Irritated with himself beyond belief, Hunter slammed the car door when he got back to his house. It didn’t matter that it couldn’t change anything that had happened, it made him feel better. The worst part of it was that Emily seemed to always be getting the brunt of his temper, even though she was the one who was going to try her best to help him. He should have been thanking her, not snapping at her, but he seemed to be getting more emotional lately and he didn’t particularly care for it.
He unlocked his door without incident and walked past the alarm keypad. He’d stopped setting it after the third time the police had come out because he couldn’t remember the alarm code or the security password, so there was no need to stop. Hunter threw his keys into the bowl on the table so he’d remember where they were in the morning, took off his jacket and tossed it over the back of one of the dining room chairs, then went into the kitchen and opened the freezer. His phone rang in his pocket as he was pouring himself a glass of vodka and he took it out, fully intending to turn it off, then saw who was calling and put it to his ear instead.
“Hi, Dad!” His daughter’s voice came through the phone and made him smile. He could always count on Robin to be relentlessly cheerful. “Did I catch you at a bad time?”
“No, sweetheart, I just got home and was pouring myself a drink.” He took a drink and heard her sigh.
“Are you supposed to be drinking with your medication?” She didn’t give him a chance to respond before she spoke again. “What am I talking about, of course you aren’t. You’re the most stubborn person I know, and I work with toddlers.”
“The way you say it makes it sound like a bad thing,” Hunter said, deciding not to go into the details of why he was at Emily’s house. He’d gotten so excited about the idea of the neural bridge that finding out it would take years to develop felt like he was getting diagnosed all over again. “And before you ask, I wasn’t at work, I was at a friend’s house.”
“Good,” Robin said. “You don’t need to stress yourself out. I know—” She was interrupted by a crash loud enough to make Hunter jump. “Itsy! I’ve got to go, Dad, Itsy just knocked over the fish tank and there’s gravel everywhere.”
“Go take care of it before your carpet gets ruined,” Hunter said, picking up his glass. “I told you that dog was a mistake.”
“I’ll call you tomorrow,” Robin said. “Good night, Dad.”
“Good night,” Hunter said, then hung up and set his phone on the counter. As much as he loved his daughter, she had developed a maddening tendency to treat him like one of her students since his diagnosis. He tipped a little more vodka into his glass and took a drink.
Hunter leaned on the counter and thought about how he’d left Emily’s house. This time he had not only bitten her head off, but he’d run away from her house as if he was trying to escape his failing memory. He’d gone there to apologize and ended up making himself feel even worse. The dementia wasn’t her fault. In fact, she was trying to help him. It would have been easy to look up her phone number to call and apologize again but going to her house had already felt like an invasion of privacy. Instead he swirled his drink around in his glass and looked into it.
The most unexpected part of the whole thing had been her saying she thought he was attractive. She’d said it so casually, as if she handed out compliments every day, and it had made him feel better than he had in months. Hunter chuckled.
Good-looking, huh? I haven’t heard that in a long time. He tried to remember the last time someone had said it, and the only thing he could come up with was his wife telling him he looked handsome on their wedding day. He was fairly sure she’d said it before then, and certain she’d said it since, but she’d been gone long enough that time and Alzheimer’s were starting to steal little chunks of the days they’d had together.
He hardly knew anything about Emily, apart from her work on the cholinesterase inhibitor and now her neural bridge concept. He knew she liked cats, and that she had questionable taste in music, but he didn’t know why the other scientists at the lab were so happy to be rid of her, or why she was so interested in dementia treatment in the first place. All he knew was that she wasn’t bad-looking herself and she seemed kind. She almost always wore the same clothes under her lab coat, and her hair was twisted up in an unassuming knot, but the simplicity made it more appealing to him. Hunter finished his drink and set his glass in the sink.
First thing he’d do when he got to work in the morning was apologize to Emily for real. He didn’t want to alienate her the way he’d been doing to the rest of the people in his life, and he wanted to show her that he didn’t only want to be around her because of what she could possibly do for him. She was the only person who knew about his disease, and he trusted her. Hunter went up the stairs to his bedroom, then turned around and went back down to make sure he hadn’t forgotten to lock the door. It had become something of a nightly ritual for him, one he was tired of. By the time he finally got into bed, he’d checked the front door three more times.
As he started to fall asleep, Hunter’s mind began to wander and he wondered if it was the dementia or the normal driftings of a tired mind. He rolled over so his back was to the window. He would give anything to be free of this disease. Anything at all.