Thursday, May 19, 2011

Journey - Hospital pt 2.

    DJ watched as a form of controlled chaos broke out and orders were given. Both of Meg’s brother’s were in the midst of it. He couldn’t blame them. If the roles were reversed, he’d be in the mix. There would be no stopping him. Instead, he swallowed the jealousy that he had to stay out of the fight.

    “For the record? I really don’t want to like you.”

    Looking down, DJ met the dark brown eyes of Brandon Carroll. Almond shaped and nearly the same color, Brandon stood a good six feet tall. DJ still seemed to tower over him.

    “I'm sure there’s something about me you could not like. My ex-wife could give you a list.”

    Brandon chuckled, “In the small world of life, I’ve actually met your ex-wife. Being on her bad side only raises you up in my estimation. Like I said, I don’t want to like you.”

    Narrowing his eyes, DJ considered the reporter, “Navy man?”

    The smile flashed quickly across his face and was gone, “Civilian all the way. I don’t want to like you because you’ve got something I want. You’ve got Meg.”

    Lifting an eyebrow, DJ wanted to know, “And you’re telling me this because?”

    “I thought you’d like to know. I know she’s in trouble and if she doesn’t make it then ... Well. I tried to convince her over the past few years. She refused time and again.”

    “This is as difficult for you as it is for ..." he nearly said, ‘us’ and chose, instead: “everyone else.”

    “To say the least.” Brandon combed his fingers through his hair, “It nearly killed me to have stand on the sidewalk and give my report, knowing they were doing what they could to revive her on the way to the hospital.”

    “It nearly killed me watching the report.”

    Taking a shaky breath, Brandon turned slightly, “What I really want to do is resent you for making her wait all this time but I can’t. At least not today. If she dies, though, you’re straight to the top of my hated list.”

    “I’ll write my name on the list personally.”

    “No! Stop being so affable.  I don’t want to like you!”

    “You’d rather I knock you around for chasing after my girl?”

    “It would make for good copy.” Brandon seemed to consider before finally giving his head a shake in the negative. “No, never mind. I like having my own teeth. You know, I tried to find something bad about you. I honest to God tried. Meg never said a bad thing about you. I don’t know what was worse, her defending you or not defending you. She walked away from me more often than not. I thought she was delusional. I mean, look at me! I was available and interested and you -- weren’t.” 

     With a huff, he continued, “One night I made the mistake of pushing too hard and she threatened me with a bat. It was a matter of self-preservation but I finally got the message. She was off-limits. Thought you’d want to know that she stuck by you.” He paused, eyes scanning the room and gauging the emotions, “I’ve worked this city’s crime beat for more years than I should probably admit. I’ve talked to and dealt with a bunch of people in the police department. Some of them, I half expect to be part of an FBI investigation one day. Then there are the ones that I want on my side in a fight. Meg Addison is a solid cop and a great person. I admire both of those parts of her. I think, on some level, I resent you. To my way of thinking you didn’t appreciate either facet of her.  I rather hoped you’d be some panty-waist with brass on your shoulders and not the soldier she claimed you were. I hate being wrong.”

    DJ’s lips quirked but he swallowed the grin. He liked the reporter. “Tell you what, how about I hold off pounding you into the street until you report on what goes down tonight. I’d hate for you to bleed on camera.”

    “That’s neighborly of you.” Brandon held out his hand and looked DJ in the eye, “One day, I’ll be happy that I was wrong. Maybe you could name your first child after me?”


    “Didn’t think so.”


    Slowly, the lecture hall cleared out. DJ felt the excitement in the air. It was a familiar feeling. A dozen or so officers and family members continued to move around the room. Needing to walk off the sudden feeling of inactivity and restlessness, DJ went in search of a vending machine or maybe the caffeteria where he could buy a soda. Food, he considered, was optinal. He hadn’t made it very far before he heard his name and was almost instantly wrapped in his mother’s hug.

    Kissing the top of her head and holding her close, DJ raised an eyebrow at his father.

    “We didn’t know about the lecture hall. We went up to the ICU. Which was probably good. Charlotte needed someone to talk to.”

    “Charlotte took me back to see Meg. It just makes me cry.” Charlotte looked up into her son’s face, “Then I get selfish and sort of glad that I never had to fly overseas to sit by your bedside. I'm not sure I could have handled it.”

    And that, DJ thought, was why you never heard the worst of it. Instead of voicing his thoughts, he asked, “Any word on Meg?”

    “She’s stabilizing but it’s still too early. Oh!” Charlotte patted him on the chest, “She’s breathing on her own. I might not know much of what she’s battling but I know that is a good sign.”

    “That is a good sign.” DJ hugged her shoulders, “Listen, I'm not sure what to do with myself but I don’t want to leave. I don’t want you to feel like you have to stick around just because of me.”

    “I would do whatever I pleased, Darcy James." Charlotte exchanged looks with her husband, “I’m giving you my cell phone, though, just in case. Norma asked me to check on her girls as she calls them, because Matthew and Michael going out on assignment. I can’t do much but maybe I could cook.”

    Kissing her on the forehead, Darcy released her to embrace his father for just a moment and then they were gone. He found the cafeteria and returned with a soda in a foam cup. Since there wasn’t much to do, he rested his forehead in his hands and dozed.

    Uncle Mark only had to tap him on the shoulder to have DJ straighten to complete alertness. The older man offered a grin, "That is a unique talent, son.”

    “Saved my life more than once. Meg?”

    “Still shaky. Why don’t you come up with me? I need to get Norma out of here at least for a little while.”

    “I’ll stay. I want to stay.” He hadn’t been asleep for longer than twenty minutes but it had helped take the edge off.

    Nodding, Uncle Mark motioned with his hand. When they were in the elevator, the rode up alone and in silence. Mark ventured his question, “Meg didn’t know you were coming home, did she?”

    “No.” DJ didn’t take his eyes off the lights over the door as they flickered the floor number.

    When the doors opened, Mark led the way from the elevator to the double doors leading into the ICU. He pushed a button on the wall and explained, “After 9 PM these lock and you have to use the phone there to get permission from the nurse’s station.”

    The nurse’s station was actually two semi curved counters. The sections were halved down the middle, creating an island among the windows and doors of the observation rooms.  All the electrical came down through the wall and up through the floor. Eyes glanced up, took notice of who was came in and then turned back their work.

    Meg was being kept in the middle. DJ mentally prepared to see her as he had when he’d gone to visit combat buddies. The moment he stepped through the door, he knew there was a difference. He hadn’t loved his friends as he loved Meg. It stunned him. All the way down to his toes, it stunned him to see her in the hospital bed hooked up to IV drips, a heart monitor. He knew what each one was but after a sweep with his eyes, he focused on Meg’s face. Gritting his teeth until his jaw ached DJ moved to the bed side.
    The oxygen tubes blowing air into Meg’s nose didn’t detract from her face, she was still beautiful to him. DJ wasn’t so blind to see that she was ghastly pale. Her shoulders were bare above the blanket that had been tucked under her arms. The shoulder dressing was clearly visible and served as a remind of the other things the blanket kept hidden.

    He didn’t look away when Norma wrapped her arm around his waist. She fit in his arm exactly as his mother did, with her head in the crook of his shoulder.

    “She’s going to make it through this,” Norma murmured. “I refuse to think otherwise.”

    DJ kissed the top of her head, “Your son was right. You’re going to ‘out strong’ us all.”

    “I’ve had a lot of practice. The nurse moved out of the room just a few minutes ago. You’ll have time while Mark makes me pretend to eat, tell her you’re here.”

    Norma hugged him tightly and quickly before leaving with her husband. With his back to the window, DJ blocked off the other world and stood over the bed. The head was raised just enough to make Meg comfortable but not enough to hurt her stomach. Carefully, DJ slid his fingers under hers and ran his thumb over her knuckles. So limp.

    With a gentle finger, he brushed a hair from the corner of her eye, “I remember being drugged up and people talking to me. I swear I was listening to them in color and not words. It wasn’t until my buddies reminded me of what they said that I understood. So I don’t know how much of what I'm saying to you is sinking in but I gotta ask that you don’t go too far away, okay? I don't know what I’ll do if you decide it’s time to give up. So maybe if you got angry at me? Mad that it’s taken me forever to get to this place. A place where, right now, it feels like my life hangs in the balance as much as yours does. I’ll even take a few hits with a bat if that’ll help ... three might be my limit.” Stooping down, he kissed her forehead and whispered, “Don’t leave me, Meg.  You’re the only person in the world who doesn’t make my name sound like an insult. I should have known right from the start that you were mine. I guess you were right, you got the brains. I’ll even let you rub it in ... some more.” Mindful of the oxygen tubing taped to her cheek, DJ kissed her skin. Touching his forehead to hers, he whispered in Meg's ear, “I love you.”

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