“Mina, bring the bag,” Rob ordered. Wil scrambled to her feet and took off down the hall. He looked down at Cynthia, who nodded at him as cheerfully as she could manage. She was trying to suppress another round of coughing, fairly successfully. Rob nodded in return, ending the sort of conversation only those who have lived and loved together for so long can have.
Wil returned with Cynthia’s hospital bag. Rob gripped her shoulder in gratitude, and looked into her eyes. They were wide and full of emotion. “I’m going to get my things. Will you please text Jakob?” Unlike Cynthia, Wil always needed more instruction than a nod and a smile. Rob pressed his cell phone into her hand, and flew down the hall faster than Wil ever saw him move.
She stared down at the screen of her father’s phone. The scratched surface dimly reflected her dark outline. “Wil,” Cynthia whispered. Wil’s eyes shifted to her mother’s, though her focus was obviously elsewhere. She blinked, and slowly returned to the living room, the couch, the drawn face before her.
She needed to text her step-brother. They needed to go to the hospital.
Rob returned, just as Wil finished. She looked up at her father, and he sighed at the distraught confusion on his daughter’s face. He itched to run his hand along his jaw, but both were occupied with his things. Instead, his right hand jangled the ring of keys it held.
“Get your things, Mina,” Rob said. He cleared his throat. “Your book, maybe.” He thought to mention the letter, but decided against it. Wil took another hurried trip from the room, and Rob quickly stooped and retrieved the envelope and papers from where Wil had cast them to the floor.
When Wil returned, clutching her paperback novel and father’s phone, she found Cynthia alone. Her mother was still seated, shuffling her feet awkwardly into her shoes. Wil quickly dropped what she was holding and kneeled to help slide her mother’s heels into the simple gray loafers.
The apartment door blew open. The cold dark of winter afternoon framed Rob’s hunched, unkempt frame before he came through and slammed it back closed behind him. He came quickly to the couch.
“Get your things, Mina,” he said again. As Wil sat back out of the way, he reached forward to unhook the IV bag. Holding it upright in one hand, he leaned the opposite shoulder down to his wife to help her stand.
Cynthia laughed -a mistake, as usual. She coughed and coughed, her body’s jerking motions transferring to Rob’s stocky frame. The apartment fell eerily quiet in the small pause after she finished.
She looked up at Rob. She smiled, an expression that widened slightly at his mirrored response. “I was going to say, ‘I don’t need help to stand up,'” she said, nearly laughing again.
Rob nodded, then helped her to fully stand. He still held her bag. He looked back to his daughter, and Wil hurriedly grabbed the discarded book and cell phone. She looked around the floor, wondering at what else she was missing.
“Let’s go,” Rob said determinedly. They headed out of the apartment, into the great empty echoes of the encroaching storm.