I woke in a low lit hospital room with you by my side. It was late night or perhaps very early morning. The city lights were twinkling outside the room’s one window but it was very quiet. An IV was pumping fluids in my veins and a blood pressure cuff was filling, monitoring me and then deflating periodically on my upper arm. I was stitched and bandaged but in a lot of pain.
You were sleeping lightly in a chair pulled close to my bed, your head on your arm, your arm on the railing of my bed. Snoring softly. Exhausted.
My mouth felt very dry. My throat like ice climbers had hacked their way through. My lips like I played spin the bottle with a cheese grater. A total and complete mess from my shoulders up. With the exception of some blue/black bruising on my wrists and probably some major bruising on my neck, the rest of me was unscathed.
A nurse flittered in to the room and checked the fluid level in my IV bag.
“Oh, you’re awake!” she announced.
I put my pointer finger to my lip quickly to shush her. I nodded to your sleepy self and she smiled.
“He came in around midnight.” she whispered before she went back to her tasks.
“He shouldn’t have.” I croaked. My voice weak and unconvincing.
The nurse gave me a quizzical look then asked “Is it ok he’s here? Police cleared him but if you want him out…”
“No. I just mean … he has better places to be.”
She stopped what she was doing and turned to me before saying “Honey, I don’t want to get in your business anymore than I already am but I don’t think there’s anywhere in this entire world he’d rather be than by your side right this very moment.”
“He should be on tour.”
“I doubt that matters to him much right now.” she said as she fiddled with the monitors and checked all my tubing.
“He’s real worried about you.”
“He was on the phone when …”
“I know honey, I know. You don’t have to talk about that. Get some rest, ok? How’s your pain?”
“Let me see what they’ll let me give you ok? Maybe some Tylenol?”
“Something stronger than that?”
“Doubt it. But I’ll check.” She floated out of the room and I thought to myself: That’s odd. Why can’t I have one of those pain killers that would numb me for days? Perco-whatever or Vico-din-din-din? All things considered, aren’t I the type of patient that shit was invented for??
While I waited for the nurse to return with something/anything to numb my pain, I watched you sleep. My hand with the IV was closest to you but I ran it through your hair anyway. I wanted to touch you. Feel some part of you to remind me that I’m here and alive and that my life does have some good in it. You are still in it. No matter how bad that is for you, in this moment, your presence is everything I need. Everything I have. The only thing I want. My hand wasn’t as soft in your hair as I thought and I accidentally woke you.
Your face lit up when you saw that I was awake too. Then a heaviness filled the space around your eyes. Your veins were high on your skin. You looked stressed-the-fuck out.
“Beth.” you sighed and I started to cry at the sound of your voice.
“Don’t cry !” You stood up and came in quickly to hold me but stopped yourself before you got too close. I was like a China doll, delicate and on a high shelf. It was awkward for the both of us. So used to wanton access to every inch of the other. I wanted to be in your arms but you were afraid to break me. The space between us was too wide. It made me cry more. You shifted my blankets so you could sit on the bed and took my unencumbered hand in yours. “It’s going to be OK” you reassured me. “You’re going to be just fine.”
We sat together but were miles apart inside. My tears fell but my lungs no longer cried out. You tried to find unbruised skin to touch but you were limited so you mainly held my hand. Even wiping away my tears worried you. We both were broken. Pathetic versions of our former selves. Vulnerable. Weak.
“As soon as they sign your release papers, I’m flying you home to LA.” You declared after a lifetime of silence. Your tone didn’t leave much room for debate but I wasn’t about to let you do that. Though I was flattered by the notion, there was no way would I allow you to take on my burdens as yours. Not for a single second.
I shook my head no and whispered, my voice hoarse and constricted, “This isn’t your problem to fix Jared.”
“Don’t move your neck!” you warned “Jesus Christ!”
I put a hand up to my neck and felt the brace there. Wow. Damien Joseph really did a number on me this time. He fucked me up good.
“Jared” I said as I put both of my hands on top of yours “that’s very kind of you to offer but I’m not going anywhere. This is where I live.”
“He’s going to kill you if you stay.”
“He’ll find me wherever I go.” I advised.
“He might figure out where you’ve gone but he will never ever be able to get near you again.”
I sighed. It is going to be hard to convince you to walk away.
We returned to relative silence. The only sound coming from my monitors and the nurses movement in the hall. You were angry with me. For the right reasons but angry just the same. Once again I was at a loss for words. How do you explain to someone you love that you love them too much to let them stay?
* * *
“Jared?” I asked you as you tapped away on your telephone.
You looked up at me and let your eyes answer my call. They were moist.
“Is there something else I should know about what happened…” I stuttered. Not knowing the full details of what happened to me after I blacked out, while knowing you likely witnessed every minute, was eating at me. I had to ask, though I wasn’t sure I was ready for the answer: “Did … Did …” I looked at my feet “Did Damien rape me?”
I collapsed in to a pool of reverence. Thankful to God for the littlest of mercies.
You leaned back on an elbow on the edge of my bed. “The cops said something or someone must have scared him off.”
“So he got away?”
“There’s a warrant out for him.” You said as you sat up straight.
“But he got away?”
You nodded simply. Then added “There’s an officer stationed outside your room right now. No one is allowed in or out but me and Nurse Katie.”
I looked out the hospital room window. A warrant for his arrest might as well be a warrant for my death. He’d be after me for the kill now. No doubt about that. An officer outside doesn’t matter. He’ll wait until complacency sets back in and get me then. He has the patience of a psychopath. Time isn’t a deterrent. Los Angeles or Mayberry. I’m not safe anywhere.
And if I’m not safe, Jared, that meant you weren’t either.
“I’m sorry I brought you in to this mess Jared.” I began “I don’t want you to feel like you have to be here or anything. I’m ok. Really. You should go back to the band and get back on your tour.”
“Stop acting like I care because I’m obligated to rather than I actually do! It’s an insult.”
“Stop fucking apologizing!” you groaned. “Jesus! You’re too much. Look at you! I never should have let you meet up with him alone. I knew this guy was bad news but I left anyway! What kind of man leaves his girl to deal with a lunatic all alone?” You rubbed your temples and revealed a pained and guilty face.
“This is not what I want!” I cried “You have nothing to feel guilty for! I told you to leave. Damien Joseph is the bad guy, not you!”
“I should have been with you.”
I crawled down to the end of my bed where you were “You don’t belong inside this nightmare Jared.”
“Neither do you!”
“Please go home Jared. This isn’t meant for you! You’re so much better than this!”
I was so angry in that moment. Not for what had been done to me; this type of violence and Damien Joseph are, unfortunately, part of the fabric of my life; but for what he had done to you. He made you second guess yourself. Feel helpless. It was so misdirected and unacceptable to me. You were the good in my life and here you were at my bedside feeling bad.
“I can’t just unsee what I saw.” You stood up and paced the small hospital room.
“I’m fine.” I said and I tried to sit up. Pain shot through my entire body but I stuffed it down. “Don’t you have a show tonight?”
“Are you kidding me?”
“I told you I’m fine Jared. Don’t let him control you too! Please? You have to go. Go back on tour. I’m fine. Trust me.”
My words got under your skin like splinters. I saw them reflected in your eyes. Daggers or poison darts. Bleeding you all the same.
“Go home.” I requested again.
You were quiet for a few minutes. Watching the twinkling city lights fade as the sun rose.
“You’re pregnant for fuck sake.” You said without turning away from the window.
“Preg…?” I couldn’t finish saying the word. I just put a hand to my womb and started to cry. My soul swelled as my heart crashed. What a mind-fuck. An explosion of tears funneled out of me. Inaccessible breaths. Snot and all.
You sighed as you came back over to me “They told me last night.”
“They’re wrong.” I threw my legs over the side of my hospital bed, pain in my back quelled by the new pain in my heart “I can’t have kids Jared.” I reminded him as I stood up and untwisted my IV from the bed railing. “I told you that.”
“Apparently you can.” You reached over to the table where a cup and a pitcher of water were sitting and grabbed a paper with your scribbling on it. “See these numbers?” you said as you handed me the paper “They’re your HCG levels and according to those numbers you’re about ten or eleven weeks my dear.”
“I can’t be.” I looked at the paper then back at you then back at the paper and round and round.
I began to feel very defensive as the possibility of me actually being pregnant started to sink in. “I didn’t do it on purpose! I was told it was impossible for me to get pregnant. I swear! I’m so sorry.”
“STOP! Stop. Stop!” you urged as you walked over to me and directed me back in to the bed. “I know you were telling me the truth. Stop. The doctors explained it. It’s ok. Stop talking. I’m not mad. I’m not.”
Dumbfounded. No, the mess between my ears was way beyond that. Confounded. You absentmindedly rubbed my leg while lost in your own thoughts. I ran away in to mine. Memories I’d give my life to forget filled my head. Then gratitude. An unmistakable stream of gratitude trickled in to my consciousness slowly. Here I was on the worst day of my life hearing the best news of my life. And there you were, by my side, exactly where … maybe someday … I’d come to believe, you belonged.
* * *
“Ten or eleven weeks?” I asked you.
“Are they sure those were my test results?” I joked.
“They did an ultra-sound in Emergency.” You smoothed my hair and looked deep in to my eyes. “I already met the little alien. Strong heart. Tough kid.”
“I did the math.” you teased “Sorry to tell ya, but it’s mine.”
Incredulous. “We’re having a baby?” I asked again.
“We’re having a baby.” You affirmed. You leaned in and kissed me very softly. “Now you see why we have to get you to L.A.?”
I acquiesced with a sigh … finally.
“Los Angeles or bust!”