Gus wouldn’t leave Alex’s side or let go of his hand, unless the nurses and doctors forced him from the room for whatever reason. He knew there’d eventually be legal ramifications for what he’d done, but he was relieved that no one had yet shown up to arrest him. Maybe they’d wait to see whether or not Alex lived.
Alex had been moved from ICU after his vital signs had normalized and the only thing technically wrong with him was minimal brain activity.
Gus was surprised they let him sit with Alex at all. He was underage and not technically family. Maybe their fathers had so much political clout that an exception had been made. Maybe they knew that no one would pay closer attention to every flicker of movement, should Alex awake from the coma, than the person who loved him and was most racked with guilt over what had happened. For whatever reason, Gus was thankful to be allowed in that room.
For thirty-six hours Gus only slept when he laid his head down on the blanket next to their adjoined hands, and only for a few minutes. He had no desire to eat or drink, although he sipped on some water the nurses brought him.
A few times Aaron tried to get him to come home but he refused. Someone forced him to eat a Snickers bar at some point, but he couldn’t remember who.
Alex’s mom and dad came and went, insisting they sit with Alex and implying that Gus should leave them alone to grieve. It seemed none of them wanted to talk to Gus, probably because he was driving the car that almost killed their son, but Gus refused to leave. For whatever reason, they didn’t force him to leave. For that he was grateful.
Gus learned to pray that night, even though he wasn’t sure he believed in a God. He didn’t want to take any chances. If some supreme being was listening from the sky, he decided he’d better at least ask for help. It wouldn’t hurt anything.
He talked to Alex a little, sometimes telling him thoughts that mulled around in his head, sometimes crying and begging him to wake up, sometimes angrily demanding that he wake up. Most of the time he just sat there, numb.
Sometime during the night on the third day, Gus felt a tiny movement in Alex’s hand.
“Alex? Can you hear me?” Gus squeezed Alex’s hand but got no further response. He didn’t call for a nurse because he wondered if he’d imagined the movement.
He talked to Alex almost continually from that time forward, telling him everything that had happened in the past few days, how many cards and flowers were waiting for him, how many years of jail Gus might get if Alex didn’t wake up, how totaled his Audi was, how worried his mom and dad were, how many people had been to visit him, how many bags of fluid they’d pumped into him. He cried even more. He demanded that Alex wake up. He told him about how he’d learned to pray and wondered if Alex had seen any angels or ghosts while he’d been asleep.
Hours later, another movement, this time much more pronounced and obvious. Gus sat up and talked to Alex, squeezing his hand repeatedly, begging him to squeeze his hand back. Finally, he did.
Gus called out to the nurse’s station as loud as his scratchy voice would allow, and Alex’s forehead creased as if Gus’s yelling had bothered him.
He quieted and pushed the nurse’s call button, still begging in a softer voice for Alex to respond.
When the nurse walked casually into the room, asking, “How can I help you?” Gus forgot to be quiet again.
“He squeezed my hand!” Gus practically yelled. “Twice! And then I saw his forehead move.”
The nurse rushed from the room and came back with several other people including the on-call doctor. Gus stepped back to let them work and took his cell phone from his pocket. Ignoring the hundreds of texts and missed calls and notifications on social media, he scrolled for a moment and found Alex’s mom’s phone number.
“Mrs. Stephenson, he squeezed my hand!”