Authors: Ellie J. LaBelle
“Why don’t we just stay here until we absolutely have to go?”
“I thought you wanted to go to Maine?
“I think we’ve had enough excitement, don’t you? I kind of want to rest here for a few days.”
“That sounds really nice actually,
he says, looking relieved. I think we’ve been wearing each other out.
“Besides, it’s beautiful here,
I say, admiring the cascades of glistening water in the sunlight. The rhythm of the pounding water is unexpectedly soothing and the cold mist is refreshing against the beating sun. The Falls are as breathtaking as I remember, especially now that it’s not freezing cold. Reagan hasn't said much since we got here but his eyes have been fixated on the water since we arrived. I can see his brain moving in a million different directions and I think he might explode.
“Hey, I never asked you, why do you have a stage name?
I’ve been wondering about this for a while but Reagan can be quite distracting. He looks a little annoyed and I think I’ve hit a sore spot.
“The record label thought ‘Reagan
was too effeminate so they changed it to Lewis Law.”
I stand with my mouth agape in disbelief of his words. Firstly, that a record label would have a say about such a thing and secondly, that anyone could possibly think this man is effeminate.
“So Ronald Reagan is…?”
“According to them, effeminate, which isn’t even an insult but they make it sound like it is.”
“I’m mad they tried to insult your name,
I say, still managing my surprise.
“It’s not really that big of a deal,
he shrugs but I can tell it bothers him.
“Well, for what it’s worth, I love your name,
I say as I wrap my arms around his waist.
“It means everything,
he says as he places his forehead against mine. I lean up to place a soft kiss on his lips and relish the sound of roaring water.
“You look exhausted,
I say as I cuddle into the sheets of the hotel bed.
he says with a sigh, towel drying his wet hair.
“Come to bed,
I mummer seductively.
“I’m not falling for that,
“Don’t tell me you know my tricks already,
I groan. He throws on a pair of boxers before sliding into bed next to me. I wrap my leg around him and nuzzle his neck. Reagan places a light kiss on my forehead and pushes his nose into my hair. We lay together for a while, breathing quietly, saying nothing. I think this is what euphoria feels like. Existing in complete happiness, needing nothing more than good company to satisfy you. Reagan is quickly becoming all the satisfaction I need and want. Just looking into those deep, brooding eyes of his brings me overwhelming elation.
Reagan catches me staring at him and smiles knowingly. “Not tonight,
he says firmly.
“You’re saying no to me?
I gasp, sitting up.
“Babe, I’m so tired,
he says with the cutest smirk.
“Fine but you owe me,
I huff, hiding the smirk forming on my face from his use of pet names.
“Anything you want.”
“You’re going to wish you hadn't agreed to that,
I say smugly.
he asks curiously.
He sighs and shakes his head. I put my chin on his chest and watch his eyes flutter shut. Reagan wasn't lying, he really is tired. I contemplate my options and quickly decide there are few. There is always the option of renting a movie but I am all filmed-out. After laying on Reagan’s chest for a few minutes, I resort to FaceTiming Francesca.
The hallway is quiet as I dial her.
“Ohhhhhmygod where have you been? I miss you.”
“I’m in Buffalo actually,
I smile. “Should only be a few days before you get to see this beautiful face in person.”
“I’m going to pinch it so hard until it bleeds,
“Whoa, werido alert!”
she whines. “I don’t make any sense without you.”
“I wish you loved meeeeee.
Her lips pout.
“Why am I friends with you? You’re so needy.”
“Excuse me but I haven't seen you in nearly two weeks and I haven't come to invade your little love nest yet so I’d say we’ve made progress.”
I laugh and shake my head. “I hope you’re not expecting a threesome when I get back because that’s never going to happen.”
“Seriously? Then what the hell was the point of you hooking up with him in the first place?”
I blush and look away from the screen, biting my nails.
“You really like him don’t you?
she asks in all seriousness.
“I really do. I think I love him. Is that crazy?”
“If it is…Fuck it. You only live once. Carpe Diem and all that bullshit. If your heart wants to love him then, well, fuck it. Love him in the all the ways that make you happy.”
“You know, once you look past all of the curse words, you make a lot of sense.”
“Because I’m like an owl. Full of wisdom, totally adorable, but could mess you up if I wanted.”
I mock an owl hoot and Francesca sticks her tongue out at me. “Where is that sexy rock star of yours anyway?”
she mutters. “When do I get to meet him? I need to snap a selfie to show off to the girls at the company.”
“As soon as we get back I promise to introduce you.”
“You better or I’ll kill you.”
“I’m a very persuasive person,
she says simply.
“I don’t think threatening people’s lives is considered persuasion,
I say. She holds up a finger and I can tell by her face that she has begun clicking around on her phone. “Persuasion: the action or fact of persuading someone or of being persuaded to do or believe something,
she recites. “I’d say that threatening to kill someone in order to get them to do something is persuasion.”
“More like extortion,
“I’m sorry. I didn't hear you. Could you repeat that?”
“You’re ridiculous, you know that?”
she says proudly. “That’s what you love about me.”
She couldn't be more right. Francesca is everything that I am not, loud, forward, and relentless. I fear the man that falls for her. He has his work cut out for him and she isn’t changing so he’s going to have to learn to deal with her rambunctiousness. It’s my favorite thing about her and I hope someday a guy will notice that too.
“I’ll see you soon, okay?”
“Damn straight, bitch,
she says with a wide smile.
I say, matching her grin.
“Love you more, bye!”
She hangs up before I can get the last word in. Typical. I smile all the way back to the room but once I get to the door, I realize I didn't grab a room key. Knocking on the door lightly, I listen for any commotion. Nothing. I pound my fist on the door a little harder and wait. Surely that was loud enough to wake a normal person.
Reagan never comes to the door and I huff as I take the elevator down to the lobby. The woman at the counter smiles politely and listens as I explain the situation. She asks the name of the reservation and which room I’m in. I pass the test and she makes me a new room key.
The door clicks open and I enter the room as quietly as possible. I put my pajamas on after my shower so I just have to wash my face and brush my teeth before bed. In an attempt to navigate the unfamiliar room in the dark, I stub my toe twice and stumble into the bathroom.
I mutter to myself once I’m alone in the bathroom. Looking down at my foot I assess that my toe is neither broken nor in need of medical attention. I sigh as I look up at the mirror and evaluate my appearance. My hair is up in a messy bun and my cheeks are flushed. I don't know if there’s even a standard image for this but I look like I’m in love. Wide blue eyes stare back at me and I can’t help but laugh at my own image. I look different, like a virgin after their first time; glowing and feeling like a totally different person.
With a full heart, I rush out of the bathroom and over to Reagan. I need to tell him right this minute that I’m completely and irresistibly in love with him. There is no right to time to tell someone this and I’m sure he’ll forgive me for waking him up.
Except, he doesn't wake up.
Everything is hazy.
A series of terrifying events consume my memory. I scream his name, louder than I’ve ever screamed in all my life. It took me a minute to realize he really wasn't going to wake up. At first I assumed him to be in a deep slumber, but he wasn’t breathing. My fingers shook so hard as I pressed them to his neck I almost mistook them for a pulse.
But he didn't have a pulse.
Logic set in like a slap across the face and the doctor in me took over. I called an ambulance, calmly explaining where we were and what was going on and then I called the front desk to explain that paramedics were coming. My heart raced as I began pushing on his chest, willing his pulse to return to his body. I paused every so often to lean my ear against his heart but the panic made me uncertain if I was hearing a heartbeat or if it was my imagination.
After seven long minutes, the paramedics rush into the room and toss me aside. They begin asking me questions and I just stutter with wide eyes as I watch them carry the man I love away on a stretcher. I hear one of them ask me if I’m okay and I nod my head by default. They tell me he is going to Buffalo General and just as fast as they came, they are gone.
I’m left standing in a fog of disbelief.
What the hell just happened?
Unsure of what to do, I crumble onto the bed and inhale his scent on the sheets.
. My mind works in overdrive as I throw on a sweatshirt and grab my phone off the table before flying out the door.
The GPS finds Buffalo General Hospital and I have tunnel vision as I start down the road. My mind struggles to focus on any one thing as I grip the wheel. Eventually my mind flutters to Mr. Lewis and I gasp, dialing his landline.
Please be home. Please be home. Please be home.
a voice answers from across the line.
I say, bursting into tears.
“Josie? Oh god, what happened?”
“He wouldn't wake up,
“Where is he, Josie?”
I manage through unsteady breaths.
“Josie. You need to listen to me, okay?”
“Reagan has pancreatic cancer. You need to tell the doctor this immediately. Have them call me as well.”
“Did you hear me?”
“I’ll tell them.”
“I’m getting on the next flight. What hospital?
he asks frantically.
I stutter. “Buffalo, New York.”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can. You’re at the hospital?”
I answer, glancing at the GPS. Two minutes away.
“You need to tell them immediately, okay? Pancreatic cancer.”
I promise, cringing as he says “cancer
The line goes dead and I start hyperventilating. This is too much to take in.
This entire time he’s had
? I pull up the ER entrance and leap out of the RV, not bothering to lock it or even shut the door. The lady at the front desk is annoyingly calm as I explain who I am here for. She eyes me speculatively and I want to punch her in the face.
I insist. “I need to tell the doctors something about his, er, condition.”
she asks, smacking her gum.
“He has pancreatic cancer,
I say flatly. Her eyes get wide as she pulls the phone up to her ear and dials a number. I don’t listen as she talks to whoever is on the other line.
After she hangs up, the nurse instructs me to go up to the ICU on the sixth floor. I turn toward the elevator, but remember the camper is outside. My fists clench at my sides as I greet the night air and hop back into the RV, driving it to a parking garage. I try to focus on something, anything, that isn't shock and crippling fear.
The med student takes over and I assess the prognosis for pancreatic cancer. My heart sinks at the realization: fourteen percent at best. People don’t survive pancreatic cancer. It’s almost always too late once it’s found. I practically run back into the hospital and up to the sixth floor.
I say, out of breath as I reach the front desk. She types a few things into the computer and yawns. I want to slap her.
“He’s been moved to the eighth floor,
she says simply.
I resist the urge to strangle her as I walk back over to the elevator. It takes an eternity to go up two floors but when I reach the eighth floor, I read that I am in the intermediate care unit and I sigh with relief. He’s alive, that is what this means, and he isn't critical.
I say again, much calmer this time.
The nurse types something into the computer and looks up at me. “Are you family?
I know I should lie if I want to see him but my face has already given me away. She sighs and takes off her glasses, rubbing her eyes before looking up at me. “I can’t let you in until visiting hours at eleven thirty.”
“Eleven thirty? That’s, like, nine hours from now. I need to see him now.”
“If you aren't immediate family then I can’t let you in.”
She looks genuinely sorry so I don't push her. “Can you ask the doctor come talk to me?
I ask. She nods and I turn to walk away. As I settle into a chair, I let the weight of the situation settle in. Reagan has cancer. He didn't tell me he was dying. I didn't even realize he was sick, or did I?
He sleeps a lot, sure, but that isn't necessarily a sign of illness. He doesn't eat very much but how could I have ever connected that to cancer? My mind runs a million miles a minute trying to figure out how I could have missed this. I alternate between crying and being filled with rage. Of course I let myself fall for someone, after everything with Simon, and this happens. Everything was uncertain, but it was perfect. Now everything is neither certain nor perfect.
I lean my head against the arm rest and dose off every few minutes but wake restlessly and wish I could see Reagan so he could tell me everything will be okay; feel his arms around me and know he loves me back. I never told him. He doesn't know I love him. I want to be with him and make whatever it is we have work. It doesn't matter that he’s sick, or that he’ll eventually have to go on tour and it doesn't matter that I’m not done with med school. Reagan makes everything in my life better, more meaningful, and I need him. I don't care about the rest.
My eyes uncontrollably flutter shut and my mind drifts away to a place where Reagan is happy, healthy, and we love each other.