Authors: Kelly Favor
By Kelly Favor
© 2012 All Rights Reserved
It had been over two hours since Dr. Walsh had begun exploratory surgery on Hunter,
and Kallie was falling apart.
She felt like she might be losing her mind. Alone in the waiting room, she ignored
her constantly buzzing phone. There had been texts and calls from family, friends,
and unknown numbers that she suspected were journalists.
Detective Phillips had tried to stay with her, but she’d sent him back to the hotel
to get some rest. He’d clearly been running on almost zero hours of sleep.
Kallie turned off her cell and sat like a zombie, staring at the television and waiting
for her world to come crashing down.
At a certain point, she
that Hunter was going to die during the procedure.
Kallie had been impetuous, arrogant and borderline criminal in tossing aside a well-respected
and highly decorated thoracic surgeon in favor of a relatively experienced surgeon
like Dr. Walsh.
Dr. Forrest’s words of warning rang loudly in her ears. He’d said that she would
be an accomplice to murder if she insisted on putting Hunter through a risky, unnecessary
surgery when all he needed was a strong course of antibiotics.
What were you thinking? Why did you have to fight tooth and nail to put Hunter
through this torture? Are you completely out of your mind?
She was. Her mind was at war with itself, struggling to come to terms with having
the burden of this life-and-death decision on her shoulders, and her shoulders alone.
I just did what I thought was right.
The thought held little comfort. What did it matter if she’d thought she was right,
when experts had told her she was wrong? Who did she think she was? A man’s life
was at stake. A man she loved.
The fear was so strong, so intense, that Kallie’s entire body was paralyzed by it.
She could hardly breathe. She knew that by the end of this—when someone came and
explained to her that Hunter had passed away during his operation—she would need to
be carted away in a straightjacket.
Kallie knew that she’d never be able to live with herself after failing to protect
Hunter when he’d needed her most.
Finally, she forced herself to move. If she sat in the stale, white hospital waiting
room for even another moment, she was going to scream and she wouldn’t stop until
they came for her with the butterfly nets.
Her limbs moved mechanically, as if they belonged to somebody else. She walked robotically
out of the room and took the elevators downstairs to the first floor, then exited
the hospital. She planned to walk around the building, thinking that perhaps being
out in the world amongst normal people going about their daily lives—she might find
However, when she got outside, Kallie was instead confronted with Scarlett, who was
smoking a cigarette and pacing the sidewalk.
She felt a burst of anger at seeing Scarlett there. After all, Hunter’s ex-girlfriend
had promised to leave and return to the hotel room, waiting for Kallie’s update.
“What are you doing?” Kallie said, her words coming out clipped and emotionless.
Scarlett turned, her eyes widening in surprise. “I’m waiting to see if he’s okay.”
“I thought you were going back to the hotel to wait.”
Scarlett looked at the ground. “I was. I went back, but I couldn’t stand being there
with nothing to do. So I came here. I didn’t want to bother you, Kallie, that’s
why I stayed outside.”
Kallie stared at her for a moment. “I see.”
Scarlett hesitantly met her gaze. “Are you okay?”
“What do you think?”
“I know you’re upset—“
“Obviously I’m upset. Hunter’s going to die because of me.”
“How can you say such a thing?”
Kallie smirked. “Because it’s my fault, that’s why. Ask Dr. Forrest.”
Scarlett shook her head. “I’m not following you. Did something happen?”
“I made an executive decision,” Kallie said, and in her ears, her own voice sounded
high-pitched and unnatural. “Just like Hunter told me to. I switched Dr. Forrest
off the case and put this other doctor on his case—her name is Doctor Walsh. She
wanted to do a very risky, exploratory surgery to see why Hunter’s got a septic infection.”
Scarlett’s face grew pale. “So he’s in surgery right now?”
“Yes. And I didn’t have the energy to call and text everyone with an update about
how I completely screwed up Hunter’s treatment. I couldn’t bring myself to explain
how I meddled and got involved in things that I knew nothing about. So that’s why
I didn’t call you and tell you any of this.”
Scarlett’s expression was one of deep dismay. She took a long drag on her cigarette.
“It’s okay that you didn’t let me know. I understand, Kallie.”
Kallie turned to her. “Well you shouldn’t understand. I’ve been nothing but mean
to you from the beginning. I’ve been mean and cold and holier-than-thou. And now
I’ve gone and screwed things up beyond repair. You shouldn’t understand any of that—you
should hate me.” Her hands were shaking as she spoke. Her breathing was becoming
erratic, and suddenly she couldn’t catch her breath.
“Kallie, what’s wrong?”
She tried to take a deep breath, but couldn’t. Her throat felt tight and she could
hear her breath whistling, as if her esophagus had just shut completely. “I—I can’t
Scarlett dropped her cigarette to the pavement and crushed it underfoot. Then she
took Kallie’s hands in her own. “Look at me,” she said. Her voice was calm and in
Kallie met her gaze. She swallowed. Her heart was beating so, so fast—like it was
going to explode. Her chest heaved in and out and her legs and hands were tingling.
“I can’t—I can’t get any air.”
“It’s fine. You’re having a panic attack. I should know, I’ve had enough of them
in my life.” Scarlett’s dark eyes stared intently into Kallie’s eyes.
“I think I’m going to pass out.”
“Just exhale, slowly. Count to five in your head.”
Kallie did as she was told, slowly letting out the air that she had in her lungs.
She felt as though she needed to gulp more air, but resisted the impulse. “Okay,”
“Now take a very slow, five-second-breath in. Slowly. Slowly.” Scarlett looked
into Kallie’s eyes and breathed in along with her.
Kallie counted to herself. Finally she’d breathed in as much air as she could.
“Like this?” she asked.
Scarlett nodded. “Let it out again slowly.” Scarlett walked her through that for
the next minute or two.
After a bit, Kallie felt the sense of panic begin to pass.
“I think I’m better,” Kallie said softly.
Scarlett withdrew her hands, but still looked closely at Kallie. “You’ve pushed yourself
too hard—taken too much of this on yourself. You can’t think that Hunter’s life is
in your hands. The doctors are the only ones who have that kind of power—the doctors
and God. That’s it.”
Kallie nodded. “Thank you for saying that,” she said. A few tears ran down her cheeks.
She felt as though she were made of ice or even glass—so fragile that with the slightest
breeze she would fall and break into a million pieces.
“I know what it’s like to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, and let
me tell you—it’s not worth it, Kallie. Trust me.” Scarlett smiled at her.
“I just don’t know what to do with this—I’m going crazy. Like, really and truly crazy.”
She bit her lip. “I can’t lose him.”
“If only you smoked,” Scarlett laughed, taking out a new cigarette from her pack and
quickly lighting it with the ease and grace of a longtime enthusiast. She took a
long drag, and Kallie watched her, admiring the other girl’s mysterious beauty. She
could see now why Hunter had been so drawn to her.
“Maybe you could teach me how,” Kallie smiled. “I’ve never even inhaled.”
Scarlett shook her head. “No, I couldn’t do it to you, Kallie. The addiction’s not
worth the it.”
“Will you come back inside with me—keep me company?”
Scarlett looked startled. “Really?”
“It would be nice to sit together, to have someone with me who knows Hunter and understands
what this is like.”
“Of course, I’ll come sit with you.” Scarlett smiled brightly.
A moment later, the two of them went back inside together.
Scarlett followed Kallie to the elevator, feeling that familiar sense of dread in
her belly. Something about Kallie was drawing her in—and yet at the same time, repelling
Kallie was everything she wasn’t: blond and doe-eyed, innocent, wholesome.
Kallie had even seemingly conquered Hunter’s singular independent streak—which Scarlett
had never come close to doing in their time together.
Scarlett rode the elevator up, feeling oddly protective of Kallie, watching her to
make sure she wasn’t going to have another panic attack or something of that sort.
It had felt nice to take care of someone again, the way she’d taken care of Kallie
outside the hospital, if only for a brief minute or two.
The elevator pinged and the doors opened, letting them off together. Kallie gave
Scarlett a slightly worried look and Scarlett tried to return a comforting smile.
Of course, if Hunter somehow recovers, she’ll forget all about me. She’ll forget
that I held her hand and comforted her. I’ll be alone again, just like always.
Scarlett sighed, reminding herself that she’d always basically been on her own and
somehow she’d always gotten by. She didn’t need Kallie or Hunter—certainly not Terrence
(who was crazy, and dead anyway)—she didn’t need anyone. She’d long since given up
on the whole knight in shining armor thing. She certainly wasn’t about to start
hoping for a friendship with Hunter’s new flame.
And yet here she was, feeling those same stirrings of hope and dread, as she sat next
to Kallie in the waiting room and felt suddenly close to this woman that she barely
knew. “The least they could do is put something decent on TV,” Scarlett whispered,
with a smile.
Kallie laughed in return. There was an episode of that new game show, Take It All,
playing on the television, and a contestant was squealing as Howie Mandel announced
that she’d just “taken it all.” The show was barely even audible.
“This might seem like a really bizarre request,” Kallie said to her. “But, could
you hold my hand again?”
Scarlett nodded, trying to ignore the warm flood of happiness that overcame her from
hearing those simple words. She grasped Kallie’s hand in her own, and patted it softly.
“Yeah.” Kallie sighed.
Scarlett thought that it was as if she’d naturally taken on the maternal role in the
relationship, even though she was probably only two or three years older. But in
truth, she’d likely been through almost a lifetime of experiences that Kallie could
I’m not that person anymore. I’m starting a new life now.
But how many times had she tried to start a new life? It always ended up in the same
She squeezed Kallie’s hand, as much to calm herself as anything. “It’s going to be
okay,” she said. “I promise.”
Not long after this, Scarlett’s phone rang. She dug into her purse and found her
cell, and didn’t recognize the number at first. But then she realized that it was
probably one of the rentals she’d contacted recently and hurriedly answered, keeping
her voice as low as possible. “This is Scarlett,” she said.
The man on the other end had a nasally, rather high-pitched voice. “You contacted
me on Craigslist about my apartment?” he asked.
“Yeah. Is it still available?”
“It is. Could you come by today to see it?”
She sighed. “I’ve had an emergency and am out of town at the moment. What about
early next week?”
There was a long pause. “I’m sorry, but I’ve already got multiple people coming today
and tomorrow. I seriously doubt it will be available next week.”
“Oh.” She licked her lips. “I understand—“
Then he hung up. At first, Scarlett thought it was her cell losing reception, but
when she checked, there were still plenty of bars. “Shit. He hung up on me.”
Kallie looked at her. “Is everything okay?”
“Sure.” Scarlett felt a surge of emotion. After all, it was because of Kallie that
she was in this position now—trying to find a new place to live with very little money.
Still, she tried to cover up her mixed feelings, given how much Kallie had already
been through in the last few days. “Everything’s okay,” Scarlett said.
“It doesn’t sound that way.” Kallie watched her.
Scarlett sighed. “It’s just been really hard trying to find a new place to live.
Everything’s expensive, or in bad neighborhoods. The good places get snapped up so
fast I never even get a chance to see them.” She shook her head. “But I shouldn’t
be complaining about something like this when…” she trailed off, leaving the thought