As breakfast wrapped up it took everything to hide the anger beating inside my chest. Ryder could see something was wrong, but didn’t touch it. I think he’s just relieved that I’m not angry at him! But why would I be? He’s an addict, and he did what addicts do when you shove drugs in their face. Plus he came to me with it! There’s no way I would’ve ever figured it out, he’d gotten away with it. And honestly he could easily get away with it again if he wanted. But now I know he won’t, I know he’ll come to me if something happens. I-I’m starting to trust him again, and nothing is more valuable than that.
“So,” Ryder began, starting to push the remnants of his food around. “Since I’m moving in a few days, I, um, I need you to grab my suitcase from the house in the cemetery.”
“I can do that.” I nodded my head. “Do you have keys to the house?”
“Yeah.” He quickly nodded his head, thinking it over. “They’re in the pants that I came in with, so wherever those are.”
“I have them.” I nodded my head, remembering the small plastic bag sitting in my office. “But the shirt is totally torn to shreds.”
“You’re kidding.” He exhaled, dropping his fork and looking up.
“Nope.” I smiled, trying to figure out if he was joking around or not.
He let out a deep sigh and looked into my eyes. “I’ve had that shirt since Messiah started,”
“You’re so full of it.” I laughed seeing that he was trying to be serious.
“I’m not!” He insisted. “I loved that shirt! Why’d you guys have to tear it apart?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t do it. Go ask the paramedics!” I cackled, trying my hardest not to laugh in his face. “It was probably covered in vomit anyway.”
“Probably?” He asked. “So you haven’t even seen it then? Oh my god, you guys threw it out?”
“Of course we threw it out!” I replied with a shake of my head. “It was torn, and covered in puke. We’re not keeping that.”
“You guys suck.” He muttered, leaning back in his chair. “Where am I even going to sleep? In the guest room?”
“That’s Oliver’s room now.” I shrugged, not having had put real thought into it. “We have a pull out couch in the basement, or, um, you could always just sleep with me.” I let out quickly, trying my hardest to sneak it in with as few questions as possible.
“Are you okay with that?” Ryder asked as I nodded my head yes. “Okay.” He agreed.
“But that doesn’t mean anything happens.” I explained, being as clear as possible with him. “It’s just so you’re not alone, and so I can easily check on you.”
“I understand.” He quickly nodded his head. “Is Oli excited?”
“What do you think?” I asked in a laugh. I let out a deep sigh as my eyes caught my watch and stood up. “I have to go back to work, and you have to go to therapy.” I instructed as he slowly stood up with me. “We’ll do this again sometime?” I asked, unsure if he had enjoyed it or not.
“Whenever you want.” He shrugged his shoulders. “My schedule is pretty booked, but I’m sure I can squeeze you in.” He teased, giving me a playful bump as we walked back towards Mike.
Relief doesn’t begin to describe the feeling I felt as I watched Ryder walk back into his room. We managed to eat together and just be, well, a normal couple. We didn’t bring up the past, or what happened between us, we were just, boyfriends. I was happy, and for once, so was he.
My good mood seemed to carry on into the rest of my day, but the second I saw Nate I felt all the anger inside begin to bubble again. He literally drugged Ryder, then shared false personal information about me. I, he’s broke so many rules and laws last night alone! This madness, it ends, now.
“Nathan.” I called out, walking up to him. “I need to speak with you in my office.”
“Am I getting a raise?” He teased, following me back behind the desk and into a small room.
“Something like that.” I muttered, taking a seat at my desk. “So I saw you filed the overdose against the hospital insurance.”
“I did exactly as you instructed.” He happily nodded. “I guess it was good to be honest about it.
Honest? Honest! I don’t even think he knows the definition of the word! “Is that what you were?” I forced out as I started to grind my teeth.
“Well yeah.” He nervously nodded seeing the look on my face change. “Why? Is something wrong?”
“You tell me.” I forced out beginning to stare him down.
“Look, whatever the patient told you, I’m sure there is a good explanation.” He shrugged. “He is a sick man after all.”
“Don’t use the fact that our patients are ill to discredit them.” I warned in a strict tone. “Did you give him cannabis oil last night?”
“No! Of course not!” He yelped. “I would never do that.”
“But you did.” I stood up and stared into his eyes. “Right now I have reason to believe you gave a recovering addict a hospital vaporizer. And I’m willing to bet if I drug test him I’ll find signs of it.”
“How dare you accuse me.” Nate let out, trying his hardest to fake shock. “He’s a drug addict, of course you’ll find weed in his system.”
“I don’t care what he is.” I shook my head. “Because I’m willing to bet that the THC levels in his system are inconsistent with someone who wouldn’t have been able to smoke for a little over a week and a half.”
“THC levels aren’t always accurate.” He forced out in a gulp. “And you don’t know where he’s been. He could have,”
“There’s a cop outside his door at all hours, and he doesn’t have pockets or furniture in his room to hide anything!” I shouted, as my patience quickly faded away. “The only way he could have smoked is if someone brought him it!”
“Well he did have that visitor earlier that day, maybe he brought something.” Nate shrugged his shoulders.
“Me and my brother were there when he left. Ryder was stone sober.” I angrily muttered, staring deep into his eyes. “Plus whoever gave it to him said they weren’t ‘over me’.” I explained as the look on his face changed. “and they tried to start a rumor that I date nurses, doctors and patients.”
“I, but you do.” He gulped breaking eye contact and looking over to the desk.
“No I don’t.” I shook my head. “The only thing I’ve done over the past few years was go on one date with you. And to be clear we didn’t date. We went out for dinner once, and it ended right after.”
He let out a breath and shook his head. “I’m just protecting you.” He exhaled. “You, a highly respected surgeon are going to date a drug addict?” He asked as he shook his head. “Just think it over for five seconds. The man is so depressed he can’t even get out of bed for more than an hour!”
“I don’t care what or who he is. Who I date is none of your damn business.” I scolded, staring him down.
“God I do you one favor and it’s like,”
“Favor?” Was all I could manage as I began to see red.
“Favor.” He repeated in confidence. “Now you see what an addict is, he can’t even control himself around weed.”
“I knew he was an addict, that’s why he’s here trying to get better.” I seethed as tension filled my body. “And you messed with that. Do you understand what a violation of hospital rules and state laws that is?”
“So is dating your patient.” Nate shrugged, trying to pull from his bag of tricks.
“Oh really?” I asked as he nodded his head. “Is he my patient?” I asked, but got no response. “Go ahead, is he a patient here in the E.R.?”
“Well, no, but what about when,”
“Were we dating when he was in the I.C.U.?” I asked, but once again got no response. “Do you even know for sure that I’m dating him now?”
“I, uh, yeah.” He nodded his head. “Otherwise you wouldn’t be wasting all your time with him.”
I exhaled a deep breath of anger and held out my hand. “Give me your badge.” I calmly instructed.
“No.” He shook his head. “I didn’t do anything wrong, and you-you can’t fire me.”
“Nathan, I will press charges against you if you do not hand me your badge right now.” I warned, showing him nothing but anger.
“The hospital won’t let you.” He refused, trying his hardest to hold his head high.
“They won’t?” I asked in a laugh. “I’m the only one here dumb enough to have kept you on! I had to stop the maternity ward from firing you! But now I see that they were so very right, and I was so wrong.”
“You know what? Fine! I’m better than this hospital anyway.” He let out, ripping off his badge and slamming it into my hand. “Good luck dating your washed up trash. He’s just going to kill himself anyway.”
“He asked me to go easy on you.” I let out as he turned his back to me. “He asked me not to blacklist you from any nearby hospitals, but seeing as he’ll kill himself anyway, I don’t think I’ll listen.”
“I um,” He nervously let out, turning back around. “I, please Dr. Haner, I,I,”
“If you want to work as a nurse again I suggest you move to the other side of the Rockies.” I shrugged, sitting back down and turning to my desk.
“I please!” He pleaded as I suddenly stood back up and headed towards the exit. “You, you can’t,”
“I can and I will.” I nodded my head as he followed me back to the desk. “Now if you’ll excuse me,” I exhaled snapping his badge in two and throwing it into the trash. “I’m going to go check on the ‘washed up trash’ who’s won eight Grammies upstairs.”
“I’m taking this to the board.” He finally decided with a shake of his head.
“Excuse me.” Cait let out as she passed the desk. “Only hospital staff is allowed behind the desk, I need you to move please.” I couldn’t help but smile as she figured out the scene.
“I, I am hospital staff!” He insisted, looking over at her.
“Then can I see your badge?” She asked as I quickly caught up to her. “That’s what I thought.” She shrugged as he grew quiet. “Now please just save yourself the embarrassment and leave before we call security.”
“Whatever! This place is a shithole anyway!” He cried out as we both backed into the elevator. “It’s a terrible fucking hospital! We don’t even have,” Were the last words I heard as the door shut. Goodbye Nate, I hope I never have to see your sorry face ever again.
“Ryder fill you in?” I asked, turning back towards her.
“Yup, he told me everything.” She nodded her head. “So naturally I ran downstairs to catch the fireworks.”
“You’re such a dick.” I laughed as our eyes connected. “Hey, I have a new opening, I can even offer you a raise and a,”
“Keep your money hotshot.” She smiled. “The Psychiatric ward is my home. You’re never pulling me from it.”
“Come on,” I whined. “Like I was saying, I can offer you a raise, and even,”
“Theodore.” She cut off as we both exited the elevator. “I love you, but nothing you can offer can ever get me to leave.”
“Okay.” I defeatedly exhaled noticing how strong her will was. “But if I can ask, why?”
She shrugged her shoulders at first but thought it over. “A week and a half ago Sully wouldn’t say a word to anyone. He barely wanted to be alive.” She shrugged. “But now, now he told both you and me about his slip up. Do you understand what amazing progress that is?” She asked as I was frozen by her passion. “I mean, I know he’s still in hardcore denial, and he has a long way to go, but just, look at that progress Dr. Haner!” She excitedly shouted. “I, I want that for every patient in this ward, and I’m not going to leave until I have it, even if that means I die trying.” I nodded my head and couldn’t help but smile at her ambition. “Oh god.” She rolled her eyes. “Don’t give me that dorky look.”
I shrugged as laughter took over and she quickly started to walk away. “I love you Cait.”
“You better!” She replied in a laugh.
The rest of the day seemed to go by a lot easier without Nate around. Actually, the next few days did too! He tried his hardest to protest it, but at the end of the day there was just too many discrepancies with him to justify keeping him on board. His record was plagued with complaints by both patients and staff, and well, pissing off a celebrity patient doesn’t exactly help that! Last I heard the board had supported my decision to fire him, and was even entertaining the idea of pressing charges! I-I don’t think I’ll ever even see him again! At least, I pray that’s the way things go!
As the days came and went I realized work wasn’t just happier without Nate around, it was easier too! Not having to constantly fix someone’s mistakes, or redo something yourself, it saves so much time!
Yet as the days flew by I found myself in a new challenge. The old sound of dirt and gravel being kicked up began to fill the air as I approached the old house in the cemetery. Ryder thinks this is going to be a problem for me, a whole big blast from the past. But little does he know I never stopped coming here. I never stopped visiting his grandma.
As mad as I was at him, the hurt from her passing never fully faded. I meant it when I said she felt like family. She loved me like I was her own. Sitting with her while he was on tour, well those are some of my favorite memories from that summer. I wasn’t going to let her memory take heat because her grandson fucked up. No, not when it wasn’t the Ryder she raised. Or the Ryder I loved.
“He’s back you know?” I asked the open air as I grew closer to her grave. “That’s why I haven’t been back in a while.” I let out. She’d want us to talk to her. She’d want us to believe her spirit is around. “Did you see him the night he came back?” I couldn’t help but ask. “He tried to kill himself.” I nodded my head. “But we saved him, and now, now he’s trying to get better.” I exhaled, bending down and resting my hand on her grave. “I’ll make sure he gets there. If not for me, then for you.” I let out, staring at the small grave. “I love and miss you Mrs. Sullivan. We all do.”
As I stood up and began to walk back towards the house I was hit by a giant gust of wind. One that pushed me forward, one that told me I wasn’t alone. But still, no matter how many times I’d visited her grave, I haven’t stepped foot in that house since I was a teenager.
I nervously gulped and forced the door open, knowing it would be easiest if I got what I needed then left. But still, as I walked through it I couldn’t help but get flashes back to that summer. Us sitting in his living room goofing around, us sitting on his bathroom floor when he drank too much, me sitting next to his bed as he stared at the ceiling, him playing music for me, our first time having sex and truly opening up ourselves. It all came swarming back to me, the good and the bad.
I let out a nervous breath until I finally found the large suitcase, but froze as I saw a disaster of pills and alcohol spread all across the floor. This is it. This is where he tried to kill himself. I felt tears begin to sting my eyes as I thought it over. He must have felt so incredibly alone. So desperate for relief from his pain. A wave of emotions swarmed me as I looked it over. Suddenly all I could feel were the negative emotions, as though the house was coming to life.
I quickly grabbed his suitcase and went to make my way to the exit until suddenly I remembered the small picture frame on his night stand. The one he would always sneak looks at when he played music. The one that, whether he admits it or not, meant the world to him. I forced back some tears and quickly darted to the back of the house, grabbed the picture of him on his father’s shoulders and suitcase and ran out.
I threw them both into my car and peeled out without looking back. If I never have to go back into that house again it’ll be too soon! Something in it, something is wrong. That wasn’t the house I knew, no, it’s a collapsing shell of its former self, with both its old residents passed on in some way.
I snuck both belongings in my room and made sure to hide the picture in one of my drawers. As happy as I think he’ll be to see it, well it’ll have its time and place. The important thing is picking him up from the hospital tomorrow morning and getting him settled in as quickly as possible. Hell! I even took the day off! My first in years!
Yet as the Saturday morning sun rose I found my heart racing in my chest. “But why can’t I come?” Oliver whined, nearly following me out the door.
“Because I have to fill out a lot of paper work before he’s discharged.” I exhaled, knowing what a war with Oliver bringing home Ryder will be. “You’ll literally be living with him in an hour or two. You can wait.”
“Fine!” He grumbled, slamming the front door behind me. I let out a deep breath and shook my head, oh Ryder, you’re in for a much crazier ride than you bargained for!
The drive to the hospital felt the longest it ever has, and so did filling out all the paperwork to get him the hell out of there! I didn’t even see him while I was signing all the papers. He was pulled in to talk to this doctor and that doctor, and to set up a schedule for the coming weeks. It was determined that he’ll stop in with me four days a week and wait around for group and individual therapy. Then either I’ll take him home on my lunch break, or my mom will pick him up, if she’ll even agree to it!
When I had handed in the last of the paper work, and Ryder was finally finished I finally got my first look at him in street clothes, and what I saw, well it sent my heart into overdrive. It’s like he had took his style from High School and ran it by a stylist! He wore skinny dark jeans ripped at the knees, with a dark black shirt and leather jacket over it. He left his hair messy as the length began to show, yet it all worked for him.
“Ready to go?” He asked, nervously standing in the waiting room.
“I, yeah.” I quickly nodded, trying my hardest to get over his look. “Are you?”
“Since the moment I got here.” He nodded, turning back towards Mike. “I, thank you Mike. I don’t think I’ll be able to find the words to express it. I-I was wrong about you.” He nodded his head. Did Ryder just admit he was wrong?! I must’ve hit my head or something!
Mike nodded his head and shook Ryder’s hand. “You don’t have to find the words, just buy me a beer and we’ll be even.” He let out but quickly caught himself. “Let’s change that to a Pizza.” He recovered, remembering the circumstances that had brought us all back together.
“Sounds good.” Ryder forced a smile. “We’ll all go one day soon, if that’s okay with you Teddy?”
“Yeah, I-it sounds really nice.” I smiled, grabbing Ryder’s hand and starting to lead them both to the elevator. “So Mike, it must be nice to not have to come here every day.”
“It’s not bad.” He shrugged. “I got to stand inside a nice heated building, and for the most part I’d knew I was going to be safe all day.” He forced a smile as he saw concern enter my eyes. That’s right, it’s easy to forget how much Mike risks every day. I mean, northern New Jersey isn’t the wild west, but still, shit happens! “But I am excited to go back to patrolling, it’ll be nice.” He smiled. “But let’s not count our chickens before they hatch. Job’s not done until Ryder’s in the car.”
I nodded my head, and the second the elevator door opened we quickly made our way to a side exit and to my hidden car. As expect a member of the press noticed and rushed over the hound the healing rock star.
“Keep moving.” Mike instructed blocking the approaching press member. “I’m sorry sir, Mr. Sullivan isn’t taking any questions.” He instructed, trying his hardest to block the camera with his hand.
“Ryder!” A voice sounded out as I stepped into the driver seat and Ryder jumped into the passenger’s side. He went to slam the door, but the man grabbed it before he could. “What are your thoughts on Drazo’s comments?” Ryder ignored them and tried his hardest to pull the door shut. “He said you’re done with music. He said metals time is over. He said he’s taking back the charts.”
Ryder stopped the tug-o-war and let out an ominous laugh. “You want to know my thoughts?” Ryder asked, as I nervously gulped. “He can try all he wants but I set the standard too high for him or any other musician to catch me. I’m still the king. There’s only one throne and it’s still mine.” He warned in a terrifyingly low voice. “All the artists today, they needed me to know what style would come next, and now that I’m gone they’re running around like chickens without heads. But I’ll be back, and that little electro shit Draco will fall right back into my shadow.” Ryder warned, finally slamming the door shut.
I let out a breath and quickly threw my car into reverse. “You’ll be back?” I couldn’t help but ask as I hit the open road.
“Somehow, some way.” Ryder nodded his head. “I, I’ll get back to music, it’s the only way I’ll survive.”
I mimicked his nod knowing he was right. Ryder’s words kept replaying in my head. Was he too cocky, or full of himself? Maybe. But he is looked at as the face of music. It’s only 2030 but they already call him the greatest musician of the century.It’s all a game, to see who can turn out the best music and brand it in a way that’s unlike anyone before. And Ryder’s right, no one has been better at it than him. He revived a genre, and brought it back to the public eyes. He’s the king, it’s his throne, and the second he finds himself again, well everyone better watch out.