The Best You Could
summary: Juliet copes with the loss of a patient.
inspiration: 10_themes prompt,table 4, #9 "gritty"
notes: Aside from Sabine, I didn't know any names of pregnant women who died on the island, so Cynthia is an OC, as is her husband, Paul.
She leaves the operating room with her scrubs still on, nudging the door open with her elbow because her hands in their latex gloves gleam with Cynthia's blood. The medical station seems too narrow and, underground, claustrophobia strikes in a way she's never felt before. Only when she finally bursts through the gloom out into the shockingly bright island sunlight does Juliet finally breathe, and with the oxygen comes the familiar flood of tears.
It is a pain only the ocean can salvage and as usual she finds her way there, half-blind from crying and the striking white light of the afternoon sun. It should not be a beautiful day, with Cynthia's blood weaving a crimson stain down the pale green scrubs, dripping down over the bare skin of Juliet's exposed wrists. The sky should be slate and overcast, torrential with rains, the ocean whipped by typhoons and hurricanes, enraged at the additional loss. The beauty of it tortures her, the sweet perfume of the frangipani and the sultry heat a torment.
Juliet gives way to temper, tearing off the infernal gloves and tossing them away from her in disgust. She kicks off her white shoes and digs her bare feet into the damp, wave-strewn sand, craving the dry grittiness below. She casts away the apron-like shirt to follow, stands in her white tank top as the wind tears at her hair with a fury less hollow, less useless than her own.
"It wasn't your fault," comes a familiar voice, said as she is on the verge of screaming.
Ignoring Ben, Juliet strides closer to the water. It is lukewarm, and offers comfort she does not trust herself to receive. Closing her eyes against its beauty she sees Cynthia once more, pale in the greenish Hydra light, a young woman weak and hopeful and - she had hoped - healthy.
"It was going to be a boy," she tosses over her shoulder, not sure whether she's trying to help herself or wound Ben. His silence betrays his feelings about that. "A little boy," she continues, bitterly. "She was going to name him Andrew. She told me, during our weekly appointments.” Juliet thinks of her office, the pride in Cynthia’s voice, the dedication with which she abided by Juliet’s every medical suggestion, taking them as gospel. “She had everything all planned."
"Juliet," Ben speaks, and she lets her shoulders slump, knowing her can outlast her, him and his infinite patience. "Cynthia understood the risk she was taking."
Not comforted, she wraps her arms around her body, feeling the salt spray as the wind rises. "Did Paul?"
"Of course," he responds, emotionless. "Juliet, please," he continues, and there is something else in his voice. He is not all business, as they think, not to her. "Please," he says once more, and Juliet realises she has been moving away from him, out into the ocean, which now has risen to her waist. Beneath her feet is the stable sand. It would carry her away, away, over her head, to the place where the rip-tide flowed, if she kept walking. "It's going to rain soon," Ben says, and he has a knack for knowing these things. "A storm is coming. Come on, let's get you home."
She whirls on him, refusing to be soothed, not allowing herself the comfort. "I told her she was going to be okay! I told her everything would be all right! I helped her make plans!" Juliet sobbed, throat tight and aching. "I wanted to take her off the island. She might still be alive now, if you had allowed me to put her on the sub. She might have made it, in Miami."
Warm arms engulf her. Ben has joined her in the water, and Juliet finds herself pulled close to him chest, her head resting tiredly on his shoulder. Overhead, the brilliant yellow sun withdraws, giving refuge to the bulky thunderheads that slide in, too fast, from the north. "Or, she might have died there as well. Travelling at her stage of pregnancy is dangerous, Juliet. The ride on the submarine might have killed her. You did the best you could."
She lets him comfort her, finally, not wanting the hot, guilty pain that resides inside her chest to plague her any longer. She thinks of Cynthia, her wan, hopeful smile, and Paul with his hands pressed eagerly against the observation window, desperate for a glimpse of his son. Then, Juliet pushes the images away. They join the other memories, the four women already dead, the fathers in their black mourning, the burning rafts made funeral pyres the rest of Ben's people will push out into this selfsame water within hours, this time bearing Cynthia’s still, hollow body.
Finally, when the rain starts, icy droplets prickling them, she follows Ben out, lets him guide her home.