I don’t know. It’s . . . big.
All right. He takes a shallow breath, moves away from the door, and takes a deliberate step down the stairs. I’m in the midst of a rather serious medical circumstance. It’s—You know who isn’t in the midst of a rather serious medical circumstance? Your brother. Your dead brother. I bite back a cringe. That came out more callous than I intended.
His brows snap together. How do you know that?I shake my head. I’m asking the questions. I begin to pace, organizing my thoughts. Or trying to. What is it? What do you have?Multiple myeloma.
I stop pacing. Isn’t that . . . what Oliver had?Isn’t that what killed him?
So, you’re dying? How is my voice so calm? I might as well be asking him why he wore those particular pants today. I know I’m not handling this well, but I can’t find any rationality, any objectivity, any of the skills I usually have at my disposal. I’ve never felt this untethered. Well. Not in twelve years, anyway.
Jamie just stares at me, the answer unavoidable in his eyes. I can’t look at them. He takes another tentative step down the stairs. Unstable, he grabs at the iron handrail. It shifts against his weight, old and rusting and dangerously loose. He clutches at it with both hands, seeking balance. I want to leap up the steps and help him, but I don’t. I can’t right now. I glance down at his hands. A Band-Aid sits on top of one of them, a crimson dot in the center. Was that chemo in there?How about that, I say, actually impressed.
I didn’t keep it, of course. But it was still a nice gesture. He smiles and pats me on the shoulder in that comforting way he always does. Your boyfriend is making the final sweep on Jay’s corridor. The doors are locked and the system’s backed up. Except for the flashlights, we’re done for the night.I know he just said a bunch of words, but all I heard was your boyfriend. Did Porter tell Pangborn we went out? Or has he noticed anything going on between us at work? I’m too chicken to ask, especially when Pangborn’s eyes crinkle up sweetly in the corners.
I’ll get the flashlights, I offer.I was hoping you’d say that, he says. I’m feeling more exhausted than usual tonight, and I’ve got to open in the morning, so I’m going to head home a few minutes early. Don’t want to nod off on the road.