Page 66 of Wolf's Mate

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“That’s true,” I shake my head jokingly at him. “But, - “

At that moment, the phone rings. I usually don’t pick it up when I’m having a meal with them, but this time, a gut feeling tells me I need to.

“Sorry,” I tell him, wiping my lips on the napkin, and then grabbing the phone.

“Yes?” I reply, without recognizing the caller number. “Yes, this is she… He is!? Oh, my God… yes… of course… Of course… I’ll be right there, thank you. Goodbye.”

I hang up the phone with trembling hands. My lips are dry, and I feel like I’m both out of breath and out of words to explain what just happened.

“What is it, Maddie?”

He gets up from the kitchen table and walks over to me. His hands rest on my shoulders, and I’m grateful for the support. Otherwise, I’m afraid I might slump down onto the floor, like a heavy bag of potatoes.

“My dad…” I manage to mutter. “He’s awake.”

“What are we waiting for?” he smiles widely. “Let’s head to the hospital now.”

“Just… need to grab my bag…”

I feel lost, like this isn’t happening, like it’s all some dream and I’m afraid I’ll wake up, and we’ll still be stuck in that old house, tied up to the chairs. But, Anderson’s presence reminds me this is real. His hands in mine prove this is reality. And, I’ll never have to be afraid again.

We reach the hospital quickly, and that same nurse welcomes us. She is wearing the same white outfit, only now it isn’t as painful as that first time. Her hair is in a bun this time, and she is wearing more mascara than usual. It seems that even she looks like there is something to celebrate.

“Miss Holloway,” she smiles at me, “I’m happy to tell you that your father is awake, and all of his vital signs are steady.”

“That’s wonderful…” I can barely speak from the tears that want to surge out.

This has been the moment I’ve been waiting for, and it is finally here. A tidal wave of relief washes over me, and I just let this realization sink in.

“We wanted to call you immediately. Now, you can see him, but only for a little while. We don’t want to overstimulate him as that might not be beneficial to his recovery,” she nods as she speaks, and I can only agree with that.

“Of course,” I assure her. “I’ll be very careful. Can I go in now?”

“Yes,” she opens the door to his room, and I walk inside.

He is lying on the same bed, and it looks like an equal number of tubes is still connected to his body. His chest rises and lowers slowly, rhythmically. The beeping sounds of the machines fills up the room, so it’s never completely quiet. I wonder how he will sleep now. He always prefers it full dark and completely silent, to rest properly.

I take a few steps towards his bed, and the sound of my footsteps makes him open his eyes. I hasten my steps and sit on a chair near the bed. I cup his hand with mine, careful with the IV insert. It looks shriveled, almost like it doesn’t belong to him anymore, but to some much older man.

“Dad…” I whisper, overcome by emotion.

I’m not even trying to prevent my tears from streaming down my face. I just let them. But, the smile on my face is unbeatable. I have him back. Finally, I can say what he needs to hear, so that we can both move on.

“M…” he tries, but can’t finish.

“Shhh,” I gesture at him with my fingers not to try and speak. “You’re too weak. Don’t try to talk. Just listen, OK?”

I snivel a little, and he gives me a weak nod. I caress his stubby face. He’s lost so much weight. He looks ill. Just looking at him makes me want to cry even more.

“You need a good shave, dad,” I try a chuckle, and it works. I need to stay positive, for him and for myself. “We’ll get you sorted out when you get home. Just focus on getting better and don’t worry about anything else, OK? That’s your number one priority now.”

I keep nodding, like a stupid bobble head, but I don’t know what else to do. This is hard. Harder than I thought. I see the pain in his eyes, and it’s killing me.

“Dad… I’m so sorry about everything…” I start, not really knowing what words to use.

Not like I practiced it in front of the mirror. You can never practice this kind of a speech. Forgiveness comes from the heart, not from some rehearsed set of words. That’s what my mother always taught me. Just to speak from my heart and let it be my guide. The mind might need some help occasionally in choosing the right words, but the heart always knows. It feels what needs to be said, so it’s easy.

“I know what happened to mom, and I know you’ve been living with the guilt all these years…”

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