Unforgettable

Chapter 2

Technology: anxiety inducing to old-schoolers, convenience to new-agers and in certain situations an opportune crutch with which to escape uncomfortable conversations. Not that one would consider a pager the latest technological marvel, smart-phones and tablets had obviously supplanted the outdated mobile and beeper. The purpose of the pager was different though. It allowed for the receipt of quick, instant messages and was a speedy and efficient tool utilized by professionals, typically in the health-care industry. The upshot of its use was customarily to inform the recipient of the immediate requirement of their presence. In this situation, however, he considered it an appropriate interruptor to a discussion that was teetering on the edge of a volcanic eruption. Midway through the exchange was when he came to the realization that further rumination was required before an irreversible decision was taken. So at that moment in time he considered his beeping pager to be a miraculous invention.

Acceding to its demands he ignored the hanging question and pivoting away from her presence he followed the path back to where he had emerged mere minutes before. Her exasperated expression was a clear indicator that she was onto him. He hid a tiny grin at her adorableness, knowing that not only was it inappropriate considering the serious nature of the talk from which he’d absconded, but also if she were to spy his slight smile he knew that she would totally misinterpret it, and a fiery temper would be ignited. He chanced a quick glance back, for even as she infuriated him he nonetheless hankered for the sight of her. Never in his wildest imaginings (and he’d had some doozies, natural of course when you consider where she’d been) did the thought even cross his mind that this hurried gaze would be his last sight of her…alive.

It had simply been a consult. No major disaster. No gaping wounds, burns or torn flesh required to be swiftly or meticulously patched. No earth shattering, natural phenomena causing, chaos. And no man-made catastrophes, either careless or freak, involved. Until there was. Being that Grey Sloan Memorial was a Level 1 Trauma Centre, all the doctors employed there were familiar with expecting the unexpected, and the blast of an exploding ambulance was severe enough for the presence of debris to even reach the ER doors. He was thankful that her shift had ended and that she’d left when she had. Not that fear for her safety was his overriding concern at that moment. To be fair, it was a constant back of the mind state of affairs, but as the saying went ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and his requirement at that moment was total concentration on the severly burned patient from the explosion just outside the doors of his own hospital.

It was unfortunate that even with the pooling of their respective skills they were unable to resuscitate the young woman who was burned beyond recognition. It was a bad outcome that did not sit well with any of them. Time, experience, a certain degree of arrogance and a learned emotional distancing mindset ensured that as surgeons they detached themselves from patients for their own peace and mental health, and for the most part they were able to adhere to this self-inflicted addendum to the Hippocratic Oath. Not today though. For whatever personal reasons her death affected them all. For him, the patient reminded him of her. Her height and slight frame mostly, as the charred flesh could give no indicator of any other recognizable characteristics. She was in fact a Jane Doe. Until she wasn’t.

They would have him believe it was her. Her handbag found at the scene, no answer to numerous pagers but altogether much more damning the discovery of her mobile phone, screen scratched and damaged, within close proximity to the incident. All very Machiavellian, or if you were to return to the opposite side of the spectrum it could be considered a 9-eleven similar conspiracy, the part where ‘clear’ indentification is found amongst explosive debris. Yet one more explanation they used to justify their belief was the fact that no one had come forward to file a missing person report and subsequently claim Jane Doe. While he hated using the nomenclature, it was infinitely preferable to the name that was on all their colleagues lips. He convinced himself that if he refused to say it, it would remain a lie. Not only did he not accept it as true he vehemently denied it as truth. Aloud to all who would listen and a quiet admission to his own aching heart.

While avoidance of emotional unpleasantness had always been his default coping mechanism, conversely he was direct and openly confrontational in his thoughts and ensuing actions. He was guided by a strong moral code too, which often led to extreme honesty even during impulsive conversations and especially upon observance of others behaviour. He was basically a straight shooter and called them as he saw them. Except when it came to his inner being. In that aspect of his life he was inscrutable. Even she who knew him and who had chartered a course through his unchartered minefield of feelings was not privy to his process. She had obviously relied on educated guesswork and a shared past to navigate the pitfalls and although she’d fallen short, no one else had gotten quite as close. Knowing him as completely as she did, there were two facets of his character or rather traits that she had placed strong reliance on. One was his consuming love for her and the second was on par with that, his extreme stubbornness.

He’d been driven to atypical behaviour before. Spurred on by his protective urges and, on a couple of memorable occasions, jealousy (an incident of which could definitely be termed violent) he was brought to the realization that while the first was the norm the latter was only in relation to her, the love of his life. His nature of safeguarding and shielding women was in no way indicative of anti-feminism, patriarchy or even misogyny - he had the utmost respect for women and their abilities, including their rights to self-determination. Similarly, his behaviour and actions underscored his principled righteousness. He did not sexually discriminate against or objectify females and neither did he belittle, perpetrate or perpetuate violence against them. He respected the opposite sex but he knew that men were sometimes ‘chauvinist pigs’ and with their inherent physical strengths this could lead to the ‘gentler sex’ encountering danger to their persons from unchecked offenders.

Being a surgeon he, on occasion, had a ringside view to an intended or unintended kill and the resultant damage inflicted, which he then attempted to rectify. While this general malaise roused his protective instincts, with her it was amplified to the nth degree. So it was no surprise that he refused to accept the hand dealt to him. Discounting the basic premise of her being removed so viciously from his life, it became a matter of personal honour too, that he was unable to protect the most important person in his life...again!

Once disbelief over her disappearance was suspended, he conceded to experiencing the beginning of the five stages of grief, starting with denial and anger. He simply refused to believe or accept that she had died. His unique coping method encompassed a small measure of guilt too. Once again he’d given up on them, against her wishes and seemingly with such ease. The guilt he experienced, however, was not about his words but because his hesitation meant that he never got to explain his change of heart. His acceded reality, although too late, was that they were always worth fighting for.

While he was no Holmes or even sidekick Watson, his investigative prowess kicked in, aided and abetted by technology, which he once again appreciated. This time he was thankful for CCTV Camera footage, especially the motion detector ones outside that particular hospital exit. While the purpose of the Closed-Circuit Television was not video surveillance per sē, it was an insurance requirement to cover the expensive medical equipment on site and also marginally due to the medicinal drugs kept on the premises. The upgraded camera security was also in response to the hospital shooting of years past when medical personnel lost their lives. It had all been so unnecessary and certainly avoidable if the correct safeguarding protocols had existed.

He viewed the footage, ostensibly to negate their certainty and give weight to his denials. He watched as the camera panned to her as both it and him caught up with her, mid flight. He watched himself receive the page and he watched himself walk away. Out of the camera’s purview he remembered his quick glance back towards her standing figure. In shock he watched as she was caught on camera, not making her way towards the parking lot as he’d assumed she had, but towards the hospitals emergency entrance around the corner and towards the ambulance bay. Mere seconds passed after she disappeared from viewing range when the visual effects of the explosion and resultant smoke and flames could be seen on the CCTV video. It was a chilling sight. Not enough for him to give up hope though.

Unwilling to concede defeat he ordered an immediate autopsy on Jane Doe. He tried to recall if any familiarity had sparked when he, along with the other surgeons, had attempted to rescue her. Except for her tiny stature nothing rang any bells. In this case neither did familiarity breed contempt, nor recognition. The explosion and fire was so severe that every part of her was indistinguishable. Nothing remained to identify her. No dimples, no familiar vibrant hair and no known scars or marks. It was also impossible to test her blood and as a last resort he tried to see if the female body had gestated and given birth in the not so distant past. Once again inconclusive evidence relating to unable to be tested data. He refused to accept though. He knew that she hadn’t given up on winning him back, so where was the very recognizable rock on the ring finger of her left hand? Diamonds were a girl’s best friend after all and also for a very good reason, they weathered any storm and emerged triumphant into and also as the limelight.

How did he go about looking for her though? All and sundry accepted her demise as true and his disbelief, while seeming to be the beginning stages of grief (or so they convinced themselves it was) also appeared to be the ravings of a, demented with grief, lunatic. He started doubting, his own sanity as well as his conviction that she was alive. Second and third chances at happiness were an anomaly. Perhaps, his luck had run out...

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