Time Out of Mind (part 2)

Previously:  Peter meets with his fiancée, Katrina, to inform her that he was accepted to graduate school in Seattle.  Since he had already agreed to move to Chicago with her, Katrina storms out, and is hit by a car.

A gentle tap on his shoulder jarred Peter from sleep.  Flicking his eyes open, he stared into the red-rimmed eyes of Katrina’s mother, Mrs. Web.

“Mrs. Web?” Peter asked groggily, his mind hazy with waking from a restless sleep.

Mrs. Web’s shoulders shook with each measured breath. “How do you make a decision like this?” She looked at Peter for a brief moment, and then reached out her hand and patted his face. “Her father and I have talked all night.” She paused, and her eyes looked away as she rested back against the seat, seeming as if she wanted to dissolve into the cushion. “When she was thirteen, she broke her arms in gymnastics. I remember when she fell. I jumped up from my seat. I remember saying, ‘please God, please’—it was such an awful tumble. And I was so relieved it was just a broken arm.”

Peter walked behind her as she weaved into the ICU.  She stood silently for an instant, and then an audible gasp forced its way from her lungs.  She stumbled back and would have collapsed to the floor had Peter and Mr. Web not each grabbed an arm.

Bandages covered Katrina’s head and face.  The portion of her face visible was bruised and swollen.  Her breaths were forced rhythmically from the great machine beside the bed.  Her left arm and leg would both need casts, but the doctors had waited.

Speechless, Mrs. Web clung to Peter and Mr. Web as they helped her to the waiting room.  She stared at the floor, humming.  Mr. Web wrung his hands, and asked, “How did it happen?”

Peter had been waiting for the question.  His body pivoted toward them, he tuned his face to the side, averting their eager eyes.  He couldn’t bear to face them; he didn’t want to see the hatred in their eyes when he told them.  His throat was dry; it was hard to speak.  “She and I were having lunch.  When she left she walked…she stepped in front of a car,” he paused.  He couldn’t hold his tears.  “She wasn’t watching what she was doing—we had been arguing.”

Something in Mrs. Web suddenly seemed to awaken.  “You, you were arguing?”  Her face seemed bewildered, quizzical.  “Why?”

Peter launched to his feet.  He jabbed his hands into his pockets, and then yanked them free.  “I, I asked her to come to Seattle.”

Mrs. Web insisted.  “But the two of you were going to Chicago.”

“Mona,” Mr. Webb said softly, putting gentle arms around his wife.

Peter back away, unable to watch her gently weeping in her husband’s arms.

The parking lot of the hospital held little activity.  Occasionally, someone would walk to their car, start it and leave, or someone would come rushing in.  Watching from the eighth floor window, Peter could see little else.

He leaned his cheek against the glass.  The coolness of it was relieving.  He tried to drown out the sounds of the hospital—the cars in the parking lot, gurneys being wheeled back and forth, messages over the loud speaker, or phones ringing.

Closing his eyes, he relaxed and most of the noise seemed to fade. But in the distance he could hear a shuffling and scrapping.  A tapping joined the sounds, and these sounds were all that he could hear.  They drew near to him.

Peter was startled by a hand on his shoulder.  He flicked his eyes open to see bent, gnarled fingers.  He pulled away momentarily, and then looked into the face of a very small, old woman.  She smiled pleasantly.  “I have a message for you, Peter.”

He was confused that she knew his name.  He assumed she was a hospital worker.  “What’s the message?”

She took a deep breath and leaned against the wall.  Looking at her, Peter quickly realized she did not work for the hospital.  The cane she held was carved wood.  Her dress was old and worn.  Her hair was pulled into a bun on her head and kept in place with a wreath of flowers.  She began to speak.

“The love you and Katrina share is an ancient one.  You have both lived many lives, but failed each other every time.”

Peter shook his head, “I don’t have time for this garbage.”

She grabbed his arm with surprising strength.  “You will believe.”  From her other hand, she blew fine dust into Peter’s face.

He was unconscious before he hit the floor.

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