Karen Hutson slowly opened the door to room twenty-two peeking to see if the hallway was clear. The east wing of the Rosemary Asylum was quite. All the patients had retired hours ago. The clock over the nurse’s station at the end of the hall illuminated four a.m. Karen crept slowly down the hall toward the outside door. Having seen the nurses punch the numbers into the combination lock, she knew she could unlock the door. Exiting the building, she found herself in the back parking lot. Stooping to make herself less noticeable, she slowly made her way past each car hunting one with keys inside. Looking into the window of a small blue Chevrolet, she spotted the keys on the front seat. Karen had sneaked out before and was careful to put the borrowed car back into its original parking space. Before she had only gone after snacks or a Sonic burger.
This time would be different. She was planning a five hour drive from Winona to Coldwater, MS to visit Clay Wright. Clay was eighty years old, and the last time Karen had seen him his dark hair was streaked with grey and his waistline was hanging over his belt. Karen had taken extra care to dress for the visit. She wore black slacks, pink blouse, and low heeled black shoes. She still considered herself attractive at seventy.
Karen had an affair with Clay for twenty-four years on and off. There were times; he didn’t call for weeks or even months. She knew at those times he was seeing someone else. His truck, a black Ford Ranger, had been seen in out of the way places. One night seeing his truck parked in a small shopping center she had waited in a dark parking lot across the street. Shortly, a small white car driven by a blond woman stopped and Clay got out. When asked about the incident he lied. He was a habitual liar.
Clay said, “I went to help her son with a two-way radio.” Karen knew he was lying but a week later he was back in her bed.
Karen told him, “I don’t care what you did. I still want you.” That is the way things went on for twenty four years. Karen still saw him after he separated from Beth, his wife of thirty five years. Shortly afterwards, he remarried and now after twenty years was a widower.
Not wanting to attract attention, Karen drove within the speed limit. She had remembered to bring cash for gas and food. As she neared the familiar intersection, her heart was racing. Clay was the only man she could never get out of her mind. Their relationship had been nothing but turmoil. She had dated other men and he other women but they always came back to each other except the last time. Over the years, she had parked in Clay’s yard and waved at the neighbors. Miraculously, the neighbors had never mentioned her to Beth.
Parking in the yard, Karen made her way to the side door. Opening the door without knocking, the aroma of coffee reached her nostrils. Entering the small kitchen, she could see Clay sitting in a recliner with a blonde, well dressed woman leaning against him. A look of shock crossed his face when seeing Karen. “Karen”, he said coming to your feet, “What are you doing here?”
Karen never answered. She just stared at the other woman yelling, “Bitch, we’re engaged.”
Clay sputtered trying to speak, grabbed Karen, “Karen get out! Rita, she’s lying. We’ve been over for years.”
Karen yelled at Clay, “Turn me loose! I’ve waited for you for forty-eight years and you’re still cheating.”
Rita blinked, trying not to cry said, “Clay, what’s this?”
Clay yelled, “Karen, get out and don’t ever come back! This is a nightmare!”
Karen saying, “Son-of-a-bitch you go to hell”, threw a little gold ring at him before running out of the house.
Rita hearing the ring clink on the floor, slapped Clay and said, “I’m leaving!”
Karen running to the car heard Clay shouting, “Rita, come back! There’s no one else!”
Tears streaked down Rita’s face as she drove away in her 2011 Grand Marquis Oldsmobile. Looking back she saw the man she loved standing on the porch shouting something she couldn’t hear.
Karen’s shrill laughter broke the silence as she started back toward the Rosemary Asylum. Karen looked at her left hand bare of jewelry. Clay had not given her the ring. She hadn’t seen Clay since his wife’s funeral over a year ago. The ring was really a promise ring given back to her son from an ex-girlfriend. Karen never having a pretty ring had taken possession of it. Karen whispered, “I’m sorry, Beth.” She was so obsessed with Clay and felt guilty after Beth’s death from colon cancer. Beth and Karen were best friends, but Karen only used Beth to learn her whereabouts so she could see Clay. Karen had checked herself into Rosemary Asylum for psychological evaluation hoping she could get over her obsession of a lost love.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry’, was all the nurses could hear while putting Karen to bed in room thirty-four. Room thirty-four was in the guarded west wing. This would be her last trip out until released but her prognosis wasn’t optimistic. Her remaining days would be spent waiting uselessly for a man named Clay to take her home.
- Trinae Ross: How I Write
- The ER at 2 AM