On Second Thought(13)

By: Kristan Higgins


I watched Nathan go from smiling to startled to dead. Just like that. My Spidey-senses had been going crazy, soaking in the happiest moment of my life.

There was the tag on Rachelle’s dress. Jonathan’s face of constipation. Nathan, carrying Kate’s glass of wine.

Then he tripped on Rob’s foot. It wasn’t Rob’s fault; it was crowded in here. The wine sloshed over the rim and sloshed down Beth’s back, making her yelp, and Frank turned. If Frank hadn’t turned, Nathan would’ve hit him, but he did turn, and Nathan fell forward, nothing to stop him.

His head hit the edge of the granite counter with a soft thunk, and his eyes widened, and just like that, he was dead.

I knew it before it was pronounced. I knew CPR wouldn’t work.

Eric and I followed the ambulance, Candy and Kate in Jonathan’s car, since he was parked on the street and able to get out without ten other cars needing to move first.

As we drove, I knew the ER doctors would try and fail. I don’t know how I knew, but I did.

“This is unbelievable,” Eric said, his face grim as he took a turn too hard.

I realized I should call Sean. “The kids are okay,” I said the second he answered, hearing laughter and silverware clinking in the background. So they had gone out to dinner instead of coming to the party. “But Nathan’s in the ER, Sean. Hudson Hospital. It...it’s pretty bad. Esther and Matthias are at our house with Eric’s parents.”

“Oh, my God. What happened?”

“We’re not sure. He...he fell and hit his head. They gave him CPR.”

“Oh, fuck,” Sean said. He was a doctor, and his words didn’t bode well. “I’m on my way. Jesus.” He hung up.

“I can’t believe this. I can’t believe it,” Eric said, careening into the hospital parking lot. “He has to make it. He has to pull through.”

He wouldn’t. Please God, let me be wrong about that.

We were put in a private waiting room while they worked on Nathan. I held my sister’s hand, and she looked at me, her eyes open too wide, as if she didn’t know who I was.

Sean and Kiara came, hugged and waited. The Coburns, thank God, someone had called the Coburns; Nathan’s parents, sister and brother-in-law came in, white-faced, panic-stricken, and Candy opened her arms without a word and just held Mrs. Coburn, murmuring quietly.

Then the doctor came in and confirmed what I already knew.

I’ll spare you the next hour.

In a weak voice, I offered to drive Kate home and stay with her, but Candy said she’d take care of it. Sure. A person needed her mother at a time like this. That made sense. I called Dad’s phone and left a message for him to call me, no matter how late, that it was important.

It occurred to me that Dad had gone through this, too, when my mother died. I remembered when the police came to tell us. One of them gave me a little toy, a cat whose head bobbled, how I had loved it and hadn’t wanted to stop playing with it as my father tried to get my attention. He’d been crying and said Mommy had gone to heaven.

Was Nathan there yet? Did it happen that fast? Or was he lingering, here still, or with Kate?

I wiped my eyes and blew my nose.

“I’m gonna call my folks,” Eric said. His eyes were red. He squeezed my shoulder and went outside.

My feet were throbbing. Right, I was still wearing those slutty red shoes. And the white dress.

I left our “quiet room”; it hadn’t been quiet, not with the sound of poor Brooke wailing, and Mrs. Coburn’s sobs, and Mr. Coburn breaking down, saying, “My boy, my boy.” Oh, God, this was unbearably sad! The main waiting room of the ER was filled with the usual suspects—someone holding a bloody towel to her hand; a teenager slumped next to his mother, a little green around the gills; an older lady in a wheelchair with an aide, who was checking her phone.

And Jonathan. I’d almost forgotten about him. He stood up as I came over.

I swallowed, my throat aching. “He didn’t make it,” I whispered.

“No, I...I assumed. From all the... From their faces.” He put his hands in his pockets.

“Thank you for trying.” Tears sliced a hot path down my cheeks, and my face spasmed.

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