Noah McCourt didn’t know how long he stood on the gravel path. He’d spotted Olivia walking ahead of him and had been about to call her name when she yelled and then shot out to move the girl away and then was sent flying before disappearing from his view.
Before coming here, he’d tried calling her cell but was sent to voice mail. He had tried her house and had gotten the answering machine. His last resort had been Tracy who’d informed him that Olivia mentioned something about going to the National Art Gallery after school. He thought he would try finding her there and then maybe suggest a nice quiet dinner in Georgetown.
The cold breeze snapped him out of his trance of horror and with legs that felt like jelly, he made his way to the curious crowd that had gathered around the site of the accident. He barely spared a glance to the car’s driver who stood outside his car, wide eyed and muttering incoherent stuff about a light and a woman who’d simply vanished.
His eyes landed on Olivia and for a second they didn’t register the man cradling her head gently in his arms. Nor did he notice the way this man’s eyes sparked with love, then jealousy when he spotted Noah and then the same gut-wrenching fear visible on Noah’s face as he dropped to where Olivia lay.
“Ollie! Ollie! What happened?”
Before either Michael or Camie could answer someone yelled.
“The ambulance is here.” People began scrambling to the side to let the paramedics and the stretcher through. They pulled her limp body away from Michael and began to examine her vital signs and after assessing she was still alive and breathing, they placed her on the stretcher and took her back to the ambulance.
Noah was already behind them. This time, before the door shut behind him he caught sight of Michael’s bloodied shirt and of the way his eyes turned to hard cold steel, the light golden in them piercing right through Noah’s chest. But the ambulance began driving away and the strange man with the girl were left behind.
Two hours later, Noah sat outside the waiting room. The emergency doctor who was taking care of Olivia had just come out to assure him she was out of danger. She had regained consciousness and had responded to their first tests checking for brain damage due to the fall on her head. She had a broken wrist and bruises all over her left side, as well as a nasty gash on her temple that had needed stitches. They would take her for some more x-rays, to make sure there weren’t any other fractures and later an MRI to ascertain her brain had suffered no serious damages.
Noah felt he could breath for the very first time since seeing her get hit by that car. Still restless and unable to see Olivia just yet, he decided to take a walk outside to clear his mind. It occurred to him he could do some serious thinking while he was at it.
Meanwhile Michael stood by the examination room’s door as the doctor cleaned Camie’s scratches on her knees and elbows. They were all superficial and nothing was broken. His girl was a tough one.
They’d called Jerry on their way to the hospital, as Michael had stuck behind the ambulance bringing Olivia to St. Mary’s Hospital. Jerry was now standing next to his daughter and looking ten years older, his face pale as the doctor dabbed away the blood from Camie’s scratches.
“Well, Camie. You are set to go. You might want to take some aspirin for the pain but other than that you were very lucky you got away with just a few scrapes.”
Camie nodded and stared at Michael. He also looked like ten years older and the sight of blood on his shirt reminded her of the reason she’d been lucky. It also reminded Camie his uncle Michael had not left her side even though she knew he was desperate for news about Olivia. All they’d managed to get when they got here was what she was stable but with several injuries.
“Dad, maybe you could take uncle Michael to get a soda or something. You know how he gets queasy in hospitals. Besides, I should call mom and tell her I am fine.”
Jerry had called his ex-wife, who miraculously had not started blaming him and had asked only to be kept informed and if she should fly down to D.C. After making sure Camie was indeed all patched up, he gathered her in his arms and breathed in her floral scent. He nodded and led his brother outside to the hallway.
Camie was right. Michael’s stomach felt queasy and the wave of nausea made it hard for him to swallow. The smells of antiseptic and of sick people were driving him crazy. That and the fact that he needed to see Olivia.
“You should go ask the nurses if they know something.”
“Yeah. Jesus, Jerry. Camie says Olivia just jumped in front of the damn car and saved her. It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have been so fucking distracted, I should’ve seen Camie and …..”
“Hey, hey.” Jerry grabbed Michael’s arm.
“Don’t do that. Camie is fine and Olivia will be too.”
“I better go find out more.”
Michael turned around and strolled over to the nurses’ station.
While Michael was busy learning the latest updates on her health, Olivia was slowly coming to. She heard the faintest beeping of a machine around her, the rustling of feet somewhere not faraway from where she lay and the sharp smell of antiseptic that had her stomach rolling and the nausea that ensued making her battered body shudder. She hated the smell of hospitals. That clean smell that was only a mask to cover up the real smells of sick people and despair and pain that most of the times plagued hospitals.
As she tried to get up, the whole world began to shake around her and she let out a moan of despair while she called for her friend.
“Emilia?” Her voice sounded raspy and her throat felt like it was filled with shards of glass.
Noah woke up. He’d been dozing off on the chair next to her bed. Immediately, he stood up and went for her hand.
“Ollie. Hey, sweetheart.”
“Where’s…” But she stopped short. It all came back to her in one hard swoop. Camie, the car, Emilia’s hand pushing her away, and the words she’d said to her before Olivia passed out.
I guess you were right after all.
She saved my life.
It made tears well up in her eyes but she swallowed them back.
“The girl you saved is fine. You saved her life.” Noah squeezed Olivia’s good hand and lifted it up to his lips. He assumed Olivia was asking about that girl, whom he discovered, was one of her students.
Startled, she focused on Noah’s face. Poor Noah, she sighed. He looks like hell. It occurred to her he’d probably been pretty scared to see her all bloodied and messed up. But as she’d been drifting away to subconscious land, Olivia swore she had heard another voice willing her to wake up. To fight, to not give up. In fact that voice had said……..
No, it couldn’t have been…..
She put a halt to her thoughts and tried to smile at Noah although the gesture came out more like a wince as she tried to sit up straighter in the bed.
“Hey, hey. Take it easy.”
“Now I know why I avoid physical exercise. I hurt all the way down to my toenails.”
“Well, you took a great fall.”
Olivia’s eyes landed on the cast on her left hand, and as she wiggled her legs from under the covers, fresh pangs of pain shot through her body.
“Yeah, I guess I did. So Camie is okay?”
“One of the nurses said she wanted to see you but you were still asleep.”
The shadows of what he’d been through for the past couple of hours were still visible inside his eyes. His hand still shook as it continued to hold her hand. It was easy to tell he was still scared. She couldn’t blame him. She’d been scared shitless herself, knowing that she was going to die, despite being sure she had to save Camie.
“I’m sorry, Noah. I wasn’t thinking. I just acted on impulse, I…”
“Shsh. I am not mad. How could I be? If only, I am proud you were willing to risk your life to help that girl. But almost losing you made me realize how much you matter to me.”
He lifted his other hand and placed it on her lips.
“I know I said we should wait three years but after what happened today, I don’t think we should wait any longer.”
Noah stood up and from his trousers’ pocket took out a small black velvet box. Gently, he opened it.
Olivia’s throat felt like it was closing off. Her heart began to beat anxiously. Inside, nestled among a soft black cushion was a white gold ring with a small diamond at its center. Noah took the ring out and even though it was supposed to be her left finger, he let out a nervous laugh as he slid it on her right finger instead.
“We should get married. What do you think?”
Olivia stared dumbfounded at the ring shining from her finger. This was it. What she’d wanted all along. Maybe there hadn’t been none of the romanticism she’d hoped for but here it was. It made her think about Emilia again and wondered how she would’ve reacted to this.
Probably thinking about Emilia was what stopped the jittery excitement, she assumed she would feel when this moment came, to burst out. Her head was fuzzy, the smell was still making her crazy and well, who expected someone to get all happy and warm inside after having been in an accident?
“Okay. Yes. Let’s get married.”
It sounded more like a business deal than a proposal but it was what she wanted.