The next day, my last full day in Italy, dawns bright and sunny. Mac is still asleep, the sweetest smile on her face. I wonder what she's dreaming of? With a smile like that, it must be good. I fall asleep again, gazing at her beautiful face and the happiness gracing her features.
I hear her shift off of her cot. She is trying to be quiet, but I am already awake again. She slips into the bathroom to freshen up. I hear her leave the bathroom a few minutes later and approach my bed. I open my eyes and look up at her. She still has a smile on her face.
"You looking forward to going home tomorrow?"
"Yeah. Are you?"
"You know, Mac, when we get home, you don't have to stay with me all the time."
She looks almost saddened by my words.
"I mean," I start quickly. I don't want her to get the wrong idea. "I'm happy to have you around. I enjoy your company. I can't think of anyone else I'd rather have spent all this time with." She smiles sadly with that comment. "But Mac, you can go home. Get your mail, fresh clothes, and shower at your own place. And, most importantly, sleep in your own bed."
She lets out a small laugh. "My own bed does sound nice."
"And, I need somebody to drop by my place, check my messages and get my mail."
"I'll do it, don't worry."
"I wasn't worried."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Harmon Rabb is never worried."
"Now, I wouldn't go that far."
Mac just rolls her eyes in response. "Well, how about hungry? Are you?"
"I believe I could eat."
"I'll go get us some breakfast. Be back in a few."
I watch her retreating back. She was eating more like her old self, though she was thinner. She had lost some weight somewhere along the way with this whole ordeal. Perhaps it was while she was held captive, perhaps while I was, or perhaps since I've gotten out, I don't know. I've lost weight myself, though it didn't hurt me. I could afford to lose a few pounds, but Mac couldn't. We've both gotten better in the last week, though, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
After breakfast and some reading, Mac suddenly looks at me and rises to her feet. "I'll be back," she says, with no information as to where she is going. I just watch her go, wondering what she's up to. A few minutes later, I get my answer as she and a nurse come into my room, pushing a wheelchair. I can only look at them, puzzled.
"What's that for?" I ask.
"Umm, let's see, of the three of us in this room, which of us can't walk? It's for you, silly!" Mac grins.
"Where am I going?"
"It's a secret," Mac is still grinning her cat-that-ate-the-canary grin.
The nurse unhooks the monitors and tubes connected to me. Mac and the nurse help me out of the bed and into the wheelchair, where I am covered with a blanket.
"You got him?" the nurse asks.
"Yep!" Mac says enthusiastically. "Thank you so much for this. I'm sure he'll appreciate it."
"And so will we, just to have this big baby off our hands for a little while," she says, grinning, as she pats my shoulder affectionately.
I try my best to glare, but I smile more than glare. I have been hard on them at times, but I hate being so confined and feeling so dependent.
Mac wheels me out of the room, my left leg sticking out straight in front of me. "So, Mac," I try again, "where are we going?"
"You used that one already. Try again."
"You'll see. Be patient, Harm."
"You know I'm no good at that."
"Well, maybe it's time you learned." We have reached the elevator and Mac pushes the down button. The wait isn't long. She wheels me inside. This is the first time I have been outside of my room for something other than tests in more than a week. As it has happened every time I've been in an elevator recently, I get dizzy. Hell, the motion of the wheelchair was making me dizzy, but not too bad, the elevator is worse. We ride down in silence and get off on the ground floor. Mac continues to push me forward; she obviously knows where she is going. We reach a set of doors that open automatically and once outside, we are in a beautiful garden.
"What is this, Mac?"
"It's the hospital's garden. It is huge and completely gorgeous. Further back is a butterfly garden. There are birds everywhere, feeding in this garden. And a lot of people can be found out here doing all sorts of things. I watched the sun rise here one morning. I wanted to share it with you then, but I couldn't. And this is the best I could do. I managed to talk the doctor and the nurses into letting you go for about an hour."
I can feel the sun as it hits me. It is early fall and it is a very comfortable temperature outside. I can smell the flowers, the freshness of the very earth. I missed this, being cooped up indoors for so long. I lean my head back and let my face soak up the sun. The flowers Mac brought me were nice, they smelled good, and brought a little of the outdoors inside, but this was magical. Mac was amazing for thinking of this. "Thank you, Mac."
She just continues pushing me, saying nothing. I don't think she wants to interrupt my pure enjoyment of the moment. For many minutes, Mac just meanders her way through the garden, letting me soak up the sun and the fresh air. Finally, she approaches some empty benches. Nearby there seems to be hundreds of flowers and dozens of butterflies. "This is my favorite part of the garden," she explains as she takes a seat on the bench.
I smile at her. "It is beautiful. Thank you, for this. For everything, Mac. You've been the best friend through all of this that anybody could have asked for."
"You're welcome, Harm. I guess I owe you a thank you as well. Thanks for coming after me and saving my life. For giving me this," she indicates the beauty of the garden surrounding us. "And thanks for giving me the opportunity to be here for you. 'Cause you've been the best friend I've ever had, Harm, and the best friend I could have ever asked for."
We smile at each other, content to let the tender moment between us linger. And for a long time, we sit in the garden, enjoying the outdoors while we could.
Mac finally rises and says, "Time to go in."
I feel sad at the thought. It has been so nice out here and I wish I could stay longer. But Mac is right, it is time to go. She wheels me slowly back towards the entrance. As I look at the passing scenery, I notice something. "Mac, wait. Look over there," I gesture with my hand. Her gaze follows and she pushes me in the proper direction.
There, amongst all the other flowers, is a single, perfect, late blooming rose.
We approach it, together, and I am reminded of the day we met in the White House Rose Garden. You could smell the roses in the air that day. I want to smell this one now, thousands of miles away and eight years later. I finger the red flower gingerly, bring it to my nose, and inhale. Perfect. I lean back and Mac repeats my actions. I know she is thinking what I am thinking; we can both remember that day, and we both realize how far we've come since then.
"That was a long time ago, wasn't it?" she asks.
"Yeah, it was. It seems like another lifetime, too."
Mac rests her hands on my shoulders. I reach up and grab her right hand with my left. "So much has changed since then," she says.
"Yeah," I agree. "But I wouldn't change any of it if it meant I couldn't be here with you right now."
"Neither would I, Harm. Neither would I."
With that, we go back inside, each of us lost in our own thoughts.