Chris was not good with sitting still, he began to fidget. He would check his watch, tap his foot, look back and forth between Harper and Aiden. It was taking everything within Lisa not to yell at him and tell him to stop. She knew he felt helpless and telling him to stop or pointing out that he was driving her crazy was not going to help the situation at all.
Suddenly, he stood up and walked over to the bed where he gently touched Aiden’s head and then leaned over to whisper in his ear. He stood there for a minute longer, then returned to the couch. His mom was looking at him, extremely confused, “I wanted him to know I was here and that I noticed he wasn’t wearing his Captain America pajamas,” he finally let a smile cross his lips. “I wonder if Becky can help him change, maybe we could put them on him.”
“His pajamas are not important, Chris.”
“Sure they are, Ma. You can do anything with the help of a superhero, right? So, he needs Cap to help him get better.”
“You are so sweet, naïve, but sweet,” she patted his leg and smiled, “You can ask her, but I don’t think they will do the trick.”
“I know,” his smile was fading, “But I have to give him hope, every kid needs hope, Ma.”
Their attention was diverted, Harper was beginning to stir and wake up. The last thing they wanted to do was to scare her; Chris waited until she was fully alert before he gingerly stood up and softly said, “Hello.”
Harper jumped out of her chair, pushing it back a little, “Wha…Hi, what are you doing here?”
He tentatively took a step forward and motioned to the chair, “It’s okay, please sit back down. I called Becky to see how Aiden was doing, she told me he had taken a turn so I wanted to come down and check on the two of you.” He figured it was better to give that story. The last thing he wanted to do was to admit to Harper that Becky had called him; it would bring up too many questions.
“Oh, I see. Well, that was very thoughtful of you,” Harper moved a little closer to the bed, Chris could tell she did it to hold on and keep from falling. “He, um, had an adverse reaction to his new medicine. But, um, they think he’s going to be alright,” her lip quivered, she was fighting back the emotion.
Chris walked over to where she was standing, he reached out for her and pulled her toward him, into an embrace. “You don’t have to be strong with me, let it out, it’s okay.” She tried to resist, she hated to cry and here she was in his arms and on the verge of doing it again. But she couldn’t hold it off, she started to sob, and he just held onto her tighter.
Lisa watched as her son caressed this woman; a woman he barely knew and yet he tried to help ease her burden. She had watched him with sick kids and with his young fans. Of course, she had even watched him with his niece and nephews, but the nurturing and caring he was providing to Harper and Aiden, this was a different level. This was a side of Chris she had not actually seen before, and she was proud of the man he was.
Chis held her for a moment longer and then pulled back, looking into her eyes, he spoke, “Everyone is worried about you, especially me. They’re telling me you aren’t eating or sleeping, sweetie you can’t do that, you’re gonna run yourself down, and you won’t be any good to Aiden if you’re sick, too.”
“I’m here by myself, and I can’t leave him alone, the last time I did this is what happened to him. I’m not hungry, I have no appetite, and I sleep in that chair,” she was pointing to the chair she had been in earlier. She wiped the tears from her eyes, unlike the last time, she wasn’t worried about smearing makeup, she hadn’t had any on in days.
Lisa stood up and took a few steps forward, “Hi, Harper, my name is Lisa, I’m Chris’ mother. I came with him tonight to see if I can be of assistance. Why don’t you let me sit with Aiden, and you can go freshen up and go get a bite to eat. Or, if you would like, we can let Chris stay here, and I’ll take you to dinner. But either way, my son is right, you need to keep up your strength.”
Harper hung her head for a moment and then looked back up, “It is a pleasure to meet you Mrs. Evans and I appreciate your offer, but I’ll be fine, I don’t want to put either of you out.” She reached for the chair, Chris realized what she was doing and pulled it over for her and helped her sit down.
“Ah, I see you are hard-headed, I can relate, I’ve birthed a child or two who have that trait,” she said with a smile, looking directly at Chris, “If we were put out, as you say, we wouldn’t be here at all. So, I’m going to use my mom voice, you need to get a shower, get refreshed, and get fed. You also need out of this room so you can get yourself centered. You have two choices, leave with me or leave with my son, but you will leave this room tonight.”
Chris had to suppress a laugh, this is why he brought his mom along; there was no way Harper would be able to say no to his mom. Well, that and he knew that once his mom met her, she would possibly understand why he had feelings for Harper, even if he didn’t quite understand them himself.
“I have to stay here for Aiden, I can’t leave.”
“Wow! You really are hard-headed,” Chris was a little shocked at how firm she was on this, but he wasn’t relenting. “Look, we get it, you can do this on your own, and you want everyone to know it. But it’s okay to give in and let someone help you. When there are people that come into your life, one way or another, and they say they want to help, let them!”
“Becky told me you kept this in Aiden’s room,” Lisa held up the duffel bag that had been brought in earlier, “Let me take you to a private room where you can take a shower. If you’d prefer, I can take you over to Christopher’s Haven or to a hotel room, and you can get some rest in a real bed.”
Harper hung her head, she was done fighting, it wasn’t getting her anywhere, and she was going to risk making the two of them furious if she kept it up. She just didn’t know how to accept help from strangers; even though she had dinner with Chris, essentially he was a stranger. The idea of being his friend was intriguing, but to be honest, once the newness wore off, he would lose interest. And, he’s famous, so he will jet off to make a movie, and she will be alone again. It was easier to keep him at a safe distance and stop a ‘relationship’ of any type from starting instead of being broken when it was over. All of these feelings revolved around her, she wasn’t even going down the path of what it would do to Aiden.
Her voice faint, she finally answered, “Okay, I’ll go down the hall, but please don’t leave him. I don’t want him to wake up and be alone.” She took the bag from Lisa’s hand and began to walk out of the room.
Chris walked to the door, watching her walk away. Becky was in the hall, just outside the door, and she watched in amazement as Harper shuffled down the hall. “Becky, she didn’t want mom to go with her, can you just check on her once she’s in the room to make sure she doesn’t pass out or fall. I think she barely has enough energy to stand.”
“Yeah, I’ll check on her,” she looked back at Chris, watching the concern on his face, “Does she realize it yet?”
He looked over at her, admittedly confused, “Realized what, exactly?
“How bad you have it for her,” the smirk on Becky’s face could not be contained.
“I wouldn’t say that,” he started to stutter.
“You won’t, but I will. I’ve never called you for anything and had you show up so quick,” Becky started to chuckle and walk off, turning to look over her shoulder she retorted, “Hell, we dated, and you never paid that much attention to me! It’s sweet Chris, I just hope she realizes how lucky she is.”
Chris shook his head and turned to go back into Aiden’s room, he noticed that his mom was watching him closely. As he sat in the chair that Harper had occupied, he finally looked across the bed, “What? You’re staring at me, Ma. Say what you’re thinking.”
She smiled and shook her head, “I just believe that you’ve fallen hard in a short period of time; it worries me, but I can certainly see why. She’s headstrong, and a challenge and heaven knows you like that. She has a hard time accepting help, but she needs it, this is too much for her,” she looked at Aiden and smiled, “He is a beautiful boy, I can only imagine how hard it is for her to go through this situation.”
He didn’t respond to what his mom said, he just listened to the hypnotic beeps of the machines. After a few moments, he choked out, “What if I’m not what she wants? Maybe I’m pushing, and she’s pushing back, and I’m just too far gone to notice?”
“She’s focused on her son, which is where she is supposed to be focused, by the way. You have to stop pushing and just be respectful; I think you should tell her that you’re at least interested in her, though.”
“Why would I do that? Won’t that just make it worse?
“Maybe, but right now, Chris, you’re the only one in this relationship, and you have to admit that it’s not working out for you either.”
Harper had willed herself down the hall toward Aiden’s old room. She was weak and unsteady on her feet, but she was not going to let herself stumble or fall. She wanted to be angry that Chris and his mom were making her do this; however, she knew she needed it and knew they were trying to help. As she opened the door to his old room, she looked down the hall toward the ICU bay and noticed that Chris was watching her.
She closed the door and made her way to the small bathroom; she had used this bathroom plenty of times when preparing to leave and go to work. She took her time undressing, she was off-balance and did not want to fall. There was no way she wanted anyone coming in to help her up; that was an embarrassment she did not need. She turned on the water and gingerly stepped under the stream of hot water. It felt good, she didn’t move, electing to brace herself against the wall and letting the water just fall over her. It didn’t take long for the impact of the events of the last week to flood her mind: Aiden’s setback, losing her job, trying to figure how to pay for Aiden’s care, and the ultimate kindness of strangers. She let the tears flow, but she kept her sobs quiet; she did not like to cry or show her emotions in front of people, and she had cried in front of Chris twice. From this point forward, she had to find a way to keep herself together.
She turned off the water, towel dried her hair and body and got dressed. Luckily her bag had a blow dryer and a small makeup bag; she quickly tried to fix herself up to resemble a live human being. She quickly stuffed her dirty clothes into the bag and made her way to a nearby chair to put on her socks and shoes. She would have to make a trip home in the next day or two so she could replenish the clothes in the bag. As she was contemplating how she would make this happen, she heard a faint knock on the door.
“Harper, it’s Becky are you doing okay in there?”
“You can come in Becky, I’m all right,” as Becky opened the door she noticed that Harper was lacing up her shoes, “I didn’t realize how badly I needed that.”
“I wasn’t trying to rush you, I just wanted to make sure you were doing okay. Can I get you something to eat or drink?”
“Oh, thank you, but no, I’m good.” Harper stood up and grabbed her bag, putting her shoulders back and trying to give off the impression that she felt so much better, she began walking towards the door and down to the ICU bay. Becky was following close behind, not taking a chance that she might drop or pass out.
As she approached the door, she turned to face the nurse, “I know I probably shouldn’t ask this, but I know you’re reducing the sedatives for my son. Do you have any idea when he might wake up?”
Becky hated it when parents asked this question, it was not an easy or uniform answer, “I have to give you an answer that you won’t like. It takes as long as it takes. Jesus, I hate to give that answer Harper, I really do, but each patient reacts differently. I’m afraid of giving you an answer that gives false hope or proves to be a disappointment.”
“I understand, it isn’t fair for me to even ask. But you know, I had to,” Harper turned and slowly slid the door opened, noticing that Chris and Lisa appeared to be in a deep conversation.
Chris jumped up as he heard the door, “Hey there, feeling better?” He walked to her side, sliding an arm around her waist and guiding her to the chair. He was overprotective, he hoped she wouldn’t mind.
“Yeah, I think I do. Thanks for keeping him company, I guess there was no change?” She tried to be optimistic in her question, but it was evident that nothing had transpired in the time she was gone.
“No, sorry, no changes,” Lisa offered quietly.
The three sat in silence for a minute or two just looking at the little boy in the bed. Finally, Chris got the nerve to speak, “Harper, can I please take you to get something to eat? At least let me run you through a drive-thru if you don’t want to eat in a restaurant.”
“Oh, I don’t think so,” she looked up at him, she was staring into his eyes, damn those eyes, those lips, that jawline. This man was beautiful, and she was suddenly at a loss for words. “I know you think I’m trying to be difficult, I’m not, I guess I just don’t know how to take kindness from people. It’s hard for me to accept it.”
Lisa Evans stood up and took a few steps toward the bed, “Well my dear you need to get used to it. I wasn’t kidding earlier, you need to get out of this room for at least an hour.” She walked around the end of the bed and took Harper’s hand, pulling her up from the chair. “So, here’s what we’re going to do, Chris is going to stay here with Aiden, while you and I go out. If Aiden wakes up, Chris will call us immediately.”
There was no sense in arguing, Harper had the feeling that people didn’t tell Lisa Evans ‘no.’ She had the feeling that Chris wanted to discuss the decision his mother had made, but he just kept his head down and took the seat next to the bed. As the two of them started to walk out of the room, he did yell and ask them to bring him something to eat.
Harper was quiet as they exited the hospital and walked out into the parking garage. She slid into the passenger seat of the black Lexus, which she learned was Chris’ car and buckled her seatbelt. She made no suggestions of where to go, but when asked, she did say she preferred casual and close. Evidently, Lisa knew just the spot as she pulled into the parking lot of a small diner that was a few blocks down from the hospital.
The diner, which looked like an old train car, was very casual and at this time of night, very quiet. They took a booth in the back corner. The waitress was there right away to take their food and drink order; and with that out of the way, Lisa wanted to get to know this woman.
“Chris tells me that you have no family here in Boston. I’m sure that is making this whole ordeal even harder on you, please know that we are willing to help in any way we can.”
“I actually have no family at all. Everyone has passed away, Aiden is all I have left,” she looked out the diner window, trying to think of what to say or how to say it, “You know I try not to dwell on it, I just try to get through the day. I appreciate your offer, Mrs. Evans, it is very generous of you.”
“Lisa, just call me Lisa, Mrs. Evans sounds so formal,” she offered a smile in the hopes of breaking the ice a little more, “I get it, you don’t want to rely on others, and you want to prove you can do this. I can totally admire your strength for what you have gone through already. However, you need to accept help from time to time, you shouldn’t be ashamed to admit that you need it.”
Harper took a moment to collect her thoughts before she spoke, “Mrs. Evans, sorry, Lisa, I think I’ve been on my own for so long, I’m just not used to it when someone offers assistance. Maybe it’s a pride thing, I don’t know.”
“Well, I don’t think you can consider us strangers, you’ve seen my son a few times now. He seems to like you, and he enjoys visiting with your son,” she looked up to see if Harper had a reaction to her comments about Chris. Sure enough, it looked as if she had a bit of a twinkle in her eye, “I take it that you’ve enjoyed his visits as well?”
Harper smiled, she was afraid she was blushing, “He’s a very nice man and I’m thoroughly embarrassed that I didn’t know who he was when I first met him. Aiden, well he idolizes him, well, Captain America, I mean.”
“Well, from what Chris tells me, and from what I’ve seen first-hand, you’re an exceptionally caring and loving mother; you think of Aiden first and make sure he is taken care of. The problem is, no one is looking out for you or taking care of you. So, I’m going to make that my mission,” Lisa smiled, reaching out to touch the younger woman’s hand. “Harper, we want to help you, so let us. There is no expectation of a repayment, that’s not how this works. And so you know, Chris is the driving force behind this, he feels a connection to you, I’m here for the extra support.”
Harper could not believe what she was hearing, Lisa was admitting that Chris was behind this. How was this even possible? But before she could respond or ask questions, the waitress appeared with their food. She was starving, something she had not admitted to anyone when they had asked back at the hospital. However, she didn’t order anything big, after not eating for a few days, it would be hard to keep anything down. She picked at her food, and what she did eat, she ate slowly.
After a few moments of silence, she spoke up, her voice quiet and barely audible. “If it wouldn’t be an imposition, they’re slowly taking Aiden off the sedatives, before he comes out of his coma, I need,” Harper took a deep breath, unsure if she could continue. “I need to get my personal effects from my office and do some laundry. Would there be a possibility that you could sit with Aiden for me? I know I left him alone when I worked, but I can’t bare the thought of him being all alone, in his current condition.”
Lisa looked up; she was actually surprised that Harper was asking. She was happy she was but surprised none the less. “Absolutely, I can make time tomorrow if that will work. I understand your concern, and I will be happy to help. So tell me, what is that you do and where do you work?”
“Um…well, I don’t work any longer,” she hung her head in what could only be described as shame, “I had to the leave the office in a hurry the other day when Aiden took a turn. I was working on a project that had a deadline, and my boss told me I couldn’t leave, but I left anyway. So, he fired me for insubordination and job abandonment.”
Lisa threw her napkin down on the table, “Are you serious? How in the world can he do that?”
“He owns the company; he can do what he wants. I defied him, I knew it was a possibility,” Harper admitted. “I told him it was a family emergency, but he doesn’t know about Aiden’s condition. To be honest, I’m not even sure he realizes I’m a single mother. Or maybe he does and doesn’t care.”
“What kind of company did you work for, Harper? How in the world could someone not care when there is a family emergency?”
“I worked a real estate development company and a gentleman named Max Kinkaid. I was a project manager and would review contracts and help line up the pieces of the project and hold everyone to deadlines. There were several very high-profile deals in the works, and the financing is tight; I walked out in the middle of preparing a presentation for investment partners.”
“So, now I understand why you haven’t been eating much; the stress this week has been pretty heavy for you. Have you talked to anyone at the hospital yet, about your situation?”
“No! I don’t want to, at least not yet. He’s covered through the end of the month, and I’m going to start looking right away for a new job so that I can get him insurance. I’ll pay for COBRA and sell everything I have to pay for treatment. I don’t want to go the route of Medicaid, but I will swallow my pride if I have to. I’ll do whatever it takes, I’ll even live in the hospital room if I have to.”
“I am sure you won’t have to do that,” Lisa offered.
“I hope not, but I have to be realistic. It will be hard to go out and look for a job while being here with Aiden.”
“Well, I’ll help when I can. I could possibly stay with Aiden when you go interview, that would help to ease your burden,” Lisa smiled and hoped that Harper would see that there could be a light at the end of the tunnel. “So, what time would you want me to come to the hospital tomorrow?”
“Would 9 am be too early?” Harper asked cautiously.
“Not at all,” Lisa responded with enthusiasm, “And, Harper, I have some friends that I can contact to see if they might have some leads for job openings. I know it is easier said than done, but try not to worry about it, okay?”
Harper nodded her head and looked down at her plate, she had barely eaten, but she felt better. For some reason, she had found it easy to talk to Lisa and to open up about what was going on. It must be a family trait since she had discovered that about Chris as well.