Tomorrow, Cowgirl

Kaori focused hard on her hand. Sweat beading down her face, she put every ounce of effort into moving her little finger. The other fingers were a little easier, but moving her pinky took considerable energy. 

And then it twitched.

She exhaled.

Dr. Aman wrote something down on her clipboard and then looked up at Kaori. “That’s a good sign. You’re progressing quickly.” She moved over to the IVs and checked their levels before continuing. “It usually takes a bit longer for patients waking from cold sleep to get, well, any motor control back.”

Kaori continued focusing on her fingers, trying to move her hands into different shapes but instead only twitching the tips.

Dr. Aman continued, “If you keep progressing this quickly we should be able to start working on moving your arms by the end of the day.”

“When do you think I can leave?” Kaori asked.

“You’ve still got a few days here, maybe more.” Dr. Aman turned her hand palm up so she could look at her watch. “But, good news, you have a guest on the way.”

Kaori tried to adjust herself to sit up straighter, but could not gain the momentum needed. Doctor Aman left the room to give Kaori some privacy.

A salt and pepper haired woman wearing a loose black and red flannel shirt and blue jeans walked in. Kaori gasped but immediately recognized Jess. Through the crows feet and the laugh lines were the same strong cheekbones, small chin, and rounded eyes. Past the slight slump in her shoulders, the short cropped hair, Kaori knew Jess by heart.

Jess spoke first, “Hey cowgirl, got a call saying they woke you up. Did your treatment go okay? Last I heard it was still a bit experimental.” Jess walked to the side of the bed and moved a chair so she could get a clearer look on Kaori.

“When I woke up the doctors said it’s completely wiped. Just have to thaw is all.” Kaori twitched her hand, half forming a finger gun. “Pew pew.”

“Thank god. Was starting to worry they wouldn’t be able to do anything.” Jess looked at the IVs poking out Kaori’s gown and sheets. “It’s just been so long.”

Kaori smiled and angled her head to better face Jess. “I wish I could kiss you.”

Jess cracked her knuckles and faced the window and traced its rays across the floor towards the door. 

Kaori continued, “But yeah, my body just isn’t working for me today I guess. Maybe swing by tomorrow.” Kaori let the final syllable drift along.

Jess turned back to Kaori and looked her in the eyes. “Look, Kaori, we need to talk about something.”

Kaori stared at Jess, looking at the wrinkles, the tension in her face, and how she bit the right edge of her bottom lip.

Jess continued, “This isn’t going to be easy, and I really need you to listen. Fuck, I guess it doesn’t have to be that long.” Jess rubbed the back of her neck with her left hand. “Sorry, I just, Kaori, I’m just not the same person I was, before you went under.”

“What are you saying?”

“It’s been 27 years Kaori. We can’t just start where we left off.”

“Why not?” Kaori half mumbled. “I still love you…”

“No! You really don’t!” Jess snapped, took a breath and then whispered, “You don’t. You love a ghost.”

Kaori said, “Let me hold your hand,” and tried to curl her fingers.

Jess stood up and walked towards the edge of the bed. With her hand resting on her hip, and the sun’s rays resting on her hand, Kaori noticed a tan line along her ring finger. 

Kaori spoke softly, “We can work through this.”

“No, we really can’t.” Jess paced towards the door and then back to the window. “Not until…not until you understand that I’m a different person. 27 years Kaori. It’s been 27 years for me.”

Kaori’s voice started to waver, “You said you’d wait for me.”

“I did, cowgirl. I really did.” Jess turned to face Kaori. “I waited for almost 10 years. That was 5 years longer than we thought this would take.”

“And then you just gave up?”

“And then I found someone!” Jess shifted her weight onto her other leg and lowered her voice. “I was married for god’s sake. You were my first girlfriend when you went under, okay? Now I have a kid.” Jess rested her weight on the edge of the bed. “I’ve been working, and I got hurt, and she was there. She took care of me. You don’t plan for these kinds of things to happen but just one day turns into weeks, and then months and you find yourself building a life that you like and it crumbles one day, Kaori. It crumbles. But I want you to know that not a day went by where I didn’t check on you. I called so often to see how you were doing. I really did. But things changed.”

Kaori sat in silence, looking towards the flowers sitting on the windowsill, still not able to make out the name on the card. Jess started to move towards the door. 

She paused, resting her hand on the wooden moulding of the door frame, and turned back. “Look, I’ll try, I really will, but you need to understand…you need to try too. See ya tomorrow, cowgirl.”

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One thought on “Tomorrow, Cowgirl

  1. “I wish I could kiss you” hits different during the pandemic, damn! I liked this. It’s a scene that I could imagine coming across as cliché or tropey from other time travel or cryopreservation stories, but instead the characters’ voices and emotions seemed to come through really authentically to me!


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