I waited and waited for my fiance, knowing with each passing minute and unanswered text that something was wrong. Punctuality was life for Caleb.
After half an hour I gave up and, because I am familiar with fate, drove to the hospital. I arrived just as the ambulance was bringing him in. Smashed up and covered in blood, but alive.
Alive was good.
More than eight hours passed before anyone was allowed to see him, and his parents went first, which was bullshit. They were just there for show.
After five minutes they came back out, his mother wailing dramatically into a wad of Kleenex and clutching his father.
I tried to keep the distaste off my face. It was almost midnight and I was beyond exhausted.
"For Chrissake, Susan, pull yourself together!" the big man hissed, sneaking a glance at his watch. We called him The General, though he was only military in his own mind.
"But his injuries are so bad!" Susan blew her nose loudly, looking around, hoping for more attention. She looked medicated to the gills, but that was nothing new. "What will I do if he dies?"
Anxiety twisted my insides at the words.
The General winced bodily, whether disgusted from the nasal discharge or the lamentations, I wasn't sure, but he gripped her arm tight enough to make her wince. He was all about using force to keep everyone in line. "Get control of yourself, right now."
I stood up, eyeing him with contempt.
He turned his attention to me, his expression mirroring mine. I don't know which of us hated the other more. "Room A2. They said keep it short." His lip raised in an almost comical snarl, his hammy fists clenched at his sides. "This is probably your fault somehow."
He couldn't lay his hands on me, the way he solved annoyances, and it incensed him to no end.
"Fuck yourself," I muttered loud enough for him to hear, brushing past them and through the doors with a pounding heart. It was a combination of hushed and rushed that I immediately recognized with an internal shudder.
The five weeks I'd spent here were always too fresh in my mind.
A1 was on my left and made me think of the steak sauce of the same name. I carefully didn't look at the guy moaning inside, though goosebumps rose on my scalp. Taking a deep breath, I slipped into the next room, instantly shaken by all the tubes and machines.
I made myself approach the bed and look at Caleb, at his unrecognizable face. I knew it was him only from the scar over his right eyebrow, and his familiar hand with the IV taped on the back. Dried blood was everywhere. Couldn't they have cleaned him up more?
"Fuck," I said softly, touching that hand so lightly he couldn't have felt it had he been awake. "Couldn't wait to ride that fucking bicycle, could you, baby." Our mocking pet name had no effect on his stillness.
Road rash covered the left side of his face and his nose, where the skin had been shredded away by a cement wall and pavement. Both arms and legs were in casts, his left in traction. They'd shaved his head and a shunt protruded above his right ear to prevent his brain swelling.
Horror rose in me and my first cowardly thought was to run away. My second was no way should his mother have been allowed to see him. Unless they thought he was maybe going to die.
"Fuck," I said again, helplessly. I was too stunned for tears. "I'm sorry, babe. This is pretty bad. I guess I shouldn't say that. You just rest, they'll fix you up. Just rest. I'll be here." I touched his hand again.
YOU ARE READING
When Mary Met HalleyGeneral Fiction
WATTYS WINNER When her fiancé ends up in a coma and his secret mistress, Halley, shows up, Mary feels like her world is falling apart. What she doesn't realize is she's actually falling in love...with Halley. ...