Sweet RomeBy: Tillie Cole
I sprinted down the hospital hallways, panting, my heart pounding in my chest.
Five missed calls. I had five fucking missed calls. Something was wrong with Mol, and God, I felt sick at the way I’d left things between us. Everyone talks about never leaving arguments on a bad note just in case one of you never comes back. Folks never listen, but now, the thought of never seeing my girl again had me almost turning myself inside out with regret.
My feet faltered as I ripped my way through corridor after corridor, pure dread stealing my goddamn breath. What if something bad happened? What if the surgery hadn’t been a success after all? What if something had gone wrong after we fought? And I left her on her own, got pissed at her depression and left her on her fucking own, alone with only her dark thoughts for company.
Forfeiting the busy elevator, I climbed the stairs two at a time, all the way to the fourth floor, practically smashed through the entrance to the ward, and sprinted to Mol’s room. I passed the nurses’ station without stopping and heard my name being called, but I ignored it to get to my girl, to get to my Mol, to see with my own two eyes that she was okay.
The door to her room was closed, so I slammed down on the handle. The door swung open, the wood smashing against the wall. My blood froze in my veins as I stared at the empty room: fresh sheets on the bed, the floor reeking of Lysol, and her packed bag gone.
My hands began to tremble and my heart seemed to stop.
No! No, no, no, no… she couldn’t be…
Stumbling backward on shaky feet, my back hit the doorframe and I could feel my legs giving out, my ass hitting the floor a second later with a dull thud.
“Romeo?” I could hear a voice beside me, trying to get my attention, but I couldn’t focus; everything was hazy, stilted.
A hand pressed firmly on my arm, shaking me out of my stupor.
I couldn’t move, couldn’t speak.
Looking up, I saw Marnie, Molly’s nurse, standing above me, staring down at me with a worried expression.
“Where—” I cleared my clogged throat. “Where is she? What happened?”
Marnie’s face blanched. “Oh, no, darlin’! You think…? No, no! Molly is fine. She’s fine.”
My heart lurched back to life at her words. “What?” I whispered, needing to hear her again.
“Molly is fine, but…” Her eyes softened and dimmed with sadness.
“But what?” I demanded, getting to my feet. Her jaw began to click with nerves. “Christ, Marnie! But what?” I snapped more forcefully.
“A couple’a hours ago, your momma paid Miss Shakespeare a visit.”
My heart sank and an uncontrollable rage surged within me. “She did what?” I asked. Marnie stepped back in fear.
I backed away, fists clenched. “What did that bitch do?”
“She… She attacked her, hit her… She was arrested, Romeo. Molly had to make a statement to the police.”
“Fuck!” I swung around and punched the wall, the thin plaster cracking under the pressure, my breath and anger way out of control. “Where’s Mol now, with the cops?”
Marnie briefly looked down at the floor before meeting my frantic gaze. “Darlin’…”
“What?” I questioned curtly. I didn’t like her tone. It seemed like she was trying to be soothing or something, prepping me for a fall.
She stepped forward, hands outstretched, placating. “Darlin’… she…”
Groaning and losing patience, I took a long look around the empty room. As my gaze landed on the narrow bed, I couldn’t help but remember Molly’s broken face as I left tonight. It was like she was done: with me, with our entire fucked-up situation… with life.
As I cast one last unseeing look out the small window, it all became clear…
My gaze swung to Marnie’s, and she visibly sagged where she stood. The gesture alone gave me my answer.
She’d left me. She’d run. She’d fucking run away.
“I’m so sorry, Romeo. She made sure no one saw her leave. Earlier, she told me she couldn’t cope, and I guess she just broke down. We checked the security cameras. She walked right outta the front doors and got into a car.” Her eyes regarded me sympathetically. “She had all her belongings with her.”
My heart crumpled in my chest. Unable to speak, I backed down the corridor, pulling out my cell. The other nurses on duty watched me go with varied looks of pity. I pressed on Molly’s name, but it went straight to voicemail, so I left a message:
“Molly! Where are you, baby? I’m so sorry for what I said and for leaving you like that. I’ve just heard from the nurse about my momma. My God, Mol, they said she attacked you… again! Please tell me where you are… You just left the hospital without telling anyone. Please, call me.”
I ran toward my Dodge, mind buzzing as I tried to think of the people I should call and the places I should look.
I had to find my girl.
“Mol! MOLLY!” I yelled, bolting up the stairs of the house, ignoring the screams and yells from girls as I passed each floor. She had to be here. Where else would she damn well be?
I stormed into her room, and, instantly, a wave of despair hit me. She wasn’t here. Everything was still as it had been: bed slightly crumpled from where we’d made love before the homecoming dinner, her class notes scattered all over her huge desk—and, God, that book she was reading like it was the friggin’ Bible in the center, pages folded over, colored labels scribbled with her thoughts, line after line of highlighted paragraphs… and that small, treasured polaroid picture as the bookmark.