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“I got a call, one of my patients. Poor girl’s had a breakdown, it seems.” He shook his head. “I haven’t seen her in months and now this. She’s so fragile; I always wondered when she’d break.”
My eyes widened and my stomach dropped. “Lila Palmer?”
He blinked at me. “Yes. How did you know?”
“He’s the f**ker who broke her,” Andrew said from behind me, sticking his hand out for Darren.
“Hey, Andrew, how are you doing?” Darren asked, trying to hide the momentary look of frustration toward me, regarding my actions that caused all of the f**kery that was going on. His eyes shifted to Andrew.
I exhaled and my shoulders rounded forward, crumpling in on myself. Every moment away from Lila made my bones ache and my muscles tense up. Yet, there I stood—rooted in place, helpless to do anything to change any of it. In addition, I was reeling from the information that Darren was both mine and Lila’s therapist.
Andrew’s lips were set in a thin line. “I’d be doing a lot better if Lila was at the office.”
Darren nodded in understanding. “I take it you know what happened.”
Andrew jerked his head in my direction. “Like I said, he’s responsible. You’ll need to ask him.”
I tried to meet Darren’s gaze, but I couldn’t. I was drowning in my shame.
“What is he talking about?” Darren turned to me. “Look at me, Nate. What the f**k is he saying?”
“I had to.” I managed to choke out the words.
“He left her this.” Andrew handed Darren the note, and I cringed.
Darren gasped as he read it. My eyes flickered over to him, and I could tell he was furious.
He looked back at me, anger and pain in his expression. “You just undid six years of therapy in four sentences. Four f**king sentences!”
He stormed off down the hall to her room, leaving me to drown in my growing self-hatred.
It was not what I wanted.
We stayed for a few hours, but Lila never woke up.
Darren and her other doctors came out, looking for her family. None of us were, but Caroline lied and said she was her sister. Darren knew better, but he didn’t correct her. They were sisters in spirit.
Self-induced psychological coma, they told Caroline. Lila had retreated into her own mind, unable to take the pain and harsh, new reality I’d created.
Days passed and Lila was still unresponsive, trapped in the recesses of her mind. For the second day in a row I found myself leaving the office at five and rushing over to the hospital.
Work was utter hell. I hated being away from her.
Nothing changed in the ten hours since I’d last been there. I walked into the room with quiet steps up to the bed. She looked so peaceful, like an angel. The constant beeping of the machines, along with the low rise and fall of her chest, put to rest the creeping fear that she was gone. Each breath and beat I clung to.
She was still there, alive, and she would return.
My hand reached out to move a stray strand of hair from her face, but I stopped myself. It was one thing to see her, to smell her, and to feel her presence, it was another thing entirely to touch her.
This was for the best, I reminded myself.
I turned and walked back out to the hall. Once there I leaned on the wall and stared at the room across the hall. A shiver ran down my spine and my body shuddered as memories flooded back to my mind.
I pushed them away and slid down the wall to sit on the floor. My mind turned over to the beeping of the machines that let me know my Lila was still with me. After a few minutes my heart began to beat in time with hers.
I sat there listening, thinking, feeling, until after midnight when a nurse came by and told me I couldn’t stay any longer.
When I returned the next night her door was closed, and through the small glass window I could see Darren and a few other doctors looking at the monitors and talking.
Taking my position again I slid down the wall, coming to rest on the cold, hard floor. I closed my eyes, my head tilted back and I listened to the steady beep of the machines.
I heard the door to her room swish open then click closed. I didn’t know if he saw me or not, but he knew I was there.
He sighed. “Why are you sitting out here? If you came this far, why don’t you go in and see her? She knows you’re here, after all.”
My head snapped up. “She’s awake?”
I watched Darren turn to look at me, a sad smile on his lips. “No, not yet.”
“Then how do you know she knows?”
“Her heart rate’s been steady all day. It picked up about fifteen minutes ago,” he said, then quirked his brow. “How long have you been sitting out here?”
I stared up at him in wide-eyed shock. “About fifteen minutes.”
“That’s what I thought.” Darren slid down to sit next to me. “What are you doing?”
“What do you mean?”
“Here. Why are you here? You broke her, yet you come by every day and sit outside her room.”
I sighed. “I don’t know. I just… I feel such a pull to be near her. I hate that I did this to her…but it’s better this way.”
“Better than what? You may be saving her from the possibility of being harmed by Marconi, but what do you call that in there? Three f**king days she’s been unresponsive.” He hitched his thumb toward her room. “In that room they’re talking about moving her to a facility I don’t want her to go to. She has no next of kin... Well, none that would come. She just has you and a small handful of friends. Friends who have lives. What do you have, Nathan?”
I sat there, staring at the room on the other side of the hallway.
He answered for me. “Nothing. You have nothing. You had her. A beautiful, broken woman who would have done anything for you. A woman who loves you, and you were selfish.”
“Selfish?” My voice rose in indignation, my head snapping to look at him.
“Selfish. You did this for your protection more than hers. The thought of losing her the same way you lost your wife crushes you, doesn’t it?”
“I… How do you know she loves me?”
“Way to deflect there, Nathan. Don’t worry, I won’t forget. And I know, because if she didn’t love you, she wouldn’t be in her current state. And if you didn’t love her, you wouldn’t be sitting out here in your expensive suit, on the floor, outside her door in a hospital.”