OK, deep breath... I have finally worked up the guts to post the last part of this mini-series. I'm sorry it has taken so long even though it has been more or less finished for a while, although this last part was especially difficult and important for me. Hopefully I won't have to change the rating. Thank you again for the reviews. I don't own MSCL.
Angela passed her driver's license to the officer behind the bulletproof glass. He checked her name off a list, then waved her through a steel door. Once through the first door, she put her bag and packages on a conveyor belt so they could be X-rayed as she passed through the metal detector, then she was patted down by another officer. When they were satisfied that she wasn't armed or carrying any contraband, she was led into a room with several tables and chairs. A few other people were already occupying some of the tables when she came in. Moments later, a young woman in a red prison jumpsuit was escorted into the room with two guards. When she saw Angela, her face broke into a broad grin.
"Angelika! About time!" she exclaimed excitedly, as though no time had passed. She threw her arms around Angela but was quickly pulled off by the guards. "Easy, easy," she said with a throaty laugh, "I won't touch her again."
"Rayanne," Angela said, smiling broadly at her friend. "I'm sorry it's been so long."
"Yeah yeah, you're busy saving the kids, I get it," she said, as they both moved towards the tables and chairs. "What did you bring me?" she smiled endearingly.
"Cupcakes, candy, toiletries, eyeliner, underwear, socks, coffee," Angela said. "Hope I didn't miss anything."
"Ah, what a wonderful friend," Rayanne sighed with pleasure. "Well, you might as well give it to the guards now, they'll dole it out to me later. But can I have a cupcake now?" she beamed again, this time at the guards. One of them nodded their assent and Angela opened the box and let her friend choose a cupcake. She studied her as Rayanne fussed over the box. Despite the fact that she had been in prison now for almost two years, Rayanne still seemed youthful and carefree, exactly as she had been in high school.
"Mmm, that is almost better than sex," she moaned, taking a bite of the cupcake. "I say almost, because sex is probably what I miss the most." She winked knowingly at Angela, completely unconcerned by the presence of the guards behind them. "Women aren't really my style, although almost anything looks good eventually."
"Rayanne!" Angela wasn't sure why she felt like blushing.
"What?" Rayanne was unfazed. "It gets boring in here." She licked her fingers. "I miss men. That's probably the worst thing about being in here."
"Do you have a better idea of when you'll be up for parole?" Angela asked.
"Few more years yet," Rayanne waved her hand dismissively. "Enough about me, babe, I want to hear about you. How's Rickie? He writes me, but it's been getting more sporadic lately, so I assume it means he's found a new man."
"He's great. He's still in Miami, and yes, he's with Blake. He says it's love. He wants to come see you the next time he's in town."
"Ah Enrique, ever the hopeless romantic. I'm glad he's happy… I understand why people don't want to come see me," Rayanne said. "I mean, federal penitentiary, hardly the most glamourous place for a reunion." Her tone was light, but Angela thought she could detect a hint of sadness in her eyes. She wished that she could put her arms around her friend, she wished that she could have stopped Rayanne from taking that trip up to Canada to smuggle drugs back through the border… It was all so stupid and pointless, and now her life would never be the same. Every time she tried to talk to her about it, her friend seemed a bit flippant, as if she refused to grasp the significance of it all, but it was probably a coping mechanism as well. There was no point in bringing it up every time they saw each other.
"He'll come," Angela said, and meant it.
"What about Cherski and Shane? Did those two get married yet or what?"
"They got engaged a couple of weeks ago, actually," Angela began tentatively. "I went home for their engagement party, under false pretenses of course. Sharon didn't even tell me about it herself, she made my mom do the dirty work."
"Good girl," Rayanne chuckled. "You would've gone no matter what though, admit it."
"I guess," Angela admitted, "but I really didn't want to…"
"Did Shane freak out when he saw you?"
"Did he ever," Angela shook her head at the memory. "As soon as I walked in the door, he was like, 'What the hell is she doing here?' and Sharon made a huge fuss, saying that I was her oldest friend and of course I was invited, you get the picture."
Rayanne was laughing at the image. "What a gong show," she said gleefully. "I wish that I could've been there. Nobody expected those two to hook up in high school, or that it would last."
"I know… He really loves her though. And he's changed a lot because of her. I'll give him that."
"Alright, don't keep me in suspense for any longer… Was Catalano there? Did he throw himself at your feet and beg you to give him another chance?"
"No, that's not what happened at all…"
"Don't worry about Shane, he just gets overprotective, you know how it is," Sharon whispered, rubbing Angela's arm.
"Wow, I guess I really hurt him, huh?" Angela said quietly, more to herself than to her friend. She turned to her then. "Sharon, you don't need to baby-sit me, tonight is about your engagement, not about my stupid failed relationship."
"You're my oldest friend. Who else would I be hanging out with? I never see you anymore."
"So how does it feel to be engaged?" Angela asked, attempting to focus on her friend's happiness rather than her own feelings at the moment.
"It's so exciting!" Sharon exclaimed, sipping from her champagne. "I know that Shane is not the guy that most people pictured me ending up with, myself included, but he just loves me so much and he's been so supportive. When I went away for college, he made it clear that he wanted to be with me, even when we took that break."
"Are you glad you guys took a break?" Angela asked, remembering her friend's mixed feelings during that time.
"Looking back now, yeah. I was terrified that I was making the biggest mistake of my life, but part of me really needed to see what life was like without him. I mean, besides Kyle, he was pretty much my only boyfriend."
"That's all I wanted with Jordan too, but clearly it backfired," Angela mused. "I ended up realizing that I'd made the worst mistake, and now two years have gone by."
Sharon smiled, as if she had a secret. "You know… he might be coming tonight! I mean, he didn't give Shane a straight answer, but I think he'll show up."
Angela had her suspicions, but hearing this information from Sharon made her stomach flip. "What am I supposed to say? 'I've made the worst mistake of my life and I want you back'?" She took a sip of champagne.
"How about you start with 'Hello'?" Sharon giggled.
The evening wore on, and Angela had a decent time with Sharon's various relatives and friends from college. It was nice to see her mother socializing too. Rayanne's absence weighed heavily on Angela's heart – she could just picture her telling outrageous stories about Sharon and Shane from high school, having too much champagne, flirting with the male cousins and uncles. Part of her missed the way things had been, so many years before, when they were all young and carefree but too immature to realize what they had.
"Honey, why don't you grab our coats while I say goodbye to Camille and Andy," Patti suggested at the end of the evening. Angela was happy to run upstairs for a moment. She was mostly relieved that Jordan had not shown up, but a part of her was disappointed as well. It had been two years since she'd seen him last, and she still cared about how he was doing. She knew that his career was taking off, judging from the photos in the various magazines she occasionally saw with his name credited to them. Although she could appreciate his artistic visions, she never caught any glimpses of the man behind the camera. Was he happy? Had he forgiven her?
She located their coats from the pile on the bed. As she was about to step out of the bedroom, she heard a knock at the front door, followed by excited male voices. She felt shivers go down her spine, and she knew that Jordan had arrived. She hesitated, then made her way out of the room and into the hallway. It seemed silly, but she didn't want him to see her right away – she hoped that she could observe him for a moment before he noticed her.
She crept out to the staircase and peered out at the foyer. She felt stupid, but she couldn't seem to make herself walk out confidently. When her eyes fell on him, she almost couldn't hold back a gasp. The last two years had treated him well – his hair was short and spiky, she could see muscles in his chest and shoulders moving under his clothes, and he had the faint trace of stubble on his jaw. He looked more beautiful than she remembered, if that were even possible.
As if sensing her presence, he looked up at the top of the stairs and his eyes fell on her. Her pulse quickened and she forced her lips into a smile, hoping that she didn't look too awkward. A hint of a smile started to graze his lips. At that exact moment, the door behind him opened and a tall, striking blonde stepped into the house, encircling his wrist possessively with her fingers. He turned to look at the blonde, who was as poised and stunning as a model, and the moment between them was broken.
"So Catalano showed up with a date?" Rayanne asked, bringing them back to the moment.
"Oh, I don't think she was just a date," Angela said sadly.
"Did you ask?"
"What was I supposed to say? 'Excuse me, but are you and Jordan more than sex buddies?'" she looked back at her friend, whose expression was blank. "Rayanne! No way!"
"Well how did you know then?" Rayanne asked. "Where was your proof?"
"I don't know how to explain it… just the way they looked at each other, the way she wrapped her fingers around his wrist, like he was totally hers or something…"
"Was she wearing an engagement ring?" her friend asked bluntly.
"No," Angela was embarrassed to admit that she'd noticed.
"Well fair game then," Rayanne said, shrugging her shoulders.
"I could never…"
"Look sweets, I have to go," Rayanne motioned at the clock overhead. "Time's up. But thanks for coming to see me. It means the world, you know that." They both got up simultaneously and Rayanne leaned in to kiss Angela's cheek. "I love you, old friend," she said.
"I love you too Rayanne," Angela said, kissing her back.
"And if I know anything, so does Catalano, even after all this time." Rayanne let out another throaty chuckle. She turned, holding her arms out so the guards could lead her out. "Don't be a stranger!"
"I won't," Angela promised. Yet she still felt guilty being able to walk away while her friend was left behind.
It was raining hard as Angela got off at her subway stop. Her car was in the shop and she had just worked a fourteen-hour day in an attempt to catch up on the work she missed from the long week-end she'd taken to go home. It took almost all her energy just to trudge back to her brownstone and up the stairs into the lobby, and she was soaked by the time she got there. Cursing herself for not being better prepared for the New York weather, she unlocked the front door of the building and paused at the short row of mailboxes in the lobby, debating whether to even bother checking her mail today. She just wanted to go upstairs and take a hot bath. At the last moment, she quickly unlocked the box and grabbed the letters that were inside.
Reflexively, she started looking through the mail as she made her way upstairs. Probably all bills, she thought as she unlocked the door to her apartment and heard the phone ringing. She tossed the mail into a bowl on the hallway table meant just for that purpose and lunged for the phone.
"Hello? Oh hi Dad," she said, adjusting the phone against her ear. Over the years, especially after her father moved to Chicago to open a chain of restaurants and she settled in New York, she had seen him less and less. Part of her felt guilty, but part of her felt that the distance between them was justifiable. She didn't think she could ever forgive him for tearing their family apart – simple as that. For a few years, he continued to make an effort and Angela, predictably, was ambivalent. She kept things civil mostly for Danielle's benefit, but she still felt a hard knot of resentment every time she thought of him.
"Sweetie, I hate to call you like this, but…" his voice sounded flat yet unsteady, as if he had been crying.
"What's wrong? Is it Danielle?" her voice rose and her heart picked up speed.
"It's – yeah - She's in the hospital…"
"Is she okay?" Angela could feel a sickly sensation forming in the pit of her stomach.
"I don't really know what happened, she was out with some friends, and she passed out and had a seizure or something. They couldn't wake her up, so they took her to the Emergency room. She'd probably been drinking, I don't know what else…" he took a shaky breath, stifling a sob.
"Oh my god…" she also took a breath, but it didn't seem to be working. "Had she seemed okay to you the last time you saw her?"
"I guess, but you know her, she's good at hiding everything."
"That's what Mom said too," Angela said hollowly. "Anyway, I'll get on the first flight out there. Which hospital?"
"Northwestern Memorial. I'll call your mom."
"Okay. I'll see you in a few hours."
Grimly, she hung up the phone and quickly started to pack.
Angela hugged her father at the hospital. She realized then how much she missed him, and the way things had been, so long ago. She wished that she wasn't angry anymore.
"Danielle looks like she has a bit of pneumonia, and she's really sleepy right now. The drug screen only found alcohol and a prescription drug her psychiatrist gave her, so they say she'll be alright once it works its way out of her system," her dad was saying. "I called your mom, and she's on her way out here too."
"Oh thank God Danielle's okay," Angela breathed. "Can I see her now?"
"I think they'll let us see her quickly, but just to warn you, she's really out of it. The doctors said it could take a few days before she's herself again."
They took the elevator up to Danielle's room, making small talk on the way up. It struck Angela that her father was lonely and probably worked so much to fill that space. He'd left Three Rivers because there was nothing to keep him there – a failed marriage, another failed relationship, a restaurant that was successful but nevertheless underappreciated. Her uncle Neil had moved out west and she never saw him at all anymore, and they mostly chatted about him.
Angela went into her sister's hospital room and immediately burst into tears. She felt a mixture of relief, of fear, of sadness – so many things at once. Her sister was sleeping, nasal prongs in her nose, IVs running, cardiac monitoring beeping reassuringly.
"Hi little sis," she said, squeezing Danielle's hand. "You gave us quite the scare." She felt her father's hand on her shoulder and she turned around to smile at him. "I'll be right here until you wake up."
Patti arrived a short time later, and Angela watched her parents greet each other with trepidation. She didn't know how long it had been since they had seen each other, but she always admired her mother for trying to make things work until it was obvious they just couldn't anymore. Patti was civil, allowing Graham to kiss her on the cheek, but it was clear that her main concern was her youngest daughter.
They sat together in Danielle's room and watched the dawn break. It was the first time they had all been together like this in almost seven years.
Danielle slept and slept. Angela and each of her parents took turns in the room when someone needed to eat or stretch their legs, never wanting to miss when she might open her eyes and assure them all that she would be alright. Although the doctors had come by again to check on her and again told the family that Danielle would make a full recovery, there was an unspoken understanding that no one would feel reassured until she opened her eyes. Angela felt too wired on caffeine and worry to sleep.
In the evening of the next day, she was on "coffee duty" and had just come back when she saw someone talking to her mom in the hallway outside Danielle's room. His back was to her, but the way he was leaning against the wall made her recognize him instantly. She didn't know why he was here or how he had found her. She only knew that she had never been so glad to see anyone in all her life.
"Hey," she said, coming up to them as if it were no big deal, as if Jordan Catalano showed up at the hospital in Chicago every day.
"Hey," he said, looking at her with concern. "You need to sleep," he added, as if no time had passed. "I bet you haven't left the hospital this whole time, have you?"
She shook her head, feeling the tears start to well up again. "My sister needs me. She might wake up any minute."
"You need to sleep," he repeated, more firmly this time. "Where are you staying? I'll take you there."
"I don't know… I was supposed to stay at my dad's maybe, but we never really talked about it, since my mom's in town now too, as you can see. Just take me to a hotel somewhere and I can crash for a few hours. I don't feel like going to my dad's."
Patti nodded. "You go ahead. You've been amazing as it is. I'll see you in the morning. Thanks Jordan." Angela protested but her mother was insistent and all but pushed them into the elevator. Angela wondered, for a fleeting moment, whether her mother wanted to be alone with her father, or if she thought that sending them off together would lead to some kind of reconciliation. Both thoughts made her smile, despite the situation.
They stood outside the front doors and hailed a cab.
"What are you doing here, anyway?" Angela asked as they got into a cab. "Not that I'm not glad to see you or anything, just totally surprised especially since the last time I saw you, you were with this gorgeous blonde." She realized that she was nervous. After running into him at Shane and Sharon's engagement party that night, now almost two weeks ago, she had made a hasty exit with Patti, stopping only to exchange the briefest of hellos.
"Sax Chicago, please," Jordan said to the driver. He turned to face her. "Well, hello to you too." He smiled, leaned towards her and kissed her cheek. She felt a spark where his lips touched her skin.
"Sorry, I've just been so stressed out and worried."
"No worries, I get it." He paused. "Did you get my note?"
"What note?" She thought of the stack of mail she'd tossed onto the hallway table.
"Never mind, it's not important now… Shane told me where you were."
Patti must have told Camille Cherski where she was going, who obviously told Sharon, who then told Shane.
"What? Really? I thought Shane hated me."
"He doesn't hate you. He's just had to listen to me whine about you for years." He took her hand gently in his. "I've been thinking about you since I saw you that night."
"Really?" It was the second time he had surprised her already.
"I'm not gonna lie, part of me was tempted to skip the party, but I knew Shane would kill me. And a bigger part of me just… needed to see you, needed to see if there was… anything left… between us." He put his lips against her ear. "I hope it wasn't all one-sided."
"It wasn't," Angela admitted.
When they got to the hotel, she tried to check in to her own room, but he insisted that he had a big suite with a fold-out cot and he would leave her alone so she could sleep. She realized that he'd gotten the suite likely hoping they could spend some time together, and that realization only made her want him more, although it felt almost wrong to want him so badly while her sister was in the hospital and he potentially had a girlfriend.
"I'll sleep over there," he gestured at the cot, which was in its own little alcove off the main bedroom. "You take the bed. You won't even know I'm here."
"Jordan, that is so nice," she said, although she was a tiny bit disappointed that he was being such a gentleman. He definitely had a girlfriend.
"I can't believe you're here," he was saying, looking at her. "It's been so long. You look great."
"I do not! I am so sleep deprived," she said.
"Whatever…" he leaned against the dresser, looked at her again. "Do you want something to drink?"
"I'll have whatever you're having."
"Overpriced hotel room wine it is," he said, flashing her a smile. He opened the bottle and poured them both drinks. They clinked their glasses together awkwardly, although Angela didn't know what they were toasting for. The wine felt smooth as it went down her throat.
"Wow, I really needed that," she said, finally feeling the stresses of the last two days beginning to take their toll. "And I really need a shower… did I just say that out loud? Excuse my manners."
"No problem," he laughed. "Bathroom's right in there. I'll order you a robe from room service."
"Thank you," she said gratefully as she shut the door. It had been two days since she'd slept or showered and the hot water felt unbelievable. For the first time, the realization truly dawned on her: Jordan Catalano had come to Chicago to find her. After two years. And he was sitting in the next room. She realized suddenly that she didn't know what to do. She knew what she wanted to do, but the possibility of rejection scared her so badly that she felt frozen. What if he just wanted to be civil for the sakes of their friends, who were getting married that summer?
She took her time, washing her hair, thinking to herself. The more she thought, the more it was clear: she still loved him. She still wanted him. And she was still afraid of hurting them both. Yet part of her was even more afraid of letting him go again, without letting him know exactly how she felt. It was one thing if he no longer felt the same way about her, but it was quite another if he never heard the truth and she let him walk away again.
Taking a deep breath, she turned the water off and stepped out of the shower, wrapping a towel around herself. She squeezed the water out of her hair and quickly ran her fingers through it so it didn't look like a total mess. She took another deep breath and swung the door open.
He lay sprawled across the bed, examining a sheet of tiny proofs with a loupe. When he heard her come out of the bathroom, he looked up and smiled.
"Hey," he said softly. "Come here, I want to show you something." He beckoned her over, then moved aside so she could sit beside him on the bed. Conscious of the fact that she was wearing nothing but a towel, she poured herself another glass of wine, which she quickly gulped down. She realized how silly she was acting and willed herself to relax as she settled in beside him on the bed. He handed her the sheet of proofs and the loupe so she could take a look.
"Oh my god, you did Shane and Sharon's engagement photos?" she couldn't help but smile in delight.
"Yeah," he smiled sheepishly. "They both know I don't normally do that kind of thing, but I think they turned out alright."
"They're beautiful," Angela sighed. "Look at how happy Sharon looks here, she's glowing. And they look so in love here… on the swings. Did you take those in the city park?"
He nodded, his eyes searching hers.
"They're so lucky," she mused. Unable to face the intensity of his gaze any longer, she dropped her eyes back down to the photos.
"We were that lucky once… we just didn't know it," he said quietly.
"Really? Do you think so?" she turned to look at him and what she saw there threatened to make her cry.
"I know it," he said. "Then I fucked it up."
"I was to blame too," she said. "I pushed you away because I didn't trust you…"
"How could you trust me when I left you high and dry in senior year? And then I was always on the road?"
"It was tough," she admitted, "but knowing what I know now, I would have tried harder."
"I should have never let you go," he said, turning to face her. "Just like you asked me to that night."
She felt a little twinge in her heart, realizing he remembered exactly what she'd said that night, all those years ago.
"I miss you…" she whispered. "From the moment I let you walk out my door, I regretted letting you go."
"You know, for about a year, I kept seeing you everywhere," he said, looking into her eyes with the same intensity that always made shivers go down her spine. "It felt like I was waking up from the same bad dream, day after day. Every morning I would remember what happened, and I would want to see you or touch you so bad, but I couldn't."
"Jordan, I'm sorry…" she whispered.
"But at the same time, it was like, I finally understood… what you must have gone through, when I left that first time, and then every time after that."
She kissed him gently before he could say anything else, it just seemed wrong to do otherwise. He reciprocated eagerly, holding her face between his hands. She felt her senses heightening, each touch like an electric spark. She pulled at the buttons of his shirt, stopping only so she could touch and kiss the skin underneath. He moaned and kissed his way down her neck, between her collarbones, his hands cupping her breasts. She felt the towel fall away, the only barrier between them, as he left a trail of kisses down her body, stopping to tease each nipple and then he slowly made his way between her legs. She was wet already, and she almost cried out as his lips found her sensitive spot. It didn't take long for her to find her release, and she felt herself truly let go in a way she had never been able to before.
"I want you right now," she said, propping herself on her elbows, feeling slightly dizzy from the magnitude of the orgasm he had given her. She watched him remove the rest of his clothes as though she were in a stupor – too slowly, it seemed – and then he stopped. She realized that he was probably looking for a condom, and without any success, it seemed.
"Check my purse," she said, feeling strangely emboldened. "I probably have condoms in there."
He held up an entire strip of condoms, an amused look on his face.
"I'm a social worker," she shrugged.
"The hottest one I've ever seen… And I know from experience." He winked.
Her body was practically begging as he finally eased his way inside of her, thrusting gently at first, testing her readiness, then he began to move more forcefully inside of her. She arched herself towards him and put her arms around his neck, drawing his mouth closer to hers. It wasn't long before she could feel the waves washing over her again and she gave in, aware that he was also nearing his peak. Soon, they were sprawled out and laughing on the bed, both aware of the intensity their bodies had just shared.
"Wow," he gasped. "That was hot."
"I want you again," she said.
"Just give me a sec," he said, but she lunged for him and teased him with her mouth until he was ready again.
Unable to keep their hands off each other, they made love until sleep overcame them both.
When Angela opened her eyes, it was light out and she didn't know where she was. She rolled over and her eyes fell on Jordan Catalano, sleeping beside her, and she gasped out loud. It hadn't been a dream. All the things they had done to each other came rushing back to her immediately and she felt mildly nauseous. Yes, he admitted that he still had feelings for her, as did she, but he had a girlfriend, as far as she knew. She had never intentionally taken something that wasn't hers before. The alcohol and the lack of food and sleep had been a bad mix.
"What have I done?" she whispered, sitting up and swinging her feet over to the side of the bed. She couldn't shake the guilty feelings as she quickly showered and dressed, washing last night off of herself.
"Where are you going, babe?" she heard him ask sleepily as she opened the door.
"Back to the hospital. My mom called," she lied, and that piqued her guilt more.
"Wait for me, I'll go back with you," he offered, rubbing his eyes.
"No, it's fine, I should get going right away. I'll talk to you later," she said, and hastily shut the door. She all but ran to the elevator and down to the lobby, where she hailed a taxi to the hospital. She stopped to pick up coffee and muffins for herself and her parents and made her way up to Danielle's room. To her delight, Danielle was sitting up in bed, feeding herself what looked like porridge, while her parents sat in chairs beside her.
"I'm so sorry Mom and Dad," she was saying, grimacing at her unsteady hands. She had IVs in both hands. "Oh and Angela, I'm sorry too," she said, looking up as her older sister walked into the room.
"Danielle! You're up! Why on earth are you apologizing?" Angela wanted to know, distributing the coffee to her parents, who actually seemed calm in each other's presence.
"I'm sorry for freaking everyone out. I swear that I didn't try to kill myself. I am like the farthest thing from suicidal, seriously." Danielle spooned some of the food into her mouth and made a face. "This is nasty."
"Well tell us what happened, honey," Patti urged, as Angela gave her sister a blueberry muffin.
"Oh thanks Ange, so much better…" Danielle started to break the top of the muffin off. "Well, clearly I never drink, because otherwise I would've known that the antidepressant I'm on doesn't mix well with alcohol. I thought that a couple of glasses of wine wouldn't hurt – I'd just had a big test and we were just unwinding. Before I knew it, I wound up here."
"You're too young to drink," Angela chided her gently, suspecting that her little sister had had more than just a couple of drinks. Danielle rolled her eyes and smiled. "And I really hope they changed your prescription."
"They will," Patti spoke up. "It's been on hold until she starts to feel better."
"You gave us such a scare," Angela's voice shook. "I don't know if I should strangle you or hug you."
"I swear that I wasn't trying to hurt myself! I've had a lot of problems, but I don't want to die. My life is just starting to get good again!" Danielle exclaimed. "Now hug me, please!" She held out her arms and Angela squeezed her tightly, thankful that her sister and her family were here.
"Well, thank God your dad's here in Chicago," Patti said, exchanging a small smile with him.
"Well I wasn't much use," Graham admitted. "Thank your friends for bringing you to the hospital."
"I'm going to be okay, right?" Danielle asked tentatively.
"You're going to be fine, sweetheart," Patti said soothingly. "You just have a bit of aspiration pneumonia, so you're getting antibiotics until it clears up. You'll be back at school in no time."
"Good, 'cause I don't want to fall behind even more and be like twenty-five when I graduate or something." Angela didn't know if it was Brian Krakow's early influence, but Danielle was an aspiring Chemistry major at Northwestern. Angela was glad that she'd been able to talk her into graduating from high school – university so far was mostly looking like a positive experience for her, aside from the setback in freshman year that cost her the semester.
The Chases spent the morning chatting excitedly, and for a while it almost felt like old times, before the divorce. Angela knew it was just that everyone was so relieved that Danielle was going to get better, then they would go back to their busy lives again.
"What the – are you guys back together or something?" Danielle asked, looking towards the doorway.
All eyes turned to the door, where Jordan Catalano leaned as only he could.
"No," Angela said flatly.
"Jordan, hello," Patti greeted him.
"Hi everyone." He looked at them all, but his eyes rested on Angela. "Danielle, I'm glad that you're feeling better. Um, do you mind if I steal Angela for a minute?"
"I'll be right back," Angela said, excusing herself into the hallway with him.
"Oh my god, what is he doing here?" she could hear Danielle asking as she left the room. "Total high school flashback."
"What's up?" she asked when they were in the hallway, crossing her arms.
"You left like a bat out of hell this morning. What's up with that?" he asked.
"Nothing." She averted his eyes.
"I don't believe you."
"I don't feel like talking about it here," she said, turning her head sideways.
"Angela, what the hell? I thought last night meant something to you."
"Will you keep your voice down? My family is like, right there," she snapped, looking at him again.
"I don't get you," he said, frustrated. "I thought we had something... real."
"What about your girlfriend?" Angela blurted out. "Don't you have something real with her?"
"You know, the tall blonde you brought to Sharon and Shane's engagement?"
"That's what this is about?"
"Look, I have never aspired to be a home-wrecker and I wasn't intending to start now-"
"Angela, I don't have a girlfriend," Jordan said firmly. "I told her that things weren't going to work out between us."
"That was like, not even two weeks ago," Angela said disbelievingly.
"As soon as I saw you, I knew it was over between Morgan – that's her name - and me. I had to try with you again. Not that things were serious between us to begin with – Morgan and me, I mean."
"Did you bring her to try and make me jealous?" Angela asked.
Jordan shrugged. "Maybe subconsciously… I was like… destroyed when you and I broke up the last time. I was nervous about running into you again. So I'm sorry that I wasn't more upfront about this whole thing."
"I was totally jealous seeing you with someone else. She's a knockout," Angela admitted.
Jordan reached over and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear: "She's not you."
She crossed to the little hallway table where she had tossed her mail so carelessly just a few days ago and looked through the pile. There it was, the note he had sent but in her haste to get to Chicago, she was only now seeing it for the first time:
I can't stop thinking about you. Will you please call me so we can at least talk?
So this was it... my big labour of love. I wanted to leave it cautiously optimistic. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed bringing it to life. Finishing this fic makes me sad because it feels like the end of something, even though I am still dying to write and I feel there are still so many stories to tell, especially of the years in between and maybe the future. I hope that you were also able to see that the title alludes not only to Angela and Jordan but to the many things that all of the characters had and eventually lost or were permanently altered, including their relationships with each other and different aspects of the world around them - even material objects. I wanted to show that life changes people and takes them to places they never expected, but that there can still be grace and that is all part of the human condition. Thank you for your support!