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Sentenced to Guilt

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Every time she walked through the main entrance, she felt a headache slowly pressing against her skull. Rolling her eyes at the unfortunate feeling, she rounded the corner and approached the front desk.

“Diane Lockhart. I have an appointment at two.” Her nails tapped against the counter as she glanced to her left and right. Patients with varying degrees of ailments surrounded her. Children with broken arms, adults just having finished a knee replacement surgery; she loathed sitting in the waiting room. This meant making small talk with the woman who lost a few fingers or the man with a broken collarbone that was a terrible flirt. However, today she was hopeful. Hopeful that her doctor would release her to drive and work once again.

As she sat, tuning out the conversations on either side, she finally heard her name called.

A nurse led Diane through a maze of hallways until they came to an exam room with lights bright enough to make the bleach colored walls glow unendingly, especially with a brewing headache.

“The doctor will be right with you.” The nurse grunted and shut the door, leaving Diane alone. She listened to the buzzing of the lights and the muffled beeping from down the hall. Checking her phone, she noticed a missed call from Kurt, undoubtably wondering how she was feeling. Diane had decided against informing him about this appointment because she didn’t want any of the fuss that would accompany that conversation. He would want to drive her and take her home and ask questions and blah blah blah. Everything he had done at the past two appointments, all very sweet and appreciated, but Diane felt suffocated.

She thought to herself about this mess that she had stumbled upon. How it was her fault that they were put in danger and the fact that she couldn’t seem to forgive herself for endangering his life. He should be furious with her, but instead all he wanted to do was make sure she was never in pain, not taking too many calls, and eating like the doctor had told her to. Her invasive thoughts were interrupted by the opening of the door.

Oh well , she thought, more time to think about that when I can’t sleep at two AM.

“Good afternoon, Diane,” the woman spoke, all business as usual. Diane appreciated this trait. Dr. Jill Marsee was thorough, but not too probing, kind, but firm, and attentive, but far from hovering.

“Your color is looking good.” She began unwrapping a long needle, meant for taking her labs.

“I’ve been getting a good bit of vitamin D since I haven’t been allowed to go to work.” Diane unsubtly dropped the hint at her desired outcome at the end of this appointment. Picking up on the attempt, Dr. Marsee huffed a laugh.

“Let’s have a look.” Diane slipped off her sweater revealing a large bandage on her right shoulder. The bandages were pulled away to reveal 14 stitches and budding scar tissue. Diane didn’t like to look at it, not in pictures, not in the mirror, not at all. Kurt didn’t really seem phased. He’d dealt with countless bodies in crime scene photos who had any number of bullets in their body. But it would take more courage than he had to tell her that every time he cleaned and dressed her shoulder, his eyes stung with tears.

“You’ve done a good job maintaining the wound.” Jill remarked as she began sanitizing the area.

“You’ll have to thank my husband for that.  I can’t exactly do it with one hand.” Diane continued looking to her left.

“Is he waiting in the lobby?”

“No. He’s at work.” Diane clenched her teeth as a fresh bandage was smoothed over her stitches.

Jill looked over her glasses, “Please tell me you didn’t drive here.”

“I took a cab.” Diane shrugged.

“Good, I think I’m going to keep you on the antibiotic for another couple of weeks to be safe, but the dosage will reduce.”

“Meaning...” Diane pressed.

“Meaning you will be cleared to drive and work,” Diane did somersaults inside, “But do not over do it. Do you understand?”

Diane felt like a chastised teenage girl, but was too eager to get back to the office to care.

“Don’t go back today, please. I just took a fair amount of blood from your system for testing and you’ll be tired. You can change the world tomorrow. Just get some rest today.”

 

She hadn’t intended to fall asleep, but Jill was right. She was beat. The high pitched ringing of the phone woke her from her nap. Her labs had come back clean and her white blood cell count was strong. Not twenty minutes later, Diane heard the the front door open and the sound of keys being dropped on the hall table.

Diane slipped on her glasses and stood to greet her husband.

“I brought dinner.” He smiled and held up two bags.

“I am actually starving.” She rose on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek, channeling her current good mood.

She began digging through the bags as his phone rang. He glanced at the name and greeted the caller.

“David. What can I do for you?” A colleague, Diane assumed. The phone was just loud enough for Diane to pick up on their conversation.

“Seattle...3 days...memorial opening on...understand your situation...call me tomorrow.”

Kurt hung up the phone and before he could turn around Diane spoke, “Whatever it is, you are going.”

“It’s just a memorial ceremony, that’s all. They don’t really need me.” He brushed off the idea.

“They wouldn’t have called if the didn’t need you. When is it?” Diane desperately wanted normalcy. And if that meant assuring her husband that she’d be just fine alone for a few days, that’s what she’d do.

Kurt sighed, knowing this was not going to end anytime soon. “This weekend in Seattle.”

“That sounds great. I think you should go.” She grabbed him by the shoulders and gave him a light shake.

He hesitated, “Maybe you—“

“No if’s, and’s, or but’s. My doctor cleared me today to drive and work, so things will go right back to normal. I’ll be just fine.” Her voice almost bounced at the thought of returning to the mundane.

“Wait. You had a doctor’s appointment today?” Kurt’s interest immediately shifted from Seattle.

“Oh, I must have forgotten to tell you. I had to reschedule my last one and today ended up being a good day for it. Don’t worry, I took a cab.” She already sensed his anxiety bubbling toward the surface, so she continued to fiddle with dinner.

“Why didn’t you say anything, I could have driven you?”

“You had work.” Shrugging off the question and, hopefully, this conversation.

“Now can we please eat. I’m hungry.”

Kurt was stoic and passive the rest of the evening. Diane knew she had hurt his feelings, but held on to the yearning that soon this would all be behind him. That gave her temporary peace of mind and made her guilt momentarily subside.