To find links to all parts of this story, please visit the Small Cuts Page. Here is Oliver:
“We killed him, Oliver. And we nearly killed Gen too.” Those were the last words Elaine spoke to me that night. I had tried to soothe, to assuage the guilt, but she was having none of it. She turned her back to me, pulled the covers up tight and when I tried to lie beside her and take her in my arms, she stiffened and shifted away. Panic began to rise like water in a pot about to boil over. I was losing everything. I couldn’t lose Elaine, too. Willing myself to calm down, I determined to give her some space and try again tomorrow. Reluctantly, I kissed the back of her head and left.
I drove aimlessly, not wanting to go home to my empty house. My mom had offered to come and stay with me, but between spending so much time at the hospital and the rest of it with Elaine, I thought it would be pointless. Besides, Gen’s family was enough to deal with without having my mom hovering, too. Nevertheless, tonight the last thing I wanted was to be alone. I had imagined spending the night with Elaine —the first night we’d have together without fear of discovery. I had needed that comfort tonight. Needed the solace of her arms and the promise unspoken that we could be together after everything had been resolved. And so much was left to be resolved. So many decisions to make and ultimately only me to make them.
Without realizing, I found myself following the route to the hospital. As much as I dreaded the visits to Genevieve’s side, I knew it was the right thing to do. The doctors encouraged us to talk to her in the hopes that maybe something would register. So far it hadn’t worked. The prognosis was grim. The life support machines were the only reason she was still alive. If you could call it that… Though the rest of her injuries had been successfully dealt with, her brain had been without oxygen too long, her heart only restarted when the paramedics arrived. The damage had been severe, the levels of brain activity were negligible. The doctors couched this diagnosis with the caveat that it was still early and the situation could change.
I pulled into the Jefferson Hospital visitor’s garage and parked. Then taking a moment to brace myself, I locked the car and began the long walk to the ICU. Gen’s mother and sister were a constant presence —her father and brother left at home to mind the nieces and nephews. One or the other of them slept curled up in the uncomfortable hospital version of a recliner every night. They were both by her bedside when I entered the room. I nodded my hello. Without saying it, their looks told me they thought I should be the one keeping vigil.
Gen’s injuries had spared her face, so that as she lay in the intensive care unit, she looked just like she was sleeping. With her golden hair and delicate features, I imagined her as a fairytale princess under the spell of a wicked witch. Except I was no Prince Charming to kiss her awake. I stepped to the side opposite my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. “Anything to report?” I asked.
Gen’s sister, Allison shook her head. “No, nothing.” Gen’s mother cleared her throat. “We thought you’d have been here earlier….” she said with a frown.
“Yeah. It was James’ funeral today. I needed some time…”
Her expression softened. “Oh. I’m sorry, Oliver. I forgot. How is Elaine holding up?”
“She’s resting. Her family went home today. I think she’s overwhelmed.”
“She’s going to need your help, Ollie. You and Gen, when she gets better.”
I smiled what I hoped was a sincere smile. Denial. I wasn’t buying into it. Gen was gone and with her, well… Oh, if they only knew. If they had any idea of the secret I kept from them. The secret I could barely admit to myself. Which is why I couldn’t stand the thought of losing Elaine. She was all I had left. She was my only chance at happiness. My only chance at redemption. My only chance to make things right. If I lost her now, it would make all of this horrible ordeal unlivable. I had lost my best friend, I was surely going to lose Gen, and as the doctors informed me shortly after they had stabilized her, she had lost the twelve week old fetus she had been carrying. The child I so desperately wanted was lost to me, too.