It was more than coincidence, Charlotte thought, that the florist was placed directly beside the entrance to John Radcliffe Hospital. The oranges blossoms and daffodils spilled out onto the pavement outside, a warm-hearted attempt to sooth and heal.
She parked outside and made a snap-decision to buy a small arrangement for the ward. It wasn't something she would generally do, yet she wanted to make this visit seem as casual as possible. Of course, it was casual, really. But she was uneasy, as though she shouldn't be here. As if she had no right.
And so, moments later, with her arms full of carnations and baby's breath, and her head full of warnings, she approached the administration desk.
The secretary smiled broadly at her; the kind of smile no one could ever manage without their fourth coffee of the morning downed.
"Can I help you, love?"
Charlotte shifted the weight of the bouquet to her other arm. "I'm here to see Theresa Spencer. I believe she was transferred here from home care last month."
"Ah, yes. Dear me. I gather that the care just became too much for the sister. Very sad."
Charlotte waited for the babbled to cease. It did.
"Friend or relative, love?"
"Neither, actually. A friend of a friend. I was just passing through, thought I might pop in..."
"Oh. How lovely! She never gets many visitors, the poor girl. That'd be level four, private ward number fifteen."
The door was ajar, ever so slightly, when Charlotte reached it. A cleaner had just departed, judging by the faint smell of bleach wafting out. She waited until the hallway was deserted, and then entered, pulling the door behind her. The room was bright, and rather bare.
She felt herself freeze as her eyes found the still brown ones that stared lightly across the room at her. The face was calm, carefree- the hint of a smile remained on her lips as she slept. She had been beautiful, once; it was clear. But her features were strangely inert, disturbingly so, like a once freshly picked rose pressed flat in a hardback.
"Theresa." The words escaped from Charlotte's lips, little more than a whisper.
The comatose woman didn't move, watching her with an oddly heavy gaze.
"Hello, Theresa. My-," she stopped, feeling silly. But there was something there; deep in the rich brown eyes that told her Theresa might just hear her. "My name is Charlotte."
"I... I brought you something." She turned away, placing the flowers by the window. Light spilled in; it was a clear day outside, the streets already drying after last night's rain. "There."
Charlotte turned back, and then moved to sit in a cheap wicker chair by the bed. She took a deep breath, wondering for the umpteenth time why she was here.
"I know about you and Daniel, Daniel Faraday. I know what happened to you. Here you are, like this. And it all but killed him. He doesn't even know I'm here, that I know."
She refused, now, to look at the damage that had been done. Her fingers picked absently at the bed sheet. Her voice was even lower when she spoke next.
"He loved you, Theresa. And I think you loved him, too. I don't know, I'm not sure. I don't know you. But I imagine you did." She twisted a strand of red hair tightly around a finger. "I love him, too."
"And... this is ludicrous. I don't even know why I'm here."
The clock ticked loudly in the corner. Theresa lay, silent as ever. Charlotte shut her eyes tight, and forced herself to continue.
"I wanted to ask you if that's okay. That I love him. Because it wasn't fair, what happened. Because if I'm ever, ever taken away from him like this, like you are, I don't think I'd want to keep on living, like this. I'm not brave enough."
She opened her eyes, and a hot tear trickled down her cheek. She clenched her fists, but her mouth continued to move, a quiet whirr.
"I haven't seen him, not since we came back. I wasn't sure, once I found out about this, about you. But I can't keep from him. I'm not that strong. Theresa... please," she reached out, quaking, to place a hand atop Theresa's cold forearm. "I think I can love him... for me, and for you. I can love him enough for both of us. I do."
And then something strange happened.
Theresa sat up, and smiled warmly as she tucked a blonde curl behind her ear. She leaned forward, with the eager expression of a girl about to gossip.
Charlotte felt herself freeze up, stunned that Theresa had heard her. But- no. There was something off, in the woman's easy gaze, the way her eyes were looking not at Charlotte, but just to her left. To nothing.
"Abigail, you'll never guess!" she gushed. Her voice was croaky from disuse, but she didn't seem to notice.
Charlotte watched, rapt, as the woman hallucinated, as she had been told she did frequently.
"I was at a lecture, the other day. I sat next to this boy- oh, Abby, don't look at me like that! Anyway, I got talking to him. His name is Daniel, Daniel Faraday, I think. He was so sweet, sis, a real gent. Studying the same course as I, and all. He was nice, a little timid, but a hopeless romantic. I could tell. I'm meeting him on the grounds tomorrow; we're going to have lunch. I'm so excited, Abby. I haven't felt like this about a boy in a long, long time!"
And with that, Theresa laughed, adjusted her nightgown, and lay back down. The rhythmic pattern of her breathing returned, and Charlotte knew she was once more out of touch.
She pressed her knuckles to her lips. They felt cold there. She shook her head slightly, and touched Theresa's hand, allowing her fingers to fold over hers. She gave it a gentle squeeze, and smiled weakly through her tears.
"Me neither, Theresa."
Charlotte strode quickly down the street, impatiently hailing a taxi. She threw herself into the back seat, thrust a few pounds at the driver, and stated the address before the poor man had a chance to open his mouth.
She then ignored all attempts to make small talk as she delved hurriedly into her coat pocket, bringing out a small silver phone. She flipped into contacts, glancing once at the name she had long pondered, the number she had instantly memorized.
Her eyes blazed as she hit the call button.
Daniel woke with a start as the phone blared, the shrill sound causing him to hit his brow on the headboard as he jerked from the bed. He gasped at the pain, and, disorientated from sleep and darkness, picked up the phone.
"Ch- Charlotte? Is it you? Where are you?"
"Why do you ask?" The question seemed to have caught her off guard.
"It's five in the morning, Charlotte. Not that that's a proble-,"
"Oh. Yeah. Well, I'm actually in town, and I was wondering-,"
"Charlotte, why are you calling now, at this time? Is everything okay?"
"Yeah. Yeah, it is. I've got a long day ahead, had to get up early. Forgot the time."
The honk of a car horn seemed to tell him otherwise, but this time he didn't interrupt.
"Listen, Dan-," He could tell she was smiling from her tone. "What's the nearest restaurant to... wherever you are?"
"What? Oh, that'd be... That'd be L'Abordage. It's about a ten minute drive. But- I hear a car. Are you-,"
"Daniel, listen to me. You need to meet me there, at L'Aborage. Please, just be there. Seven this evening, your time."
He frowned into the darkness. "My time? What on earth-?"
"Dan! Listen! Seven, do you hear me?" Her voice was stern, something that tugged at his memory softly.
"Seven," he replied, mystified. He opened his mouth to ask another fruitless question, but heard only a dial tone.
He'd gone one better, and met her at the airport.
She saw him first; he was still standing in the throng unsurely, as though he was wondering how he had gotten there. Her vision clouded over as the crowds melted into the background, as though it were just the two of them standing by the arrivals gate. She didn't know how he had found her flight. Didn't care.
Dishevelled from the long flight, she began to run, dragging her luggage behind her. Several people cried out in protest as the wheels clunked over their feet. She didn't stop.
The first thing she spotted was a purple-black bruise, newly formed above his right eye. She laughed aloud. How wonderfully, typically Daniel. The sound made him turn, just as she came crashing into him.
She could feel the tears running down his nose as she kissed him.
And from that moment on, Charlotte knew she would never stop loving Daniel Faraday. Ultimately, completely.
A/N: Okay, call me picky, but I'm not all that sure about how well this went. Oh well! May as well post it. =] If you're still there, thanks for reading. Cheers!