Matt stopped in the doorway to the hospital room. He saw Lexie’s long artist fingers, stretched out on the yellow coverlet, reaching beyond the thick white gauze that wrapped her wrist to pull nervously at a thread. She looked up startled and saw him, her face as white as the bandage. Her eyes held his with a silent screaming plea.
He sat down in the chair by the bed and pulled her hand into his. He leaned his head over and rested the side of his face against the cold skin on the back of her hand. The room was quiet. After a few moments he looked up to see tears washing down her face.
“I’m so sorry for putting you through all of this, Matt. You never deserved any of it.”
He shook his head, “Don’t worry about me. I want you to be sorry for putting yourself through this – you don’t deserve this, Lex.”
She shrugged and brushed the tears away with the back of her other hand, her slender arm awkward with the weight of the bandage. The hospital gown’s short sleeve rode up and revealed all the scars that marched in a relentless path up her arm – each cut a tiny rehearsal for the final act. She looked at him and again her eyes held that plea to understand, “You stuck with me through all the crap I pulled on you. No matter what I did, you were still there. I thought that meant something – I went over the edge when I found out it didn’t.”
He pulled Lexie’s hand up to his face and rubbed it slowly along his cheek, “It did mean something, Lex – every minute of it meant something.” He paused to catch her eye, “I love you. I’ve loved you from the start.” He reached across the bed with his free hand to pull the tiny gold cross she always wore around her neck free from the top of the hospital gown. He dangled it on his finger and said, “Since that first day, remember when I asked you if you were a good little Christian girl, or did you like to come out and play.” He smiled at her and saw the merest shadow of one of her grins. “You were the first girl who saw right through all my crap – what did you always call it? Oh ya, I remember – my crazy stud-boy routine.”
He tucked the cross back inside her gown and held her face in the palm of his hand. “You and me, Lex – it was always exclusive – no matter what you thought. It all meant something.” Matt felt the tears running unchecked down her face and across his hand. “Our timing is wrong – that’s all it is. It all meant something – never think it didn’t.”
Matt looked over his shoulder to see the medevac guys in the hall with the stretcher. Lexie clung to his hand and said, “I’ll never forget how you came back for me.”
He looked at her in surprise, remembering the sprint he had done up the four flights of stairs to her apartment, his heart threatening to burst out of his chest with the fear of what he knew had happened. “You remember that?”
She nodded and said, “I felt you holding me; I heard you calling me back from the very edge, Matt – asking me not to go. I’ll never forget that.”
He stood in the doorway of the hospital room and watched as the stretcher disappeared around the corner. He leaned against the door frame for support, dropping his face down into his hand. A quiet chocking sob broke through his fingers and echoed down the walls of the empty hallway.
(the above photo was taken on the grounds of the California State University in Chico)