Thunder roared throughout the sky. Little rain dropped against Phoenix’s umbrella in a rhythm. The new driver hastily opened the door and it seemed he was going to follow her.
Phoenix glanced at him and said, “no need.”
He crouched back down into the car and mumbled an “okay.”
As she walked out of the parking lot, Phoenix noticed a familiar vehicle. It was a white Honda Civic with white sunflower stickers on the back window. Her pace slowed down as if her feet manifested invisible chains.
She didn’t want to meet them, but her schedule was so packed this was the only time she could visit.
She clutched the sunflower bouquet she bought from a nearby store to her chest, afraid it would be spoiled by the rain. Her heels halted in front of the door.
Phoenix took a deep breath and walked inside the hospital. The sound of rain hushed, only making its presence known by tapping itself against the windows. She shook her umbrella off excess water and arranged it into the rack.
After talking to the receptionist, she habitually walked towards her right; her heels resounded in the mostly empty hall, the smell of antiseptic filling her nostrils. Anyone who crossed her path would turn away or do a u-turn. Phoenix‘s mind rehearsed what she would say to the people in that room and didn’t notice she looked like she was glaring at others.
Go in, say hi, replace the flowers in the vase, scan Lilianna’s condition, and leave.
The closer she was to the room, the tighter she held onto the stem of the bouquet on her chest.
The sound of her heels halted, and a deafening silence ensued. Blood rushed into her head. She almost forgot to breathe.
Laughter emerged inside the room. The door opened.
“Phoenix?” The man said in surprise.
Then, Mrs. Earnest walked towards the front door to take a look.
“We haven’t seen you in so long!”
Warmth enwrapped Phoenix on both sides, the coldness she felt being in the rain melted away. This warmth spread throughout her body and concentrated onto her eyes.
But she didn’t cry. She had no right to.
“It’s nice to see you too Mrs. Earnest.” When she let go of her, Phoenix turned her head towards Mr. Earnest and Isaac and nodded.
“I’ve seen the flowers you’ve been giving Lilianna. I’m sure she’d love them.” Mrs. Earnest continued with a melancholic smile, glancing at the image of her daughter, looking frail and peaceful for almost five years. The sound of rain mixed with a rhythmic beeping of the heart monitor filled the room.
Phoenix didn’t know what to say for a moment, but eventually, she replied, “This is the only thing I could do for her. I’m sorry.” She scanned everyone’s expressions.
These people, Lilianna’s beloved family, should be enraged at her. They should have kicked her out for even looking at their daughter. For putting her in danger.
Yet all she saw was pity or sadness. As if a million needles stabbed her head at once, she suddenly felt dizzy.
“I just wanted to stop by for a bit. I need to go.”
She forced a smile on her lips and walked towards the bedside. She took a look at Lilianna, guilt punching at her stomach with more force than usual, and she hurried to replace the flower she left before with a new one. This time, no one said anything. Phoenix swiftly did what she was supposed to do and said,
“Then, I will be going.”
Phoenix looked at her watch.
She still had an hour left until her meeting.
Her other hand fiddled with the box of cigarettes in her jacket as she walked down the hospital’s hallway.
It had been months since she last saw Lilianna’s family. She had been familiar with their visiting times for the past five years. She purposely avoided them by visiting late, or on days they didn’t visit.
She didn’t really know how to interact with them after all that happened. All she was able to say was sorry.
And apologies don’t do anything.
She grabbed her umbrella from the rack and walked out of the hospital. Cold breeze penetrated her skin along with the splashes of rain.
Phoenix found a quiet spot and sat down, away from the prying eyes of the world. She looked up at the fuzzy, gloomy sky in a daze. With a flick of her thumb, the lighter sparked a fire and she lit her cigarette.
The longer time went, the more her mind separated itself from her body. Sometimes when she looked at the world around her, it didn’t feel real. It was almost like she was watching her life pass by through a movie screen. Her life continued as it was, but contained no essence. She thought she would be happy as long as she had a direction in life, but a gaping hole ate her spirit almost every day.
If only she could turn back time. No, she would do absolutely anything— even sell her soul to the devil just to bring back Lilianna.
A beep from Phoenix’s watch snapped her out of introspection.
As if someone flipped a switch on her, Phoenix’s mind shifted to her upcoming meeting.
She crushed the cigarette in a trash can and threw it away before walking back into the parking lot.
The government recently tightened the Customer Protection Policy on gambling. They wanted the house to limit customers’ betting amount, which would of course limit the profits. The meeting needed to discuss the next actions about this new regulation.
Her father had been enraged lately by how the government liked to poke their noses into the Mafia’s business. It would probably end up with finding a loophole within the regulation.
Just as she was about to open the door to the passenger seat, she had a flash of premonition. She took a step back, but before she could turn away, the door opened and a gun pointed at her face.
Note: Hello! I hope you all are liking the series so far :) I will be posting once per week. I know it's a bit slow, but I'm still finishing up with the plotting of this story. I will pick up the pace eventually!