I held on to the picture Emma had taken of Elizabeth and me with the white feathers many months before. I’d looked at it every day since I left. “Nothing.”
“Let me see,” she said, sitting beside me. I passed her the picture and heard a slight gasp fall from her lips. “That’s her.”
“Kevin!” she shouted, calling Dad into the room. “Kevin! Come here!”
He hurried into the room. “Yeah?”
She passed the picture to Dad, and he narrowed his eyes as Mom began to explain. “The day of the accident, that’s the girl. I was falling apart in the waiting room while Jamie and Charlie both went into surgery. I was sobbing uncontrollably, and this woman walked up to me and held me. She stayed with me the whole time, keeping me from falling apart, telling me it would be okay.”
“That’s her?” I asked, pointing to the picture. “Are you sure?”
She nodded. “I know without a doubt in my mind. That’s her. When Jamie and Charlie came out of surgery, I didn’t know what to do, who to check on first…so she sat with Jamie while I sat beside Charlie.” She looked at me with confusion in her stare. “Why do you have a picture with her?”
I took the picture back from Dad and stared at a smiling Elizabeth, trying to get a grip on what was happening. She stayed by Jamie’s side. “I don’t know.”
“No,” I whispered, standing in the waiting room as a doctor stood in front of me.
“I’m so sorry. He didn’t make it out of surgery. We did everything we could to stop the bleeding, but we were unable to…” His lips kept moving, but I couldn’t hear him anymore. My world had just been stolen from me, and my legs gave out as I lowered myself to sit in the closest chair.
“No,” I murmured again, covering my face with the palms of my hands.
How could he be gone so fast? How could he leave me here alone?
Before the surgery, I held his hand. I told him I loved him. I kissed him one last time.
How could you be gone?
The doctor walked away after telling me how sorry he was, but I didn’t care. Kathy and Lincoln showed up a few moments later, and their hearts shattered right along with mine. We stayed at the hospital for the longest time, until Lincoln said we had to leave, we had to start planning.
“I’ll meet you back at your house,” I said. “God. Emma’s at Faye’s house. Do you think you can pick her up?”
“Where are you going?” Kathy asked me.
“I’m just going to stay here for a little longer.”
She frowned. “Honey.”
“No, really, I’m fine. I’ll be over soon. Can you just…can you wait to tell her?”
Kathy and Lincoln agreed.
I stayed for hours in that waiting room, unsure what I was waiting for. It seemed that everyone in the waiting room was doing exactly that: waiting for an answer, waiting for a prayer, waiting for hope.
In the corner was an older woman crying her eyes out, completely alone, and I couldn’t help but feel drawn to her. Her body was bruised, battered, as if she had just walked away from an ungodly event. Yet the pain in her stormy blue eyes was what haunted me the most. I shouldn’t have stepped into her world of waiting, but I did. I held her, and she didn’t push me away. I held her, and we fell apart together.
After some time, a nurse informed the woman that her grandson and her daughter-in-law were both out of surgery, but in critical condition. “You can see them. You can sit in their rooms, but they won’t be responsive. Just so you know. But you can hold their hands.”
“How do I…” her voice shook and tears fell. “How do I choose who to see first? How do I…?”
“I’ll sit with one of them until you can,” I offered. “I’ll hold their hand.”
She sent me to sit with her daughter-in-law. When I entered the room, a chill raced through me. The poor woman was drained of all of her color. She was almost a living ghost. I pulled up a chair beside her and took her hand into mine.
“Hi,” I whispered. “This is weird and I’m not even sure what to say. But, well, I’m Elizabeth. I met your mother-in-law and she’s super worried about you. So I need you to fight. She said your husband is on his way back from a trip, worried sick. So I need you to just keep fighting. I know it has to be hard, but keep going.” Tears fell from my eyes as I stared at the stranger who seemed so familiar to my heart. I thought about how broken I would’ve been if I didn’t get to at least hold Steven’s hand before he passed away. “Your husband is going to need you to be strong.” I leaned close to her ear and whispered, hoping my words would find her soul. “We have to make sure your husband’s okay. We have to make sure he gets to hold you. We have to make sure he can say he loves you. You can’t let go yet. Keep. Fighting.”
I felt her fingers squeeze against mine, and my stare moved to our hands.
“Ma’am?” a voice said. I turned to the door to see a nurse staring my way. “Are you family?”
“No. I just…”
“I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
I nodded once.
And I let go of her hand.
“He keeps leaving these Post-It notes.” I sighed, sitting on the seesaw with Faye as Emma played on the monkey bars and went down the slide. “Every now and then I find a Post-It on my window, and I just don’t know what to think about the messages. He says he still loves me and wants me, but then…nothing. I don’t know what to think.”