Always. Занятие 26

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“Also,” I say, “I wonder if I might take him to see an old friend.”


“Who is this friend?” she asks.


“His childhood best friend and former business partner,” I say.


“I don’t know,” Dr. Branson says. “That’s a tough call. If this person has any association with traumatic incidents in his past, well, then I wouldn’t advise it.”


“But that’s just the thing,” I say. “I don’t know what happened to Cade, and meeting with James might help us find out.”


“Then I’ll leave the decision to you,” Dr. Branson says. “Part of recovery is reentering the world. We can’t shield our patients from the hard things in life.” She pauses. “Just use your discretion here.”


I thank her and wait for Cade to finish his breakfast. When he walks out to the hallway, I catch his eye. “Hi,” I say.


“Hi,” he replies.


I hold up a paper shopping bag. “I brought you a few things.”


“Thanks,” he says.


I look ahead to the elevator down the hall. “Do you want to go up to your apartment and we’ll drop this bag off?”


He nods, and together we make our way upstairs in the elevator to the third floor. The sun streams through the big windows inside his little room, and I sit down on the love seat while Cade sits on the edge of the bed.


“How are you enjoying the program?” I ask. When the words formed in my head, they sounded normal. But they come out sounding awkward and patronizing.


He nods his response.


“I’ve been so worried about you,” I say. “And I’m hoping this was a good choice for you. You like it here, right?”


“Yes,” he says.


“I’m so glad,” I say, beaming. “I hoped you would.”


I set the bag down on his counter. “Before long, you’re going to start remembering. You’re going to get your life back, Cade. I know it.” I remove clothes from the bagtwo pairs of jeans, a sweater, and three T-shirtsand place them in a neat stack on the coffee table. “Speaking of that,” I continue. “I thought we might go see James today. Your old friend.”


Cade appears unfazed by the name. “James,” he says, as if trying out the word for size.


“You two grew up together,” I explain. “He was your business partner.”


Cade nods.


“Dr. Branson indicated that you were hospitalized back in 1998, and according to the medical records, someone apparently refused further treatment for your injuries.”


Cade sits quietly.


“I know this all must be a lot to take in, but I thought if we saw him, we might jog your memory a bit.”


“Okay,” Cade says.


We drive until we hit Fourth, and find parking on the street. “James’s office is on the seventh floor.”


Cade looks up at the building cautiously, and I squeeze his hand. “It’ll be okay,” I say.


We make our way up in the elevator, and it stops with a jerk. I’m relieved to note the absence of the surly bow-tied assistant from the reception desk. We’re clear to proceed.


“He’s just down this way,” I say to Cade. James’s office is in view. He’s on the phone, seated at his desk, his back facing the glass door.


“Knock knock,” I say, opening the door and poking my head in.


James turns around, and when he sees Cade, his eyes widen. “I’m going to have to call you back,” he says, quickly ending the call. “Kailey and…Cade, wow. I…”


“Here he is,” I say, smiling.


James walks to Cade and extends his hand, then laughs awkwardly and opens his arms to embrace his old friend. Cade’s arms remain stiffly at his sides.


“It’s been so long,” he says. “How are you?”


Cade just stares ahead.


“You look good, man,” he says. “After Kailey told me about your…predicament, well, I guess I expected things to be…different.”


“Cade is in a rehabilitation program,” I say, “at Harborview.”


James’s eyes flash. “Well, that’s great. I’m glad to hear you’re getting some help. If I can do anything for you, man, just let me know.”


He speaks faster than usual, and I’m surprised by his offer to help Cade, given my last visit, when he seemed put out by the very idea of his old friend being in Seattle.


If Cade is listening, he doesn’t let on. Instead, he walks to the wall of James’s office, where he pores over the array of framed photos and mementos. Beautiful family portraits. Certificates of achievement. James shaking hands with George W. Bush. I notice Cade’s eyes stop when he sees the photo of Alexis and James on their yacht. I remember seeing it the last time I was here, and I can easily imagine all the fun they’ve had sipping champagne when Cade was huddled beside some rusty dumpster on Fourth Avenue.


“James, I do want to ask you about something,” I say.


“Sure,” he replies.


I lower my voice. “Cade’s doctor checked the back records, and it seems that someone matching his description was admitted to Harborview in August 1998 with significant trauma. He was in a coma for some time but ended up leaving the hospital.” I take a deep breath.


James shrugs.


I eye him skeptically. “James, is there something you haven’t told me?” Cade is still staring at the wall of photos. “Please,” I continue, in almost a whisper, “you once loved him like a brother. I’m just trying to help him get his life back in order. Can you help me?”


James walks around his desk to a side drawer and pulls out a checkbook. “Sure,” he says. “How much do you need? Maybe a down payment for a car so he can drive to a job? Grocery money? What’s your amount?”


I shake my head. “I didn’t come here for your money,” I say. “I came here genuinely hoping that you could help sort out what happened to him.”


James shakes his head. “I’ll tell you what happened to him. Your boyfriend cracked up. He had a nervous breakdown and left Element Records in shambles when he did. He didn’t even protest when we offered him the buyout package. He wanted out, just as I told you. I was the one who had to pick up the pieces and salvage whatever could be salvaged, which, let me tell you, wasn’t much. And you waltz in here and act as if I owe him something? Well, I’m sorry, Kailey, but I just don’t buy it.”


“Shhh,” I say, pulling his arm until he’s out in the hallway. “He’s not deaf. He hears.”


“Well then, let him hear,” James says.


I close the door behind us.


“Cade McAllister,” James continues, saying the name as if it’s up in lights. His voice is tinged with equal parts nostalgia and anger. “He could charm the pants off anyone. And he did. He charmed you, didn’t he? He always got his way. The company logo. The hiring and the firing. Hell, he even had a pinball machine shipped to our office. It cost six grand. Did he ask me, his business partner, for permission? No. He just did it. Do you know what it was like to work with someone like that? It was all I could do to keep the company afloat. And then Cade lost his shit when I confronted him about our financial situation. The record label was going under, but he was in denial about it. He was always in denial.”


I shake my head.


“I know you never wanted to believe all of that, but it’s the truth,” he says.


“Cade really had a nervous breakdown?”


James nods. “I’m sorry to say, he did. It was one of the worst days of my life. Our entire staff saw it. It was the beginning of the end.”


“So if you didn’t sign him out of the hospital that day, who did?”


James looks exhausted, and for the first time I notice dark circles around his eyes and deep crevices between his eyebrows. “Who knows,” he says.


“All right,” I say. “We’ll go now.”


He holds up his checkbook again. “Let me at least write you a check.”


“Keep it,” I say. “As you say, you’ve already given enough.”


I drive Cade back to his apartment and sit with him on the love seat for a few minutes before his two o’clock session begins.


“I’m sorry about today,” I say. “James is…well, there is a lot from your past friendship with him that is a bit complicated.” I turn to him, but his gaze is fixed out the window. “I suppose that’s to be expected when two people run a company together.” I pause for a moment. “I was worried about how that interaction would affect you, but I’m trying to find answers for you.”


He turns to me and begins to speak. “So he was my friend?”


I’m still getting used to him speaking more than one or two words to me; hearing his voice form a sentence, well, it slays me.


I squeeze his arm. “Yes,” I say, smiling. “It’s hard to believe, but the two of you were once very close, like brothers.”


“I’m trying to remember. But it’s so hard.”


“Yes.” I nod. “I can only imagine what it must be like to lose your memory. It must be so frightening. But look at you. You’re here, and you’re making progress, and I’m so proud of you.”


He smiles. “Proud.” He says the word aloud as if trying to understand it.


“Proud,” I say.


“Kailey,” he says.


My eyes fill with tears.


“I’m remembering.”


“I’m so happy. And I will be here with you every step of the way until you’re back. And you’re going to get back. I know it.” I pause for a moment, remembering my trip to Mexico and wishing I didn’t have to go. But I promised Ryan. “Cade, I have to go on a trip tomorrow. I’ll only be gone five days, and during that time I won’t be able to visit you. I…”


“Mexico,” he says.


I smile. “Mexico.”


“I always wanted to take you to Cancún.”


My heart leaps as our eyes meet, and somewhere past the veil of brain injury, through the layers of confusion and disorientation, the old Cade is piercing through. For a moment I can see him, that old spark in his eye. For a moment he is himself again.


Just then we hear a knock at the door.


“Come in,” I call out. A moment later a man in a suit stands in the doorway. I notice his red bow tie immediately.


“Hello, I’m Dr. Friedman, part of the neurology team,” he says, pointing to a badge on a lanyard around his neck. “I’m going to be working with you today, Mr. McAllister.”


Cade’s eyes widen as he leaps to his feet, looking strangely agitated. With each step Dr. Friedman takes toward Cade, he takes a step back, until his back is wedged against the window.


“Is everything all right, Mr. McAllister?” the doctor asks. He looks at me, then back at Cade.


“No!” Cade screams. “No! Don’t. Don’t. Don’t!”


Cade is suddenly panicked and scared. When Dr. Friedman cautiously takes another step forward, it frightens Cade even more and he sinks to the floor in the fetal position, tucking his knees to his chest and covering his head with his arms.


I rush to his side. “Cade, it’s okay,” I say. “Dr. Friedman would never hurt you.”


“No, no, no!” Cade cries over and over again.


I look up at Dr. Friedman, who is doing his best to remain calm. “He’s having an episode,” he explains in a steady, slow voice. “It’s not unusual for our patients to have lapses in memory, or confusion, or to project a traumatic memory from the past onto a present situation.”


“Cade,” I whisper, hoping my voice will draw him back to the present and out of whatever horrific place his mind has slipped into. “It’s me, Kailey. Dr. Friedman is here, too.” He looks up cautiously. “We’ll make sure no one hurts you. You don’t have to be afraid.”


Dr. Friedman gives him an encouraging smile.


“It’s okay,” I whisper. “I promise.”


Cade nods and gets to his feet.


“Great,” Dr. Friedman says. “Now, if you’re ready, I’ll take you down to your appointment.”


Cade takes a deep breath, then looks at me a final time.


“You’ll be fine,” I say, trying to disguise the tremor in my voice. “I’ll be back before you know it.”


I park the car in the driveway, but instead of going inside the house, I wander down the block, taking in the smells of dinners long since cooked and enjoyed. Stir-fry, maybe, to the right, or perhaps some sort of Asian chicken. Birds flutter in a bush somewhere nearby as I round the corner, passing the house with the little picket fence and the cherry tree with a trunk so big, it looks like it belongs in a forest, not a city neighborhood.


I stop in my tracks when I notice a red ribbon on the pavement, which probably slipped from a little girl’s ponytail earlier in the day. I reach down to pick it up, and as I do, my heart is flooded by the memory of Tracy spotting a red ribbon tied to a cherry tree downtown. It was so many years ago, but I can hear her words echoing in my ears, and in my heart: Tie a red ribbon around a tree branch for your one true love.


I take a deep breath, then tie the abandoned ribbon on a low-hanging branch. So much has changed since that day, and yet so much has remained the same.


AUGUST 1, 1998


I’m finishing up a column at my office when my phone rings. “Have you taken the test yet?”


I wince. “No,” I say. “Not yet.”


“Kailey, take it,” she says. “It’s probably fine. You’ve been stressed at work. I’m sure that explains it. But you’ll feel much better once you know for sure.”


I stare at my purse as if it holds a ticking time bomb inside. I confided in Tracy when my period was five days late. Now, on day seven, it still hasn’t come. I stopped at the drugstore on my way to work and purchased a pregnancy test. “Okay,” I say with a sigh.


“Call me after, okay?”


“Okay,” I say, hanging up the phone.


I reach for my purse and wind through the rows of cubicles to the women’s restroom down the hall. I haven’t told Cade that I’m late. Not yet. Besides, how could I be pregnant? I remembered to take my pills this month, except for one day. And everyone knows that missing one day is no big deal. Or is it?


I stare at the stick, then look away. Three minutes. The results won’t be valid until three minutes from now. I take a deep breath as a bit of color, pink, begins to appear on the little window of the stick. One line, then two.


What does this mean?


I scramble to find the instruction pamphlet inside the box. Does two lines mean pregnant or not pregnant? My heart beats faster. And then I have my answer.


I am…pregnant.


I gasp, clutching the side of the bathroom stall. Pregnant.


I wander back to my desk numbly. I don’t call Tracy. I don’t call anyone. I just stare at my blank computer screen until the phone rings, and rings, and rings, and rings.


Al, the copy editor in the office next to mine, calls over the divider, “You going to get that?”


“Oh,” I say, as if coming out of a trance. “Yes, sorry.”


“Hello?” I say robotically.


“Kailey, it’s James.”


I sit up in my chair.


“Yes, hi, James.”


“Do you have a minute to talk?”


“What is it?”


“The company’s board met today, and we’re all in agreement that Cade should no longer be a part of Element Records.”


I shake my head. “What board? Cade never mentioned a board.”


“That’s just it,” James says. “We’ve always had a board. But Cade never cared about those details, important details that make or break a company.”


“Regardless,” I say, “what in the world do you mean about voting Cade out of Element?”


“Kailey, surely you’re aware of his drinking problem,” he says.


“Yes, he has a few too many sometimes,” I say, “but I don’t know that I’d call it a problem. He still works harder than anyone, James. And he’s constantly at shows, constantly doing work for Element.”

About the Author

Диана Семёнычева

Диана Семёнычева