CH 8: Goodbye Doesn't Mean Forever

Maggie was leafing through a magazine when the knock came at the door, her eyes not even lifting from the fine print as she listened to Carolyn greet the caller. At first the blonde was bright and chipper, yet after a bit of soft murmuring, the foyer fell completely silent.

Finally raising her head, Maggie frowned in concern as Carolyn and Sheriff Patterson entered the room akin to that of a funeral procession. Noting Carolyn's terribly wan features, Maggie furrowed her brows before inquiring, "What's wrong, Carolyn? Has something happened to one of the Collinses?"

When all Carolyn could do was shake her head, George solemnly stepped forward before revealing, "Willie Loomis was found unconscious earlier this evening and is now being hospitalized. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Miss Evans, but it would seem that the doctors don't have much hope -- he's in a very deep coma."

"No..." Slowly rising from the settee, Maggie's eyes widened as the magazine slipped noiselessly from her fingers. Trembling, she vigorously shook her head before sobbing, "No, no, you're lying to me! Willie and I had a fight, b-but he just left for a little while..."

"Maggie" Carolyn earnestly began, "I know you're in shock, but you must be reasonable..."

"No, you be reasonable!" Maggie viciously shot back. "Willie is hurt, yet you're behaving as though I'm not entitled to show my grief!"

"Oh Maggie, of course you are, I just meant..."

"Take me to him" the redhead urged. "If you do nothing else for me, at the very least drive me to the hospital."

When Carolyn looked to George for guidance he nodded bitterly, his hand extending as he solemnly agreed, "C'mon, then...let's go."

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The walls of Collinsport Hospital were cold and sterile, Maggie giving a shiver at the memories the horrid place held. It was almost as if death were lurking behind every corner, and she truly feared that if she let go of Carolyn's arm, she would be taken alive.

"Miss Evans?"

Maggie immediately looked up, her heart giving a painful throb upon noting the nurse's grim visage. "Y-yes?" she stammered.

"Mr. Loomis' condition has taken a signficant turn for the worse -- I don't mean to alarm you, but he's been kept alive the past few hours by a machine."

Maggie felt her blood run cold. "Then...?"

"Yes" the nurse grimly revealed, "I'm afraid there is nothing more we can do. Seeing as to how he has no family, I'm leaving the decision on what's to be done to you."

Paling, Maggie swayed about until Carolyn caught ahold of her, the governess' lips quivering as she breathlessly entreated, "Then...he's in a lot of pain?"

"Not tremendously, no -- he's in a coma" the nurse patiently reminded her. "Mr. Loomis has a very slim chance of pulling through since his organs are failing, so I'd highly recommend letting us pull the plug."

Placing a hand over her mouth, Maggie tearfully nodded before whispering, "If it will bring him peace, please do so, but at the very least let me say goodbye to him. He's very dear to me."

"Of course" the nurse sympathetically agreed, "take as much time as you need, Miss Evans."

As Maggie turned to enter Willie's room, Carolyn caught ahold of her arm, the blonde's eyes sparkling with tears as she assured her, "If you need anything, I'll be right here, Maggie. Please don't feel obligated to shorten your time because of me -- I don't mind waiting."

Maggie gave her a soft smile, but it was short-lived. "Thank you, Carolyn" she whispered. "You're a true friend."

Having said all she could muster, Maggie then turned the knob to room G25 and shakily crossed the threshold. The sight that greeted her caused her to cringe, hot tears streaming down her cheeks as she gazed upon Willie's prostrate form. Several tubes protruded from his sallow skin like snakes, and the breathing mask upon his face prevented her from gazing upon his countenance in its entirety. Unfortunately, what she could see made her cringe, for the purple bruises beneath his eyes and the blood-encrusted cuts filled her with a pain far greater than any she'd ever experienced. She could've been there for him like a true lover, but instead she'd turn him away.

"Oh, Willie..."

Gingerly pulling up a chair, Maggie sat down before him and took his hand in hers. To her horror it was cold to the touch, her eyes squeezing shut as her fingers interlaced with the hand that had guided her through the darkest of her days. She loved him very deeply, but it pained her to realize that he'd entered the coma hating her.

"Oh, Willie" she began yet again, "can you hear me? If you can, I...I'm sorry. Sorrier than you can imagine." With tears pooling along her lashes, she scooted closer so that she could touch his face. Brushing back the hair that had fallen across his eyes, she leaned forward and kissed his bruised forehead. As she did so she half expected him to awaken, but when he did not her heart throbbed along with the reality of the situation. She was going to lose him, and for what? The repercussions of some petty argument?

Bursting into tears, Maggie embraced her fallen lover before burying her face against his chest, his dull heartbeat failing to assuage her fears as she moaned, "I'm sorry, Willie...oh God, I really am! If I could just get you to understand, you'd realize how much I love you...how much I need you! Why do you have to give up on me when we both have so much to live for?"

Clutching at the fabric of Willie's hospital gown, she slowly raised her gaze to his face before beginning to tremble, her head shaking as she sustained, "Don't you know I want to be your wife? Over the past few months you've been my only friend...my only confidant, and you should know that our fight could never change my feelings for you. Your outburst hurt me very deeply, yes, but I think I can understand your anger..." With these words, she gingerly touched the scarf around her neck, her eyes softening as she rose so that she was sitting alongside him. Lifting the breathing mask from Willie's bruised and bloodied face, she lightly caressed his cheek before whispering a hushed "Forgive me", her lips gently pressing against his as she suddenly realized it was the last kiss they'd ever share. Placing the mask back to its rightful position, she took his hand in hers and brought it fondly to her lips before giving a tearful smile. "Goodbye, sweetheart..."

With trembling limbs, she rose from the bed and flicked the power switch to the breathing machine, the fading whir of the mechanism seeming to be almost deafening as she was greeted by an overwhelming silence. At long last, he would finally be free...

FIVE WEEKS LATER

"Damn, wouldja look at this?"

"What is it?" Jeff demanded, a cigarette dangling from his lips as he peered at the paper in his friend's hand. "Another poor sap get attacked by that animal, or somethin'?"

"More or less" Scott grimly agreed. "It seems that Evans girls was killed last night...she was a few months pregnant, too."

"No shit? Now that's a shame right there..."

"Yeah" Scott dolefully agreed, "a damn big shame. She was a good kid..."

As the two men bantered on, a lone blonde continued to listen to their conversation with a heavy heart. Carolyn missed Maggie very much, for she had been her best friend ever since Victoria left Collinwood; to hear that she'd been brutally murdered made her incredibly depressed.

Running her hand along the necklace that Maggie had bequeathed to her, she rolled her eyes skyward as she felt her lip begin to tremble.

'It'll be alright' she uneasily assured herself. 'Willie and Maggie are together again, and I know he's taking good care of her.'

With a small smile at this thought, Carolyn gathered her things and rose from the table. She still had to pay her respects at the viewing.

A/N: Worst...ending...EVER. lol Sorry about this, but I was SO sick of this story and just wanted it to be over and done with. I can't believe I was able to write the last chapter at all, considering how bad my writer's block was. I tried to make it sad, but meh...key word obviously being 'tried'. :-P Thanks for sticking with me and reading, though! ;)