My heart could not find its next beat. My lungs were gasping for air more than Anna’s were. My eyes felt swollen and the floor warped. I was drowning somewhere between a vision of a burning house and my deceased husband. The emotions raging in me were taking over my rational thought.
I needed to get out of this room before I exploded. I released Anna’s hand just as Quinn entered the room uttering something about two beautiful women in one room. It didn’t matter. My dream had transfigured into a nightmare and I wanted out.
I shoved past Quinn, through the door into the hallway. Which way was the elevator? To my left? Thankfully I was correct and I did not have to wait for it to arrive. I even managed to get the elevator doors closed before Quinn’s hand could snake its way in. Once the doors closed me in, my eyes flooded with tears.
"God, what are you doing to me?" My head fell to the metal panel in front of me. "Can it be true that Mitch and Quinn were childhood friends?" Then my feet began to kick the elevator walls. "I want out God! You never asked me if I wanted to do this. Let me out of this nightmare! Please. I’m done."
I heard the ding of the elevator and desperately tried to wipe my face. Deciding it didn’t matter, I bolted through the doors as soon as there was enough room to squeeze through. I nearly ran over a woman with a walker, but I kept going. In the lobby by the main doors was a phone. I scrambled for some coins in my pockets and grabbed the receiver. The operator came on speaking in French.
“I need ... un taxi. Je m’appelle Cathie.”
She needed more information asking me for the address of where I was.
The desperation I felt drove me to bend over still trying to access more air. My free hand supported my shaking body over my knee. “Je n’est ce pas l’addresse. I am at, um ... l’hopital.”
Then she asked which hospital. That question forced me to straighten up and begin searching for a sign. My stance was wobbly and my eyes seemed unable to focus. I probed the walls in front of me as best as I could. Looking then to my left still with no luck. “Which hospital? I don’t know where I am.” I said.
In a panic I swung to my right hoping to find a sign naming the hospital near the elevators. Instead the only thing in my view was a worrisome Quinn. I froze.
He slowly reached out for the phone handle.
I couldn’t escape. He caught me. My thoughts were so mixed up I could not tell if I was disappointed or relieved that he was here. I reluctantly handed the phone to him, hearing the woman calling out for an answer.
“Les portes principales à l'Institut Curie, s'il vous plait.” Then in a moment he responded to the woman on the other line with ‘merci’. With a deep slow breath he reached over my shoulder to hang up the phone.
As the scent of his cologne came over me I melted. What am I doing?
He responded to me collapsing against his chest by holding me tight. I needed his strong arms as my knees were weak. I sobbed into his shirt. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry Quinn.”
He stroked my hair and just held me so close.
After a few moments I was able to slow the torrent and gain my composure. I pressed my hands against his chest to separate our bodies. “I’m sorry.”
“Please do not apologize, Cherie.” He gently wiped away a stray tear from my cheek, while he kept his other hand on my waist. “What happened in there?”
If I thought telling him my husband died was too hard, surely telling him his best friend died would rank slightly higher. “Nothing.”
“Really? The kind of ‘nothing’ that would cause one to run for cover?”
He made me smile. “Yah, I guess so.”
He tipped my chin up to see into my drippy eyes. “Cherie, if you want to go somewhere I will take you. Please don’t run from me.”
I don’t want to. I grabbed the flanks of his shirt and squeezed them. The thick weave of his cotton shirt warmed my trembling hands. His voice soothed my frayed nerves. His touch made me feel special. His attention made me want to stay. “I don’t want to run from you.”
He pulled me close again while he reached out for the phone. He called and cancelled the taxi and then confidently led me out the front doors. “Are you able to walk back to the car?”
“Of course, I can walk. I am fine, actually. You don’t need to fuss over me.”
“It would be my pleasure to fuss over you. I propose driving you back to your hotel, feeding you and putting you down for a rest. You are taking this all too seriously.”
I’m begging you Lord, for another way to process this. It feels far too serious.
Then with his arm around my waist, holding me close, we walked the few blocks back to the car without much said. All I could do was silently pray for God to bring a reprieve from all the drama.
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