She watches him, sitting hunched over in the plastic blue chair, head in his hands, but no tears on his cheeks. Yet. What is she supposed to do, she wonders? What can she do? She can't even comfort him, because he won't turn to look at her. And all the words and phrases, well, they're just the clichés people think they're supposed to regurgitate when things like this happen. They are all meaningless. And he isn't interested. She's hurting too, but it isn't on the same scale as his pain. She never felt grown-up, not really, until today. When she pulled open the door, age strangled her.
He still hasn't moved, and she can't sit down any longer. Pushing herself up, she walks to the grimy window. Outside, it's a grey day, threatening more autumn rain. Autumn was once her favourite season, the colours, the smells. But it won't be anymore, she swallows. The golden orange leaves littering the small patch of badly looked after grass are tinged with sadness. There aren't many people that she can see, but plenty of cars. Her breath mists up the window, blurring her view. She turns her back on the miserable scene. She shivers, thinking now that she should have picked up her hoodie. However, in their haste to leave, she had ignored the bitter temperatures. He too, has no jumper, although it is fair to say the cold is having no effect on him.
She jumps, startled, when her mobile vibrates with a text. After a brief second, she regains enough composure to unearth it. She doesn't read it though, instead, she presses 'ignore,' concentrating on the small box displaying the time. Twenty-seven minutes past six. Almost two hours have passed. The rain has begun, the drum beat against the window. It is falling more heavily than she had expected it to. It isn't exactly improving the tense atmosphere that is stifling the room. There is a small kettle in the back corner, on a battered worktop, which they were told they could use, as well as teabags, sugar, and skimmed milk in a small fridge. Filling it with cold water from the sink, she switches it on and selects two chipped mugs from the patchworked collection.
He is holding his tea, hands wrapped around it, she guesses, for the warmth. He has shown no signs of drinking the murky liquid. She is drinking hers, and it is making her slightly less cold. It tastes foul, which suggests to her that the milk is off. She didn't think it smelt that great, but she had ploughed on. At least now she has something to concentrate on. Something else. The aged strip light above him flickers for a moment, and she glances involuntarily up at it. As she looks away, there is a single tear on his rugged cheek.
'How long?' she thinks. The chances of everything being okay after this though, they're non-existent, if she's going to be honest. At least now, not knowing, means having some hope isn't futile. Hope is slipping away, however, as reality storms closer. Her hands clench automatically into fists, ragged fingernails digging into her soft palms. As though physical pain can ward off what is coming.
The sky outside is now an inky black colour, she can just make out silhouettes of people making their way out of the hospital. There is a low rumble of traffic coming from the road, people going home after a long day. That people are living out their normal lives seems unreal. She wishes he would turn to look at her, even just for a second, because he's starting to scare her. Surely he should have moved by now.
She can't sit still again, tapping her fingers on her thigh and biting the skin on the inside of her cheek. She stands up, picking up the two mugs, hers empty, his still full of now lukewarm tea, and takes them to the sink, tipping his out. She wasn't going to wash them, but she sees the half-empty bottle of lurid green washing up liquid. It is leering at her, and she agitatedly starts running the hot tap, filling the shabby plastic basin, adding the Fairy liquid. As she washes the cups in the soapy water, tears leak from her eyes, silently dripping into the water. She stands with her back to him until she has control of herself, hiding from him.
She sits down again, the mundane task completed. However, it did not get rid of her agitation, and she plunges her slender hands into the pockets of her tight-fitting acid wash jeans. But something cold and metal has got there first. She can tell it isn't money, and so she pulls it out, curious. She closes her eyes. It is a pink hairclip, the metallic paint chipped in places, a plastic daisy ornament, falsely cheerful, glued onto the end. Her breath catches in her throat as she wonders if it will be used again.
A gentle, almost apprehensive knock at the door quells this thought. For the first time, he looks up in the direction of the door. She follows his desperate stare. A doctor opens it and steps inside. She recognises her, from her days working as a receptionist here. She is wearing the mask that must take doctors years to perfect, the mask that conveys no emotion. He speaks, his voice a crackly whisper.
"H…How is she?"
For the first time, she senses a spark of hope radiating from him, infecting her too. Please…
"Thea didn't make it. She died in theatre."
There is a delay as this news envelopes the room.
"No…" He falls from the chair to the floor, sobbing now.
"I'm sorry. Both of you." She murmurs, before she leaves the room.
In a numb haze, she sinks to the floor beside him, barely aware that she too, is crying. She puts an arm around him shoulders, and somehow, they end up hugging, clinging to each other, searching for comfort. That is all they have. But, she knows that they can grieve and they can get through this. Together.