“We’ll find him. I want you to hang up with me, and call the police. I’m going to the airport now.” I shot up and Kate followed suit, worry plaguing her face. She went to the closet and grabbed her coat. “I’m on the next flight home. You stay there, call the police and wait for them, okay?”
“O-okay.” I’d never heard my poor mother so scared in my whole life.
“Call me on Kate’s phone if you need, but as soon as I get on the plane I’ll let you know.”
The phone clicked off and I grabbed my shoes.
“What’s going on?” Kate asked.
“My dad is missing. I think he wandered off and,” I choked then cleared my throat, “I have to go.”
“Of course!” Kate called for Adam and in less than two minutes he had a car waiting out front of the hotel.
“I don’t have my I.D. or any money—”
“Don’t worry about it,” Adam said, stuffing his cell in his pocket. “I have it covered. We’re taking a private plane out of here, it’ll be ready by the time we get to the airport.”
Tears ran down my cheeks but I smiled at him. “Thank you so much.”
He wrapped one of Kate’s coats around me. “You’re family, Megan.”
Kate nodded and put her arm around me, picking up her purse as we walked toward the front door and out.
“Everything will be okay,” Kate whispered, rubbing my shoulder. I looked at her and hopped to God she was right. Because I didn’t think I could handle losing one more thing I loved.
I clutched my father’s hand and stared at the heart monitor.
“Why don’t you come with me to the cafeteria, honey,” my mom asked. She looked fragile, as though she’d aged ten years in the past ten hours. “That’s okay. I want to stay with him.” By the time I had gotten back home, the police had found him shivering on a park bench about a mile from my parents’ house. When he first woke up in the hospital, he was disoriented and scared but relatively aware. The doctors got him calm and he was now sleeping.
“The doctors said he should be cleared to go home tonight.”
I nodded. They had hooked him up to an I.V. drip for hydration and ran several tests to make sure he hadn’t suffered any strokes. Everything came back clear. They think that he woke up confused and wandered off on his own, which was apparently not uncommon for dementia patients.
“I was going to ask them if we could still travel for your wedding tomorrow.”
“No, mom. I don’t want to push him. And…the wedding…” I gripped my father’s hand a little tighter.
“He wouldn’t want you postpone, honey. Have you called Preston? I’m sure he’s worried sick—”
“I’m sorry, mom, but do mind if I just have a few minutes?” Adrenaline was crashing and every emotion known to man was pulsing on and off within me like a spastic child flicking a light switch. I hadn’t brought myself to admit anything to my mother yet.
“Of course. I’ll bring you back some coffee, okay?”
With a pat on my shoulder, her soft footsteps faded from the room, leaving me alone with my sleeping father.
“Daddy,” I whispered, and hung my head. “I’m so scared.”
Tears ran down my face and hit the top of his hand I was holding. He looked older since I saw him last. Smaller. I felt helpless and didn’t even know where to begin sorting any of this out. For now, I focused on the positive things. He was alive and okay. And hopefully, he’d wake up and be relatively cognizant.
A warm palm ran down my back. I turned to find—
“Preston?” My voice held almost no sound. A tidal wave of warmth and relief crashed over me, then was quickly sucked up by an empty funnel of frost. Emotions warred and I didn’t know how to feel.
“I’m sorry, Megan.” He glanced at my father. “Is he going to be okay?”
“Yes.” I stood to face him, using the edge of the bed to balance my weak legs and tugged on my shirt near my belly button. His eyes flew to the action and something terrified and painful flashed across his face.
“Are you okay?”
I wanted to balk. How could he ask me that? “No.”
“Please, sweetheart…” he mumbled just loud enough to reach my ears. He reached out for me and I stepped back.
“Fuck…” he whispered, and halted. “I lost you, didn’t I?”
I didn’t speak. Couldn’t. After a night of crying and sick with worry, I wasn’t prepared to take him on. What I needed to say was stuck in my throat. Tears coated every syllable I attempted, and I began to choke on my words before they even left my mouth.
“I have nothing, sweetheart.” He stepped again, and again I moved back. “I have nothing to offer you, to show you, prove to you that I deserve you. Because I don’t.”
I bit my bottom lip but the damn thing trembled anyway. There had to be some strength left in me, I just needed to find it. Tell him that I was keeping the baby whether he liked it or not. Tell him that I didn’t need him, but just the thought going through my mind brought a fresh dose of gut-wrenching pain.
He stared hard at my face. “I tried to find you. When I learned about your father, I came here.” He ran a hand through his hair and his red-rimmed eyes glanced at the ceiling. “I’ve tried making sense of this all night. I’ve pored over documents, bank statements, bills and I found nothing.”
I frowned. Not understanding where he was going with this.
He apparently caught on to my confusion because he explained, “You have access to a lot. Money, credit, the Strauss name, and you didn’t use any of it. The weekly allowance I gave you was directly wired every Monday to your parents and that’s it.”
He was saying things I already knew, but obviously he had thought something very different about me. “Did you really think I would use you like that? It’s never been about the money, not in the way you’re implying.”
“I know what it’s been about. Because that’s what I made it about,” he whispered. Not blaming, just stating. “And I made you feel like you couldn’t come to me. I’ll never forgive myself for not being there for you last night, Megan. Not being the one you turned to when you found out about your father, because I pushed you away when you needed me most.”