With Regret, Without Apology

(excerpt)

When she buried her face in her hands, looking small, weak, wounded, and vulnerable, I felt a reflexive desire to apologize and comfort her. I loved her, after all, and had never meant to hurt her.

There was just one problem...

“I will never forgive you!”

Her eyes blazed with an unrestrained fury. Even in her weakened state, she radiated a menacing aura from her hospital bed. There was no doubt in my mind that she meant every venom-laced word that spilled out of her mouth.

“How could you do this to me again? How could you be so damned cruel?” Angry tears coursed down her cheeks, though I couldn’t tell if they were being fed by her rage or her pain. Regardless of why the tears were flowing, seeing how she suffered cut straight through to my heart.

It compounded my gnawing feelings of guilt knowing that I was the one who put her in the hospital in the first place.

Moved by my own emotions, I made a halfhearted attempt to comfort her. However, my efforts were rewarded with a sharp slap across the face.

“It’s your fault that I’m in here!” she accused along with a slew of other words that were made incoherent by her hiccuping sobs. Despite her unintelligible hysterics, the over-arching, damning sentiment behind everything she said came through loud and clear.

“It’s all your fault!”

When she buried her face in her hands, looking small, weak, wounded, and vulnerable, I felt a reflexive desire to apologize and comfort her. I loved her, after all, and had never meant to hurt her.

There was just one problem…

“I’m not sorry.”

The words came out colder and more heartless than I had intended. They actually startled her out of her tears. Truth be told, they startled me a little bit too. For a long moment, the woman in the hospital bed just stared at me in disbelief. Then her bloodshot eyes narrowed.

When the pitcher of ice water came flying at me, I didn’t even bother avoiding it. Instead, I lifted my arm to deflect the large projectile away from my face. The hard plastic container impacted against my forearm, spilling its contents all over me before clattering to the floor.

“Get out!” she screeched as I stared at the small puddles forming beneath my feet. “Get the hell out!”

After wiping some water from my face, I began to walk towards the door.

“I’m not sorry for putting you in the hospital,” I reiterated as I grabbed the doorknob. “But I do hope you get better soon.”

This time, I actually made an effort to dodge the flower vase that came flying at my head. A few hasty steps backwards allowed me to watch the small glass container shatter harmlessly against the door before I finally went through, a grim expression etched all over my face.

“How’s your sister?” our mom asked once the hospital room door was shut securely behind me.

I didn’t say anything in response. Instead, I let the still stinging red mark on my cheek and the fact that I was now soaking wet speak for itself.

Dad offered me his handkerchief. “Your sister may be angry now, but one day, when she’s better, she’ll thank you for saving her life.”

“You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t hold my breath waiting,” I said sullenly. Though I tried to avert my gaze, I couldn’t completely avoid getting a glimpse of my parents’ wounded expressions.

His handkerchief still in hand, my father opened his mouth to say something.

“I’m glad she’s alive, Dad. Really, I am,” I said as I felt a knot of tension twist in the pit of my stomach. “I’m glad I got her to the hospital in time. But I can’t keep doing this! We can’t keep doing this!” My growing frustration regarding the situation started to bleed out. “For Christ’s sake, this is the third time she’s tried to commit suicide!”

Without another word, I turned away from my parents and stormed over to the elevators. Once I was out of that damned hospital and finally alone in my car, I allowed my repressed emotions to air out completely. With my head buried in my arms against the steering wheel, I silently cried.

I cried from the near paralyzing fear I’d felt when I’d again found my sister nearly dead in her apartment.

I cried from the blessed relief I’d felt at getting her to the hospital in time to save her life.

I cried from the increasingly bitter resentment I felt over how my sister was angry at ME for saving her life.

I cried because, in the end, I wasn’t sure if I had truly saved my sister at all.

The End

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