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Beep, beep, beep… The steady pace of the heart monitor told him he was still alive. His bare back shivered against the cold metal table. His arms and legs were aching from the restraints keeping him plastered down. His neck was feeling stiff, as it had been in this position for a while now. Sitting in the room, alone with his thoughts, he waited for the others to return. He began dozing off, not quite asleep, but not completely conscious either. He could hear the soft murmur of voices, some familiar, other not so much. They were moving closer, and as they neared the table he was secured to, he could make out bits of their conversation.
“Is it time?” said one man’s strong voice, deep and gravelly. “He doesn’t seem to have any visitors here for him yet, I think we can wait a bit longer.”
Another voice, a woman, spoke in response, “Not too much longer.” She sounded irritated, as if the person they were discussing was worthless and she did not comprehend the idea of doing him any favors. Just as the conversation ceased abruptly, no answer from the man, a door swung open with a loud creak.
“Are you here for Mr. Privet?” said the man. He heard the impatient clicking of shoes halt. It must have been the nurse, the woman he had heard speak earlier.
“I suppose so, yes,” replied a sweet, saddened voice. It was a voice he knew very well, but it was different now. Distant. She said those few words in such a way that one would see in an instant, without having known anything about her, that there was a history between her and the man in question. Her voice had wavered; she had mumbled the words as if ashamed to have said them. The man who had spoken before, whom he now assumed to be a doctor, and the nurse stood silent for a moment, and then directed the woman to another room.
He became fully conscious as he was awoken by the sound of the doctor’s voice, “Mr. Privet? Mr. Privet, it’s time.” He looked around and saw the inside of an operating room, dreary gray floors and walls, and the sleek, coldness of metal covered all other surfaces. Out of the corner of his eye, though, he saw glass. He glanced up behind him, and at the top of the wall he saw a window. Through the window was a room with chairs, all oriented toward where he was situated. Seated in one of the chairs, arms and legs crossed, staring off in another direction, was the young women whose voice he had recognized.
Her beautiful, wavy, auburn hair fell just above her shoulders. She was very petite, but just the right size. She was wearing black dress pants that almost entirely covered her shiny black heels, and a thigh-length, gray peacoat. The arch of her soft pink lips, the blush she wore that accentuated her cheek bones, the small, slightly pointed shape of her nose, everything was familiar. Everything but her eyes. At one time, utter happiness had sparkled in the brilliant blue-green of her irises. Now they seemed dull, detached, emotionless.
She seemed to be deep in thought, not really seeing anything in front of her, only what was in her mind. Her concentration broke as she saw him peering up at her from down below on the operating table. Emotion after emotion flashed through her now captivating eyes; though they still did not resemble how they once were, they grew much nearer to how they had been. Shock, curiosity, resentment, disappointment, they swirled through the shimmer of her now very alive eyes. He hated to see her this way, so different from how she had once been; he felt it was his fault.
He wanted to continue looking at her, to have the features of her face never leave his memory, but she was no longer the woman he knew, the woman he had known better than anyone else. He forced himself to look away, and focused instead on the doctor across the room. He was leaning over a long, metal table. He seemed to be sterilizing instruments, and then placing them on a small, wheeled cart. He motioned to the nurse and she responded by pushing the cart, wheels squeaking over the floor, and placed it next to the table he was on. The doctor watched as she did so, and when she stood silently, he gave her a look indicating that she was to be inquiring something of the man.
“Uh, sir… Is there anything you would like to, uh… say to that woman up there?” She stammered through the sentence, quite uncomfortably. At this, the doctor turned back to what he was doing. The man pondered on a reply. He had so many things he wanted to say to the woman, but he knew they might bring more pain to them both. He wanted to tell her he was sorry for everything, that he loved her, and that he had never meant to hurt her. He never wanted to burden her, never again, and so he remained silent, shaking his head in refusal. The nurse shrugged, turned in slight frustration, and walked away.
“We’re ready,” said the doctor. The man was unsure whether this was directed toward him, the nurse, or the woman in the other room. The doctor moved to the man’s bedside, washing his hands and pulling on gloves. He picked up a needle attached to a long, thin tube, and as he did so, the man on the table’s mind was not in the operating room, but back in his court hearing so many years ago.
“As to the charge of first degree murder, we the jury find the defendant guilty,” spoke a tall, thin man to the judge. He had seen her, his visitor now seated behind the operating room window, stand up and leave the court room, shaking her head as tears rolled down her cheeks. The words spoken on that day had determined the last eight years of his life, of which he had spent awaiting his predetermined death. He couldn’t bear to remember any part of that day; his sentence, the look of triumph on the prosecutor’s face, how badly his defense had let him down, but most of all, the way she had left without even a glance at him. He never would have expected her to now be with him, by his side.
His reminiscence faded and he was back in the cold, metal room, laying on the table beside the doctor who was repositioning his arm, searching for a vein. He stopped, and lifted the needle toward the arm, piercing through his skin. The man felt the liquid paralysis surge through his body. He tried to lift an arm, to blink, to move a finger. His body remained still. All that stirred was his chest with the motion of his breath, the blood within his veins, and the thoughts within his mind. He heard the beeping of the heart monitor pick up pace, he was becoming panicked. He was not afraid of death, but he knew it was not his time to die. He felt no remorse, for he had not committed a crime. He was innocent. He had not killed her. They had deemed him guilty, though he had not done a thing, other than appearing to be the ideal suspect. All evidence had pointed toward him, a carefully laid out plan designed to throw investigators off the correct path. The plan had worked superbly, for everyone seemed to believe it was he who had killed his own daughter.
As the doctor began to prepare the second needle, understanding coursed through the man’s body. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the woman, still seated in the room behind the window. Her head was tilted away toward a wall; she couldn’t bear to look at him. He now realized the answer he had been trying to decipher all these years. The doctor administered the final injection. As his heart began to stop, the man tried to shout out, to say, “It was her,” but his lips could no longer move. It was too late, and in an instant, the world went black.