Saturday, May 21, 2011

Journey - Waking

    After a short nap and a long shower, DJ decided to tend to Meg’s cat. Getting the chore out of the way early in the day seemed the best idea. Running his mental to-do list through his head, DJ slid the key into the door of Meg’s third floor apartment. DJ’s first meeting with Cinnamon nearly stopped his heart. Whether it was lack of food, loneliness or an uncanny knowledge that DJ was unaware, Cinnamon heard the key in the door and hunkered down. His vantage point behind a large pot used to hold a collection of baseball bats, an umbrella and an odd walking stick would be unfamiliar to DJ.

    When DJ stepped inside and closed the door behind him, Cinnamon lunged, swiping at a denim clad ankle. With an oath DJ jumped, his back slammed against the door, clattering it shut. Instinctively he reached for a sidearm that wasn’t there anymore.

    By the time he got his heart reseated in his chest, Cinnamon had easily perched himself on the coffee table, regally staring at the intruder. His cinnamon colored fur was streaked with cream. Golden eyes stared unblinking. If he was bothered by the intruder it didn’t show. Just the opposite seemed to be true. Cinnamon’s cream colored chest seemed to puff out.

    It was the first time DJ had come face to face with the Maine Coon breed and he wasn’t at all certain the beast was truly a cat. To his eyes it looked very much like a smaller version of a mountain lion. DJ understood the male ego, though.

    “I'm bigger.”

    The cat watched him approach, amber eyes unblinking.

    “Cinnamon is probably too tame a name for you,” DJ told him.

    An ear flickered.

    “Maybe Paprika? Chili powder?” Chuckling DJ moved into the kitchen to find cat food, “I guess I'm supposed to feed you.” He found the empty bowls on the floor. Water was refilled and replaced. DJ watched the cat sit on his haunches in the middle of the tiled floor. After finding a bag of dry cat food under the sink, DJ refilled that bowl, too. “There. Can we be friends now?”

    Cinnamon swished his bushy tail.

    “Silent type, are you?”

    Turning his attention away from the cat, DJ surveyed the kitchen. It looked much like an apartment kitchen might look. It was practically square and completely utilitarian. The only flashes of color came from Meg’s dishes. She’d stacked blue and yellow dishes in her sink.

    The cat followed him as DJ wandered the apartment. Two bedrooms and two baths. To free up space, she had a small television screen mounted on the wall. She’d then surrounded it with pictures of her family. DJ recognized the center most place of honor in the grouping and felt a sentimental tug at the realization the picture was of her father. Attired in the dress uniform at the time, he smiled for the camera. His hair was the same color as Meg’s. Some hue between brown and red.

    His own picture was among the grouping. There were few pictures of Meg, which made sense. DJ wouldn’t want to decorate with pictures of himself, either. He shifted through the small rooms. The spare bedroom held a computer on a desk covered with stacks of ... stuff. Papers, books, a coffee cup. DJ was certain it made sense to Meg. On the top shelf was another picture of himself. Taken in Afghanistan, DJ recognized the building behind him. He’d been hot and covered in grit, if DJ recalled correctly. Sunglasses perched on top of his head glinted in the sunlight. He’d received a commendation and had been willing to smile for the camera. He’d sent the picture to his mother as a ‘proof of life’ gesture. Apparently, his mother had shared. A bookshelf held too many books for the shelf and there was no order of stacking. Softball trophies stood in rank on the very top. Various ribbons hung from the bats and around the necks of the little gold ball players. He’d missed those days, DJ realized. Swallowing the surge of emotions and the second-guessing, DJ moved to the bedroom. He ignored the cat sitting in the small hallway. He gave a glance into the bathroom and found the rubber ducky shower curtain to be amusing. Not as amusing as the collection pf actual rubber duckies lined up at the top of the shower wall.

    It was obvious that Meg preferred bright accent colors, particularly sapphire blue. Her bed looked like she had jumped out of it in a hurry. The comforter was a lump in the middle of the bed. The sheets revealed under the bed spread were the same sapphire blue DJ had seen scattered around the apartment. Clothes lay discarded on the floor by the closet door. His cop was not perfectly neat and the revelation brought a grin to his face.  When a picture caught his eye, DJ moved to the bed side table and picked it up.

    He remembered the summer the picture had been taken. He’d been home from Fort Benning. His mother and Mrs. Addison had worked hard to put together a picnic for his friends to gather. If DJ remembered correctly, Jessica had been too busy with beginning wedding plans to attend. Or was it an engagement party? He didn’t remember the exact reason for her absence but he remembered that the picnic had been fun. He spent a considerable amount of time that afternoon talking to Meg and playing flag football with friends. It had been a good day. His father had been behind the camera, DJ remembered. They’d leaned together to smile for him.

    “My kids are growing up.” Paul had declared.

    Lowering himself to the edge of the bed, DJ sighed heavily. 

    Launching himself gracefully on the bed, the cat peered at him from the corner of the mattress. DJ showed him the picture,  “I think this is the first time I’ve seen this picture.”

    Cinnamon flicked an ear stood and stretched. He walked over the rumpled bed spread and nudged DJ’s arm with his head.

    “You’re not the only one who’s going to be in trouble if she doesn’t pull through.” DJ gave the cat a strong stroke with his fingers. When Cinnamon didn’t bite or hiss, DJ tried again. Cinnamon dropped down on his side and purred loudly.

    Not trusting the cat for even a heartbeat, DJ gave him one more stroke and scratch around his ear and stood to his feet. Replacing the picture, he left the cat to the bed. “I’ll do the dishes. You can listen to me pout. In a manly fashion, of course.”

    Cinnamon blinked before following him.

    Norma sat with her daughter as she had since the shooting. It was an accidental scheduling. She took the day time, Mark took the early mornings and because he’d yet to acclimate to the time difference, DJ took the night. Each day, she’d brought something to work on. The first day she’d been too nervous to do much but read and pray. The second day she’d written a letter and worked on embroidery. Today she was humming over her crocheting. Mark liked to watch television while he was with Meg. He’d keep a running dialogue over the sports channel just as they did when Meg was awake.  Arriving just a few minutes earlier than they’d scheduled, Norma sent Mark home to spend time with the grand children while their sons slept and worked. The girls went shopping to buy food and, at Norma’s request,  a hospital kit for Meg. Norma refused to believe that anything else but health would come to her daughter.

    It was the first thing she told Meg when she planted herself in the room’s only chair, “When you’re feeling up to it, there’s an entire list of people who want to see you. All the doctor wants is for you to open your eyes so they can move you to a room.” With only health in her thoughts, it was only fitting that something be prepared for Meg when she was up and around. Shampoo and soap, an easy fitting robe and something easy to put on and wear once the hospital discharged her.

    Instead of pointing out that they could find each of the items on her list at Meg’s apartment, Sara and Trish shopped. Norma knew the distraction would do both her girls good. She remembered all too well what it was like. Having a close loved one face the hazards of the job tended to make spouses of cops feel the edges of mortality. Norma was pleased with her decision to have them shop. As her crochet hook and yarn continued to flow into a pattern, Norma plotted over what she could give them to do next.

    Lost in thought and counting stitches, Norma didn’t see the form on the bed move. Instead, she heard the squeak from the pillows and looked up to find her daughter frowning at her. Swallowing the surprise, Norma smiled slowly, “Good morning.”

    Meg grunted and reached her hand up to pull on the oxygen tubing. Quickly rising to her feet, Norma dropped her project into the chair. She caught Meg’s fingers with one hand and pushed the ‘call nurse’ button with the other.

    Narrowed green eyes peered at her and Norma smiled brightly, “You can snap at me all you want.”

    “Itches,” Meg whispered and reached for the tubing with her other hand at the same time the nurse walked through the door.
    Sweeping the monitors with a well-practiced eye, the nurse moved to stand at the bed side, “Hello, Detective Addison. It’s so nice to see you awake. We were going to put in a feeding tube today. Looks like I’ll be able to cancel that.”

    Eyes narrowing again, Meg glared at the nurse. The nurse was completely unaffected by the scowl, “I’ll page Doctor Montgomery right away. He’ll want to look at you. How long as she been awake?”

    Meg waited a moment while both women became engaged in conversation over her and about her. With one motion, she pulled the oxygen tubes from her nose. The tape snapped away from her cheeks. Meg drew the blanket up over her face and rubbed as vigorously as she could. Her arms felt clumsy and her hands felt thick.

    The nurse grinned slightly, “Well, I guess I can see what sort of patient you’re going to be. I’ll send the aide for some water.” She leaned on the bed rail and looked at Meg, studying her eyes, “You’ll need to take it easy on your stomach.”

    Meg rolled her head to look at her mother, "Day?”

    “Saturday.” Norma touched Meg's hair, “Do you remember what happened?”

    “Got shot.” Meg lifted her hand and looked at the IV taped to the back of her hand. One of the ports was empty the other was hooked to a bag hanging over her head. Lifting her hand pulled the tape on her elbow. Meg frowned at the IV and followed the loop to another bag hanging with the first.

    “Yes, you did.” Norma had watched the news report. “You were on television.”

    “Spiro?”  Meg wanted to know.

    “He got hit in the elbow. He says he’s going to have to quit playing tennis now.”

    He never played. With just the hint of a smile Meg looked in her mother’s face, “Michael?”

    “Flesh wound. Through and through, he called it.”

    Inhaling deeply, Meg nodded once, “Good.” Eyes burning, Meg closed them and tested her body. She moved her feet and wiggled her toes. She couldn’t lift her right arm very high and her mother put a restraining hand on her elbow, “Easy, baby girl. Don’t pull anything loose.”

    The aide came in with water and a smile. Meg took a few small sips before her mother pulled the cup away, earning a scowl.

    “You’re missing part of your stomach. You’ve got to take it easy.” Norma smiled at the frown on her daughter’s face.

    Doctor Montgomery was newly forty and had decided that he needed to have a mid-life crisis, just to see what it was all about. The result showed in his wardrobe and highlighted hair. Norma squeezed her daughter’s arm before stepping out of the room to let the doctor talk to Meg.

    Moving to the waiting room, she called her husband, “Meg woke up. She’s in a horrible mood but our girl woke up.”


© 2011 Amelia Antwiler/ComfyDenim


Mother Mayhem said...

HOORAY! Phew...

A&EMom said...

It's a fantastic story! And you're KILLING me with the every day or so installments!!!

Amelia Antwiler said...

I'm so very very glad you're enjoying it -- I have to post slowly. I'm still working out the ending.