Just One Song
Author:Stacey Lynn

chapter Twenty-Five





Chase and I are in Zack’s room talking about Mia’s move to New York when we hear a light knock on the door. I expect it to be Melody or Sammy or someone else coming to visit Zack. What I don’t expect, is for Chase to tightly grip my arm as we turn and see Rachel standing in the doorway.

I instantly hate her for looking so perfectly beautiful with her skin glowing as if she’s just been on a Caribbean vacation, and her long blond hair falling loosely down her back. How can someone who caused so much drama look so absolutely perfect? I don’t blame Chase for holding me tightly. He probably thinks I’m close to hitting her and even though I have never hit anyone in my entire life, my fists clench in anger instantly and all I see is red.

“How is he?” She sounds concerned. She should be. This is all her fault anyway. I see the guilt in her eyes and am slightly happy that this manipulative witch is capable of showing some sliver of remorse.

“You put him in a coma, Rachel. How do you think he’s doing?” I spit the words out angrily not bothering to care that she sees how much I hate her.

“I know.” She hangs her head in what I hope is shame as the words are barely spoken above a whisper. “I’m really sorry about all of this. I know it’s my entire fault, I just thought…” She stops and looks to Chase. “Can I talk to Nicole privately for a minute?”

I squeeze Chase’s arm tightly for a minute, letting him know it was okay. He sends me a look that says ‘please don’t kill her here.’ I smile lightly and nod. He slowly leaves the room and whispers something I don’t hear into Rachel’s ear. Based on how her head drops even further, I assume it isn’t a friendly hello.

I move back slightly when Rachel sits down in the loveseat, too close to me for my comfort. She holds her hands together nervously in her lap. I straighten up and glare at her until she speaks.

With a deep sigh, she speaks softly. “I’ve been in love with Zack for years.”

This is not a shock to me.

“I knew he never felt the same way about me. I knew that he didn’t love me, and I waited patiently for years hoping he’d change his mind. Through all of the other girls he dated, I always hoped he would realize how much I loved him and would change his mind towards me. I knew as soon as I saw you at the awards show he was completely in love with you. All the times we were together, I wanted him to look at me the way he looked at you and held you that night. I knew I had lost him, but I wasn’t ready to give him up yet.”

She pauses and buries her head in her hands, tears softly falling down her cheeks. If she hadn’t been so completely bitchy to me, I may have actually felt sorry for her.

“I didn’t mean for any of this. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking when I tricked him into my house. He was so pissed when he found out what I had done that he ran out of my house and left his cell phone.” Tears fall again as she replays the story.

“I heard the crash…it was just a half mile from my house. I knew it was him or one of the photographers as soon as I heard it. I got there as fast as I could, but the paparazzi had already called 911. That was when I went back to the house and called you. It wasn’t what you were thinking, Nicole.”

I sit quietly, trying to process everything she says, but I say nothing, not even when she looks at me with tears in her eyes.

“He was adamant about how much you mean to him. I want you to know that. Nothing happened with us, and he didn’t come willingly. I called him freaking out that someone had broken into my house. I knew he would come if he thought I was in trouble. I just couldn’t imagine losing him forever, and after that night at Rue21, I just had to try one more time. I’m so sorry. I’ll do whatever I have to, to make this better.”

I couldn’t care less about her honesty. The only thing I feel is elated in hearing her tell me that Zack was faithful. I will never doubt his love or faithfulness again, as long as I live.

“There’s nothing you can do Rachel.” I don’t take my eyes off of her for a second. I also don’t care if my words hurt her, because I want her to hurt. I’m so angry with her that I want her to feel pain at realizing what she’s done. “He’s here because of your selfish obsession with a man who doesn’t love you.”

She at least has the grace to nod and not argue with me. “I know. I want you to know I’ll never bother him, or you, again.”

I say nothing although my fists clench tightly again when she stands up and walks to Zack’s bed and touches his perfect hand. She leans in and I hear her whisper an apology and good-bye. She leaves the room without looking back and I feel an almost audible whoosh of tension follow her out the door.

I sit next to Zack, holding his hand, with my cheek resting on top of it and I cry. I cry because I’m filled with relief that Zack doesn’t want her and because I hate myself for even doubting his faithfulness, or Mia and Chase’s reassurances over the last week. Mostly I cry because I’m still absolutely terrified he won’t wake up like the doctors say and I have no idea what will happen to me if I lose someone I so desperately love again.



***

His hand moved.

It’s the only thought I have when I jolt awake as I feel something tickling the palm of my hand. It’s slight, but enough to wake me up. I almost think it’s a dream until his hand twitches again with a little more pressure. I flick my gaze back and forth from his hand to his eyes; hope swells in my chest.

Eight days. Eight days I’ve waited for a sign that he is beginning to wake up. Joy floods through me while I watch his eyes flicker and open slightly before closing again. I immediately reach over and press the call button for the nurse’s station. Zack is waking up!

I squeeze Zack’s hand, desperate to see a sign of movement again. To my shock, he squeezes my hand back. Tears form in my eyes refusing to be torn away from his in case he opens them again.

I turn and smile just a few minutes later when the nurse comes into the room. “He’s been squeezing my hand, and I saw his eyes flicker open a couple of times. I think he’s waking up.” She smiles briefly but says nothing. Instead she comes over and checks his vitals quietly for a few minutes, checking his pulse and flashing a small flashlight in his eyes.

“I’ll call Dr. Hassen and let him know. If what you said is true, it may still take him a few more hours, or even a day or two to fully wake up.” She places her hand on my shoulder and squeezes. “Don’t give up. This is good news. Just have faith – it should be soon.” She smiles sweetly and leaves the room.

For the next several hours, Melody and Sammy hover over me in Zack’s room. Once the nurse shared the news that I had seen some movements, they rush to his room hoping to see him wake up. My time with him alone is gone, but I don’t care. I don’t mind the extra bodies in the cramped room. I just want to see Zack’s eyes open.

Dr. Hassen comes in several hours later to check in on us. We’re all exhausted, but too tense and anxious to leave. As the doctor checks Zack’s chart, I feel another slight squeeze on my hand and gasp. I look to Dr. Hassen who smiles tentatively at me. We say nothing, but I swear I see him nod his slightly, encouraging me.

Another hand twitch from Zack and a small moan causes Sammy and Melody to flee from the too small loveseat on the back wall and rush to his bedside. All four of us stand by his bed, frozen, waiting to hear more. It feels like hours later, but was probably only a few seconds or minutes when Zack moans again. Except this time, the word he spoke was audible – barely. “Nicole.”

It sends shivers down my spine instantly and tears fill my eyes. I gasp, and am pretty sure I stop breathing. Sammy’s hand comes around my shoulder and squeezes me supportively, but it doesn’t help. We watch Zack as his eye lids flutter, and slowly, he opens them. There is a blankness in them I have never seen before as he looks around the room.

I try to let go of his hand, maybe Melody or Sammy should be holding it. Without turning away from the doctor, he squeezes mine back more forcefully refusing to let go.

“Nod if you can hear me Zack.” He nods and the doctor continues. “You’re in the hospital. You were in a car accident just over a week ago.” Zack nods again and then looks to his mom and Sammy. I smile lightly when his gaze rests on me. Tears instantly flow from my eyes in pure relief that he’s awake. He’s going to be okay.

“Shhh.” I laugh at the absurdity. He’s in the hospital just waking up from a coma and Zack is comforting me. I dry my eyes and squeeze his hand.

“I’m so glad you’re okay.”

I don’t remove my eyes from Zack’s when the doctor continues. I’ve waited over a week to see them again and unless he tells me, I’m never leaving his side again.

“You broke your leg and a few ribs. You’ve also had some head trauma and we put you in a medically induced coma. We’ve been waiting for you to wake up for several days now.” He smiles lightly and I see him squeeze Zack’s shoulder. “Your family has missed you.”



“Where am I?” He croaks it out sounding like he has shards of glass in his throat. It sounds physically painful and I flinch when I hear him. He needs water desperately. Sammy must sense the same as me, because I hear her quietly leave the room.

“You’re in Los Angeles, at Olympia Medical Center,” Dr. Hassen answers and then looks to us. “We’re going to need to ask Zack some questions and run a few tests. It’ll be best if you give us some time alone with him.

Hell if I’m going anywhere.

I think Zack understands because his hand squeezes mine tightly. So tightly I almost think of asking him to loosen his grip but I don’t. I’ve waited a week for that hand to move. He can squeeze me as hard as he wants right now.

“Nicole stays here.”

Dr. Hassen simply nods as if he knows he won’t win this argument. “She can stay, but we’ll have to take you for another MRI scan as soon as I can get you in.” He looks at me and smiles in a comforting way. “She can’t go there with you.”

Zack nods in understanding. “Can you give us just a few minutes please?”

I want to tell him to stop talking because his voice sounds horribly painful. But just as I do, Sammy comes back in with a large cup.

“Take this. Just a few sips at a time.” She smiles lovingly at him and as soon as she hands him the cup, she leans over and kisses his cheek that is now only yellow from the bruising. Tears instantly fill her eyes. “I’m so glad you’re finally awake. You had us all so scared.”

For the first time since waking up, Zack loosens the grip on my hand and wraps it around his baby sister. I watch as he chokes back his own tears when he hugs her tightly. They say nothing more, but when Sammy pulls back she wipes her eyes and I can already tell that she’s feeling a hundred percent better. We all needed this reassurance from him.

I walk away a few steps, staying in his line of sight the whole time because even if he let go of me, I still can’t tear my eyes off him as I watch him talk to Melody and Sammy. They both gush over him and it’s all I can do to stop myself from kicking them out so I can crawl into bed and let him wrap his arm around me too and hold me close.

I sigh and wipe away a tear.

Dr. Hassen returns a few minutes later and Melody and Sammy kiss my cheeks gently and squeeze me tightly before leaving the room.

“I told you everything will be okay.”

I only nod at Melody’s words before they leave the room and I go back to take my chair next to Zack’s bed.

***

I’ve sat here for several minutes, relief flooding me with each passing moment as Zack answers every one of Dr. Hassen’s questions perfectly. He’s asked him the year, the month, his birthday and full name, and a million other questions about the last few months trying to see if there are any gaps in Zack’s memory. So far, everything seems to be checking out just fine and I feel my shoulders relaxing with every answer.

Zack’s gaze lingers on me just a bit longer each time he looks at me between questions. All the fear and worry I had in me about Rachel and why he ever went to her house leaves me. He wouldn’t be holding my hand so tightly and looking at me so passionately if my fears were true.

I know that now.

My lips that were tensed together in a straight line when the questioning began have eased into the smallest smile. I love this man in front of me and I know by the look in his eyes, he still loves me. It’s all I need to know.

It doesn’t stop me from me reacting, though, when Dr. Hassen asks Zack what he remembers about the day of the accident. I squeeze his hand so tightly he actually flinches. I watch him struggle to find the words to speak as he looks at me with sorrow in his eyes.

“I’m sorry.” His gaze is fiercely on me.

“It’s okay, Zack.” I brush his cheeks with one hand, wanting to erase the pain I see in him.

He shakes his head adamantly and turns to the doctor briefly before looking back at me.

“Rachel lied. She called, panicking that someone had broken into her house.” His hand squeezes mine tightly. “She doesn’t live far from us.”

Us. The mere mention of the word ‘us’ brings tears of relief to my eyes. I wasn’t worried about Rachel, but just the fact that he still sees us together, and that he just referred to me as if I already live with him brings inexplicable joy to my heart.

He takes a deep breath and continues.

“She wanted someone with her until the cops could come and just be with her. I got there and her entire downstairs was completely trashed. Everything was thrown around, glass all over the floor. I was scared for her when I got there and I let her hug me.” He spits the last part out and I see a look of disgust flood his features. I only give him a nod to continue.

“She kissed me.” My teeth clench at the mere idea she planned this whole ruse just to get to Zack and get her evil little arms around him and his mouth on hers again. I feel sick to my stomach having to hear the story all over again. “I’m so sorry, love.”

“It’s okay. It doesn’t matter anymore.”

“I pushed her away and realized she had set the whole thing up when I saw a bunch of guys jump out of their cars with cameras. I took off in my car, trying to get away from her and call you to tell you what happened. But I couldn’t find my phone…and then….”

He stops speaking and looks to the doctor. “I don’t remember anything after that.”

Dr. Hassen nods his head. We’re silent for several minutes but then the doctor excuses himself from the room letting us know he’ll be back when it’s time for the MRI. I don’t know if he’s done with his questioning or if he just senses we need some time alone, but I don’t care at all when he leaves.

“You dropped your phone at Rachel’s. It was there. She called me to tell me what happened.”

Zack’s eyes widen. “What did she say to you?”

“She just said you were at her house.”

He must see the worry that fills my eyes with what I was thinking when Rachel first called me because he moves to comfort me but I pull back just a little bit. “She said it wasn’t what I was thinking, and she was sorry. But I didn’t know. And I was so worried...”

I let my voice trail off because I don’t want to finish saying what I was worried about because it doesn’t matter anymore.

“She came here yesterday and told me everything that happened. I hate her for it, but you have nothing to be sorry for.”

“You’re it for me, Nicole.” His lips tilt up into that sexy grin that I have missed so much.

I can’t stop myself from launching myself at him with his words and his smile that I finally get to see again.

I don’t need to hear them, I already knew how he felt before he spoke, but hearing them out loud, just reminds me how much I absolutely love him. I want him. Forever. The thought doesn’t scare me at all.

“Marry me.”

I jerk out of Zack’s arms at the two words he just spoke to me. Surely I must have mis-heard him, or misunderstood the words and only heard what I didn’t realize until this very moment I have been hoping he would ask me. But not here, not like this with him bandaged and wearing a cast and morphine drip for the pain.

His smile doesn’t leave his face. Instead it only increases as his eyes begin to sparkle.

“This isn’t how I planned it. But I don’t want to waste another minute without you by my side. I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Marry me, Nicole, and make me the happiest man in the world.”

My lips twitch a bit. “You planned this?”

His eyes glimmer with hope. “Yes and it was going to be much more romantic than me in a hospital room, but I’m asking anyway.”

I can’t believe that I’m not freaking out about this, but I’m not. Everything with us has happened so quickly and I don’t want to waste another minute of another single day not being by his side either. But still, we’re in a hospital. And he’s drugged in pain and just woke up from an eight day coma. I begin to doubt he’s serious. Or lucid.

I nod at the pain medication next to him. “You’re high on morphine.”

“I’d ask you even if I wasn’t under the influence.” His faces changes to a scowl. “You haven’t given me an answer.”

I lean forward closely and carefully so I don’t put any weight on his ribs, but lay just enough pressure on his chest so he can feel me. “Yes, Zack. Of course I’ll marry you. I love you.”

I lean in the rest of the way and melt into his arms as we kiss slowly and passionately for what seems like hours. And I as pull back and look at him, starting to look sleepily from the drugs, I know without a doubt that I will have him forever.

Zack came along at a time when I was just beginning to feel again and he ripped off all the cages and walls I had put around my heart and tore them down slowly and patiently and with all the love I could possibly feel. I never thought I could love someone again, but now I know, the second time around is even better.