Sara took a sip of her too-hot coffee and cursed the delicious liquid when it burned her tongue. She quenched her tongue with a gulp of cool water and chided herself for not blowing on the hot liquid first.
This Tancredi ritual was becoming quite familiar, although she told herself every night to hit the snooze button just once the next morning. But it was a lost cause; she failed miserably, every day. She just couldn't leave the warmth of her bed! The same morning ritual over and over again: not enough time for too many things that needed to be done. She always ended up having to rush in order to reach the hospital on time. Normally she drove her own car but today she needed to take the bus since her car was in the shop, getting repaired. And this bus thing, Sara didn't like it one bit, it was even more of a time crunch than usual! Sara Tancredi's mornings were always stressful, and she hated that, although she couldn't force herself to do it any other way.
She ran through her apartment, brushing her hair while putting on her boots; brushing her teeth while straightening her clothes and looking for her purse. She searched for deodorant and perfume and she yelled an annoyed ‘Yes I will!' when she heard the mocking voice of her boyfriend telling her that she wouldn't make it on time. Riley just returned home from work; he was a bartender in a popular night club in downtown Chicago, the place where they met each other about two years ago. She would soon find out that she indeed wouldn't make it on time today, but for reasons other than being late.
Sara flung on her dark green jacket and the silk black scarf given to her by her father for her last birthday, and gave Riley a quick peck on his lips before she left. She frowned when she kissed him, wondering ‘Was that a fade of red lipstick in his neck?' She thought. ‘I never wear red lipstick, in fact, I don't own red lipstick!' But before she could take another look, he turned around and made himself a cup of coffee, telling her she needed to go, avoiding her questioning eyes. And so she did go, running down the hall of her apartment building, buttoning her jacket and positioning her scarf at the same time to make sure she didn't miss her bus. Careening down the stairs of her apartment complex, she almost fell when she missed a step but frantically grabbing onto the railing saved her, and she praised the lord for that. The same lord she had already cursed once that day!
Sara opened the door of her building and the cold air hit her in the face, making her spine shiver and causing her to groan audibly, but she didn't have time to go upstairs again and put on her other, warmer jacket. She was running out of time and she needed to hurry. She placed the scarf in front of her mouth, to make sure she'd stay warm, tucked her hands in her pockets and ran to the bus stop. She cursed herself again for not wearing her flat shoes, the comfortable sneakers instead of these three-inch high brown leather boots.
"Oh god," she yelled softly, "the bus is there already!" She quickened her pace and looked behind her to make sure she could cross the street safely, but the wind made her hair fall in front of her eyes. Panicked that she would miss the bus, Sara crossed the street without looking because she was pretty sure no car was close; she didn't hear anything except from her own heart beat, hammering in her ears. She noticed that her cardiovascular fitness wasn't quite where she wanted it to be and she made a mental note to start working out again real soon.
She removed her hands from her pockets, moved them to her face to claw away the strands of hair that were in front of her eyes, and continued crossing the street. It was at that moment that she heard an insistent screaming male voice, the screeching noise of bike brakes, and the crash of metal on flesh. Somehow she registered that it was her own flesh that was being hit, but it was as if she was watching the scene unfold from afar instead of actually being a participant.
She recognized the sensation of his front wheel crashing into her leg, causing her to recoil from the impact, but the shock was too great for her to feel any pain. Registering that she was about to fall, her brain demanded her to move her right hand to break the fall. But her collapse to the ground was too sudden and heavy, her wrist couldn't take it, and she felt and heard the sickening sound of a bone breaking as her wrist jammed into the concrete. It all happened so fast, and when her head snapped back and smashed to the ground as well, the lights went out immediately for Sara Tancredi.
For Michael Scofield -the cyclist- events unfolded so suddenly and quickly that the only thing he heard was the screaming redhead in front of him, the sound of breaking bones and the nauseating ‘thud' when her head hit the cold road. His eyes registered this all in pure horror, while he somehow prevented himself from falling too. He just stood there, next to his bike, dumbstruck; he didn't know what to do until he noticed the horrifying sight of blood on the street.
Her head is bleeding! his mind screamed. He took his mobile and called an ambulance, which unfortunately took ages to get there. Luckily a nurse, driving by, stopped and gave the woman that was still laying motionless and unconscious on the cold street the first help she needed, and when the paramedics finally arrived she told them what measures she had taken and what had happened. Michael thought he had heard her say something about ‘morphine and O.D.' but that was probably his mind playing tricks on him.
"Do you wanna join us in the ambulance?" the paramedics asked him and it was like he just returned from another planet. The confusion was written all over his face so the paramedic asked it again. Michael looked at the friendly nurse, who gave him an encouraging nod, telling her that Sara would be fine.
"Sara?" he asked, confused. "You know her?"
"I work at the same hospital she does. Now go in the ambulance and let the doctors take a look at that hand of yours." Michael looked down at his bleeding hand in a daze. As he entered the vehicle, he wondered how on earth his hand had been hurt.
Michael was standing in the darkened room, trying to take a look outside, trying to shove the curtains a bit aside so the light would let him see how late it was.
He had recently arrived to the darkened room after spending a pointless and frustrating two hours in the waiting room. After he had asked Dr. Daniels for the tenth time if there was any news about Sara Tancredi, the doctor had told him nonchalantly that Dr. Tancredi was transferred to her room 30 minutes ago. Michael needed to control himself from cursing out loud.
‘Why didn't anybody tell me this 29 minutes earlier? God damn!' he cursed under his breath. He had been pacing forever in the waiting area after the doctor had examined his hand, assigning the nurse to clean the wound and put a bandage on it. Two hours, that was like a lifetime, trying to read a magazine, trying not to feel guilty, trying not to worry about the woman's condition... They had told him nothing since the ambulance had arrived, nothing, zero, zilch! Nothing! And Michael Scofield hated it when he was in the dark.
Now he was in the dark literally. The room of the red-haired woman was blacked out because of the head trauma she endured. When Michael had knocked before entering her dim room, Dr. Daniels had informed him of such hospital protocol for concussion victims. Great, Michael scoffed, you learn something new everyday. Head trauma victims need dark rooms. He just wished he himself had not caused the head trauma.
"No, sir, don't knock. Dr. Tancredi has suffered a concussion in the accident, so she will have a terrible headache when she wakes up, and needs some peace and quiet," the doctor informed him. Michael immediately felt relieved that the old doctor was finally giving him the information he desperately needed. The worst-case scenarios had played out in Michael's head when nobody told him what was going on. Was she dead? Or in a coma? Was she operated on? Would she be okay?... His mind was going in overdrive and the lack of information didn't help with that! He needed music to relax again, but the only sound in the hospital was that of chatty nurses and doctors, cheesy Muzak, and the sound of his own breathing. God, he hated hospitals!
"Does she have anything else besides a concussion, Dr. Daniels?" Michael asked in a worried tone.
"She has a compound fracture in her wrist, and a nasty wound at the back of her head, which required multiple stitches. And she will be bruised too, but the bruises will of course fade."
Still seeking to assuage his guilt, he implored, "But she will be fine, right Doctor?"
"Yeah she will, maybe even tomorrow she can leave the hospital if everything goes well." And Michael let out the breath he didn't know he was holding when he heard all of that. His heart stopped racing, just as the hammering heart-beat in his ears faded away.
"But she will be in a lot of pain since we can't give her strong painkillers," he added, which made Michael frown with puzzlement. The doctor saw his expression change from relief to confusion, and filled him in once again before he entered her room for an examination, closing the door behind him extremely softly.
"Because of her addiction..." he explained. The doctor's words echoed through Michael's head when he closed the door behind him to give Sara her exam. "Addiction... Doctor Sara Tancredi... no strong painkillers... doctor... addiction..."
Even after Dr. Daniels had left her room, telling Michael he could wait inside since she was about to wake up soon, his words kept on racing through his head. He was trying to figure everything out but he couldn't since he had never met this woman before. The image from her lying motionless on the ground kept on flashing before his eyes, how hard he tried to block it out, he just couldn't. Her half-open mouth, her closed eyes, the blood on the street, her left arm that lay unnaturally twisted under her body... She was like a bleeding red-haired angel, when she lay there... He startled when he heard a hoarse voice telling him he could open the curtains a bit more.
"Are you sure, isn't your headache too bad?" he whispered back, slowly opening the curtains so the daylight lit the room a bit more.
"It's fine, for now so you can stop whispering," she responded, breaking the ice when a soft chuckle left her mouth. It was like music to Michael, her chuckle, but he didn't realise that right then and there. But he would when the soft voice and gentle smile of Sara Tancredi would haunt him in his dreams that night.
Michael crossed the room in no time, his hand extended to shake hers, but when she pointed to her right plastered wrist, he laughed a bit stupidly, and shook her left hand instead. Attached to her left hand was the IV, so he shook it gently; to make sure she wasn't in any more pain because of him. He hated that, that she was laying in the hospital because of him and so he lowered his gaze to the ground to avoid her beautiful chocolate brown depths when he spoke.
"I am Michael Scofield... the... well... the one that hit you this morning," he said nervously. He had not anticipated how she might react when they would meet, but now that he was sitting next to her bed, he expected that she would be mad, curse at him, send him away, slap him... but instead of those negative reactions, she patted his arm in a friendly manner, telling him she was the one to blame.
"I shouldn't have crossed the street without looking. I shouldn't have snoozed four times that morning and I shouldn't have been late for the bus, and I shouldn't have been forced to run to catch the bus, and I shouldn't have let the wind blow my hair in front of my eyes ... I am rambling, sorry," she said blushing slightly and a soft giggle left her mouth, before she introduced herself: "I am Sara Tancredi by the way."
"You shouldn't excuse yourself at all Dr. Tancredi; it was my fault. I was in a hurry too; I was late too, so I was riding like a madman, not looking where I was going and if anyone was crossing the road." When a huge smile broke out across her face, he asked self-consciously, "What?" Watching her continue to stare at him with a bemused expression, he added, "There is nothing funny about me ramming into you, you are in the hospital because of ..."
"I have never met a guy that has the same problem as me, but now I have met my match," she suggested teasingly. And when she saw the question marks appear in his eyes, she continued speaking. "Well, you are a pro at rambling too I see, I have that too, when I am nervous and don't know the other person very well." And they both laughed softly, which made their nervousness fade away slowly.
"So they already told you I am a doctor, but what about you Mr. Scofield?" she inquired, closing her eyes a bit more to avoid the light. That act didn't go unnoticed by Michael and while he spoke, he stood up, closed the curtains again, receiving a friendly smile in return.
"You can call me Michael. And.." but Sara interrupted him.
"If I have to call you Michael, I am Sara okay? That is much easier to say than Dr. Tancredi."
Michael nodded his head and continued: "I am a music teacher at the Chicago Academy. I give guitar and piano lessons. And what about you Sara, you are a doctor, but where do you work? What is your speciality?"
"A music teacher? Interesting," she said truthfully. "I am a doctor in this hospital, Chicago Memorial, but not on this floor. I am a pediatrician actually."
"Well, that sounds interesting too. Working with kids is always fun." He wished that there would be a day in the future he would have children of his own.
Michael and Sara talked a while, and when the nurse told them it was lunch time, he went down to the cafeteria and bought a sandwich. Sara had insisted that he return to eat it in her room, so that she had some company. When he was about to open the door to her room again, he overheard her phone conversation with -who he thought was- her boyfriend. She was trying to stay calm, to lower her voice, but she was pissed, of that he was sure since he could hear the irritation dripping in her voice.
"Well Riley, I am very sorry to wake you up in the middle of your beauty sleep, but I didn't exactly plan to get hit by a cyclist this morning. I mean, what in the hell are the odds?" Michael couldn't see how her hands were balled to fists, the cotton of the sheets pressed in between those fists, her knuckles already white from clenching the sheets.
"This is so typical you Sara Tancredi" -he knew she hated it when he did that, calling her with her full name when they were arguing-, "you never plan to go in the hospital. When you OD'ed six months ago, that was an accident too, right?" He knew he was playing with fire, taunting her with a huge mistake from her past.
"Oh Riley, you bastard--I never said the OD was an accident...I don't know, maybe it was. And aargh", she cursed under her breath, when she removed the phone for her mouth for a second, covering it with her hand to mute her frustrated sigh. She forced herself to breathe in and out before she brought her mobile to her ear again.
"This isn't why I called, to fight. I just wanted to ask if you could bring me some stuff, my pyjamas, some toiletries, you know, female stuff. You can go to bed again afterwards..." she offered and finally he gave in. Hell yeah, he gave in, it was his girlfriend lying in the hospital and he was worried about his freaking beauty sleep...
"I will be there in an hour ok?" and before she could thank him, Riley hung up the phone and headed to the bathroom, after he woke up another woman in his bed, telling her she needed to leave... now.
When Michael heard Sara closing her phone, he counted to ten before he knocked on her door. He gave her a sympathetic smile when he entered the room and sat down next to her bed again.
"I ordered you the house wine," she smirked, pointing to the glass of water at the bedside table.
"Now that is generous of you to do so," he grinned and they laughed together, the ice broken, once again. He liked it, how she did that. She could melt the entire Arctic with her soft chuckles and infectious giggles, he thought.
They ate and talked a while, until they were interrupted by an insistent knocking at the door. Riley made his way into the room, even before Sara could gave him the permission to enter. He dropped her overnight bag onto the table with a thump, leaning in to give her a quick peck on her lips, and telling her she ‘pulled a Tancredi' again. Michael wondered what he meant by ‘pulling a Tancredi again' but he would find that out soon enough.
Riley was a good looking man, thirty years old tops. He had shoulder length black hair, like the Italians Michael had seen in several movies. He was chewing gum with his mouth wide open and Michael couldn't help but feel disgust and incomprehension. A feeling of revulsion that would grow even bigger within the next hour...