Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Surprised (09/06/07)
TITLE: Last Chance
By Carolyn Baney
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The cruelty of his words burned her soul. Kate had successfully pushed the argument between her and her husband aside as she plodded through the evening. Dinner. Check. Soccer. Check. Homework. Check. Bedtime. Check. Inevitably, the silence came and with it the sting of his words.
“You and the girls don’t need me. I’m just your bankroll. You have everything methodically figured out. When I try to fit in, I never do it quite right…to your specifications. And there’s no spontaneity anymore, no hugs and kisses, no warmth. It’s all about schedules and plans.”
The red neon clock glared in the darkness. “2 am? Lord, when will he learn to be what I want…you want him to be? When will he count me as his blessing instead of his curse? Teach him, Lord!”
The phone’s ring sliced through the silence. Startled yet efficient, Kate grabbed it before it woke the girls.
“ It’s me. I’ve had an accident. I’m at Lancaster General.”
“Are you OK?”
“I’m fine. The car’s totaled. I have a broken leg and a bump on the head. They want to admit me for the night.”
“I’ll come right over.”
“No. Come in the morning after the kids are on the bus.”
It was 8:45am before she stood at the reception desk. A tediously mundane morning had passed by. Wake up the kids. Check. Feed the kids. Check. Get them on the bus. Check.
“Where might I find Robert Johnson?”
Without looking up, the receptionist typed on her keyboard and spouted, “6125. Take the elevator to the 6th floor and follow the signs.”
After following the signs, Kate found herself in front of yet another receptionist.
This one looked up but immediately avoided her gaze. She appeared to fidget uncomfortably and stuttered, “Um…I’m sorry. Um…I’ll get the nurse.” An eternity seemed to pass before a woman dressed in green scrubs walked over.
“Are you Mrs. Johnson?”
“I’m sorry to inform you, but your husband passed…died an hour ago.”
“What? But I just talked to him. He was fine. He is fine!”
“It was an emboli…a clot that broke off and went to his lungs. Sudden. We attempted to contact you, but your husband must have given us the wrong information. I’m sorry.”
Kate’s world instantly lost its color becoming gray and cold. Plans and schedules stopped existing. There was only one moment…this moment. The nurse’s words were garbled and distant.
“He’s not here anymore. We didn’t know when…I’ll have someone…chapel… bring the body to you.”
The chapel consisted of some candles, a few seats, and a simple wooden cross. Paralyzed and unable to feel her body, Kate wasn’t sure how she had made it here. Fear clutched her heart with its cold grip and wouldn’t let her go.
“Lord, please forgive me. I didn’t know this would be my last chance.”
A stout man pushed in a gurney that was covered with a sheet. Without hesitation, he pulled it back.
Forty-years old. Check. Blonde hair. Check. Strong chin. Check. “Wait. It’s not him,” she whispered.
Turning a shade of green, the man rechecked the tag. “Robert Johnson…Robert V. Johnson.”
“It’s not my husband!” Laughter sprung out of her with a sense of relief; the warmth of hope rushed back into each cell. Laughter? Hope? They weren’t on her agenda for the day.
Minutes later, Kate stood at the doorway of her husband’s hospital room holding her breath in anticipation. Peeking around the door, she enjoyed the moment’s snapshot of Bob consuming a stack of pancakes. He grinned from ear to ear with syrup dripping from his chin. “Thank you Lord…for my blessings!”
An hour later, the couple had bore more truths to each other than they had in their lifetime. They giggled and held hands like high school teenagers. A knock at the door drew their attention. A young woman carrying an infant and pulling a sandy-haired preschooler in tow hesitated at the threshold of the door.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought this was my husband’s room. The receptionist sent me here…Robert Johnson.”
“Well, that’s me, but I only have one wife. She’s it.” Bob pointed gleefully at his wife.
“Excuse me.” As quickly as she came, she disappeared down the corridor.
Bob glanced at Kate. Wide-eyed and mouth gaping open, tears lined her face.
“My joy is another woman’s grief; my second chance is another woman’s last chance.”
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