One night in Archer’s hotel turned into three. This afternoon, Reagan was back in her father’s hospital room. Dannie and Connie had gone to get food. And Archer, who hadn’t left her alone since he carried her out of the game room, had stepped out to take a business call. Ryan was bringing food to her and Archer during his lunch break. In fact, everyone had gone back to work; returning back to their lives. Everyone except her. Ami had insisted she take time off to recover, and her grandparents were filling in until she came back. At least she was holding her job for her.
As she watched her father sleeping, she was happy he was doing so well. His color was good and he was getting out of bed to walk the halls. He was still on strong pain meds and they were watching him close to be sure he didn’t develop pneumonia. Regardless, the doctor said he might go home in a couple of days.
The door opened, and instead of Ryan, Evan walked in. Reagan caught her breath. She hadn’t seen him since that awful night. He looked much better, but still tired and something inside her broke. She was pretty sure it was her heart. She wanted to go to him but still didn’t know how. It had been so easy with Archer because there were no expectations. But with Evan, it would be difficult and painful. And she couldn’t do more pain right now. Being in the same room as Dannie was difficult enough.
“I saw Dannie and Connie,” he said, keeping his voice low, “They said you were in here.” He looked over at her father. “How’s he doing?”
“Much better,” she said, trying to calm her racing heart.
“How about you?” asked Evan, “I’ve been worried about you Reagan, but I wanted to give you space.”
Or you wanted space away from me, she thought. She forced a smile anyway. “I’m okay,” she said, “You don’t need to worry about me. Thank you for stopping by.” She needed him to leave. He was right. She needed space – away from him – and it made her sad for both of them. This was much too hard, she couldn’t think when he was standing near her.
“Reagan, we need to talk,” he said instead of leaving. “Maybe you don’t, but I do. Please. At least hear me out.”
He glanced at her father. “Not in here. Can we step outside?” asked Evan.
“No. I can’t leave Daddy alone. If he wakes up, I don’t want him to be afraid.”
Her father turned and opened his eyes. “Reagan,” he said, his voice weak, “go talk to him.”
“Daddy! Can I get you anything? How’s your pain? Are you hungry?” Her words were all running together.
Cole huffed out what seemed like a painful laugh. “Reagan, no to everything. Now, go. Talk to Evan. I’m fine,” he said and held up the nurse call button, “See, I have a the bat phone right here.”
Reagan was outvoted. She smiled and let out a soft sigh. She leaned over and kissed her father’s forehead. “I won’t be long,” she promised, then added tenderly, “I love you.” before she turned and left with Evan.
She followed Evan into a corner of the waiting room and they sat down together. Why did he have to look so good?
“Thank you for giving me a minute,” said Evan. “How are you, really? You’ve been through so much, and I want to be sure you are taking care of yourself.”
“I’m doing just fine,” she said quietly. She didn’t want to talk about it to him, or anyone else. It was too hard.
He took a breath and searched her eyes making her uncomfortable. He seemed to be measuring his words when he finally spoke. “I meant what I said in the coffee shop. I love you Reagan, and I want to be the one to help you through this. I miss you terribly.”
“Evan. I’m sorry, I just can’t do this. Not yet. You were married and didn’t tell me. If you lie to me about something like that … I just don’t know. Right now, I need someone I can trust.”
Something crossed Evan’s face that scared her a little before he quickly masked it. She’d never seen him look like that before. “There’s more to Archer Kendall than you know. Just be careful.” His words seemed like a warning or maybe it was just jealousy. “I know I have to earn your trust back,” he said, his words filled with pain. “There are a lot of things that we need to talk about … things that …”
Unable to listen anymore because her heart was breaking, she shook her head to stop him. “Please Evan. No more. I told you, I can’t do this now. I have to focus on Daddy … and try to fix this mess I made. And besides, you don’t even know Archer.”
“He shows you what he wants you to see Reagan.” Evan’s words were hard.
He took a calming breath before speaking again. “Look, I’m sorry. But I want to be here for you and it’s painful to watch Archer do what I should be doing. I understand, that’s on me. But please Reagan, don’t throw away what we had without at least hearing me out. I know you still care. I can see it in your eyes.”
Evan was pleading with her and it was breaking her heart. She did love him. Didn’t she? But he sounded like a jealous man when it came to Archer and Archer never said anything about him. Besides, there was nothing to be jealous of.
“Reagan? Is he bothering you?” asked Archer as he walked into the room.
Reagan jumped guiltily while Evan simply glared at the intrusion.
“Archer – no,” she said, suddenly feeling like she was cheating on both of them, even though she and Archer were only friends. Friends that slept in the same bed, but still platonic. She didn’t know what she and Evan were anymore, or what she wanted them to be. She felt strongly about both men, the same but different.
Evan stood up and glared at Archer, his fists balled at his side. “I was just leaving,” he growled out to Archer, his jaw working back and forth. Reagan had never seen him so upset.
He turned to her and his expression morphed to one of tenderness, but mixed with pain. It made her want to throw her arms around him and comfort him. “Think about it Reagan. Maybe we can go out to dinner in a couple of weeks, after your father goes home, and finish our conversation. There is a lot more I need to say.”
“Maybe in a few weeks,” said Reagan softly. And she meant it, she just couldn’t face it all now. She only needed a little more time. That was all.
“I’ll call you,” he said and stood there awkwardly, like he wanted to hug her, but finally decided not to. She felt an acute emptiness when he finally turned to walk away. Like she did the night of the shooting, when he left the hospital.
“Evan,” she heard herself say. When he stopped and turned around, his expression was filled with hope. She wanted to hug him so badly, so why couldn’t she? She hated every time he walked away from her. “A couple of weeks,” she said again.
“Okay,” he said and the disappointment in that one word cut her like a knife. This was why she couldn’t see him. It hurt them both, and she couldn’t take anymore hurt.
After he walked out, strong arms wrapped around her reminding her that Archer was standing there, and she felt marginally better. “It’s okay, let him go,” said Archer.
She wiped her perpetually runny nose. “It hurts,” was all she could say.
She turned and buried her head in his chest. He just held her until she calmed down.
Finally, Archer lifted her chin to look at him. “Why don’t you ask Ami if you can take off a month. You need some mental health days. Evan will be at work, and that might be too much for you right now.
“I know you don’t want to go back to your house either. Too many bad memories. So why don’t you get Ami to put your house on the market, so by the time you’re ready to come back next month, it’ll likely be sold and you won’t have to deal with it. Maybe she can also find you a new one, or you can rent an apartment until you do.”
Reagan huffed a small laugh. “You have it all figured out don’t you? But I don’t know if I should leave at all, even for a month. I haven’t had a chance to talk to Daddy. I don’t want to stress him while he’s recovering.”
“Sweetheart, I don’t think you can stay. You need to heal and you’ll heal faster if you get away from the stress and negativity. You need to let your heart, your mind and your body rest so it can heal itself.”
Archer pushed her hair from her face, and that sweet display of affection sent chills through her body. Even lying in the same bed with him didn’t seem as intimate as that simple little gesture. “Reagan, I’ll stay here as long as you need me, but think about it.”
She knew Archer needed to leave and get back to work. He was only staying in town because of her. “You’re right. I do need to sell it. I’ll call Ami, tell her to put the house on the market … and ask for a month off. But I can’t stay gone. I have to come back.”
He looked relieved and his smile was mirrored in the twinkle in his eyes. “We can stay here until you’re ready to leave. There’s no rush.”
“I’ll be ready as soon as Daddy goes home. I need to know he’s okay before I leave. Ryan doesn’t need me. He has Rosa living with him. He said he realized that he didn’t want to waste time. Life was too short, so she agreed to move in with him. But now, I need to get back to Daddy. Let’s go.”
They went back to her father’s room and Ryan finally made it with their food. “Hey Dad,” he said, and his father smiled warmly at him. “I bumped into Jason on the way up. He’s in town and of course his mom filled him in. Rea, he asked if you wouldn’t mind coming down to see him so I told him I’d send you.”
Reagan let out a sigh. She really didn’t want to see anybody. But she and Ryan had known Jason their whole life. And they hadn’t seen him in years, so she had to go. She steeled herself with a pasted on smile and stood up. “I’ll be back in a few minutes,” she said and left the room.
“Jason,” said Reagan when she saw him, and gave him a warm smile which he returned. She couldn’t help but notice he had turned into a very attractive man, but his eyes seemed sad. Was that how she looked now? Just sad?
He held his arms out. “Hi Reagan,” he said.
She walked over hugged him, then they sat on the couch together. “It’s good to see you.” he said, “I wish it was under better circumstances. How’s your dad doing?”
“He’s much better, he should be able to go home in a couple of days,” she replied, trying hard to hide the pain in her voice.
“What about you?” he asked.
“I’m fine. Just a little tired I guess,” she replied, trying to hide the lie with a smile.
He looked at her pointedly. “Reagan. I can see it, you’re suffering. Have you seen a therapist?” he asked.
“No. I’m fine – really. I’ll be better when Daddy goes home.”
“Reagan, we’ve known each other since we were born. You need to be seeing a therapist. I know from experience what you are dealing with. When I – ran away, things happened, and when I came back, I needed help coping.”
“I’m sorry. But really, I’m fine. So … what about you? What are you doing these days? I didn’t know you were back in town.”
“I’m working with my band, and stop trying to change the subject.” He paused and fished something out of his wallet. “Here. This is the therapist I used. She specializes in family counseling. Give her a call when you’re ready. And if you just need to talk, call me, anytime.”
Reagan took the card and looked at it. He’d written his phone number on it. She smiled a sad smile at his sweet gesture. They both knew she wouldn’t call. “Thank you Jason. It was sweet for you to come by. You’re a good friend, but I need to get back. Good luck with your band. One day you’ll be super famous and I can say I knew you when you were sweet and shy.”
Jason chuckled, “Your right, when I was sweet and shy, because that no longer applies.”
“Of course it does. At least you are still sweet. Thanks again.” She stood up, hugged him and quickly walked away.
He wouldn’t be so sweet to her if he knew all of this was her fault. Seeing Jason only reinforced her decision to go San Myshuno. She couldn’t take the well wishers or the looks of hatred from Dannie. Now she just had to tell everyone. She doubted they would care, except maybe her father. But she would wait until he went home.