Crossroads

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Chapter 11

Mia

“But the heart is the most treacherous organ in the human body. It does what it wants, and it doesn’t waste any time with the flashing warning signs in your mind.”

PAST

I feel my heart clench from what he told me already, and I’m sure we haven’t reached the bad part yet. He looks so goddamn vulnerable, I just want to hug all of this misery out of him, but I know he just needs to get it out now.

He takes a deep breath again and nods his head, almost like he’s encouraging himself to go through with this.

“This ten-year-old girl came in, smiling and jumping like she hadn’t just been in a major accident. It was hard to actually get her to stand still with how excited she was.” There’s a hint of a smile playing on his lips as he speaks, even though the rest of his features show pure and utter pain.

“I checked her thoroughly, made an ultrasound to rule out internal bleeding, and even scheduled her for a full-body x-ray to make sure she didn’t have any undiscovered broken bones. Her behavior just seemed too normal, you know.”

“She was acting fine, but I noticed her heart rate was higher than normal. At first I thought it may be just the adrenaline, but something didn’t seem right, I just had this weird feeling, and so I called my father. He was on call that night, and I knew the other cardio-thoracic-surgeons in the hospital weren’t worth a dime, so I decided to ask him to come and take a look at her readings. Of course he said yes, he always did. And of course my mom decided to go with him, they always accompanied each other when both of them had the night off and one of them got called in.”

He starts trembling suddenly, placing the cup on the floor before running his hands through his hair, starting to pull at it. I place my hands above his own, bringing them down into his lap where he studies them intently, his fingers playing with the rings on mine as he continues.

“They... They drove down to the hospital while I checked on some of the other kids, helping out the surgical residents and interns as we were absolutely understaffed for something major like this. I was just checking in on another boy when one of the nurses walked up to me. I swear, the way she looked at me... I just... I just knew.” His voice is trembling when he speaks, and with the insane display of agony running across his features I can only fear what he’s about to say next.

“Knew what?” I encourage him to continue when he hasn’t said anything for a few minutes, the only movements being his fingers clenching onto my own, like he’s trying to get a grasp on reality, to himself.

“That something happened to my parents.” He whispers, and I can tell that he’s struggling to continue, that he’s reaching his limits here.

“What happened to them?” I dare to push him a bit more, hoping he won’t hide again.

But then he looks up at me, and I see it in his eyes as they swell with tears. I see the grief, the sorrow, the despair... It’s all written in those extremely beautiful but severely broken blue irises.

“They got into an accident. A drunk driver drove through a red light and crashed into them. They died on the scene.”

To my surprise he doesn’t break, he just says it factually, his eyes back on our intertwined fingers as a silent tear rolls down his cheek.

“Oh, Lincoln...” I can’t stop my own tears when I see how much he’s trying to hold back, how badly he wants to compose himself. The mere thought of losing either of my parents makes me want to scream, I can’t even begin to imagine what he must feel like.

“I’m so so sorry for your loss...” A soft sob escapes my throat from the raw emotions running through my veins, the thought of me and my brothers at my parents’ funeral has me choked up. I can’t and don’t even want to imagine what Lincoln must feel.

He immediately looks up at me, his palm resting on my face when his eyes suddenly turn worried. Wiping the tears from my cheeks he speaks, his voice barely a whisper but filled with unmistakable anguish.

“Don’t cry for me, Mia. Please... I don’t deserve it.”

“Why? It’s not your fault, Lincoln. You had no influence over what happened to your parents.” I place my hand above his own, trying to make him believe me.

“It’s not just that... There’s so much more. I did horrible things, Mia. I caused so much pain...”

“What are you talking about?” I run my fingers through his hair, watching as his features visibly soften underneath my touch.

He grabs my hand from his hair and places it on his cheek, leaning into my touch with his eyes closed. I watch as he takes a deep but trembling breath, slightly shaking his head as if he’s internally fighting himself.

“I killed her, Mia. I killed her...”

Removing my hand from his cheek he then buries his face in his palms, his upper body rising and falling with every deep breath he takes, the guilt radiating off of him in waves.

“What do you mean? Who?” I try to stay calm, even though his statement probably should’ve rattled me more than it did.

He finally looks back up at me and I immediately grab his hands, intertwining our fingers before placing them in his lap again. His eyes search my own, almost like he’s gauging my reaction, reading to what extent he can trust me with this.

“You’re really beautiful, you know that?”

His sudden declaration catches me off guard, and I have to blink a few times before I reply.

“Lincoln...”

“Sorry. Sorry... I mean, it’s true, but... Fuck. Sorry.” He shakes his head, and when he closes his eyes it looks like he’s trying to gather his thoughts, to sort himself out.

“Talk to me, Lincoln. I’m here, and I don’t judge. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Do you promise?”

I smile a bit when he looks up again, those storming eyes settling on mine as he squeezes my hands, the question still lingering on his features.

“I promise.”

He nods his head at my answer, his eyes now back on our intertwined fingers when he takes a deep breath.

“As I said... I was just checking up on this boy when the nurse came up to me. I could tell she needed to tell me something... important, and I quickly wrapped my examination up before I stepped out. She pulled me into one of the private rooms to tell me the news, and as soon as the words left her mouth I just went into this state of shock. I just... I didn’t know how to deal with it.”

I gently squeeze his hand, letting him know I’m still here before he continues.

“I stood in that room for about twenty minutes, just trying to wrap my head around the situation, when suddenly my pager started to go off. It was a code blue from Maya, the girl with the irregular heartbeat. I managed to get out of my shock after a minute and rushed into her room, only to find her in cardiac arrest. Nurses were rushing in and out of there, but the only doctor at the scene was a completely overworked intern who didn’t even know how to run a code like that. I stepped in and did all I could to get her back, which I eventually did. Her heart rate was steady again and she was breathing on her own, but something was off. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something going on with her...”

“We did another ultrasound and found some liquid in her abdomen, which looked very much like internal bleeding after all. I rushed her into the ER, deciding I needed to get in there to see for myself what’s going on. That’s what we did, we wheeled her in and opened her up, but then everything went wrong...”

He sucks in a breath so shaky, I can’t help but scoot closer to him, trying to give him all the support he needs. His eyes still don’t meet mine though, instead he wipes his eyes on his shoulder, drying the tears that fled.

“She had a microscopic tear in her heart. That’s what caused the irregular heartbeat. I worsened it by using the defibrillator on her during her cardiac arrest, and by the time we noticed the liquid in her body it was too late... I just opened her up when she crashed again, and before I could even find the problem, she was gone...”

Now he looks back up at me, and I feel my heart tear from the insane amount of guilt in his eyes, from the pain running across his features.

“I killed her. I did everything wrong one could possibly do wrong, and it killed her. I killed her. I killed her and I killed my parents.”

I can’t even imagine what he must feel like. Being a doctor comes with so many responsibilities to begin with, but dealing with children, and losing children because of the mistakes you make... It can only eat you alive.

“That’s not true, Lincoln...”

“But it is.” He suddenly jumps up now, the rapid movement makes me flinch for a second.

“It’s true, and I have to live with it!”

I can literally see the way his mind is being overrun by guilt right now, how he’s about to be thrown into this deep abyss again, just like this morning.

“Lincoln...” I slowly get up, stretching out my hand as I walk towards him at a snail’s pace, like a gazelle approaching a lion.

“I have to live with it, Mia! How can I live with it?!”

He yells at me, but I ignore the volume of his voice as I step towards him, now raising my hands in a defensive motion.

“Look at me, Lincoln.”

But he doesn’t respond, he just rubs his hands over his face, his fingers pulling at his hair as he mumbles something incomprehensible beneath his breath.

“Lincoln.” I slowly place my hand on his arm, and he visibly flinches before he looks straight at me, those raging eyes seemingly looking for reason in my own.

“It’s not your fault, Lincoln. I get why you think it is, but it isn’t.”

He watches me like a hawk as I step closer towards him, now being almost flush against his chest as I have to crane my neck to look up at him.

“It’s not your fault. You didn’t kill anyone.”

“I did.”

“No. You didn’t.”

I cautiously wrap my arms around his torso, not wanting him to flinch or step back again. He doesn’t react at all though. He just stands there, not moving an inch as I tighten my grip on him.

“I killed them, Mia. All of them.” He whispers, and I can’t help but squeeze him tightly again, placing my head on his chest as I listen to his heartbeat.

“Stop, Lincoln. Stop.”

I don’t know how long we stand there, my arms wrapped around him while he’s just standing still, the only sound in the room being his thundering heartbeat along with mine. At one point he finally moves his arms around me though, and I feel him inhale a shuddering breath as his whole posture slowly softens.

“It’s too much, Mia. I can’t control it. I don’t know what I feel... I feel nothing and everything at once. It’s too much. I can’t handle it. It’s too much...” He whispers, his lips moving against my temple as he suddenly squeezes me even more tightly.

“We’ll figure it out, Lincoln. You’re not alone in this. We are in this together now.”

And once again we just stand like that for what feels like hours, calming each other by simply holding on, the heat of our two bodies slowly merging into one. At some point, I hear his heart rate pick up again though, and with every new beat his heart thunders louder and louder, the almost deafening sound causing my own heart to tumble in my chest.

“Mia...”

Something changes in his voice when he says my name, and as soon as I look up at him I know what it is.

The heat in his eyes catches me completely off guard, the pure hunger emanating from his body has me pinned to my spot. I can’t even move when he suddenly cups my face with his shaky hands, his cheeks still painted with wept tears. And I just know that this is a spectacularly bad idea, that I have to stop him. But I’m physically unable to, something about this man just disarms me in the most dangerous way.

“Lincoln...” I try to speak sternly, but instead it comes out as a whisper before I release a shaky breath.

He rests his forehead against my own, and I can almost taste his lips from how close his face is to mine. It would be too easy to close the gap, too easy to just give in to this, to him. It is probably the worst idea I ever had, though. Not just for me, but for him as well. I’m just a second-year psychology student but I do already know that this right here is neither healthy nor helpful. At all.

But the heart is the most treacherous organ in the human body. It does what it wants, and it doesn’t waste any time with the flashing warning signs in your mind.

I don’t know how I do it, it’s a miracle, really. But I actually manage to lean back a bit, immediately noticing the disenchanted look on his face as soon as our eyes meet.

“Lincoln, we...”

But he doesn’t let me finish the sentence, because as I said... The heart does what it wants.

And so I’m staggering backward when Lincoln suddenly crashes his lips on my own, his hand moving to the small of my back where he presses me against him, just before we stumble against the wall right behind me. He’s caging me in, leaving me no choice but to give in, the last of my resolve going up in flames when he lavishly punishes my mouth, his hands on my body feeling like lit matches on gasoline.

I can’t help but wrap my arms around his neck, holding on for dear life as he continuously attacks my senses, his soft lips feverishly chasing my own. A quiet sigh escapes my throat when his tongue invades my mouth, immediately searching mine, set on a mission to absolutely destroy my sanity. We’re moving in absolute raw fervor, throwing all caution to the wind.

Releasing a low growl he eradicates every molecule of air between us, his firm body pressed so tightly against mine that I feel like he might take over my very being, my senses being hyperaware of every electrifying contact of our bodies.

But then, as his hand moves to the back of my neck to pull me even closer, it’s like something snaps inside my head.

We can’t do this. It’s so, so dangerous and absolutely inappropriate.

“Link...” I place my hands on his chest as I whisper into his lips, which are still locked so firmly to mine, I don’t know if I will be able to break away from him.

But as I give him a gentle push he immediately takes a step back, his forehead resting against my own as we both catch our breath.

“I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m really not.”

His breath travels down my throat as he whispers the words, and I can’t help but shudder from the sensation.

“We can’t do this, Lincoln...”

He suddenly takes a step back to look at me, my whole body instantly feeling painfully cold without his presence.

“I know.”

And I can’t deny that his words surprise me, because if I’m being honest, I’m having a hard time reading his emotions in situations like these. He’s a mystery through and through, and it intrigues me to an awfully dangerous extent, even though I know it shouldn’t.

“Are you okay?” I dare to take his hand in my own, the extreme urge to know about his wellbeing invading my brain as he looks up at me.

“I don’t know. I don’t think so... But I’m tired.”

“Okay. Let’s go to bed. It’s late, anyway...” I nod my head at him before I take a step back and release my hand from his grasp, only to have him snatch it back again.

“Wait...”

There’s this look again. This look of pure and utter despair, despair so powerful it might just break the both of us if he lets it in.

“What is it?”

“I... I don’t want to be alone.”

And I can’t help but smile at his admission. I’m glad he’s starting to open up, he’s starting to read his emotions, to rate them and accept them as they are.

“Okay. Come, you can help change the sheets while I take care of the bathroom.”

I know I haven’t asked what he did, I just saw the puddle of water on the tiles and the full bathtub, combined with my soaked bed I can only imagine what happened.

“I’m sorry about that...”

“No, it’s okay. Really.” I shoot him a quick smile. “The sheets are in the dresser next to the door. I’ll be with you in a minute.”

We both take care of our tasks, and I have to admit that just seeing the bathroom makes me feel extremely anxious. I can only imagine what he did all those hours I was gone, how he felt... I’m just glad I got here in time.

Yes, I’m still angry at him for behaving the way he did. But honestly, after hearing what he told me today, I don’t even want to act like I understand what he must be going through. The weight on his shoulders is so obvious, the guilt in his eyes so blatant, I don’t think anyone would behave rationally if they went through all that. And I still feel like there are things he hasn’t told me, which is bad enough in itself. The amount of pain this man has endured breaks my heart.

When I get back into the bedroom I see Lincoln already beneath the duvet, and I don’t fail to notice the clothes I gave him folded on the chair next to the bed, a quick glance to his bare chest confirming my suspicions.

Fuck. This will not make things easier.

I grab some clothes from my closet before getting changed in the living room, and the second I move back into the bedroom I feel his intense eyes on me, watching me as I make my way to the bed.

It’s eerily quiet as I slip beneath the covers, my knee accidentally touching his thigh as I try to make myself comfortable, and I can’t fucking deny the spark that’s coursing through my veins at the feeling of his skin on mine.

Fuck. This is so dangerous.

“Mia?” His voice makes me turn to my right, where I find him lying on his back, his head turned to face me.

“Yeah?”

He hesitantly turns to me and moves his hand beneath the covers to bring it up to my face, his knuckles skimming my cheeks in such a gentle manner that I feel like a porcelain doll he’s afraid to break. I’m holding my breath when his eyes settle on my own, the sole emotion in them as always knocking the air out of my lungs and shaking me to my very core.

“You’re so astonishingly beautiful.”

His voice is so raw, filled with so much emotion and heat that I feel the blood rush into my cheeks, my heart pounding in my chest as I try to read him, try to find the intention of his words. When I don’t respond he suddenly continues, his voice barely above a whisper with every word he says.

“I’m sorry. For the way I treated you. I shouldn’t have said those things and I shouldn’t have yelled at you... I don’t... I don’t know what’s happening to me sometimes. But I appreciate everything you do and did for me. I hope you know that...”

He brushes some hair out of my face as we both just lay there, our bodies now facing each other as we breathe the atmosphere in, bathing in each other’s scent.

“It’s okay. I just... I need you to talk to me.”

I place my hand above his own as he nods his head, his eyes sincere and honest when he speaks.

“I know. I promise I’ll try.”

And with that we fall asleep, our emotionally drained minds taking over our senses as I subconsciously scoot closer to him, his arm immediately wrapping around my torso while I take my last conscious breath.

That night my dreams are haunted by his demons. Haunted by sorrow, pain, and anguish, all emotions Lincoln must feel all day, every day.

Little did I know that soon enough I’d be the prisoner of his demons, that I’d be the one gearing up for the battle of a lifetime, a battle that would end up breaking my heart in the most excruciating manner known to mankind.

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