Chapter 32 - Numb

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Joe looked around his small apartment and decided that it was looked good enough. He had spent the evening cleaning. Although it was Tuesday night Caleb was at that house like always and Ella had a gig. She rarely worked on weeknights but this was a charity event. She had explained that during the Christmas season she would be busier than ever with gigs for Christmas parties and her own students' choral concert. Joe was looking forward to her concert because he loved to see her shine, but also because Caleb would be in it.

Although it was Tuesday it was not a school night because they were on break for Thanksgiving. Ella was adamant about not spending the holidays without Joe, so they had made their own plans for Thanksgiving. The following day, Tommy and Gina would be arriving with Leah. He had not seen Leah since the end of August and Tommy since before he had moved away that summer.

Thanksgiving dinner for six was going to be a tight squeeze in his apartment and nothing like Ella was used to. Gina and Ella had been planning the meal for over a week. He was excited about being with his family. Joe would happily forfeit all the food that filled his refrigerator if Tim Burke changed his mind, but even so, he would have to open his home to all six of them. Sadly Joe didn't think that would be happening and worried about Ella if she had to choose to spend Christmas away from her family.

He sat down and clicked on the TV, he flipped through the channels not finding anything worth watching. Feeling like an old man, he stopped at the ten o'clock news. After hearing the meteorologist's report on frozen rain and black ice concerns he began to worry about Ella driving home. He sent her a text warning her to be careful. She wouldn't be on the road for a while since her event didn't end until midnight. He would go and pick Caleb up at eleven. Ever since it had turned cold he had stopped making the kid walk home. He sent him a text too, letting him know that he would be waiting for him at eleven.

He shivered in his car as he waited in front of the modest colonial. It looked like a nice house, nicer than what he could afford, but not nearly as big as the house that Ella grew up in. Would she be happy in a small home? He still worried that she would wake up one day and had changed her mind about him.

The car was cold because the drive wasn't long enough for the heat to kick in. He tapped his hand on the steering wheel to the beat of Linkin Park. Living with Caleb had broadened his musical horizons. At five after eleven he debated going to the door. When he looked at his phone, he noticed that Caleb hadn't texted him back. Neither had Ella, but she was on stage.

Sighing he got out into the cold and walked up the driveway. He had never been to the door before. Ringing the doorbell he was telling himself to cut the kid a break. When Gaby answered the door with red eyes and a face full of anguish he figured that they were fighting again.

"Tell Caleb. I'm here," he said curtly not wanting to get involved.

Gaby burst into tears and he could hardly understand her. His heart went into overdrive when he made out three words — accident, hospital, and police.

"Where is he?" he demanded.

"Maine Med..." she cried.

He didn't care about anything but getting to his brother. He would sort the details out later. He didn't care about why Caleb's phone said that he was at that house or that he clearly wasn't with Gaby. Reviewing her hysterical words he remembered she said that 'they' had gone out. He had no idea who 'they' were, but Gaby seemed to think that he should.

The drive to Portland felt like it took forever. He had to remind himself to take it slow even though he wanted to drive like a madman. He kept telling himself to relax but didn't listen. He parked in the garage and rushed into the emergency room only to have to wait in line. He wanted to push past everyone but stood shifting his feet thinking the worst. Finally, he reached the information desk and said, "Caleb Gallagher!"

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