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Overcoming Death

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Beeeeeep. The monitor screeches, staying in one tone. No, I won’t accept that. This isn’t the end of all of this.

“Come on!” I shout, clenching my fists on the side of the operating table. I lean over the man’s body. His face is vacant of any expression, smooth and clear of wrinkles.

“Tina, it’s over,” Amber whispers to me. She places a hand on my shoulder, and my nerves relax a little, but my determination is stubborn.

There are four of us hovering over the operating table. Amber and I are to the right, with me holding the wound open. My two other co-workers, Max and Carlie, are to the left. They place the tools onto the tray.

“No!” I shout, grabbing the scalpel, and creating another incision on the man’s stomach.

Max looks at me, worry in his eyes. “Give it up. We did our best,” he says, taking the scalpel from my hands. He covers up the now dead body with the sheet. Two nurses come in and drag the gurney away, grimaces on both faces. I watch them exit the room and onto the corridor.

“We could have saved him! We didn’t have to give up so easily! He could have made it…,” I trail off, fighting sobs.

Max shakes his head, “We did what we could. He just wasn’t strong enough to fight it off.”

“N-no. It’s still n-not r-right.”

Carlie and Amber walk out of the room, taking their sympathies for the man with them. Max stays to comfort me, stroking circles on my palm. I pull away quickly, and stomp out of the room.

The corridor’s pale blue walls greet me. Paintings line up alongside the walls, consisting of beautiful scenery that’s comforting to the patients, and it has the opposite effect on me.

I pass a woman in the waiting room. She calls out to me, tears streaming down her face. “Will my baby be all right? Please tell me my baby will be all right.” I nod, soothing her fears.

I work at St. John’s Memorial Hospital. I save lives! I mean, just the thought of hearing that monitor do those annoying, high pitched beeps makes my heart race. Though, times when a patient slips away, and the monitor sounds that dull monotone beep, it is like losing a member of my family.

I don’t have much of a life besides this hospital. My life revolves around my occupation; it’s an enjoyment to me.

I walk past the front desk, waving to my co-workers. They smile at me, though I don’t have much of a relationship with the people I work with. We just greet each other normally, being polite. However, Max was starting to show a “liking” to me. Even though I thought I had made it very clear that I wasn’t interested in settling down.

The silver tinted elevator comes into view, making a sudden “ding” as its doors open. I slide in, smiling to the people inside. I get out once I reach the first level, and walk to the parking garage.

“Tina!” I hear my name being called from far off in the distance.

Amber pushes her way through the revolving doors and keeps pace with me while I walk to my car. “Look, I wanted to say I’m sorry about earlier. I know how much it pains you.”

I dig in my purse, reaching for my keys, and fiddle with them in my fingers.

Amber sighs, clearly getting no response out of me. “You know we hate it just as much as you do.”

I stop, just a few inches from my black Bonneville, and turn to face her. The wind faces me, blowing my red curls behind my ears. It tickles my ears and creates a waltz with my hair. I pull on my hood, shielding my face.

“Amber, I realize you’re just as much of a hard worker as anyone else in this hospital, but we could have done something. His life wasn’t yet over. I just know it,” I say, unlocking my car door.

She sighs, and walks off. I have no business with her anyway; she’s just another person I see six days of the week and nothing more.

I slide into my leather seats, slamming the door. The car starts up and the heat kicks in, erasing the red blush on my cheeks.

I arrive home, shrugging off my hoodie, placing it on the coat rack beside the door. A tall red head sits cross-legged on the couch, flipping through channels on the TV. “Maggie,” I sigh, rubbing my temples with my fingers. Ever since my parents died, my older sister, Maggie, took the part of playing “mom”, arriving at my doorstep every time a flicker of trouble came in line.

She is only older than me by three years and has a nasty habit of being a worry wart. She looks just like me, except thinner and shorter hair. Our eyes are the same blue-green swirl that has run down the family.

“Maggie? What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to drop by.”

“You could have called,” I said, hinting at the fact that I wasn’t so fond of her having a spare key to my house.

“I did.” She sets her gaze on my phone, placed in the pocket of my jeans.

I arch an eyebrow, and flip it open, seeing the 5 missed calls. It read:
Maggie 6:07 PM
Maggie 6:08 PM
Maggie 6:10 PM
Maggie 6:12 PM
Max 6:14 PM

I glance at my watch. It read six-thirty. I guess my phone was on silent.

Maggie glares at me under thick eyelashes.

“Oh, right. Sorry, my phone was on silent.”

She turns the TV off, gesturing for me to sit. I set down my things and join her by the couch.

“So what’s new?” I ask, biting my lip.

“The office called me. They told me about the incident.”

I run my hand through my tangled hair, in the process of getting out knots. Of course the office called her, I should have known better. “Look, I-“

“It worries me. You can’t just let this take a hold of you. Deaths happen and sometimes you can’t control it. Tina, I’ll feel much better if I can just stay here for a few nights, just so I can know you’re ok.”

Clammy moisture broke out, trickling in thin streams down my forehead. “I’m ok,” I lie, but she saw past that and wouldn’t go down without an argument.

I always gave in too easily and soon enough, Maggie was lugging her stuff through my front door.

She folds her arms across her chest, as if expecting a tour guide. “Oh right,” I say, “Guest bedroom is down the hall, first door to the right.”

Satisfied, she walks down the hall and gently closes the door behind her.

I walk to my room, ready to collapse onto my bed. The walls are pale beige, and the carpet is a dull white. It’s fairly plain, but I like it that way. There were only a few personal touches evident. A family photo here or there, and maybe a card from a previous holiday. Everything is neatly organized, and I have all the books on my bookshelf alphabetized.


I lay down, my hair cascades in curls along my pillow. The day’s events run through my head. It’s as if I can remember every insignificant detail. There was hope in that operating room, and they just gave it away. Tears roll silently down my eyes, dampening my T-shirt.

I hear a soft knock on the door. Maggie pokes her head in, blinking her big eyes. I quickly wipe my eyes with the palm of my hand, smearing my mascara accidentally.

Sympathy is written all across her face. She steps in, and sits at the edge of the bed. “Tina,” she says, and that’s all she needs to say. I wrap my arms around her, laying my head on her lap. She strokes my hair and hums a song our mom used to sing when we were young. The tears come pouring out; she sits there shushing my cries, cradling my head in her hands.

That night, I had slept horribly. I had the same nightmares that kept on repeating. I remember being in the operating room; Maggie and Max were there. Their mouths moved, as if in slow motion, pronouncing each syllable carefully, yet it was all on mute. I couldn’t hear them. But the expressions on their faces were grim. I remember looking over to the operating table and seeing the man from yesterday’s failed operation. He looked the same, except this time, he was staring at me from underneath the little eyelashes he had, and then he disappeared. That nightmare always ends with me screaming. And each time, Maggie comes rushing into my room to comfort me and occasionally would give me a warm glass of milk. The week had continued like this: endless nights and lack of sleep, for Maggie and me both.

Today would be no different from yesterday, or the day before that. I suspect that I’ll get a lot of comments referring to yesterday’s incident, and that’s exactly what I’ll try to avoid. I button up my white jacket to the last button and depart my house, leaving Maggie snoring in the guest bedroom. I had thought ahead of time--thinking about how she’d worry—and had left a note, explaining how I left for work.

I arrive with a frown on my face when I step inside the building. Max instantly comes by my side, linking his arm through mine. I ignore his hint of affection, and groan.

“Ouch,” he says, “Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed.”

“Yes, actually, you’re right. I went to bed on the right side, like I normally do, and woke up on the left. Because of my shift in sides, my day is going to be a tad bit off,” I say sarcastically.

He backs off a bit, but doesn’t unlock his arm’s grip.

We both travel to the East Wing, where we’re to perform an open heart surgery. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest, racing against my flowing bloodstream. I kept asking myself “what if” questions. What if this one’s another unlucky surgery? What if this one doesn’t make it? I quickly block out my thoughts by starting a conversation with Max.

“So how was your night last night?”

He grins, “It was so very lonesome without you.”

I roll my eyes, seeing that this conversation has ended.

Luckily, we’ve arrived into room 101. Carlie and Sam await us, the tools placed neatly on the tray. The patient lies peacefully on the operating table, breathing silently through closed lips. She’s a woman, possibly around the age of forty, and her condition was mild.

We begin our routine, with me in the lead. My eyes avert to the monitor every now and then out of habit. It still switches its tune. That’s good. I won’t fail this time.

I stitch together the wound we created. The surgery has been performed successfully, and she’ll be taken into the recovering wing. I grin, rejoicing with my co-workers. I embrace them all, including Max, forgetting my early morning mishaps.

Carlie joins me for lunch at noon. We share a small Caesar Salad, sitting on the elementary school like chairs. She’s been eating most of it, and I’ve been resting my head into my palms. Lack of sleep is getting its revenge.

Carlie looks at me, puzzled. “Hey, you ok?” She gives my shoulder a slight shove, and I jerk up.

“Huh? Oh, sorry. Just a bit tired.” I’d been working for 12 hours now, and I could probably squeeze in another six.

“So tell me about you and Max, eh? Are ya’ll like an item?”

I feel the little salad I had previously consumed come up to my throat. I cover my mouth to prevent it from showing.

Carlie chuckles, “I see. He just doesn’t give up, does he?”

The rest of the day went well, except for the fact that Max had followed me around like a puppy dog. At least he was a very cute and friendly puppy dog. Nevertheless, I wasn’t interested.

I got home in a rush, expecting Maggie to greet me with open arms, and wanting to tell her about the good news.

“Maggie?” I call out, searching through the rooms, but they were all vacant. Her bed isn’t made and there’s food still on the table, but she’s no where in sight.

I sigh, slumping into my couch and turning on the TV. I had never watched much, but it was a good distraction. She probably noticed the fridge was half empty and decided to go to the grocery store. Yeah, that’s it.

Hours went by and Maggie’s location was still unknown. I contemplate on whether I should call her, and end up doing just that. The phone rings and rings and I hear Crazy Train playing in the guest bedroom. Drat, she left her cell phone here.

To pass the time, I snack on lots of chips and diet soda. My tiredness is getting best of me and luckily, my bed is a comfort to my long day. I eventually fall into a dreamless sleep, clear of any nightmares. Maggie would probably come home by the time I was fully drifted off. Hopefully.

I wake up, the morning sun shining brightly through my window, and I’m a little less tired than I was before. I slip on my robe, feeling the soft fabric tickle my bare skin. Maggie is yet again…gone.

I arrive at St. John’s like I do every morning, but I feel a bit out of it. It isn’t like Maggie to disappear without even some hint of a note or something.

Max comes to my side again, like always. “Tina, there’s—“

“Not now.”

“But—“

“I said not now.”

I silence him and I guess he felt no need to continue, thank God.

Amber rushes to join the two of us, as if on cue. “Tina, I have to tell you something.”

“What is up with you people and always having to ‘tell me something’”? I asked, making air quotes.

“It’s Maggie,” she says.

I look from her to Max and then they trail slowly to the floor.

“What happened?”

Max decides to join in and starts telling me everything. How the ambulance found her knocked out in the front seat of her vehicle. Apparently, she was on her way to the store, like I had previously suspected. He said she was on the freeway, when a passing semi-truck ram into her from the side. I winced. Tears overflowed from my eyes, creating stinging streams down my cheeks.

“We thought you might want to sit in the waiting room…while the, uh…operation goes on,” Max says, struggling for the right words.

I nod in reply, thanking him for his consideration.

Max had Carlie guide me to the waiting room, since my feet couldn’t manage on their own. She was waiting there with me, sitting in one of the blue chairs opposite of me.

“It’ll be alright,” she says, reaching for my hand. I pull away, burying my face into my hands.

I was such a pessimist and began thinking of thoughts of Maggie turning out dead. What if they couldn’t save her like I couldn’t save that man? What if…? I wish I could just take it all back, keep her safe at home, away from all of this. But I can’t.

“She’s going to make it. I know it,” I manage to say between sobs, though my mind was saying otherwise. I never thought I’d be put in a situation where I was the one crying on the blue, carpeted seats for a loved one in my own work place, yet here I am, my heart at stake.
*****

I feel a sudden shake on my shoulder. “Tina, wake up.” It is Amber. Her eyes have bags under them, and it looks like she hasn’t slept for days.

I rub my eyes in confusion, looking around the room. The walls are that same pale blue; two paintings hang on the walls, illustrating daffodils. And resting on the bed next to me is Maggie. Her face is covered in bandages, but she’s still beautiful, just like she always has been. Her cuts and scrapes can’t compare to what I see, and that was my sister.

I nod at Amber. “Yes, thank you.”

She walks out of the room, shutting the door behind her. It’s just Maggie and I, or at least the unconscious Maggie, but it’s still her. I grab her cold hand, placing it between mine, and for first time in a long while, I pray silently. I pray to God for everything, asking him to help me overcome this fear of mine: death. And most of all: to bring her through this.

I feel the surge of comfort, relaxation, and peace. “Help us get through this,” I pray aloud, gripping tighter onto Maggie’s hand, finally appreciating that silly, over-protective sister of mine.





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