I closed my eyes and tried to pretend that it hadn't happened. I tried to imagine myself in Aruba, or Jamaica, or anywhere else far away from Chicago. When I opened my eyes again it took me a minute to become adjusted to the harsh florescent lights of the hospital. The room was spinning and I had to steady myself by grabbing onto a gurney.
"Are you OK?" I heard a distant voice ask. I tried to focus on the owner of the voice but everything was a blur.
"I just have to sit down," I heard myself say. Somehow, I made my way to lounge and sat down on the couch. It was awhile before I realized that there was already someone in the room.
"You OK?" he asked. "You look kinda pale."
I looked up. "Yeah, fine," I lied.
I could tell he didn't believe me. "Abby, what's wrong?" Luka asked, sitting down next to me.
I could feel tears rolling down my cheeks. "Carter. . ." I sobbed. "Carter. . ."
I sat bolt upright in bed. My nightmares had been getting progressively worse but that was the worse one yet. That was the only one where Carter actually died. In all the others he was just horribly maimed. But not dead.
I pulled my knees up to my chest and hugged myself. I tried to slow my breathing down. "Its just stress," I whispered to myself. "Its just stress."
I felt the man next to me stir. "You OK?" he asked . . .echoes from my dream.
I smiled weakly. "Yes. Just a bad dream."
He sat up. "Another one? That's the third one this week, Abby," he said.
"I know. I've just been working too many hours at the hospital. I have the weekend off. They should stop soon."
But I knew they wouldn't. I knew that the dreams were not stress related. They were a result of living without the man I loved.
I kissed Jake on the shoulder. "I'm just gonna go watch TV," I said.
I sat in the living room, the TV on mute. I stared at the phone. I knew I could call him anytime, night or day, and he'd drop everything and run to me if I asked him to.
But I couldn't ask him to. Because it had been too long. And Jake would get jealous. I glanced towards the bedroom. Jake was. . .well, he wasn't bad. He was pretty good looking; sandy blond hair, brown eyes, and a swimmer's body. But he wasn't Carter.
No one was.
I had learned long ago that "good enough" was better than "nothing at all." And that's what Jake was. "Good enough."
I stood up and walked aimlessly into the kitchen. My eyes fell on the calendar and I realized it had been exactly two years since I had driven Carter away. I felt my eyes well up with tears but I bit them back. I could stop them from coming but not the memory of what I had done.
I smiled. "Hey Carter."
He hugged me. "I missed you," he whispered into my hair.
"I missed you too," I said, wrapping my arms tightly around him.
"I'm never working a double again," he grumbled as he collapsed on the bed.
I laughed. "That's what you think." I lay down next to him. "You know perfectly well that the ER is a vortex and, sooner or later, you'll be sucked right back in."
He cracked a smile. "Hopefully later," he said, closing his eyes. "Right now I need sleep."
I curled up next to him. I fit so perfectly into his arms. It was like I was lost without him and he was incomplete without me. I never thought someone could need me. But he did. He needed me as much as I needed him.
"Promise me something," I whispered.
"Promise you won't ever leave me."
He smiled, his eyes still closed. "I promise."
He kept his promise. I was the one who brought everything crashing down.