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Tormentor Mine(5)

By:Anna Zaires

“I’m sorry, hon. I’m an insensitive ass. I shouldn’t have said that.” Marsha looks genuinely regretful as she reaches over and squeezes my arm lightly.

I take a deep breath and turn around to face her again. I am exhausted, which doesn’t help the emotions threatening to overwhelm me.

“It’s all right.” I force a smile to my lips. “It’s no big deal. You should get going; the girls are probably waiting for you.” And I have to get home before I break down and cry in public, which would be the height of humiliation.

“All right, hon.” Marsha smiles back at me, but I see the pity lurking in her gaze. “You just get some sleep this weekend, okay? Promise me you’ll do that.”

“Yes, I will—Mom.”

She rolls her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, I get the hint. I’ll see you Monday.” She walks out of the locker room, and I wait a minute before following her to avoid running into her group of girlfriends in the elevators.

I’ve had about as much pity as I can handle.

* * *

As I enter the hospital parking lot, I check my phone out of habit, and my heart skips a beat when I see a text from a blocked number.

Stopping, I swipe across the screen with an unsteady finger.

All is well, but have to postpone this weekend’s visit, the message says. Scheduling conflict.

My breath whooshes out in relief, and right away, the familiar guilt bites at me. I shouldn’t feel relieved. These visits should be something I want to do, instead of an unpleasant obligation. Only I can’t help the way I feel. Every time I visit George, it brings back memories of that night, and I don’t sleep for days afterward.

If Marsha thinks I’m sleep-deprived now, she should see me after one of those visits.

Slipping the phone back into my bag, I approach my car. It’s a Toyota Camry, the same one I’ve had for the past five years. Now that I’ve paid off my med school loans and accumulated some savings, I can afford better, but I don’t see the point.

George was the one into cars, not me.

The pain grabs at me, familiar and sharp, and I know it’s because of that text. Well, that and the conversation with Marsha. Lately, I’ve had days when I don’t think about the accident at all, going about my routine without the crushing pressure of guilt, but today is not one of those days.

He was an adult, I remind myself, repeating what everyone always says. It was his decision to get behind the wheel that day.

Rationally, I know the truth of those words, but no matter how often I hear them, they don’t sink in. My mind is stuck on a loop, replaying that evening over and over again, and as hard as I try, I can’t stop the ugly reel from spinning.

Enough, Sara. Concentrate on the road.

Taking a steadying breath, I pull out of the parking lot and head toward my house. It’s about a forty-minute drive from the hospital, which is about forty minutes too long right now. My stomach is beginning to cramp, and I realize part of the reason I’m so emotional today is that I’m about to start my period. As an OB-GYN, I know better than anyone how powerful the effect of hormones can be, and when PMS is combined with long hours and reminders about George… Well, it’s a miracle I’m not a blubbering mess already.

Yes, that’s it. I’m just hormonal and tired. I need to get home, and all will be well.

Determined to get a handle on myself, I turn on the radio, tune in to a late-nineties pop station, and begin singing along with Britney Spears. It might not be the most serious music, but it’s upbeat, and that’s exactly what I need.

I won’t let myself fall apart. Tonight, I will sleep, even if I have to take an Ambien to make that happen.

* * *

My house is on a tree-lined cul-de-sac, just off a two-lane road that winds through farmland. Like many others in the upscale area of Homer Glen, Illinois, it’s huge—five bedrooms and four baths, plus a fully finished basement. There’s an enormous back yard, and so many oaks surround the house it’s as if it’s sitting in the middle of a forest.

It’s perfect for that big family George wanted and horribly lonely for me.

After the accident, I considered selling the house and moving closer to the hospital, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I still can’t. George and I renovated the house together, modernizing the kitchen and the bathrooms, painstakingly decorating each room to give it a cozy, welcoming vibe. A family vibe. I know the odds of us having that family are nonexistent now, but a part of me clings to the old dream, to the perfect life we were supposed to have.

“Three kids, at least,” George told me on our fifth date. “Two boys and a girl.”