What is Meant to Be - A short Story
What is Meant to Be
He liked the job, although it was not the adrenalin-driven and exciting occupation of running a construction crew with both a deadline and budget to control. But that was last year, and now he was retired. Sort of.
“Mary Hobson Mathews” The voice was soft and a little timid. “The Hobson part is actually my maiden name. It was just getting popular to do that back in the late sixties, when I married, and I thought it was cool!” His fingers paused on the keyboard. Mary Hobson? The Mary Hobson?
He glanced at her for a moment and smiled, putting her at ease. She smiled back, and her tired looking face lit up for a moment. His mind swiftly smoothed out her wrinkles and lifted the sagging features. Was it really her? Her eyes were a brilliant green. Yes. He was almost sure of it.
“Place of birth?” It was not a question on the form, and he could see Betsy’s curious glance as she looked his way. He ignored it, so she turned back to resume asking the patient in front of her questions off the same form.
“Oh, I was born right here in Phoenix! I moved to California in the mid sixties, but this will always be home. I’m glad to be back, although I don’t like being in a hospital. I’m here for some heart tests.” She was smiling again, and he was sure that it was her.
“Date of birth?” He was inputting the answer before she gave it. “January fifth, nineteen forty-seven.” He had never forgotten that. In fact, he had never forgotten thousands of little things about Mary Hobson.
He checked off the remainder of the list, and had her sign the admittance form. He instantly recognized the handwriting, even after almost forty years. Mary Hobson was seated across from him, and she did not realize who he was. Or maybe she had forgotten who he was. After all, it was some forty years ago.
He had been cruising Central alone in his cherry red, 1927 T-Bucket, when he turned into Bob’s Big Boy for a coke and a burger. It was the place where everyone hung out, and a great place to pick up a chick to fill the empty seat. It was a great life, but he never got serious with anyone. He was having too much fun. That was about to change
He spotted an empty slot, and was almost there when a girl suddenly stepped out from behind a ’58 Chevy Impala directly into his path. He stopped with a foot to spare, and was going to yell at her when he realized that she was crying. She wiped her eyes and glanced his way, seeing him for the first time. His rescue instincts kicked in and he motioned her to the empty seat. She shook her head no and started to walk off when she stopped and looked back at him. She seemed to make up her mind, and smiled through her tears. She got in beside him.
In those few seconds, David Pearson fell in love for the first and last time in his life. She was a green eyed blond, and the hip huggers she was wearing accentuated her curves to the point of taking his breath away. But it was her sudden smile that took his heart on the ride of a lifetime.
She was pretty, and quite attractive, but not a classic beauty. Her pert nose was not long enough for that, and she was a little too well put together to ever be considered model material, but to David, she was stunning.
“May I?” She indicated his rear view mirror, and he nodded. She dug in her purse for her makeup, and swiftly repaired the tear-damage. He decided to cruise a little while longer, and eased the hot rod back on to Central.
“Sorry about all that. I just broke up with my boyfriend, because I caught him with Joy Andrews. Do you know her? Most boys do by now.” She made a face, and he laughed.
He shook his head. “No, I’ve only been here for about a month. I’m from Indiana.”
“Oh, my mom came from Indiana. My dad was stationed at Luke and she came out here to marry him. I was born here. This is a really cool car!”
Her tears were forgotten and her natural joy of life took over. She smiled over at him, and his heart soared.
They came to a red light and stopped next to a jacked-up ’57 Chevy. David saw the big cheater slicks on the rear wheels, and wondered whether they were there for looks or for function. The slight shaking of the hood and the deep rumble from the side pipes gave him his answer. This guy was for real.
The driver looked over at David, and blipped the throttle a couple of times. He was being challenged. He looked all around for cops, but hesitated. Dragging on Central was a big fine if you got caught, and his license was clean. Then Mary made up his mind.
“Can you beat him?” Her eyes were glowing with excitement. “Sure you can! Let’s show him our taillights!”
He saw the yellow light come on for the opposing traffic, and got set. He was known back in Indiana for his fast reaction time at the track, and sometimes he was even accused of cheating the start flag, but he was simply very fast. He tensed, and then the light changed to green. He was almost half a car length ahead of the ’57 before he heard its engine roar.
He held full throttle just long enough to claim victory and then clamped down hard on the brakes, making a screeching left on Osborn, and then a hard right into a self serve gas station. He was out and already pumping gas when the first police cruiser idled by, both officers eyeing him suspiciously. He nodded at them, and Mary put her hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle. He was lucky and he knew it. From now on, he was a marked man, and the cops would be waiting.
After that, David and Mary were steady dates, and he was deeply in love. However, and although they became more than just friends, she never seemed to totally commit herself to him. When he told her he loved her, she smiled and kissed him, usually saying, “Me too’. But she never simply said, “I love you, David.”
Then one hot Phoenix night just about a year later, Mary announced that she was going to California to ‘find herself’. She had a girlfriend there who had an apartment and a job waiting, and she wanted to try new things. David was devastated, but he had come to love her deeply, and he knew better than to try to clip her wings, nor did he want to. Her need to fly free was a big part of what he loved about her.
She promised to stay in touch, but after she kissed him lightly and drove away, he never saw nor heard from her again. Until now.
He met and married Delores, and they had three daughters. Although he was happy with his marriage and content with his life, he never again loved anyone like he had loved Mary. It was once in a lifetime joy, and now, she was sitting not two feet away. Delores had passed away two years ago.
He picked up another form. “Marital status?”
“I’m a widow. My husband died years ago. He had cancer.” She dug in her purse and dabbed at her eyes. ‘He was a fine man, and he could have had anyone.” David glanced at her. Was that self-reproach? He got his answer almost immediately.
“I never got over someone I once knew here in Phoenix.” She looked at her hands. “Now why on Earth did I tell you that? I guess I’m getting old and foolish.”
He was stunned. Was she talking about him? Had she realized who he was? No. She had not, that much he was sure of. He looked at the form and was about to ask the next question when he heard a gasp. Mary was grasping at her chest and all the color had drained from her face. Then she simply collapsed out of the chair and on to the floor.
He got up and raced around the counter. Behind him, he could hear Betsy yelling in the phone that there was a Code Blue in admitting, and then it was blaring on the PA. He checked her pulse but couldn’t find any, so he began CPR. Less than a minute later, the crash cart showed up with a large team, and he was gently pushed aside.
A respiratory nurse placed a mask over Mary’s face and began bagging her while a doctor unceremoniously cut open her blouse and also cut her bra away. David looked away, suddenly embarrassed, but not before spotting the little red birthmark Mary had always hated. The last little bit of doubt suddenly vanished. The doctor slapped the automated external defibrillator pads on her bare chest, and then so many people surrounded her that she disappeared from David’s view.
In a few moments, Mary’s heart began beating again, and she was rolled off to the cardiovascular ICU. David finished up the forms the best he could, and excused himself. He was suddenly feeling his age, and he needed to take a break.
“Did you know her?” Betsy didn’t miss much. David nodded and took a sip of coffee. She had followed him to the break room and sat at his table.
“I used to date her years ago. She’s much older now so I didn’t recognize her right away, but when I heard her name, I looked closer, and it was her. I don’t think she knows who I am.” He took another sip.
“She said she never got over someone she knew here in Phoenix. I don’t know who she meant. Maybe it’s me.”
Betsy took a bite of sandwich and watched him. “There’s no next of kin listed, so maybe you can visit her instead. Go on up to CV ICU and tell your story. It’s worth a try.”
The nurse looked up and noted his employee badge. “I’m David Pearson from admitting. I was the one who was handling her case when she collapsed. I’m checking on her.”
“Are you the one who administered immediate CPR?” He nodded. “You may have made all the difference. She’s sedated and unaware, but she’s resting well. She’ll get some stents tomorrow.” She patted his hand. “It’s sweet of you to take an interest in someone you don’t even know.” David looked at her for a long moment and began to speak.
The two nurses watched as David held Mary’s hand and spoke softly to her. It was almost three in the morning, and he had been there all night. The story had been whispered all over CV ICU, and even the most hard bitten of the nurses had a lump in her throat as she watched the drama unfolding at bed five. At last, David rose. He stood there for a moment looking down on her and then pressed his lips to her hand. He placed it gently under the blanket, and walked to the nurses’ station.
“I’ll be going home now. I’m very tired. Thank you for allowing me to sit with her.” He walked slowly away.
“Well, now, I see you are finally back with us. You’ve had a rough couple of days.” Mary tried to speak but her throat was raw. “That’s from being intubated. You’ve had a heart attack, and some stents inserted. The good news is you’re doing well. The doctor will be in later to discuss it with you.”
“I had the strangest dream.” Her voice was raspy. “I came back to Phoenix to see if I could find the only man I ever truly loved, and I dreamed he was here talking to me. It seemed so real.”
Tears were welling in the nurse’s eyes. “It wasn’t a dream. The man who talked to you in admitting was David Pearson, and he sat up with you almost all night. He says he knows you from years ago. Is he the man you were looking for?”
Mary stared at the nurse, her mind racing. “Oh my Lord! That’s why he looked so familiar when he was asking me all those questions. Why didn’t I realize? Of course that was David! Now I can see his face plain as day! How could I have missed it?”
The nurse made a face. “Well, when you are having a heart attack my dear, it’s a little difficult to concentrate on anything else.”
“I want him to come see me! I can’t believe I found him! And while he was talking to me, he told me that his wife was also gone. He’s a widower. I remember that part distinctly.”
“This is Admitting. Harold speaking.”
“Hi Harold. I’d like to speak to David Pearson if he’s available.”
There was a long pause.
“Who’s calling please?”
“This is Janet in CV ICU. I’m an RN.”
“Are you a relative?
“No. I’m calling for a patient who knows him and wants him to come see her. Is that a problem?”
“I’m afraid that it’s not possible. David was involved in a traffic accident early this morning down on Central. He did not survive. The cops think the kid who hit him was drag racing.