“Honey,” she said, catching my arm in a gentle grasp. “I’m sure Charlie loved a lot of things, but he’s . . . well, he’s not that Charlie anymore.”
“Charlie’s . . .” I stared at her a moment and then pulled my arm free. “I know he’s not the same, but he’s . . . he’s still Charlie.”
Sympathy dug its way into the lines around her eyes and mouth. “Honey, I know, but that’s not the only thing we need to talk about. There’s—”
Whatever she wanted to talk about I really didn’t want to hear at that moment. Probably had to do with the feeding tube, and I just couldn’t think about it, because I knew how Charlie would react. I also knew that his parents wouldn’t be here to see it, and often wondered if they even cared.
Looking away, I pushed open the doors.
My whole world stopped.
Sitting on the same couch that I’d waited on a handful of hours ago was Henry Williams. The strap from my tote bag slipped out of my fingers and the tote hit the floor with a loud smack. I was frozen right where I stood.
“Roxy,” whispered Nurse Venter. “I was trying to tell you that he’s here.”
Henry unfolded his massive length. He’d grown since the last time I’d seen him. Before, he’d been average height, maybe five feet, nine inches. Now he was well over six feet.
Prison hadn’t been kind to him, not that I really cared.
His dark brown hair was buzzed close to the skull and his skin was paler than I remembered. Then again, you didn’t get to see the sun in prison a lot. There were bags under his eyes, making him appear older than he was, which had to only be twenty-three or twenty-four. And he was bigger. Sounded totally cliché, but he had to have been pumping iron behind the bars because his shoulders stretched the plain white shirt he wore in a way it never did when he was younger.
My muscles were completely locked up as I stared at Henry.
He smoothed his hands along the sides of his khaki shorts. “Roxanne,” he said, and my skin crawled like an army of cockroaches had swarmed me.
A huge part of me wanted to flee the waiting room, run straight for the doors and get as far away from Henry as I could, but I couldn’t. Henry wasn’t here for me. He wanted to see Charlie, and like a mama bear, I was so not going to let that happen.
My muscles unlocked and I moved so that I was standing in the center of the double doors. “You’re not welcome here.”
Henry didn’t look surprised. “I don’t imagine that I would be.”
“Then why are you here?” I demanded, my hands closing into fists. “This is the last place you should be.”
He glanced over to where Nurse Venter stood. Luckily no one else was in the lobby, but that would soon change. “I know. I’m not trying to start anything—”
“You shouldn’t even be out of prison. You were in there for how long? Five years tops and you’re out now, walking around and enjoying whatever, but Charlie has lost everything?” I shook my head, breathing heavy. So freaking unfair. “You’re not going to see him.”
“Roxy,” Nurse Venter said quietly. “I know you realize you—”
I whirled on her. “So, you’re okay with this? Siding with him?” Betrayal was a bitter acid in the back of my throat. I knew it was unreasonable. She was just doing her job, but frustration and helplessness were a second, irrational being inside me. I did not care about her job. All I cared about was how unfair this was to Charlie.
Her brows pinched with sympathy. “It’s not an issue of siding with anyone. Charlie’s parents—his guardians—gave permission. And unless Charlie says he doesn’t want to see him, and I know how that sounds, he’s allowed.”
My mouth dropped open. “Charlie hasn’t spoken more than a sentence in six years! And now he’s suddenly going to express his discontent with something?” I whipped around, facing Henry. “Did you know that? That Charlie hasn’t spoken in years?”
He looked away, a muscle thrumming in his jaw.
I stepped forward. “Oh, is that too hard to hear? Because you did that to him?”
“Roxanne.” Nurse Venter grasped my arm with her cool fingers. “I think it will be best for you to leave.”
Yanking my arm free, I was seconds away from erupting in a stream of fiery insults and curse words, but my wild gaze met hers. She wasn’t just looking at me, she was pleading with me to let this go—to walk out of the facility, because there was nothing she could do.
There was nothing I could do.
I drew in several deep breaths that went nowhere. All I could do was nod in her direction before I picked up my tote bag. It was like walking through quicksand. Every cell in my body demanded that I not walk out of the building, but I did. Calling on every ounce of restraint I had in my body, I managed to walk my ass out of that building, under the overcast skies, and was halfway across the parking lot.
My eyes widened. Oh hell to the motherfucking no. Dumbfounded, I turned around slowly.
Henry was right behind me. “I know you’re upset—”
“You’re so fucking observant.”
He ignored that. “And you have every right to be upset.”
Staring up at him, I knew I was going to do something stupid if I didn’t remove myself from this situation just as much as I knew those dark, plump clouds were going to break.
“Leave me alone,” I said, tightening my hand on my tote as I pivoted around. I picked up my pace, skirting around a van.
Lightning lit up the dark clouds overhead and the thunder cracked, so loud it rattled my chest. As another cloud flashed like a disco ball, I focused on counting the seconds between the streak of light and thunder.
Then I saw my car.
Better yet, I saw what was sitting next to my car. It was an old Mustang—a cherry red muscle car straight out of the 70s. The vanity plate was familiar, too. It read BBRB, and I knew what that stood for, too.
Bad Boys Are Better.
Motherfucker, it was Henry’s car—the same car he had in high school that he and his father had restored. The same car he and his friends used to roll around in to pick up girls, like something straight out of a cheesy movie.
Henry got out of prison after destroying my best friend’s life and his fucking, stupid car—his pride and joy—had been waiting for him.
“Please, just give me a few seconds. That’s all I’m asking.” Henry grabbed my arm.