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“I was listed as next of kin,” Trent said.

“Yeah, right. Um, I guess I’ll have to change that right away.” Unfortunately, it meant that the doctors would have filled him in on everything. By now, she knew Mitch had also told her friends about her secret illness. She wasn’t upset. They all needed to know. They all should have known a long time ago. Keeping it to herself had been wrong.

“It’s fine,” he said, but despite his presence in the room, she already felt him pulling back. The thick tension in the air around them was suffocating. She’d ended things. They were no longer together. He didn’t need to be there, and she wasn’t sure if she wanted him to be, because what was the point? They were no longer planning a future together, which was harder to fully accept than anything she was going to be facing now.

Who would be there for her now?

She swallowed the lump in her throat and straightened her spine against the too-soft bed. She’d get through this on her own. Her inherent stubborn streak was the only thing she could rely on in that moment to prevent her from crumbling, so she clung to it.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Trent asked quietly.

“Because there was nothing you could do. Why didn’t you tell me you had a son?”

The words hit their mark, and his expression changed to one of conflicted remorse.

“I only just found out. But you’ve known about this illness for…how long, Whitney?” The deep hurt in his voice made tears gather in her eyes. He sat in the chair next to the bed and lowered his head in his hands. His shoulders shook, and she looked away toward the window. Watching him break down was too much. Her already shattered heart couldn’t take it.

“I’d like to be alone,” she said, forcing as much strength into her voice as she could muster. It wasn’t much, but obviously it was enough as he stood up and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.

Instead of leaving, he came closer, looking unsure, hesitant, uncomfortable…

So different than the man who’d claimed to love her, who swore he’d always be there for her, who’d told her there was nothing they couldn’t overcome together.

He must have realized now that he’d been wrong.

“Whit…I…I want to be strong about this. I want to be here. There’s so much going on right now. Both our lives are so damn complicated.”

She heard the uncertainty in his voice. He knew the truth now. He knew she was broken, that she couldn’t give him what he wanted most. A family. But she knew the truth now, too—that he already had one. He truly didn’t need her anymore.

“It’s okay, Trent.” Forcing her voice steady, she summoned every last inch of the strong person she once was. “You can go.” No matter how much she longed to beg him to stay, she wouldn’t. “And please don’t come back.”

He hesitated but slowly nodded as he turned and left the hospital room.

Chapter Twenty-Five


The next day, Whitney felt a little better. Induced sleep and an IV to keep her fluids up were the reasons for it. As well as her best friends, who had been by her side for hours. Telling them to go home was futile, so Whitney had stopped resisting their support. Lia had gone out for a food run, but she, too, had prolonged her stay in Blue Moon Bay to be there for Whitney.

Her doctor entered the room, and Jess looked up from the magazine where she was forcing Whitney to take a quiz called “Which pop star would my BFF be?” It was her friend’s attempt to keep the mood light and Whitney’s mind off the test results she would be getting that day, but now her friend put the magazine down, and a serious expression crossed her face.

“Do you want us to wait out in the hall?” Sarah asked him.

Dr. Forester shook his head. “No. I think it’s best if you two were with her right now.”

She swallowed the nerves in her throat. Obviously, the doctor didn’t have good news.

Sarah and Jess sat on the edge of the bed, and Whitney shuffled over slightly to make room. “It’s going to be okay,” Sarah whispered.

“Is it?”

“I don’t know,” she said, “but you won’t be alone.”

Whitney nodded, eternally grateful for their support.

They all listened, not fully understanding as the doctor explained the results. “Without treatment, the symptoms of the sickle cell anemia will get worse over time. This collapse was your body’s way of telling you that you can’t keep ignoring your health, Whitney.”

This lecture was long overdue, and all she could do was listen. Listen and really hear it this time. No more putting things off.

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