I brush off her touch. “Where is my phone?”
She thrusts it out, and I grab it, trying to walk through a logical thought process, my mind heavy with thoughts. “Have a driver meet me out front.”
“Done. I called them before I stepped in. They have the hospital address, and I have given the hospital your information.”
I nod. “Also give them my card information. Any medical expenses charged to me. I don’t want any treatment or options unexplored due to cost. Make sure they understand that.”
She nods quickly, tears leaking from the corner of her eyes. She knows Madison well, has lunched with her countless times, chats with her in the reception area when my meetings run over. Picked out her birthday, anniversary, and Valentine’s Day gifts for the last two and a half years. I nod to her and open the door.
We make the half-hour drive in fifteen minutes, my frustration at not having my car disappearing as soon as the driver made the first hairpin turn at forty-five miles per hour. He understands my urgency and has a better handle on his emotions. I cradle my head in my hands, visions of Madison assaulting me from all directions.
Her head on my pillow, a drugged smile on her lips when I kiss her goodbye in the morning.
The image of her in my t-shirt, walking barefoot through my hall, nothing underneath but skin.
The push of her hands on my chest, small but firm, her ability to weaken my resolve with one saucy smile.
I should have set aside my work, should have cancelled meetings, planned vacations, made half the money and had twice the time with her. I should have taken her to dinner each night, been there for each birthday and holiday, met her mother, kissed her over breakfast, told her more of how I felt. If she is gone... if I don’t have a chance to say goodbye... she will never know how I really feel. How I cherish her.
I’m an idiot.
The car pulls up to glass doors and I open the door, and steel myself for the possibilities that await me.
She will be okay. She will live. I can make changes to my life and make her mine. Marry her. Rebuild my life the way it should be, with her front and center.
I step out of the car and move toward the glass doors of the hospital.
I hear her breaths and hope that she is making them, hope that if this machine was to be turned off, that the controlled sounds of life would continue. I listen to the beep of her heart rate and watch the numbers on the screen, numbers that mean nothing to me.
I touch her hand softly, running my fingers over the top of it; its cool surface scaring the hell out of me. I hold it in my hands, the fingers limp and unresponsive.
“There is brain activity.” The words come from behind me and I turn to see a young male nurse, outfitted in green scrubs. He smiles. “Something came across the monitors a few minutes ago. It’s a good sign.”
“So she’ll be okay?”
His grin falters. “No. I didn’t mean that. But with her condition... we didn’t expect any brain activity. We are still a long way from stability.”
I nod and turn back to her. Squeeze her hand. There is nothing more heartbreaking than a limp hand. No life. No response. I lean over and place a soft kiss on a bit of exposed skin on her cheek—tubes and masks preventing any real connection.
I hear a commotion, raised voices, and the squeak of shoes on floor, and I know, without turning, Stewart is here. My hand tightens, without thought, on hers.
OVER THE FALLS: [prepositional phrase]
Getting pitched head-first and slammed by the lip of a crashing wave.
The woman before me is infuriating. She blinks at me, gray hair covering half of her brown eyes, and purses her lips. “Only close friends and immediate family may go in. She is in ICU and already has one visitor.”
“I’m her boyfriend. Stewart Brand. My assistant should have called, you spoke with her earlier.”
“Her boyfriend is already in there. So unless we have a love triangle going on, I need to speak with him first. He’s the one who brought her in, he’s the one who has her identification.”
I grind my teeth at the title, never regretting a single decision more in my entire life then when I hear her reedy voice give ownership of her to another man. “I don’t need to explain the dichotomy of our relationship with you. Call Security if you wish, but I will be the one paying for her care and I—despite what you have been told—am her boyfriend. Fiancé once she pulls through.”
“If she pulls through.” The woman’s words are firm but gentle, the statement reminding me that Madison’s health is more important than the cockfight I am creating in my mind.
“I’ll find her room myself. Here is my card should you feel the need to get authorities involved.” I flip a business card out between my fingers and set it on her desk. Then I move forward, glancing in and out of rooms, hearing loud discussion behind me. I pass a room with a man, standing alongside a bed, and then stop, stepping backward, glancing at the chart hanging on the door.
Madison Decater. Room F. This is it.
I step inside quietly, pulling the door closed, the voices instantly muffled, and move forward, my eyes only on her, the man at her side stepping back, his figure muted in my peripheral vision, my horror growing as I look at the frail figure who is my heart.
She lies in a hospital bed, her face covered with a breathing mask, tubes and cords running from portable stands to her body, face, and hands. The mechanical breathing of the machine is like a beast, huffing hot breath out that sounds nothing like her sweet sighs of sleep.
“My baby,” I whisper. “Oh my God, my sweet sweet girl.” Tears spill. Tears I didn’t even know my body could still create. I haven’t cried since Jennifer, not even at Mother’s funeral. But this, seeing her before me, struggling to breath, artificially hanging onto life... it is as if I am seeing my life dissolve, right before my eyes, and have no way of rescuing it. Her life, her fire... it is gone. It is gone and I am faced with the sudden reality that it may never come back. I am faced with my mistakes, etched in stone, unable to be wiped clean and rewritten. I sink to my knees beside her bed and hold her hand, her limp, cold hand. I pull it to my cheek, a tear leaking down my cheek, my breath gasping as I press soft kisses onto her palm.
I know that I love her. I know that she is the light in my life and keeps my world from being too dark, too consumed with work. But I haven’t known, haven’t realized until now how my love for her works. How it is more than affection. How it is the only part of me that has life. She is the only feeling that exists in my body, the only feeling that isn’t tied to greed or competition or ego. She is my light, and I haven’t realized it until now, when it is so close to being extinguished.