Disclaimers One: These characters bare a resemblance to our favorite warrior and bard, but that's where it ends. So don't sue me Rob T. Ren pics or whoever owns the rights of XWP now.
Disclaimer Two: This is an alt. tale and contains two women in love. There will be many references to that in this short story. If you're offended, go watch the Animal Planet. Planet's Funniest Animals is a real hoot.
Dedicatoin: To God for blessing me. To Camille for loving me, and to the Mindom for just being themselves.
Heaven Can Wait
Copyright (c) 2002
Cool air circulates through the cab of my 4x4, but sweat drips off my face, down my back, and pools in my arm pits. The music on the radio sounds like screeching to my ears, and the noise of horns blown by impatient drivers just adds to the cacophony. Glumly, I add my own horn into the foray. I don't know what else to do. My mind is racing, my heart feels as though it is going to beat out of my chest, and the rest of my body is tied in knots that I know will never come out. Not until I know that she's okay. I let out a shaky breath and peer down at my hands. My knuckles have turned from red to white as I keep a death grip on the steering wheel. Minute by minute, panic is taking over making it hard to do anything but tremble. My insides are mush, and I can't seem to breath without whimpering. My eyes are burning and gritty. I can't tell if I'm crying or if the sweat just settled there briefly before making its treck further down my face. I must look like a wreck to the other passerbys. My hair, usually immaculate, is scattered like a black halo around my head, and what little make up that I have on has to be running down my face like globs of wet paint. To top it all off, the smell of sex lingers around me. I can still smell her on my fingers--the other woman in a long line of women.
The cell phone truly is a wonderful invention. If I didn't carry mine everywhere, I would be deep between a redhead's thighs instead of on the busy Borhman highway. Still, here I am, and the Merrilville hospital is at least another twenty minutes away. To add even more to this, guilt eats away at me from the inside out like some deadly cancer. Everywhere it hurts. I betrayed her. Again. If she dies--- Oh God! Just the thought takes my breath away. The pain is unbelievable it lances through me like a million tiny knives piercing my person and my soul. I almost want to ball up and wish it all away, but this is real. This is the life I've chosen for myself, but instead of me bearing the albatross, Sandy is in the Emergency Room fighting for her life.
Sandy. She has been the one light in my life since college. The first time I met her she made a lasting impression. I laughed so hard, and she looked at me so sweetly that I knew we had to be. God, I remember it like yesterday.
It was the first day of classes. Students filed into the large classroom, and I joined them with a crowd of three young women surrounding me. I picked them up from The Union. They were Freshmen--naive and easy just what I needed. I was gonna work my way through the 'fresh meat' before throwing myself back into the general population of more experienced women. Everyone would get their turn. The three freshmen laughed prettily as I delivered the punch line of some lame joke. Two of them wrapped heated hands around my biceps while the other sent me smoldering looks. I ate it all up. They wanted me, and I just wanted some body. I don't think they gave a damn about that.
We made it to some seats in the middle of the room as the professor entered. He stood tall and gangly. His hair, eyebrows, beard, and mustache were completely white. It reminded me of Mark Twain. He sat his books with a loud thump on top of the desk. Everyone ignored him, going on with their conversations. I raised an eyebrow as he looked up to scan the room, knowing he probably wouldn't remember any of us by the next class. His back turned, and suddenly, the room came alive with horrible screeches on the chalkboard. I cringed, and he turned back sporting an irritating smile.
"I find it easier to get on your nerves before you get on mine. Can we have quiet now?" There was a loud murmur that quickly died down. I chuckled. I liked this man already. He knew how to take over a room just like I did. With a different professor, maybe I'd pass the class this time. Three times being a charm.
"Now that I have your attention, this is Physics 101. If someone is in the wrong class please leave now to save us all the embarassment later. I will now hand out the syllabus. I won't read it for you, because if you couldn't read you wouldn't be here." He reached for the thick pile on the edge of his desk.
I jumped at the feel of a hand caressing my jean covered thigh. Glancing to the side, I see that it's the redhead that has become the bold one. I knew that I'd found my fun for the night. As the papers get to us, I pause to scribble my number on the top of one packet before I pass it to the redhead. She smiled and nodded. Her hand remained on my thigh.
The class settles again. "Now, are there any questions?" The Mr. Twain asked.
After a few seconds, one lone hand raised. I squinted and glanced toward the area, seeing that it was a short haired blonde who had a question.
"Yes, you in the white t-shirt."
"Um, this isn't World Lit?" She asked hesitantly.
The professor sighed and stroked his beard. "Let me guess. Freshman?" She must have nodded. "Thought so only they wouldn't bother to listen. No, this is not Lit! This is a science class. Now will you please get out of here so I can start my class?!"
The blonde stood up, gathering her things quickly. She finshed and threw her backpack over her shoulder, but she did not leave. "Hey buddy, there is no need to be rude!"
She was petite but well built, from the back anyway. The khakis hugged her behind outlining it perfectly. I itched to see her face.
The professor scoffed. "And there is no need for you to be stupid."
Chuckles erupted around the room.
The blonde put a hand on her hip. "Well point me to the class you've been taking. They sure taught you to be a class "A" asshole!"
My eyes widened, and a loud bark of laughter escaped. She turned my way, and I gasped. Her face was indignant and flushed, but she was beautiful. Green eyes glinted at me, and full lips were pursed. I felt the hand that had moved up to my crotch tighten on the area. I pushed it away to continue the stare fest with the little blonde.
"Do you have something you wanna say?!" She screamed at me.
I shook my head vehemently as she threw her hands up in exasperation. This one had fire. My eyes tracked her as she pushed her way through the aisle to head for the exit. I knew I had to follow her and find out who she was. I got up, ignoring the mumbles of protest around me, and quickly followed the blonde.
By the time I reached the hall, she was half way down it. "Hey!" I shouted. She stopped and turned, and I broke into a run. I was surprised that she waited.
When I got close enough, her features were hard, unyielding as if she were expecting some type of confrontation. Green eyes widened in surprise then softened. "Oh, it's you." She smiled crookedly, making her nose crinkle. "Um, sorry 'bout that. He pissed me off. I didn't mean to take it out on you."
I was mesmirized by her prescence, her smell, even her tone of voice. For the first time in my life, I didn't know what to say. My heart was beating a mile a minute, and I couldn't swallow. "Uh, yeah." I husked.
She canted her head to the side and held out a hand. "Sorry, don't mean to be rude. I'm Sandy James."
I peered down at the appendage and willed my motor functions to return. I shoved out a stiff hand to enfulf hers. "Um, Monica Kelley." Her grip was firm and sure, and I was reluctant to let it go. My gaze went from our joined hands by to her face. I couln't stop looking at her. I couldn't stop my heart from racing. I couldn't breathe.
Sandy tried to take her hand back, but I refused to let go. "Uh, excuse me. I need that back." I felt the blush creep up my neck and into my face as I let her hand go. "Why are looking at me like that?" I could hear the confusion in her voice.
I swallowed finally. It sounded loud in the quiet hall. "I. . .uh, you're beautiful." A red flush covered her countenance quickly, and her eyes seemed to take on a sudden sparkle.
"No one. . .ever told me that before." Her voice was full of wonder.
Somehow, I snapped out of my trance and ducked my head in embarassment. "I'm sorry. That must sound weird coming from someone you don't even know, especially a woman." Nervously, I shoved my hands into my jean pockets.
A smile slowly crept across her face. "No, it sounded wonderful. . .from a woman."
I felt my eyebrows rise to touch my bangs. "You mean you're--"
"Yeah, I am, and I really have to go." Sandy moved away slightly.
My breath whooshed back into my body as relief flooded me before I realized what she had said. I didn't want to lose sight of her. "No, no don't go." I paused and looked down at my sneakers gaining courage that I'm usually teeming over with. "I've got this feeling that if you leave now I'll never see you again."
"But, I'm already late, and I have to find the right building--"
"I want to see you again," I mumbled. I watched in fascination as the beautiful red flush returned.
"They never do anything on the first day anyway. Come have coffe with me." I asked, though it sounded close to begging.
"Tea, then?" I was begging then.
She smiled. "Um, okay, but if I missed something I know who to call."
I could feel my confidence returning. "I haven't given you my phone number yet."
Her smile widened and her nose crinkled again. I immediately found it endearing. "Will you?"
"Hell, yeah." Sandy let out the most delightful laugh, and I knew I was already halfway lost.
A horn blows behind me and I am ripped from my reverie. I can feel the smile on my face as pleasant memories surround me. We're moving! With determination, I move the car forward only to stop again a few feet later. "Fuck! This can't be happening. Don't leave me baby. Please don't leave me."
I feel a headache coming, a very big one. It's pounding just behind my eyes, waiting to expand. I shake my head in disgust. A disgust that is aimed at me. How could God create such a stupid creature? Just because I watched my Dad do it to my mom time after time, it is not an excuse. I'm a cheater, a womanizer or whatever they call it these days. I never had a real girlfriend before Sandy. She is the first long term, and we've been together for six years. Before her, I just thought I go through life getting any woman I wanted. It seemed like a plan, and the women do flock to me. I don't know whether it's the long black hair, the blue eyes that have been described as 'irresistable' and 'incandescent', or if it's my body--long and lithe. It could be that they way my ass looks in a pair of jeans. It must be a combination of it all. Whatever it is, I know I've got it. Sandy says that the packaging helped her to fall in love, but it was the beautiful person inside that cinched it for her. I don't see it. There's nothing beautiful inside me. If there were, would I be here in this predicament? But that's Sandy. I'm convinced she sees life through rose colored glasses no matter what the situation.
I don't know why I do the things I do. I suppose that I just want the whole cake and eat it too. I suppose it may be fear. I suppose it may be an addiction. I suppose it could be my parents' fault for not staying together and making my childhood miserable. I hated to see my parents fight, but that's all I can remember is the fighting. I don't talk to my mom now. It could be that. My dad is dead. It could be that. It's not Sandy we have a healthy sexual relationship. My God, I can't get enough of her. The first time we made love. I thought the earth had opened up and swallowed me down into some lava pit. I was on fire, and I drown in it every time she touches me. I just don't know, but one thing I'm sure of is that I love Sandy. She is my heart, even though I've broken hers more than once. Still, there are betrayals she'll never know unless I tell her. I've become good at covering my tracks, but she's not stupid. My Sandy is a brilliant woman. She loves her books. Loves literature. She used to read to me. She still does, and she makes even the most garbled words of long dead poets and writers sound like music. Her dream is to teach college, and she was on her way into a PhD program. I'm sure she knows more about my philandering than I think she does. Why she stayed this long I'll never know. She's too forgiving. I don't deserve her, but I need her. I won't pull any punches about that. This time, I've learned my lesson. I think I need to get help. I will, but she has to be okay.
I'm smiling. I can't help it. Sometimes, I would just watch her, sitting on the couch with reading glasses hanging on her nose and blond brows drawn in concentration. More times than not she would smile or mutter about something she'd read. Sooner or later, those sparkling green eyes would look up at me, and I was lost. She makes me laugh like no one ever has. She has this quirky sense of humor and a wit that leaves you wondering if you should be insulted or amused. The woman could talk rings around me, and she often does. It's like she knows everything from what goes on in the world to the most obscure reference in pop culture. It makes a hayseed like me with my degree in Kineseology proud to have her on my arm. I'm proud of her period.
Sandy has so many sides to her. She can be shy and retiring around people she doesn't know; doesn't care to know; or feels uncomfortable around. During those times, I want to just wrap my arms around her and protect her from the world. Still, she can let her hair down and sink to my level. It makes me laugh to hear her say words like "shit." It sounded all wrong coming from her mouth, but that didn't stop her. She is open and honest with those that she loves like me and her friend Cindy, who she's known since they were teenagers. Cindy used to be my friend too until I made a pass at her, but that's another story. I'm just glad she never told Sandy about it. I'm sure it would kill her. I've asked her why she doesn't have anymore friends. She told me she had all she needed. Her mother died her junior year in high school of a heart attack. Cindy's family took her in, and we're all she has except for some acquantiances at school. Cindy is the one who called me and pulled me away from the redhead. She knew what I was doing. I could hear it in her voice--the contempt. I closed my ears to it until I heard Sandy and car accident in the same breath.
When she's doing something she enjoys, Sandy's face lights up like a kid on Christmas. I do my best to bring her things to garner that look. These are times that I just sit back and watch. When she's angry, she uses all those words she knows to her advantage. I've been called things that I don't even know the meaning of. Then, there is the side that only I get to see. Sometimes, she seems so vulnerable and so small. I can't help but be gentle with her. I get it in my head that she'll break. Other times, she's so confident and sultry that it takes my breath away. Sandy has so many smiles that reflect all her different moods, and her eyes--they just tell it all. She has the body of a goddess, and I worship it often like a true priestess. I love all of these aspects of her. My heart beats for her. Then, why? "Why?!" I scream the question over the static filled music. "Why do I do this to her?!"
no answer just more static and more horns. During our two month long courtship.
I was faithful to her, and I romanced her. I had no idea what I was doing, but
I did it. I never had to do the romance thing. We went to coffee shops, poetry
readings, old Rita Hayworth movies, and book signings. I even bought her flowers,
yellow roses are her favorite, and there were somedays where we just stayed
in and watched TV. TV Land seemed to be always on. She loved it, and I had a
good time simply because she did. I could be myself with her. When I wanted
to be loud and obnoxious I could. I could use foul language. She would give
me a look and roll her eyes, but I could still do it. It was refreshing.
We slept together long before we made love for the first time. I stayed late in her room one night, and it just seemed like the most natural thing to do after that With her in my arms, I feel strong, invincible. She knew about my past, but I convinced us both that it was just that--the past. Sometimes, we would spend what seemed like hours kissing--long, wet, sensual, romantic kisses, and it was enough. I was totally enraptured by her--her lips, her mind, her eyes, her everything. Women called. I ignored them. When we finally made love, it was like coming home. I knew the difference between fucking and making love then. I was her first. She'd had girlfriends in high school, but I had the honor. I've pissed that away.
I pinch the bridge of my nose. The headache is full fledge now, and my mind is scrambled. It feels like a jumble of the past and present. My thoughts are disjointed and all over the place. Sadness encroaches upon me, adding to the panic. My vision is blurry. I know this time it's tears. A sob escapes, and the sound frightens me. It sounds like a pained animal. I try to take a deep breath, but I can't. I can't breath at all. God, it hurts so bad. It's like I'm flying apart and being put back together wrong. My hands wrap around my torso, and I try to cave in on myself. It should be me in the ER. It should be me.
I bring a hand up to wipe my face, but I catch a whiff of the redhead's essence. Another sob rumbles through me as I wipe my hands frantically on my jeans. I can't seem to get clean. Frantically, I search the cab of the truck for something to wash with. My eyes turn to the glove department where I find handi-wipes. I scrub and scrub. It isn't enough because I still smell her. I still feel her wetness on my hands. I scrub until my skin is red and raw. It doesn't help, so I throw the used wipes on the floor and bury my hands in my lap. I can't see them that way. My mind wanders again without my permission, flashing back to the past. For a year, I was good. Sandy was the only one. All it took was one day at the Student Union, a redhead and a sexy smile. I called Sandy, by that time we had our own apartment together, and lied to her for the first time. I did it without so much as a flinch. As far as she knew, I was gonna be out late clubbing with friends. I don't go clubbing.
I opened the door as quietly as possible not wanting to wake her. It was pitch black inside. I tip-toed in, heading for one of the living room lamps to light my way around. I jumped and shrieked in surprise as it clicked on, illuminating our sorry excuse for a living room. Sandy sat there on the puke green couch in nothing more than a t-shirt and panties. Her hair looked as though her hands had tangled in it many times, and her eyes were red rimmed with anger and recent tears. Cherub like features were as hard as stone. I swallowed hard from fear. I knew I had fucked up as soon as I crawled from that woman's bed, and she knew. Somehow, she knew. I could see it, and I was prepared to beg and promise anything. I opened my mouth to do just that, but she beat me to it.
"I called your friends. Funny, but they were at home studying. But, you were no where to be found." Her voice was hard and dripping with sarcasm. "I said to myself. It could mean nothing. Give her the benefit of the doubt. Trust her, but it's almost 4a.m. now. I don't have that benefit anymore. I'm only gonna ask you once." Her eyes closed then opened slowly, reavealing unbearable pain. I looked away. "And please don't lie to me. Where were you?"
My first instinct was to lie. After all, the first lie I told to her had been so easy. I opened my mouth to speak it. "I'm sorry," came out instead.
A heart wrenching sob filled the room. "How could you?! You said you'd changed! I gave you everything. Why isn't it enough?!"
I could do nothing but hang my head. Unconscously, I took a step forward.
"No, don't you dare! Don't think you can just touch me and It'll all be over! You stay right there!"
I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to breath. It hurt because I could see I was losing her. I could feel tears prickle the back of my throat, but they wouldn't help me. The deed was done. I felt broken inside, and the look in her eyes tore me apart even more.
"Look at me!"
My head snapped up, but my eyes went everywhere except on her. Before I could take another breath, Sandy was in front of me. She grasped my head in her hands. I had no choice but to get caught in her gaze. "Look at me! I love you!"
"I love you too," I muttered, and I meant every word.
She shook her head in confusion. Blond strands disrupted and righted themselves. "How can you? You just betrayed us and yourself. How can you?" She looked so disgusted.
Something snapped inside me and the tears spilled unchecked. "Please, I'm so sorry. I don't know why--" I swallowed. It felt like the tears were choking me. "I love you. Please don't leave me." I was dying inside. Her pain was like my own. I tried to pull her to me, and she allowed it for a few seconds before she began to sob in earnest. She moved away.
"You have no idea how much I love you. Do you?" Sandy asked. "Sometimes, it feels like I can't breath--" She threw her hands up unable to finish the sentence. "I-I can't deal with this right now." She glanced at me breifly then ran toward the bedroom.
I lean back against the seat and let the tears fall unchecked. It took months full of promises for us to return to normal. In essence, I courted her all over again. Vowing, that I would not make the same mistake twice. It was a painful journey for us both, ending in tears more often than laughs, but we stood stronger than before. I thought I had found my way until I did it again. I was like some professional thief. I didn't leave a trace this time, but somewhere deep there was this voice telling me to look in her eyes. She knew. Dear God, she knew, and she stayed. I blocked out the sadness in her eyes, but I knew she would never leave me. It sounds so awful to say it now that no matter how much I screwed up, she would be at home waiting for me. She was. I guess those rose colored glasses helped, and I ran with it.
When Cindy uttered "critical condition," my life flashed before my eyes. All the wrongs I had done, hit me with such force that I nearly screamed from the pain. Her tears didn't stop me, and her love didn't hold me. Maybe it took the possibility of her death to change me, and that thought was my undoing. At that moment in time, I knew how lucky I was. I knew I had everything, and the possibilty of losing it shook me to the core. I looked down at the redhead. I can't remember her name, but she disgusted me. I disgusted me. I slapped her hand away when she reached for me. All the women, even this one didn't make me feel even a fraction of what I felt when I touched Sandy. I was illuminated by ephiphany and thrust into darkness at the same time. I can't lose her. I know now--what I mean to her and what she means to me. I know everything. I can't lose her. Heaven's gonna have to wait, and I'll do what I have to do to make this right.
Mercifully, we're moving now, even if it's a slow crawl. I let out an undignified squeak as my phone chirps. I stare at it as it lays in the passenger seat as if it's demon spawn. I can't answer it. I won't. Sandy has to hang on. I'm on my way. I push a shaky hand through my hair, then pull the sweaty Nike t-shirt away from my chest. It's starting to stick.
Long minutes later, I pull into the Emergency room parking lot. I don't waste time. I rush inside, nearly tripping over my own feet. The automatic doors seem so far away even as I run toward them. I still can't breathe, but that doesn't matter. Once I get inside, the cool air and smell of antiseptic assails me as a painful reminder of what's here and what I could lose. I'm crying again. I can't help it. As I wiz pass them, I see people look at me strangely. I must be a sight, but I don't give a damn. I move as fast as my legs will carry me until I see the reception desk. I come to a stand still in front of it, but the older woman behind it is on the phone. As I open my mouth to speak, she holds up a finger to silence me. Anger roars up from somewhere deep. She has no right. No right at all to stand there and laugh like she is. My life is in one of those beds. I slam my fist against the desk, and the sound reverberates making her jump. She scowls at me, but I give as good as I get. "I need some information. Now!" She jumped again but this time she looks frightened.
"Oh. . .I," she sputters. "W-what can I help you with?"
"Sandy James. Where is she?" I continue my menacing glare as she siftss through a clipboard nervously.
"Uh, she's just out of surgery and in ICU. T-that way." She points toward the corridor down the hall. I'm off before she has the chance to speak again. Surgery. It's like a four letter word to me. Surgery means something bad, something awful had to be corrected if it could be corrected at all. My stomach drops and twists and I suddenly feel dizzy. ICU. Intensive care. Oh God. I stop and sway against the wall. My stomach clenches again, and the sour taste of bile coats my throat. Without shame, I throw up right there in the hall. I glance to the side as my stomach continues dry heaves to see an orderly move toward me. I wave him off. This is what I deserve to be sick with worry. How many times has she gone through this?
After a few more false starts and stops I wipe my mouth on the front of my shirt. I continue forward, stepping over the mess I made to go clean up the other one I created. As I push open the doors, I find that I am suddenly surrounded. No doubt they think I'm some crazy woman. I see the blue shirts of security, and they grab me around my elbows. I know that I have to calm myself or I'll never get to her. "No," I say in as even a voice as I can muster. "I'm here to see someone. She was in a car wreck." Just saying the words cause me to sob again. I look the clean shaven man in the eye because the pudgy one looks unsympathetic. They glance at me then at each other.
"Let us help you to the desk then."
Now, I'm standing in front of another desk. This time a younger woman is there, a redhead. She doesn't matter to me. All that matters is she 's not on the phone and can give me some answers. "Sandra James," I croak.
I see pity in her eyes, and my heart splits in two because I don't know if it's for me or for Sandy. "Room 234. That way." She points straight down the hall. Funny, she didn't even ask if I was close family. I nod in thanks at the security guards and attempt to walk away. With a cry, I crash to my knees.
"Maybe we need to take you back to the ER," The clean shaven guard tells me as he lifts me to my feet.
"No, I need to get to her. I have so much. . .to tell her. I have to--"
I hear pudgy sigh as they help me down the hall. We get to the entrance of room 234. I let out a whimper. My legs are still rubbery, but they are holding me now. I have to pull myself together. I need to be strong for once for her, for myself, and for us. So, I shew the guards away, and try to make myself presentable. There's no chance I know. Closing my eyes, I send up one last prayer. Then, I step into the room. Beeps and hisses greet me along with an angry Cindy.
Her blonde curls are in dissary probably because her hands had been through them too many times. All the anger etched in her face is aimed toward me. I deserve it. I welcome it. I watch and wait as she takes two or three steps forward. The force of the slap snaps my head to the side, and it stings like hell. It is a needed pain. She does it again, harder this time. The sound of it echoes through the room. We stare at each other. I hide nothing. I let her see all the misery, the pain, the guilt. Her brown eyes widen, and she covers her mouth with a shaking hand to hide the sob. I am laid bare. I am stripped bare, raw as the day I came into this world, and she sees it and takes another step foward. Cindy bursts into tears and falls into my arms. I join her as I peer at the broken form of my lover.
Sandy's face is swollen and littered with cuts and bruises. Some are hidden by bulky gauze. Her hair, usually the color of sunshine, is matted and bloody on the sides. Tubes are coming from her nose and winding from under the covers. Her left arm is in a hard cast while her right one is hidden behind an ACE bandange. "Oh God," I feel the bile back in my throat, and I squeeze Cindy to me, needing the contact.
She sniffs and looks up at me. "It's. . .it's worse than it looks. There was a lot of internal damage. They had to remove her spleen and appendix. Nica. . ." The tears returned. I know it's something terrible. My heart falls into my stomach.
"What. . .what is it?"
"She has some spinal damage. They, um, tried to repair it. I'm waiting for the doctor now."
"Jesus." My eyes burn, and everything aches. "Has she been awake at all?"
"Yeah, she was asking for you. I didn't want to call you, but I had to. You know?"
I nod. "Yeah, I know." I swallow and clear my throat. "Listen, I--"
Cindy raises a hand to stop me. "No, you don't have to say anything. I saw it in your eyes. I'm just sorry it took all of this for you to realize. If you slip up just once, Nica, I'll kill you."
She means it. If I slip up again, she won't have to. So, there will be no more wondering around. I've hit rock botton. I needed to t see my way to the top again. Sandy is my way. My gaze returns to her. I am determined to make this right. I'll do what I have to. She's the woman I love--the only woman.
I wrap an arm around Cindy as we move toward the bed. The closer we get, the worse Sandy looks. I bite my bottom lip to keep from crying out. I can't began to imagine the pain she's in. I glance at the chair positioned at the side of her bed. Then, my gaze meets Cindy's once more.
She nods. "Talk to her. She needs you. She always needed you."
Without any more hesitation I sit down on the edge of the hard plastic chair. Instinctively, I reach for her bandaged hand. Even her knuckles have bruises on them. I grasp her finger gingerly. I don't want to hurt her. I'm done with that. At last, I'm done.
She moans, and I snatch my hand back. I feel like a bull in a china shop. For the first time, I hear her rattled breathing, and it scares me shitless. After a few seconds, I peer back up at her face and see swollen eyes flutter.
"Ni.. .ca?" Her voice is raspy and thick, but it is the sweetest sound I've ever heard. I whimper with relief. A hand squeezed my shoulder, and I cover it with my own.
"I'm here baby."
Sandy swallows and even that seems to be a chore. "It. . .hurts." I could hear the tears in her voice.
"I know, and I'm gonna make it better, baby. No matter how long it takes."
Her eyes flutter some more as she tries to open them.
"You. . .look like shit." That's my Sandy, always eloquent.
I hear Cindy behind me chuckling. I snicker softly but sober up quickly. "I, um, fell apart a little bit when Cindy called me."
Cindy digs into my collar bone. "No, I fell apart a lot. Something happened to me today, baby. Something for the better." I do nothing to disguise the pain and rawness in my voice.
The bandaged covered arm reaches out to me, and I gladly take it. I'm holding on forever. "I'm. . .tired of hurting. You. . . now this."
The tears are coming freely now. I feel like I'm being baptized in them. "I-I never wanted to hurt you, Sandy. I love you too much for that. I need help, and I need you. I wanna find me, and I wanna keep you." Cindy's other hand descends on my shoulder. I know it's her way of telling me I'm doing good.
Her hand clenches mine. "But. . .look at me. Who's gon. . na take care--"
I don't let her finish. "I am. I'll do what I have to do. We'll get you back on your feet and back into the PhD program before you know it."
"She's right, and I'm going to help," Cindy adds from somewhere behind me.
Sandy swallows. "Gonna be hard to do the getting back on my feet part. . .can't feel my legs." Her voice hitches and her breathing picks up in tempo. She's panicking. "Nica?"
God, I wish there was something I could do. If I could reverse time. I would. I keep remembering that scene in Superman when Lois dies and he reverses the spin of the earth to bring her back. That's a big love. My love is bigger. If I could take her place, I would. She doesn't deserve this. I squeeze her hand. "Cindy said there was some spinal damage. We'll wait and see what the doctor says." I sound so calm, but my body is stiff. I swear my heart has stopped beating, and I heard Cindy gasp. She's just as scared as I am.
"But what if. . " Sandy takes several ragged breaths and the heart monitor blips faster with her accelerated heart beat. "What if I can't?"
"We're not into what ifs, Sandy. It's time for us to concentrate on the tangibles. Please, you have to calm down." My God that felt right. For once, I know the right thing to say. "You can believe that I love you, and I know you're strong. You'll come back from this."
"I love you, and I wanna believe in everything. It's so hard. Don't know if I have it in me to do it anymore." She pauses to catch her breath. "Don't wanna lose you."
With all the conviction I feel, I whisper, "I'm not going anywhere. I have what I wanted sitting in front of me all along."
Her breathing quickens again and tears trickle down her face. "Oh God, it seems like. . .I waited forever to hear you say that."
"I'm gonna prove it this time, Sandy. I'm gonna prove so you'll never forget it." I see the doubt etched on her face, but that's okay one day it's gonna be gone. I shouldn't be here sitting with her now. She should have kicked me to the curb years ago, but here I am still loving her and finally seeing her for the woman she is. I lean forward and bring her hand to my lips for a brief kiss. She looks like she wants to snatch it away, but she doesn't. For that small gift, I am grateful.
Someone clears their throat. I jerk my head toward the sound to see a tired looking young man with a curly mess of dark curls hanging from his head. "Uh, sorry to interrupt, but are you two supposed to be in here? Only family--"
"We are family," Cindy answers.
Reluctant to let go, but knowing I need to. I place Sandy's arm back on the bed before getting up and turning around. "I'm Sandy's partner, and Cindy is her best friend."
He looks at me in confusion. "Partner? Why would--"
I sigh. "Lover."
"Oh. O-okay. I'm Dr. Ross. We won't let a little thing like policy get in our way. I know you're anxious to hear about Ms. James' condition."
"She is too," I add. "She's awake, and in some pain. Can you give her something?"
"Yes, I can. Right away." With brisk strides he moved toward the hospital bed and pushed the button for the nurse. A disembodied voice answered and he ordered some moraphine. "Now, I gave Ms. Anderson the run down in the ER. Here is where we stand. The internal bleeding has been taken care of, but the biggest worry is her spine. There is some swelling, and we need to wait until that goes down to know anything. There may be paralysis. She was unresponsive to pain ealier." The nurse enters and administers a needle to one of the IV's.
"There is from the waist down," I croak.
He looks at me sadly. "It's to be expected. Spinal injuries are tricky. The paralysis may only be temporary, but we have to wait and see. It is a good sign however that the swelling is going down rather quickly."
Sandy whimpers, and I am by her side in a hot second, holding her hand again. I should have always been here. At least the doctor is giving us something to hang onto. Hope. It is a tangble thing. "Hang in there, baby." I whisper.
"We're going to keep her in ICU for a while as a precaution, but she should be okay. Ms. James is a lucky one." The doctor continues.
I glance back down at her, and I know I'm the lucky one. My luck almost ran out today. I won't take that chance again. Losing her would be tantamount to suicide. After a few more minutes, the doctor leaves and Sandy is blissfully asleep. The room is alive again with the beeps, blips and whirs of the machines around her, leaving Cindy and me alone with our thoughts.
She gives me the once over and cringes. "Come on. Let's go get you cleaned up."
I don't want to leave Sandy's side for even a minute, but I want to feel clean again. That's the only way to start fresh, and we have a long road ahead. I glance at Sandy one more time before I follow behind Cindy. I'm glad Heaven didn't need her as much as I do.
I hope you
enjoyed (is that the right word for this story?) this one. Let me know what
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