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By´╝ÜJaimie Roberts

Finally, I was able to take deep breaths as Evan stroked my arm.

“It’s okay. Nothing can hurt you. Take long, slow, deep breaths. That’s it.”

I knew Evan had his doctor head on now and that was fine with me. At least I didn’t have to answer his obvious burning questions right now.

“Are you able to tell me what that was about?”

Trying to calm myself, I took slow, deep breaths. I didn’t know what had happened. At that moment, Dean angered me more than ever. Why couldn’t I just get over him? Why did I still live and breathe for him every day, despite the fact that he hurt me in the worst way possible? I felt sick. How could I run away from the one man I was constantly thinking of? Why was I still thinking of ways to get rid of him, even though I was almost certain he would find me now? Why was I planning in my head about how to deal with these almost certain future events? It was mind-boggling and totally abnormal behavior. I couldn’t fathom it and I couldn’t run away from it. This was my life now. This was what he had reduced me to.

“I can’t. Not now. I’m so sorry, Evan. I don’t know what else to say. I just can’t deal with this now, what with Jeremy in the hospital.” I looked into his eyes and felt like such a fucking heartless bitch. I wanted to love Evan so badly. I wanted to give him everything because he deserved everything. He was way too good for me. In some ways, I think that was the problem.

Evan took a deep breath and gave me a small smile. I knew I was hurting him by not opening up, but I also knew he would give me time. Time I didn’t deserve.

“It’s okay, Jessica. Once things have settled down a bit, we’ll talk.” I nodded and he smiled a little more. “What time do your parents get here?”

I looked at my watch and saw that it was a little after seven in the evening. “They’re due here around nine, I think. Their plane lands at seven-thirty.”

Evan stroked my hair, then stood up. “I’ll come by as soon as I can after that. I have surgery in fifteen minutes, so I better get going. I would really love to meet them, though.”

I smiled back. “I’m looking forward to that, too.”

Evan kissed the top of my head and ran around to give a little peck on Jeremy’s cheek. He stirred a little, coughed, then drifted off again.

“I love you, Jessica. I’ll see you soon.”

I smiled and nodded again as he left the room. Evan didn’t stick around to hear me say it back. How could I when it wasn’t true? Evan knew I didn’t love him like that, but he still stuck around. I never understood it, and I didn’t think I ever would.

I must have drifted off because a gentle tug on my shoulder woke me up. I opened my eyes and tried to adjust to the dim light in the room before turning, seeing my mother standing there.

Quickly rising out of my chair, I hugged my mum like my life depended on it. The tears quickly came as I felt my dad’s arms wrapped around me, too. It had been too long.

“I’m so sorry I called you, but I didn’t know what else to do. When the doctor told me he had pneumonia, I panicked.”

My father stroked my hair and smiled. “It’s okay, Tyler. You don’t have to explain to us. We understand. We will have to talk about this, but first things first. How’s Jeremy?”

I pulled out of my mother’s embrace and saw she had tears in her eyes, too. I smiled and turned my attention to Jeremy’s tiny, sleeping figure. It took all my willpower to keep me from scooping him up in my arms.

“He’s doing well. He’s on antibiotics now and, hopefully, should be able to come home tomorrow. At first, they thought they might have to drain the fluid from his lungs. When they said that, I almost had a panic attack.”

My mother stroked my arm and offered a concerned smile. “I wish you didn’t have to do all this alone.”

I smiled back. “It’s okay. After I calmed down a little, I waited a while and called Evan. I don’t like calling him when he works nights, but I didn’t know what else to do. Of course, Evan being Evan, he chastised me for not calling earlier. He managed to calm me down after that.”

My father placed a soft kiss on Jeremy’s forehead and stroked his hair. “Where is Evan now?” he asked.

“He should be in surgery now. He said he couldn’t wait to meet you. He’s going to try and come here as soon as he’s finished.”

My mother smiled and regarded me for a while. “Tyler, it’s been so long. You look the same, but thinner. You used to have such lovely curves in all the right places. Are you looking after yourself?”

This was the first time I had seen my parents since the night of Ian’s death. They had seen Jeremy quite a lot because my sister took him to stay with her a few times. I always wanted Jeremy to know who his family was. I just couldn’t risk being there with them in case Dean followed my parents to my sister’s house. It was never easy, but was an arrangement we got used to after a while.