Charlie Elliott studied the black cellphone in his hand. For the past hour, he'd been waiting for it to ring, hoping it would, afraid that it would. Midnight had passed, and there was only the hint of a breeze; it was like that in late July, when the heat threaded through the days and the nights.

It was quiet on the rooftop, 12 stories above the streets of Providence, eight stories above the operating room. When the surgery was finished, his phone would ring and the surgeon would tell him the outcome; then Charlie, the hospital's spokesman, would call the newspapers and television stations.

Every story would use the same picture, he was sure. It would show a clear-eyed, dark-haired girl whose smile was about to burst into laughter. Charlie had never seen her like that, for it was an old photograph, taken more than a year ago, when Sarah Pierson was eight, back when she was well.

At Providence Hospital, every administrator was required to spend one day each year walking rounds with doctors and observing surgeries. Charlie remembered the kidney transplant he'd seen and the moment that the new kidney, sewn into place, suddenly came alive, transformed from dull yellow to bright, healthy pink. But he could not watch the operation tonight. He needed to be up here, out in the air, under the stars.

If anyone from the newspaper, anyone he used to work with, had walked onto the roof and seen him, sitting alone, as close to prayer as he'd ever been, they'd have laughed out loud. "Hey, where's the real Charlie Elliott?" he imagined them shouting at him. "Where's the old Charlie?"

"Gone," he would have told them. "Gone forever."

(End of excerpt)