Mark moved his wine glass closer to the center and placed her gift beside his plate. “You shouldn’t have bought me anything. It doesn’t seem appropriate.”
“Oh hush and open it.” Kaitlyn smiled.
He sliced the tape with his butter knife and peeled the wrapping from her box. Her hands were placidly placed on the cloth. Her bracelet made a small clink against her glass as she raised her hands to her chin in anticipation. His eyes broadened at the sight and slightly misted. “I can’t believe it,” he whispered. “Excuse me for a moment. I have to collect myself.” He swallowed his sentiments as he suppressed his emotions. “Um,” he began. He reached over her gift to bring the glass to his lips. His throat was too dry to speak. He took a small sip. “I’m tremendously moved. I apologize for my reaction. I wasn’t prepared.”
“Do you like them?” He watched her lips sparkle in the candlelight as she spoke.
“Oh my God! Yes,” he assured her. His left hand reached around the table to take her hand in his. “It’s the perfect gift. How did you find pre-Vatican II breviaries? I don’t think it’s right for me to accept them.”
“Of course it is,” she refuted with a squeeze of his hand. “I found them in a small bookshop in Chicago. Mark, I'm not trying to come between you and Brady. I just really wanted you to have them.”
“It’s amazing that you know me so well that you’d remembered. I feel unnerved.” He caressed them.
“You’re not anything like you think you are," she whispered. "You think you’re so closed but you’re not. Everybody knows how you feel. We just don’t always know why you feel the way you do.”
“I don’t know what I should say.”
“Say Merry Christmas,” Kaitlyn giggled.
“Thank you. Merry Christmas.” He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it.
“So was today really your last time at the hospital?”
“Yeah, I had a couple things to finish and I did them this afternoon.” He lifted his fork and took a bite.
“They'll miss you, you know.”
“I know. It’s just the right time. I sat on that stool today and I knew it was the right time. I realized it’s become about me. I don’t want that. And I have to prioritize my life. Everything’s out of whack. I have to refocus on my career. It’s the wrong time. But volunteering is the best thing I’ve ever done," he continued. "I’ll miss it tremendously. I've never enjoyed doing anything more. But it’s time.” He exhausted his excuses and relaxed in his chair.
“I'm so glad we're friends again.”
“Me too.” He lifted the glass to his lips and took a sip to swallow his sorrow. He faced his finality at the hospital and decided to embrace their friendship. “So. Tell me about this new guy of yours.”