Maddy chewed and then spoke. “Mia refused to leave. I refused to leave Mia. We’re in this together, right, Sis?” she said as if watching our father die were something we needed to mark off our sisterly solidarity list. It was sweet though. I knew she wanted Pops to pull through this as much as I did, but we also feared what would happen when he found out that he wasn’t her biological father.
Max stood, paced the room, and shook his head. “Well, I’ll be here for up to two weeks or unless he turns the corner on this thing. Then I’ve got to get back to Cyndi. Can’t be gone in the last month of her pregnancy. Shoot, maybe I should bring the girls out here now. Then we’d all be together during this, no matter what happens.”
Could he have been more of a kind, generous human being? I didn’t think so. I’d never known a man like him, and I probably never would again. Yes, I’d met some pretty special men this past year, ones that would go down as best friends, exceptional lovers, and more in some cases. Max, though, was unique. His love for his family warred with Tai’s and his Samoan clan of Nikos back in Hawaii. They were a tight bunch, but the fierceness coming from Max, the way he held himself, doted on Maddy and me, took care of us like he wanted to and wanted to forever, meant so much more. There really wasn’t a way to describe it without sounding like an overly sappy Hallmark card.
We ate for the next ten minutes, Max pointing at the plate every time one of us would take a breath, push back, and lean against the couch. He wanted the plates cleaned, and he wasn’t going to take any lip. Finally, Maddy and I had stuffed ourselves to the gills. Before I knew it, we were leaning against one another shoulder-to-shoulder, our eyes so heavy it was impossible to keep them open.
“Girls, come on.” Max nudged me, but I just leaned into Maddy’s side more. Her weight left my side, and I shivered at the change in temperature. My eyes were still far too heavy to open. I needed a few minutes to rest my eyes, and then I’d be golden.
Out of nowhere, I became weightless, as if flying on gossamer wings to an unknown destination. After a few jarring jolts, I was placed on a cloud, soft crisp layers of cotton and a squishy down comforter tucked all around me. I rubbed my cheek against it, never opening my eyes.
“Just a few minutes and then I’m going back,” I mumbled.
Something warm and moist pressed against my forehead. “Okay, sugar, a few minutes. Sure.” Max said something else, but it was garbled, and I couldn’t make it out.
* * *
When I woke up, it wasn’t quite dark yet. I sat up and looked over at the bed beside mine. Maddy was sleeping soundly. Shifting, I moved and crawled out of bed. The second my feet hit the lush carpet, I got dizzy and woozy. I was beyond tired. Downright exhausted. It was seven o’clock.
Holy shit. We’d been out for over eight hours. Pops!
Remembering my dad was across the street fighting for his life moved me straight into action. I threw on some jeans and a clean V-neck shirt, a new pair of socks, and my converse. Out of bed, dressed, and on the move, I was up and ready within five minutes tops. On the nightstand, I found a hair tie, grabbed it, and fastened my hair back into a long ponytail as I left the room. Max was sitting on the couch watching TV.
“I’ve been out for eight fucking hours, Max!” I growled, making my way over to the counter where the room key and my wallet were sitting.
Maxwell didn’t look fazed by my little outburst. “You needed it.”
There are times in your life when you want to sock a good person in the face. This was one of those times, but I didn’t act on it. “I need to be with my father. What if he wakes up and he’s alone? Worse, what if he…” I couldn’t even think the words, let alone say them.