Kathy Cooper sat in her car in the parking lot of Hillcrest Nursing Center. She did not want to go in, but there was an opening for a Certified Nursing Assistant, and she needed the job. God sure had a funny way of being cruel. Why else would he send her back here? Of all the places she had worked over the years, this was the one she liked the least.
After checking her appearance in the rearview mirror, she strode across the parking lot, the gravel crunching beneath her sensible white tennis shoes. Was this what she had to look forward to everyday?
The lobby, the elevator, and the labyrinth of hallways were still as sterile-looking as she remembered and the musky scent of urine and disinfectant permeated the air.
Kathy approached the reception desk on the fourth floor; it was the floor on which she had avoided working in the past. But this time she was out of luck. God had sentenced her to a lifetime with the sickest residents—those who were bed-bound and oblivious to their surroundings.
A middle-aged woman with slightly graying hair looked up and smiled. “Ah, Miss Cooper,” she said. “Our new Nursing Assistant, correct?”
Kathy nodded. She just hoped the day would go by fast, so she could escape this prison of death and despair.
“Because of your previous experience,” the nurse said as she led Kathy down a long white corridor, “I've assigned you to the residents that are in need of additional care.”
They stopped in front of one of the plain white doors. “Let's start with Miss Doe,” she said. “She's about your age, I guess, mid-thirties. She’s been here for two months now and we don't even know her real name. Some terrible accident or something, but she's been catatonic ever since. You should know that she still has some residual burn injuries so she has bandages on her face.”
The nurse knocked gently on the door and went in. “Miss Doe? I want you to meet Kathy. She'll be taking care of you from now on.”
Miss Doe lay on her bed, staring up at the ceiling, clutching a small silver trinket box to her chest.
“What's with the box?” asked Kathy.
“We’re not sure. When she arrived, we tried to put it in the drawer for safety reasons, but she became so agitated that we decided it was just easier to let her keep it,” the nurse said. “Oh, you know how it is. Many of our residents have teddy bears or something that they're attached to. Like children really.”
Miss Doe jerked involuntarily and the box crashed to the floor.
Kathy and the nurse both hurried around to the other side of the bed as Miss Doe started to moan and grip the sheets.
“Don't worry, Miss Doe,” said the nurse patting her hand. “Kathy will get it for you.”
Kathy found the box lying upside down on the floor. She was glad to see that it wasn’t broken and as she picked it up noticed a folded postcard sticking out from under the bed. It looked like it had been torn into a bunch of tiny pieces and taped back together, but what caught her attention was the picture on the front. It was the exact same Hawaiian sunset picture that she had picked while vacationing there two years ago.
The postcard had been for her estranged best friend, a feeble attempt to try and reconnect. But she had never heard back from her.
She turned the card over and her breath caught in her throat. Written in her own handwriting was the message she had scrawled: I finally made it! I know we'd planned to come together, but after what happened I just decided to come alone. Can you believe it's been eight years since we last saw each other? Look, I know I hurt you terribly, but can't you please forgive me? Love, Katherine
Kathy felt like the world was slowly spinning around her. Somehow she managed to stand up, but she could not control her trembling hands as she gaped at the bandaged woman. Miss Doe was now staring straight at her.
Had God planned this all along? Was this why he wanted her here?
“Are you okay?” asked the nurse.
Kathy swallowed and looked up at the nurse. “Yeah, I'm ok,” she said. “This is Amy Simpson. She's a friend of mine.”
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