You wake up in a hospital. Everything around you is white, just like the movies taught you they’d be. The nurses are pretty and they wear short, white dresses that clench tightly around their chests. You look up to find a ceiling fan spinning ever so slowly. Almost as if it’s been switched on just for the sake of it. You don’t feel hot though.
You try to step out of bed, only you can’t. Because you can’t seem to move your legs. You can’t even feel your legs.
What the hell happened?
The nearest nurse hears you groan and runs over to you, leaning over to see if your eyes are open. She scrambles away, almost in shock as she sees you glaring back at her. “He’s awake!” she screams. And suddenly the whole white room is dotted with the colours of the nurses’ faces.
As if you’re a rare item that needs to be studied, you hear them murmuring around you, clipboards and writing equipment in hand. You manage to croak out a “Where am I?” before one of the nurses takes charge of the crowd and everyone disperses. She seems older than the rest, mid-thirties at least. She has a neat little cap on that makes you think she’s probably the supreme commander of the nurse army.
Her voice is calm. “How are you feeling today?” she asks.
You groan again, too fazed from forming your last three words to say anything further. She nods. She seems understanding. “It’s going to be alright. You’ve been under for quite a while now. We were all pretty worried about you.”
She can tell from your confused expression that you have no idea what’s going on. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
You close your eyes and in a flash it all comes back to you. You can still hear your wife’s voice screeching in synchrony with the brakes, the blaring horn of the truck and the deafening noise of the rear windshield shattering.
“Stop, goddammit. You’re running a red light! What the hell are you thinking? Stop!”
She grabbed the wheel from your firm hands and yanked it just enough to miss the front of the vehicle advancing across you. But the truck doesn’t stop.
“Why isn’t he stopping?” she cries.
You hit the brakes a little too late… or was it too early? The car spun out of control. You kept pushing down at your feet while frantically turning the wheel, hoping something would work.
You stay quiet for a while. The nurse notices your expression morph from confusion to grief. “It’s going to be alright,” she reassures you with a smile.
“Wife?” you manage.
“Let’s get you out of bed first,” she says. You maintain your composure. “Can you sit up for me?”
Thankfully, it seems you can still move your arms and torso pretty fine. You sit up to look down at the quilt covering the lower half of your body. You hear the nurse’s words resounding in your head. The image of two white balls of light accompanies her words. It’s going to be alright. You pull off the sheets to find everything looking pretty normal. Your legs are, to your surprise, still intact.
After nurse explains what’s wrong with your legs, and that you’ll be able to walk in no time, she brings over a wheelchair. Two nurses appear out of nowhere to help you get into it. They wheel you over to the window where the supreme commander pulls up a chair and sits next to you.
“Wife?” you ask again.
“She’s fine,” the nurse responds, “she’s been coming in to see you every day since the accident. We’ve paged her about your awakening, but she usually comes in around now anyway.”
“She’s been working two jobs to pay for your medical bills these last couple of years. The company stopped sending in the money once they realized you weren’t waking up any time soon.”
Two years? Has it really been that long? What sort of mess have you gotten yourself into? You begin to hyperventilate. The nurse says the words that calm you down. You repeat them in your head, picturing the two white balls. It’s going to be alright.
You hear footsteps behind you. A familiar touch on your shoulders. The smell of raspberries as a curtain of hair surrounds your periphery and you feel her soft, warm lips kiss the back of your head.
“Finally up, are we sleepyhead?” your wife says. She begins to turn your wheelchair around. You wonder if she still looks the same. Bracing yourself, you find yourself in full view of a woman, quite very much like your wife. A little older, yes. The circles under her eyes darker than you remember. She smiles.
“Oh, I’ve missed you sweetheart,” she says in her cute little voice, holding your face in her hands. She kisses your forehead, pulling back only to gaze into your eyes. You stare back. Her eyes are still the same – those never age. You see them shine, overflowing with glee. She’s genuinely happy that you’re back. The only thing your eyes are displaying is guilt.
How could I have done this to her?
“So how long until I can finally take him home, nurse?”
The commander laughs. It had been a long and hard battle, but they’d finally won it. You were awake, after all. “In a few days,” she replies. “We need to run a few tests and work on his motor skills. He isn’t talking much either.”
Your wife sighs. “I understand,” she says. “I’ve waited this long. I can wait a little longer.”
The commander leaves you alone with your wife.
“I can’t believe you took care of me all these years,” you say, forcing the words along your throat.
“Of course I did, stupid. ‘In sickness and in health, until death do us part’, remember?”
After some more light conversation, where she does most of the talking, your wife decides to leave. “I’ll come visit again this evening,” she says, pinching your cheek and ruffling your hair like she used to. As she leaves, she blows a flying kiss in your direction.
“I love you,” she says, wearing a sly grin on her face.
You’ve never seen that smile before. It disturbs you a little.
You don’t realize how tense you are until she leaves. Your shoulders fall and you let out a heavy sigh. She looked so happy. She still looked so beautiful. She didn’t give up on you even when the money stopped coming. Why hadn’t you noticed these things before? What possessed you to cheat on her with your co-worker from the office? And how in the world did you let that crazy bitch convince you to set up that whole scene with the truck to kill your wife? And oh, how terribly wrong it had gone.
You look around for the commander, but she’s nowhere in sight. You groan out to one of the nurses nearby.
“Phone call,” you say.
She takes you to a phone and asks you who you’d like to dial. With some difficulty, you recite the co-worker’s name and phone number. You’d never saved her number on your phone, so you had it by heart. The nurse hands you the receiver.
“Hello?” says a voice on the other end.
It was a man. You struggle, but somehow manage to ask if he could hand her the phone.
“She doesn’t live here anymore. May I know who’s speaking?”
“Old friend,” you croak.
“Oh. Jeez. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your friend seems to have passed away.”
You pause. You process. “What?”
“I’m a bit sketchy about the details. I didn’t know her personally, you see? I just bought this house at an auction. They say she died in an accident. Something about being hit by a truck? I’m not really sure. I heard the driver was craz–”
The phone slips from your hands and clatters to the ground. Two nurses are at your side instantly. You begin hyperventilating again.
“It’s going to be alright,” they chant.
The hair on your neck stands on end, eyes – wide open.
“It’s going to be alright,” they recite.
You try to get up out of your chair, but they hold you down.
“It’s going to be alright,” they sing.
The area surrounding the two white balls clears and you see it’s just the headlights of an oncoming truck. The nurses’ chorus transforms into the sound of a blaring horn. And in the driver’s seat, you see your wife blowing you a kiss with a sly grin on her face as the truck crashes into you.
“I love you.”