Waking Up: Into The Light – Part 8
My forehead prickles as a hand lifts the hair away from my face and my eyelids flicker open. Madison’s rosebud lips bloom into a grin, the corners of her eyes crinkling in the morning light. A lock of red curls falls over her face as she kisses my nose.
“Good morning, Sunshine.” She reclines in her chair and replaces the hair behind her ear. Her face relaxes despite the dark circles beneath her eyes.
“Good morning.” I inhale her scent and glance around the room. A suitcase sits in the corner containing clothes too big for me that Madison brought from home. Two trays with food sit on the table and a familiar aroma wafts toward me.
“I snuck in coffee.” She produces a disposable cup of the rich, dark liquid I have been denied for so long. “No more decaf for you.”
I take the cup in my hand and escape into her eyes. This is real. We sip and chat about the upcoming hours before my discharge and then the long drive home.
At a pause in conversation, Madison’s expression darkens. “How much do you remember—” she bites her lip and takes my free hand between hers, teasing my fingers apart— “how you ended up here?”
That pit opens inside me; threatens to consume me as I swallow the tears forming in my eyes. “I remember light reflecting off an object in the road.” I close my eyes and count to four with each inhale and exhale. After a minute I continue. “I don’t remember the crash or how I got here.” Opening my eyes, I meet Madison’s gaze.
“You came to Missouri because Katherine left us a voicemail.” Madison’s jaw tightens and her eyes narrow. “She said your grandmother was dying and wanted to see you.”
A memory flashes as neurons reconnect. An argument with Katherine replays before the echo of a slammed door as I run to my car. My heart pounding, threatening to burst from my chest, I meet Madison’s stare. “My grandmother was already dead.”
Madison’s face drains of color as four denim and sneaker legs and a crowd of balloons stand outside the door. “Knock knock!” The little bird nurse chirps.
“Sophia! Eddie! Come in!” Madison forces a smile while squeezing my hand until one of my knuckles pops.
Sophia and Eddie in plain clothes hold hands as they bring the balloons over to the bed. “We’re glad we caught you! When are the discharge papers coming?”
I look at their hands, then between their faces. “When did that happen?”
Eddie’s face ripens like a tomato while Sophia hops to wrap an arm around him. “We both were your nurses. He asked me questions about you, and I came down to check on you. Then, well, we hit it off.” A smile spreads wide across her face as she glows. “How else do you think he had my number?”
“Yes. That.” Eddie stares at his feet, shifting his weight.
“Thank you. Both of you.” I pause, my cheeks lifting and tightening. “You both have done so much.” Stinging water drips down my cheeks as I glance between them both. “You helped find me. You found my wife,” I sob as my eyes close.
Weight sinks the foot of the bed as Sophia’s voice penetrates my convulsive tears. “You found yourself and you found your wife. We were here to help.” My eyes open to see Eddie and Sophia sitting with soft smiles. “What I don’t understand is why you came to Missouri in the first place!”
I force a laugh and rub the tears away. “Katherine told me my grandmother was dying and wanted to see me. When I got here I found out my grandmother had died. I must have been so upset I got myself into a car accident.”
Sophia and Eddie’s faces blank as they turn to each other. “Have you read the report in your chart?”
My heart drums and Madison asks, “what report?”
“It looked like someone attacked you.” Eddie swallows. “You were an ER drop off with no ID. Then your mom showed up giving the hospital a name that matched up with a name on national record.”
Madison sucks in air through her teeth as I ball my hands into fists and close my eyes. “Madison, did you ever find my car?”
“Yes – but it had been picked up by a chop shop.” She twists her mouth and looks back over at Eddie and Sophia. “Was a police report ever filed on the assault?”
Eddie and Sophia gape at each other then lift their hands. “I don’t know,” Eddie admits. “But, a police report was filed against Katherine for assault when she came here a month ago. Before your discharge a social worker should be talking to you – when that happens, you can ask for the case number.”
Sophia jumps up from the bed and unlocks the table wheels, pushing the breakfast trays closer to the bed. “How about Eddie and I get out of your hair so you and Madison can eat and get ready?”
I sip my now cold coffee, savoring the flavor and caffeine. “Thank you, again. You have Madison’s number. If you’re ever in New England don’t hesitate to give us a call.”
Spilling a little coffee, Sophia wraps her arms around me. “You’re amazing, Dee,” she whispers. “Don’t forget that.” Then she and Eddie depart, waving a final farewell as they walk into the hall.
“It’s been almost a year.” Madison sighs, standing and walking over to the suitcase. “Do you even like any of these clothes anymore?” She unlatches the top and lifts the lid staring at the options.
“You know I do.” My face relaxes as she lifts a black sweater and a long grey skirt from the bag. “See?” After changing, I dare to do a slow twirl as the air lifts the skirt off the floor and an invisible light fills my chest. I am Deidre. Madison catches my arms as my balance wobbles. I stare up into my tigress’s eyes. I am loved and I am safe.
After the last hospital meal in Missouri and changing into my own clothes, Madison and I sit on the bed as the social worker arrives with the blond doctor. “Hello, Deidre; Madison,” He nods. His beard twitches as he talks and I amuse myself with fantasies of it wandering away on its own accord. The social worker carries a thick folder and a briefcase.
I zone out as Madison handles the paperwork and discharge instructions. Outside the window I watch the grey skies of Missouri dapple with shifting light down onto the parking lot and rolling fields below; the birds migrate south for the winter in their aerodynamic formations. My ears prick as Madison addresses the social worker, “we have additional information to provide the police regarding Katherine Williams’s assault on Deidre.” Looking back, I realize the doctor’s absence.
The social worker nods, handing Madison a stack of papers clipped together. “A summary of Deidre’s care and the information provided by the police on the case is included in this packet. The majority of her ICU care was covered by crime victim funds.” She shuffles through her paperwork. “You provided her health insurance information to the billing department. You will probably see bills arrive over the next year — you know how insurance companies are.” The dowdy woman shrugs her shoulders and straightens her mouth, averting her eyes from both of us.
“Okay…” Madison narrows her eyes as the social worker stands.
“You should have everything you need whenever you’re ready. Be sure to let someone at the nurses’ station know when you’re done with the room.” She turns and leaves without a goodbye.
“Were they like that to you the whole time?” Madison lifts her shoulders and leans into me as she whispers.
“Worse,” I laugh.
“No shit.” She leans away and wraps both arms around my shoulders. “Ready to go home?”
“You have no idea.” I shake my head as I look up at the window again.
“You’re not going anywhere with her.” I vomit into my mouth and swallow as we turn to see Katherine standing in the door. “So glad I caught you.” Madison reaches for the call light. “Oh, don’t do that. There’s no one at the nurses’ station right now.”
My heart quickens as I stand, spots appearing. I sway and grab for the table. “Get out.”
“Why? So my son can keep cross-dressing with his insane wife?” She takes a step into the room.
“I said get out!” I shout, my heart pounds in my ears as I step forward.
“Or what?” Katherine tilts her head and purses her lips. “Is Maddie going to play hero again? Rescue you from your mean, old mommy?” Katherine adjusts her grip on something behind her back.
Leaning on the table I shift my foot to unlock the wheels, then charge toward the door, pushing the table into Katherine pushing her to the floor, her scream, and a loud clatter drawing the familiar percussion of running feet. Madison grabs my arm and steadies me, holding the bags with her other arms. I tower over Katherine as she groans from the floor, a tire iron scattered to the opposite side of the hall. Baffled, I stare, then growl, “I am my own hero, Mother. No one, not even you, is going to stand in my way.”
“Come on, Dee.” Madison pulls me away. Unsteadily, I lean on her as we walk toward the red exit signs. “It’s time to go home.” She squeezes my hand as we weave our way through the corridors until we reach the lobby.
“I can’t wait,” I agree as we walk out the sliding hospital doors into the light.
That was a GREAT story! Thanks!