I want to run, to knock over any hurdle that gets in my way, and find my daughter. I have to see for myself that she’s still alive.
Law releases me, and without looking back, I follow the doctor down the hall. He opens a door with his badge and gestures me through.
The sterile, antiseptic smell assaults me as I enter the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. A nurses’ station is in the center and patient rooms fill the perimeter. The doctor leads me to bed six and slides open the glass door to let me inside.
“Take your time. We allow family twenty-four hours, unless her status changes. If you need anything, push the red call button or let one of the nurses know.”
He steps out and closes the door behind him. In a panic, I spin around and call out. “Hey, doctor?”
He pauses and his brows lift as if to say, go ahead.
“Do you… is it possible to find out about the others who were in the car with her? They were friends. I was told one was DOA.”
I don’t want the answer, but I need it. I feel like I can’t go another second without knowing.
“I’m sorry.” He clasps my shoulder. Letting his arm drop, he delivers the news that feels like a blow to the gut. “The mother was DOA, and the other young lady is still in surgery.”
I clamp a hand over my mouth and suck in air through my nose. “Thank you,” I choke out.
“I am truly sorry for your loss.” He dips his chin and leaves me alone with Evelyn.
Upon turning around, the first thing I notice is all the wires. Electrodes and tubes extend from everywhere.
“Oh, Evelyn,” I whimper and shuffle toward the hospital bed. A tremble overtakes my hand as I brush a lock of hair from her forehead. “I am so, so sorry, baby.”
I want to touch her, but there aren’t many spots that seem uninjured. My free hand finds hers while I continue to stroke her hair. The same hair I admired just three days ago is now a tangled, blood-matted mess.
An agonized sound comes from my throat, and I know I can’t do this anymore. Live this lie. I’m not the only person who needs to be in here right now. With that thought in mind, I bend and press my lips against a clean, bare patch of skin just below her left eye.
“I’ll be right back. Don’t do anything while I’m gone.” Terror grips me like quicksand, refusing to let me go from its dark grasp, even for only a few minutes. “There’s somebody I want you to meet.” I squeeze her hand once more, then force myself to uncurl my fingers.
My shoes squeak against the linoleum as they carry me backward to the door. Turn around. Go get Law. Come right back. She’ll be okay. She’s going to hang on for more than a few minutes. She’s strong; stronger than I ever was and ever will be. Just go. Get Law and come right back.
I turn and flee.
I burst through the door to the private waiting area. The second my eyes hit Law’s, he’s out of his chair and crossing the room.
His face morphs into worry and pain. “Is she okay?”
Tears burn before spilling hot onto my cheeks. A thorny vine formed from years of secrets and guilt snakes around my stomach, squeezing, pricking, inflicting the pain I so deserve to feel.
I soak him in, taking my last look of the man I’d loved my entire life. The man I fell deeper in love with over the past three days, and open my mouth to deliver the news that will ultimately break us beyond repair.
There’s no going back.
“She, she-she-she-she’s…” I suck in air through my nose, “She’s okay. It’s not her. I need you to come with me.”
He cups my cheek, and oh, how do I want to lie into his touch. The slight movement of his thumb swiping my tears away feels like he struck a match against the sensitive skin beneath my eye.
His concerned gaze moves from me to the door separating us from her. “If you need me, of course, I will.”
I step out of his comfort. Our point of contact falls in slow motion between us. “It’s not for me. It’s just that, if something were to happen, I couldn’t go on–?
He attempts to shut down the train of thought from earlier by cutting me off. “Nothing’s going to happen to her.” Trying to close the growing gap between us, his feet shuffle forward, but it’s too late. It’s as if the earth cracked in a powerful earthquake. The chasm between us spreads wider and wider, and the tectonic plates shift. Mine drags me out to sea. An island of betrayal brought out by my stupidity.
“Listen to me.” I blow out a forceful exhale. “If something did. If. I couldn’t live with myself knowing I let you sit out here, when you should have been in there with her. Family sticks together.”
“Okay, Cam, I’m listening. I said I’d go in there for you. We’ve always been like family.”