by Chloe Wood
When he heard the news, he came running, pausing only long enough to lock his front door. A mug of freshly brewed tea still sat on the table, a biscuit resting beside it, both left untouched in his rush to leave.
He didn’t own a car. Living where he did, in a town where everything you need is within walking distance, he hadn’t even considered buying one. A decision he regretted when he had to spend ten minutes trying to hail a cab, his fingers growing numb with the midwinter chill. He waited anxiously, unable to keep still, only partially because of the cold. The old woman who lived next door kept peeking past her curtains to give him curious glances, not understanding the impatience of the youth these days.
Eventually, a taxi pulled to the curb alongside him, taking pity on the shivering man. The driver nodded when the man gave him the name of his destination. Now that he was actually making progress, he should have been able to relax a little but he sat on the edge of his seat, ignorant to the confused expression that appeared on the driver’s face whenever his eyes flickered to his rear-view mirror. The man kept wringing his hands together, hardly noticing the discomfort.
The man threw money at the taxi driver when the car pulled to a stop, not waiting for his change before he charged towards the intimidating building. Inside there were people everywhere. Miserable looking people sat in uncomfortable looking chairs positioned against the walls, looking bored beyond belief. A woman with her arm in a sling glared at the man as he accidently knocked into her on his way to the front desk.
Both the receptionists sitting behind the desk were speaking into phones so he waited for them to finish, his hands smacking an anxious tempo on the wooden desktop separating him from the women.
After what felt like hours but was merely minutes, one of the receptionists replaced the phone’s receiver and turned her wary gaze to him. He asked her a question but it came out as more of a demand. Unfazed by his abruptness, the receptionist typed something into her computer before answering him.
He followed the direction she pointed, rushing down the white corridor. As he went, he counted off the room numbers, the tension building within him as he gradually got closer. When he reached the right number, he paused. He wanted to go inside but he was scared of what he would find inside. Taking a deep breath, he pushed his way inside the room.
There she was, lying in the plainly patterned bed, a bandage wrapped around her head, a faint tint of red hinted at the wound beneath. Bruises were beginning to develop, marring her skin. One of her eyes looked puffy and swollen. Initially he assumed the blue brace that circled her neck prevented her from turning to see him when he entered but he quickly realised that she was unconscious.
Running his hands repeatedly through his hair, he paced at the end of her bed in frustration. He couldn’t wake her but he needed to know if she was alright. He moved to the chair beside the bed, his legs jiggling impatiently. Unable to resist, he reached for her hand where it lay on top of the covers. Compared to the rest of her, it looked reasonably unharmed so he dared to give it a little squeeze. He hoped it was enough to reach her, wherever it was that her mind resided when it wasn’t awake.
He sat there for hours, scrutinising her face for the slightest indication that she’s about to wake. Each time she so much as twitched a finger, his heart raced with anticipation only to be disappointed. The nurses attempted to get him to take a break, to get some coffee or a snack from the machine. He refused to move from that chair and the nurses gave up trying to get him to move.
Tiredness was tugging at his eyes by the time that her eyes flickered, causing him to almost miss it. Slowly, her eyes began to open, blinking lazily, opening a little wider each time. She attempted to sit up, gingerly pressing a hand to her bandaged forehead. With a frown, she scanned the plain room before her eyes finally came to rest on him.
His hair was ruffled as if he had just woken up and his clothes were dishevelled. A large smile stretched across his face. She looked down at her hand to find he was holding it.
“Who are you?” she asked in a groggy voice. His smile vanished.