Authors: Ellie J. LaBelle
The voice sounds like a distant apparition awakening me from my nightmares.
Where am I?
Oh, that’s right, the hospital. “What is your name?
the nurse asks as I rub my eyes and squint at the blinding florescent lights.
I mumble with a cough. “Josephine, I mean, Josephine Reynolds.”
“Come with me,
she grumbles. I follow her down a sterol white hallway and begin to hear shouting. It’s faint but clear.
. It echoes against the walls and becomes clearer with every step I take. I immediately recognize Reagan’s voice and my heart leaps.
The nurse leads me around a corner and stops in front of a door.
“Normally this is strictly off limits but he won’t stop yelling and his heart can’t take it.”
I nod, unsure of what she is saying.
“You can go in but if anyone asks, you’re his sister or something.”
With that I am left alone in the hallway, a door between me and the love of my life. I’m scared to see him in a hospital bed. He’s normally my rock, the strong and level one, but now I know I will need to be strong. No more tears or moments of panic.
I sigh and open the door.
Reagan looks at me like I might not be real. I look at him, covered in a hospital gown, and resist the urge to crumble to the ground.
I must be strong for him.
An IV drips into his arm and he’s a little pale for someone whose completion is so dark, but other than that, he looks fine. I approach cautiously, holding onto the fear and worry that so heavily consumes me. He holds out his hand and I melt.
I don't know why I thought he might not be, they told me he was fine. I suppose I needed to see it for myself. My stomach flips as I inch toward the bed with wide eyes.
“Let me explain,
he begins and I stop waking. “I should have told you sooner but I was feeling all right, tired, but okay.
I take a big gulp, unsure if I want to slap him for making me worry or never let him go. “Then I guess I was dehydrated and went into cardiac arrest. It’s not a big deal, well, okay, yes it’s a big deal, but it happens. I’m on a clinical trial and they aren't quite sure what the side effects are. I’m better now and I know what to watch for…Josie?”
A single tear runs down my cheek as I absorb his words. He reaches his hand out to me again and I take it, letting myself take a seat on the bed beside him. His thumb rubs over my fingers and I let all my emotions go. My hand covers my mouth as I squeeze my eyes shut and let the tears roll down my face. Reagan pulls me into his chest and although I know I should be comforting him, I welcome the comfort of his embrace.
“I’m okay, really, I didn't mean to scare you,
he whispers softly.
“What if I hadn't been there? What if I didn't try to wake you up?
I ask, sobbing into his hospital gown.
“Fate has a funny way of making everything work out for the best.”
“Fate that I met you. Fate that you know CPR. They told me you saved my life.”
I look up at him with puffy, wide eyes. It hindsight, I think that I could have done more for him. The CPR was just instinct and when I think about alternatives I could have used, I want to kick myself. The tears stream down harder and Reagan rubs my back to comfort me.
“I thought you were dead,
“Can’t get rid of me that easily,
he jokes. I swat him and immediately regret it, bursting into tears all over again. “Stop crying, please, I’m fine,
“Why didn't you tell me about the cancer?”
he says with a pained expression. “I wanted to, I really did, but there didn't seem to be a right time. We were having fun and I didn't want to ruin it.”
“Don’t you think that’s something I should know?
I ask, frustrated. I wouldn't have pushed him so hard, asked so much of him, and been so selfish.
he nods. “Now you know.”
I scoff followed by an incredulous laugh. “I was so selfish to think my problems meant anything.”
“You’re not selfish,
he states firmly.
“Here I am, acting like a blubbering idiot over a stupid cheating fiancé, and you’re over there dying of cancer.”
“I’m not dying,
“I know the survival rate for
I say like it’s a dirty word.
“I’m in the very early stages, very high success rate,
he states simply. I eye him speculatively and he rolls his eyes. Reagan certainly doesn't look sick, in fact, he has more energy right now than I’ve ever seen. “My mother died from pancreatic cancer. She didn't have any symptoms, like many people, until she started losing weight and lost her appetite. It was too late for her when they found it and that’s why she died so young. They don't know when the cancer started developing in her so I’ve been getting tested the last few years, just in case. A few months ago they found a small tumor.”
“But it’s not something that’s normally inherited,
I say in disbelief.
“Rare, but not impossible,
he explains. “The doctors back home started me on a clinical trial two weeks ago. It’s supposed to send the cancer into remission while it’s early on, like mine, but without the side effects of chemotherapy. I’m still nauseous and crazy tired but I don’t lose my hair and it’s less radical since the cancer isn't that developed.”
“Why didn't you tell me?
I ask again.
“I didn't want your sympathy.”
“I wanted to avoid you looking at me like you are looking at me now.”
I look away and try to focus on something else but the beeping of the heart rate monitor drives me crazy. “Why would you try and cross the country alone in your state? It hardly seems safe.
My tone sounds a little accusatory but I can’t help it, I’m worried about him.
“I needed an excuse to take a break from the band and my record label. They know what they need to know about my health and I needed time to heal. I planned on taking a
trip across the country until I saw you.
His smirk lifts my spirits and a small grin forms on my face.
“Don’t you dare blame this on me.”
“Maybe if you weren't such an animal in bed,
he jokes but I feel my heart sink. I can’t help but feel it’s partially my fault he’s in the hospital. Salty tears form at the edge of my eyes and I try to hide my face from Reagan. He forces my chin up and I struggle to hold them back. “This is hardly your fault,
he smiles sweetly. “I know my limits and I pushed them. Please stop beating yourself up and kiss me already.”
I pull myself onto the bed and lay next to him so we are facing each other. My lips find his and it’s like a heaven I never thought I’d experience again. There was a good chance he might be dead or dying, but now I’m filled with hope that he will get better. Reagan seems confident in his recovery which helps me believe him. Even if he was dying, I’m not sure I care. There is no way I’m leaving him. I was sure of it before but this sealed the deal.
The nurse comes in every so often and glares at me. I try to appease her by getting out of Reagan’s bed but every time I sit up he pulls me back down.
After a few hours of dosing in and out, Reagan finally lets me go but groans as he rolls onto his back. Tucking his bed sheets back under him, I glance at the IV running down to his veins. As I watch the liquid drip into his body I know it’s why he feels so good and when he is released from the hospital, he’ll go back to being exhausted all the time.
I exit the room and rub my eyes as I go in search of coffee. There is arguing coming from down the hall and as I turn the corner I see a group of people, some with cameras, others tapping their feet impatiently, and at the front of it is Mr. Lewis with my dad looking exhausted. My dad argues with the nurse and I assume they must be having trouble getting in. When Mr. Lewis and I make eye contact, he looks relieved. I walk up to the nurse at the front desk call her over.
“That’s his dad,
“Are you sure? I can’t take any chances.”
“Look at his cowboy boots. Do you really think anyone from around here, reporter or otherwise, would be wearing something like that?”
I take Mr. Lewis
hand and pull him out of the crowd. My dad follows, wrapping me in a big hug before the cameras start snapping pictures.
My hair is a rat’s nest on top of my head and I’m in a tattered sweatshirt and sleep shorts. I literally could not look less put together. I lead them down the hallway toward Reagan’s room and push the door open quietly. “He was sleeping,
Mr. Lewis shifts eagerly as we enter the room and his face drops when he sees Reagan laying unconscious on the hospital bed. I feel for him when I realize that seeing Reagan this way must remind him of his wife. Pulling the chair from the corner, I set it down next to the bed and lead Mr. Lewis over to it. He sits down, looking defeated, as he wraps his fingers around his son’s hand and lays his forehead on the edge of the bed.
I don’t know what to say so I walk out of the room to give them some privacy. My dad follows me and we sit together on a nearby bench. I sigh and put my head in my hands as he wraps a protective arm around me. He waits as I cry into his shoulder, letting the sobs fade into soft sniffling and hands me a tissue.
“Are you all right, sweetheart?”
I say, half lying.
“You want to talk about it?
he asks. His expression says he knows something more is wrong. I hate that I can’t lie to him. As I push the hair out of my face, I take in a long breath and tell him everything. He listens silently, clenching his fists as I talk about Simon and nods thoughtfully as I explain my feelings for Reagan, omitting the inappropriate details of course.
“We were right to set you two up,
he states proudly with a knowing smirk.
“I’d say you’re not very good at it, not coy at all, but it worked so props to you guys.”
“I’m so glad you're not with that Simon kid anymore.”
“I’m serious Josie. I don't normally speak ill of anybody but he’s a loser.”
I keep my mouth shut because he isn't wrong. We sit together with my head on his shoulder until Mr. Lewis appears from Reagan’s room. His eyes are bloodshot and he looks ten years older but his expression is relieved. He waves a hand and we follow him into the room where Reagan is sitting up looking jolly as can be.
“Why are you so happy?
I ask, laughing at his infectious mood.
“All my people are here,
he says with a dopey smile as he reaches his arms out to me. I walk over and lean against the mattress, trying to not act too affectionate with our dads in the room. Reagan doesn't seem to care as he pulls me onto his lap, making me squeal.
“You’re going to mess up your IV again,
I scold. He offers me his arm and I roll my eyes, straightening the tube. “You’re going to have a nasty bruise from all this moving around. The tabloids are going to make up stories about how you’re on drugs.”
“I recently just discovered my favorite drug,
he says, kissing me on the cheek.
“Our dads are right there,
“They basically forced us together, this is their fault,
Reagan says, nodding toward them. I glance up to find my dad smirking and Mr. Lewis looking pleased with himself. After shooting Reagan a glare, I hear our dads high five.
“So glad I didn't get stuck with some crappy in-laws,
Mr. Lewis says.
“Welcome to the family,
my dad says proudly and they shake hands.
“Will you two
stop talking. Don’t you think you’re jumping the gun?
Reagan asks from behind me.
“I don’t know,
I say quickly. For a moment, panic runs through me until I realize he’s kidding. I’m barely just unengaged. I don't want to jump right into that again.
“Come on, won’t you give a man his dying wish?
he asks sweetly.
“Well, you’re not allowed to die so I don't think that’s applicable right now.”
“I’m not allowed?
he asks with a raised eyebrow.
“Yes, I forbid you from dying. You have been forbidden.”
“Is that so?”
“It is. Right Mr. Lewis?”
“I agree with Josie on this one,
Mr. Lewis says with a small chuckle.
“See? It’s decided,
I state firmly before hopping off Reagan’s lap. “Now my father and I are going to get coffee and when we return you better have your discharge papers in hand because we are out of this hospital by tonight. Understand?”
Reagan nods, trying to hide the smile forming on his lips and says, “Yes, dear.
My heart flutters a little before I take my dad’s arm and walk out of the room. Just before the door clicks shut, I hear Mr. Lewis say, “She reminds me of your mother.”
His words weigh on me as I consider all that this could mean. I would be choosing a life of constant worry that Reagan might not wake up in the morning. Worried that he might go on tour and push himself too far. He’ll never fully heal, I know that, and that’s what makes this so difficult but at the end of the day, I love him. All of the problems and strife we will surely encounter seem so conquerable as long as we can be together, fight together. His mother died young because they didn't catch the cancer in time but Reagan has a shot at actually beating it.
It’s a lot of pressure to accept a role as head female in the Lewis household. Both of the Lewis men have been without a woman-head for nearly twenty years and being with Reagan would mean caring for both of them. I normally wouldn't assume this much so early on in the relationship but I can see the hope in Mr. Lewis
eyes. Plus, since our dads are friends, I feel I’ve known the both of them so much longer, like I’ve been in the family for years. I feel an inherent closeness with them and I’m glad it’s me they will be relying on.