Aaron's fingers frustratedly pressed at the buttons of his iPhone for what seemed like the fifth time in the past hour and a half, putting the earpiece up to his ear. It rang and rang and rang but, once again, rolled to Kayleigh's voicemail.
Hi, this is Kayleigh! Sorry I couldn't get to you, but leave your name and number and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks!
"Kayleigh, Aaron...again. Look, I don't know where you are, but I've been waiting at John's for about an hour and a half for you...if you're standing me up, just let me know, I guess? Okay. Well. I'm going to get my pizza to go and talk to you later...bye," he said sadly, hanging up the phone and slipping it back into his pocket. He called his waitress over and asked for a to go box and his check. She brought it back within moments and he left a $20 bill in the pocket of the book. After boxing up his pizza, he left John's Pizzeria with a frown. There was an insane amount of traffic outside, so he skipped a taxi and began to walk towards his hotel.
It was unusual of Kayleigh to not meet him for lunch. She was hardly ever late; she hated when people weren't punctual. However, this time, she wasn't just late: she was a no-show. In the back of his mind, Aaron couldn't help but worry that something had happened to her. That was the only explanation, right?
He took his phone from his pocket and looked at the blank screen. His background was a picture of Kayleigh he'd taken only a week before, but he found himself wishing that her face was covered up by a navy blue text notification. He just wanted to hear from her.
Up ahead, there were flashing blue and red lights. People gathered around the street, whispering to each other in hushed tones. Aaron looked up from the screen of his phone and craned his neck to see what was going on. An ambulance blocked his view and various lights blinded him, but he was determined to find out what had happened. He heard two women speaking near him and went to interrupt their conversation.
"Excuse me, ladies, I don't mean to interrupt, but what's going on here?" he asked, raising an eyebrow at the hectic scene. Paramedics were huddled around someone on the ground, fighting to keep him or her alive.
One of the women turned to Aaron, happy to tell him what was happening. "Some poor girl got hit by a car! She was crossing the street and bam; a taxi ran her clean over. She's still alive but she's hurt pretty badly," she said, motioning to where the crowd of medics was. Aaron shook his head in disbelief.
"That's terrible..." he murmured, walking to the other side of the pair and trying to see the girl. All he saw was matted blonde hair on the pavement.
"Yeah, that poor little Kayleigh."
The sound of her name got Aaron's attention immediately. He turned around to face the first woman urgently. "Who?"
"Kayleigh! That's what the girl told the medics her name was before she passed out. They've been shouting it at her since, trying to get her to respond, but she's out cold."
Aaron shook his head again. No, that wasn't his Kayleigh; it couldn't be. She had just gotten sick and overslept! She was standing him up! She wasn't hurt. He pushed his way through the crowd, going to get a firsthand look at the girl. Sure enough, it was his Kayleigh.
She lay motionless on the ground, hair splayed out around her head. Her eyes were closed and her face relaxed. A stretcher was being wheeled over to where she was as portable machines were hooked up to her and oxygen was pumped into her lungs through a mask. He shouted her name, getting the attention of an attending paramedic.
"Sir, do you know this girl?"
"She's m-my girlfriend!" he said frantically, weaving through the crowd until he was behind the ambulance. A paramedic extended his hand to Aaron, who greedily took it and climbed into the back of the emergency vehicle. He tried to grab Kayleigh's hand but found her blocked on all sides. Scratches covered her face and Aaron wished she'd simply stood him up.
The medics spoke frantically to one another and machines beeped around them. The walls of the ambulance were flashing every color known to man, and Aaron simply tried to process what was happening. He knew the vehicle was moving at least 85 miles per hour, but it still felt too slow. Why weren't they at the hospital yet? Why wasn't Kayleigh awake and talking to him yet? Usually he could fix her problems with a kiss and Broadway mug full of wine, but not this time. He didn't know what to do, and that scared him.
When they reached the hospital, Aaron was nearly shoved out of the ambulance. He tried to keep up with Kayleigh's stretcher as it was wheeled quickly down the slick floors of the stark white hospital, but found himself getting left behind. It disappeared behind a pair of double doors and he was stopped by the arm of a doctor. He strained to watch it as a new team of strangers took Kayleigh down a separate hallway and out of his sight. His brain was on overdrive as he was steered to a chair in the waiting room and sat down forcefully, as he was seemingly unable to do so himself.
He tapped his fingers nervously on the wooden arms of the chair, his foot twitching nervously. Others had come and gone in the past few hours, but Aaron had remained. There had been no word on Kayleigh and he was determined to stay awake until there was. His mind begged him to rest, but he ignored it. He wouldn't give up.
"Is there someone here for a...Kayleigh?"
Aaron perked up at the sound of her name, getting to his feet immediately. He met the doctor halfway, rubbing the back of his neck. "Yeah, that's me. I'm her bo--her husband. Aaron Tveit."
The doctor raised a suspicious eyebrow, but accepted Aaron's answer. "She's a little banged up, but she's okay. We're going to keep her overnight just to be safe, but she should be able to go home with you tomorrow. Visiting hours are almost over, but if you wanted to see her she's in room 13 an--"
Aaron walked away from the doctor, no longer interested in what he had to say. He knew she was okay and what room she was in, and that's all he needed. He burst through the double doors and broke into a sprint, looking closely at the room numbers as he passed. 10...11...12...13!
Her room was open. He went inside and cringed at the bleakness of the small cubicle like space. There was a bathroom off the side and a small bedside table by the bed that was nestled into the corner. One lone chair sat across the room from the cot, but was close enough that the person sitting in the chair could reach out and grab the person's hand in the bed. The only color in the room was a lone rose resting in a white vase on the side table. The petals were already falling off and become black around the edges.
Aaron quickly stopped focusing on the sad looking room and instead brought his eyes to Kayleigh, who he believed to be sleeping. Her bright blue eyes looked tired and were surrounded in scratches. The left one already had a dark purple bruise forming around it. Most of her body was covered by a cheap hospital blanket and Aaron dreaded to see what other parts of her were hurt.
"Yeah? You okay, sugar?"
Kayleigh's heart soared at the sound of her favorite nickname. "I'm...sorry I didn't make it to lunch," she croaked out, tears clouding her eyes. Aaron chuckled and went to sit on the side of her bed. He took her hand in his, brought it to his lips, and gave it a soft kiss.
"Babe, I'm just glad you're going to make it to tomorrow. How are you feeling?"
"Like I just got hit by a taxi."
"Oh, ha ha, Kayles. Very funny."
Kayleigh's eyes shone happily and she laughed lightly at her own joke. Aaron's smile completely overtook his face and he gave Kayleigh's hand a tight squeeze. "I'm so happy you're okay, Kayleigh," he said softly, smiling the smile that would make any girl's heart melt. Kayleigh took a shaky breath in and steadily tried to exhale.
"Me too, Aaron."
"Excuse me, Mr. Tveit? You'll have plenty of time to visit with your wife tomorrow, but she needs her rest now." A nurse popped her head into the room with a polite smile. Kayleigh looked up at Aaron with a smirk as a dark red blush crept over his cheeks.
"Your wife, huh?" she joked, raising her eyebrows. Aaron stood up, his face pink with embarrassment. He ran a hand through his hair and put the other in his pocket, walking towards the door.
"You heard her...you need your rest...Mrs. Tveit," he smiled smugly. After giving Kayleigh a quick wink, he bowed out of her room and she listened to his footsteps echo down the hallway.
How did anyone expect her to sleep after that?