© by J. ‘Harley’ Elmore, 2003 – 2004
See disclaimers in Chapter One
Chapter Fifteen, Part 1
Accepting that she had limitations was the first step Deven consciously made towards her recovery, and more importantly, towards gaining her freedom. Shifting her focus away from what she couldn’t do to what she could accomplish and building on that eased some of her overall frustration. Nonetheless, it remained a challenge to not push beyond what was healthy for her mending body. The entire process was extremely painful at times but the determined woman refused to admit how much she hurt.
Obsessed with being liberated from the hospital, Deven frequently disregarded the restrictions brought on by her injuries, often at the displeasure of the hospital staff and of her friends. As she discovered each limitation, Deven pushed harder to surpass it. Sometimes she was successful but often she wasn’t, resulting in unnecessary soreness or a rapid depletion of her strength. Her restricted diet, while technically nutritious, didn’t help to build up stores of energy. And yet, as grueling as the rehabilitation was, Deven found a plus to the overexertion. It was the only way she could bring herself to sleep without the assistance of medication, something she didn’t want to start to rely on.
As an athlete who had faced injuries throughout her life, she knew that rest was healing but for her it had become torturous. Often awaking tired from a night of disturbing dreams, she was growing to dread the idea of slumber in any form. She would roam the hallway at all hours of the night, seeking to exhaust her body in the hopes that fatigue would force her into a sleep so deep that the nightmares couldn’t reach her.
Though her progress seemed inconsequential to the martial artist, she remained relentless in her goal. And it was with great relief that on the eleventh day after her abduction, she was told that pending approval from all her doctors, she was free to leave.
Dr. Hadari was the first to release her. Pleased with the healing process, the surgeon removed the sutures and applied Steri-strips in their place. A detailed list of instructions was then provided to Deven, Rhian and Kate on the ongoing care of the incisions and the immobilized jaw. The martial artist tried to listen and would have paid more attention had her face not been the center of attention.
As they made their daily rounds, each specialist gave their consent for her release until all that remained was for Iverson to provide the final approval. By late afternoon, he still hadn’t shown up and Deven was close to throwing a tantrum. I am going home today whether he approves or not!
Just as she was looking for an outlet for her frustration, Iverson and Lydia entered the room. “Well, it looks like you’re about ready to leave us,” he said.
Deven eased down to sit on the bed and he walked over to stand in front of her. Without another word, the doctor began his examination, a routine that the martial artist had become quite familiar with over the past few days. Satisfied, he took a step back and smiled at her. “You’re doing really well, Deven. Just a few things I want to go over with you and your family.”
Deven glanced at Rhian, and watching the dynamics closely, Lydia easily picked up on the strain between the women. Her eyes met Rhian’s and her eyebrows lifted in a silent question. A look of sadness crossed the landscaper’s face but she said nothing and Lydia made a mental note to talk to her later.
“Okay,” Iverson began. “I’m not worried about how your body is healing up. The contusions and swelling are significantly reduced. There aren’t any further indications of infection. Your last blood workup came back fine. The incisions look good and are healing quite well. You can count on it taking another six to eight weeks for everything to completely heal. And I expect to see you back in three days to take out the staples.” He turned his head towards Kate. “I’m sure you know the routine.”
The older woman nodded and said, “And we already have instructions on the care of her face and hand, as well as a schedule for the follow up appointments.”
“Good,” Iverson replied. “I also have a list of prescriptions to be filled. And I want to talk to you about administering any pain medications.” He shifted his complete attention back to his patient. “That leaves your head. I want to be certain that you understand a few things. You’re looking at a much longer recovery time. At a minimum, four to six months, but I stress that it could take longer to fully recover.”
The woman’s nostrils flared slightly, and her displeasure was evident in the narrowing of her eyes.
“I’m not fooling around here, Deven. You need to give your brain plenty of time to heal and recover. The headaches will most likely continue for some time, and the potential for another seizure still exists. Often symptoms of TBI continue for quite some time hitting a peak at around four months after the trauma.”
He looked at each person in the room before settling on Rhian. “People who have had trauma such as Deven’s often exhibit changes in their personalities or have difficulty with their emotions. These symptoms can be so small that they’re barely noticed or they can appear quite profound. Difficulty sleeping is another common side effect.” He locked eyes with Deven. “The best thing you can do is not attempt to hide these things. Unfortunately, with communication being an issue, you’re going to have to work a bit harder to get things across. But it’s imperative that you do. Do you understand?”
She nodded and then picking up the board, she wrote, MEMORY?
“I can’t say,” he answered. “Those memories may be gone forever. Or they might come back to you as your brain completely heals. It’s too soon to say either way. Anything else?”
She scowled at him but he remained adamant. “No, Deven. It’s going to take weeks for you to heal enough to even start any training. I want you to walk as much as possible but within reason. Beyond that, the most I expect from you will be the physical therapy on your hand, but that won’t possibly happen in less than six weeks. Once you reach a point where you feel up to training of any kind, you’ll need to ease into it and nothing that will impact your head. Absolutely under no circumstances can you spar for a minimum of six months. After that, we’ll see. Until then, I don’t anticipate anything with possible head contact for at least a year.”
Deven’s eyes widened, and Rhian tentatively placed her hand on the woman’s forearm.
“You have got to understand how serious this is. You got lucky, Deven. The damage could have been far worse and left you with some real debilitating injuries. You mess around now and you risk permanent damage up to and including paralysis, recurring seizures, and potentially some level of a vegetative state. Do you understand?”
She looked down at where Rhian’s hand was lightly stroking her arm. All right. Nothing you’ve ever gotten in your life came easily. Stick to your plan. Get on your feet. Get healthy. Find out who did this to you. Then pay the son of a bitch back with interest. Her eyes lifted and she nodded.
“Take it easy,” he said with a smile. “Listen to what your body is telling you and let it heal. If you agree to follow all the instructions, I’ll release you right now.”
He laughed at her eagerness. “I thought so.” Placing a hand on her shoulder, he gave it a small squeeze and then addressed Kate. “I’d like to go over a few things with you.”
Deven watched as the older woman followed Iverson out into the hall and then moved to get off the bed.
“Easy, Deven,” Lydia chided against the woman’s impatience. “It’s still going to take a little bit to get the paperwork done.” Once Deven settled back down, Lydia looked at Rhian. “Are you okay?”
“Me? Sure.” Rhian bit her lower lip to keep from blurting out her unhappiness. “Deven, I brought you some sweats. I’ll help you change, if you want,” she offered tentatively.
Having easily detected the sadness in the landscaper’s voice, the martial artist couldn’t bring herself to look at Rhian directly because she knew what she would see. She wanted desperately to turn back the clock to a time when seeing that look on this woman’s face would have caused her to kiss her lover softly and then hold her close. But that was before. Here and now, she could do nothing more than nod in assent.
Together, Lydia and Rhian managed to get the sweat pants and shirt on Deven. The biggest challenge had been getting the sleeve up over her immobilized hand and that had required the assistance of scissors. But by the time Kate returned with a list of instructions and prescriptions needed for Deven’s ongoing care, she was dressed for the first time in something other than a hospital gown since having had her clothes cut off in the ER.
Lydia commandeered a wheel chair and an attendant as big as linebacker. Deven wasn’t certain if his presence was to assist her into the car or to ensure her cooperation. If it was the later, Lydia needn’t have bothered. Nothing was going to interfere with getting out of that hospital.
Once she was seated in the back seat of Kate’s car, Lydia leaned in. “I’m glad you’re going to be all right. Now give yourself some time to heal, okay? And if you remember anything, call Alex. He really wants to get those bastards.”
Deven lips quirked and she inclined her head in agreement.
“I’ll stop by and see you in a day or so.” Looking past the martial artist she spoke to Rhian. “Call me if you have any questions or need anything.”
“I will. Thanks, Lydia. For everything.”
“No problem,” she replied as she stepped back and closed the car door.
As Kate pulled away from the curb, Deven closed her eyes and drifted, knowing that when she opened them again, she’d be home. Awaking a short time later from a light doze, she blinked her eyes open and nearly panicked. They were nowhere near her residence. In fact, they were going in the opposite direction. Picking up the white board, she quickly wrote, GO HOME.
Rhian felt the insistent tapping on her shoulder and turned to see what Deven wanted. “We are going home. Well, sort of. You’ll see.”
NO! GO HOME!
“Deven, you can’t take care of yourself,” the landscaper reasoned. “And I can’t be there 24 hours a day. Mom used to be an RN so she knows what she’s doing and will be there when I can’t be.”
The martial artist’s head was beginning to throb again. Clearing the board with the heel of her hand, she wrote in large letters. NO!
“Please, Deven, don’t be difficult. It’s only for a little while. Until your jaw is healed and we’re sure you aren’t going to have any more seizures. I can’t leave you alone when you can’t even use the phone to call for help.”
“Jay has to run the schools.”
“You can’t just close the schools for eight weeks.”
Listening to the exchange as she drove, Kate was aware that the martial artist was becoming agitated. “Deven, think about it seriously. I know you want your freedom back, and you’ll have it in time. But right now, be sensible.”
A noise somewhere between a moan and a growl rose up out of the woman as she threw the white board on the floor of the car and stomped on it.
“All right, that’s enough!” Kate pulled the car off the road into a nearby gas station. Turning in her seat, she faced the angry woman. “Now you listen to me, problem child. Here are your options. One, we can go on as we were and you behave yourself. You allow us to take care of you until you’re healed.” Deven continued to scowl and Kate provided the second option. “Two, you can go to a facility for rehabilitation. You choose. And you better make it fast.”
Kate watched in concern as the woman visibly paled at the mention of going somewhere else. She glanced at Rhian for an explanation, but her daughter wouldn’t meet her eyes. What is going on?
Rhian reached out to place her hand on Deven’s arm, but the martial artist jerked away from the touch. Turning her head, Deven glared out the window. Fuck! pain in her head was a full-blown pounding now. Eight years ago she’d been confined to a mental health facility for almost a year. Her father had arranged the deal that had gotten her out of an assault charge but had left her a prisoner in a world of mental patients and drug addicts. It had been one of the most horrific experiences of her life, and she knew with certainty she couldn’t handle that. I can’t.
Lifting eyes filled with agony both from the pain in her head and the memories of her incarceration, she looked at the older woman. It was difficult and quite painful, but she managed to retrieve the board from the floor and wrote, SORRY.
“I know you’re having a real hard time, and you’re not thinking reasonably about this. You can’t take care of yourself yet. And taking your frustration out on others isn’t going to solve anything,” Kate scolded.
Uncertain of what to say to her friend, Rhian had remained quiet through the entire exchange. The distance between them seemed to be growing daily, and it terrified her that they might never be able to bridge it. “I’m sorry, Deven. I guess I should have discussed this with you first.”
Kate turned on the dome light in the car and reaching over the seat, she guided Deven’s head upward towards the light. “Hurts, huh? Headache? Nauseous?”
Deven nodded her head slightly, and then closed her eyes against the light.
Shifting her attention to her purse, Kate rummaged through it for a few seconds and then removed a small pair of wire cutters. Turning back towards the martial artist, she handed them over. “Deven? You need to carry these with you at all times.”
“Why?” Rhian asked as the martial artist accepted the cutters.
“In case she needs to throw up,” she answered her daughter and then spoke to the other woman. “If you start to get sick, cut the wires. Otherwise, you’ll choke. Understand?”
“Yes,” the martial artist managed to force out between her clinched teeth.
“And don’t get any ideas about cutting them off? I’ll be checking and if I see one cut, you’re going to wish I’d left you at the hospital. Now can we go on, or do you want to sit for a bit more?”
“Go,” Deven answered as the despondency settled over her.
“All right.” Kate turned her attention back to getting them home and pulled out into traffic. What in the hell are we going to do with a six foot woman with a TBI on top of an already ingrained attitude problem, and the emotional instability that goes with it? A bullwhip, a chair and a steel cage might come in real handy.
The Mackenzie’s had made an effort to ensure Deven was as comfortable as possible. To avoid the stairs, Kate drove the car into the backyard and right up to the back door where Mac was waiting to assist in getting the injured woman out of the vehicle and into the house.
“Hi, Deven,” he said kindly.
“Hi,” she forced out. Turning in the seat towards the open car door and planting her feet firmly on the ground, she gripped his upper arms as he gripped hers and pulled. She allowed him to do most of the work, but even then it was painful as the muscles in her abdomen attempted to flex around the incision.
Upon entering the downstairs rooms that had been Rhian’s home, the first thing the martial artist noticed was that the furniture had been moved around to accommodate a hospital bed. The bed was situated so that it was easy to see the television and not too far of a walk to the bathroom, but it didn’t set in the middle of the room either.
And while Deven noticed these things, she didn’t really register the significance of any of them. She couldn’t acknowledge that these were acts of kindness to enable her to convalesce in some comfort. All her mind settled on was that she’d become a prisoner and these people were now her keepers, and at the moment there wasn’t a thing she could do about it.
It didn’t matter that what they said made sense and that she couldn’t take care of herself. All that mattered to her was that she’d gone from being at the top of her physical conditioning just a mere twelve days ago to being handicapped. And as aggravating as that was, the fact that she didn’t even know why was infuriating.
Instead of a happy homecoming, it was a strained affair. For Deven, these people now stood between her and freedom. Knowing that they were managing her life was exceptionally difficult for her to accept, and while the voice of reason tried to rise up and be heard, the persistent peevishness quickly overrode it.
The surprisingly bright spot in the otherwise distressing situation was Seana. Remembering how upset the child had become about the wound she’d sustained from Mace some months past, Rhian had spoken to her daughter at great length about Deven’s injuries. The child’s natural curiosity had prompted several questions, and in the end, Rhian believed the little girl had grasped the severity of the situation. At least she hoped so.
As the martial artist entered the house, the youngster approached her with overstated caution. At first, Deven interpreted this to be fear, but Seana continued forward and drawing close, wrapped her arms around the woman’s leg and hugged gently.
“I love you, Deven.”
The martial artist paused only for a few seconds before placing her hand on the little girl’s head, and standing motionless, she soaked up the purity of the child’s emotion.
“I want to give some medication for the pain, but first I want you to put something in your stomach. Do you think you can keep a shake down?” Kate asked.
Still looking down at the small head that rested against her thigh, Deven nodded.
“All right,” Kate replied. “Get comfortable and I’ll send it down.”
Stepping back, Seana took Deven’s hand and led her towards the sofa. “I’ll help you get comforble,” she said with innocent conviction.
Mac and Rhian eased the woman down onto the couch and then moved away. “You need anything?” Mac asked. She shook her head. “All right. I’ll see you later then. I’m glad you’re going to be okay, Deven.”
She nodded slightly in acknowledgement, and then watched as Rhian crossed the room to the drafting board.
The landscaper tried to concentrate on the designs waiting there. She’d spent so much time at the hospital that her work had suffered noticeably, but her father hadn’t said a word about the decline. If anything, he’d gone out of his way to provide her with the added support and time she needed.
Seana climbed up onto the sofa and sat next to the martial artist, her small hand coming to rest on Deven’s thigh. “Mama says you can’t talk right now.” The woman just looked at her, quietly studying the child’s open expression. “Does it hurt?”
“Yes,” Deven whispered.
Seana’s eyes widened in astonishment, and her jaw dropped. “You talked,” she said as if witnessing a miracle.
Deven wanted to laugh, but the idea of the pain it would cause was enough to dispel the notion. She held up her hand, her forefinger and thumb a mere quarter of an inch apart indicating a little bit.
“Can I see?” the little girl asked as she moved up on her knees to get closer to woman’s face.
What the hell? Deven reached up and carefully moved her lips so that the child could see the restraints.
“Deven? Can I hug you?”
Seana’s unconditional love and unspoiled innocence hit an exceptionally raw spot deep inside the woman and almost decimated her already weakened defenses. Very carefully, Deven guided her forward, and no sooner had she embraced the small body then the little girl began to weep against her shoulder.
“I missed you,” she cried out.
Oh God, I missed you, too. She stroked Seana’s back, absorbing the sweetness of the moment. Her tear filled eyes lifted and settled on the other woman for a brief second and then quickly looked away. There was of part of her that wished it were Rhian that she was holding, but a dismal place within her psyche reminded her that it might never be possible again. And then her thoughts drifted to her own child. The sheer guilt of what she’d done to expose him, to have exposed them all to so much trauma, was almost more than she could bear.
The landscaper watched the exchange with mixed emotions. She was pleased that Seana had so easily adapted to the situation and that Deven hadn’t done anything that would have hurt the little girl’s feelings. But she felt something else. Something more inexplicable and dark and she immediately despised herself for it.
Deven was willing to open her heart to the child but wouldn’t do so for her. Rhian rubbed her stinging eyes and turning away from the scene, she focused on the drafting board. Being in love with Deven had once been the best feeling she’d ever known. Now it bordered on being a curse. That she was hurting terribly from the near constant rebukes and anger directed at her was eroding away at her confidence in their relationship, and she just wasn’t certain how long she could withstand the woman’s nearly constant caustic behavior.