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“Then what happened to him?” Vale asked as her fingers still clutched mine tightly.

“A secondary infection,” Dr. Furhman said calmly. “That’s what caused the fever, and probably the seizure, although that could have been from the inflammation caused by the virus. But your dad is stable and I’ve got him on a high dose of antibiotics and some steroids. We’ll monitor the fever, but I expect it will start to drop pretty quickly. This has happened in our protocol before, so it’s not a surprise.”

Dr. Furhman spent another fifteen minutes with us, answering a multitude of Vale’s questions. The woman knew her shit when it came to her father’s medical condition. The good doctor spent every minute patiently answering her questions and giving reassurances where he could without simultaneously giving false hope. Bottom line, he said, was that Dave’s prognosis was good and that he should be able to go home in a day or two.

Now it’s closing in on midnight and Vale is stubbornly refusing to leave her dad’s side. This I get. If it was my mom or dad, you’d have to pry my ass out of the chair. But Dave is starting to get a little cranky with his obstinate daughter, and I sense a fight brewing.

A nurse is in, checking his vitals. After she disposes of the thermometer sheath, she smiles and says, “Temperature’s at 99.1. It’s come down significantly, so all hail the antibiotics.”

“Still higher than normal,” Vale points out, and her dad rolls his eyes. For a split second, I almost think it’s the start of seizure, but then he shoots her a glare.

“My temp always runs a little high,” he tells the nurse with a wink. “And I’m actually feeling pretty good. Any chance I could get something to eat?”

“Sure,” the nurse says with a return wink. “Dr. Furhman put in some orders for a low-sodium diet. I’m sure they can send something up.”

“Excellent,” Dave says, and then turns his gaze to Vale. “Now I want you to get your butt home and get some sleep.”

“I’ll sleep here,” Vale says primly, and drops her gaze fast. I merely lean back against the wall, shove my hands in my pockets, and get ready to watch the fireworks.

“You most certainly will not,” Dave says firmly. “I’m going to eat me a roast beef sandwich, or something probably with less salt, and then I’m going to sleep. I don’t need you here.”

Vale isn’t swayed. “You may not need me here, but on the off chance something were to happen, I’d just as soon stay here so I can be close by.”

“Nothing’s going to happen—” Dave says calmly, but he’s cut off by the cutest snarl.

“You don’t know that. I just watched you have a seizure in front of me, which took ten years off my life.”

“But I’m fine now,” Dave placates.

“But you may not—”

“Enough,” Dave growls as he levels the sternest look I’ve ever seen him give his daughter. Normally he indulges her every whim, but even I’m feeling the sting of those words.

Vale’s eyes go wide and then she blinks at him in disbelief.

With a gentler voice, Dave tells her, “Honey, I get you’re worried, but you are doing me no good here. You’re only going to make me worry about you. So if you really want to help me, you’ll go home, get some food in you, and get a good night’s sleep. You can come back at the crack of dawn if you want, okay?”

It’s like a balloon deflating. Vale’s shoulders sag in resignation and she gives him a wan smile as she nods her head. Standing up from the bedside chair, she gives a suffering sigh and says, “Fine. I’ll go.”

Vale leans over the bedrail and kisses her father on the cheek. I push up off the wall, walk to the bed, and pat him on his lower leg covered in crisp, white sheets. “Take care, Dave. We’ll be back tomorrow.”

“Don’t you have practice tomorrow?” Dave, the athletic trainer and competitor at heart, asks me with a grunt.

“Yes,” I say with a cheeky grin. “But it doesn’t last all day.”

Vale gives no less than three backward glances over her shoulder to her dad as I gently push her from the room with my hand on her lower back. It’s a given I’ll give her a ride home, so no words are necessary as she follows me to the parking garage located outside the hospital.

Once we hit I-40 east, Vale leans back in the passenger seat and says, “You remember that time we were at Lollerman Creek…swinging from a tree rope into that swimming hole?”

I give a grunt of a laugh. “Yeah, it took forever for you to get psyched up to make the jump, but once you did, you couldn’t stop. What were we…like seventeen or so?”

“Yeah, seventeen,” she agrees softly. She’s quiet a moment, and because I suspect this particular memory is plaguing her mind, I hold my tongue. I can see from the corner of my eye her hands nervously twisting and rubbing in her lap. “Before I made that first jump, I was so scared.”

I nod in understanding. I was scared too, as that tree sat on a small cliff a good twenty feet up from the water. There was always a rumor floating around that some unnamed kid had drowned there after breaking his neck in the jump, but that was never confirmed to my knowledge. Probably just a rumor started by parents to discourage their adrenaline-seeking children.

“I prayed right before I jumped,” Vale says in an almost silent whisper, as if she’s embarrassed to admit that. She’s never been an overly religious person, and as far as I know, didn’t pray routinely. We most certainly didn’t go to church. “I told God that if he let me make the jump and not break my neck, I’d never ask him for another thing as long as I lived.”

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