I sit in the waiting room, my leg bouncing and my left hand tugging at the hair tie on my right wrist, leaving scratches where my nails meet skin. My eyes dart around the room frantically, jumping from fellow waiters, the tv, and the big double doors in front of me.
I almost want to move, face the other way, so I don’t have to stare at the lurring wooden doors. I stay put, though, afraid I will miss even the slightest piece of information. I need to stay here and be patient. I need to calm down and relax.
Everything will be fine, I try to soothe myself. I can do this. He will survive this unharmed and unscarred.
I twitch in my seat, every position being too uncomfortable to stay in. I need to be home, in my bed, or on the big chair in the corner of our bedroom. Our. I can’t go home. It’s our home, not mine, and I can’t be anywhere near something that’s ours. Not after what happened.
The whirlpool of thoughts gets interrupted when the door lightly opens, slower than what it should be, before a doctor comes out with a clipboard in his hand. I stay seated, scared that I am who he’s looking for. I know it’s more than likely me, though, since it’s the same doctor who took him.
“Scarlette Brown,” is the name he called out; my name.
I stood up, drawing his attention towards me, “That’s me, I’m Scarlette.” It should be the words I say when winning the lottery, but it’s not, not even close.
“Ah,” he made his way towards me, “the surgery went well, but we have no idea whether it has worked or not. He is asleep, but we can’t run tests until he is awake. So, at the moment, it’s just a waiting game. He can wake up from any second to any day.”
I nod my head, taking all of the information in, before I surprise myself with, “Can I see him?”
He lulls the idea over before reluctantly agreeing, “I suppose so. Go through the doors and down the hall to the right, room 218.”
“Thank you,” my feet carry me down the hall instinctively, my head still fighting the idea of seeing him.
I stare at the door I stop at, number 218 taped on the wall next to it. I knock, forgetting that he’s sleeping. Pushing the handle down, I linger in the doorway when my eyes land on the frail form in the hospital bed.
He is laying on his back, something unfamiliar to me, since he has never been able to sleep when flat on his back. His arms are sitting numbly by his side, on top of the thin blanket they provided him with. His head is wrapped with gauze, covering from above his eyebrows to the nape of his neck. He is so still it makes it seem as if his breathing hit a stopping a point.
Finally gaining the courage to be near him, I move to the side of his bed after quietly shutting the door behind me. My eyes scan over his face, memorizing the calm features gracing them. It was rare for him to be sleeping or to be in a state of peace. He was constantly stuck in his head, fighting off the scarring memory that constantly made its appearance. Hopefully, this surgery is the end to all of that pain for him.
The back of my hand traces the contour of his face, cold emanating off him. My other hand reaches for his, lightly grazing his palm with my fingertips. Flashbacks run through my mind of when he used this hand for evil. He was only trying to protect himself; he didn’t know any better.
My eyes begin to sting, water bubbling up behind my eyelids. I prepare to let the flood break as my face contorts in an uncomfortable position. My break down gets interrupted when he starts to stir in his sleep. I blink the water away, clearing the tears out of my eyes, and swallow the lump in my throat. He fidgets a little on the bed, slowly becoming aware of his conscious state.
I shouldn’t be here, my conscience tells me. I should have ended all contact the minute I saw that side of him.
Just being in his presence, though, makes me weak at the knees. Every fake flower he bought me because he knew I didn’t like the idea of the flower dying. Every morning he showed up with a cup of hot tea and gave me a ride to school. Every inside joke we made, so we could always have something that’s just ours. Everything we have been through and everything that he has ever done for me, for us, trumps the one bad thing he did to me.
Or at least, I wish it did, but there is no way I could forgive him; despite the fact that it wasn’t his fault. He was possessed by the horrible memory stained in his brain.
It started out as a great night, full of love and laughter. We were making dinner, preparing for the storm of my family that was about to walk through the door. The radio was turned on, playing my favorite song. He was putting the rest of the groceries away, from our trip to the store we took earlier that day, while I started to line up the vegetables that needed to be chopped.
“What are you doing?” I asked with a smile on my face when he turned the volume up on the radio. “You’re going to make us deaf.”
He cupped his ear, pretending to not be able to hear me. I turned back to the row of ingredients in front of me, rearranging the food for the second time. All of a sudden, I felt a hand grab mine and twirl me to face the man I love.
“Gray,” I gasped.
“Dance with me?” he asked sweetly, wrapping his arms around my waist as he brought me closer. I interlocked my hands behind his neck as we swayed back and forth.
We kept dancing until the song ended, his face nuzzled into my neck. “Alright,” I said, trying to break from his embrace, “we have to make dinner.”
“No, we don’t” he denied, like a ten year who is told to go to bed.
“Come on, Gray,” I giggled while trying to push him away, but he only held on tighter. “My family will be here any minute and we haven’t even started cooking.”
Finally, he loosened his embrace, dropping his hands from my sides, and stood up straight.
“Thank you. Now, can you grab the cooler out of the garage, please?” I beg, batting my eyelashes.
“Fine, but when I get back we are finishing this dance,” he declared before walking off and leaving me to shake my head in defiance.
I went back to the vegetables, still lined up in a row. I grabbed the onion at the front of the line and began to chop it after peeling it’s crinkly skin off. I sang the lyrics of the next song that played as I got into a rhythm.
After chopping the onions into thin slices, I gathered them into my cupped hands, glancing upwards when I made a move towards the stove. A scarred man stood in a solid manner in front of me, a blue cooler dangling from his hand as the cooler lightly grazed the floor. His eyes were glued to me, a fear starting to shine through them.
At the time though, I didn’t think too much of it. Instead, I nearly jumped out of my skin from the scare, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” I point out. I turned the stove and dropped the onions into the frying pan I had started to heat. “Can you get the rest of the onions for me?” I asked over my shoulder.
I was stirring the ones, already in the pan, around, waiting for him to bring the rest over. It’s why I didn’t think much of it when I heard a light grazing sound on the cutting board. When I turned around, though, I quickly regretted ever dismissing the look in his eyes.
He had the knife in his hand, holding it in a way that prepared him for striking someone with it. He looked at me with anger flowing across his features.
“Gray,” I called out calmly, trying to grab his attention. “What are you doing?”
“You killed him. Why would you do that?” he asked, slowly making his way towards me.
I knew he wasn’t talking about me. He was talking about his father, since he saw me as his mother at that moment. He couldn’t tell the difference because of the memory that’s been haunting him.
“Gray, I’m not her. It’s me, Scarlette,” I tried to reason while I backed up, my bottom hitting the stove, as he made his way towards me.
Within seconds, he had me pinned to the stove, the knife above us, aiming for my neck. “Why did you do it?”
I decided to play the part, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to get through to him on my own. “I didn’t mean for you to suffer.” I doubt it’s what she would have said. If she had it her way, Gray would be buried right now, alongside his father.
His anger subsided into sadness as tears welled up in his eyes. My back side was heating up from the stove.
“You did all of this,” he spat in my face. “You killed him and you tried killing me, but I won’t let you.”
He brought down the knife at the same time I tried to dodge it by going in the opposite direction. It didn’t work, though, at least not entirely. The blade’s edge grazed the skin on my arm, taking a curved sliver of me with it. I landed in a heap on the floor with my hand holding the bloody spot on my arm.
My ears were ringing and my entire body felt numb. I didn’t even feel the pain of the cut. I barely noticed when my father walked into the room, his arm around my mother’s shoulders. When he saw me on the floor, his face turned dark after glancing at Gray and seeing the knife in his hand.
Gray was leaning on the counter, the knife slowly slipping out of his hand as he battled with the thoughts raging in his head. My dad made his way towards him, yelling a jumble of words at him. I could see his lips moving, but I couldn’t hear the words he uttered. Gray grabbed the sides of his face, creating a dome over his ears with the palm of his hands. He was pacing back and forth, making everything seem dizzy.
Finally, I was brought out of the horrifying scene when my mother’s fragile hand touched my shoulder to grab my attention. I turned my head, focusing my attention on my mother’s calm features. She pulled me to my feet and helped me to the bathroom. When we were inside the pale blue room, she shut and locked the door. Next, she snooped through the cabinets, searching for any medical supplies I could be hiding.
I sat on the lid of the toilet, staring aimlessly at the door. I couldn’t believe the previous event had actually happened. I knew things were bad, I knew he had PTSD, but I never thought it would get this bad. I knew the war he was constantly fighting, but I never did anything about it.
He would have never hurt me if his mother didn’t do what she did. I still remember the day he told me about his past. It was the first time I saw him cry. He told me of the scarring moment that occured when he was seven years old.
He came home from school, hearing someone shouting and crying as he walked through the door. When he reached the kitchen, he unfortunatly made it in just enough time to witness his mother murder his father with a kitchen knife.
“Honey?” my mother brought me out of my numb state, “it’s alright,” she swiped the tear from underneath my eye with her rough thumb.
I didn’t understand why she was so calm in that moment. I couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t crying alongside me, with her arms wrapped around me; the way they were when I was younger and woke up from a nightmare. Then, that felt like a nightmare that I was begging to wake up from.
The next week was spent with recovery. I spent the time thinking about what happened while my scar healed. Gray spent the time beating himself up for what he did. We both felt hopeless, until my dad did research on Gray’s condition, after I stopped both of them from calling the cops; They both felt that Gray should be locked up, but I knew that wasn’t going to help anyone. Instead, we found a surgery used to erase a specific memory of something.
Both Gray and I felt helpless, so we took the opportunity. I remember when he told me that he wanted to go through with the procedure. I remember him saying, “I can’t live with myself knowing that I hurt you. Knowing that there’s a possibility for me to do it again.”
That’s what lead us to today. What lead me to be standing beside an awaking Gray.
He rolls his head from side to side, fighting off the sleep. His eyes slowly open, allowing him to see me standing next to him. It takes him a moment to adjust, but when he does, a smile graces his features at the sight of me. I can’t help, but return the favor by smiling back at him.
He starts to cough, probably from a lack of water, causing me to push the red call button beside his bed. A nurse comes in a minute later, scanning the room for a second before her eyes land on a now gagging Gray.
“Is everything alright?” she asks, rushing to his other side.
Gray tries to voice out his needs, but his voice is so weak it’s hard to decipher his words.
“What is it you need?” the nurse asks frantically.
“He needs water,” I chime in, gaining me a look of gratitude from Gray.
“Oh, um, I’ll go grab that then,” she sounds disappointed for him to not be in serious need of help. Reluctantly, she leaves the room, and comes back within a few minutes, a styrofoam cup of water in her hand. After Gray takes a sip, she hopefully asks, “Can I do anything else for you?”
“No, thank you,” Gray managed, his voice soft.
“Okay, then. I’ll just inform the doctor that you’re awake,” the nurse says before exiting the room, disappointment written all over her features.
“How are you feeling,” I question, concerned.
“A little headache, but I’m alright,” he responds, trying to find a spot to place his cup.
“Here,” I grab the cup from him and place it on the ledge of the window.
Everything feels awkward; like we are complete strangers.
“I don’t entirely remember why I’m here. Can you please enlighten me a little?”
“Oh, um,” I don’t know if I should tell him the truth or not. The fact he doesn’t remember has to be a good sign, though. “Do you remember who I am?” is what I decide to go with, curiosity taking over me.
He smiles brightly, “Of course I do.” he grabs my hand, pulling me closer to him, “You are Scarlette Brown. The breathtakingly beautiful woman I have been dating for the past year.”
I start to blush as I turn my face away to hide it, but my hand is still latched with his. He twists my arm a little, causing me to turn back to him.
“What is this from?” he asks, lightly grazing the scar on my arm. I flinch at his touch, making him remove his hand from the pink skin and focus his attention on my eyes.
He doesn’t remember. It means the surgery worked, they removed the memory. Both of them. The one of his mother and the one of him harming me. I guess to cover all bases.
“It’s just a little a scratch,” I lie.
“That’s not a scratch, Scarlette,” he says matter of factly. “Tell me the truth.”
I think up the best excuse I can, “I was walking outside and tripped. When I fell, I cut my arm off the side of the metal benches.” Not the best lie, but at least something came out.
“How did it heal so fast?”
“Trust me, it didn’t,” I mumble under my breath.
“What?” he didn’t hear what I said.
“They gave me this special bandage.”
“Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either.”
He stares at the scar skeptically, waiting for me to call my bluff, but I don’t. I know I can’t tell him the truth. I shouldn’t even be here right now, but I had to know. I had to know if the surgery worked. I had to know if he was going to be okay. If he can finally live the life he deserves.
Now I know.
“I should go,” I inform him, removing my arm from his grasp.
“Why?” he asks, taken back by the sudden loss of touch.
“I’m not your girlfriend,” I lie through my teeth. It physically hurts me to not be honest with him, but it’s what I have to do. Taking a deep breath, I explain the lie I made up in the waiting room. “I’m your ex. We did date for a year, but then we broke up,” my voice cracks, “we fell out of love, I guess.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” he’s confused and hurt. The sight makes my heart clench. “Why are you here if we broke up?”
“I was put as your emergency contact.”
“Oh,” he says solemnly, directing his gaze to his feet perched at the end of the bed.
I bend down and press my lips to his cheek, “Good bye, Gray,” I whisper into his ear, knowing I won’t be able to say it any louder.
I leave the room, holding my composure until I’m outside. When the door is shut, I lean against it, letting go of a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. I clench my fists, trying to hold back the flood welling up behind my closed eyelids. I did the right thing, I tell myself. This is good. This way he can live his life without any reminders of his past; even if he no longer knows his past. I still remember, though, and there is no way I can forget.