Sarah shifted in bed, the scratchy hotel blankets slipping off her arms and waking her. It took her a minute to remember where she was and who she was with. She stilled, listening to the deep sound of Spot's breathing across the room. He was still asleep. Sarah didn't know what to think after yesterday. It all seemed different in the morning, they had something fragile between them and she knew even the light of day might crack it.
She laid there a moment longer before getting up, her eyes straying to Spot as she crossed the small space to the bathroom. His blond hair was tussled over his forehead, his face empty of the edge it so often possessed. He looked young, his freckles dark in the washed-out light. The heat kicked on in the vent under the window. It hummed quietly and the force of it sent the curtains swaying, the soft beams of early morning washing across his face. As if he were underwater, or standing by the East River, far away in New York, the light shining off the waves. She had never seen him like that, but she could picture it now. Smiling, happy, young, two people walking down the street, nothing holding them back. She had often wondered about the edge that Spot possessed. He was so unwilling to trust people. He had judged everything Sarah had done up to this point, she hadn't been able to figure out why. Now she knew a little better, even if it wasn't the full story.
She stood there only a second before coming to her senses and hurrying to the bathroom. She was not going to get caught looking at Spot Conlon. She took her shower and put the thoughts out of her head. When she emerged from the bathroom 20 minutes later, hair damp, Spot was up and dressed, his duffle zipped and on his bed.
"Oh sorry, I hope I didn't wake you," she apologized when he turned to face her. He barely looked at her.
"Are you ready?" he asked, slipping his phone into his pocket and his bag on his shoulder. Sarah hurried across the room.
"Uh, yeah. Let me just grab my stuff," she answered, repacking her bathroom things in her bag.
"I'll meet you downstairs," he said and was out the door by the time Sarah looked after him. She furrowed her brow then shook her head. She shouldn't be upset about the way he acts; he's always been that way and last night didn't change anything. That easy openness they had shared in the car had been lost with the morning sun.
Neither Sarah nor Spot were in the habit of sleeping late or taking a long time to dress for the day so when they got on the road a few minutes later, the sun had just fully pulled itself over the horizon. Sarah was now also fairly confident that Spot, despite the time he woke up, was not one to talk in the morning.
Or maybe it was just this morning.
He stayed nearly silent for the first two hours, one-word answers here or there when Sarah got up the courage to say something. Was it about last night? She replayed the evening in her head for the millionth time. Sure, he was upset about the experience with cop, but she suddenly remembered he also seemed upset she hadn't continued to call him Alex. Could that really be it? Did he prefer she didn't use the nickname he seemed to go by to everyone else? It was a moot point because she wasn't going to muster up the courage to call him Alex again out of the blue. She only did so when they were in a public place and she didn't want to be caught calling a grown man "Spot".
By the third hour the snow began to fall again as they crossed from Ohio into Indiana. Sarah started concentrating on the road in earnest, which at least took her mind off other matters. Her meager attempts at conversation fell off and they watched the world go by in a blur of white.
"Why don't you like the snow?" Spot asked, at least fifty more miles down the road. Sarah blinked, surprised to hear anything but the sound of snow crunching beneath the tires. She glanced at him and his whole body was turned, looking at her.
"What? I don't dislike snow, why would you think that?" she asked, returning her eyes to the road.
"Well, look at you," she resisted the urge to do the opposite and look at him.
"I don't like anything I glare at like that," he said. It was only then that Sarah realized her eyebrows were drawn together, her jaw locked tight.
"You glare at everything," she argued.
"I do not." He bristled under her accusation. She almost laughed.
"You're practically glaring right now!" She said.
"I'm not glaring! This is just my face!" he explained but Sarah shook her head.
"Not true. I've seen you look differently," she said thinking about the open look on his face last night. "So I take it back," she continued, "You don't always glare, but apparently you do it so often you think it's just how your face looks, which might actually be sadder," she said with a laugh.
Spot shook his head in frustration, his arms crossed across his chest.
"I was asking why you don't like the snow, don't turn this around on me."
"I'm not glaring. I'm just concentrating on the road. I happen to love snow; I grew up in Buffalo remember?" She asked and saw Spot tip his head in acknowledgement.
"Don't you? Like snow, that is?"
"Before this whole mess happened, maybe. But now?" he said, glancing out the window at the world gone white. Sarah didn't respond. The snowstorm had stuck them together on this ill-fated journey. It's not like Spot was exactly enjoying himself
Spot had apparently seen Sarah's eyebrows creep back together.
"Hey. Uh, I didn't mean being stuck with you was bad, or anything," Spot started but Sarah kept quiet for a moment.
"I mean, shit. I mean, snow's fine. This is all…fine," he said, looking away from her and running a hand through his hair.
"Thank you for offering to drive," he said looking back at her, his eyes serious. "It means a lot that you're worried about Race," he offered and Sarah looked at him, meeting his eyes for the moment she could take her's off the road.
"Don't worry, the snow has been kind of a burden, I know what you meant," she said, happy to be reassured. He laughed a little, that grin of his spreading across his face slowly, willing her own smile out of hiding.
"The snow's been a bitch, Sarah, it's okay, you won't hurt its feelings," he said, and when she glanced at him his eyes were light.
"And hey," he said after a moment, "about last night, I'm sorry about what I said about you and the cop, I know you can fight your own battles."
Sarah fought the urge to tear her eyes from the road again.
"I heard the story a million times of you decking Morris Delancey when he tried to kiss you a few years back," he said and out of the corner of her eye, Sarah could tell he was smiling.
"Who'd you hear that from? I didn't know anybody talked about it, or even knew about it."
He shrugged and smiled, "Little bird told me."
Sarah knew that instantly that meant Racetrack had told him. She was gathering that Race had his finger in his own fair share of gossip pools.
"Well, thanks for saying that. Not that telling off a police officer is on the same level as punching someone who's harassing you, but I appreciate it nonetheless," She said.
"I would have paid good money to see you take a Delancey down," he said under his breath a moment later and Sarah's laugh echoed in the small car.
"You can go faster than that, it's a parking lot, not a series of endless stop signs," Spot berated, leaning forward in his seat. Sarah didn't grace him with an answer. Ever since they were 50 miles outside Grandview, Missouri, Spot had been hurrying Sarah along, visibly anxious, shifting in his seat, his phone clutched tight in his hand.
"There's a spot right there!" He said, pointing impatiently to a parking spot. Sarah clenched her jaw and tried not to be annoyed with him. He was just anxious to see his friend. But that didn't mean he hadn't given her a headache. As they got out and approached the hospital, even Sarah's normally quick pace wasn't enough to keep up with Spot. He kept slowing down to match her, but not without glaring over his shoulder.
"You go ahead, I'm going to call David and tell him we're here, I know the room number, I'll find it," she reassured, stopping in the lobby of Race's floor. Spot barely spared a glance back and a nod of his head as he rounded the corner without her.
She really did want to call David, but she also wanted to give Spot and Race a moment to themselves. She knew what having family in a car crash was like and she didn't want to intrude on that moment of vulnerability she knew Spot wouldn't want her to see
"You're alive! I feel like you dropped off the face of the planet," David said, his voice bright on the other end of the call.
"Hi, it's good to hear your voice, and don't worry, I feel like I did," she said, smiling.
"So, are you surviving the ride with Spot?" he asked, and Sarah couldn't help but laugh. She had a lot of ground to cover.
Sarah told him the lot of it. Well, most of it. She left out the teaching Spot to drive part, and him revealing that he was deaf. It was too intimate, and it wouldn't seem to cross her lips, no matter her intention.
"Mom and Dad are worried, you should give them a call later," he said when she was finished.
"Alright, I will when we get to our hotel tonight," she paused. "I don't even know where we're staying, we haven't figure it out yet," she thought out loud, concern accidentally filling her voice.
"That doesn't sound like you Sarah, normally you have everything planned."
"I know, but there's been so much going on, it must have slipped my mind. I'll figure it out David, don't worry," she said, reassuring herself as much as him.
"I know, I know, you've got it all handled, as always," he laughed, so confident she had it together. And she did, didn't she? She had everything together.
She said her goodbyes and turned down the hall. There was a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach as she slowly walked to Racetrack's room. There was an uncertainty associated with it, of rounding the corner and not knowing what you're going to see.
She felt that a lot lately.
Sarah peeked her head into the room, having heard nothing from it she didn't want to sneak up on them. But when she caught sight of Spot at Race's bedside, he was smiling. Racetrack was sitting up in the hospital bed, his left leg in a cast from his hip all the way down to his toes. His normally olive complexion was pale and chalky under the hospital lights, though he too was smiling. Before he noticed Sarah, Race signed something to Spot, his hands moving in front of him quickly. Spot signed something back and waved Race away, his smile dipping slightly. Sarah didn't sign in the slightest and was almost happy she couldn't eavesdrop on their conversation.
"Hey, you!" she called brightly, fully rounding the corner with a smile on her face. Race threw both of his arms up when he saw her.
"Heeeeey!" he intoned, "It's not a party 'til a Jacobs sibling is here!" he cried jovially as Sarah walked to the other side of the bed from Spot.
"I highly doubt you've ever said that to David," she laughed, leaning over to wrap Racetrack in a gentle hug.
"Maybe I do, you wouldn't know. You're never around to hear it," he said playfully.
"Well, I'm here now. Care to regale me with how you did this?" She asked, gesturing to his leg. He smiled a classic Racetrack smile, all mischief and recklessness, but he did spare a nervous glance at Spot before continuing.
"Just racing cars while visiting some cousins out here. Believe it or not you can hydroplane on a dirt road. Did you know that, Sarah? Cause I certainly did not," he said, still grinning.
Before Sarah had a chance to tell him that yes she did, in fact, know that, Spot cut in, his voice low and angry,
"How fast were you going this time?" He asked.
Sarah nearly jumped at his tone. Spot had been smiling a second ago and she hadn't expected this turn of his mood. Race glanced away, eyebrows drawn, and she could tell that he had been wanting to avoid this part of the conversation.
"C'mon Spotty, I was just having a bit of-"
"How fast, Race?" Spot asked again and Sarah could see his fingernails digging into his skin where his arms were crossed. His eyes were hard, his frustration and anger radiating out at them.
"You really don't want to know," Race answered, his voice lower, suddenly sounding tired.
"Oh, I think I really do," Spot shot back. Race was looking anywhere but at him now and Sarah wished she could melt through the tiles at her feet, anything to escape the room.
"I think I topped out around 165," Race muttered.
"God dammit, Race!" Spot exploded, "You're lucky you're still fucking alive!" he yelled, throwing his hands up in exasperation.
"Keep it down, would ya? You want me to go to jail for this?" Race said under his breath, glancing out the door where the nurses' station sat only feet away.
"Maybe it would do you some good. Who the fuck do you think you are?" He yelled.
"You're just mad I didn't tell you I was going," Race said rolling his eyes, though Sarah knew his nonchalance was masking something.
"Yeah, you're right, that's one of the things I'm mad about," Spot shot back.
"I already have a mother, you know, you don't need to act like one," he said.
"Oh, fuck you! I'd love to see what your mother would do if she knew you had been doing this again!" Spot yelled.
"No, fuck you for acting so high and mighty like you never went off and did something stupid," Race shot back. Spot dropped his head in his hands, taking a step back and turning around for just a second and when he looked back at Race his eyes were blue fire.
"You said you'd stop doing this. You promised," Spot said, his voice low and quiet. Race was silent for a second.
"C'mon man, don't do this now," he said, barely inclining his head toward Sarah. She should not be here for this. She glanced up at Spot, who was already looking at her. The rage in his eyes barely masked the panic and fear that lay just below the surface. She bit her lip, raising her eyebrows at him, a silent question. Spot closed his eyes, wringing a hand through his hair.
She didn't know what he wanted her to do. Leave and give them time to have it out? Or stay so they had to keep it civil? Her instincts took over and she headed for the door, feeling like she wanted to run out of the room.
"I'll be right back," she said, and Spot met her eyes, the anger fading for a moment. She had her hand on the door frame, lingering a second to see his expression change. She didn't miss Racetrack looking back and forth between the two of them, but she ducked around the corner before she saw- or heard- what happened next.