“Do you want me to have one of the nurses get Collin?”
I shook my head and swallowed the rising tide of bile that was trying to make its escape as I stared at my handcuffed wrists and I sat perched on the edge of the chair beside her bed. I hadn’t moved since I’d numbly walked from the bathroom and blindly sat myself down. My insides were vibrating.
Cecelia’s movement were slow and careful as she climbed out of bed. She lowered herself to the floor so I had to look at her. “I think we should call Collin,” she said.
Seeing her face pulled me out of my own head. I drew a breath and looked up, my eyes traveling the room like I thought I’d find an escape hatch from reality hidden in one of the walls. “No. I—I don’t know what to say to him.” I stood up and then helped Cecelia to her feet. “The test isn’t right. This isn’t right. Just… yeah.”
There was that look again on Cecelia’s expression—that curious knowing. “Are you worried about how he’ll react?” she asked. “This won’t be bad news to Collin. I promise.”
Was she cracked? How in the hell was there any way this was not going to be bad news? No, you know what, she was right—this wasn’t bad news. This was end-of-your-life, jump-off-a-cliff, holy-shit level horrible news. This was we-can’t-be-together, my-parents-will-never-forgive-me kinds of news.
“I’ll call the nurse—she’ll get him for us.”
Before I could respond, Cecelia was hitting her call button and a nurse was poking her head into the room. As I looked on in terror, Cecelia shuffled over to the nurse and the two exchanged a quiet set of words I couldn’t hear. Then the nurse turned and left the room without so much as a look in my direction.
I was gonna throw-up.
Collin walked into the room less than 5 minutes later, ushered in by a guard who sprung his cuffs and refastened them once Collin had moved his hands in front of him, then left without so much as a word.
“Hey Cici,” Collin said with a smile as soon as the door had closed behind the guard. “Look at you up and about.” But his self-possession faltered, his confident expression instantly dropping into a look of worry when he turned and saw me standing across the room.
Apparently my stress was showing on my skin.
“I am up and about, yes,” Cecelia replied after a beat of anxious silence. “In fact, I think I’ll go for a quick stroll around the nurses’ station.”
Collin’s eyes didn’t leave mine as Cici left the room, and as soon as we heard the door latch closed behind her, he was in front of me, taking my hands in his.
“What’s going on?”
It felt like the air had turned to sludge, like I couldn’t take a breath.
“Ferris? You’re freaking me out.”
Collin’s dark green eyes were all concern and question. The heat that ran from his fingers into my hands was fast with stress, but soft as it spiraled through my arms. The comfort of it helped to slow my racing heart and calm my shaking stomach.
“Jesus, Ferris. Talk to me.”
He blinked, then he staggered back by a step.
My heart had stopped beating. I hadn’t meant to blurt it out like that. It had just leapt out—the very words that had been spinning in my mind, circling over and over and over—they’d run out of my mouth the minute I’d opened it.
God, I wished he’d say something.
“Are you sure?”
I shrugged, but then stopped and thought back over the last days, over the weeks before that. I nodded.
I couldn’t tell if his forced exhale was a laugh or a sob he tried to stuff away, but next thing I knew, his hands were flat on my stomach—or, as flat as they could get, cuffed together.
“I’m gonna be a dad?”
The wonder in his voice caught me completely by surprise. I looked up at him, uncertain what expression was on my face.
He revised his tone, replacing the wonder with matter-of-fact care when he went on. “I mean—whatever you want. If you want to… get rid of it… I’m fine with that too. Or adoption… whatever you want.”
I peered up at him, unable to look away. Was he really being this cool about this? Had that really been wonder I’d just heard in his voice?
“Whatever you want,” he repeated, staring down at me, his eyes glued to mine.
“I don’t know what I want,” I heard myself say. But I did know that at every turn, Collin had been better than he had any reason to be—stronger, calmer, kinder. “I don’t know.”
“Okay.” He nodded. “That’s okay.”
The door to the room opened. John and Teresa—Collin’s Mom and Dad—came in, urgent worry on their expression as they looked around, looking for the reason they’d been called to Cici’s room. When their eyes landed on us, they stopped in their tracks.
Collin’s hands were still on my stomach.
Teresa gasped, her eyes going wide.
Then the two of them crossed the room. Teresa wrapped her arms around me before I could recover from the shock of them so suddenly being there. John used both hands, locked together as they were, to slap Collin on the back of the head, before looping his arms over Collin’s head and pulling him in for a hug of his own.
Was this really happening?
Teresa pulled back and held me at arms’ length. “Are you alright? How are you?”
“We don’t know what we want to do yet,” Collin said, drawing everyone’s attention away from me like he knew that’s exactly what I needed. When I looked to him, John’s arms were no longer around him.
Teresa took a breath. “Of course,” she said, then she looked at me again with kind, soft eyes. “Of course. Whatever you want to do. We support your decision, whatever it is.”
Again: was this really happening?
She hugged me once more, then let me go and went to Collin. She wrapped her arms around him. “It’s so good to see you.”
It was then I realized Teresa was the only one who wasn’t handcuffed.