Dr. Grey sat numbly in a hard hospital chair searching through a stack of papers that kept growing as more tests were added to the pile. He looked through weeks' worth of tests, scouring them, taking them apart word by word, hoping to find something he'd missed the first seventy-three times he'd delved through them.
Tears landed on the already warped pages as he listened to the steady beep beep beep of the monitor, dutifully announcing the beating of the machine that kept his wife's heart moving.
He couldn't do it anymore.
He couldn't listen to the falseness of the heart-monitor, knowing that there was no pulse left in his wife that wasn't kept alive by machines. He knew what the right thing to do was, but he lacked the strength to do it.
The beautiful baby girl on the way?
She had died two days ago in her mother's womb.
The false life that modern medicine created for her was worse than death.
He had failed her.
"I'm pulling the plug." He rasped. It wasn't right to keep her here any longer, waiting for a miracle to happen that wouldn't.
It was time for him to let her move on.
Someone did as Dr. Grey has asked. The eerie note of the heart-monitor that blared in the ears of the grieving doctor sent him back to years ago.
A three-year-old girl lay where his wife lay now, her cherry lips a pale salmon color.
Comforting voices telling him, it was time to let her go.
A plug being pulled. A heart-monitor flat-lining. A strangled noise halfway between a sob and a sickly moan.
An empty high chair.
He gripped his wife's pale hand and wept. He wept until he could feel the painful memories of loss soak into his scrubs. He wept until he could no longer feel the warmth clinging to his love's delicate hands. He wept until gentle arms led him to a car, his car, and back home.
And even then, he wept.
The Emergency Room lingered in a hushed state as Dr. Grey stumbled through the front doors two weeks later. His eyes were sunken with grief, and his grizzly chin was bristling with the beginnings of unkemptness. This was not the same man who had donned his rough coat with a confident smile on his face two weeks ago. This was a new man. One who looked visibly older. The hard lines of guilt and loss had transformed a grinning face that once bordered on arrogance into a hard mask that looked like it would break around the edges at the slightest touch.
He made his way quickly to Room 104, without his usual scrubs. There wasn't a need for them. He only came to see one person today.
As he entered the room, a pale boy who would have swayed slightly had he been standing, looked over to him, sadness glazing his normally cheery eyes.
"Dr. Grey?" He began in a timid voice. "I… I heard about… your wife."
Dr. Grey could only manage a nod. "I'm renouncing my medical license." He simply said.
The pale boy shot up in his bed, cringing after he did so. "No." It wasn't a cry of outrage, nor a desperate wish. It was a demand. "You told everyone you were going to keep working in urgent care. You told me that. You made a promise."
Dr. Grey shook his head sadly. "Jake, I can't do this anymore."
Jake bolted even further upright, grunting again with the pain it brought to do so. There was panic in his eyes. "Yes, yes you can. Dr. Grey please! You, you're like my hero. You always were. I believed in you. I need your help! You can't just walk away!"
Again, Dr. Grey shook his head. "Kid, a lot of people have believed in me, and look where it's gotten them. I believed in myself. And I shouldn't have. I can't let you down like that. I'm not the miracle worker everyone thought I was."
"Are you telling me," he asked, his voice shaking from the effort, "that I've put my hopes and dreams in someone for five years, just to have them ripped up and thrown away?" There were tears in his eyes, and his throat throbbed as he continued. "Please Dr. Grey! Don't give up. If you give up on yourself then you're giving up on me too!" Tears streamed down the faces of both men. "I'm dying! I'm dying, and you're the only one who's ever cared enough to do anything about it. If you leave now, you might as well have let me die five years ago! Please! There are people who still need you. I need you. I need you dad!"
Dr. Grey sat there, stunned. It was the word 'dad' that froze him. The boy wasn't his son, but he remembered very clearly the day he had stumbled into the ER the week after the press conference. The kid had no money, and no parents to turn to. Dr. Grey had taken upon himself the responsibility of caring for him. He used to visit him often, and over time, he began to think of the pale-faced child as one of his own. The boy filled a desperate void. To know that Jake returned this thought was… he didn't know what to think.
He couldn't think.
It wasn't right for Jake to depend on him like a father. The only thing he could do for him was provide medical attention. And he was questioning his ability to do that even. He couldn't, just wouldn't, do it anymore. He was ready to renounce his license. Ready to give up.
"I'm sorry Jake. I can't help you."
He stood up and began to turn away but a weak hand gripped his jacket. "No," he sobbed. "No one else will care once you're gone."
The doctor looked down at the clammy hand with blurry eyes. "There will always be some one that cares. I'll still visit you. I'm just not going to be a doctor the next time I see you." It hurt, more than he could have imagined, to have to say those words.
But they were the truth.
"So you're giving up then." Jake said coldly. He was glaring, looking betrayed, and dead. The frail hope he had learned to call life was about to walk out the door.
"I suppose, if that's what you want to call it."
"Don't try to make it better than it is Dr. Grey!" Gone was the word 'dad.' "You lied to everyone. You said you wanted to help. To ease the suffering. Well there's someone right in front of you that needs your help and you're just going to leave him! You're just going to leave me!" His words came out hard, and raspy, betrayed, and angry. Hollow, and hopeless.
"Jake," Dr. Grey murmured, touching a hand to the gasping child's shoulder.
Jake coughed and yanked his shoulder away, still gasping for precious air. His chest convulsing with the effort to get something in his lungs. Something other than disappointment.
Dr, Grey looked at his surrogate son in alarm. "Jake, please, Jake calm down, you're going to give yourself a panic attack. Jake, stop. Take a deep breath. You've been through this before. Let me help."
Jake glared. "Don't," he heaved, "tell me that. You're renouncing your medical license," he heaved again, "rememb-er."
Dr. Grey stood at the crux of the most important decision in his life. If he made the wrong choice, the consequences might be death. And not his own, but the last person close to him. He chose life.
"Jake, okay, Jake, no. I won't do it. I won't. Just breathe! Take deep breaths. Jake!"
The boy was too far-gone. He was retching, panting, gagging, convulsing with deep barking coughs, and short shallow breaths.
He was having another attack.
"Nurse!" Dr. Grey called out frantically. Not again, not again. Not this time!
A nurse came rushing in, her face paling as she saw the scene play out in front of her. Dr. Grey was quickly sent out of the room, and men in white suits, doctors, were rushed in. He could be there, he could be one of them today helping his son. The boy he thought of as his son. Instead, he was in the waiting room. Waiting for someone, anyone, to come and break the awful silence. To end his vigil with news of Jake.
Jake, who was dying.
The clock hummed ominously, a continuous clicking. With each tick, the likelihood that the news would be good diminished.
Two hours passed.
The ground beneath him was wavering, the world was blurring, turning a foreboding black around the edges. His head started spiraling. Then came the detached realization that he wasn't breathing. He wondered distantly why he should. The thin hope he had was slipping through his fingers, like clear watery threads. Just when he needed a hope to grasp onto, he had lost the cup to hold it in. If Jake died…
Dr. Grey struggled to dismiss the thought. Jake couldn't die, not after so much had already been ripped away from him. Was life really going to be that cruel?
He sucked in a deep breath, then another. For Jake.
The door clicked open. The sound of the latch clicking was a hammer striking in his ears. The nurse slowly emerged with an unreadable expression on her face. Dr. Grey held his breath. Her next words would hold a life of hopes or regrets.
"He's okay. This time."
A river of tears streamed down his face as Dr. Grey fingered the picture of his loving wife, and his little three-year-old girl who would never again sit in the empty high chair that sat like a relic. There were two people he hadn't managed to save.
Jake would not be the third.
Okay, so what do you guys think? This was originally a short story assignment that truned into a work of fiction that I simply couldn't leave unfinished. It's the first short-story that I've ever completed. Please review!
Live until you die, and don't stop doing what you love!
~Leila Archer XD