She hated the sterile smells of the hospital; they permeated her very being and reminded her that she would never be totally clean. For the past twenty years she had given her all to finally being the woman she was meant to be: one who didn’t run from problems but instead embraced the potential. But sometimes, the old itch would start, and she desperately wished that things were as simple as they once were. Luckily, as time had gone on, as she became more invested in her life, the itch had faded until it rarely surfaced. But today, in this place, she felt it claw its way back to the surface. She didn’t like hospitals. They seemed to punctuate her loss and poke at the memories of a different time in a different place with a man she could never be with again. A man who would never know the gift he had given her.
Shaking off the tension, she stopped in front of room 108 and tentatively knocked on the door. It wasn’t long before she was looking into a face she hadn’t seen in nearly three years. She suddenly felt sad that she hadn’t been better at keeping in touch. He’d needed her, needed all of them, in fact, and they hadn’t been there for him.
“Kate!” The smile, shadowed now, was the same but the boy she’d once known was definitely gone. Walt Lloyd was a man. “Oh, Kate! I’m so glad you came.”
“Me, too, Walt,” she said as he stepped out into the hall with her. “I came as soon as Claire told me what happened.”
“How is Claire?” His concern warmed Kate’s heart. Not many people realized the toll the past had taken upon Claire, how she had never been the same since her return from the island. “Is she doing okay?”
“The agoraphobia has worsened,” Kate replied. “I can barely get her in the backyard anymore, but I think she’s going to try to go to the celebration we’re planning for Aaron. She’ll do anything for her boy.”
“I hope she’s able to make it.” Walt nodded as his smile disappeared, and he glanced toward the room.
“What’s going on Walt? All Claire said was that Jennie was in an accident. What happened?”
Walt’s face crumpled and tears began running down his cheeks. Grabbing his arm, Kate pulled him toward a nearby bench.
“It’s my fault, Kate!”
“What are you talking about?”
“We got into a fight, a stupid fight.” He absently twisted the wedding band as he stared toward the room where his wife lay. “She left, and then…then she had an accident with the car.”
Kate’s brow puckered as she concentrated on his words. She sensed that there was something he wasn’t saying. “There’s more isn’t there?”
He reluctantly nodded. “After she left, I turned on the tv; I just needed noise to block out the thoughts in my head. There was some nature show on, and they were spotlighting moose. I remember the narrator mentioning how big they were, how dangerous they could be.”
“What are you talking about, Walt?”
“Jennie hit a moose with her car. A moose!”
“What? I didn’t think there were any moose in San Francisco.”
“There’s not,” he said as he turned his eyes on her. “I did it. I thought about how dangerous they were, and then it happened.”
“That’s ridiculous, Walt! You didn’t do this! It was a freak accident. Maybe it had wandered from the mountains.”
“No, I did it. It’s happened before Kate,” he replied in horror at the admission. “When I was a kid, sometimes I would imagine things, and then they happened. But, this? I never wanted this, Kate! Jennie is my whole life!”
“I know, Wa…” Kate was interrupted as an alarm sounded in Jennie’s room. Within moments, doctors and nurses were rushing towards the room.
Kate held tight to keep Walt from running into the hospital room. They waited for nearly an hour before the doctor came to join them in the hall.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Lloyd,” he said, “we did everything we could. Unfortunately, your wife’s injuries were too extensive.”
“No!” Walt crumpled and Kate put her arms around him and sobbed with him.