'How's the patient today, Doctor? Any change at all?'
'I'm afraid not, Bjorn. Lars suffered a psychotic break which will take a lot of time to repair, if at all. He seems content in his world, but he doesn't allow me of anyone else to enter.'
'Maybe seeing me would help? Six months is a long time without any positive signs.'
'The shock of seeing you might plunge him deeper into himself. Remember, he thinks he killed you.'
'I was still in our apartment in the city. I planned to drive up to the house the next day. I told him when we spoke earlier in the evening.'
'Did the police ever determine if a break- in indeed happened?'
'No signs of a break-in. Lars was alone in the house. He imagined the entire incident.'
'May I at least see him, Doctor? Even if he can't see me, I want to see for myself how he's doing.'
'I understand. He's in one of our observation rooms this morning. Follow me.'
Doctor Samuelson led Bjorn through a series of hallways to the room. Lars sat at a table where he seemed to play some sort of card game.'
'What's he doing with the cards, Doctor?'
'He wrote a prayer on each of them, eighty-one in all. He numbered the cards so he can keep track of them. Every day he shuffles the cards and tosses them like confetti. He gathers them up and counts them.
'Is this some kind of occupational therapy?'
'His own device. He tossed the prayers into the air with the hope God will keep one of them and grant his wish. He counts the cards to check if one is missing.'
'None of the cards ever disappeared, though, did they?'
'I'm afraid not.'
'Do you know what he wrote on them?'
'He allowed one of the attendants to take a look at them once. Some of them say forgive me. Others say give Bjorn back.'
'There's the answer, Doctor. Make one of the cards go a miss and I'll walk into the room. Lars will think God answered his prayer.'
'I appreciate your logic, Bjorn, but like I said --'
'Nothing else is working. I think this is worth a shot.'
'They way Lars handles the cards, we can't control how they land. Everything will be random.'
'Have faith, Doctor. Maybe today is the day we witness the miracle of God answering prayer.'
'All right. Once he tosses the cards, you walk in.'
Lars read each card and focused on piling them in numerical order. He shuffled them once and flung them high overhead. Cards floated and landed all around him. On cue, Bjorn entered the room.
Lars glanced at his lover, but said nothing focusing instead on gathering and once again ordering the cards. 'A card is missing. A card is missing.'
The doctor entered the room but remained at the door. Bjorn moved closer to the table. 'Which one?'
'Number nine. The ninth card is missing. God kept the ninth card.'
'What is significant about the ninth card, Lars?'
Lars stood, threw his arms around Bjorn's neck and pulled him close. 'Nine is the card which asked God to give you back, Bjorn. I asked God to give you back and you're here. I love you, Bjorn.'
Lars held Bjorn like a life preserver. Tears rolled down Bjorn's cheeks. 'I love you, too, Lars. I love you more than you can imagine.'