He jerked awake at the sound of the nurse calling his name.
“Yes, that’s me.” He replied, rubbing sleep from his eyes. He had spent most of the day waiting for some news on the lady he knocked down.
“You can see her now. I’ll show you in.” The nurse led him to the room where she was. They entered the room to find her sleeping.
“She’s resting now but her condition is stable.” She said before leaving.
He walked forward quietly and sat down in the seat by her bedside, taking the time to study her. She was young, probably around his age. She had fair healthy skin that glowed despite her wounds. Her hair was in long braids and she was dressed simply in jeans and a T-shirt. Her bag lay on a table on the other side of the bed. It was not a regular handbag that most ladies carried but seemed more like a medium-sized travelling bag.
He sighed and sat back. She was probably on her way somewhere before he knocked her down. Guilt flooded through him and he prayed desperately that she would wake up soon. Minutes later, she began to move; first her fingers, then her feet before she opened her eyes. He sat forward, almost on the edge of his seat.
“You’re awake.” He breathed in relief.
She blinked twice; light brown eyes surrounded by long dark eyelashes stared at him in confusion before she spoke.
“Did they send you?” Her voice cracked slightly and she cleared her throat.
“Who, what do you mean?” He frowned, wondering if she hadn’t hit her head badly.
“Oh my goodness, they sent you, didn’t they? I knew it. I just knew they wouldn’t let me go that easily. But they’ve gone too far this time really I mean come on. This is extreme, even for them.”
He sat back in fascination as she ranted for a few more minutes, totally lost.
“So, are you here to take me back?” She asked.
“Take you back to where?”
“My home of course, I know they sent you to get me.”
“You’re mistaken. I hit you by accident on the road and brought you to the hospital.”
She looked thoughtful for a moment.
“Okay I believe you. No one would go as far as to arrange a road mishap anyway. They may be a lot of things but not heartless.”
He stared at the lady before him. He was expecting her to cry or maybe rain insults on his head and generation yet unborn for knocking her down. He didn’t really know what to expect but this certainly wasn’t it.
“Oh no, this means bills.” She muttered more to herself than for his hearing.
“I’ve already taken care of that.”
“Oh…thank you. I don’t have much money on me anyway and God forbid that I should ask my family, they’ll think my decision was doomed from the onset but then again, they already think that.”
He just nodded slowly, wondering if the medication she was given was causing more harm than good.
“What’s your name?” She asked suddenly.
“Gabriel, what’s yours?”
“I’m Danielle, nice to meet you although not under these circumstances.” She smiled. “Thanks for not being the hit-and-run type of guy.”
“Um… you’re welcome.” He didn’t know what to make of her.
“So, do you have any idea when I might be discharged?” She asked just as a nurse walked in.
“Glad to see you’re awake, you had a few minor injuries from the accident but you’re free to go now. The doctor suggests you take a few painkillers if you should feel any form of discomfort.”
“There’s your answer.” He smiled.
He escorted her out of the hospital and politely offered to drop her off at home. She hesitated as her eyebrows furrowed together in a slight frown.
“I’m not really heading home.”
“Okay, so where are you headed?” He asked as they approached the car.
There was no response for a few moments.
“Could you take me to this address?” She said handing him a piece of paper. “I was on my way there before…”
Before I nearly sent you to the great beyond. He thought.
“Of course I’ll take you there.” He replied as they got in. He wasn’t very familiar with the location but navigated as best as he could.
They arrived at a noisy neighbourhood. It was a Friday evening and children walked in groups and chatted excitedly on their way home from school. A variety of cars littered the roads, thanks to those who were returning home from work and they caused a lot of slow-moving traffic.
“Here we are.” He said, coming to a stop beside the gate of a duplex. A car was parked in the garage and the front lights were already on in preparation for night fall.
“Thank you.” She sighed in relief as she got out of the car.
She hesitated just for a moment as she turned to him again but didn’t know what to say so she walked away. He waited for her to ring the doorbell and didn’t pull away until it seemed she was ready to go in. One more glance then he drove away. Few minutes later in the traffic, he glanced at his rear view mirror to see someone chasing after his car, waving their hands frantically. He squinted at the image in the mirror and slowed down. Wasn’t that Danielle? He only just dropped her off. Behind her was a man who seemed to be running after her wearing a… towel wrapped around his waist. He was confused.
“Wait! Please wait!” He heard her shout and promptly stopped the car although the vehicle before him had moved forward. Impatient drivers were pressing their car horns behind him but he ignored them.
Danielle ran up to his car, looking distraught.
“I need a ride, please.” She begged, looking behind her to see if her pursuer was catching up.
“Sure, get in.” It was all he could say.
She got in and collapsed unto the seat. He continued driving as the traffic eased up and cars began to move faster. The image of the man in the towel grew smaller as they drove away. He was filled with questions as he glanced at her downcast face but kept them to himself.
“Where are you headed?” He asked instead.
“Drive, just drive… please.” Her voice cracked slightly as if she were about to burst into tears.
He wasn’t sure how to handle a lady he barely knew who was about to have a nervous breakdown in his car so he did just as she had said. He drove.
“Do you want to talk about it?” He asked and cringed at how awkward he sounded.
The sun had set and they were parked by a quiet roadside. Only a few cars drove past. It was near a commercial area so many buildings and stores were still open and their bright lights lit up the streets, preventing total darkness.
She made a low humming sound that could have either been ‘yes’ or ‘no’. He waited just in case.
“I can’t go home. Not now.” She said quietly.
He suspected she was having issues with her family and he could clearly relate well to that. He hadn’t heard from home in months. It was as if he had ceased to exist to them. He was moved with compassion for Danielle.
“Do you have any friends you could stay with?”
“My… friend’s house that I just left, he was my best bet at a place to stay. Unfortunately, I caught him at a wrong time.” She said bitterly.
He winced at the venom in her voice and guessed that her ‘friend’ was a little bit more than that.
“You could check into a hotel.” He suggested.
“Money is a bit of an issue for me right now.” She said quietly.
“So, what will you do?” He asked.
“I’ll just get out of your car now and try to sort myself out.”
“No, wait.” He said as her foot touched the ground. He couldn’t just watch as she roamed the streets, what if she ran into dangerous people? “If you don’t mind, you could stay with me, just until you find somewhere better in a few days.”
He watched as she narrowed her eyes, mentally weighing her options. Her eyes did a quick survey of him, probably noting the beard that covered half of his face and the scrapped clean bald head. He thought he looked a few years older in his disguise, but vanity wasn’t important at this point in his life all he wanted to do was keep a low profile. He realised that inviting her to his home might not be the wisest thing to do for someone in his position and they were strangers but he couldn’t just leave her. Anyway, it was all up to her to decide, he had laid the option out there.
“No thanks but I appreciate your help.” She said.
He listened as the door slammed shut and ignored the slight pang of worry he felt. It had been her choice to make. He drove away.