Chapter 20 - At the Hospital
The cold air filling Taylor's lungs were making her breath a little easier. She was tired and gloomy. It was 2 o' clock in the morning. Taylor was sitting in the pane of the large windows of the hospital. Phoebe had been in and out of consciousness for the past four hours. Keith was an emotional wreck every time she woke up and started puking her guts out. Being responsible for someone's death takes a weird toll on you and Keith wasn't free from that grasp either. Keith barely took notice of Taylor even though she was all over the place. Taylor was back on medical grounds after so long that the nostalgic feelings came rushing back to her. Old habits die hard and Taylor felt the same need to hound the attending doctors and nurses to get the latest information and state of the patient behind the doors. She would press and follow the doctors just to deny the gnawing doubt that the girl was lying dead somewhere.
Taylor had been accustomed to the medical talks from her previous experiences with the doctors. Taylor already understood that Phoebe would survive. She was going to be okay after an extended rest, but she also knew that Phoebe's life was never going to be same. Phoebe would have to depend on medications and dialysis for the rest of her life. The outcome would be ugly and Taylor couldn't help but think about Jasmine. If only Phoebe's healthy body could be swapped with Jasmine. Phoebe could die like she wanted to and Jasmine would still be alive, thought Taylor. Of course she knew it was impossible and the thoughts were wrong in so many levels that Taylor felt guilty.
"Lorrie!" Lisa's voice broke her trance.
Lisa was standing under the parking lot's street lamp. She was wearing a green sweater and pajamas. Taylor was sure Lisa had been sleeping when she called to ask her to bring her the specs, the attire just confirmed it. She was also sure that Lisa was tired from the long drive but she didn't look it. Lisa looked beautiful as always and once again the creeping self-consciousness came rushing back to Taylor. Taylor was sure she looked a mess.
"Hey, are you alright? Why aren't you back yet? Who's at the hospital?" Lisa bombarded with the questions as she passed the specs to Taylor. Taylor immediately took off her lens that had been killing her and wore the specs.
"I'm alright Lisa! It's a long story. I'll tell you when I get back okay?"
"When are you getting back?"
"I don't know but Keith needs me here right now."
"Keith's here? Why?"
"I told you it's a long story. Right now you need to get going. You have an early class tomorrow! So get going! See you later!"
Taylor pushed Lisa to her car and ordered her to drive away.
"Drive carefully," yelled Taylor as Lisa nodded and started the car.
Taylor watched Lisa pass by until the only thing she could see was the back lights of the car. Taylor stood at the parking lot for a long time before finally moving back to her place at the windows. There was something comforting about the hard concrete beneath her just the same behind her supporting her. I guess it was the familiarity of the hard truth she had lived with. If she completely let go of the reality, if she just closed her eyes and fell into a deep slumber, she'd be back in the time when Jasmine was still alive. She'd be waiting for the side effects of chemo to subside so that she could talk with her sister.
"Jas, what will you do when you're cured?" Taylor in her innocence of 14th years asked Jasmine preparing for her first chemo session.
A slow smile crept onto Jasmine's face. She was really considering the question. There were so many possibilities, so many things to do and so many places to be at. Taylor watched her sister juggle with her thoughts and her smile transferred to Taylor's lips.
"I know... I'm gonna learn how to build homes and travel the world." Said Jasmine glowing with happiness.
Taylor cringed at the thought of her sister leaving her alone.
"Are you going to leave me?" She asked painfully.
"Oh honey... you can come too. We can build homes together. Make friends all over the world. Create families out of complete strangers! That way we can be at home anywhere we go! Oh I can't wait for it honey!"
"Can I really come?"
"Of course! But remember no matter where we are, I'll always have your back okay?"
Taylor smiled at the sudden memory. That one moment she had really believed she would follow Jasmine out into the world. That one time she had really believed Jasmine would survive. That one time she knew it in her core. But her belief wavered when she saw the effect of chemo on Jasmine. She believed less and less every time she saw Jasmine puke blood, every time Jasmine would faint, every time Jasmine wasn't herself. And now, she had to be there by Keith to watch a stupid perfectly healthy girl destroy her life. Taylor sighed sadly, if only Phoebe had met Jasmine...
Taylor had been staring directly at him while those thoughts crossed her mind. He was standing right in front of her in the distance. Suddenly she shook herself from the depressing chain of thoughts as she realized the guy was Ian. She'd missed the black Audi getting into the parking lot. She'd missed the driver opening the door and standing coolly in front of the car, patiently waiting for her to see him. An abrupt yet inappropriate joy, considering the ongoing situation, took over Taylor. She jumped from the window pane and ran to him. He was too far away and Taylor couldn't run any faster. Why couldn't she run faster?
Ian froze in his place. He couldn't grasp the fact that Taylor was actually happy to see him. The past four hours while Taylor was in the middle of a complete chaos, Ian was burning with the thought that Taylor might decide to ignore him or worse hate him. There was no basis of the thoughts but Taylor always had that effect on Ian. Her presence always made Ian insecure, a little less confident about himself. Of course it was a bad thing to feel. If you love someone, their presence isn't supposed to make you feel insecure or less of yourself but Ian understood why he loved the girl all these years right that moment. She was laughing a laugh that denoted just how relieved she was to see him there that early in the morning. She was happy to see him and just like that all his doubts went out the window. All these years he had been in love with this girl to see and hear that laugh. To feel the calm taking over him as she crashed into him for a tight hug was the reason his feelings hadn't subsided all along. He had been unconsciously waiting for her to replicate the exact feelings he was feeling all those years. Ian lowered his hands and pulled her even closer to him.
"Ian..." She breathed as if it were the most natural thing coming out of her lips.
"I missed you..." Both of them said together and laughed.
"What are you doing here? How did you know I was here?" Taylor asked with a stupid grin stuck on her face.
"I missed you." Repeated Ian.
"Stalker!" Taylor teased.
"Guilty as charged." Ian smiled.
Taylor pulled away from his hold. She stood two steps away from him and stared at Ian. He was wearing the same green t-shirt he was wearing the morning she had seen him for the first time after high school. A pair of dark blue trousers, that looked like the one he slept in when he was at her house with the same kind of comfy sandals that Taylor loved so much. Ian looked as if he was walking in the beach, as if he was unaffected by the growing winter chill.
"Aren't you cold?" She asked.
"No, too much adrenaline pumping in my veins."
"I was nervous coming here... I wasn't sure if you wanted to see me."
"What? Of course I wanted to see you. I always want to see you..." Taylor blurted out and blushed.
"I've missed you so much the last month. It's just that I have this stupid job where I can't get out and..." Ian sighed too loudly and refused to look at Taylor.
"I know. It's okay I understand. Hey... don't make that puppy dog face. Look will you please grab a jacket and come with me? I can't stand out her for too long."
"Keith might come looking for me."
"Is that the guy who has your phone?"
"Yeah... why? Did you call? What did he say? I'm sorry he's not really functional right now." Taylor said walking back to the window pane.
"Yeah, I called. He was the one who told me you were here. I freaked out. I thought you were hurt or something. Of course he told me it was your friend a minute after I almost died of horror."
"I'm okay... as you can see." Taylor smiled. "So if you knew I was alright then why did you come so far to see me?"
"I wasn't going to. Jamie had talked sense into me about three hours ago telling me I had to sleep and rest for the rehearsals early in the morning. But I couldn't sleep thinking about you. I figured I will be tired tossing and turning there, so better I run to you and be tired later." Ian grinned.
"Really." Ian whispered.
"Thanks. I really wanted to see you, especially today."
"Phoebe, umm she's my former roommate, tried to kill herself. Suicide with sleeping pills... Her friends say it's because Keith, my friend, broke her heart. I'm here for him."
"Not for Phoebe?" Ian asked with his voice hinting nothing of what he felt inside. Ian was using his acting skills, keeping his emotions at bay. His voice calm and his tone lifeless, it was almost like a voice of a wall if they could speak. And somehow it was exactly what Taylor needed to pour her heart out. Somehow she knew she could talk because she wouldn't be judged for what she was feeling right then. She shouldn't feel guilty for what she felt.
"No. Not for her. Phoebe is stupid for doing what she did. She didn't care for her life, life that's supposed to mean so much. She was perfectly healthy. There was nothing wrong with her. I've lived with her; she doesn't even catch the flu that easy. Her parents are rich. Her parents probably love her. They must be worried sick trying to get to her faster right now. And what is she doing? She's puking the insides of her stomach to get the pills that her body is rejecting out. The pills she took to end her perfect life. People would kill to exchange lives with her."
"You mean you... exchange it for Jasmine." Ian said realizing the words were true.
"I know I'm horrible for thinking that. But what kind of a sick joke is this? Jasmine died with a hope of a better tomorrow and here Phoebe is trying to erase any chance of tomorrow there might be. Who does that? I mean..." Taylor shook her head from side to side trying harder than usual not to cry.
"I don't know... I don't know... But hey, you have to remember not everyone is as strong as J.J. Not as positive and full of life as she was. Some people, they live to be hundred and more but they'll never live as much as JJ did. Keep that in mind. Not everyone can be as beautiful as she was." Ian pulled Taylor to him and stroked her hair, rocked from side to side and slowly it did the magic. Taylor understood every word he said. She believed every word he uttered and she was no longer angry. She was no longer bitter.
"Ian, thank you... "
"No problem." Ian whispered into her hair.
They stayed like that, Taylor's head lulling into Ian's shoulder as he hummed to her an unfamiliar song, for a long time. It was the calmest Taylor had been in what seem like a long time. She never wanted to stop feeling the way she felt right then. She was safe from the world's harm. She was happy in a bubble somewhere up above the world. Taylor closed her eyes and fell into a sleep where she dreamed Jasmine was in that safe place. It was short-lived dream. Keith's panicked voice woke her up.
"Taylor, she woke up!" Keith called without really seeing her. He knew she would be there as she had promised before leaving his side.
Ian's hand around her shoulder tightened as if he didn't want her to wake up to the bitter reality. But she did wake up and once again she was concerned for Keith. He'd never be able to go back to being normal if Phoebe died that night. Phoebe needed to live for Keith's sake, Taylor decided as she slid off Ian's arm.
"Coming." She replied as Keith's eyes finally found her.
"Thank you for coming. Thank you for everything..." Taylor whispered to Ian.
"Are you sure you don't want me to stay?"
"No... go. You have to be at you rehearsals in few hours. I don't want you to get into trouble because of me. Just go. Drive safely okay?"
"Okay. You can call me if you need anything."
"I'll keep that in mind." Taylor winked as both of them dropped from their seats at the window pane.
Ian stood at the same spot as Taylor started moving away. He was worried about her. She needed sleep. She needed rest but he knew she wouldn't rest or sleep until she knew Phoebe was going to be alright. He could relate her protective urges toward her friend with his own towards her; even though he was sure his was much stronger than what she felt.
Taylor was walking towards Keith, waiting for her to be by his side, when she suddenly stopped. She abruptly turned around and walked towards Ian in slow and steady pace. Her heart was beating fast and a rush of adrenaline pumped into her blood. She reached Ian, standing only a few inches shorter than his 6 feet 2 inches. Taylor had to stretch a little to reach him and without warning to either Ian or Keith, her lips were touching Ian's. Both her hands were on Ian's cheeks as if to make sure he wouldn't disappear. It was just like the kiss that happened years ago but so much better. Taylor's lips were once again cold and soft to touch. They suddenly grew warm but their insides were eerily cold. Like a splash of cold water in the burning hot trouble. Ian reacted a second late but he didn't miss his chance to kiss her back. They didn't care there was a silent spectator gazing at them with a gaping mouth. They were in a Utopian world. It was a perfection that nothing or nobody could spoil. But too soon, the break came. And when it came, Taylor and Ian were grinning from ear to ear.
"Perfect..." completed Ian for her.
"Thank you." Said Ian as Taylor moved away from him. Taylor turned back once to wave him goodbye and she was behind the automatic doors of the hospital.
"I'm sorry you had to see that." Taylor said feeling embarrassed about the fact that Keith had just witnessed her first real kiss while he dealt with the chaos.
"I'm sorry I watched." Keith laughed for what seemed like for the first time in forever.
"You watched? Pervert!" Taylor elbowed Keith both forgetting the reason they were there.
But the reminder was crystal clear when a gloomy doctor was waiting for them to give an elaborate update on Phoebe's status. Phoebe had apparently woken up briefly before once again fainting. According to the doctor, the toxins of the pills had affected her kidney but the new discovery was that due to a lot of pressure on her brain while convulsing, something had gone terribly wrong. She would need an elaborate surgery.
"We will need consent. Who are you of the patient?" The doctor asked.
"I'm her former roommate and he's with me." Taylor replied without really thinking.
"We'll need the consent from someone closer, maybe a family member."
"They'll be here any minute..." Said Taylor as the doctor moved away from them without another glance.
Keith sat in the hard seat of the waiting room kicking the invisible ball. Once again he didn't get a chance to talk to Phoebe. He didn't know what he would say to her once he got the chance but he wanted to nonetheless. Taylor sat by his side and he could see from the side of his eyes that she was smiling. Keith felt an upsurge of envy and anger. But it didn't last long. The truth was Keith loved Taylor's smile. It didn't really matter that it was one of the oddest things to look at, it was just lovely.
"So I'll take it that was the fairytale guy..." Keith said as soon as his anger subsided.
"Yeah... Sorry I'm smiling so much. It's so inappropriate."
"As if that would stop you..." Keith teased.
"I can't." Taylor said smiling a little bit more.
"So how did you guys met?" Keith asked.
"Why do you want to know?" Taylor looked doubtful.
"I want a distraction. Being at the hospital for more than four hours is just..."
"Maybe you should head back. I could stay here. I'll call you as soon as something comes up." Taylor promised.
"No, I can't..." Keith wanted to tell her that she could leave, she could go back, that he could handle it alone but he knew it wasn't true. It didn't matter that Taylor was smiling like an idiot while he was dying inside, her presence made everything a little better. It made him believe that there would be a next day and she would be by his side through thick and thin.
"So how we met is a long story. But do you wanna hear about our first date?" Taylor asked trying to distract him from whatever gloomy thought was going on in his head. Keith nodded.
So this is one of the longest chapters I've ever written. Hope you guys like it and read it through and through. Thanks for still reading it!
Terry: You're welcome! And thank you for reading the story, loving it and commenting on it!
John Farson: Thanks for the comment especially because sometimes I feel like I'm the slowest as well as the laziest writer in the world.
Purple: Umm, I can't tell what's going to happen. But hope you still like this one!
Gloria: Aww, why do think so low of Ian? I mean I think he's an awesome guy. But you never know what I might start writing... hehe thanks for the comment though!
Monica: Thanks for the comment and hope this was soon enough!
Anita 123: Hope it wasn't too late. Thanks for the comment.
Alyssa: Glad you were so happy! Thanks for the comment!