Because I won’t share a room with a whore. I fought off a smile, feeling oddly proud.

What’s going on? I stroked the rough skin of his unshaven cheek. Do you need me? Can I help you?

It’s part of the process. At least she’s strong enough to cough now. She hurried out of the room.I leaned back in the chair. I was torn between blowing off her parents, who didn’t want to see me anyway, and doing what Corabelle asked. But, my motorcycle was here. I couldn’t pick them up on that. By the time I could get to her place, pick up her car, then jet to the airport, they’d be in a taxi.

I hadn’t planned this well. Corabelle had always been the organized one.I turned over the phone and texted them the name of the hospital and the room number. They’d be here soon enough. I would smooth things over. We would get back to where we used to be.I needed to call Bud, tell him I’d be taking off yet another day from the garage. And e-mail the professors, mine and Corabelle’s, to let them know how she was. God, this was a mess. They might not excuse me, but I didn’t care. I had no direction anyway. Not true. Corabelle was my destination. I’d do whatever I needed to do to make things right with her.

Her black hair was a harsh contrast to her pale fragile face. I could still see hints of the girl she once was, the one who sheltered me when I dashed across the alley from my house to hers as a child escaping a difficult father. The last four years without her had been such hell. I hadn’t seen it until I had her back. Nothing made sense without her. I wouldn’t make that mistake again.My stomach rumbled, so I shoved myself out of the chair. The cafeteria food was passable, and one of the staffers always had pity on me and gave me the staff discount. This was my new life, for a while. Eventually I had to get back to work, pay the bills, figure out our next step.

Another text message buzzed me as I stepped into the elevator. I suppressed a snorting laugh when I saw it. You’d never know that I’d once been a favored son, that the same hand that typed these words had once clapped me on the back in approval.

It said, Don’t be there when we arrive. I mean it.I hooked up with a lady or two stateside on the rare occasions I had any extra dough, but not in Tijuana, since I had no way to get there. I could have gotten normal girls for free, but I saw how clingy they got with Mario and some of the other guys. I didn’t want to feel obligated to them, for them to pin any of their hopes on me.

Actually, I knew when I finally got back to Rosa. Finn’s birthday almost a year later. I hadn’t told anybody I’d gotten to know about my history, hell no. But Rosa I could tell. I couldn’t call her up, as I’d always just showed up at her job or her place. We had no way to contact each other.I’d just started at Bud’s and Mario loaned me his Yamaha. I didn’t have a license for it, but that sort of obstacle didn’t stop me in those days.

When I got to her farmacia well ahead of closing, she was still there behind the counter.Seeing her again was like taking a step into my past. I wasn’t the boy I’d been when I first asked her to come up the stairs with me. But looking across those shelves at her, I could experience, for a minute, what it was like to be the old Gavin.