“I was arrested outside the hospital when I was told to leave and not come back.”
My heart plummets to the pit of my stomach. “I didn’t know. I called you, and as soon as I was well enough to travel to New Haven, I did. I went to your mom’s diner, Joshua . . . Josh,” I sob. I can’t be strong. I can’t keep my tears from sliding down my face. “But now I know the truth. I knew you wouldn’t leave me. I’ll submit a statement. Whatever you need, just tell me. Just tell me what happened. I’ll say anything, anything you want me to.”
The warmth he once shared in his soulful eyes, ices over. “Anything I want? The truth, Chloe. You just have to tell them the truth.” A pinched wrinkle runs through his forehead. “What do you remember happening?”
I hate that I’m disappointing him, so I tug every memory I’ve managed to pull from the deep well of my brain over the past week. “I remember the party. Drinking with you. Making love with you—”
His hands grip the edge of the counter, seeming to keep him from leaving. “You don’t remember, do you?”
The heartstring tethering us together snaps. I’m losing him. I can feel it. My plea comes fast as if time is running out. “I’ll find a doctor to help me, but that will take time. If you tell me, it might trigger the memories.”
He pounds his fist down, and I watch as frustration courses through his handsome features. “This is my life! Not some fucking fairy tale. I’m looking at three years if I plead guilty.”
“Don’t plead guilty. I’ll help—”
“You can’t even fucking remember. So unless you talk your dad out of pressing these charges and now the county that’s siding with him, I’m going to prison tomorrow. What happens to my mom, Chloe? What happens to her diner? What happens to the dreams I fucking had?”
One more time. One more to reach him. My hand goes to the glass as if I can reassure him, as if he’ll feel how much I love him, will feel it through the cold division. “I’m sorry. I’ll talk to him. I’ll do anything you need me to. Just tell me what to do.”
“Get me out.” His hand ghosts mine through the glass. “Please.”
“I’ll fix this.”
“I have until morning to accept the plea deal.”
In the darkest hour with two inches of glass between us, I feel his love again and cling to it. “I promise, Joshua.”
By the time I reach the car, my legs falter under me, and the adrenaline draining from my body causes me to slump against the door. Kenneth comes around, wrapping his arm around my waist, and helps me inside. “You’re not well, Chloe.”
“I’m okay.” I slide in, holding my midsection. My rib and body ache in recovery. My heart breaks from reality.
From the front seat, Kenneth looks back, and asks, “Where do you want to go?”
I’m kept waiting, left alone pacing in my dad’s office. Every minute that ticks by increases my anger.
This clinic, and his office specifically, used to feel like a second home. It’s where we’d bring my dad dinner if he had to miss holidays because of an emergency. It’s where I brought my letter when I got accepted to Yale. It’s where I interned last summer.
I stand at the window not able to enjoy the memories because I can’t seem to reason through the lies to find the truth.
The door opens, catching me off guard, but I’m still ready to explode. “Chloe? This is unexpected,” he says, not bothering to look up from the messages his receptionist must have handed him before he walked in. “You’re supposed to be in New Haven. Don’t tell me I wasted my time making those phone calls?” He dumps the papers on his desk as he moves around to sit. He finally looks at me. “You look pale. Are you not feeling well? Do you need me to examine you?”
No greeting or how are you? His greeting lacks the sincerity of a father happy to see his daughter who wasn’t killed in a car accident. I barely receive the courtesy of good bedside manner, but maybe he lacks that as well. “What did you do?”
“What?” he asks, typing on the computer. When I don’t respond, he adds, “I’m extremely busy, Chloe.”
“I just came from the jail.”
That gets his attention, but he rights his expression, making me realize he’s a master of disguise. “Are we playing this game all day, or are you going to tell me why you went to the jail?”
“Did Joshua’s lawyer contact you?”
His chair swivels in my difference, and he sits back, clasping his hands on his lap. “Yes. He left a message.”
“Did you return it?”
“No. My attorney advised me not to. He did, though, and told him to stop calling. The damage may be done, but there’s repercussions that come along with trying to hurt my family.”