Chapter 35 - Textbook

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Joe had slept well but woke early with Ella pressed up against him. He had fallen asleep right after Tommy and Gina had left. Their guests were staying at the Comfort Inn on Route One because his apartment was too small. He hadn't even woken when Ella returned from visiting Caleb.

His first thought upon waking was to get back to his brother. He was surprised when he entered his room to see Tim laughing with him. This new friendship scared him and excited him at the same time. It was as if his fate with Tim Burke was in the hands of a seventeen-year-old smart ass.

Joe immediately asked, "How are you feeling?"

"Okay, but I want to go home," he complained.

"Maybe tomorrow... We'll see..." Tim replied.

"But everything is alright?" Joe asked concerned.

"Textbook," Tim answered curtly. "I'm off... busy day at my house."

Joe said, "It was her decision. I would never stop her."

He felt like he was rambling and Tim chose to ignore him as he said, "Be good, Caleb. Don't harass the nurses."

After he left Caleb said, "Man you can put a chill in a room."

Joe just sighed. Later when Ella arrived with Leah, Joe whispered to her, "You can go. We'll be here."

She kissed his cheek and said, "I'm staying with my family."

Thanksgiving was spent at the hospital. Because they couldn't all fit in Caleb's room they rotated in and out while waiting for a turn in the cafeteria. Tommy and Gina left for a while in the late afternoon stating that they had an invitation for pie.

Joe knew they went to the Burke's. When they had visited him before, they had become friendly with Tim and Julie. Apparently, Tim missed them more than he missed Joe. When they returned they smiled and said they had a nice time not indicating to either Joe or Ella how Tim had behaved.

The following morning Joe heard Caleb laughing as he rounded the corner. He braced himself for Tim but was surprised to see Nick.

"Hey Joe! I'm been keeping Caleb company."

"Bridget made me get well cards," Caleb said.

Joe saw a stack of folded papers. "Seems my daughter didn't think one was enough. She wanted to come but I had other patients to see. I just saved the best for last."

Joe saw a shadow briefly cross Nick's face. Joe was reminded of how lucky Caleb had been.

"We're waiting on the results of one more blood test. If all is good we'll spring him today, but he'll have to rest. The nurses will have my instructions and I'll call you later. You know you can reach out anytime... You're family... both of you."

"Don't tell your brother that."

"My stubborn brother will come around. It's a matter of pride so he's going to have to man up."

Joe nodded, but Caleb laughed and when Nick left he said, "I heard about your balls."

"Yeah well if you pull another stunt like you pulled on Tuesday night, I'll have your balls."

"Shit I knew it was just a matter of time before you killed me. You've been way too nice."

"I'm always nice."

"Will you stop it hurts to laugh."

He was able to bring Caleb home mid-afternoon. They planned to cook the turkey the next day to celebrate Thanksgiving. Joe had a lot more to be thankful for this year than last. He only had one wish which he was beginning to think might just come true.

Saturday night he was left alone with Caleb and a slew of dishes as the others went to hear Ella perform. Gina had argued that Joe should go, but he insisted.

"She can give me a private serenade anytime I ask," he argued. Caleb instantly started making gagging sounds and Joe snapped, "Weren't you just in the hospital?"

Ella kissed Joe's cheek and said, "It's so nice to see him feeling better." Joe just smiled.

He actually wasn't alone with Caleb for very long because they had a visitor. Alexa arrived while Joe was still elbow deep in pots and pans as he called out, "You two stay out here!"

He settled himself at the table with his back to the couple and turned on his laptop for the first time all weekend. He used the time to send an email to all of Caleb's teachers explaining that he would not be in school for a few days.

Karen responded almost immediately. So glad he is doing better. Rumors were flying. The first one that I heard was that he was dead!

Joe turned around and said, "Did you know that kids were saying you died?"

Caleb said, "Yeah but Lex posted a picture of me in the hospital on her story."

Joe hated social media and knew the story meant sharing every detail of your personal life with strangers. Nonetheless he was glad that kids didn't think his brother was dead.

Caleb added, "It's all good now. Instead of being the new kid, I'm the kid that almost died."

Alexa added, "And the kid whose brother is the new English teacher."

Caleb and Alexa looked at each other. "What else?" Joe groaned.

Caleb said, "The hot English teacher dating the smoking chorus teacher."

"Really so everyone knows?" Joe asked.

"Yeah, except most didn't call it dating," Caleb said with a smile.

"Remind me again why I decided to dedicate my life to teaching teenagers."

"How the hell would I know," Caleb said and Alexa laughed.

"Watch it!" he said to Alexa, "I have your paper in this pile..."

He turned around and heard her whispering to Caleb. Then Caleb said, "He's kidding."

Tommy and Leah left early on Sunday and Caleb stayed home for three days and went to school for half days on Thursday and Friday. Tommy came back for Gina and as they left he said with a wink, "We're going to visit some friends."

"They're going to see your parents," Joe moaned.

"That's good. Tommy will convince my dad to forgive you," Ella replied.

"Or all the pressure will make your stubborn father dig his heels in even more."

"Be optimistic. I am," Ella said as she opened the door and greeted Alexa. Suddenly their apartment was the new meeting place for the young couple. "Hi Alexa, did you drive over?"

She shook her head, "I'm not allowed to. My dad will get me later."

Joe asked, "Why are you suddenly hanging out here?"

"He's punishing us for lying to you. He knows that your apartment is small so we can't be alone."

Joe thought, neither can we. Instead, he said, "Maybe we shouldn't wait until spring to look for a house."

Ella laughed and Caleb said, "I'm not changing schools and just so you know I decided to apply to the art school in Portland and commute from home.

"Good to know," Joe replied. He wanted to be upset, but somehow that information made him happy. They'd need four bedrooms the rate they were going because even Leah was talking about transferring and Joe wasn't planning to wait too long to have a baby with the woman he loved.

When he mentioned this to Ella, she said, "I hate that it won't be new for you. You've been an expectant father before."

"No, with you everything will be different. I'll go to doctor's appointments and ultrasounds. I'll go out late at night to buy you ice cream or pickles or whatever it is that you need. I'll lie in bed with my hands on your belly feeling our baby move and I'll hold your hand and watch our baby being born. I didn't do any of those things before. At the time I felt like a jerk because I refused to, but it didn't really bother me, because I felt like a jerk for a bigger reason. Everything will be new for both of us, believe me."

When he was done talking Ella had tears in her eyes.

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