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Authors: Minka Kent

When I Was You (14 page)

BOOK: When I Was You
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Who talks like that?

That’s the problem with people like her, people who grew up in these perfect bubbles with their money and their social media–worthy first-world problems—they have no sense of reality. They’re completely out of touch, and they have no idea how they sound to people like me—people who’ve spent more than a hot minute in the real world.

My stepmom once told me that privilege is an illusion.

And she would know.

She grew up in this very house, with the very same people who raised Brienne.

Now, Sonya wasn’t perfect and she sure as hell was no saint, but she was the closest thing to a mother I ever had, and she was the only one who stepped up to the plate for me when I was nine and Dad died from an “accidental overdose.” From what I know, she lost custody of Brienne permanently when Brienne was eight or nine. (Drugs or something—which she always refuted.) But when Sonya got clean and tried to make amends with her parents so she could be in her daughter’s life, they’d have no part of it.

But it’s their loss (may they rot in hell), because Sonya is one hell of a woman.

Or at least she was.

Pancreatic cancer stole her from me a couple of years back. It hit her hard and took her fast. I barely had a chance to say goodbye, and then she was gone. But before she died, she told me stories of her childhood. Of the kind of wealth and privilege trailer trash bottom-feeders like myself could only dream of. It was mostly material in nature, of course.
Imported luxury vehicles. Name-brand clothing. Trips to Disneyland on a whim. Dinners at only the best restaurants.

But the thing that stood out to me the most was when she told me her dying wish was that I could someday know what it was like to lay my head on a pillow at night and not have a single care in the world.

It was how she grew up. But it wasn’t how she lived. And ultimately it wasn’t how she died.

And I decided then and there that I wanted that more than anything.

For me.

For her.

Sonya’s parents passed only a few years before that, and Sonya estimated they were worth at least ten million if not more. As Arnaud and Elisabetta Dougray’s only child, that money should have been hers. Instead, they disowned their daughter and left it all to Brienne. Sonya always resented the way her parents replaced her with her own daughter.

The entire thing was infuriatingly unjustified, she always said. And I never blamed her.

Where I come from, we might not drink cabernet every night or catch the opera when it’s touring through town, but we do take care of our own.

I wasn’t Sonya’s, at least not by blood, but she never made me feel that way. She fed and clothed me from a young age. Taught me how to drive. Worked two minimum-wage jobs with a revolving door of handsy bosses to make sure I had school supplies every year and a roof over my head that didn’t leak.

The way I look at it, I’m righting some wrongs.

Ever since the time I caught one of Sonya’s boyfriends stealing from us and slashed his tires, she always called me her “little vigilante.”

I think she’d take great pride in knowing nothing’s changed.

I’m fifteen minutes into some enlightening crime documentary while simultaneously watching surgery videos on YouTube when Samantha texts to tell me she’s at the back door.

“That was fast,” I say when I greet her a second later. Hooking my arm around the small of her back, I pull her in before Enid Davies has a chance to notice anything—though Enid would probably think Samantha was Brienne from afar. She’s a damn near perfect replica. “You miss me or something?”

I kiss Samantha hard, biting her lip.

“Ouch.” She pulls away, lifting her hand to her mouth and checking for blood.

I’m buzzing. Buzzing with pride. With life. With the anticipation of our wildest dreams coming true. “Sorry. You know how I get when I’m excited.”

“I forgive you.” She fights a smirk and places the beer in my arms.

I drop the case on the counter and pull Sam against me once more, burying my face in her neck and nipping at the soft flesh that smells like the bottle of Brienne’s perfume I found on her dresser the night after I moved in. She was in the shower, and I took the opportunity to snoop through her things, snapping pictures of purses and perfumes and clothing items for reference.

“The perfume. It’s heavy, don’t you think?” I wrinkle my nose.

“But I like it.” Sam lifts her wrist to her nose. “It’s pretty. And you got it for me, remember?”

“Kind of gives me a headache.” I rub my hands along her sides. “You know I like that other one you always wear. The stuff in the pink bottle.”

I have to admit, Sam looks gorgeous like this . . . tailored clothes, full face of department store makeup, expensive haircut, nails done. She even carries herself differently, head held high and all that. A far cry from the girl who grew up in the trailer next to mine in some dog-food-scented town no one’s ever heard of in northeast Nebraska.

But I’d never tell her that.

I’ll take her anyway I can. Dolled up. Dressed down. She’s the love of my life, and I wouldn’t trade her for anything in the world . . . which is why I’m about to give her the world.

The most loyal person I’ve ever known, Sam’s had my back from the moment we met—when Sonya moved us into the Summer Winds Mobile Home Court, and she rode her pink bike with the missing streamers on the left handle over to say hi and ask if we needed any help.

She came in for some store-brand mac and cheese.

I told her about my dad dying the year before.

She told me about her older brothers and their friends always picking on her, to which I promptly offered to kick their asses (she declined).

I told her about the stuck-up punks at the school I attended in the next town over.

She told me she’d introduce me to some of her friends when school started again in August.

The two of us were inseparable from day one.

The best of friends.

And now? Her loyalty’s about to pay off in spades. She’s going to reap every last benefit of this entire thing right alongside me, where she’s always been.

Besides, at the end of the day, I couldn’t have done any of this without her, even if she doesn’t know it.

The doorbell rings, and I give Sam a quick smack on the ass before grabbing my wallet.

Pizza. Beer. The girl I love. And an impending windfall.

It doesn’t get any better than this.

CHAPTER 26

My phone rings in the back pocket of my scrubs as I’m headed down the fourth floor of the cardiac unit Monday. We’ve been called for an emergency transfer, and if this sad sack beside me sees me checking my phone while we’re en route, he’ll report me to our department head.

Brian’s been dying to get me canned since the day I started last fall, when the potbellied sloth caught me coming out of one of the physicians’ sleep rooms.

Anyone else would’ve looked like the cat that ate the canary, but I mastered the art of the straight face a lifetime ago, beginning with the bullies who tried to make my life a living hell when I moved to Nebraska, and most recently when I landed this job after having been fired from the last one.

“You’re not supposed to be in there,” he said—as if I needed to be reminded that I’m a lowly patient transporter and not a doctor.

I yawned and mumbled some half-assed excuse about being up all night with my (nonexistent) sick kid and told him it wouldn’t happen again.

Hell, I’d have told him I was abducted by aliens if it meant not telling him the truth—that I was in search of a doctor’s badge.

It took a few tries, but I managed to find one lying outside the laundry facility about a week into my employment at the hospital,
left behind by a cardiologist by the name of Niall Emberlin. His photo showed him as skinny and pale, hair white as snow, thick folds around his nose and mouth despite looking like he’d never smiled a day in his life.

It was nothing an hour of Photoshop couldn’t handle.

All I had to do was make a copy, cover his photo with one of mine, change the department name, and laminate it.

I’ve always thought it’s funny how things work out. My entire life, I’ve been what my stepmom always called a “manifester.” She was always amazed at how I’d come up with a goal, put my intentions out there, and then sit back and watch it magically come together. I never pretended to agree with her or understand how this manifesting business worked. All I knew was that anytime I wanted something, I did everything in my power to make it happen.

The crazy thing is, I moved to Quinnesec Bluff with an intention to maneuver my way into Brienne’s life so I could take what was owed to Sonya and honor her memory, but I had no plan to put that intention in place. And then one day, completely out of the blue, the plan practically fell from the sky and landed right at my feet.

Six months ago, Brienne was attacked outside her office and left for dead. When someone found her lying in the alley outside her office and called 911, where’s the first place they took her?

The hospital.

And who transported her?

Me.

She was unconscious in those first weeks. Didn’t remember much. Struggled with short-term memory loss. Or at least this is what I was able to glean when I accessed her medical file using Emberlin’s badge to log in to the system.

It was an ordinary Tuesday night when I passed her room and overheard two of her friends standing outside chatting about how she needed to get a roommate, how she couldn’t live in that big house of hers alone.

I’ll never forget making eye contact with one of them (whom I’d later come to know as Marisol) and the look she shot me before she told me to mind my own business.

Pretentious little snot.

It wasn’t part of my plan, but I decided then and there that she’d be the first to go once I got my foot in the door.

And she was.

Brienne was barely home but a week or two when I sent a handful of Photoshopped nudes from her spoofed phone number to Marisol’s boyfriend’s number (which took me all of three seconds to find on the internet).

I don’t know how many times I checked Craigslist and various rental websites in the weeks that followed Brienne’s discharge from the hospital, but the roommate ad must’ve been less than two hours old when I responded.

We met the next day, I in my scrubs with my doctor’s badge prominently displayed and she in leggings and a cardigan accessorized by dark bags under her eyes from an obvious lack of sleep.

I held my breath as we made small talk, and I breathed a sigh of relief when she didn’t ask me to fill out a formal background check (her first mistake).

That’s the power of the badge.

And it’s a power I’m going to miss when this is all over.

Lying on the spot has become a bit of a specialty of mine over the years. I wasn’t quite thirteen when I realized how many doors would open for you if you simply told people what they wanted to hear.

No one’s interested in the truth. Most of us just think we are.

Sonya taught me that.

At the end of the day, we just want to believe whatever makes us feel good inside. Whatever makes us feel safe. Whatever lets us sleep at night. It’s a fact I’ve always used to my advantage.

My phone buzzes again by the time we get to the patient’s room.

Monitors are going off.

Alarms are beeping.

Nurses are rushing around the room in a blur of patterned scrubs and silent shoes.

“Where the hell have you guys been?” One of the cardiologists spits his words at us, his tone laced in condescension and verbal arsenic. What I wouldn’t give to jack him across his smug red face. “We called for you five minutes ago.”

“We came as fast as we could, sir,” my sackless colleague says, keeping his eyes averted as we disengage the wheel locks on the patient’s bed.

He isn’t lying. We were in the opposite corner of the hospital, messing around by the vending machines when we got the call. I’d have sprinted, but I didn’t want to give Brian a heart attack.

We wheel the patient down the hall, transporting him to the cardiac intensive care unit. The nurses shoo us out of there as soon as the wheels are locked and the bed is in position, and Dr. Red Face gives me a quiet sneer as we pass.

I have to say, not all doctors are like him.

There are some decent ones. Like Dr. Lucas in Peds. That’s who I’ve modeled my Dr. Niall Emberlin persona after. There’s this gentleness and softheartedness about him that doesn’t come organically to me. And on top of that, the guy’s a modern-day George Clooney, who makes all the baby mamas show up to their appointments in lipstick and heels, as if they don’t dress in stretch pants and graphic tees every other day.

He bought me lunch one day, too. He was in a hurry and asked if he could cut in front of me in the cafeteria. By the time I realized he’d paid for my meal, he was already gone.

A man like that is impossible not to like.

Impossible not to trust.

By the time I get back to the transport office, Brian is nowhere to be found. I must have lost him somewhere on the way. Knowing him, he’s hanging out at one of the nurses’ stations, oblivious to the fact that
they’re busy as hell and have no desire to shoot the breeze with him. I mean, how can a man not notice that a woman has disengaged herself from a conversation? That she’s only half listening? It’s all about the nuances. The little things. If she’s playing with her hair or she can’t stop smiling, she’s into you. If she sighs or acts distracted, get the hell away because she doesn’t have time for you.

It’s so simple. Honestly. Too simple.

Plopping into one of the rolling chairs, I lean to the side and slide my phone from my pocket before kicking my feet onto the desktop.

One missed call and a voice mail to go along with it.

I recognize the South Dakota area code and hit “Play,” and in an instant a woman’s voice fills my ear. “Dr. Schneider would like you to come in for Kate’s next appointment. Please call us back with your availability . . .”

I’ll call them later, stress to them that I can’t miss too much work, and then I’ll push it off until this weekend. I’ll have to talk to Brienne, of course, tell her how much I love and miss her, make sure she isn’t beginning to question things too much, but that should buy me more time.

BOOK: When I Was You
2.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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