Liza heard giggling and the low murmur of a man’s voice as she approached Casey’s room.
“My Aunt Liza has a friend named Bruce.” Casey said. Liza entered the room to find Bruce standing behind a guest chair. Casey was chattering away from behind Pete, her teddy bear. “She met him at her school. It’s not a school for kids. It’s a school for old people…there she is!” Bruce turned and stared at Liza. His expression was blank.
“Hey there. What are you doing in Casey’s room?” asked Liza.
Bruce looked between Liza and Casey a few times, working his tongue around the inside of his cheek. “Hey, they, uh, released me a couple of hours ago. I was going to leave you a note.” He waved a folded piece of paper that was dangling from his fingers. He stared at Liza for what seemed like forever. “So…I met your niece.”
“I see that. I’m surprised you found her,” said Liza.
A smile flickered across Bruce’s face. “So am I.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Not bad,” said Bruce. She didn’t believe him. His skin was grey and pit stains seeped out from under his arms. He was wearing an expression that Liza couldn’t begin to figure out.
“That’s good.” Liza walked over and gave him a quick kiss on the check. A giggle came from behind Pete’s head. Liza smiled and walked over to Casey’s bed. She sat down very carefully, always fearful of tearing out a tube or wire.
“So what do you think of Dean Wells?” asked Liza. She leaned over to kiss Casey on the forehead.
“Oh, I introduced myself as Bruce. I hope that’s ok?”
“Yeah, that’s fine. It’s up to you,” said Liza.
“Hmm…I think we can be on a first-name basis after she caught me bent over in the hall, and I caught her talking to herself.” Bruce winked at Casey.
“Hey! I was talking to Pete!” said Casey.
“Uh huh, he must be pret-ty special if he can talk with his mouth sewn shut.” said Bruce. Casey giggled and shot Bruce a pretend dirty look. She understood sarcasm well from growing up with her mom. Bruce smiled and Liza thought again how handsome he looked. She loved seeing him smile; all the more because he did it so rarely. But the smile melted off of Bruce’s face a second later, and he was looking up at the clock.
“I’ll leave you two to your visit,” said Bruce. We walked over and extended his hand to Casey. “Casey, Pete, it was nice to meet you both.”
Casey stared at the hand, grinning to herself. When she finally shook it, she looked over at Liza as if to confirm that she was doing it right. Liza nodded. “Nice to meet you,” said Casey.
Before Liza could sort through the questions that were flying around in her head, Bruce had kissed her on the cheek and was out the door.