Moisture had tinted her car windows by the time Arizona arrived at the hospital. Rain continued to pitter-patter on cemented ground even as she turned her key to kill the engine.
Today was not Arizona’s day.
It had been raining when Arizona left her last shift, and it continued to rain when she locked herself at home, changed to warm house clothes, and ate the take-out she bought on that new drive-thru a few blocks from Grey-Sloan. The sound of rain accompanied her to bed, its endless crescendo the lullaby she had fallen asleep to.
Hours later, she was already returning to the hospital, and still the rain did not end, except for those slight pauses when the sky seemed to heave for breath before crying all the louder. The cold had begun to seep under her skin and surround her bones. In the last hour, she had developed a habit of rubbing her sleeved arms roughly against the fabric of her pants, anything to generate heat.
She couldn’t work like this. Not if the Chief did not allow scarves and extra warm jackets inside the O.R.
A quick glance up to the sky told her that the rain wasn’t going to stop anytime soon, not that she didn’t know that. Raindrops were beating down hard on the hood of her car. They generated the intermittent rhythm of nature that would have been soothing if it wasn’t so incessant.
Surrendering herself to the rain, she reached to the backseat for her umbrella with a little less grace than usual and opened the door of her car. Immediately, water landed on the skin of her cheek and darkened her jacket’s sleeves. In hurried movements, she took her keys, got off her car, and raced to the sheltered lobby of Grey-Sloan Memorial.
The tiled floor was slippery and had her carefully juggling her bag and umbrella while cold drops of rain escaped their way down her back. If it were possible, she hated the day even more.
Changing into her scrubs offered her a small relief. The uniform was thinner than she’d like given the weather, but the fabric was comfortable and it gave off a warmth that could only be explained by the sentiment of wearing familiar clothing. Even so, she was sure she had rounded that morning with a little less smile than usual.
After rounds, she walked to the O.R. board wondering if the controlled atmosphere in the operating room could save her from this pneumonia-inducing hell. As soon as she turned the corner, she saw a familiar shock of dark hair standing by the board. Callie was idling in front of the surgical schedules talking with Meredith, and Arizona internally debated for an embarrassing length of time whether she should walk up to the board or turn away.
She didn’t know how to approach Callie after their unexpected (at least to her it was unexpected) divorce during therapy. What do you say to the wife, ex-wife, who had ‘set you free’ a few hours after the both of you ate delicious we-should-stop-having-sex-and-sleep-oh-shit-it’s-6AM breakfast?
Somewhere inside herself, Arizona held a small grudge against Callie for making her hope foolishly that they could fix their relationship. That small part of her wanted to walk up to the talking friends and show off that she, Arizona Robbins, was doing fine and, in fact, felt free of her, Callie Torres. The contempt she held for the rainy day only fueled her desire to do just that.
But, she also knew that waking up to Callie and whatever else followed that plan would only be a blatant act on her part. She was indeed hurt, however it wasn’t the hurt that could be bounced off to someone else. It was an ache that made her retreat inside herself and peer her eyes away from Callie and onto something just as stressful but less painful, such as the new fetal career she’d inadvertently traded her marriage with.
As she mused over the blurry line between work and personal drama, Callie, at that second, lifted her eyes and met Arizona’s like flashlights in the dark. Arizona was suddenly frozen over. Does she wave? Smile? Walk away and pretend their eyes never met? When she woke up the morning of her marriage, nobody handed her a handbook in case the wife who you very much love decided to divorce you during therapy for the sake of your happiness.
However, it looked like Callie did receive a handbook much like that, because without even a moment’s worth of thought, her eyes had closed in on itself and hardened at the sight of Arizona. She could almost hear her thoughts as if she were there beside her instead of standing by the O.R. board. “I don’t want you in my life.”
Well, great, Callie, she imagined herself replying, I don’t want to be in it too!
She forced her surprised eyes to replicate the way Callie’s had hardened at hers, but only managed an all-too-quick angry squint that wasn’t nearly as dramatic as she wanted it to be. God, look at us now, acting like girls in middle school.
Nevertheless, Arizona turned around and walked away.
When she felt like enough time had passed, Arizona returned to the O.R. board silently fuming every step of the way. She thought back to the way Callie glared at her so surely, and a heavy weight dropped itself from her throat down her heart. She thought back to Callie’s last words, “I want you to feel free too.”
Callie, if your idea of freedom was to judo kick me to the sun, then what the fuck?
Then, her thoughts converged all at once.
Was Callie’s idea of freedom… to wish that Arizona would disappear?
Arizona had been mulling and cussing so much over the endless rain that it had affected her thoughts towards Callie. She meant it when she affirmed that her hurt towards their divorce was never something that made her want to lash out. She knows, and she’s sure now, that she did not hate Callie. She hated the rain. But, Callie hated her.
Oh, fuck, Robbins, you self-centered bitch. As she began to walk again, she pressed her palms to her eyes, trying to erase the frustration she felt for herself. Enough with thinking of Callie. Start thinking for Callie.
It should have been no surprise that Callie would glare at the sight of her. Out of the two of them, it was Arizona who had suffocated the other. Callie said as much in the last three minutes of their relationship. Even though Callie wasn’t the type to stop fighting, she’d been the one to finally give up. Arizona had made her feel so terrible that, for the first time, Callie thought it the better choice to finally… walk away.
Well, if that was what her wife, “ex-wife”, Arizona repeated, wanted, then she would deliver. After all, Arizona had been the original believer of an ancient ideology perfectly summarized by the phrase ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
Her feet finally stopped in front of the O.R. board. In the jungle of scribbles and poorly looped ‘a’s, Arizona finally zeroed in on the blocks with her name. Her first surgery was in the afternoon.
Strange, I thought I had an O.R. scheduled sooner than that.
Almost automatically, her brain routed a fresh plan that would get her food at the cafeteria, a visit with the patient and some extra time in her office.
Somewhere between planning how many minutes she could spend to hunt down Amelia for Jell-O, Callie, Callie, (“Do I want strawberry or green Jell—Callie!” just like that), rounded the corner immediately beside the O.R. board and almost crashed into Arizona. Don’t they know how inconvenient this location is for an O.R. board?, Arizona thought randomly to herself, surgeons could get crashed by a crash cart or, I don’t know, meet the ex-wife they’ve been trying to avoid here!
Callie looked surprised to find Arizona in the O.R. board again. But, then, her eyes narrowed almost the same way they had earlier. “You shouldn’t be here.” She muttered almost to herself.
“I’m still a surgeon, Callie. I have surgeries in this board.” Arizona let out, and regretted it only seconds later.
“I know.”, was Callie’s only reply spoken in that understanding sturdy tone she has but doesn’t even realize she uses.
Arizona deflated. She didn’t want to argue with Callie. She didn’t want to be mad at her. Sure, she felt that Callie could be overbearing, and Callie had hurt her squish-bam-plop like a hand-laundered shirt, but Arizona had hurt Callie much worse. And, to even the score, Arizona thought that they’d indirectly mutually decided not to speak to each other again. Like the ancient ideology ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
“I’m sorry.”, said Arizona as she looked at anywhere except Callie. “I’ve been having a tough day.” Because of what? Because the rain made you feel cold? How about Callie when—“I’m sorry.”, she said again when she thought it had been insufficient.
The glare was gone now, and Callie now looked at her with undeniable concern. She was always so sure of her cues: when to glare at her slutty ex-wife, and when to look kindly at said ex-wife like a benevolent goddess. Callie twitched like she wanted to put a hand on Arizona’s shoulder but stopped. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah.” Arizona replied immediately. Callie was too kind sometimes. “You don’t have to worry for me anymore. You know that, right?”
As soon as Arizona said it, Callie had flinched away, like she had just been reminded that the person in front of her was Arizona. The action made Arizona’s brows furrow even more.
“You know what,” Arizona raised her hands up in mock surrender. “You don’t even have to say anything. I’m gonna go now.” Without saying another word, she turned on her heel and began scouring for Amelia to emotionally binge-eat Jell-O.
She couldn’t leave the O.R.
Not when blood stuck to her gloves like second skin. Not when her front was drenched in a shade of red that it shouldn’t be in.
Her patient died. Both her patients. Mother and child.
If this were a normal surgery, she wouldn’t have been spending this much time repeating the last hour in her head. She would have been with the father, told him of his loss, her failure. Instead, her resident had gone ahead to the father when it didn’t look like Dr. Robbins was moving from her still position any time soon.
She repeated the procedure in her head, but her thoughts kept scratching back like a broken record. She pulled the memory of her procedure inside the mother’s womb, but it slipped away into white smoke. If Herman had done this, it wouldn’t have ended in death.
What had she been doing? What had she been thinking?
She was thinking of Callie.
She was thinking of Callie’s brief display of concern a while ago, and how it could never be directed to her with the same authenticity it once had been a year ago. She was thinking about that pang of hurt in her eyes before she walked away. Hurting Callie, again. The blurred lines between work and personal issues have blurred even more, and in their wake was Arizona, shutting in on herself as the operating room’s lights went off.
When she finally brought herself to scrub out, the backdoor of the O.R. swung open with force.
“Arizona?”, there it was, that undeniable concern in Callie’s voice again.
Arizona did not want to think about Callie nor her concern. She lost two patients today because she lost herself in thoughts of her. “I don’t feel like talking today, Callie.” Said Arizona as she wiped her hands down. “I’m sorry.”
Arizona kept her eyes on the floor as she walked past Callie. She didn’t look back, nor did Callie call after her.
Out of sight, out of mind.
“It’s been a week.”
“Arizona, it’s been a week since you dropped by here to ask for Jell-O.”, Amelia gestured for her to sit beside her in the couch. Arizona sat down, aware of the Jell-O’s laid in front of her like a kiddie treasure box. Pick me! Pick me! They all seemed to say at once.
“Oh,” shrugged Arizona, picking up a green piece. “I had a busy week, I guess.”
“No, you didn’t,” Amelia told her, rather, convinced her in that contagious self-confident way Amelia has. “You were moping again. Because you lost your patient.”
Suddenly, Amelia had Arizona’s cheeks between her hands. “Arizona.” She said as she pressed her cheeks together. “I love how you care so much for your patients, but you shouldn’t let the death of one patient affect your care for others.”
“I’m sure you’re a rockstar in the O.R., but I’ve heard talk that you aren’t as perky as you usually are.”, Amelia released her cheeks but had proceeded to pinch them instead. “We lose patients as much as we save them, you know that. Yours just happen to be two-in-one deals now that you’re in fetal. Deal with it. All we can do is to try our best, and this,” Amelia gestured at the entirety of the current Arizona eating Jell-O for lunch. “Is not your best.”
“But that surgery, I—“
“Yeah, yeah.” Amelia waved her off. “I’m sure you had some complications. Herman even told you that that case had terrible chances, right? No, I wasn’t eavesdropping. We were literally in the same room when you decided to announce to Herman you were going to take the case.”
“Seriously, though. You gotta stop moping around. I have a patient in the Neuro ward and even he picked up on it. Huh, just how bright are you to civilians, I wonder. Hah! You even had Torres moping too. What with you ruining her plans last week, and all.”
When Amelia said ‘you even ruined Torres’s plans’, Arizona did not expect to meet Callie like this.
They saw each other from opposite ends of the hallway, and Arizona would have retained the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ ideology were it not for the angry look in Callie’s face. It was not the usual ‘I-do-not-want-you-near-me’ angry, but a much more tangible ‘Arizona-Robbins-come-here-young-lady’ angry that made Arizona obey to whatever airborne signals Callie sent her way, so Arizona walked towards Callie while Callie marched towards her.
An apology was already on her lips, but even a meter before they could reach each other, Callie was already shouting at her. “It took you a week to finally talk to me!”, she burst within the circle they had claimed for themselves in the corridor. Passing nurses glanced their way, but they knew to ignore the scene Callie and Arizona were making.
In her defense, all the musings and self-searching she did a week ago had led to the conclusion that Callie wanted her gone. So, as best as she could, she had ignored Callie, evading her when they were in the same floor, leaving whenever she entered. It wasn’t that hard too, since she was in her own stupor the previous days.
“I’m sorry.”, Arizona said, although she was confused that Callie wanted her to talk to her? “I thought you didn’t want to see me anymore.”
An incredulous look stuck itself to Callie’s face. “What?” she said in the heightened rushed tone she uses whenever she was angry. “Why wouldn’t I want to see you?! We agreed to raise Sofia together.”
“You told me a week ago that I shouldn’t be near you.” Arizona raised defensively.
“Arizona, that wasn’t what I said.” At the deeply confused look on Arizona’s face, Callie continued. “What was it exactly that I said?”
“We were at the O.R. board. You said, ‘You shouldn’t be here.’”
Callie groaned audibly. “I don’t even know why I’m bothering to argue when it just all comes back to the gift!”
“Gift.”, in that moment, Callie reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a tiny velvet box. Surprised, Arizona could only flounder her eyes between the box in Callie’s hand and the slightly embarrassed look on Callie’s face. “Those are earrings. Happy Birthday…”
“You glared at me last week, because you wanted to celebrate my birthday?” Arizona couldn’t find herself to be mad or hurt for the first time. Instead, she was incredibly amused.
Callie was still blushing, though she tried her best to not look like she was. “I wasn’t glaring at you.”
“I swear your eyes hardened every time you saw me.”
“Okay, I was glaring at you, but I wasn’t glaring at you.” It was Callie’s turn to struggle for words, for purchase in her actions. “You kept ruining my plans! I was supposed to take Sofia here for lunch so the both of you could celebrate together, but that stupid rain! A-and you have the worst timing of all. You kept walking in when we were about to change your schedule.”
Arizona thought back to last week. What had she seen Callie do beyond the emotional aspects of their encounters that had registered into her mind? Callie at the O.R. board. Callie somehow always meeting her eyes every time she entered the room, as if she was searching for Arizona. Callie on the same floor as her more often than usual. Callie. Everywhere.
And every time, Arizona had tried to avoid her.
“I honestly thought you didn’t want to see me. That’s why I avoided you.”
“That’s ridiculous.” And coming from Callie’s mouth, it sounded like calming fact. “We may be separated, but I don’t hate you, Arizona. I could never hate great people.”
When she heard Callie say it, it made her realize how absurd she had been the past week, how low she had stooped over herself, and how freeing it was to hear Callie say good words to her again.
It was frightening how much her thoughts hinged on Callie’s subtlest actions.
“When I wanted to great you a happy birthday,” Callie confessed. “I didn’t imagine it to be like this: a week late and in the middle of a semi-shouting match.”
Still grinning, Arizona teased. “How would you have greeted me then?”
“Like this,” unprompted, Callie’s eyes brightened to the shade of the night sky over a campfire. She moved in with her arms open, and Arizona almost thought Callie planned to sweep her right then right there into a searing kiss. But her arms wound around Arizona’s neck, and Callie hugged her so tightly but at the same time so carefully that it made Arizona love and ache all at once.
Her whispers flew like birds to her ears. “Happy Birthday, Arizona. Happy Birthday.”