Chapter 50: He Was My Brother

Taylor

We pulled into the parking lot, all of us groaning with relief. Sitting in traffic is never very fun – and sitting in traffic knowing that the police could be pursuing is even worse. The directions I gave Louise were not a direct route to the coffee shop, as we all decided taking smaller, lesser-known roads would probably be the best bet. Unfortunately, halfway there, we’d met up with a car crash, and traffic was reduced to a single lane through several intersections.

That was over an hour ago. Now, quietly studying the outside of Gypsy’s, I half-wished we were heading to one of the local bars. Alcohol really wasn’t my thing, but I sure as hell needed a drink.

“My butt is numb,” Allison whined. I rolled my eyes.

“You know, it’s your fault we had to go that way,” I reminded her. “If you hadn’t gotten yourself put on America’s Most Wanted, we could have taken the road directly here and not taken the scenic route.”

“Forgive me,” she  said sarcastically. “Next time I won’t risk my life to help you.”

“Both of you shut up,” Louise said, locking the car and walking to stand next to us. “Let’s just get something to eat before I starve to death.”

I gave her a sour look, but said nothing. The three of us trudged slowly toward the front door. Allison kicked several stray pieces of gravel away as we got closer.

“Is this place going to be crowded?” she asked.

“No. It’s early afternoon, it won’t be too bad. It’s pretty packed late at night, though,” I replied. We walked through the door, entering the small, familiar hallway of the coffeeshop. There was another door on the side, and we walked through it. I breathed deeply, enjoying the scented air.

“Non-smoking is over here,” I murmured, prodding Allison toward the right. After some debating, we decided to sit on a couch fairly close to the entrance.

The three of us collapsed onto the cushions, Allison on the left, Louise on the right, me in the middle. A waitress came and handed us menus.

“What’s good here?” Louise asked when the waitress walked off.

“The iced espressos are great,” I said. “I could drink them all day.”

Allison rolled her eyes. “Food, Taylor, food.

I shrugged. “I dunno. Everything is pretty good, I guess.”

They both sighed. “You’re no help at all,” Louise said.

We took a few more minutes to look over the menu. At one point Allison snickered loudly. “Hobo Ham? What the hell kind of sandwich name is that?” I started to protest, but she waved me off. “So what do you want, Taylor?” She glanced around, noticing the nearly-empty room. “You were right. Good thing it’s not crowded.”

“Just get me a couple of these muffins,” I said. I grinned. “And an iced espresso.”

“Muffins? All you want is muffins?”

“Yeah.”

The waitress came back over, looking at the two girls expectantly. Louise ordered first, choosing a salad. The waitress turned to Allison. “And for you, miss?”

“I’ll have… um… okay. The cheese quesadillas, the Chicken Salad sandwich thingy, um, two of those banana muffins you got there, the chocolate cheese cake, an iced espresso, and um… a Coke.”

The waitress gave her one highly raised eyebrow. “And will that be all?”

Allison grinned winningly. “That will be all.”

“Jesus Christ,” I muttered under my breath.

“Half that stuff is yours, you know,” she grumbled when we were alone once again.

“Half? Hardly. The muffins and a drink are mine, Alley Kat. The rest is all you.”

“What can I say? I’m hungry,” she replied. She busied herself with tying one long shoelace. “These stupid shoes keep getting too loose. I think something is wrong with the laces.”

“Enough with the laces,” I said. “Tell me, right now and in great detail, what just happened back there at the hospital. You made us wait until we were here, and so here we are. Spill it.”

“Alright,” she said, and launched into her tale. To any onlooker, it would appear that Allison was speaking only to Louise as she talked. They faced each other from opposite ends of the couch, Allison looking directly to her right. I sat in the middle, so it was easy to listen and watch. She looked directly at me most of the time as she spoke, but I knew with Louise right behind me, no one would be the wiser.

“And so then she tells me that they’ve moved you,” she said breathlessly after several minutes. “And that you’re doing much better, and beginning to respond. Isn’t that great?

I knew my mouth was hanging open, and I made a conscious effort to close it. “Are you serious?”

“Yes!” she grinned again, her face all lit up, all traces of crankiness from the long car ride gone. “Aren’t you excited, Taylor?”

“I… well, yeah,” I said, my mind reeling. “Of course. But it’s a little scary, too.”

“Scary?”

“Yeah… because, well, I don’t know. I just don’t know what’s going to happen when – and if – I do wake up…” I trailed off, deciding that I was doing way too much thinking out loud.

She nodded sympathetically, but remained silent. A few moments later, the waitress returned with our food, setting it down on a small coffee table next to the couch. Allison and Louise began to dig into their respective meals, but I waited until no one was looking before devouring my muffins.

Louise laughed, interrupting our quiet eating. “Allison, I don’t know how you get yourself in these situations.” She shook her head, taking a bite of salad and chewing. “A teenage girl outsmarting the police and running from them. It’s like a scene out of a bad movie or something.”

Allison looked insulted. “A bad movie? Why not a good one?”

I tuned them out as they argued, my thoughts elsewhere. What would happen when I finally awoke? Would my family look any different? Would I remember what happened before the accident? What would happen to me, the Taylor that was here with the girls, right now? Would I just cease to exist? Would I remember them at all? Would I remember all the time I spent with Allison?

Too many questions. I glanced over at Allison, who was laughing uproariously at something Louise just said. She was nearly choking on her quesadilla. One unruly chunk of hair had fallen from her clip and was dangling against her face as she coughed. Without thinking, I reached over and pushed it back behind her ear. Still unable to speak, she nodded her thanks, winked, and reached over to squeeze my leg reassuringly. As her breathing finally returned to normal and she resumed her argument with Louise, I knew that this girl was one that I never wanted to forget.

“Taylor, tell her she’s wrong,” Allison said, breaking me out of my somber thoughts.

“What?” I said, slightly embarrassed at being caught off guard. “Uh, Louise, you’re wrong.”

“See?” Allison said triumphantly.

“Oh, he wasn’t even listening,” Louise said, fixing me with a pointed stare. “He was too busy ogling the waitress to pay attention.”

“I was not ogling!” I said, insulted.

Louise grinned wickedly. “Was too.”

“Was not!”

“Was too!”

“Ungh!”

We both turned to Allison, who was apparently choking again for no reason. Her eyes were huge and wide, and for a moment I wondered if she was even breathing. She blinked twice and squinted, looking up just to my left at something behind my back. “You need to stop and chew, seriously,” I said. “Because I don’t know the Heimlich, and I’m sure Louise doesn’t either.”

“I know how to do it, thank you,” Louise snapped. “I did some CPR training a few years ago.”

“Shut up,” Allison hissed.  I thought about tossing back an indignant reply but chose not to. Behind me, there were voices. Very familiar voices….

“Zac, I don’t want to sit in smoking. Just because you’re ruining your lungs doesn’t mean I should have to.”

“There’s no one even in here, Ike. I don’t know what you’re bitching about.”

Louise and I slowly did a head swivel in unison, watching a pair of blond-headed young men walk to a table and seat themselves. Louise whistled softly, looking first at them, then at me, and then back to them.

“Well, things in here just got a bit more interesting.”