Anyone but You Read online

  “That was something Friday night,” Charity said.

  “Listen, Char, don’t get discouraged.” Nina cradled the phone on her shoulder so she could put the milk back in the fridge with her free hand. “I looked at the book again last night, and it’s not going to take that much to fix it.”

  “I know,” Charity said. “I’m not discouraged. But I’ve been thinking. And I think Norma’s right, about both of us.”

  “Us?” Nina echoed, butter in hand.

  “Us,” Charity said, and Nina sighed and slid the butter in the fridge before she shut the door. “We don’t believe in unconditional love,” Charity went on. “I keep thinking I have to be sexy and funny and sweet, and then I get mad because I’m never myself, and I figure out some flaw in the guys I’m with and use that to get out so I can be myself for a while. And then I get lonely and go out and play that dumb game again.”

  “Wait a minute.” Nina stopped with a bowl of macaroni and cheese in her hands. “That’s not true. Look at some of these guys, the ones who cheated or who had mother complexes or—”

  “I know,” Charity said. “I know some of them deserved to be left. But some of them didn’t. Like Alex.”

  Nina shoved the mac and cheese bowl in the fridge and slammed the door. “How did Alex get into your book?”

  “The only thing wrong with Alex is that he’s ten years younger than you are,” Charity said. “That’s a stupid reason not to love him, Neen.”

  “There are a lot of other things wrong with Alex,” Nina said. “He’s immature and unfocused and—”

  “You’re making up excuses,” Charity said. “The real problem is that you don’t believe Alex could love you because your body is forty years old and your face has some wrinkles. Norma hit it right. You don’t believe in unconditional love.”

  Nina swallowed. “It’s not that easy.”

  “Just because you don’t believe in yourself doesn’t mean that Alex doesn’t believe in you,” Charity said. “And you won’t even give him a chance.”

  “He doesn’t want a chance,” Nina said. “He—”

  “Trust me,” Charity said. “I’ve seen the two of you together. He wants a chance.”

  “Charity, you’re being romantic,” Nina said. “This is real life.”

  “Real life doesn’t have to suck,” Charity said. “And that’s how I’m going to rewrite this book. I feel good about the book, Neen. I’m excited about this. And I believe things will work out for us if we just believe in ourselves.”

  “Good.” Nina closed her eyes and wished she believed that, too. “I’m glad, Char. I can’t wait to read the rewrite.”

  “That’s what I’m working on now,” Charity said. “I just wanted to let you know that I was okay. And that I think you should give Alex a chance.”

  “Goodbye, Charity,” Nina said, and Charity sighed and hung up.

  Give Alex a chance. Alex had had plenty of chances and he hadn’t taken them. All right, she hadn’t been exactly welcoming, but he’d had his chances.

  He just hadn’t wanted them.

  Nina got a glass out of the cupboard and jerked the refrigerator door open to get some ice. The door stuck, and she jerked again, annoyed and frustrated over more than the door, and then it opened at the same time the Crock-Pot fell off the top of the fridge and onto the glass in her hand, breaking the glass neatly into four pieces before it crashed onto the floor, the glass lid smashing at her feet.

  Nina stared at her hand, nonplussed, still holding the largest bottom piece of the glass. Her hand hurt, but there were no marks on it. How had she managed to drop a Crock-Pot on a glass and not cut herself? She shut the door and moved slowly to the counter, crunching glass underfoot, to put the rest of the glass down. She swept the glass up one-handed, moving it into a corner and dropping a towel over it so that Fred couldn’t wander into it accidentally. Then she flexed her hand, and a thin red line appeared, running down the side of her thumb and into her palm.

  She’d cut herself, after all. It couldn’t be too bad, though; it was barely bleeding. Just that thin red line. Even as she had the thought, blood began to seep from under the cut, and she realized that it wasn’t a cut as much as a slice, and that it was deep, and that there was going to be a lot more blood. She moved to the sink as her palm turned red and watched in stunned disbelief as the blood began to ooze from her hand, slow, but steadier than she believed possible.

  Blotting it with a towel didn’t help. Pressure made it bleed faster. There weren’t enough Band-Aids in the world to help this cut. Still too stunned to think, Nina looked in the sink and saw red splashed everywhere. She was going to have to get help.

  She grabbed a clean blue-checked dish towel and wrapped it around her aching hand. “You stay here,” she said to Fred, and grabbed her keys and headed downstairs to see Alex.

  She knocked twice, but there was no answer, and she realized he was on duty. At the hospital. Two blocks away. The towel was stained red now, and her hand ached harder, and she pressed it into her stomach, hoping the pressure would slow the bleeding until she figured out what to do. Call 911 and say what? “I cut my hand?” Not for 911. That was for emergencies. Heart attacks. Car accidents. All she had was a cut on her hand. The hospital was only two blocks away.

  Pulling her scattered thoughts together, Nina headed for the stairs.

  Later, Nina couldn’t remember much of the walk except the ache and the throbbing and the dizziness mixed in with how pretty Riverbend was in the twilight. If she had to bleed to death, at least it would be on a nice evening. But once she was at Riverbend General’s ER, elbowing her way in the door, trying not to get blood on everything she touched, the calm evening turned into a madhouse filled with more people than she’d ever seen in her life, all talking at once. She found her way to the admitting desk and leaned against the counter, keeping her hand low and tight to her stomach so she didn’t get blood on anything, hoping the pressure would ease the sharp ache that was turning into pain, a little overwhelmed and a lot woozy and very close to throwing up.

  “I cut myself,” she told the weedy little desk clerk when he asked what she needed. She meant to show him her hand, but she would have had to raise it above the counter to do that, and it seemed like a bad idea.

  “Do you have insurance?” he asked.

  Nina blinked. “I don’t even have my purse.” She bit her lip. “I know a doctor here. Alex Moore. He can vouch for me.”

  The desk clerk sniffed. “We’ll see. Wait here. I’ll get a nurse.” He marched off, and a minute later a little dark nurse came down the hall and stopped to stare at Nina’s stomach.

  “What happened?” she asked, gently pulling Nina’s throbbing hand away from her T-shirt.

  “I cut my hand,” Nina said.

  “Not your stomach?” the nurse said, still supporting Nina’s hand, and Nina looked down and saw that her T-shirt was soaked with blood.

  “No,” she said. “Just my hand.”

  “Don’t move,” the nurse said, and grabbed a wheelchair. “Sit.”

  “I can walk,” Nina protested. “I just need a few stitches.”

  “Humor me,” the nurse said, and Nina collapsed into the chair, suddenly grateful.

  Her head was swimming a little, and her hand hurt, and when the nurse unwrapped the towel, it hurt more.

  “It’ll be okay,” the nurse told her. “It’s deep and it hurts, but you’ll be fine.”

  “Oh, good,” Nina said, and sat dazed while the nurse helped her put her bloody hand in a bowl of disinfectant and pulled out a tray with evil-looking things on it. Nina wanted to say, “Is this going to hurt more?” but she didn’t have the energy and she didn’t want to seem like a wimp. It was bad enough she’d cut herself in such a dumb way. Alex had told her over and over—

  Then she heard his voice in the hall. The desk clerk said, “Some woman was asking for you. Zandy has her in two,” and Alex’s lazy voice said, “All the women ask for me, Andrew. Whe