DISCLAIMERS: See part 1 for all pertinent disclaimers.
"Hello?" Andre' Broussard was busy preparing for work. She'd have to leave in about 30 minutes to make it to the hospital in time for her 11p-7a shift.
"Momma.....?" Sandra could barely speak past the huge knot in her throat.
"Sandra? Is that you, cheri?" Andre' clearly heard the distress
in her child's voice.
"Momma, I messed up." Sandra couldn't hold back the sob in her throat.
"How'd you mess up, cheri?" She asked,
sitting at the kitchen table, her heart filled with dread.
"I don't know what to do. I don't know how to make things right again." The dark haired beauty sobbed so hard that her mother could no longer understand her words, but heard her heart breaking.
"Sandra, have you been drinking?" Andre' held her breath and prayed to St. Anthony.
"No." Sandra sniffled and tried to catch her breath so she could talk.
"Then what is it, ma cheri? What has you so upset.....? Tell me."
"It's Josie. I don't know what to do. I was awful to her. She offered to commit her life to me, momma. She asked me for the same commitment and I freaked out and ran away." There was a lull as the distraught woman blew her nose and wiped her eyes. "She gave me a beautiful garnet ring. I left it on her kitchen table as I ran out of the house. What she must think of me? She must hate me. After all she's done for me, I just threw it all away." The sobbing renewed.
"C'est domage, cheri. You ran because you were overwhelmed or you ran because you do not love her enough to commit to her?"
"I love her so much it hurts. She's my life, momma. And I've
hurt her. How could she forgive me treating her like that? I just panicked.
I know I don't deserve her and I'm sure now she realizes that too."
"That is just not true, Sandra Camille. Whatever wrong you may have done in your life, you have more than paid for. You must stop punishing yourself. This is your second chance. Don't let it pass you by."
Josie cried her heart break and disappointment out at the kitchen table until she heard the familiar start of Sandra's VW and ran to the door just in time to watch her drive away. Sadness turned to anger and she made the conscious decision to fight for what she knew they both wanted. She went to wash her face and put on her jeans, a t-shirt and her Reeboks. After she felt more human and had her emotions under control, she grabbed her wallet and keys and went in pursuit of her lover.
It didn't take long for Josie to find
the bug parked at the Big K. Just as she was getting out of her car, she noticed
Tammy from the AA meeting walk through the doors. Not sure what she should do
now, she sat in her car and waited. She could see the two women seated opposite
each other in a booth talking. Sandra wiped at her face with a napkin as she
ran her fingers through her long, dark, hair. Tammy nodded and patted her hand,
offering understanding and solace. Josie realized that her friend was where
she needed to be and went home to await her return.
It was over an hour later when Josie heard the bug drive up into the garage and she ran to the kitchen door to greet her.
"Hey....., you Ok?" Josie stood in the doorway wanting to run to the tall beauty, but not sure she wanted close contact right now.
"Tired." The emotionally exhausted and embarrassed woman crossed her arms under her breasts and scuffed the ground with the tip of her sneaker.
"Yeah, you look like hell." Josie teased.
"Gee, thanks. I love you, too." Sandra shyly chuckled as she looked into her friend's shining eyes then quickly back at her feet.
"God, I hope so, cause I love you something fierce." Josie smiled as the tears escaped down her fevered cheeks.
Sandra looked up. "You do?"
"Yeah, I do..... Sandy, I know you're scared. I'm a little scared now, too." Josie looked down as if studying her shoes. "I don't know what all the demons are that haunt you." She looked up into blood shot blue eyes. "But, you can trust me and my love for you. Just, don't run away..... Please, Sandy. It hurt so much to see my ring just..... discarded like that." Josie returned to her appraisal of her shoe laces.
When Josie finished, Sandra slowly walked up to her, still standing in the doorway, wrapped her long arms around her waist and lay her head upon her lover's bosom and cried.
Josie stroked her long dark hair. "You know what that ring represents to me.....? The garnet is my heart and the silver band holding it is you. You hold my heart, Sandy. Please don't forget that."
The dark head nodded. "I'm so sorry, Josie. There is a lot I need to tell you. I want to explain as best I can why I flew off like I did. It's not that I don't love you or don't want to spend my life with you. I do. More than anything."
Josie pushed the dark hair from her friend's face.
"Can we talk after I get home from school tomorrow. I am whipped. I need to get some sleep and just be still for the rest of the night. You Ok with that?" Sandra looked into moist green orbs afraid she may have hurt her lover some more.
Both women fell into an exhausted sleep and woke with less than vim, vigor and vitality. Josie dragged herself out of bed and struggled into her clothes and shoes as she set out for her morning walk.
Sandra awoke feeling hung over from the
emotional strain of the night before. She looked out the window to see her boss
walking Scooby and Doo and, the very strange looking, Rover. 'What kind of dog
is that? He looks like a patch work quilt.' Sandra chuckled to herself.
She thought about the talk she was to have with Josie when she
returned from school. It was clear that there were some things that she had
to clarify for her, which meant she had to face them herself. Her stomach did
flip flops just thinking about it. 'As they say, today is the first day of the
rest of your life. God, I hope that's true.' The dark haired beauty got ready
for school as she prayed for courage and guidance.
'Jesus, I'm pooped. I'm gonna have to crawl back into bed for a few hours if I'm going to have that talk with Sandra this afternoon. And, I think an extra B12 shot is in order.' "Come on kids, back to the corral." Josie cut her morning walk short in favor of her beauty sleep.
Josie slept with her little companions
curled under the blanket at her side. She awoke at 2 p.m. feeling tired and
achy. 'This doesn't bode well for the home team, guys. I guess I had a little
too much stress last night. Gonna have to take it easy the next few days.'
She got up to shower feeling the all too familiar lethargy of
the CFS pulling on her limbs, causing her to make the decision to take 10 mg
of prednisone. She knew it would hike up her blood sugar, but this talk with
Sandra was way too important to put off due to a little over exertion.
Sandra arrived home and ran upstairs to shower and change into jeans and a tight red t-shirt. She wanted to look good for Josie. She felt better about things today and didn't dread this afternoon nearly as much as expected.
She walked through the kitchen and spied
the adorable little blond out on the porch, with her dogs, sipping coffee. She
looked fresh and sporty in khaki shorts and white lace halter top. Josie was
wearing 'the ring' and a pair of small garnet dangle ear rings. Sandra just
stood there and admired her lover until she was caught.
"Hey there, gorgeous. Won't you grab a cup of decaf and join me?"
Sandra grinned and blushed. "Yeah, thanks." She quickly retrieved her brew and curled up in the love seat facing Josie "You look great." Sandra let her eyes peruse the figure before her.
"You don't look too bad yourself." Josie returned the admiring gaze.
Sandra blushed again and grinned. "Um... Thanks."
"Welcome." Josie loved it when her lover blushed. 'She looks like a teenager.'
"We need to talk." Josie said seriously.
"I know." The dark head nodded, letting her hair shadow her face.
Josie took a deep breath and sat up straight in her rocker. "Sandy, why did you tell me your parents were divorced?"
Sandra's head popped up in shock. She'd forgotten telling that particular lie to her boss. "I'm sorry, Josie. I didn't mean to lie. I just didn't know you then and I don't like to talk about my dad. It usually shuts people up if I tell them that. I'm really sorry." Sandra looked at her inquisitor with apprehension.
"Have you lied to me about anything else?" Josie looked into her coffee cup, fearful of what she might hear.
"I guess I deserve that....." Sandra took a shaky breath. "No...... I swear it."
Josie looked up into moist blue eyes and smiled gently. "I believe you."
"What is it about your Dad you don't want people to know.....? You can trust me, Sandy. You know that, don't you? I want to understand where your demons come from so I can help you disarm them. So they can't hurt you, or us, anymore..... Please, sweetheart," Josie leaned toward her lover. "tell me."
"I've never talked about it to anyone, ever. Not even my mother." It was Sandra's turn to look into her coffee cup for strength. "I don't know if I can..... But....., I'll try"
"Just start at the beginning. We have all the time you need." Josie encouraged.
Sandra took a big gulp of her coffee and began. "I was crazy about my dad. I was definitely 'daddy's little girl'. I had him all to myself the first eight years of my life, til Tony was born. Boy, did I resent that little bugger. He took my daddy's attention away from me. I found myself trying to excel at everything to get his approval and I got really involved in school sports so he'd come to see me play. I don't think he ever missed a game." Sandra sighed. "God, I loved him. He was my whole world."
Sandra took a few sips of her coffee as she allowed her mind to search through the dark shadows of her repressed memories where the pain resided. "When I was fourteen. I was invited to the Junior/Senior prom by one of the boys in the Senior class. I thought it was so cool to have an older boy interested in me. My parents said I couldn't go, that a boy that age only wanted one thing from a young girl. Boy did we have a fight. My Mom left for work, but my dad and I kept at it. I packed an overnight case and went to stay at my friend Kelly's house. What my dad didn't know was that Kelly was going to the prom, with a Junior. I borrowed one of her dresses. Her parents had a lot more money than mine. We had a ball, drinking, dancing and flirting. Then, suddenly, my date had me in a dark corner with his hands all over me. He stuck his tongue in my mouth. I'd never even kissed a boy before. I was so scared and the beer was making me sick to my stomach. I pulled away from him and ran to the bathroom to throw up. I was so miserable. My parents had been right all along. God, I felt like an inexperienced little fool. Kelly came to my defense and insisted that the guys bring us home."
"I woke up the next morning with a world class hang over. I remember praying to God that, if he let me live, I'd tell my dad everything and take my punishment with a smile..... I never got the chance. My mom called Kelly's Mom and asked her if she could drive me home. She needed me to watch Tony while she was at the hospital with my dad. He'd had a heart attack the night before while I was out partying. I never saw him again, Josie. He died that afternoon. I always felt that if I hadn't upset him so much, he'd still be alive." Sandra swiped at the tears slowly winding down her face. "I couldn't take the guilt. I thought I killed him." Sandra's face crumpled as she allowed her pain to wash out of her for the first time in nineteen years.
Josie rushed to comfort her friend. She held her tight, gently rubbing her back. Sandra let herself be comforted til she was able to compose herself. Then she sat back and resumed her story.
"I was so angry at myself and at God for taking him, I started drinking and running around with a rough crowd. My mom couldn't control me. She had to work a lot of double shifts to support the three of us, so I was left unsupervised at night. I made that poor woman's life a living hell. How I graduated from high school is a miracle to me."
The girls agreed to take a break and shared a can of soup and toast. Josie felt her energy waning and her throat getting scratchy, but she wasn't willing to give up this unique opportunity to look into the psyche of her enigmatic lover. They cleaned up the kitchen and took their coffee, and a box of tissues, out to the porch.
"So what happened after you graduated from high school? Where does Frank Abbott come into the picture?" Scooby climbed into her mistress' lap as Doo jumped up to snuggle with Sandra, Rover snored on the floor at their feet.
"I started calming down after I graduated. I knew that Tony needed me. Unfortunately, I was hooked on the alcohol by then and just couldn't stay away from it for more than a few days at a time. In college I remember going to church and praying that God would help me to change, then buying a half pint of Jack Daniel's and sticking it in my purse. I'd pick up a Coke on my way to school and mix myself a little toddy to enjoy during class." Sandra laughed, derisively.
"I'd always wanted to be a nurse like my mom but she insisted I get an RN. So, she sent me to Delgado Community College to take all the prerequisites I needed to get into Charity Hospital's RN program. My grades from high school weren't so great, so I tried to do well on my prereq's. That's where I met Frank. He was studying some kind of mechanics. His hobby was rebuilding classic T-Birds. I was impressed with his vehicles and his James Dean- like good looks. All the girls were just gaga over him. For some reason he took an interest in me and we started dating. Boy, could he dance. His family was Catholic and his mom was Cajun. Needless to say, my mom was overjoyed with him."
"Frank was very family oriented and took a shine to Tony. He didn't mind taking him with us to the movies or staying home with him to watch tv or helping him with his homework. I didn't want to screw things up with this great guy, so I learned I could drink wine cut with soda and not get falling down drunk."
"Frank was very respectful, in spite of his reputation. But, after I'd gotten a good buzz on, I'd lose my inhibitions and allow him to have his way with me. He always had a couple of condoms. Sex was nothing like in the movies. I never had an orgasm with him but I did enjoy the petting and cuddling."
"I was nineteen and almost finished my last semester when we went out drinking and dancing with his friends. I was really drunk and he was feeling no pain either. I went into a black out. I don't to this day remember when the condom got tossed, but, long story short, I got knocked up. God, I'll never forget my mother's face when I told her. She must have evoked all the angels and Saints to save my evil soul. I got railroaded into marrying Frank with the understanding that I would finish off the semester and then after the baby was old enough for Frank's folks to take care of it during the day, I'd go back to nursing school."
"Once Frank made me his wife, his property, my wants and needs were disregarded. He didn't even want me to work. I was supposed to stay at home, be a good wife and mother, house keeper and cook. Our intimacy consisted of one deep kiss, two or three rough squeezes of my breasts, his ejaculating inside of me, rolling over and falling asleep. What a romantic!" Sandra sighed. "I never new what making love meant..... til you." She looked up, shyly.
"Giving birth to my son was the most miraculous experience of my life. It's funny how I forgot all about the 27 hours of hard labor when I looked onto that angelic little face. I think that was the first time I fell in love. The second time..... was with you." Tear filled blue eyes looked into moist green. Both women smiled, warmly.
"I breast fed my son for as long as I could stay off the booze. I heard you couldn't get pregnant as long as you were nursing. I've never known the kind of pleasure and fulfillment that nursing my son gave me. Unfortunately, my sobriety only lasted a few months. I switched Antoine to formula and went on birth control pills that I kept hidden. I still had my dream of going to nursing school and making a life for myself and my son. I didn't want any more children with Frank."
"Anyway, Antoine died just before his 4th birthday and I became quite intimate with Jack Daniels. He's the only man I was interested in sleeping with. Without him there was no sleep, just nightmares."
"Frank and I shared the same house but I refused to share his bed. We fought constantly. My poor mother prayed for me, daily, and begged me to go back into the treatment center or to AA, but I didn't care about stopping. I wanted to stop feeling and old Jack took care of that rather well."
"The rest you know. Frank sought his pleasure elsewhere and I became the poor wronged wife. Thanks to his well known indiscretions he was no longer able to object to a divorce and I moved in with my mom. I was finally free. My mother was able to talk me back into treatment and this time it took. I wanted this second chance at life and, with the love and support of my mother and the AA program, I made it, one day at a time."
"Well, that's my story and I'm sticking to it." Sandra looked into her lover's tired eyes and grinned. "Josie, I've never loved anyone like I love you. It scares the shit out of me. I panicked last night. I am so sorry for running like I did. I'm not a good risk. I haven't experienced a lot of the normal relationship type stuff that most sober people have. I don't know that I can handle this commitment and this passion I feel for you. All I know is that, if you still want to "go steady" with me, I'd be honored to wear your beautiful ring." Sandra looked into shining green eyes that glowed with love and happiness.
Josie slipped off the ring and handed it to her lover. "Read the inscription."
Sandra wiped the tears from her eyes and squinted to read the small print, "Forever and Always". A sob racked the tall beauty's throat and she knelt at her lover's feet, placing her dark head onto her bosom and held on tight. "I love you so much, Josie, thank you for loving me back."
Josie ran her hands through thick dark locks. "The pleasure
is all mine. No more running, deal?"
It was almost midnight by time Sandra crawled into bed, clothed only in an oversized t-shirt from a Wynonna concert she'd attended two years before. Emotionally and physically exhausted, she fell into a deep sleep as soon as her head touched the pillow.
It was several hours later when the groggy
brunette was roused from her slumber by an awful sound. 'What the hell was that?'
Sandra listened until she heard it again. When she was able to identify it's
source she realized her lover was in trouble. She rolled over to face the little
blond who was coughing violently. Sandra reached for her to find her covered
in sweat, heat radiating off her skin. "Oh shit!" Sandra reached over to turn
on the lite and examine her ailing partner.
"Josie? Josie, honey, wake up. Can you hear me?" Sandra tried to control the panic she felt in her heart.
Josie tried to pull away and go back to sleep. Her fevered brain not registering her surroundings. Sandra ran to the medicine cabinet and got the ear thermometer, a glass of cold water and some tylenol.
"Oh, shit! Baby, your temperature's 103. I need you to take these, Josie." Sandra firmly shook her lover to rouse her enough to take the medicine. She retrieved the tin where the diabetic supplies were kept.
"Awe, Fuck! Your blood sugar is 480 mg/dl." Josie continued to sleep as Sandra picked up the phone and pressed 7 on the speed dial."
"Hello, Dr. Akras here." Came the sleepy voice.
"Hello, Dr. Akras, this is Sandra, Josie Ladner's companion. She's very sick. Her fever is 103 and her blood sugar is 480. I gave her two tylenol but she is incoherent and I don't know how much insulin to give her."
"Listen carefully, Sandra. I want you to give her 20 units of regular insulin SC. Can you do that?"
"Yes sir. I'm drawing it up now." Sandra had put Dr. Akras on the speaker phone and drew up the insulin.
"Ok, now what?" Sandra tried to control her fear. She had to be strong to help her friend.
"Get her to the emergency room. I'll meet you there in 20 minutes."
"We'll be there. Thank you so much, Doctor." He'd already hung up.
Sandra removed Josie's drenched t-shirt and wiped her down with a cold, wet rag before dressing her in a t-shirt and shorts with her slippers on. She pulled on her jeans and got their wallets. Then, lifting her lover like a child, she carefully carried her to the car. She made it to the hospital in exactly 20 minutes as Dr. Akras was driving up.
The waiting room felt very cold as the tall beauty paced and worried. It seemed to be taking way too long for them to assess and treat her friend. It was 45 minutes later when Dr. Akras joined her.
"Josie has a pneumonia, my suspicion is strep. There's a lot of it going around and she is particularly susceptible. Her diabetes is out of control due to the infection. I've put her on an hourly monitor, which should take care of it. I'm afraid her fever is the problem right now. She is not responding to Tylenol or advil, so I've put her on a cooling blanket with ice packs at her pulse points. Hopefully that will bring it down and keep it down. Until we get the cultures back, I've hung cefazolin and zithromax through a saline drip. I've got her on 2 liters of humidified oxygen and respiratory treatments. We are monitoring her very carefully. If you want to stay with her, there is a sleeper in the room."
"Thank you, I will. May I see her now?" Sandra asked, anxiously.
"Yes. But, she may not know you are there. She's not altogether coherent." The Doctor warned, compassionately.
Dr. Akras looked sympathetically at his patient's companion.
"Perhaps, she will at that. I'll be back to see her in a few hours." He patted her slumped shoulder as he rose to leave.
Sandra opened the door of her lover's room as quietly as she could. She stood by the bed taking in all of the tubes going to and coming from her beloved. There was a pulse oximeter attached to the middle finger of her left hand, monitoring her blood oxygen level. An alarm would go off whenever it went below 97%.
She looked so tiny and frail. Her soft
curls plastered to her head with sweat. She shivered periodically and her body
was racked with powerful coughs.
Sandra looked at the time and realized she had to be at school in less than two hours. Loath to leave her lover in the hands of the hospital staff, she decided to call Beth for help.
"Hello?" Beth's voice was thick with sleep.
"Beth, this is Sandra. Josie's friend." Sandra tried not to let her voice belie her calm.
Fear struck the older woman's heart. "Sandra? What's happened!?! Where is she?" Beth knew immediately her best friend was in deep trouble.
"She's at the County hospital. She has pneumonia."
"Oh, no..... Why can't she ever get a break? Tell me how I can help."
Sandra took a deep breath and tried to maintain her composure.
"Look, Beth, I have clinicals today and I was wondering if you could come stay with her until I get off. Til about 4 p.m. If I miss school, Josie's gonna be really pissed at me and I don't want to upset her." Sandra's voice broke as she lost the last vestiges of control over her emotions.
"Hey, Sandra? I'm here for you both. You're not alone. Ok? Now, what time?"
Sandra sniffled and took a deep breath to compose herself. "Well I'm going to go home to change and pack a bag for me and one for Josie. I'll meet you back here in an hour and a half. If that's Ok."
"I'll be there. And, Sandra....., she's gonna be alright. I know it. She's a tough little thing." Beth tried to convince them both.
"Thanks, Beth. I'll see you later, then."
Sandra leaned over her lover and whispered in her ear. "I love you, boss. Just hold on to that, deal?" Then, kissed her fevered cheek.
Sandra was on automatic pilot as she packed their bags. She
fed and walked the dogs, explaining to the attentive canines that their mistress
was sick and would be away for a while. She kissed each one of them before she
left to meet Beth.
"How's she doing?" Sandra asked Beth as she entered the room."She seems to be having a hard time breathing clearly and she has a god-awful cough." Beth responded from her friend's bedside. Beth indicated the IV bags, monitors and cooling blanket. "What's all this for?"
Working the intense pace of her clinical rotation was almost therapeutic for Sandra. Whereas she felt useless to help her friend, she could provide excellent care for her patients.As soon as her lunch break rolled around, she called Beth. "Hey, Beth. Any change?" Sandra asked hopefully.
Sandra ran down the hall to her Josie's room, not having bothered
to stop at the house to bathe and change out of her uniform. She walked through
the door and paused, taking in her still, small form. "Did they hang the aminophylline?"
Sandra couldn't take her eyes off of her lover.
"Yes. About two hours ago. She's breathing much easier now.....
Thank you, Sandra. I've never felt anything like that before. I was sitting
here watching my best friend suffocate. I couldn't get the nurse to help her."
The strain was evident on the older woman's face.
"Thank you for being here. This is a small rural hospital. They
are unaccustomed to dealing with much more than geriatrics. Complacency is bound
to set in when you never deal with new challenges. Our friend was nearly the
victim of that complacency. I intend to make certain it doesn't happen again,
at least not to Josie. Sandra and Beth hugged each other, words insufficient
to show how they felt.
"I guess I'll be going. I'll be back in the morning so you can
go to school without worrying too much. But, would you mind taking Jo's cell
phone with you this time, just in case? Today was a little too exciting for
me." Beth chuckled.
Sandra smiled wanly at her new friend. "Now, that sounds like
a plan. I'll see you about 0700 then. Oh, could you stop by the house and feed
the dogs for me?"
"Drive carefully going home, Ok?"
"I will. If....." Beth couldn't bring herself to finish the
Sandra just nodded.
Josie was soundly sleeping so Sandra took the opportunity to
shower and order pizza delivered.
The tall, tired, woman curled up in the chair she'd pushed against
the bed and held her lover's hand as she told her all about her day. It felt
good to do something normal. She accented her story with tender kisses on the
small fevered fingers.
A knock on the door announced the arrival of a medium pizza with jalapeno peppers and a one liter bottle of Barq's. 'Just what the doctor ordered.' She paid and tipped the delivery man and curled back into the chair to enjoy her feast.
Josie was vaguely aware of the fog lifting
from her mind and pain wrapping around her chest. She felt as if the weight
of the world was laying upon her body. 'Oh, I've really done it this time. God,
I feel awful. I want Sandy. I must be in the hospital. I can feel the IV's and
the rough sheets and the smells. Mmmmm, what's that? Pizza? Sandra ordered Pizza?
Come on Josie, get those eyes open, girl. At least move your hand. Get her attention.
I want some PIZZA!!!'
Sandra was enjoying her pie and watching the slightly ragged rise and fall of her lover's chest, when she noticed the hand she'd just been holding moving up and down slightly, but purposefully.
"Josie? Honey? You awake, sweetheart?" Sandra put her pizza aside and stood up so she could see down onto the face she loved. Eyelids fluttered and bleary sea green orbs came into semi-focus. The lovers smiled at each other as Sandra took the small hand into her much larger one and kissed it. The very weak woman motioned to her companion with her left hand to lean her ear down to her lips. She struggled a moment to breathe past her raw throat and bravely whispered in her lover's ear..... "Pizza?"
Sandra broke into gales of laughter, which caused her patient
to laugh also, at her great regret. The pain in her throat and chest was excruciating,
causing her to grimace and tears to burst from her eyes.
"Sweetheart, what's wrong?" Sandra was distressed at the sudden turn of events.
Josie raised a trembling hand to her
throat then slid it down her chest. She couldn't stop the tears of agony she
knew were frightening her friend.
"Pain in your throat and chest?"
Josie nodded as she tried to compose herself.
To be continued in part 8 of The Apartment
Let me know what you think, Lena.
April 7, 2000
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