Always. Занятие 25

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We’d walk, except we’re in heels, and it’s one of those miserably frigid days when it’s cold enough to snow but the atmosphere doesn’t quite have what it takes, so Tracy hails a cab outside the apartment. When we arrive at Cade’s, it’s five after eight, and about a dozen people have already arrived.


“Hello, gorgeous,” he says, making a beeline to the door when he sees me walk in. “You look unbelievable.”


“Thanks,” I say, grinning.


His apartment has been transformed into party central. The furniture has been pushed aside to make room for dancing, with a strobe light and glitter ball adding to the effect. A bartender stands at attention in Cade’s kitchen, and one of the interns from Element (I think his name is Tom or Tony) is manning the stereo.


“I have a surprise for you,” he says, motioning me to the kitchen.


I follow him around the corner, where a couple of women with bleached-blond hair are kneeling down beside a black Lab puppy.


“Happy early birthday,” he says, smiling.


My eyes widen. “Cade!”


“You always said you wanted a black Lab, and, well, I wanted to get you one.”


I kneel down, tears in my eyes.


“I thought we could raise him…together.”


The puppy nuzzles my face as I lean toward him. “Hello, little fellow.”


Cade kneels down beside me as the blond women look on, smiling. “What should we call him?”


“Eddie,” I say, lifting him into my arms.


“Eddie it is, then,” he says with a smile.


After a few minutes, more people arrive, and I suggest that we keep Eddie in the guest bedroom. The commotion of the party might be too much for him.


“What would you like to drink?” Cade asks after settling the puppy with a bowl of water and a few blankets.


We meet Tracy at the bar. She asks for a martini, and I decide on the same. Cade stows our coats and purses in his closet, and we make small talk with a few Element employees as more people arrive, old friends of Cade’s, musicians from bands I’ve never heard of and a few I have, like Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters, who introduces himself to Tracy and me and throws down a shot of Jägermeister. And then James and Alexis walk in. James looks distracted and tired, as if this is a check-the-box event that he’d like to hurry up and get over with. If Alexis feels the same way, however, she doesn’t show it. She smiles at me.


“Hi,” I say, waving. James’s frown softens when he sees me, and he and Alexis walk over to us from the bar.


“Happy New Year,” James says, holding up his martini glass for me to clink.


“James and Alexis, this is my roommate, Tracy,” I say.


“Nice to meet you,” James says.


Cade is across the room switching the record, and when our eyes meet, he gives me a knowing smile.


Tracy presses her hand to her chest. “I love this album.”


“Me too,” Alexis says. “Neil Young is so timeless.”


I clear my throat. “You mean Harry Nilsson, right?”


Alexis’s cheeks turn pink. “Oh, yes, right,” she says.


“I mean, I suppose they sound a little alike,” I say, helping her save face.


“Neil Young and Harry Nilsson?” Cade chuckles. “Hardly.”


I give him a stern look. “Well, they do have that seventies sound.”


James smiles as Alexis’s eyes dart around the room. I can’t tell if she’s mortally wounded or just a teeny bit embarrassed. Her expression gives nothing away.


“How long have you two been dating?” Tracy asks, doing her best to break the ice.


Alexis opens her mouth, but James talks over her. “About a year,” he says.


“And what do you do?” Alexis asks, changing the subject. Her eyes follow Cade to the bar.


“I’m in my residency at the University of Washington Medical Center,” she says.


I grin. “Dr. Greenfield will see you now.”


James laughs, but Alexis’s face remains unchanged. “That’s fantastic,” he says. “I can’t even begin to imagine how intense medical school must be.”


Tracy nods. “It’s intense. In fact, it’s a pure miracle that I even got the night off to be here.”


“I’m glad you were able to come,” James says, pointing to her glass. “You’re empty. Let’s get you a refill.” Tracy smiles, looks at me, then walks to the bar with James. Alexis trails behind distractedly.


Cade returns and kisses my cheek. “How’s my girl?” His words slur together a little. He has another drink in his hand, and I’ve seen him down at least six. But I need to let Cade enjoy the night; it’s New Year’s Eve.


I glance at the bar and watch James laughing with Tracy, who looks a bit uncomfortable. He touches his hand to her back once, then her arm.


“James, what a player. It’s beyond me,” Cade says, just as Alexis appears beside us.


“Sorry,” Cade says quickly. “I”


“It’s okay,” Alexis says, unfazed. If she’s hurt by her boyfriend’s behavior, she doesn’t show it in the slightest.


“Great party,” she says, glancing directly at Cade. She looks pretty in her black dress and maroon Doc Martens.


“Can I get you a drink?” Cade asks.


She smiles. “A stiff one.”


He grins, then turns to me. “Kailey?”


“I’m okay,” I say.


“Well,” he continues, “I need another.” Alexis follows him to the bar, and I feel a twinge of jealousy when I see Cade touch her shoulder. Silly, I know. Cade would never cheat on me, much less with Alexis, and yet I can’t deny my feelings of insecurity lately. Our connection, so strong for so long, feels weakened somehow, like a heartbeat growing fainter, and I can’t figure out why.


I haven’t wanted to face it, or even talk to Tracy about it, but I’m worried about Cade. He’s seemed more anxious than usual, and his drinking has gone from occasional to frequent.


I walk to the bar and nestle my hand around his waist. Alexis turns her gaze from Cade to her drink and takes a long sip. “I’ll have another of the same,” Cade says to the bartender. “Actually, make it a double.”


James gives Cade a disapproving look. “What is this, man, number four? Or is it five?”


“What’s it to you?” Cade replies. “I didn’t know you were counting.”


“It’s a lot of booze,” James says. “Just saying, man.”


“Just saying what?”


James puffs up his chest. “Just saying that maybe if you stopped drinking so much, you could actually come into the office once in a while and, I don’t know, maybe get some work done.”


“How dare you,” Cade says, taking a step closer. “I work my ass off, and you know that.”


James shrugs. “When you’re not drunk.”


Cade lunges at his friend. “No,” I say, placing my hand on his chest. All eyes in the room are on the two of them. “Cade, no. Don’t do this.”


He looks at me, then takes a step back. Before I can stop him, he bursts through the crowd of people, grabs his leather jacket, and leaves.


“What was that all about?” Tracy asks, finding me a moment later, leaving James and Alexis in the corner of the room.


“Cade and James have a lot of bad blood between them right now,” I explain.




I shrug. “They have entirely different ideas about how to run the company; it’s really come to a head lately.”


Tracy and I mingle, and talk, and drink. I look at the door every few minutes, hoping Cade will return. And when he doesn’t, I start to get nervous.


I check on Eddie in the bedroom, find his leash so that I can take him out. “I’m going to go look for Cade outside,” I say to Tracy. I find my coat and walk out to the sidewalk. The air is bitter cold as I make my way down the alley and up the block. Cade is around the corner, sitting on a bench talking to a homeless man.


“Oh, there you are,” I say to him, letting Eddie sniff around a frozen patch of earth and relieve himself.


“Hi,” he says. “Sorry. I had to get out of there.”


“Is it James?”


Cade shrugs. “Ivan,” he says to the homeless man, now wearing Cade’s leather jacket. As he speaks, his breath sends out puffs of steam, and I reflexively bounce in place to stay warm. “This is my girlfriend, Kailey.”


“Pleased to meet you,” the old man says, flashing a toothless smile.


“You too,” I say with a smile, blowing warm air into my hands, then turning to Cade again. “Shouldn’t we get back? It’s getting late.”


Cade throws back the remaining drink in his glass as Ivan takes a swig from a bottle in a brown paper bag. “I can’t stand it anymore,” Cade says. “All those people in there. The company we built. It’s turning into something I despise.”


“But Element is your dream,” I say.


“I love the company I started.” He points down the block toward his apartment. “But that? Did you see the people in there? Rich guys with their coked-out girlfriends.” He shakes his head. “That’s not the kind of Element Records I know and love.”


“Then change it,” I say.


“I’m afraid that’s a battle I can no longer win,” he replies.


“Well, that’s a Cade I don’t know, then. You’re someone who doesn’t take no for an answer. You’re someone who fights for what he believes in. You don’t give up. That’s not you. So don’t give up now.”


The corners of his mouth form a brief smile as I reach for his hand. “Now, come on,” I say. “Let’s go back inside. Let’s put this all behind us and go make a New Year’s toast.”


He stumbles to his feet. “I guess this is good night, Ivan,” he says.


Ivan grunts in return and then chuckles.


“Aren’t you going to take your coat back?” I whisper.


“Nah,” Cade says. “He needs it more than I do.”


My words must have had an effect on Cade, because when we return to the party, he snaps back, immediately beginning a conversation with some musicians by the door. I squeeze his hand, then move through the partygoers to find Tracy. I love how Cade can work a room. I love how everyone wants to talk to him but that he’ll always circle back to me. I watch each guest in turn light up as he greets them, offering a kind word for their latest song, thanking them for celebrating with him. When my eyes meet his, I love the fluttery feeling deep inside.


Tracy glances nervously at her watch. By eleven-thirty, she’s looking at me tearfully. “He’s not coming. I know it.”


“He probably just got caught at the hospital,” I say. “Or maybe…”


Tracy shakes her head, then takes a long sip of her drink. “If he really wanted to be here, he’d be here.”


Before I can respond, I hear a scuffle at the door, followed by someone shouting.


Tracy and I turn around to see a circle of men, young, dressed as if they just stepped offstage at a punk rock show. At its center, Cade is slowly picking himself up from the floor. Without hesitation, I run to him.


“What happened?” I cry.


He touches his hand to his lip. “Nothing important. They’re gone.”


“Cade, who are they?”


“Band guys,” he says. “It doesn’t matter. They’re not welcome here again.”


“You’re bleeding, Cade.”


Tracy runs to the kitchen and returns with a paper towel and ice. “Hold this on it.”


I help him to his feet. “Cade, I’m worried about you,” I whisper.


“It’s no big deal,” he says. “Let’s not let this ruin our New Year’s Eve.”


“Okay,” I say reluctantly. The door opens, and Mark appears. Tracy runs to him.


“Hi,” I say to Mark a moment later. He looks tired, or distant, or sheepish, or all three.


“Crazy night at the hospital,” he says. “Sorry I’m late.” He turns to Cade. “Hey, man, good to see you.”


Cade nods distractedly, then catches someone’s eye across the room and waves. Tracy returns from the bar with a drink and offers it to Mark. “Nah,” he says. “I don’t think I’m going to drink tonight. In fact, I really should get back to the hospital. I just, uh, wanted to come wish you a Happy New Year.”


Tracy sets his drink down on a side table. She looks deflated, as does Alexis, standing beside James a few feet away.


Cade reaches for two champagne glasses and hands me one. He looks exhausted, mentally and physically. There’s a hollowness to his gaze that I don’t recognize. He’s had way too much to drink, and when he stumbles as he nestles in closer to me, I feel a lump in my throat. He’s standing beside me, and yet somehow it feels like he’s not even here.


Ten, nine, eight. I look at Cade. Seven, six, five. My heart aches. Four, three, two. And just like that, one year ends and another begins.


DECEMBER 12, 2008


Outside my kitchen window, the light filters through the cherry tree, casting a jagged shadow on the sidewalk, menacing and dark. I’m struck by the duality of lifethe way the world can be both beautiful and cruel.


Today. The anniversary of…I blink back tears, remembering. When I let myself face the memories buried so deep in the annals of my brain, it’s all there. The color of the paint in that little hospital room with its shabby white curtain separating the two beds, threadbare at the edges. These memories, the ones I’ve long since hoped to banish, still linger stubbornly. Maybe they always will. I take a deep breath and make a double shot of espresso from the fancy new machine Ryan’s parents sent.


I reach for my keys and drive to Harborview to see Cade.


From the doorway, I watch him eating breakfast with two other residents in the cafeteria. He looks stronger, more alert somehow, when a staff member comes to his table to check on him. I take a few steps inside, pausing a moment to quietly listen to their interaction.


“Do you have any hot sauce, by chance?” he asks.


The cafeteria employee smiles. “Is Tabasco okay?”


Cade pauses and smiles. “I used to love Tabasco.”


I smile to myself. Cade and spicy food.


“Look at him,” Dr. Branson says, leaning over my shoulder.


I beam as I watch him proudly, amazed at how far he’s come. There is strength in his eyes, strength that hasn’t been there in a very long time.


“He has a long way to go yet, but he’s making excellent progress,” Dr. Branson says, echoing my thoughts. “We’ve put him on a new medication. It’s an off-label use of the drug, but there was a study out last year showing that it could be a very effective novel treatment for TBI patients. It’s too early to know if this will be the key for him, but his brain scans show measurable improvement.”


“I’m so happy to hear that,” I say. “I’m leaving for Mexico tomorrow. Can I see him for a bit?”

About the Author

Диана Семёнычева

Диана Семёнычева