Chapter 29 (Part 2) - Home Again, Home Again
I nibbled on the end of my slice of pizza. I had lost my appetite. Jessica was busy wiping sauce off Carol’s face, Alex was finishing off his first slice, and Charlie was staring at me with a concerned expression. “Aimee,” he said.
“Hmm?” I asked, not really paying much attention. I was staring at the phone that sat next to my plate.
“You aren’t eating?” he asked.
“Not hungry,” I said quietly, shaking my head.
“Finish that slice, for me?”
I broke my eye contact with the phone to show him my frightened expression. “I can’t!” I cried, throwing the pizza down on the plate. Charlie placed the half of a slice he was holding to hug me close. He rubbed my arm and placed his face in my hair. It took everything I had not to cry. Then I heard something familiar, a familiar song…”I’ve Just Seen a Face” by The Beatles! My ring tone!
Charlie released me and I snatched my cell. Just as I was about to hit ‘answer’ my finger froze. “I can’t,” I said again.
Charlie took the phone from me and answered it. “Hello, this is Aimee Curben’s boyfriend, Charlie McDonnell. Is there any news on Ms. Elizabeth Curben?” Silence. “Okay…okay thank you. I’ll let her know.” He hung up and placed the phone back on the table. The four of us had stopped everything to listen and stared at Charlie, waiting for the news. Charlie sighed. “Heart attack, while she was taking a walk. She hit her head on the pavement and is in a coma. No further news.”
I felt everything around me squeeze in a suffocate me. I heard distant voices calling my name but they felt so far away. Suddenly something inside my head snapped and I pushed myself up from the table. “What are you doing?” Jessica asked.
“Going,” I choked, barely audible.
“Where?” she and Charlie chorused.
I looked at the four faces staring blankly at me at the table. I swallowed hard. I blinked. I said, “Home.”
The faces continued to stare at me. “London-home or Maine-home?” Charlie asked.
For some reason I wasn’t crying yet. “Maine-home. I’m…I’m sorry.”
“But…how can you afford-“
“I DON’T KNOW!” I yelled, cutting Charlie off. He looked taken aback. I shook my head, and then I ran (well, as fast as one can with crutches).
“I totaled it up,” Charlie said from the doorway, spooking me. I jumped and spun around.
“What?” I asked, not really sure what he was talking about.
He looked at me. His eyes looked so sad. “You have enough money for a plane ticket there.”
“Not for one back.”
I paused. “Oh.”
“I can’t tell you not to go.”
I turned back to my suitcase. “But you don’t want me to, right?”
“Yeah.” I reached to the back and zippered it up.
“Let me help you,” Charlie offered, coming up behind me.
“No, no I’m fine, Charlie!” I snapped.
Charlie looked confused. “With the suitcase?” he asked.
“Oh, yeah, sure,” I stammered. I stepped to the side and let him pick it up. He lifted it and started out of the room, with me following close behind. He came to an abrupt stop right before we got to the door, though, making me nearly run into him. “Ah, Charlie!” I yelped.
“Sorry, I…” he turned and dropped the suitcase.
“Too heavy for you?” I teased, but his face told me it wasn’t the right time. I bit my lip.
He smashed his hands into his pockets nervously and stared down to the floor. I cocked my head. “Are you…are you sure-“
“I’m never sure, Charlie.”
He looked up at me. He just stared at me. I stared back. For a moment, I thought he would grab me and kiss me, or at least hug me, but he didn’t. By God, I wanted him to, but he didn’t. He just picked my suitcase back up and kept walking. I slowly closed the door to the room as I left.
We reached the bottom of the never-ending staircase to find Alex, Jessica, and Carol waiting on the couch in Alex’s
office. All three of their heads shot up at the sound of my suitcase banging the floor. “You’re really leaving?” Jessica cried, and I nodded. She lept up and embraced me in a bear-hug, and Alex followed. Carol told me she didn’t want me to go, and I let a tear slip with that one. I had a little hope Charlie would hug me too, but he didn’t. I could feel my heart slowly sinking, further and further down.
“The flight leaves in three hours,” I mumbled. I had checked the times the moment I ran through the front door earlier. I had bought a ticket without even thinking about the money.
“We should probably get going then,” Charlie said. He picked up my suitcase with a grunt and headed out the door. I waved to Jessica, Carol, and Alex.
“Make sure you call,” Jessica reminded me.
“Of course,” I nodded, then turned and left.
Charlie was waiting at the bottom of the steps. I hopped down and joined his side. “C’mon,” he nodded towards the direction of the underground entrance and we started to walk.
We went the first few minutes in silence, neither one of us wanting to start a conversation. Finally, I said, “You can come, too.”
“I don’t know how long, and it’s so far away. You know that, Aimee.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
Charlie waited a minute before asking, “Will you come back?”
“When I have the money,” I sighed. “And no, you will not pay for me again.”
“I didn’t think you’d let me.” We had reached the stairs and he helped me down. “We won’t be together for our three-month,” I pointed out sadly.
“Aimee,” Charlie said.
“You’ve been calling me Aimee a lot. Just Aimee. What happened to Aimee Rose?”
“You could be gone for years.”
I stopped walking and turned to Charlie. He had his bangs pulled as low as they possibly could go to cover his eyes. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying…maybe…now’s not the time for our three-month.”
I felt every the last little piece that still clung onto me fall off. “Oh.”
“So am I.”
“I still love you.”
I let the bangs I normally pushed back behind my ear fall onto my face. “Yeah, well, it doesn’t matter.”
“What doesn’t matter?”
“Everything. It doesn’t matter, Charlie.”
“What are you-“
“I loved you too.”
And then I grabbed my own suitcase, placed both crutches under my free arm, and hopped away.
——-The next day, Maine, Ms. Curben’s
“Hey Mom,” I said softly, grabbing her hand and sitting down in the hard plastic chair next to the bed. I waited for the nurse to close the door before continuing. “I know you can’t hear me, Mom, but I need to tell you. Now. I can tell you again when you wake up.” I rubbed her cold hand in mine. “Charlie broke up with me yesterday.” It was the first time I had said that out loud, and the words tasted sour on my tongue. “He didn’t want me to leave. He wouldn’t come with me.” I sighed and leaned back, still gripping my mother’s hand. “I thought he was different, like he wouldn’t give up. But then something happens and he just left me, like a coward.” The tears had come back. “Mom, I miss him.” I crossed my arms on the bed and buried my face in them. It felt almost as though someone was squeezing my hand for support. Then I realised, she was. My head shot up and I saw my mother opening her eyes, slowly, but definitely opening them. “Mom!” I cried, standing up.
“Mom, I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”
“I’m here, too. And I am most certainly no going anywhere.”
I laughed through my sigh of relief, and called for a doctor. “Did you hear me, Mom?”
“What do you think?”
“I think he’s standing right behind you.”
[So my heart just did a summersault, guys. Lemme just clarify- my view of Charlie is that he is not perfect. No one is. He has his faults, okay? I think that makes him more, uh, attractive though. Because he admits them. Anywho, that explains Aimee’s speech-thing to her mom. Yaaaaaaay. I hope you liked the super-long chapter. Check out my blog for the first part. Uhm, feedback rocks. Bye lovelies.]