Jase smiled and asked, “Are you feeling better this morning?”
Gage crossed to the white marble center island to pour himself a cup of coffee. He smiled and said, “Much better. I still have a headache. But I’ll live.” He still wasn’t sure what he was going to do about Luis. But he knew this charade had to end soon. The thought of deceiving Jase and Hunter any longer than he had to caused his chest to tighten.
When Gage sat down on a stainless steel stool that resembled an old office chair at the center island, Jase said, “Hunter wanted to go to school today, so I figured it would be okay with you.”
Hunter’s head went up. “Someone’s bringing a snake to school today and I don’t want to miss it.”
Gage smiled and pretended he knew what they were talking about. He’d figured the kid went to preschool every day. But now he assumed they must have worked out an arrangement where Hunter only went to preschool certain days of the week. When he thought about it, Gage was surprised Luis let Hunter go to preschool at all. Knowing his quirky brother, Gage figured Luis would want to home-school Hunter. It must have been Jase who forced the preschool issue. Gage smiled and said, “I think it’s nice you want to go to school today.”
“That’s what I thought, too,” Jase said. “I’ll drop him off on my way to the office. I have this big meeting this afternoon and I want to spend the morning preparing.” He stood up and crossed to the counter. He placed his palm on Gage’s shoulder. “And I want you to stay inside and rest today. I don’t want you getting sicker than you already are.”
“Thanks, Jase,” Gage said. “Thanks for being so understanding.”
Jase leaned forward and kissed him on the lips. “I’ll see you tonight.” Then he turned and said to Hunter, “Let’s move it, buddy. You don’t want to be late.”
When they were gone, Gage turned on the small TV in the kitchen and sat down so he could figure out what he was going to do next. But while he started to sip his second cup of coffee, the anchorman on the news started talking about a hit-and-run accident in the West Village late last night and Gage forgot all about his twin brother locked in the kinky jail cell. The anchor said the man who’d been run over by the hit-and-run driver was just getting off work, and while the anchor mentioned the victim’s serious condition and what hospital they’d taken him to, they flashed a photo of him across the TV screen.
Gage looked up at the screen and pressed his palm to his throat, gasping. The photo they showed on TV was the same taxi driver he’d met on Thursday night, the same driver with whom Gage had made love with in the back seat of the taxi, and the same driver who had given Gage his name and contact information. The anchorperson on TV even said his name was Daksha Kalita.
Gage sat and started down for a moment. At first, he’d thought he and Daksha were having casual sex. But the more he thought about what they’d done together, the more he realized it wasn’t just casual sex. It was the first time in a long time Gage actually wanted to get to know a man better. He jumped up from the table and ran to the TV so he could turn up the volume. A reporter said the guy was rushed to Downtown Hospital in Lower Manhattan and that he’d suffered multiple injuries and was in critical condition. Then the reporter said something that made Gage’s jaw drop. He said they had no personal information on the victim and didn’t know who to contact as next of kin. And if there was anyone out there who knew him, or had been in his taxi the night of the accident, they should contact the police.
For a moment, Gage sat at the kitchen counter wondering what to do. Then, without stopping to think, he ran upstairs and got dressed. He didn’t even bother to look for something new to wear. He just put on the black sweatpants and white T-shirt he’d worn to bed the night before. As the little dog watched from a stool at the foot of the bed, he shoved his feet into a pair of black sneakers, not bothering with socks. Then he pulled a black jacket out of Luis’s closet and ran down the front steps.
When he reached West End Avenue, he hailed a taxi and told the driver to take him to Downtown Hospital. When he reached the hospital, he handed the driver two of Luis’s twenty-dollar bills without waiting for change and jogged inside to find out where the Intensive Care Unit was located. With all the ailments Gage’s parents had been through, Gage had learned how to navigate hospitals very well. And he knew without having to ask that if Daksha was in critical condition, he had to be in the ICU.
He found the ICU without having to look too hard, thanks to excellent signs in the hallways. He walked up to the nurses’ station and asked which room Daksha Kalita was in. He was prepared for their blank stares and questions. When they asked him who he was, Gage squared his shoulders and said, “I’m his partner, Gage Weston. I just saw what happened to him on the news on TV.” He didn’t lie and say he was Daksha’s American cousin or his next-door neighbor. Evidently, Daksha didn’t have anyone in this country and Gage knew he might be the only one there who could claim the poor guy as his own. He even looked the nurse in the eye and said, “Don’t tell me I can’t see him. He’s my partner and I’m going to see him if I have to knock you down to get in there.”
The nurse smiled and said, “Calm down, Mr. Weston. He’s in room 379 and he’s just regained consciousness. I’ll take you there right now.” She wore one of those pajama-type uniforms: pink with little red rosebuds. “He’s weak and confused. But that’s normal right now. He’s doing very well, considering. It could have been much worse.”
As Gage followed her down to Daksha’s room, he glanced at the ICU and inhaled. It smelled as if someone had poured antiseptic on the floors and walls, and the air was thick. He often wondered why hospitals didn’t have windows for fresh air, especially when the weather was nice. Wouldn’t it be logical, not to mention healthier, to be able to open a window and take in the outdoors? Even New York air was better than the stuffy hospital air, with germs and staph infections everywhere.
This ICU was typical of most, with a nurses’ station in the center, surrounded by small rooms with sliding glass doors. Some of the white curtains were drawn, others weren’t. The old man in the room next to Daksha’s room was plopped up on the bed, hooked up to all kinds of wires and tubes, his head hung sideways. This brought back all the memories of the many times Gage’s mother had been hospitalized when she was dying of cancer. She’d been propped up the same way. Even the sounds—the bells and whistles from the machines that were hooked up to the patients—were the same.