Terra quietly closed the door to Room 212 in the North Shore Medical Center. A clock throbbing in the hallway told her that it was three in the morning. She didn’t know what they gave him, but he was out.
Four inches from his heart. That would have been it.
She pressed ‘G’ on the elevator panel.
First date, and you almost got him killed.
She passed deserted hallways and dimly lit corridors.
The nurse had been kind; but her comments only made Terra feel informed, not forgiven. Terra reflected on her seven digit account balance as she made her way to the parking lot.
Not worth it.
But would she had ever even met Brian otherwise? She turned the ignition. The situation had more wrong with it than Baskin Robbins had ice cream flavors. Eight hours later she had five hours of sleep and nurse on the phone.
“Yes, I’m calling about my brother. Brian McEntyre. Is he out of surgery yet?”
“One moment,” said the nurse on the other end of the line. “Yes ma’am, his surgeon noted that there were no complications and that he’s expected to make a full recovery. Would you like for me to…”
Terra hung up as a voice crackled over the intercom.
“Attention all passengers we’d like to start pre-boarding for flight 2949 with non-stop service to Los Angeles….”
“Brian.” The name bounced around his cranium like a bouncy ball at a skate park.
The doctor stood over him with a magenta clipboard and an expression of a mother whose kid was swinging too high.
“Time to wake up.”
The subdued blue of the hospital room, the intermittent beep timed with his own pulse, and the shadow of a forgotten hat hung on a rack vignetted into focus.
“Hey man, you…you okay?” Trevor’s voice sounded shaky.
“Yeah, where’s Ter…?” He said, before being sharply interrupted by the pain in his shoulder. He gasped in agony before straightening himself.
“The bullet shattered your clavicle. We had to pin it back together.” The doctor motioned towards a small tray with several fragments of jacketed steel. She continued.
“You’re blessed. Four inches lower and you’d be dead.”
“Where’s Terra?” He asked again, careful not to move. The doctor answered.
“Your friend was fine. She was released last night. There were some blue uniforms that had a few questions for her, but it was fairly evident that what she did was done in self-defence.”
“She left you a letter.” Trevor handed him the folded note. “It was by your bed, I didn’t read it.”
I’m writing this out by the light of your EKG machine. This isn’t fair. I can’t stay, and I don’t even want to know if you’ll forgive me. I don’t deserve it. I lied. I’m not in business, I don’t have a friend named Susan, and I can’t stand Barbies. I’m a thief Brian. I was hired by a guy named Carl Munroe for a job in Venezuela. The whole thing went sideways. He turned on me. You should never have had to take a bullet for me. I’m sorry. They’re going to come back. You had a right to know you were in danger. I was stupid for thinking that I could just forget what I did. I wanted to. I like you. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I don’t blame you if you just want to delete my number and forget me. If by some miracle you decide to keep it, just change my name okay?
He set the letter down. Never had anyone treated him so selfishly. And now she wasn’t even around to say she was sorry in person?
You’re being too hard on her.
The doctor broke the silence of his introspection.
“Believe it or not, you can go home.”
Trevor helped Brian to his car, the hood still buckled from the run-in with the SUV. The next few days passed slowly from the futon in Trevor’s living room. He watched an unbelievable amount of Netflix, and the ceiling fan churn the air tirelessly. Trevor answered a soft knocking on the front door to let Lauren in for dinner. She brought Brian an uncut director’s edition of the Lord of the Rings.
“Thanks,” he said as a smile burst around his olive skin.
“Sure. You’re joining us for dinner?”
“Of course he is!” Trevor answered from the kitchen.
Brian made his way to the table and sat down. Trevor lowered the baked salmon onto the table. The smell of rosemary and garlic was soon joined by sauteed asparagus.
“There’s salad greens by the sink,” Trevor announced proudly.
“First date?” Brian smirked.
“Third,” Lauren admitted.
“And he’s cooked every time?”
Brian laughed. “Too bad Trev played all of cards.”
“I can cook more than three things!”
“Oh yeah? Not counting hamburger helper?”
“Hey Brian?” Lauren interrupted.
“I know this has been hard for you. Terra would never have wanted for you to get hurt. She’s been my best friend since we were little, and I can tell you she’s great. Really. Misguided, reckless, and selfish sometimes – yes. But deep down, she’s great. I hope that you could see that.”
Brian stopped. His demeanor dropped as the tone in the kitchen shifted abruptly. Trevor quietly put away the oven mitts he had used to pull the salmon from the oven, sat down, and did his best to disappear.
Lauren’s gaze remained unbroken. Her baby blue eyes seemed so gentle. Gentle enough to make him honest.
“I forgive her. I probably shouldn’t, and maybe it’s because she’s the most beautiful girl I’ve ever talked to, or maybe it’s because I’m on an obscene amount of pain killers, but really, I think I forgive her because I want to.”
Lauren nodded, and lifted her right hand up from beneath the table. Her cell phone was showing that she had been connected to a call for 10 minutes and 12 seconds.
A knock came at the door.
“I think you should get that,” she whispered.
Brian got up and made his way to the door, and cracked it open.
There with unwashed hair, 1946 Red Velvet lipstick, and carry-on bag slipping out of her fingers was Terra.
“Can I come in?”