The Secret of Ella and Micha Chapter 23
We decide to visit Grady before we part ways and head off on our separate adventures. Amy, his nurse, called me and told me that Grady was still in the hospital, but that he was allowed to have visitors. We make the hour drive around the mountains and to Monroe Hospital, trying to enjoy our last few days together.
It’s a bright, sunny day, and the trees on the side of the road are green. I hang my head out the window, watching the road, feeling like there’s so much waiting for me in life.
“What are you doing?” Micha teases, turning the music down. “Trying to be a dog?”
I shake my head and look up at the bright blue sky. “No, I’m just enjoying the nice, warm day.”
He laughs at me and turns the music back up. My head remains out the window until we reach town, then I return to my seat. When we pull up to the hospital, blue and red lights light up the parking lot and my stomach constricts thinking about the night they showed up to take my mother’s body away.
Micha squeezes my hand, letting me know he’s there for me. “You ready for this?”
I nod and we walk hand-in-hand across the parking lot and through the automatic glass doors. A lot of people are sitting in the waiting room and there is a baby crying loudly on a woman’s lap. The smell of cleaner collides with my nostrils as we walk up to the front desk where a secretary is talking on the phone. She’s young with dark hair woven in a bun on top of her head. I catch her eyes skimming across Micha as she hangs up the phone and turns to us.
She overlaps her hands and sets them on the counter. “Can I help you?”
“Yeah, can you tell us what room Grady Morris is in?” Micha asks with a polite smile.
She taps her fingers on the keyboard and then reads the screen. “He’s on the second floor in room 214.”
We nod graciously and head for the elevator. Micha swings his arm around me, guiding me closer as we reach the floor and I slip my hand into the back pocket of his jeans, craving his comfort. When we enter the room, my insides twist until I notice Grady is sitting up in his bed, eating a cup full of green Jell-O. He looks pale under the florescent light, his arms nearly bones, and his eyes are more sunken in then the last time I saw him. A machine is hooked up to him, beeping in the corner, and an IV is taped to the back of his hand. Some of his items from home are hanging on the wall, making them not so bare.
Somehow, he manages to genuinely smile. “Just what I wanted. To see my two favorite people in the whole wide world.”
I loosen up and Micha and I pull up chairs beside his bed on opposing sides of one another. Grady pushes the tray out of the way and sets his hands in his lap.
“So do you want to tell me what’s up?” he asks and Micha and I exchange confused looks. “With the cuddly entrance you two made.”
“Micha made me do it,” I joke, sliding a glance at Micha. “He was being a baby. Said he needed to be coddled.”
Micha winks at me. “Yep, and you fell for it.”
Grady shakes his head and a frail laugh escapes his lips. “Ah, it’s good to see you two back together.” He grows silent, fixing his attention on me. “You look happier than the last time I saw you.”
“I am happier,” I tell him, resting my arms on his bed.
“You’re still not there though,” he says with concern.
“I know,” I say. “But I’ll keep working on it.”
He seems content with my answer. “I have something for you over in the corner.”
Micha and I track his gaze to a small box nestled in the corner of the room. I walk over to it and peer down inside. My smile expands as I pick up that broken vase I destroyed when I was a child. It’s black, with a red pattern around the top, but the bottom is shattered out, so it can never hold flowers again.
I turn to him with the vase in my hands. “You kept this?”
He shrugs. “Just because it’s broken doesn’t mean it loses its importance. And I figured I’d give it to you one day when you realized it was okay to make mistakes.”
Tears build up in the corners of my eyes. “Thank you, Grady. And I mean that. Thank you for everything. For giving me a small amount of comfort during my childhood and letting me know that not everything has to be difficult.”
“You’re welcome,” he says simply.
I go over to the bed and hug him, trying not to cry, but a few tears slip out and I quickly wipe them away before I pull back.
We talk a little more about the stuff we’re doing, then the nurse shows up and shoos us out so she can change his sheets. Micha and I leave, knowing it will probably be the last time we see him again. I cry the whole drive home, clutching on to the broken vase. But with Micha at my side, I know I’ll be alright.
“Now are you sure you packed everything up?” My mom asks for the billionth time.
I never told her what happened with my dad. I didn’t want her to have to worry more than she already does. That’s one moment I’ll keep locked away forever.
I pick up my guitar case from my bedroom floor and swing my bag over my shoulder. “Yes, I have everything packed, Mom. Now will you relax? You’re driving me crazy.”
“I’m sorry,” she apologizes. “Oh wait. Do you have enough money?”
I shake my head. The woman’s going to worry herself to death. “Of course.”
Tears puddle in the corners of her eyes and she gives me a hug that nearly squeezes the air out of me. “Micha Scott you’re the best son a mother could ask for.”
I press my lips together, trying not to laugh at her overdramatic reaction. “I’m going on the road for a few months, mom, not dying.”
She pulls away, wiping the running mascara underneath her eyes. “It doesn’t mean I’m going to miss you any less.”
“Yeah, we’ll see if you say that after I’m back for a week and you’re finding bras in your bed again.”
She swats my arm and points at the door. “Okay, now you can go.”
Laughing, I head out the back door. Naomi isn’t here yet, so I sit down on the steps, staring at Ella’s house, wondering if she’s going to come out. She’s never been good at good-byes so when her bedroom window slides open, I’m surprised.
But I’m even more astonished when she scales out of the window and down the tree. She has the sexy, strapless dress on, and her auburn hair is covering her bare shoulders. She doesn’t say anything as she flings her arms around my neck. Her breath is hot against my ear and she buries her face into the side of my neck. I drop my guitar case and bag to the ground, pick her up, and embrace her with everything I have in me.
“I’m going to miss you,” she whispers softly.
I run my hand up and down her back, shutting my eyes, and breathing her in. “It’ll be okay. I’ll be back and annoying you before you know it.”
She looks at me with her big green eyes and then seals her lips over mine, kissing me indefinitely. My hands feel every part of her body, memorizing every curve, and the smoothness of her skin. I back us up against the tree into the shade, and slip my hand underneath her dress, feeling her there too.
“Alright Romeo, it’s time to go.” Naomi honks the horn of the SUV.
Sighing heavily, I release Ella and she puts her feet back on the ground. “I’ll call you every day.”
I kiss her one last time, then get into the car. She watches me the entire way down the driveway, with her arms folded, fighting to stay composed. When we turn onto the road she walks to the end of the driveway, keeping her eyes on me for as long as possible. But eventually we slip away from each other.