An excerpt from a beautiful book that will touch your heart, Leave of Absence by Tanya J Peterson
“Now go make each hour of today bearable. I will see you tomorrow.” Unceremoniously, Dr. Willis left his room without giving him a chance to protest.
“How am I supposed to do that?” Oliver asked the empty room. He pulled his picture of Maggie and Henry out of the pocket of his robe. “My doctor just told me to do something to make each hour bearable,” he said to the smiling faces. “But without you here, nothing is bearable.” He tipped over sideways onto his pillow and curled up. He ignored the voice calling though the day area to signal the upcoming music group. He remained motionless until he heard a soft knock on his open door.
“Are you going to come with me to the music group? It’s starting in a few minutes,” Penelope asked in an exaggerated stage whisper. “I’m talking like this so I don’t startle you. You haven’t moved, so I guess it’s working. Are you awake?”
He rolled onto his back. “Yeah, I’m awake. And thanks for not startling me.” He swung his legs over the side of his bed and sat up.
She looked at his hands. “You have their picture. Can I see it again?” She looked to her left and to her right and behind her, and then she closed her eyes. “Is it okay to go in?”
Oliver didn’t answer because he had a feeling that she wasn’t asking him.
“Okay, I’ll count with you. One, two three, go!” She tiptoed quickly into his room and plopped down beside him on the bed. She offered no explanation for the conversation but instead looked intently at the picture. Both of Oliver’s hands grasped the bottom corners of the photo. Penelope slid her hand into one of his without causing him to let go. She leaned against his shoulder and said simply, “I’m sorry, Oliver.”
“Thank you.” They sat quietly together, her hand snaked through his, taking in the image. Guilt pricked him. It pierced the hand that Penelope held and the arm where she leaned her head and traveled through his skin, into his bloodstream, and straight to his core. He shouldn’t be accepting this comfort. But after months of stark comfortlessness, this just felt good. He wanted to pull away, but he didn’t. It was nice in a way, too, to let someone see the beauty of his family. Was this part of doing something to make the moment bearable? It felt good, and because of that it felt lousy. God, he hated himself.
“Last call for music group! Five minutes to Fra-ank!” This time the tech calling was Matt. Oliver looked out the door, and seconds after the call, Matt walked past his room. A second after that, he walked backward to return to Oliver’s doorway. “Is there a reason rules are being broken in here?” Matt’s tone was light and held no anger or reprimand.
Penelope stayed exactly in the same position. “Oliver seemed down, Matt. When he sat up, I saw that he had his picture and I wanted to see it again, and I wanted him to know that I care.”
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