"I'm sorry," Ryan told Jacky after. After he had splashed cold water on his face so his eyes weren't so red and puffy. After he had finally been able to let Jacky go.
Jacky just gave him a tight smile and said, "You should probably go see your mom."
Ryan nodded. He didn't want to see her like this. But he let Jacky take his hand and lead him back to the waiting room.
"I can't go in with you," Jacky said. They were just standing there, holding hands. Monica was watching them. Ryan looked at her, and he knew that she now knew. She looked down at her phone and nodded to herself.
"I know." Ryan stared down at their interlaced fingers.
"Just go. I'll be here."
Jacky gave his hand a squeeze, and then extracted himself. Ryan watched it happen, the same way he'd been watching everything happen since that moment the phone rang in English class. He watched himself walk down the hall and heard himself ask about Sarah Sullivan at the nurse's station.
The only time he felt himself settle back inside his own body was when he sat by her bed and took her cold hand in his.
"So now we wait?" Monica said when Jacky sat down beside her.
"Now we wait."
Jacky took out his phone. The cell reception here was shit. He didn't know how Monica could do anything on her phone until he looked over and saw that she was reading a book. "Anything good?" he asked, pointing to her screen.
"Oh..." She blushed. "Yeah, actually. It's called Unintended... one of those dystopian books. I love those."
She tucked her hair behind her ear. "Yeah, I've read all the Hunger Games series, Divergent, all of those." She clicked off her phone and looked at him. "What kind of stuff do you like to read?"
They ended up talking about books until Jacky's stomach rumbled so loudly even the nurses heard it. "You hungry?" he asked Monica.
"Yeah, I guess I'd better head home." She glanced back at the door marked Intensive Care Unit. "Do you want a ride?"
Jacky didn't even have to think about that one. "Nah. I'll grab something at the cafeteria."
Both of them stood up and Jacky waited while Monica put on her coat and gathered up her things.
"So... you and Ryan, huh?" she asked.
He played with the strap on his messenger bag. "Yeah, kinda."
"It makes sense, I guess," she said, before they started walking down toward the cafeteria. "I always thought he was just being a gentleman, but I guess he just wasn't interested."
"If it helps, I don't think he was really sure about it himself." When they got to the lobby, Jacky stopped. "Don't tell anyone okay? I know he's worried about how people will react, and with all this..."
"I won't," Monica promised. She waved and headed out.
Jacky bought himself a sandwich and a soda from cafeteria, then bought another for Ryan. As he wound his way back up to the ICU he found himself looking at the nurses who passed by. His memories of the hospital weren't great, but there were a few people he remembered who had been really nice to him. He found himself feeling a bit disappointed that he didn't see anyone he knew. Then again, they probably wouldn't want to see him. He hadn't been a very good patient.
Before he got back to the ICU, he stopped off in the lobby to call his mom. He knew she would be worried, since he hadn't gone home after school, and she was. "But Mom, Ryan's mom is dying and he doesn't have anyone..." She told him he could stay until visiting hours were over. "But Mom, it's the ICU. Ryan will be there all night, by himself."
"I'll come to pick you up at eight o'clock," his mother said. "We'll decide what to do then."
Jacky chewed on the inside of his cheek as he hung up. One thing was sure, he didn't want to get in a car to drive home at night. He'd rather risk riding home on his bike in the dark. Once his mom saw how alone Ryan was, Jacky was sure she'd let him stay overnight. She had to.
Ryan was still in there when Jacky returned to the seats he and Monica had occupied earlier. He set down Ryan's sandwich on the chair beside him, and devoured his own in about four bites. After washing it down with soda, he wandered off to find a vending machine and got some Doritos. Wandered back. Still no Ryan. Then it was a hunt for some good magazines – he found a dog-eared issue of Cosmo and flipped through that for a while. Then he figured he ought to do his homework. He was still working on math when he heard his mom's boot heels clacking on the floor.
"He's in with his mom?" Mrs. Jennings asked. She took the seat beside Jacky, and to his surprise, she stuck her hand in his hair and started combing it. He let her, though he tried not to show how much he liked it.
"Yeah. He's been in there a long time."
"And he doesn't have anyone? Grandparents, no aunts or uncles?"
Jacky shook his head.
"Honey, I know you like him a lot," she started, and Jacky tried not to grimace. "I just want you to know that this isn't your responsibility. I think it's very brave of you to want to be here for your friend. But I think he would understand if you went home and went to bed and went to school. He'll know you'll be here tomorrow."
"He's my boyfriend," Jacky told her.
She smiled a little. "Your boyfriend?"
"Yeah." He smiled too. Then it faded away. "Can't I stay here tonight with him? I can go to school tomorrow. I'll sleep on the chairs here. I just... don't want him to be alone if something happens tonight."
"I thought you'd ask that." From the depths of her giant purse she withdrew a plastic grocery bag. "I packed you a change of clothes and your toothbrush and some snacks."
He took the bag and tried not to cry. "Thanks, Mom."
"Call me if you need me. Ryan is welcome to come stay with us, you know that."
"Okay." He said thank you a few more times, then hugged his mom and listened to her heels all the way down the hall.
Sitting there in the waiting room chair with Ryan's sandwich on the seat beside him, he felt heavy and sad. It was after ten before he slouched down in the chair and closed his eyes.
YOU ARE READING
Waiting RoomTeen Fiction
Everyone at school knows Andrew Jackson Jennings. Lost an arm in a car accident. Openly gay. Future school shooter. Everyone at school knows Ryan Sullivan. Football captain. Nice guy. Future valedictorian. When Andrew ends up in therapy after writin...