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Sentenced to Guilt

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The flashbacks came as dreams, each one replaying the events but slightly distorted from the truth, often waking her at two or three in the morning to send her swirling back into chaos. Usually she woke before they got too out of hand, managing to stay quiet enough for her husband not to stir beside her. Tonight’s dream, however, was too vivid. Everything was exactly how it happened. Six men with guns, the door smashing open, her favorite vase breaking, Kurt’s yelling...all so lucid. And then the shot, the ringing in her ears, the scream escaping her own lips, Kurt piling the sheet in bundles on her shoulder to stop the bleeding. It was so loud. Everyone was shouting, the men ordering Kurt to place his hands above his head.

This repetitive part of the dream had become bearable. The noise, the images, the smell of blood. Then the feeling set in. Excruciating pain like she had never felt before. The pressure of Kurt’s arms holding the sheet to the hole just above her collarbone. The chill of the air from the open door. The swat team must have figured out that neither of them were a danger to society and began crowding around the bed. She felt hot power, later she learned this was something to temporarily clot the wound, and soft gauze as Kurt pulled the strap of her nightgown away from the bloodied spot. The following sensation of the men attempting to lift her sent massive chills through her spine causing her to gasp and open her eyes.

She sat up in a sweat, her breath unsteady and her thoughts foggy. A familiar hand on her back that usually brought all the comfort in the world, only caused her stomach to churn. It had never been this bad before. She had never let the dreams go that far. It’s like she was reliving it all. Tearing off the sheets, she practically jumped out of bed as Kurt tried to get a grasp on what was happening. Diane scrambled into the bathroom, the door closing firmly behind her with a loud thud. She pressed her back against it, feeling the cold wood through her silk pajamas. Shutting her eyes, she saw stars and pressed a hand to her chest that was covered in beads of sweat. Her stomach was in knots and sent her to her knees, heaving up her dinner.

Kurt opened the door only to find her coughing on the floor. He knelt beside her, pulling back her hair and smoothing her sweat-soaked bangs from her forehead.

“You’re burning up. Here, sit back against the wall.” Kurt attempted to settle her on the tile.

Everything in her body was screaming for her to get air. Getting out of this tiny space was her fight or flight instinct and she pushed herself off the ground as Kurt turned to get a wet washcloth.

“Diane.” He caught her wrist. It was too much. His concern, his forgiveness, his love. He should be furious with her for bringing this hell into their lives, into their home. Half dazed and half dreaming, her brain told her that in order to keep him safe, she needed to leave as soon as possible. Yanking her wrist from his grasp, she nearly fell to the floor in agony.

Immediately, she knew what she’d done. Coupled with a scream, she felt stitches pop and a warm sensation dripping down her arm and soaking through her shirt. Kurt’s eyes widened and he lunged for her, ready to protect her from herself.

“No!”

“Diane, you’re bleeding—“ Fear.

“I can see that.” Anger.

“What can I do?” He inched closer.

“Don’t you dare touch me.” She brought this upon herself and she knew it. She was shouting now.

“Please let me—“ Worry.

“Just stop!” Exasperation.

“Stop. Stop everything. Stop staring at me. Because I know exactly what you’ll do. You’ll look at me with those big brown eyes and say ‘Everything’s gonna be fine, Annie’ and then you’ll wrap your arms around me like I didn’t almost get you killed and ignore the fact that I’m a shit person.” She was practically sobbing at this point, “I’ve gone off and put the one person in this world I cannot live without in danger. And I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself.”

Kurt couldn’t move. He knew better than to try to appease her. But this scene broke his heart. The woman he loved had split her stitches, was bleeding down her arm, and was refusing his help.

She picked up her keys and purse. He followed her to the front door, but before he could protest she shouted, “Don’t follow me, McVeigh,” partnered with the slamming of the door.

He understood that she felt smothered, but in no way wanted her to believe that she was at fault for all of this.

“Like hell,” he mumbled taking his coat off the rack and opened the door, just in time to see her Cadillac speed off. Was she really driving herself to the hospital with a bloody shoulder?

He had let her storm out too many times, each one resulting in a rift in their relationship. He let his pride keep him from chasing her down and begging for forgiveness. They always just found their way back to one another because the reality that they couldn’t live without each other kicked in. But the emotional bruises inevitably took a while to heal.

It didn’t matter if she didn’t want him there. He didn’t care if she threw a fit. He was going after her because he loved her more than he thought he could love anyone. And that’s what scared him the most.

The emergency room was fairly quiet on a Thursday night. Dr. Marsee was called immediately when Diane came in with blood stains all over her shirt. She had tried to stop the bleeding on the way, only proceeding to make it look like she had just lived through the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies.

“What happened,” Jill didn’t seem too alarmed after she realized only a few stitches had been busted.

Diane knew she looked like a wreck, the crying spell having left dark circles around her splotchy eyes.

“I thought I told you to take it easy today.” Her comment was accompanied by a light chuckle as she began to stitch up the wound once again. Glancing at Diane’s tear stained face, she slowed her hands.

“Diane. What happened.” She wasn’t asking about the broken stitches anymore. Jill offered her a tissue and fell into a patient silence.

“I was so cruel to him.” She whispered, dropping her head. “If I hadn’t been bleeding I would have turned around as soon as I slammed the door.” Sniffing, she continued.

“I cried the whole way here. I’ve never felt so guilty in my whole life and I want it to stop. I just can’t go on knowing that I could have prevented this whole situation and he never would have been in harms way.” Jill took in Diane’s confession.

“And now he probably hates me.” Defeat.

“I’m not going to pretend that I know the whole situation, but I’ve seen the way he looks at you. And a lot of couples come through here, so I think I’d be able to tell when one is special. He just wants you to get better. It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. Love doesn’t care about that.”

Diane was startled by her sympathy.

“Now. Let’s get you sewn up because I’d be willing to bet almost anything he’s sitting in the waiting room right this minute.” Diane’s eyes shot up to Jill’s and her heart pounded. He wouldn’t have come after me. Would he?

Twenty minutes later, Diane was walking out of the exam room in her blood stained shirt letting exhaustion take over her muscles. She hadn’t slept through the night in two weeks.

And there he was. Standing up against the wall gazing up at whatever news outlet was occupying the nearest television. Diane merely blinked and let tears pour freely down her cheek. He was just waiting for her. Like he had every time she cried, every time she changed her outfit for an event, every time she stayed up late for work. Suddenly every emotion he ever made her feel came surging through. Pride, lust, hate, resentment, fear, passion, joy; they were all there, swarming her psyche. But overwhelmingly, love blew all the others out of the water.

Looking to the floor first, Kurt finally lifted his head to see his shaking wife standing twenty feet in front of him. They stared at each other until the subtle gesture of reaching out his arms brought Diane collapsing into his chest. Whether her shivers came from the cold air or sheer fatigue, it didn’t matter. Kurt wrapped his coat around her shoulders, careful not to disturb her new set of bandages.

Diane took a few steps back, his wool coat almost swallowing her as it hung across her shoulders. He remembered that her emotions were battered and she probably still didn’t want to be touched.

“You came after me.” She was barely able to utter that much without falling apart all over again.

“Of course I did,” he stated plainly, like this was an everyday conversation, but then added, “I always will.”

Diane took in his confession. All the things she wanted to say were blocked by the lump in her throat.

“I think we should talk.” Kurt kept his distance, waiting for her to give the go ahead to touch her once again.

“I agree,” she spoke without budging. She couldn’t decide whether she wanted him to scoop her up or sit on the other side of the room. It was as if she didn’t feel worthy of his embrace. They were past due for talking. It was time she shared her guilt.