Finn listened as Rachel spoke, and for a brief moment he wasn’t focused on the unraveling disaster that his own life was becoming. For a second he was able to stop outside himself and try to imagine what that much have been like for her. Rachel had given up everything for Broadway after graduation. She’d left Lima behind…she’d left him behind. Now here she was being pulled back into the life she’d escaped, and for a reason that was out of her control. Her words “Everything happens for a reason,” took on a new layer to him as he repeated them to himself again. He wasn’t the only one struggling with why things had taken such a cruel twist of fate. Rachel had no doubt heard the same phrase said to herself dozens of times over the past month.
For almost a month, Rachel had dealt with the same hospital walls. It had been two days pacing up and down these halls, and already Finn felt like he was going to go insane. Everything was so clean and in order. People rushed about with a purpose and clear goal, all while Finn’s world had come screeching to a halt, his future hanging in the balance.
Seeing the smile tugging at the corner of her lips, the tension lifted slightly and brought a half smile to his face more than her joke did. He appreciated the attempt more than he could tell her in that moment. Forty-eight hours and he had hardly opened up to anyone. Rachel sits down beside him and everything comes pouring out of him, as if he’d been waiting for her to talk to all along.
Opening his mouth to search for the right words, a way to express his gratitude to her, a reassurance that she was going to be alright, words to express that despite the horrible situation that brought them together, he was glad to see her again, annoyance at her having been in Lima for close to a month without having heard a word, none of it came to him as he sat there looking at her hand that he was pulling silent comfort from just by holding again. “Miss Hall is back in her room if you’d like to sit with her.” The nurse and her quiet non intrusive voice stopped him from having to try. Instead he nodded his head, looking back over to Rachel sitting beside him.
“I should…” Finn motioned his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of Michelle’s room, something telling him that he wasn’t the only one who needed to return to the suffocating walls of a hospital room. “Thank you.” The words were said as he squeezed her hand slightly in his, not want to let it go until the last possible second that he had to. “And you’re going to beat this. No one can keep you down.” He wished he had more time to convince her of that, and more time to catch up with her. He wished it was completely different reasons that had brought her back into his life, but wishing got him nowhere. Feeling like he’d been gone too long already, his mind going back and forth between it being pointless to sit at Michelle’s beside, to it being the most important thing in the world and even missing a second could be disaster, Finn tried to steady himself and tuck away that fear and doubt.
“I’m so sorry, Finn.” Those four words sounded so simple, but he’d spent countless hours imagining her rushing back to Lima to say exactly that. Late at night when he’d let his mind wander before sleep fully took hold, he imagined countless ways that Rachel would come back into his life and realize that they’d had something special and worth fighting for as much as her career was. As the years passed, the situations became harder to imagine until one day without even realizing it, they’d become completely impossible.
Finn had come to terms with the choices they’d made then, and now here he was. Those same words, but in a completely different context than he had ever imagined for himself. He knew she was being sincere, and had meant every word of it. Despite the longing and broken heart that followed Rachel’s departure to New York those years ago, he’d never wanted bad things for her. Finn had never wanted failure to be her reason for returning home, and sitting beside her now, he could tell that she’d take his pain away now if it was humanly possible to.
Feeling her soft touch against his shoulder, he took a deep breath, trying to relax even the slightest bit and accept the comfort that she was offering him. “Because everything happens for a reason.” Finn could think of no reason why he was sitting here and Michelle was laying in there. He could think of nothing other than how cruel and unforgiving life could be. Happiness was so quickly dashed away without a moments notice. It was here one minute and gone the next.
Seeing Rachel look away from him as she put together the words to tell him, he tried to steady himself for whatever it could be. His mind didn’t have it in him to guess, and luckily he didn’t have to wait long as she revealed what really had her walking the halls of the hospital this day. A lung transplant? Even as Rachel did her best to sounds like it wasn’t a big deal and just every day news, he knew it was far from it. The pieces started to fall into place. What she was doing here, why she was back, what was so important to take her off the Broadway stage that she craved so much. “Wow…Rach…”
Reaching over, he took her hand in his needing some soft of contact to try and anchor him down in that moment. “I…I had no idea.” Here he was falling apart when she too was dealing with her whole life being turned upside down, and then some. What happened without the transplant? What happened with one? How long had she known? A whole new set of question bombarded his brain demanding answers that he still didn’t have. “How long have you been here? What are you…I mean…” Finn stopped as no matter how hard he tried, he didn’t know what he meant, and what he had the right to ask her anymore.
“Who?” Hearing Rachel ask, he wondered to himself why that was the hardest part. Was it because it made it more real admitting who it was somehow? Repeating medical terms and sharing details of an accident, he could try and put even the slightest bit of distance between himself and what happened. A part of him could cling to the false hope that it was just a store to tell, and his life, his real life, was going to be just fine. Or maybe it was out of some sort of misguided guilt that he’d skipped that part. This was Rachel he was talking to. The same Rachel who had left a huge hole in his heart when she’d left for New York, one that would never fully close. Or maybe it was just from exhaustion that he assumed everyone knew what he was talking about without filling them in, but saying it wouldn’t change any of it.
“My girlfriend,” he admitted after taking a deep breath and exhaling, forcing his emotions back down and away from the surface as much as he could at the moment. “She was supposed to come by after work. She’s going to open a restaurant. She’s been fine tuning the menu for months.” He spoke like it was all still possible, and would all happen as soon as she opened her eyes. “But it started getting late, and she wasn’t there, and then I got the call that she was here…” His voice trailed off as his mind filled with flashes of what he’d dealt with since he arrived. Every minute since then was blurred together into one giant painful memory that he couldn’t seem to escape from.
Hearing her coughing and struggling her with words, he knew something was going on. They were in a hospital after all, but it was more than that. He knew Rachel wouldn’t give up her Broadway dreams, and come back to Lima for just any reason. She had made up her mind a long time ago to leave, and there was nothing that could change it then, so he had to wonder what could have done so now. “How can you know that? Any little thing, and this all could have changed.”
Finn’s eyes searched Rachel’s like he could find the answers there. She sounded so confidant and so sure of herself. She always did, but this was different. It was almost as if she spoke from experience, like she knew exactly what it was like to replay even the smallest choices again and again while wondering why just one thing didn’t go differently. “Rach…what are you doing here? What’s going on?”
Finn shook his head to answer before he trusted his voice not to betray him again. In his mind if he could appear to be more together on the outside, the inside would follow along. It was all he had at the moment. Everything was out of his hands, but this small thing was something he could try and stay in control of. Complete stubbornness was the only thing standing between him and a complete melt down.
“No, my mom’s fine. She’s at home.” His mother had been at his side much of the past two days reminding him to eat, urging him to take care of himself, trying to guilt him into getting some sleep of his own. Logically he knew she was right and doing everything for him, but he felt like he didn’t need the attention right now. He wasn’t the one laying in a hospital bed with tubes and machines all around. He’d sent her away, and for the time being, she’d listened.
Feeling the familiar warmth of Rachel’s hand against his cheek, her touch threatened to break his control on his emotions again. Rachel always had that way about her. She was warm and comforting, and in some ways it felt like only a day had passed and not the years that really had since they’d seen each other last. Looking down at the floor and the beat up leather on his shoes, Finn avoided looking into her eyes. It would be too easy to crack and fall apart, and let her comfort him like he needed, but there was still something in him that wouldn’t let him. It was the same something that wouldn’t let him book a ticket to New York despite wanting to countless times. Pride, stubbornness, maybe both, but it was all he had right now.
“It won’t be. Nothing’s going to be okay anymore.” Chancing it, he looked over at her as she sat next to him. “She’s lying in there like she’s asleep and going to wake up any minute, but I see the looks the doctors have. They think I don’t know, but I see it.” He started in the middle like she knew what he was talking about. Everyone else he‘d talked to had known all the details without him saying anything, and it was harder than he thought. Saying it to someone made the hopelessness feel even more real. When asked if he wanted to talk, Finn kept sending people away, but he couldn‘t anymore. He couldn‘t keep trying to do it alone. “It’s been two days and she’s not….they told me twenty-four hours…and then forty-eight. Now what are they going to tell me? I used to tease her about her driving…like her being bad at it was some kind of joke.”
Swallowing hard, he felt the tears building back in his eyes again as he looked back down absentmindedly picking at his fingernail as some sort of distraction. “But now all of this. I should have done something. Driven her home, offered to pick her up, taken her for dinner, anything. If I could have changed one thing she might not be laying in there right now.”
The exhaustion, the stress, the worry, it was all too much for him to handle in that moment. Without realizing it, Finn had pinned all of his hopes on getting good news today. He was desperate to hear it, but as the doctor walked away to tend to other patients, that wasn’t what he was left with at all. The light at the end of the tunnel was beginning to dim and he was terrified. Head buried in his hands and tears flowing freely with no signs of stopping, it was as if the rest of the world faded away. The busy rustle of hospital employees running around, the worried conversations of waiting families, the monotone voice of the news coming from the TV in the waiting room, it all faded into one dull buzz and eventually disappeared all together. For the first time since he’d gotten here, Finn couldn’t hold it together anymore.
Feeling a soft hand against his shoulder, Finn assumed it was a nurse taking pity on him. He’d seen their looks for two days now, and he couldn’t stand to see another right now, their eyes were always filled with sympathy and a splash of pity thrown in on the side. Looking back now, it was as if they knew the cards were stacked against Michelle, but could never tell him in so many words. Everyone was quick to remind him to stay positive and never stop believing. They offer their thoughts and many their prayers, but none could give him reasons as to why this happened or how to make it stop.
The voice that followed wasn’t any of the nurses that he’d met. It was softer, breathier, not as strong as he remembered it, but something inside him told him right away who it was even before she confirmed it for him. I must be losing my mind. I’ve finally lost it. This has all got to be some kind of dream, that I’m going to be waking up from any moment. Wiping his hands over his eyes as he tried to regain some of his composure, he could feel the cold, wet tears against his fingers, a painful reminder that it was reality. That didn’t explain Rachel, and how she could be here.
Looking up at her finally, he saw her standing there beside him in the flesh. Suddenly very aware of the tears in his eyes and the ones that had streamed down his cheeks again, and he tried to wipe them away again as the confusion shown through. “Rachel?” Even seeing her didn’t explain how she was here at the time when he needed someone the most. “What are you…?” He looked around to make retake in his surroundings, and like expected they hadn’t changed. There was still the inoffensive cream colored walls and the fluorescent lights that populated all hospital waiting rooms, not only was he still in the hospital, but he was still in Lima, Ohio miles and miles from New York city and the Broadway stage that Rachel had left home for. Over five hundred miles, five hundred and thirty two to be exact, and yet here she was. “What are you doing here” his voice cracked as he tried to swallow back more tears, and force himself together with what strength he could find.
Sitting on the edge of his chair in the hospital waiting room with his foot tapping out a nervous rhythm that the best drummer couldn’t keep up with for long, Finn’s head shot up each time a nurse walked past as he desperately waited for news. It was closing in on forty-eight hours straight since he’d walked into the hospital after getting the call, and two hours since his girlfriend was taken back for the latest round of tests. Each test had it’s abbreviation, and as many as they were listing off when trying to explain to him, it sounded like she was getting the whole alphabet. All these tests and no one could tell him the most basic of answers.
When was she going to wake up? When could they put this behind them, and get back to their lives before this had happened?
Forty eight hours and he’d hardly slept for any of it, Michelle on the other hand hadn’t woken up since. He knew every hour that passed the harder her recovery would be. The idea that she might never wake up, wasn’t one that he could hear at the moment. That reality wasn’t one he could accept. He wasn’t ready for his life to change like this. Finn felt like things were just getting on track for them. He’d graduated and gotten a job as an assistant coach at his old high school, and Michelle was set to open up her restaurant next month. Their future was writing itself, and no where along the way had he prepared for this. Everything with Michelle had come along easy. They’d wanted the same things, laughed at the same jokes, rooted for the same teams, their dreams matched. It was supposed to be simple, with nothing able to come in between them. Car accidents happened every day. He helped repair the broken fenders and replaced busted windshields, but it wasn’t supposed to happen in his life.
Finally when a doctor walked his way, Michelle’s chart in his hand, Finn shot up from his seat like it had been spring loaded. “How’d it go? Is she awake? What’d it say?” The doctor waited patiently having clearly been in this situation before, and had long since learned the best way to handle distraught loved ones. Staring intently as the explanation started, Finn tried to piece together the words he understood. Swelling, limited response, possible bleeding and hemorrhaging, each word sounded more serious than the last. Again he was told how he needed to wait, and Michelle was a fighter. It was the same speech he’d gotten a dozen times since he’d gotten here, and it no longer offered any comfort.
He needed more answers than to just wait. He was tired of waiting. Waiting wasn’t helping. As the doctor left, Finn ran his hands over his head as he couldn’t take anymore.. His patience was running thin, and his nerves were shot. Something had to change soon. Torn between kicking something to try and relieve his frustrations and breaking down in tears, he slumped back down his chair, face buried in his hands as his body gave him no choice and went with option number two.
How did you find me? Why does your story sound so familiar? Why am I asking questions like you’ll come back to answer them? Why am I even posting this? Just why?