I woke up a week later in the hospital. From what people tell me, there was something involving stomach pumps and Henry shouting at the doctor. I asked him what possible purpose yelling at the doctor would serve but he never did explain.
It was a little past 6 PM and so it was dark. Someone had turned the lights in the room completely off. Shadows danced on the walls, illuminated by the light of several LEDs attached to beeping and squawking equipment. I had a pounding headache and wished all the buzzing would shut up, if only for a minute. A nurse walked by in a hurry and then turned around quickly and poked her head into the room. “Oh goodness me, you’re awake!” She scuttled off before I could reply.
“No shit,” I grumbled to her fleeing backside.
Henry appeared soon after and unceremoniously turned on the light. I was blinded by a thousand watts of pure agony. After a few minutes of confusion, I quipped “Was that really necessary?”
“You’ve caused quite the commotion, young lady,” was all he had to say. I glared back at him, insulted at his somewhat ageist comment. At that moment, I had forgotten Henry was at least thirty years my senior.
“So, what now?”
Henry fussed with his glasses and shifted back and forth. His bad foot must have been bothering him. “I’m not sure. This contingency was prepared for but I never thought that...” His voice caught in his throat.
“The company will be fine. The company is always fine.” I repeated my grandmother’s words.
“I’m worried about you, Juliet. You need time.”
I flailed my arms. An IV popped out and blood started to drip angrily on to the floor below. Somewhere, an alarm sounded. “What I fucking NEED is to go back to work,” I sputtered. A nurse came flying into the room and caught my arm in mid-air. With a swift motion, she replaced the IV and taped it off. For some reason, my arm started to ache.
“You have a cousin in San Francisco. I think you should go visit her for a while.” It sounded like an order. I didn’t care much for orders. I didn’t care much for my cousin in San Francisco, either. To be fair, I didn’t know very much about her. Mom would complain that her brother should have stayed in Windhaven and kept up with the family business. My grandmother often said that her son wasn’t quite right. I personally thought that anyone in the family who would abandon Windhaven and our business should just stay gone. One day when I was about 10, mom got a letter from her brother saying that he had married and had a baby girl on the way. He wanted my mother and grandmother to be part of the girl’s life but after they found out she had no talent for accountancy, they completely cut ties.
I heard somewhere that Molly was an actress or a dancer or some sort of entertainer. Between my mother, grandmother and my own conclusions, I was in no way interested in visiting for five minutes much less “a while,” whatever that meant. Henry wasn’t in the habit of giving orders even though he was second in the office only to my mother. His tone suggested that no matter how much I wanted to argue, the decision was final.
I looked up from the sore spot on my arm and noticed that Henry and the nurse had left. They left the damned light on, though.
After two more whirlwind days of doctors and psychiatrists, everything had been settled unbeknownst to myself. My salary had been deposited to a bank account and hadn’t been touched in all the years I had been working. Mom took care of the shopping for food and I didn’t participate in any format of leisure activity. It was determined that I should take a break from life and let Henry worry over the office. I always planned that my mother would live to advanced age and that by that time, I would be ready to take over just like mom did when grandma passed away. Even though I knew it was my duty, I wasn’t ready to make life and death decisions for the entire company. I started to think that maybe everyone was right and that I should occupy myself with something else.
By the time everything settled, it was the 1st of March and the first signs of spring were in the air. I stood at the bus terminal with my hands in my pockets. I hadn’t felt warm since that cold February walk. The ride to San Francisco was only two and a half hours, not long enough to get any sleep but too long to simply stare out the window the entire time. Henry had given me a book on European economics that had intended to read on the journey but for some reason the last thing I wanted to think about was economics.
I ended up staring out the window the whole way. California blends together like an amorphous blob until you reach the ocean. I had never seen the ocean before and when the bus came within sight of the beach, it was sunset. At that moment, I wondered how I had gone my entire life without seeing the sun set over the ocean. All those colors, all those patterns in the clouds with the wind kissing the water and teasing it into the sky, it was almost too much. I wanted to close my eyes and plug my ears but at the same time I couldn’t tear myself away.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” The old woman in the seat next to me had noticed my awkward stare.
“I...I don’t know how to describe it,” I said, dumbfounded.
“Why, dear it’s as if you’ve never seen the sun set over the ocean before!” She joked. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that her assumption was correct.
The bus station in San Francisco was within walking distance of Molly’s apartment. I could have hired a taxi ten times over with the money I had in my pocket, but I didn’t see the point of paying someone for something I could do myself. I arrived at the address and was somewhat annoyed to find out that Molly’s apartment was on the top floor of a twelve story building. I hate heights and I hate elevators even more. I secured my backpack and prepared for the long walk to the top.
Before I could take a step, I was assaulted by a random hug. The smell of cheap perfume and lip gloss made me choke slightly and I felt my eyes begin to water. “OH! MY! GOD! Juliet, you made it!” This, was apparently Molly.