Gus didn’t see his parents until he had been lying on a hospital bed in a busy emergency room for some time. He’d heard frightening phrases like, “multiple injuries, “life support,” “critical condition,” “stable,” “pupils are fixed and dilated,” “blood alcohol level of point-one-two,” “the youngest one was driving.”
“Gus!” Finally, a voice he recognized, and he lost control, tears flowing from his eyes as his mother’s face came into view.
“I’m here, baby, I’m right here.” Hazel Madain Saleh was the most beautiful woman in the world, and Gus had the honor of being her youngest son. “Are you hurt, baby?”
“My head hurts,” Gus said, then repeated the question he’d asked anyone within earshot. “Is Alex gonna be okay.”
Gus’s mom looked away and straightened the blanket. “I’m sure they’re doing all they can for him.”
“Where are my brothers?”
“Aaron is having a talk with your father, and Hayden and Owen are in beds near the end of the room over there, basically sleeping off what will soon become a nasty hangover.” Her tone grew more and more irritated.
“I’m sorry, mamma,” Gus said.
“I want you to concentrate on getting yourself healed,” she said. Her expression shifted and her lip quivered. “And I’d suggest you pray—hard—that Alex lives… because you will be tried as an adult.”
With that, his mom covered her face to hide her tears and hurried away, leaving Gus alone with the guilt of knowing he possibly killed his best friend.
* * * * * * * * *
“Son?” Prince Marcos of Madain Saleh came into view and Gus’s heart leapt and sank in one powerful wave of guilt.
“Your Highness?” Gus’s voice wavered and tears once again ran down the sides of his face. He wished he could sit up and look his father in the eye. Or not. He wished he could sink through the floor and never have to look his father in the eye.
“I’m not here to chastise you, son. You’ll be facing enough of that from law enforcement.”
“Wh—what do you mean?” Gus asked.
“They’re releasing you from the hospital into your parent’s care, because you’re a minor. You’ll likely be charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence, resulting in injury.”
Injury? Gus didn’t know what to say. He fumbled with words for a moment and then said the same thing he’d been saying for the past six or seven hours. “Is Alex gonna be okay?”
“You’d better hope so, son. Or the word ‘injury’ will be ‘death,’ which is fifteen years in jail instead of five.”
“Father, I don’t care about the damn charges!” Gus yelled. He realized he was causing a scene in the emergency room but didn’t stop. “They can lock me up and throw away the key for all I care. I just want my best friend to live!”
Sobs racked through Gus’s whole body as his father held him, and he cried, and cried, and cried, and cried, and cried, and cried, and cried.