She breathes in heavily to block out the well of tears and vomit just below the surface. She’s not sure what will come first…
She quickly walks the rings over to Beth’s parents. The sooner she gives it to them and rushes outside for air, the better.
Beth’s mom literally falls to pieces with this new evidence of yesterday’s reality.
Beth’s Dad takes the rings and wraps his arm around his wife. He motions to Sarah. “Can you tell them we went back to the hotel and they can reach us there? I think all of this is catching up now.”
Sarah nods. And she thinks, please just hurry.
Beth’s Dad opens his hand to examine the rings.
Sarah can feel the tears forming.
He picks up the engagement ring. “I believe this belonged to Dax’s grandmother. Can you be sure to give it to them? They should have it now.”
Sarah swallows back her tears and nods quickly, then holds out her hand. The ring drops into her palm and she stares at it in her open palm, as Beth’s Parents finally exit.
No sooner are they out of sight, than Sarah rushes to a nearby trash bin and heaves. There’s nothing in her stomach so thankfully not much comes up. She heaves until she can’t anymore. She finds a box of tissues and pulls one to wipe her mouth. She collapses into a chair and stares at the content of her palm until her eyes close.
Hours later, Sarah is asleep across three chairs in the waiting room, fist clenched around its contents.
Dax’s Mom comes in and shakes her gently awake. “You really should get some sleep in a proper bed. I’m sure this has taken an unexpected toll on you.”
Sarah regains some composure and sits up. “I’m fine.”
Dax’s Mom sits next to her. “They confirmed that he was dreaming when he grabbed your arm.” She thinks about it for a moment. “Funny how he would dream about you, after all these years.”
Sarah looks into her eyes. “He woke up.”
Dax’s Mom puts a comforting hand on her knee. “They said he was sleeping, dear.”
Sarah shakes her head. “At the accident. He woke up and looked at me for a split second then passed out again. I just assumed he didn’t see me.” Sarah opens her clenched fist and extends her hand out to Dax’s Mom. The engagement ring sits in her palm. “Beth’s Parents thought you should have it now.”
Dax’s Mom slowly picks the ring out of her palm. “Well now. My mother’s ring in your hand again. Strange… isn’t it?”
Sarah nods weakly.
“It sure is fateful that you’d be traveling on that same road.”
Sarah can feel the lump returning to her throat. “It’s a little difficult to comprehend. Even for me.”
Dax’s Mom closes her palm around the engagement ring. “I would assume… especially for you, dear.”
Sarah smiles fondly. She always loved Dax’s Mom. She was warm and full of love.
Dax’s Mom looks around the room. “Where did Beth’s Parents go?”
Sarah takes a breath. “They said it was all too much and everything was getting to them. They’re at the hotel.”
Dax’s Mom grabs Sarah’s hand. “I can understand that. I sure can.”
She looks at Sarah. “How about you keep me company while I get a cup of coffee?”
Sarah agrees and walks with her to the cafeteria. She selects a window seat while Dax’s Mom fixes her coffee. She watches her pour the cream and sprinkle the sugar into her cup. She looks so much like Sarah remembers her, but her hands have aged. Sarah looks at her own hands that are starting to show the wrinkles of time.
Dax’s Mom sits across from her. “So, are you still taking pictures?”
Sarah’s pleased that she remembers. “Yes, but only by assignment for this and that. I was coming home from one when I found Dax. I was hired by a bird watcher’s magazine this week. And the week before that I was photographing whale migrations off the coast of South Carolina.”
Dax’s Mom blows on the hot coffee. “Sounds like you’re still full of adventure.”
Sarah laughs. “Hardly.”
Dax’s Mom contemplates her answer while she takes a sip. “How are your parents?”
Sarah swallows hard. “They both passed years ago.”
Dax’s Mom looks concerned. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”
A Japanese couple stands at a vending machine nearby. They try to read the machine while speaking to each other in Japanese. Sarah hears and interjects in their language by telling them it’s out of change. They thank her and walk away.
Dax’s Mom looks impressed. “I see you’re still well traveled.”
Sarah looks down. “No, not me. Not anymore.”
Dax’s Mom seems to understand. Even after all of the years and lives between them, she recognizes a sadness in Sarah that she grew to know well in her son.
A Nurse rushes toward Dax’s Mom. “He’s awake. I knew you’d want to know right away.”
Dax’s Mom almost jumps for joy. “Did you hear that? He’s awake.” She rises from her seat. “Let’s go see him.”
Sarah is frozen in her seat. She shakes her head “I’m not sure that seeing me will be the best thing right now.”
Dax’s Mom doesn’t look like she’ll take no for an answer. “Nonsense. He’ll want to see you.”
Sarah still remains frozen. The reality of this moment is far too overwhelming. “He’ll need to grieve Beth and you’ll need to be there for him. Not me.”
Dax’s Mom hesitates. “You’re right of course. But it hardly seems fair.”
Sarah waves her on. “Go. See our Dax. I’ll be waiting right here.”
Dax’s Mom rushes off as her husband meets her near the elevator. They embrace before they go up.
Sarah remains planted in her seat. She watches them leave. Once they are out of sight, she collapses into her arms on the tabletop. The sobs come without an end in sight. A huge part of it is relief… relief that Dax will live. A part is sadness that she won’t be there for him when he finds out the tragic news about his wife. And a part is frustration that despite all that she has been through in the last few days and the last decade and a half, she knows…
She still may not have earned the right to see Dax again.