, but that was no excuse. No excuse at all. “I’ll be right there.”

I drove like a bat out Hell to get back to the hospital. Scotty needed me and I felt absolutely awful. Absolutely terrible. I shook my head as my car weaved in and out of traffic, with me praying to the God that I long since shunned that a cop wouldn’t pull me over. At one point, I was behind two slow people, so I gunned my car on the shoulder of the highway.

I finally got to the hospital where I saw my tiny wife sitting in a chair just staring at the wall. I sat down next to her and put my arm around her. “Honey, I’m so sorry….”

She shook her head. “How could you do this to me?” she asked. “God, that sounds so selfish. This isn’t about me. It’s about our daughter.” She looked defeated. “I mean, what happened, happened. It was going to happen whether or not you were here. But I had to make that terrible decision on my own.” She hung her head and I put it on my shoulder. That always made her feel comforted and I hoped that it would have that effect right at that moment as well.

To my surprise, she threw both of her arms around my neck. I couldn’t forgive myself for not being there when Scotty was making this decision, but she apparently forgave me. At least I hoped that she did. “Nick,” she said, “Addy’s losing her leg. What’s going to happen? Will she be able to play soccer?” She shook her head. “Oh, that’s crazy. Soccer is such a minor thing. What about wearing a prom dress or a wedding dress or any kind of dress?” She shook her head again. “Why am I obsessed with these minor things?”

“Because they’re not minor.” I held Scotty’s head against my shoulder. “They’re not minor. They’re everything. They’re the moments that make up a life, and our little girl won’t be able to experience them like everyone else.” I felt devastated too, just as devastated as Scotty, but I really needed to be there for her. I wasn’t there for her when she actually was making this decision, but I was determined that I was going to be there for her right at that moment.

In the meantime, I knew that I was going to have to have my support team there. Ryan was going to want to know about this. I hadn’t really filled him in about Addison’s illness, because there really wasn’t time. Everything had happened so quickly, and he had been out of town for business. He was going to want to know about this, though. I was also going to have to call Addison’s step-sisters, Charlotte and April, who were both living in New York, where they had moved after they finished college. Scotty was going to call Jack, I knew.

I was definitely going to need more help with this. Scotty was falling apart, and I wasn’t feeling as strong as I needed to be either. Besides, these were all people who Addison loved. They needed to be there for her when she woke up.

All at once, though, I knew that Addison waking up was going to be one of the most devastating moments of my entire life.

BOOK: Always: Broken Series Book Four
8.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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