Opposite of Always(2)

Part of me thinks, wonders, hopes: maybe this is it. This is the solution. I’m not supposed to be there. If I’m not there, she’ll live.

They rattle off my crimes, and after breaking and entering, I stop listening. I don’t bother trying to explain, because how do you explain you’re from the future?

“. . . you understand your rights,” they say more than ask.

I nod, the aluminum trunk cool and sticky against my cheek.

“You have anything on you? Weapon, drugs, or the like?” the large officer asks.

“No,” I lie. Because I can’t tell the truth. Not now. Rough hands slide up and down my body. My keys jingle as he fishes them out of my pocket. Then he removes my wallet.

“Nothing interesting,” the large officer says to his female partner.

“Have him take off his shoes?” she suggests.

And my knees nearly buckle.

“Please,” I plead, “just let me go inside. My girlfriend’s dying. Check with the doctors, her nurses. Please. Just five minutes. Please. A heart, have a heart. Just let me see her for five minutes and then you can haul me away to prison, throw away the key, whatever. Please. Think of your kids. Do you have kids? If they were dying, would you want them to be alone? Please. Please.”

I try dropping to my knees to beg, but it’s tricky when you’re being physically restrained. The officer who put the cuffs on me looks over to the other one, a dirty-blond-haired woman with bloodshot eyes, and she sighs in that studied way that all mothers must learn on the first day of Mom School. But then she nods her head. And the cuffs come off.

Which is beyond crazy.

“Don’t be stupid, kid,” he says in a voice that makes me think he thinks I’m going to do something stupid.

“Five minutes,” she says. “That’s it.”

They walk on either side of me, assuring me as we march the greasy linoleum floors and ride the we’re-trying-to-hide-the-piss-smell-with-bleach elevator to the fourth floor that if I try anything funny they will not hesitate to lay my stupid ass out. But I’m not going to run. I check my watch again. There’s a chance.

Except the elevator door hesitates for twenty seconds before finally hiccuping open. And then we’re forced to detour down another hallway because a maintenance man is mopping the floors and apparently takes his floor-mopping very seriously, because he starts shouting and jumping up and down. The officers mumble apologies, but the man just points angrily toward an alternative route, also known as The World’s Longest Possible Way Around.

I try to explain that we don’t have time for detours, for tired elevators, for wet floor signs. But no one listens. And when we get there it’s nearly too late.

Kate’s almost gone.

“Well, look who it is,” she says, her eyes blinking open. In the corner, the chair her mom normally occupies is empty. A crumpled blanket on the floor beside it. A lipsticked Styrofoam cup on the windowsill.

“Hey,” I say. For a second I’m taken aback at how small she looks. The room is quiet, except for the hiss of oxygen pumping into her nose, the drone of IV fluids chugging into her arm.

“What time is it?” she asks, squinting. Even at three in the morning, confined to a hospital bed, she’s beautiful.

“We don’t have a lot of time left.”

Her face twists in confusion. “What are you talking about?” She leans forward in her bed, glances over my shoulder, wincing. “And this time, you brought the police with you. Interesting move. You really know how to make an entrance, Jack King.”

I look back at the officers. “I’m sorry about them.”

“You’re crazy, you know that?”

“I can see how you’d come to that conclusion, yes,” I say, smiling.

“Five,” the female officer reminds me.

Kate shakes her head. “Jack, why are you here? I don’t get it, man. What, you have some morbid fascination with hospitals, is that it? Or do sick girls turn you on?”

“I came here to tell you . . .” My voice trails off because I haven’t really come to say anything.

“What, Jack?”

“I think I know what I’m supposed to do now. I think I’ve figured it out. Finally.”

“Okaaaay,” she says, her eyebrows sliding up. Clearly, I’m only confusing her. Of course I am. Because none of this makes any sense.

“You’re going to be okay, Kate. Everything’s going to be okay.”

She turns away. “Everyone keeps saying that, but they’re lying. Don’t be a liar, Jack. Not like—” She stops when she sees what’s in my hand.

Because for the last twenty seconds I’ve carefully worked my fingers into my shoe. And now I have it.

“Jack,” she says, her voice rising. “Jack, what the hell—?”

But before she can finish I yank back her blankets and fire the syringe into her thigh. She lunges forward, like I’ve hit her with a million electrical bolts.

The police tackle me to the ground, shouting curses into my ear, into the room. “What the—! What the hell did you just do, kid? What the hell was that?”

“Someone help,” the lady officer screams, running out in the hall. “We need a doctor in here! We need a doctor!”

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