Aimee watched William walk out the door. She felt frozen, more scared now then she was when she told Wallace to leave. Her whole life weighed in the balance. Was she strong enough to fight for what she wanted or would she sit back and let Gene slip through fingers a second time? This time there would be no going back. No warm pieces of advice convincing her of Gene’s love for her. They would all close ranks around Gene to keep her out. They were giving her a second chance to be a part of their family but it all hinged on what she did right now.
She reached towards the door handle. Her hand trembled. She snatched her hand back as if the door handle scalded her. A soundless cry escaped her lips. She couldn’t do it. She was still that pathetic, helpless nerd girl. She sank to her knees on the floor burying her head in her hands. She looked up as the door opened in front of her.
“Aimee what’s wrong?” her mother asked as she knelt in front of her daughter.
“Mom leave me alone,” Aimee said through clenched teeth.
“Not until you start acting like an adult,” Amelia said severely “I won’t let you blow your only chance of getting back together with Gene.”
“Why do you care?” Aimee asked lifting her head from her hands to glare at her mother.
“Because that boy loves you. I’ve known since I watched you leave with him once Sim Star Idol was over and he came to get you. It’s in the way he looks at you. The way he talks about you. Can’t you see that?”
Aimee shook her head “he deserves better than me. I’m always expecting to turn around to find the girl he’s really looking at.”
“Aimee honey he’s looking at you. He sees you.” Sitting beside her daughter Amelia turned to her “I’m sorry you can’t see that. That’s my fault for not showing you the love you needed when you were little. I’m sorry. I don’t deserve a second chance but I hope you’ll give me one.” She stood to her feet. Turning she pulled Aimee to her feet saying “I love you.”
Aimee looked at her in wonder “you … you love me,” she repeated. Her mother nodded. Aimee pulled her close crying “I love you to mom.”
Kissing her cheek Amelia held her daughter close for the first time since she was a baby. “Honey I want you to walk out of this room and into Gene’s. Tell that young man you love him. That you’ll do whatever it takes to prove it to him.” Amelia held her daughter’s face between her hands “can you do that?”
Nodding her head Aimee mumbled “yes.”
“Good,” Amelia smiled at her “now get going before the opportunity passes you by.”
Aimee walked to the door, reached for the handle and stopped. Running back to her mother she hugged her tight whispering “I love you mommy.” Turning she ran out of the room. She felt all eyes turn towards her as she walked past the waiting room and on towards Gene’s room. She hesitated outside his room gathering her thoughts. Fighting the urge to run.
She reached for the door handle and walked into the room. Gasping in shock. Gene lay motionless with tubes running in and out of him. This couldn’t be her Gene. Gene was so full of life, energy, you felt his presence when he was in the room. This is what she did to him. This was her fault. She wanted run, to block this out of her mind. Instead she forced her feet to propel her towards the bed. She looked down at his lovely face and the mouth she loved to kiss. Those lips once so firm and supple, so ready to smile were lax, dry, tinged in blue. “Gene?” she croaked low and tentative.
His eyes fluttered weakly, closing to flutter again. His mouth worked but no sound came out. She reached out and gently took his hand. With the other hand she traced a line around his lips, then ran her fingers through is unruly hair. His tongue liked his dry lips a breathless whisper came out “Aimee?”
She smiled as tears ran down here cheeks “I’m here” she said soothingly.
“You …. ok?” he managed between labored breaths.
Bringing his hand to her lips she said “shhh every thing’s ok. I’m ok.”
His lips curled up briefly as he forced his eyes open “Aimee …. love ….”
Tears streamed from her eyes at the sound of his voice. Despite the evident pain and effort it cost him to say those two words they were clearly important to him. Her heart soared within her as she realized this man loved her. There were no repercussions. No recriminations. Just I love you. She leaned over and kissed his lips briefly. Pulling up she said “I love you and I’m never going to let you go. I’ll do whatever it takes to prove it. Even if it takes me a lifetime to do it.”
She felt the slight pressure on her hand as he squeezed her hand. His eyes closed as he drifted off to sleep. Aimee leaned over and kissed his forehead, brushing his hair from his brow. She smiled down at him as he slept. She stood as the door opened behind her. Turning she found William standing in the doorway. She smiled, wiping tears from her eyes “he loves me.”
“I know sweetheart,” he said as she let him hold her “Everyone but you knew that. Why do you think we were so upset with you?”
Crying on his shoulder she admitted “no one ever told me they loved me before and meant it. I never believed it was possible that someone could actually love me despite my faults.”
“It’s time you put the past away. Today is what matters and what you do with tomorrow is what counts. Don’t repeat the past. You have a been given a second chance. Don’t blow it. You won’t be getting another.” William smiled at her “it’s much easier this way because I was really dreading telling Gene you didn’t want to see him. He’s been hurt too much in his life. You both need a happy ending.”
Squeezing him tight Aimee said “everybody does. Some of us give up too soon. Thank you for not letting me give up.”
Three days later Aimee walked into the room to find Gene ripping out his tubes. Racing over to him Aimee screamed “What the hell are you doing? Get back into bed.”
“I’m ok,” he refused to budge as Aimee urged him to get back to bed. “I’ve got to get out of here.”
“No you don’t,” she said firmly “you need to quit ripping those tubes out and lie down.”
Gene stared at her moment before ripping the next tube out “I know what ….” the pain ripped through him taking his breath away. Holding his side he leaned over to se what he’d done. An alarm was going off somewhere he was dimly aware of before his legs crumpled beneath him. He vaguely heard Aimee yelling as rough hands grabbed him. A sting in his arm before darkness over took him.
Opening his eyes he moved restlessly on the uncomfortable bed. Someone moved nearby and a light came on. Blinking from the brightness of the light he asked “what happened?” He dimly remembered his frantic rush to leave the hospital.
“Gene your awake,” William leaned over him.
Gene frowned at his father “where’s Aimee?
Smiling William sat back “she’s at home. Asleep I hope. You gave her quite the scare this afternoon. What possessed you to rip out all your tubes?” William asked “they had to perform emergency surgery to repair the damage you caused. What the hell were you thinking?”
Gene blinked at him. It took a lot for his dad to swear. For him to be doing it now showed he was really upset. “What’s wrong?” Gene asked.
“Nothing,” William said unconvincingly.
Gene stared up at him “Liar.”
“And your evading,” William shot back.
“Ok I …. ” Gene shut his eyes catching his breath. It felt like his lungs were on fire. “I received a subpoena to be a character witness for a friend. He needs my help. The only other person to show up is an unsavory character, a paparazzi wanna be.”
“So you thought it would be a good idea to rip your tubes out. Causing who knows what damage. What were you thinking? You almost died.” William noticed the obstinate glint in his son’s eyes “I understand wanting to help a friend but there’s only so much you can do. It’s simply not possible, Gene. Not in your condition. You’ve got to give yourself time to heal.”
“How long?” Gene asked already knowing it was going to be longer than he wanted. He hated hospitals. Hated being a patient even more.
“At least two weeks before your lungs will heal maybe longer after this little episode,” William sighed “you’ve got to listen to the doctors. You could have caused permanent damage.” William stopped seeing the stark fear that came into Gene’s eyes. “You can’t travel by plane for at least 12 months because the air pressure could cause your lung to collapse. You may be more susceptible to lung infections or diminished lung capacity.” William looked into Gene’s eyes to see how Gene was reacting to his words. “Do you understand how serious this is?”
Gene stared blankly ahead of him before nodding. It meant a lot of things to him. Diminished lung capacity meant the end of his career. Without the ability to breath easy he wouldn’t have the endurance to perform. He felt his father watching him as the realization sank in. Gene blinked back the tears and covered his eyes with his hands. Gene took a few deep painful breaths to steady himself “can we do some sort of video conferencing?” Gene asked choosing to focus on something he might be able to do instead of things he couldn’t. “I still want to help my friend as much as possible.”
William patted his shoulder “I’ll see what I can arrange.” William got up “Gene please don’t try that little stunt again. I had to fight with the doctors not to put you in restraints. Next time they won’t ask they’ll just do it.”
“It won’t happen again” Gene said subdued “I promise. I don’t want to be here any longer then necessary.”
“Good,” William said as he got up to leave “I’ll see you in the morning.”
After his dad left Gene through an arm across his eyes. How could he have been so stupid as to try to leave the hospital? His career was finally taking off. He had a manager who understood his need to be with his family. Aimee was safe and back in his life again. How could he have risked all that? Friendship was important to him. Growing up he had so few friends and the ones he had did more harm than good. All the people he met on Sim Star Idol were important to him. Some more so than others. Kyle was the one he understood the most other than Aimee. He understood the pressure Kyle was under trying to deal with an overbearing parent and wanting to prove himself. Lying here for days in the hospital Gene had nothing to do but read the trial coverage in the papers. Gene felt impelled to help his friend to come to his defense; especially after reading about how he wasn’t supporting his one time fellow contestant because of his relationship with a Elliot.
It simply wasn’t true. Gene was worried Kyle might believe it if he didn’t testify on his behalf. Gene knew he was the first person Kyle told and it came about completely be accident. Smiling at the memory Gene recalled how he offered to help Kyle in his quest to win Ivy over. Once Gene had gotten over his shock that Aimee and Kyle kissed, which he now knew didn’t happen, he offered to help. Kyle had gotten so jittery and nervous at the idea Gene jokingly asked “whats the matter with you? Are you gay or something?”
Kyle had stopped and looked blankly at him. After a moment of silence he mumbled “I don’t know. Maybe I am ….”
Gene hadn’t expected that but it did explain why he acted like a hyperactive kid in a candy shop when he was around Ivy. He simply had no clue how to act around girls. “Are you serious?” Gene asked him.
“I don’t know,” Kyle said “but it explains why I’ve never had a serious relationship with a girl before. You’ve seen me in action. I’m much better with guys.”
“All that tells me is your socially awkward with girls. It doesn’t mean your gay. Have you ever had thoughts about guys before?” Gene asked curious.
Kyle was silent unsure how to respond to Gene’s question. If he said yes would he lose Gene’s friendship? If he said no would Gene be able tell he was lying? Gene smiled at him “I’ll take your silence as a yes. Don’t worry we’re still friends.” Kyle had gone on and told him about the boy he had kissed in high school and how his father had found out and ruined it. Kyle told him how after that he had tried to become what his father wanted, dating only girls but being uncomfortable in his own skin. Gene shook his head at his friend when Kyle confessed he wanted to leave the show with a girl on his arm to help soothe things over with his father when he got home.
It made Gene’s blood boil hearing Kyle’s story. No one should be made to feel unloved because they didn’t fit into someone’s mold. A parent should accept their children for who they are not some preconceived idea of what the parent wanted. Sighing out loud in his hospital room Gene wondered why that conversation never made it on the air but maybe that wasn’t the image the producers wanted to portray for the show. For Kyle’s sake he was glad. It would have been the last thing he would have wanted to have aired on public television. Closing his eyes Gene felt sleep catching up to him. He hoped Kyle didn’t believe the rumors. He’d be there if he could. He had to trust his dad would be able to come up with something to help.