**Previously- I rushed to that hospital, and there I met her husband for the second time.
He stood there looking at me, then looked at her. Bandages, tubes, wires, and a simple gown were covering most of her body. He looked like a fish out of water, but had the presence of mind to explain to me what happened.
A car wreck. A bad one. He’d been driving and had one or two too much to drink. The bastard was fine. He wasn’t touched except for a couple scratches. Katie’s life hung in the balance, and she was in a coma.**
Her skull was cracked, it was unknown if there was damage to her brain. Both arms and a leg were broken, her ribs on one side broken so bad they punctured a lung, and her hip was crushed.
I wanted to kill her husband for what he did. He looked sorry though, so I didn’t. He was even kind enough to give me a few minutes alone with her.
There began a new phase of my life. I visited her Katie daily. When Martin started being there less, I came around more.
Two months went by, and he was barely coming around once a week. I was there several hours a day.
A year later, Martin’s lawyer showed up with him and the doctors. He was divorcing her so he could move on. They all suggested I give up on her too. But I couldn’t. In that moment my resolve strengthened and my will became as iron.
I was there as often as the hospital would let me. The nurses thought it was cute and let me stay longer than visiting hours allowed. Maybe it had something to do with the fact I went down and got my certified nurse’s aide license and began helping them with Katie’s cares. I’d paint her finger nails and toe nails in her favorite colors every week. I brushed her hair twice a day, and even made sure there were fresh flowers in her room all the time.
When they asked me why I did this, my only answer was, “Because I love her.”
They’d shake their heads and smile, then off they’d go to the nurse’s desk and leave me to my Katie.
Then, it happened. For seven years, five months, and three days, she was as silent and as unmoving as the dead. Until one day her eyes opened.
Her scars were such that they disfigured her face. But I didn’t see them. Nor did I see the other scars on her limbs, or the limp she now walked with. All I could see was my Katie’s beautiful eyes looking back at me.
She took it really hard when she learned that her husband was responsible for what happened to her, and harder still to find out he’d divorced her so soon after the accident. I know because she cried a lot and told me to get out.
Devastated, I left and took a walk outside. When I came back later to get my things and leave, Katie called my name.
“Yeah,” I answered.
“I heard about what you did.”
“What did I do?”
“You stuck around and stayed with me. You took care of me. Even when my own family stopped coming, you still came every day.”
I only nodded as I slipped my arms into my jacket.
“Why did you do that?”
“Because I love you. I always have.”
“I know. But…”
“But what? Are you going to tell me we’re all wrong for each other? Or that you’re too old? Katie, age is nothing but a number, and we’re both at an age now where that number means a lot less than it did when we were kids.”
“I know that.”
“Would you mind staying? Please?”
There was something in her voice, and even more in her eyes, which made it impossible to leave. So I stayed.
Katie let me help her through the rest of her stay in the hospital and her following rehabilitation too. When she was released from care, I took her home to a place I’d rented in town just for her. My stuff was there too, because this was where I stayed when I couldn’t be at the hospital.
That first night we were home, Katie called me to her room.
“Remember back on your sixteenth birthday, and just before I got married, when I asked you to pretend we’re in love, because I was involved with someone else?”
“I remember. Those were the two best nights of my life.”
“There’s no need to pretend anymore.”
“What do you mean?”
“I love you, Billy. There isn’t anyone else. It’s only you now.”
“You’ve always known how I felt about you.”
“Would you stay with in here with me tonight?”
So that night was the first night I stayed in her room with her, and the last either of us slept alone. Two months after Katie left the hospital, we made love again for what felt like the first time, but it wasn’t the last.
Together, Katie and I enjoyed many happy years. Our time together was more precious to me than anything else could ever be. We were not only happy, but content.
As the years wore on and we got older, time eventually crept up on us to claim its due. One of those things of old age, and this one couldn’t be cured. It broke my heart to hear Katie’s diagnosis, but together we trooped on as best we could. We continued to do this until one day she could walk in our life together no more.
It was on her death bed Katie reached up and touched my cheek one last time.
“Why did you do all this for me?” she whispered, death’s rattle loud in her throat.
Wrapping my arms around her, I kissed her lips one final time, whispering back, “Because I love you.”
© 2016, Tim Hillebrant. All rights reserved.
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