The sliding doors open instantly, she passes through them and the cold, sterile air hits her in the face. She barely notices, making a beeline for the front desk. An exhausted looking nurse spares her a polite smile. “Visiting?” the woman asks, “What's the name?”
She says it, and it feels strange upon her lips, to speak out loud a name that for so long has only existed within her mind. The nurse glances at the computer, and with a slow, deliberate hand types the name into the blinking search bar. “Room 427,” the she replies, “take the elevator on your left, its the fourth floor...” but trails off. The girl has already gone, the sweeping end of her long skirt slipping through the closing elevator just in time.
The cheerful ping at each passing floor undermines the fluttering wings of urgency she feels within her stomach. One...In this long moment it seems that this could be any elevator, in any place, with doors that open to a different day, to what now felt like a different life. Two...she is...Three...uncomfortably aware of her heart, trying its best to beat itself out of her body. Four.
The metal cage releases her onto an otherwise empty floor, save for a push-cart that bears a barrage of old flower baskets, their blooms wilted and hanging in defeat over hastily scrawled get-well notes. You are in our prayers and You are thought of warmly in our hearts. She pauses to finger one of the notes. What does that even mean, she wonders. As if the senders were already severing emotional ties at the time of post, as if the recipient were already dead. A preemptive, even if in hindsight, not entirely unsuitable gesture.
She sets off in the direction of his room, the clacking of her strappy Prada heels rebounding off linoleum tile.
Outside a recursion of identical doors, a metal plaque reads “427.” She reaches for its handle, but stops short to stare through the tiny glass pane in its center into the vacuous hospital bedroom . He lays in a bed, his face turned away, searching for something he'll never quite find out the large window on the opposite wall. She takes a deep breath of resolution, and twists the handle.
Upon hearing the door, his head turns and his familiar brown eyes come to rest upon her figure within the frame.
The corners of his mouth stretch into a smile and in a raspy, British lilt, he whispers: “Maggie.”