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Chapter 5

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Jake stood in front of a bank of elevators. The hallway was filled with the sounds of beeping devices, guarded medical conversations, and squeaky shoes on polished floors. The early morning bustle of doctors, nurses, and support staff, as well as patients and family rushed past as he and several others waited. An elevator arrived, and its occupants spilled out like the lever had been released on a Connect Four game. Once empty, Jake and his fellow passengers boarded the car, standing shoulder to shoulder and smiling awkwardly.

He rode the elevator up to the tenth floor, a general medical-surgical floor. Bobby had graduated from the ICU last week, much to his disappointment. Though Natalie still found the time to check on him. When he got off the elevator, Jake was unsure of which was to go. He talked to Bobby on the phone almost every day, but he'd yet to visit him in his new room.

A nurse's station was to his right, so he headed in that direction. Nurses were huddled in pairs over open files updating the new shift on the status of the patients. Jake had spent enough time around hospitals during his time with CPD to know not to interrupt.

When discussions slowed down, Jake said, "Excuse me. I was wondering if you could tell me where Bobby Andollini's room is."

The nurse turned to him and squealed. "Jake!

"Oh. Hi, Natalie." Jake blushed. "Sorry I didn't recognize you. Everyone looks the same around in their uniform."

Natalie looked at the much younger nurses sitting at the desk and smiled. "You're such cutie, Jake."

"That's me."

She pulled him in for a hug and gave him a peck on the cheek. Jake couldn't have resisted it if he had tried. She was a strong woman with muscle built from lifting heavy patients.

When she released him, he asked, "So how it the big guy?"

"Good. Really good. I came up to get an update. He's still on track to be released on Friday."

"Perfect. He'd be heartbroken if he couldn't make the wedding."

"I know. It's all that he talks about. That and double cheese pizza he's going to order the second he walks out the hospital doors."

Jake laughed. "You're not going to let him do that, are you?"

"Hell no. But his mom will probably do it behind my back just to spite me."

"So you're making her jealous? She never had to share her little boy with anyone before."

"I'm not scared of her."

"Really?"

"Well, maybe a little. I think she put a hex on me when I took the bag of cannoli that she tried to sneak into his room. Do you know how many calories are in those suckers?"

Jake shrugged. "A lot."

"You got that right." She patted her hip. "I couldn't let them go to waste, so I took one for the team."

He smiled. "I'm really happy that you two hit it off. He's been alone too long."

"I don't understand why. He's such a sweetheart."

"We'll see how much of a sweetheart he is when he founds out you ate all of his cannoli."

She laughed heartily. "Well, you should go in. Bobby has something he's dying to tell you?"

For some odd reason, Jake found himself staring down at her ring finger but it was bare. She noticed him looking. "What?"

He blushed. "Nothing. I was just wondering if .... "

"God no." She covered her left hand with her right one. "We haven't even had an official date yet."

"I know." He shrugged. "But it's Bobby. He's like a giant Labrador retriever. He loves people hard and fast, and he's been so excited about my wedding, I wouldn't put it past him to get caught up in the moment.

"Which is why I like him. I've learned what's more important since high school. Loyalty, kindness, a sense of humor, but let's not rush things. He needs my kid's approval first. My kids are my number one priority. My life would be nothing without them."

"As it should be." He nodded and looked down at his shoes.

She put a hand on his shoulder. "How stupid of me? I'm sorry."

He knew she had meant nothing by it. He was used to it. Most people tried to wipe his tragedy from their mind because if they acknowledge it as a possibility, then it could also happen to them too. He didn't wish that on anyone.

"It's fine. Don't worry about it."

"Bobby showed me her picture. Sam was a beautiful girl."

"Thank you." He tried to force a smile on his face.

"You and Mary are not that old. Maybe you could have another."

"I doubt it." He shook his head. Not that he and Mary had ever really talked about it, but he couldn't see them wanting to redo that phase of their life. "I'm not sure that I could do diaper duty again."

"Oh, I love babies. I wouldn't mind one or two more," Natalie said.

"No. Mary's kids will be enough for me."

"It's nice to hear you say that. Not every man wants to raise someone else's kids."

Still trying to sell his friend to Natalie, Jake said, "You know Bobby's wonderful with kids too. A lot better than me."

"I hope."

"He's literally twice the man I am."

She laughed. "He might be that, but I've learned that looks aren't everything though it took a couple of jerks to teach me that lesson."

He laughed politely with her. "So which room is he in?"

She pointed down the long hallway. "1019. It's the last door on the right."

"Got it."

"Oh, and I was able to trade weekend shifts, so I'll be able to make it to the wedding. That is if my babysitter doesn't fall through."

He hadn't really thought about her coming, but he should have expected that Bobby would invite her. "Great. I'm so happy that you can make it."

"Me too. See you on Saturday."

The wedding was turning into a bigger affair than Jake hoped. A feeling of unease settled in around him. He just hoped that he could make it until then, but knowing his luck, disaster would strike. He'd say something stupid, a comet would fall out of the sky, or Sonny would show up with his gang with new demands of Jake, any of which would cause Mary to rethink her decision and figuratively leaving him alone at the altar.

No. He couldn't let that happen. His life's story would not become a Greektragedy.

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