Ugh. What is that noise?
Dr. Warner to Radiology.
Oh. I’m in the hospital.
Oh no. No no no. They’re going to take him from me. Up until now, we were safe. We had each other. Now I’ll have no one.
Something brushes against my hand. Fingers. I pull away, and my stomach hurts when I move. I gasp, but somehow I manage to pull myself away from whoever is touching me.
“Shh-shh-shh. It’s me, love. It’s okay.”
It’s Lee’s voice. When I hear it, I suddenly snap back, going from fourteen to thirty-three in an instant. He sounds tired and worried. Well, of course he is if I’m in the hospital.
I should let him know I’m okay. I try to open my eyes, but the bright lights hurt too much. I cover them with my hand. I hear the chair scraping against the floor, Lee’s familiar steps on the tiles, and a click and then he’s back.
“I turned down the lights,” he says quietly. I nod and drop my hand, turning to look at him. He looks awful. His normally tender hazel eyes are bloodshot and he looks like he hasn’t slept in days. His dark hair, which is usually shiny and well combed, is all over his face and I don‘t think it‘s been washed. He’s wearing the ratty old t-shirt he wears to bed, the one I’m always teasing him about and threatening to throw away, and the paint-spattered jeans he wore the other day while we were working on the nursery.
I smile at his bedraggled appearance and reach out to touch his lips. He smiles back, takes my hand and holds it tight. I’ve been in this place enough times to know what that means. But maybe it doesn’t. Maybe it’s just another scare and we’ll be okay if we do what the doctor says. Maybe there’s still a flicker of hope, and for me that’s more than enough.
I force myself to sit up, though it hurts like hell to do so. Lee doesn’t move to help me. We’ve been together long enough that he knows that the little things I do by myself are what keep me from breaking down.
“What happened?” I ask, hesitantly. I don’t remember anything in between kissing him good night and waking up here, and that scares me. My memories are terrifying enough, but my imagination always populates the gaps with the worst possible demons. Problem is, the nightmare scenarios usually come pretty close to the truth.
Lee frowns, and that sends a bolt of fear racing down my spine. I try to hide it, but I doubt I do it very well. He moves the chair closer to the bed and cups my cheek with one hand, holding my left and running his thumb over and over my wedding ring with the other.
“I woke up and there was blood all over the bed,” he says softly. “You were so pale. I tried waking you up, but….”
Tears spring to my eyes, but I shake my head and force them away. I’ve bled before. It could be nothing. But if there was so much blood that I couldn‘t wake up-no. I can’t think like that. Not yet.
Trying to keep myself from panicking, I look him in the eye and ask the question I truly don’t want answered.
He looks down and shakes his head.
“It was an abruption. They had to get her out to stop the bleeding. By then, she was already….”
I bite my lip and nod. Lee’s crying. He’s probably been crying for hours. I won’t cry, not quite yet. I close my eyes. I start shredding my dreams of Nessa. Holding her. Hearing her call me Mama. Watching her take her first steps. I surrender her, as I surrendered another little life so many years before, and then I break down, letting Lee hold me while I cry, so long and hard that I make myself sick, and then fall asleep.
“Why do I do this to myself?” I moan as we stop in front of the nursery.
Ken sighs and walks up behind me, putting an arm around my shoulders. “Because if you didn’t upset yourself, I’d have nothing to do.”
I smile weakly and press my hand against the Plexiglass window, staring in at the little pink and blue bundles.
“Nessa should be in there,” I whisper.
“Princess.…” Ken wraps his arm around me, drawing me in as, without even realizing I’m doing it, I start crying as I cling to him and burying my fingers in his luminescent blonde hair.
“It hurts so much,” I sob. “I thought it would be easier this time, since God took her before they could, but it’s so much worse.”
What am I thinking? Well, that’s simple. I’m not. My brain has been eaten by grief, so the levies are down and I’m gushing before I can think about what I’m saying.
“At least he got to live his life. Have I been that terrible? Have I sinned so much that Nessa didn’t deserve the same chance?”
Right after I finish, I realize what I‘ve said, but by then it’s too late. I feel Ken pull back, and then he puts a hand under my chin, lifting my head so I’m forced to look into those strange green eyes of his, which are now filled with concern.
“Who are you talking about, Mand?”
Normally I’d come up with a wonderful convincing lie, or at least something that would get Ken to leave me alone. But that takes way more energy than I have. So I pull away and turn to face the window, gazing at one of the blue bundles as I speak.
“My son,” I say, quietly, hoping Ken won’t hear. It just feels so good to said out loud after so long.