Rain drums down on the sidewalk, sharp as liquid knives. I draw my shoulders in under my umbrella, bracing myself against the wind. It’s a quarter until three in the morning. At the hospital, we always called this the witching hour, the hour when you were most likely to lose a patient. I’m not tolling away at that prison tonight though. The long hours of shift work have murdered my sleep. Insomnia chases me from the bed I dream of between patients. The everlasting patients and their misery. The pain. The cries. The fear.
She’s up ahead, crouched under the awning of a drugstore. I can’t see her face, enshrouded behind the hood of her raincoat, but her pins are long and lithe beneath a circle skirt embroidered in chrysanthemums. I know better, but I dart under the awning.
“Care to share an umbrella?” I ask.
Her voice is girlish, light, and trusting. “I only live two blocks from here. Walk me to my building?”
“Maybe not so much walk as crouch and scurry.”
She laughs and steps inside the shelter of my proffered umbrella. With a pang, I realize she smells like cinnamon and lilies. I haven’t smelled that since —
“Ghastly night,” she shouts above the rain.
“Yeah. I’m glad for a night off work though.”
“Funny, I’d like to be able to keep a job.” She laughs.
It’s on the tip of my tongue to tell her I’m an emergency department physician. Chicks tend to dig it. But the hood of her coat falls back, revealing two almond-shaped black eyes and a mouth that naturally quirks. I know her, and I don’t want her to remember me. I pull my cap lower.
“You remind me of someone I know.”
“I get that a lot.”
I had been a resident, out for a run when I happened across the car in the ditch. It was raining, streams of sharp cold daggers falling from the sky. The passenger had been flung from the vehicle. She lay splayed on the ground, rain running into her open mouth, blood freckling her pretty face. She’d smelled of cinnamon and lilies. This girl, her sister, had been following her. They were relocating to this town with two cars of scant possessions. In shock, she’d waited on the side of the road, completely startled when a doctor appeared on the scene.
I don’t know why, but as we waited for the ambulance under her umbrella, I said I couldn’t do anything.
Her injuries are too severe, I’d said. Hadn’t even tried CPR.
I don’t know if it was because I was young, inexperienced, and scared.
I don’t know if it was because something sinister had already surfaced inside of me.
Either way, over the last fifteen years, she’s the only person I can think of who might have witnessed my secret. She needs to be silenced.
“That’s my building,” she says, pointing an elegant hand toward an awning.
“I’ll at least get you to the door.”
We jog up the steps in unison.
“Here’s my key.” She fumbles with the lock, and I admire the long, sinewy curve of her neck. It would be no trouble to —
“All safe,” I say as she turns to smile.
“I remember you,” she mumbles. “You don’t have to lie to make me feel better, you know.”
I adopt my best innocent gentleman stance. “I wasn’t. I was lying to make myself feel better. I couldn’t save her — worst thing that can happen to a doctor.”
She smiles, the quirk of her mouth begging to either be silenced or kissed. I have no idea.
“Oh, please. Her injuries weren’t so grave you couldn’t have sustained her until help arrived.”
“I was pre-med at the time. The accident changed my mind about becoming a doctor. Too many sick people trying to save themselves instead of everyone else.”
“Why do you think that?” I pull a cigarette from my slicker and light it, too fascinated to turn away.
“Because I cut her brake lines.”
The door shuts in my face, and I feel vindicated enough to sleep for the night.
Hope Denney grew up on Wuthering Heights and now spends too much time lurking around hospitals. She writes Southern romance novels in her downtime and haunts Twitter, admiring and spinning microfiction. A completely undedicated blogger, she may actually post something to Overzealous Ink one day. You can find her on Twitter @