Beth leans against the sterilized counter in the hospital room, arms folded. Her daughter Sam lies on the hospital bed picking at the IV in her arm. “Stop that!” Beth hisses. Sam looks at Beth, shakes her head and continues to pick.
The pain in Sam’s side when she woke up this morning had been severe, but so had the Scoliosis a few years ago that led to a rod in her back and the heartbreak that led to serious questions of life and death, so what did severe really mean this time? Sam spent most of the morning debating this question and pushing the threshold until finally the tiny knives ripping apart her insides made even the slightest move a hellish task. She saw no other choice but to call her mom, cringing with the anticipation of her mother’s bitter sigh.
Beth called Grandpa who agreed to take Sam to the doctor. One look at Sam and the doctor sent her straight to the emergency room. Sam bit her lip in refrain from the I told you so she wanted so badly to say to her mom.
Routine and tradition define Beth’s marriage to her husband. A fresh dusting of snow on the ground marks late December in their small northeastern town, and Beth is supposed to be home by this hour, prepping for the large family gathering at the house tomorrow, Christmas Eve. But Sam, true to character as always, challenged Beth and her husband’s routines, traditions, plans. It could never just be easy with Sam. Too caught up in visions of how a life should look, Beth would never admit that she wasn’t exactly the maternal type. And these doctors moving at glacial speed were practically mocking Beth’s tightly coiled temper.
In Sam’s defense, spending the day before Christmas Eve in a hospital bed wasn’t exactly her ideal either. She’d lose out on her holiday bonus at work, she couldn’t walk her friend’s dog like she promised, and her mother’s guilt trips as passive as they were, felt as irrational and debilitating as the pain that caused them to be here in the first place.
Sam’s phone vibrates in her hand. A message pops up from that girl, the one who for some reason beyond Sam never stopped caring. The girl had been messaging Sam all morning urging her to seek medical help, and certainly not for the first time, the girl had been right. As fluids ran through a tube into her veins, Sam reads the message Where would you rather be?
She looks around the all too familiar white room and makes eye contact with Beth. “What?” says Beth, her constant habit of speaking in defense shining through. Sam shakes her head, causing Beth to let out an exasperated breath. Beth pushes up her sleeve to cross check the clock on the wall with the one on her wrist for the fourth time. Sam lays her head back down on the lousy hospital pillow and closes her eyes knowing exactly where she would rather be:
Warmth, an abstract concept to most became a place Sam held tightly in between the shadows of her mind. It was not the edge where lands meets water or a mountain where flying seemed possible, but simply where love and safety combined in perfect harmony.
There are trees all around and perhaps a sun peeking through but she is neither lost nor alone and maybe she’s reading a book but the activities don’t matter because she is in warmth, surrounded by it, utterly consumed in a world created when two people fall in love. Words don’t need to be spoken, laughter comes easily, and each touch pulses with electricity.
The lips of the one she loves have a magnificent way of melting what was once so cold. The drugs and the liquor and the coy games of jealousy fade to the periphery until it all seems worthless in comparison to this one single moment.
Sam’s body is healthy and her mind is understood. There is no fear of time, only slight anticipation of what the next hour could bring and the hour after that.
“I asked you what is taking this doctor so long.”
“What? How am I supposed to know?”
“Well, I don’t know. You’re always on that phone of yours. I thought maybe you were texting him or something.”
“No, Mom.” Sam would never play into her mother’s humor. She looks back down at her phone and sends her response to the girl: With you.