I’m rudely barged out of the room.
“Get her out of here,” one guy says as a woman takes my arm in a friendly but firm manner and urges me in the direction of the door. Strange sounds are all around, bleeps and beeps and sirens. I don’t know what’s going on. I feel dizzy. The world is a blur as I’m pushed out of the room and placed in one of the uncomfortable chairs in the corridor.
I close my eyes and take a deep breath. My eyes are stinging with the tears that are flowing freely down my face. I can’t breathe. I can’t focus. I can’t calm down. I’m panicking, but I’m not sure why. My mind whirls from one place to another, barely aware of my surroundings and of the fact that someone’s coming towards me and–
“Evie,” comes a familiar and kindly voice. It’s the old guy — I still don’t know his actual name — but I appreciate everything he’s done for me so far… and for him. “Evie, are you all right?”
I gulp, and gasp, and sob. My shoulders spasm with every breath, and it’s difficult to breathe, but the embarrassment of breaking down like this in front of someone else is causing my shame reflex to kick in, overriding the feelings of panic in my brain.
“Evie,” he says again, placing one of his big, leathery hands on my shoulder. “It’s all right. Calm down. Please.”
I close my eyes and breathe deeply a few times again. The feeling that I want to run and hide slowly dissipates, and I feel the power of speech returning to me, though it’s a big effort.
“I’m… I’m all right,” I say through occasional uncontrollable sobs. “I’ll… be okay.”
“Evie,” he says again. “I understand that it’s likely difficult to talk about, but would you mind telling me what happened? You were the only person in there when–”
“You… you don’t think I had anything to–” I’m mortified. Am I being accused of causing this? I guess I sort of did, but that sickening feeling of guilt rising up inside my stomach feels unjust, and I feel the sense of panic rising again.
“No,” he says, trying to calm my fears, and being mostly successful at it with that one simple word. “All I mean is that you saw what happened. Can you tell me what went on?”
I rub my face, covering it for a moment and smearing the wet tears over my cheeks. I’m glad I’m not wearing any makeup, otherwise I’d be a horrendous mess right about now. I haven’t worn makeup for a long time, ever since–
“Yes,” I say. “I was… and this will sound silly, I know… I was talking to him.”
The old guy nods, but says nothing, waiting for me to continue.
“I told him some things and, I don’t know, really — no. He heard. He heard me.” He did. I’d seen him move. He hadn’t spoken, hadn’t opened his eyes, but I knew he’d heard me. I was sure I’d seen that fingertip twitch.
“Mmhmm,” says the old guy. “What makes you think he heard you?”
I pause. I’m not sure how to explain it, so I just go for the straight facts.
“I saw his fingertip move,” I say. “I spoke to him, and I saw him move, as if it was an answer to me. He didn’t speak. Just that fingertip moved. But it was for me. I think. Maybe. I don’t know.”
The old guy nods again.
“Okay,” he says. “And what happened then? When did… things start happening?”
“I’m not sure,” I say. “I was talking to him about things… apologising for things I’d done, and…”
“You think he heard you,” the old guy finishes for me. “You think he responded to the things you’re sorry about, and his reaction caused this.”
“Yes, I guess,” I say. “I mean, you’re the expert, you tell me.”
“We’ll have to do some tests,” he says. “But thank you. That’s a big help. Now, given these… developments, I’m afraid we’ll need to keep him in strictly controlled conditions for the moment. That means–”
“I know,” I say. “You need me to stay away.”
“I’m sure you understand,” he says. “I know you want him back, but it’s not going to be an easy road, and there are no guarantees. I just don’t want you to get your hopes up too much.”
I nod. Tears come back into my eyes, and one rolls down the side of my face, leaving a wet trail over my cheek. The old guy hands me his handkerchief — who still carries an actual handkerchief? — and I gratefully accept it, dabbing my face and then blowing my nose in a very undignified manner before realising how inappropriate that probably is.
“Uh,” I say, holding the now-wet handkerchief by one corner.
“That’s okay,” he says, laughing. “You keep hold of that for now.”
He stands and turns away from me for a moment.
“I admire you, you know,” he says. “There aren’t many people left with a love as strong as yours. I envy you a bit.”
“I’m not sure I’m worthy of being envied,” I say, sniffing. “There’s more to this story than you know.”
He turns back to me.
“Perhaps there is,” he says. “But it’s none of my business. Your life — and your life together — is your own. We’re doing everything we can to reunite you.”
“I know,” I say. “I know.”
I stand and solemnly turn for the door. I start walking, slowly, staring at the ground and listening to my echoey footsteps as my feet hit the floor.
“Thank you,” I say quietly as I reach the door, pushing it open and turning my back on this place for the moment.