Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: In and Out (04/30/09)
TITLE: Trying Not to Heal
By Natalie Cole
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“I needed her.” I snapped up to snarl at her. She took half a step backward, palm sliding off the handle. I returned to my position, tears scalding my face in silent rivulets.
Her handle fidgeting resumed. “Maggie…”
“In or out.”
“The room. Either come in or get out, whichever, but do it fast.” The hospital door elicited a smaller metal sound, the mechanical parts on both door and frame meeting like two long-lost puzzle pieces. She’d left.
I rested a hand on my swollen belly and sighed. I wanted to sob relentlessly. My muscles trembled in unison as another knock sounded on the door; they ceased fairly quickly but the aching in my empty arms refused even to fade.
“Maggie? It’s me.” My sister-in-law, Elaine, nudged the door open, letting in a slow current of cool air from the hallway. “Are you awake?”
“I’m sorry, for your loss.”
“For Tara.” It helped to drive me insane, that everyone neglected her name. Like she was a lost towel at the pool. She’d been a living, breathing person like the rest of us, and deserved the dignity of a name.
“Yes, for Tara.” She paused. “And for Mark. I’m sorry he’s not here for you.”
I knew that some couples never recovered from the loss of a child, but I had no idea they fell apart so fast. Mark was in the waiting room, watching a football game with glossy eyes, or so I’d heard. The last I’d seen him, he’d gone white staring down at the pale blue body of our daughter. He’d followed the doctors out of the room, leaving me to worry in peace.
“This isn’t your fault,” Elaine whispered.
I wanted my eyelids to slide shut and stay that way; to devour this nightmare and replace it with a world where my husband still loved me and Tara could join us.
Elaine took a step closer to me, her elegant heels clicking against the linoleum.
“Go away.” She took another step in and I whirled on her like I had my own sister. I felt the burn of my own glare, flaming on my retinas and simmering the back of my skull. “Get out of here. I don’t want any visitors, any.”
The door practically slammed shut.
I managed to get in a quick nap before it opened again. The resurrection of my goose bumps woke me up. “In or out,” I demanded after a brief moment.
The door shut as if the person holding it open had simply let go. The person chose in.
I turned to see Mark, his eyes pink where the whites should be, and swollen with his flushed cheeks. “I don’t want to see you,” I said, dryly. “Didn’t Elaine tell you? I don’t want to see anyone.”
“She did. We talked for a while.”
“Leave then.” He shook his head, and I rephrased it several ways, shouting loud enough that a nurse should’ve come.
“I’m sorry. I’ve made things worse for you.” He climbed into bed with me, despite the hands that pushed him back.
“No, Mark, please.” His arms folded around me and his lips kissed my neck; I didn’t need to say out loud that I understood. His hold kept strong even when I stopped struggling. “Why did God take our baby?”
“Sometimes bad things just happen. It’s nobody’s fault.”
“But why?” He could have recited to me every word of inspiration we’d learned growing up in Christian society; words that sounded great on paper but were poison when served at the wrong moments. Some people took comfort in the thought of a divine plan, but I couldn’t.
God gave me a man who understood me. Mark filled the void in my arms, and in my fragile heart. He came in the room where others had fled. Whether things would get better despite this pain, or whether they would stay shattered, didn’t matter to me. I wanted to release my anguish in sobs that would shake my body, to give my dead offspring the grief that she deserved. With Mark holding me together, I finally could.
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