By Katia N. Ruiz
Josua was nodding off slouched on his couch, his chin pressed against his chest; a sliver of saliva slithered out of his parted mouth onto the front of his shirt, his feet rested on his coffee table. He was startled when a knock sounded at his door, jumping and blinking rapidly in his shock. He stood up unsteadily, and stumbled to the door. He yanked open the door, and barely saw who stood there before he felt the sharp painful blast of a fist in the middle of his face. He flew backwards, arms and limbs flailing, landing on his ass.
Strong steps followed him, and he cried out, covering his bloody face. "No!"
"You bastard!" A woman with a strong Australian accent sputtered, and he felt a sharp kick to his stomach.
"Ugh!" He groaned, trying to protect himself with his arms. "What the fuck! You broke my nose!" He moaned, feeling the blood gush from his nose.
"You fucking bastard! I'll kill you!" The same voice roared. A hand grasped his shirt and pulled him up with surprising strength. Through the haze of pain, he could see his attacker. She was staring down at him with angry blue eyes.
Gretchen, who hadn't had time to stop her lover, grasped her jacket sleeve and pleaded with her to stop. George was out of control in her anger, and she'd kill Josua if Gretchen weren't there. "George, please." She said softly, and watched as George paused, glaring at Josua.
And then suddenly, she dropped him heavily, kicking him hard in the stomach. Josua groaned, and vomited all over the floor. George grimaced at the stench; Gretchen gagged and turned away. Despite the rancid odor, George kneeled beside him, staring at his bloody face impassively. Evenly, in a deadly calm voice, she said: "You so much as ever, and hear me again, ever go near Cassidy Monsignor with your garbage, I will break much more than your nose."
Josua shivered with fear, and vomited all over again. George jumped back, out of the flow's way, and glared at him for another minute. Then she turned away and guided Gretchen out of the apartment.
When they returned to the hospital, they found Jeffrey there with Andrea. With a small groan, George walked inside with Gretchen. Robie stood close by Andrea and Jeffrey, seriously glaring at Jeffrey's back. Jeffrey pointedly ignored her, and was having a quiet discussion with Andrea. She wouldn't look at him, and seemed extremely angry, though she was trying hard to control it.
Robie moved to George and Gretchen's side as they walked in, muttering under her breath. She took in the spatters of blood on George's jacket and skin, and then calmly studied George's impassive face. "What did you do?" She asked softly.
George shook her head in a don't-ask-any-questions way. "Nothing." She replied shortly, then glanced in Andrea's direction. "What's up?" She asked.
Robie turned to glare at Jeffrey, who glanced up at her and returned the glare. "This guy is one true bastard!" She whispered vehemently. "He calls Andrea at her cellular, wants to know where she is. When she tells him where and why she's here, he asks her to come home. But of course Andrea said no, and how dare he expect her to leave Cassidy, who needs her so much.
"So he shows up here, and fumes when he finds my arms around her, ranting about how she's turning into 'one of those women.' And then he goes and says that Cassidy probably has AIDS and all this crap." She crossed her arms and tapped her foot in a fast pace, shaking her head. "Andrea practically told him to fuck off when he said that, and thats when he just shut up and started talking to her really quiet." She smiled slightly; very amused at the insults Andrea threw his way.
Gretchen chuckled, and George smiled despite her anger. "Any news on Cassidy?" She asked.
Robie shook her head, her smile faded. "Ashleigh said she is in a coma." She said softly; Gretchen and George murmured and gasped their fear. "They're taking her to a room in ICU in about an hour or so."
Gretchen pursed her lips thoughtfully. "She hasn't responded to anything?" She asked.
Robie shook her head. "Nothing, still the same." She said softly, her voice betraying her worry.
"Andy," Jeffrey was saying softly, trying not to explode on her. "Come home with me, baby. You're so tired." He was trying to cajole her. She would have none of it, and insisted on not looking at him. He knew he'd made a mistake the moment he yelled those bitter words against Cassidy. As much as he suspected of her sexual involvement with Cassidy, he knew he shouldnt have said a word; he didnt want to loose her. Now she didnt want him to even touch her. He sat beside her, knees pressed against hers; hands clasped in front of him, trying to soft-talk her.
She stared blankly away from him, occasionally glancing at Robie, Gretchen and George. Andrea thought that Cassidy didnt appreciate her friends. She thought if she was so depressed, so tempted to go into the dark world of drugs, why didnt she talk about it? But it was no time for recriminations, Cassidy might die, and she wouldnt know what to do if she did. She trembled violently, and looked down at her hands resting helplessly on her lap; tears sprang to her eyes.
"Ah, Andy," Jeffrey whispered, and made a move to hold her.
Andrea pushed him away. "Get away from me!" She hissed, not able to control her contempt against Jeffrey. "I dont need you here, really." She whispered, trying to be nicer this time. "Just go home."
Jeffrey shook his head, and glanced at the three women standing close. He wouldnt leave her around these women at any time. "No, I can't leave you here, baby."
Andrea decided to ignore him, then. She stood up resolutely and went to Robie and the others. Ashleigh came in a few minutes later, and Andrea went to her. Ashleigh smiled down at her, touching her cheek comfortingly. "She's in the Intensive Care room now." She said to them, noticing Jeffrey sitting calmly by the chairs, and her expression hardened visibly. He leered at her, and waved slightly, knowing her dislike towards him. She looked at Andrea, and said: "You should go home and rest now. You've had a hard night." She looked at the others. "The same goes for you too."
Andrea shook her head, but before she could audibly protest, George said: "She's right, Andrea. You look extremely tired."
"Thank you." Andrea said, and yawned. "You're right." She looked at Ashleigh. "I'll be here first thing in the morning. Call me if anything comes up, please."
Ashleigh nodded. "Visiting hours from nine to eight." She informed her, and smiled reassuringly. "But maybe I can arrange something."
Andrea nodded and smiled warily in return and said goodnight to everyone. She then glanced fleetingly at Jeffrey and said: "I have my own car, Jeffrey. I dont need you to take me home. Goodnight." And she walked out, Jeffrey close at her heels, trying to cajole her into changing her mind.
Ashleigh, George, Gretchen and Robie were very amused at Andrea's sudden change in attitude towards Jeffrey. It seemed she'd seen what he was really all about, and could barely stand his company now.
Cassidy remained the same, unresponsive. Her lungs were still weak, would not operate on their own. Tests showed that the excessive consumption of the drug impeded the air sacks from expanding and contracting like normal air sacks do; sort of like a severe asthma attack. They knew there was no brain damage, at least none of it that they could see; they couldn't for the life of them figure out why she was still unconscious. But Ashleigh was not about to give up.
The first day she brought Andrea in to see her, she'd stood next to her, gazing at Cassidy's still figure. Andrea's hands shook, and her lips did too, tears filled her eyes. She bent down to gaze at her face, smoothing Cassidy's hair back from her forehead. She kissed Cassidy's forehead softly as Ashleigh watched, kissing her way gently across. "Cassidy," She whispered softly against her ear, her hand trailing up along her smooth arms. "Wake up, please."
But Cassidy didnt respond, remaining as she was, not even her eyelids flickered. The respiratory machine was providing the only sign of life in the room. Pale, drawn, Andrea struggled against tears. She turned to Ashleigh and grasped her arms. "What if she dies?" Ashleigh shook her head and began to speak, but Andrea went on. "What am I going to do then? What! I love her, Ashleigh!" And she broke into sobs, pressing her face onto her shoulder.
Ashleigh sighed, and wrapped her arms around Andrea. "Shhh." She whispered. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves. I told you I'd do my best, Andy."
Andrea nodded slowly, pulling away. "You are doing your best, Ashleigh. But she's the same, she won't wake up."
Ashleigh looked away from Andrea's eyes. "She's in a coma, but I haven't given up hope, and neither should you."
Chided, Andrea turned around to look at Cassidy again. Bending close again, she kissed her forehead tenderly and continued to murmur sweet things close to her ear, trying to give her a reason to wake.
George and Gretchen hesitated at the door of Cassidy's hospital room, but then Ashleigh glanced up from her clipboard and gestured them in. "How is she?" George asked quietly, standing by the bed and touching Cassidy's hair with a hand. Ashleigh smiled slightly, glancing down at her clipboard again.
"Well, the cells in her lungs are regenerating at a very good pace, so the tissues in her lungs are strengthening." She grinned with hope. "Soon, she won't need respiratory aid at all."
Gretchen and George smiled at each other, and then at Ashleigh. Ashleigh's smile faded as she continued: "She's still in a coma, though. They found a little something else in her system. Extreme levels of alcohol in her blood also. The drug completely clashed with the alcohol, and her system obviously could not take it, her lungs least of all. But we've done a cleansing of her system, which is why she has the other IV on the other arm. Now we can give her some medicine."
Gretchen and George both frowned; they'd only heard the part about the coma, nothing else mattered. When Robie told them, they had decided not to believe her, thinking she was too upset. But hearing it from Ashleigh was a whole different thing. "Coma?" Gretchen repeated.
Ashleigh nodded, but smiled at them. "She'll be okay, she only needs time."
"Wait until Andrea hears that she'll get better." Gretchen beamed, not wanting to think of the bad things about Cassidy's situation; she turned to kiss George softly on the lips. "I have to go back to the office for a couple of hours, honey. Will you be here later on?" She asked.
George nodded. When Gretchen left, George to one long look at Cassidy's seemingly sleeping features and then another long look at Ashleigh, who looked like she hadn't slept well in days. "You haven't rested in four days since Cassidy was brought in, Ash. You look like shit." She said.
Ashleigh mock glared at George, who looked suitably sheepish. She laughed suddenly, saying: "Thanks for the opinion. It's just that I dont want to leave Cassidy's side until I know she's out of the roughhouse. I catch a few winks in the doctor's lounge."
George glanced at Cassidy. "Have you even washed your teeth?" She asked. "Jesus, I dont even want to stand near you, you'd probably kill me!"
Ashleigh poked the pen in her direction. "Keep trying me, George," She said mock-sternly. "I can have you barred from this hospital this second, and your lawyer girlfriend won't help you." She walked over to Cassidy, placing the stethoscope into her ears, reaching with the other end beneath the covers.
George lifted her hands up in a peace gesture, laughing. "Okay, okay. Sorry doc." She said, suppressing laughter. She watched seriously as Ashleigh listened to Cassidy's heartbeat and lungs with her stethoscope, placing it in different locations, nodding with satisfaction. "What?" George asked.
Ashleigh reached into her scrub pants pockets, pulling out a penlight. "Her heart sounds good, and so do her lungs." She explained. Peeling back her eyelid, she directed the little beam of light at each pupil. Both dilated perfectly. "Her eyes respond." She checked the taped tube inserted into her mouth, making sure that no rashes were developing. The tapes were changed every day to prevent settling for rashes. She stood up straight, and smiled at George reassuringly. She wrote into the clipboard, and said: "I have to go check on another patient, and then I'll be back." She placed the clipboard on the bedside table and walked out of the room with a last smile at George.
Andrea sat down at her desk and began writing distractedly into her notebook. She was supposed to be writing a few notes on the next day's class, but she couldnt concentrate; her thoughts were on Cassidy, and she was worrying. Her phone rang, shaking her out of her thoughtful stupor. She picked it up and said shakily: "Hello?"
"Hi." It was Jeffrey. "How are you?"
Andrea sighed. "I'm fine, and you?" She replied; her voice was impersonal.
Jeffrey felt sad; he missed her a lot. He sat behind his own desk, a pencil in his clenched fist. "Can we have dinner?" He asked shyly. He knew he'd lost her, but he wasnt ready to give up yet.
Andrea sighed again, and said softly: "I have to go the hospital to see Cassidy. I dont know what time I'll be available." She didnt know how to just break it off with him, how to tell him it was done with between them.
Jeffrey's eyes closed tightly and he clasped the pen until it broke in half. "Andrea, please." He spoke through clenched teeth. "Why are you doing this to us, why?" He pleaded, trying to control his voice.
Andrea sat back on her chair, feeling so sad too, because she cared for him, but not in the way he cared for her. She didnt know how to tell him. "Things are not the same, you said a lot of things I didnt appreciate, especially when I needed you to support me about Cassidy." She said, trying not to let her anger surface. "You knew I love her. I love her so much, and that I was worrying, and you kept giving me a hard time about wanting to stay by her side."
Jeffrey felt a lone tear trickle down his cheek. He felt like a total idiot. "You dont just love her, Andrea." He said brokenly.
Andrea closed her eyes tightly, she held tightly onto the phone until her knuckles ached. "You're right." She whispered. "I'm in love with her."
Jeffrey couldnt control it any longer. "How did this happen?" He cried out, slamming his fist on the table. "You didnt feel that way last month, how did that happen?"
"We shouldnt talk on the phone about this, Jeffrey." She said softly. "I'll call you back."
"Wait!" Jeffrey pleaded, but Andrea had already hung up.
Andrea sat quietly on her desk, and her phone rang again. "Hello?" She said a little impatiently, thinking it was Jeffrey.
"How are you?" It was Carey.
"Hi, Carey. I'm fine, worrying like hell. And you?" Andrea responded, happy to hear from her.
"I'm fine." Carey replied with her short sentences. "Been talking with Roseanne."
Andrea smiled softly. "I see she's told you I haven't been myself, right?" She asked.
"Yes," Carey said with a smile. "But it has gotten along the lesbian grapevine that Cassidy is in the hospital, in critical condition." She paused. "Nice of you to call me and let me know, Andrea."
Andrea sighed. "I'm sorry," She said sincerely. "Its just that so many things have been happening. I go from school to the hospital, and then home to check homework and then to sleep."
"I understand, Andrea." Carey said. "So how is she?" She asked with concern.
Andrea shook her head and struggled against instant tears. "I can hardly handle it." She said brokenly.
"Hey," Carey said softly. "Just take it easy, things will work out, don't worry. Are you going to see her today?"
"Of course." Andrea said softly. "Why dont you come with me, Carey?"
"Sure, I'd like to give a piece of my mind to Cassidy, maybe she'll decide to wake up and claim what is hers." Carey said with a laugh. Then she paused, and said: "Might that be you?"
Andrea couldnt help but laugh. "Of course." She said, leaning back and relaxing on the chair. "I just hope she sees it too."
Carey laughed again. "Okay, great." She said in her rouged Irish accent. "I'll come pick you up after I pick Roseanne up. I'll take her to eat something; I want to have a chat with her. Then we'll come back and get you about a half hour later."
"What do you want to talk to her about, if you don't mind me asking?" Andrea inquired with a smile. She liked the way Carey was close to Roseanne, the way she felt confident about talking to her of anything.
"I want to talk to her about those two girls she's seeing and what she is going to do about them." Carey replied, laughing softly at her daughter's predicament.
Andrea sighed. "Sometimes I regret telling you about the whole thing, Carey." She said, and laughed softly too.
Carey laughed. "Hey! It is your duty as her teacher and my friend to tell me the secrets that I dont know about my daughter's life in school." She joked. "So, pick you up at three thirty?"
"Perfect." Andrea said.
"Okay," Carey said, smiling. "See you later today."
"Okay, bye." Andrea said, and hung up, feeling much better.
Robie peeked into Cassidy's room before she walked in. She'd taken her lunch hour and driven to the hospital, like she'd been doing the past week. Cassidy lay in the room alone, the sound of the heart monitor and respiratory machine the only sounds in the otherwise silent room. Robie closed the door softly, and walked slowly towards the bed. She stood studying Cassidy's still features for a few minutes; she looked at the long hair pulled together into a braid. Then she leaned down and kissed her forehead softly.
"Hi," She said softly, sitting down at the edge of the already available chair and placing her hand over Cassidy's. "I just thought I'd come and see you on my lunch hour, and talk to you a little. I miss you, Cassidy, we all miss you."
She studied Cassidy's profile, her smooth eyelids, and the long curving eyelashes that pressed on her cheeks. The perfect nose, the full parted lips with the tube going through them. "You know," Robie continued softly. "I think you're running away from everything. I mean, I know that you're ill, but you dont have to worry us so much. Andrea loves you, Cassidy, and I mean she's really in love with you.
"And what have you been doing?" She said, her voice growing impatient. "You've been doing your best to sabotage your possible relationship with her. God, you guys would be perfect together, and you're fucking that up, my friend. I think you need to wake up and smell the coffee, honey, I think you need to claim what belongs to you. And that, my dear, is Andrea's heart."
She stopped, seeing a slight movement beneath Cassidy's lids, as if the balls of her eyes had moved. "Cassidy?" She said hesitantly, wrapping her hand around Cassidy's. "Cassidy." She felt a slight squeeze around her hand. "Oh God!" Robie stood up, looking down at Cassidy's face, trying to discern any movement. Yes! Cassidy's eyelids fluttered softly. "Please, yes, come back, Cassidy, please!" Tears sprang to her eyes as she watched Cassidy struggle to open her eyes.
With her other hand, Robie reached overhead and pressed on the emergency button that would notify Ashleigh of any problems. But this wasnt a problem; this was the best thing that could be happening. "Come on, open your eyes, honey. I'm right here, baby." She urged softly.
Cassidy tried to shake her head, but was unable to. She was surrounded by darkness, and she wanted to get out. Robie's voice was far away, guiding her towards consciousness. Her throat ached and her eyes wouldnt open. She tightened her hand around Robie's hand, and though she could barely feel it, she knew it was there. She heard a soft sob, and then: "Oh, God, yes, yes!"
Her eyes rolled, her eyelids fluttered, and opened. The light made her eyes ache, her lids half closed. She clenched her eyes closed again, and opened them slowly, feeling the glare of the overhead light burn them. She stared straight up at the ceiling, disoriented, dizzy. "Cassidy, look at me, baby, please." The pleading voice came from her right side, and she turned her head a little that way. Her eyelids fluttered again and she looked directly at Robie. "Yes, look at me." Robie was saying. Cassidy could see the tears streaming down her pretty cheeks, and a tear of her own leaked out of her eye.
"What's going on?" Cassidy jumped with a jerk at the sound of Ashleigh's voice, but she could not move her head anymore to look. She remained staring at Robie, and then felt a strong hand holding her left hand. She heard a sob by her left ear, the voice deeper and stronger. "Cassidy, oh God!" And then she felt soft lips touching her forehead tenderly. "Look at me now, Cassidy." The voice pleaded, and Cassidy closed her eyes softly, recognizing the voice.
She tried to move her mouth, but found that could not, that something thick was between her lips and teeth. She bit into it, and realized it was hard and tubular. Other than the slight ache in her throat, it didnt bother her. Turning her head only slightly, she made her eyes move from Robie and go to the other side. "Yes," Ashleigh said softly. Looking deeply into Cassidy's eyes, she allowed her emotions to show; tears ran down her cheeks heavily. "Hi, baby, we've missed you."
Cassidy couldn't control her emotions, hot tears slid down her temples, and her body shook softly as she cried. She clenched her eyes closed, and cried for real. She was glad to be back, the darkness she'd endured had been comfortable, but it didnt supply the comfort only her friends could give. She missed them, and wanted to come back. She'd been struggling to return from her state of coma, but had found that she couldnt. She'd heard her friends there, talking to her, talking to each other. She was glad they'd been there. She couldn't remember the reason she was in the hospital. She didnt remember anything since walking out on Andrea at the bar.
She wondered where she was, wanted to see her so badly. She missed her and loved her, knowing she'd been stupid, like Robie implied, and that she wanted Andrea beside her. She wondered idly how long she'd been in the hospital.
Ashleigh was bending over her, smoothing back her hair. Cassidy looked into her eyes and saw her love, her friendship there. She wanted to talk, and bit down on the tube again, making a slight noise. Ashleigh, whose face was close to Cassidy's, saw the movement of her jaw. "We'll take this out soon, honey, dont bite it." She said softly, tapping on the tube very softly with an index finger.
Cassidy closed her eyes softly, and straightened her head, feeling very tired. She fell asleep quickly, feeling comforted by Ashleigh's hand smoothing her hair away from her forehead.
Outside in the hallway, Robie threw herself into Ashleigh's arms and cried with happiness. "Oh, Ashleigh," She gasped, the tears trickling down her cheeks and staining Ashleigh's scrub shirt. "Thank you, thank you!" She whispered softly, feeling Ashleigh's strong arms enfold her.
Ashleigh tried not to feel nervous at the feel of Robie's voluptuous body pressing dangerously against hers. Her body responded; a chill ran up and down her spine, but she fought the sexual urge Robie's body awakened. "Dont thank me, Robie, thank God." She said softly, her voice trembling slightly. She'd been fighting her interest in Robie, knowing a little of her history. She knew that Robie had been in a relationship for a long time and that she still carried a torch for this woman, because they hadn't ended in a bad way. It was a mutual decision.
So Ashleigh had no way of being with Robie in a love kind of way. The way she suspected she wanted Robie, despite the fact that they hardly knew each other. She ran her fingers through Robie's hair, pulling her face close to her shoulder.
Robie's hands pressed flat against Ashleigh's back, she was suddenly very aware of Ashleigh's firm body pressed against hers. She pulled back, and looked up at Ashleigh, meeting her eyes. She felt a shiver run through her body when she saw the look in Ashleigh's green eyes. It was a look of unmistakable desire that Ashleigh was struggling to control. Robie moved her hands up along her shoulders and cupped her head, sifting her fingers through the soft short hair. "You're very attractive, Ashleigh." Robie whispered softly, knowing the truth of her growing attraction to Ashleigh.
Ashleigh swallowed deeply, her eyes trailing from Robie's eyes to her lips. Lips that were thick and pouted slightly at the bottom. "I-" She tried to say, her voice broke. Robie didnt give her chance to continue as she pulled her head down and kissed her softly. Ashleigh groaned softly, and kissed her back tentatively, but when Robie inserted her tongue deep into her mouth, she couldn't help but respond. So they stood in the hall, kissing deeply, for a very long time. A nurse, on her way to Cassidy's room for a routine checkup, grinned and coughed politely and pointedly. She stepped inside the room with a smile on her face.
Ashleigh and Robie practically jerked away from each other in shock; their cheeks flushed red. They stared at each other with wide, surprised eyes, not knowing what to say. Robie could see her lipstick smudged all over Ashleigh's sensuous lips, and couldn't help but want to kiss her again. She moved forward again, and Ashleigh did too, putting a hand softly on her shoulder, then cupping her neck tenderly. Robie shivered, closing her eyes tightly at the feeling of desire that coursed through her body. She could practically feel Ashleigh's lips on hers once again, but they never came.
"Robie," Ashleigh said softly instead, and Robie thought with disappointment she would be rejected. "I'd like to know you better, because I've had a crush on you for the longest time." She smiled down at Robie, looking into her eyes.
Robie beamed, and grinned up at Ashleigh. "I've had a crush on you too," She said softly, her eyes taking in Ashleigh's strong features and moving down and taking in the muscular, lithe body. "When can we have dinner, Ashleigh?" She asked breathlessly, meeting Ashleigh's eyes.
Ashleigh laughed softly, and shook her head. "If I knew it would be this easy," She said softly, pulling her a little closer. "I wouldn't have been struggling so hard to control myself." She chuckled.
Robie feigned feeling indignant, crossing her arms over her beautiful chest and mock glaring up at Ashleigh. "Oh, so now I'm easy." She said.
Ashleigh threw her hands up in a peace gesture, shaking her head. "Hey, I didn't say that now." She said with a chuckle. She moved closer again, and tilted Robie's head with a long finger under her chin. "You're not easy at all, Robie." She whispered, and leaned closer to kiss her softly on the lips. "Now, about that dinner," She said softly, looking into her eyes. "As soon as we have Cassidy under control." She laughed. "She has one big family, and we all need to set her straight. You know?"
"Well we dont want Cassidy straight now, do we?" Robie kidded, laughing throatily. Ashleigh joined in her laughter. But then she nodded in agreement, and smiled sensuously up at Ashleigh. "We'll have fun, Ashleigh." She promised in a low voice, lifting a finger and teasing the cleft on Ashleigh's chin. She chuckled sensuously when Ashleigh blushed deeply from her throat to her hairline. Then she took a deep sobering breath and sighed. "I can't wait to see Andrea's face." Both women went back into Cassidy's room; Ashleigh wrapped her arm around Robie's waist.
Continued in part VII- The Conclusion
Katia N. Ruiz
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