Материалы к занятию
Chapter XI. Part III
The door to the room opens suddenly, and a little girl, about nine, maybe ten, barrels in. “Mommy,” she chirps, staring at a bag of candy in her hands, “we found your favorite chocolates!” She’s exuberant and sweet, and as she skips toward us, her ponytail flaps against her pink cardigan sweater. I glance at Cade, and then back at the little girl, and feel a pang deep inside.
“Oh,” she says suddenly, looking up at us. “I’m sorry.” She giggles. “I think I opened the wrong door.” She points behind her. “My mommy just had surgery.”
I smile. “It’s okay, honey,” I say as she finds her way back to the door. “Your mommy is lucky to have such a beautiful little girl.”
She smiles and then disappears into the hallway. Cade doesn’t notice me wiping away a stray tear.
An hour later, after Cade’s wounds are cleaned and bandaged, the nurse wheels him down to the imaging department. I stay behind and scroll through my phone and see that I’ve missed two calls and a text from Ryan.
“Sorry,” I type. “Busy day. You okay?”
“Hi,” he responds. “Thinking of you. I’m on the early train back. See you at home at six?”
I look at the clock. It’s already four, and there’s no way I’ll be home by six.
“Sorry, I have to work late,” I type, feeling bad as I stare at the words.
“Okay,” he replies. “Guess I’ll see you later tonight?”
“Yeah,” I write. “It could be late. Don’t wait up.”
“Okay,” he responds.
My stomach knots as I toss my phone back into my purse and sink into the chair again. The air smells sterile yet sickly, like some awful combination of 409 and bedpans.
Several hours pass before Dr. Green returns. He’s accompanied by a woman in her mid-fifties. She wears a white lab coat, and there’s something about her face and gray chin-length hair that reminds me of Mrs. Ramsay, the high-school English teacher I always loved.
“This is Dr. Branson,” he says. “She’s the head of neurology here at Harborview.”
I nod. “Nice to meet you. I’m Kailey Crain, an old…friend of Cade’s.”
“I understand that Mr. McAllister lives on the streets,” she says. “I tried to speak to him, but he is unresponsive. In this case, given that we have no other record of his family, or power of attorney, I will consider you next of kin.”
“Sure,” I say. “Whatever I can do to help.”
“Ms. Crain,” she continues, opening up the laptop in her hands. She logs in and sorts through a series of scans. “Your friend most definitely has several broken ribs. While there’s some swelling of his spleen, as you can see here”—she points to one of the images—“it’s not of immediate concern, and I expect him to heal as a matter of course.” She clicks to the next screen, and a new image shows up. She stares intently at what looks like the top view of Cade’s brain. “Now, this,” she continues, “is an image of your friend’s brain. At first glance, everything appears normal.” She zooms in on the image, and I’m fascinated. “But when we take a closer look, we can see that certain areas are brighter, indicating cerebral swelling. This could indicate trauma from his most recent injuries, but when I look at the overall composition of these images, I’m not convinced.”
I shake my head. “What do you mean?”
“I mean that there could be evidence here that your friend sustained a traumatic brain injury some time ago. Dr. Green told me that he once owned a company, had a full life?”
I nod. “Yes, he did. He didn’t used to be this way. I believe something happened.”
“I do, too,” Dr. Branson says.
My eyes narrow. “Like what?”
“A fall, a car accident, anything,” she says. “We’ve seen the gamut. It appears that whatever trauma your friend sustained has left him in a state of confusion. I’ve only had a moment to examine him, but my initial assessment indicates TBI.”
“Traumatic brain injury,” she says. “He also has significant cognitive decline, clear amnesia, and, according to your report”—she turns to Dr. Green—“spotty memory and understanding.”
“Yes,” I say. “I know he recognizes my tattoo, and I believe he remembers me, at least to some degree.”
Dr. Branson nods. “It’s possible that he may remember more, too. We call this Swiss cheese memory. It’s the idea that there are a lot of holes in the entire picture. For many with TBI, as they recover, there will always be holes. Friends and family can do their best to fill in those gaps, though.”
I sit up higher in my chair. “So are you saying there’s hope that he might…recover?”
“Yes and no,” she says. “Your friend has an uphill battle ahead. He’ll need therapy, a lifestyle intervention. Even with the best treatment, it’s unclear how he’ll respond.”
“How can I get him going with this treatment? What can I do?”
She nods. “There’s a new program we’re starting,” she says, “one I think your friend would be an excellent candidate for. We’ve recently received funding for a center, much like a rehabilitation center or an assisted living facility but geared toward those with TBI. It’s on the property, and we have twelve units. It’s a slim chance, but there may be an opening for him.”
“Wow, that would be amazing,” I say. “When could he move in?”
She pulls a card from the pocket of her coat and hands it to me. “Call me tomorrow and we can begin the process of sorting through all the paperwork; that is, if there’s space and he consents.” She flips through a few pages of his chart. “One of my assistants will look through the past decade’s medical records to see if a John Doe might have been treated here for a brain injury. When did you say your friend went missing?”
I close my eyes tightly, then reopen them. “It was the summer of 1998. I can still remember the last time I saw Cade. August first. He wasn’t acting like himself. We had an argument. I left his place that day completely unmoored. I knew he was in a dark place, but I had no idea that I’d never see him again after that. It was as if he fell off the face of the earth.”
“All right,” she says. “It might be a needle in a haystack, but we’ll review the undocumented patients over the years, see if we can make any connections. If we can find out what happened to him or have some sense of the nature of his injury, it could help his treatment plan.”
I nod. “Thank you so much.”
It’s almost ten, and when the nurse finds me in the waiting room, I’m nearly dozing off. “We’ve moved him to the fifth floor,” she says. “We’d like to keep him overnight to monitor him.”
“Thank you,” I say, taking a deep breath before standing and gathering my things.
“I could bring in a cot,” she says, pausing, “if you’d like to stay.”
I think of Ryan. “I…can’t. But I’d like to come up and say good night to him before I go.”
“Sure,” she says. “Follow me, and I’ll take you up.”
The elevator lurches upward, and I can feel the nurse’s eyes on me.
“He’s special to you, isn’t he?” she says.
At first I’m taken aback by her question. My eyelashes flutter. Cade used to notice when they did. He was the only one who could read me. “You’re going ‘walls up,’ ” he used to say.
“You’re very observant,” I finally say to the nurse. “Yes, he is.”
The nurse leads me into Cade’s room. It’s dark, except for the faint light of the city shining in the window. The city he once loved so much.
“Mr. McAllister,” the nurse whispers.
He doesn’t respond, and by the pattern of his breathing I can tell that he’s sleeping.
“Good,” she whispers to me. “He needs the rest.”
I nod, taking a few steps closer to him. His beleaguered body is covered by a light blanket. His face is puffy and bandaged. A nasal cannula delivers oxygen, and an IV line flows into his right arm.
“Good night, Cade,” I whisper.
“Go home,” the nurse says. “Get some rest. I’ll look out for him tonight. Don’t worry.”
“Thank you,” I say as tears sting my eyes. She notices them, I can tell.
“He’s going to be okay,” she says. “I have a feeling.”
I take a deep breath to steady myself. “I hope.”
I walk to the door, then turn back around and dig through my bag to find my iPod, where on a playlist there are hundreds of songs he used to love—we used to love. I gently attach a set of headphones to his ears, then turn the music on. His eyes flutter a little as the Gin Blossoms’ “Follow You Down” begins to play.
It’s after eleven before I’m home, and Eddie greets me at the door. “Hi, boy,” I whisper, kneeling down to pet him. I see Ryan’s suitcase and jacket, and I wonder if he’s asleep. I wonder how much longer I can keep this secret from him.
Quietly I set my keys down on the side table. I glance at the stairs that lead to our bedroom, then turn to the couch instead, where I lie down and pull a wool throw over my tired body. As I close my eyes, I see Cade’s face. He’s standing on the balcony at the hotel we shared in Big Sur. The French doors are flung open. Waves crash onto the shore beneath the rugged cliffs, mirroring the intensity of my love.
Chapter XII. Part I
“Look,” Cade says. “It’s starting to snow.”
I peer out the window of the cab to see flakes falling lightly outside. We’re on the way to Mishu Sushi in Fremont, where I’ll be meeting his business partner for the first time. Besides his aunt, James is the closest thing Cade has to family, so I’m honored to finally meet him, even if the occasion has been a long time in the making.
“I love snow,” I say. “It makes me happy.”
“Me too,” he says. “But on these cold nights, I always worry about the homeless. There’s this old man who’s camping out in the alley behind my apartment. I brought him a cup of coffee the other day. His name is…Ivan, I think. It’s got to be so cold tonight.”
“It was easier being a kid,” I say. “It could snow, and all that would matter was whether you’d miss school and get to make a snowman with your friends.”
“Yeah,” he says. “My aunt had the best sledding hill in the neighborhood. James and I used to be out all day until she’d call us in and make us hot chocolate.”
“Those were the days,” I say.
“They really were.”
I smile. “Remember when you were little, and you’d go to the grocery store and come home with a kitten?”
Cade grins. “Yeah, there would always be some lady with a box of free kittens.”
“Exactly,” I say. “But that never happens anymore.”
We both laugh.
“So what should I expect when meeting James tonight?” I ask, turning back to him.
“How to describe James,” Cade says with a contemplative sigh. “Well, he’s tall and charming, very smart. Come to think of it, kind of an all-around catch.” He grins. “Don’t go running off with him, now.”
I laugh. “I’ll try to control my impulses.”
He squeezes my hand. “James and I are very different,” he says. “But somehow we work as friends and business partners.
Though it’s not always easy.”
I nod. “How so?”
“Take now, for instance. James wants to take the company in a new direction.”
“He thinks we should sign Flying Limbs. The lead singer thinks he’s God’s gift to music, even though he has a criminal record, and he’s demanding an enormous signing bonus. I mean, they have a huge following, but”—he shakes his head—“I’m just not sure they’re the type of people we want to work with.”
“And James is?”
He nods. “Not only that, but he’s taking matters into his own hands. The other day he took the band out for dinner without me. In the past, we’ve always taken talent out as a team.” Cade shrugs.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “So the leader’s an ex-convict?”
“Yeah,” he says. “I don’t know the whole story, but he apparently assaulted a girl when he was a minor.”
“Yikes,” I say.
“I know.” He shakes his head. “It’s like James is going rogue. Last week he was talking about signing a string of one-hit radio wonders. You can only languish in the land of the Spice Girls so long before you want to gouge your eyes out.”
Cade rolls his eyes. “They’re a girl group that is blowing up in the U.K. Expect them to be on every major radio station in America by next summer, and prepare for some serious airwave pollution. Churning out commercial hits was never why I got into this business. To me it’s all about the music. Good music.”
I nod. “I get it. Can you two find common ground?”
“Eventually, but it’s a constant battle,” he says. “And sometimes it wears on me.” He pulls out his wallet to pay the driver. A tall man matching James’s description stands under a blue awning beside a woman with dark, curly hair. He extinguishes a cigarette on the sidewalk, which now has a light dusting of snow. “Oh,” Cade says in a hushed voice. “I forgot to tell you that Alexis will be here.”
“His assistant, right?” Cade has mentioned Alexis only a few times.
“Yes,” Cade replies. “She’s a whiz with the books. We hardly need to hire an accountant these days.” He clears his throat.
“Oh, and she and James are dating.”
“Oh wow,” I say.
Cade cracks his knuckles. “It’s a little strange, I know. And I’m not sure Alexis is even that into him. But I’d rather stay out of it, if you know what I mean.”
As he steps out of the cab, the driver turns around. “Excuse me,” he says. “I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation. Are you Cade McAllister from Element Records?”
“In the flesh,” he says.
“Wow,” the driver says. “I’m Rod. I’m a big fan. I, uh, I’ve got a band. I play drums and a little guitar. We have a demo tape—uh, you might like to hear it.”