He woke to the crinkle of the paper covered mattress Ann had called home for so long. Three long days she laid in that bed, oblivious to the world. When he looked over, he saw that she was awake! She was trying to sit up, but her movements were jerky and unbalanced.
He jumped up and stood at her bedside, joy filling him completely. She looked up at him, frustration streaking her features, and she rested back into the bed.
“Good morning” he said, love and joy ringing throughout the simple greeting.
“Good morning” she croaked back. Her throat sounded dry, and she barely made out the words.
“What do you need?” he asked.
Instead of answering, she just pointed to the blanket. The blanket Boss had pulled from her overturned apartment and brought to the cabin, and now here to the hospital. He grabbed it and pulled it up for her.
She smiled and rested her arms on it. It was an old quilt made of soft flannels. She turned to him and whispered, “Grandma made it. For me.”
That made sense. It was sentimental. It meant something to her. And it had survived many a moves he suspected. Many things must have been left behind, but the quilt managed to find its way. “Boss thought you might have wanted it. He brought it over for you. I think he’s grown a little soft for you.” He said with a wink. And so have I he thought to himself.
She shook her head, smiling, before something pained her and she winced. He felt so helpless. There was nothing he could do to stop the pain or take it from her.
“What time is it?” she asked meekly.
“1:26am” he replied.
“I feel like I’ve been sleeping for days” she croaked out, her voice growing clearer with each sentence.
She didn’t know. She didn’t realize how long she had been in a coma. “You have” he said, carefully.
Her eyebrows creased as she absorbed that information.
When she looked over at him, pain splayed across her face. “Are you ok?” she asked.
“Just fine.” He noticed she was staring at the gash in his head. The bastard got a wild elbow in on him before he was taken down. So incredibly minor in the big picture of things. “Caught an elbow before I flattened Reginald to the ground” he said, boorishly.
Her arm started in the direction of his face, but she stopped herself and released her arm.
He took her hand in his. She looked so tired. She rested her head back into the pillow and fell asleep.
She hadn’t completely rejected him. That was a good start. She didn’t demand he leave the room. Think positively. He told himself.
He rang for the doctor, to let them know she had made it out of the coma, and they checked her over yet again. This time, instead of being a limp noodle, she would respond to their touches, her eyes fluttering open, retracting her arm on her own, and wincing at the prods. This was good. They removed tubes and left her with just the bare minimum. This was an improvement. This demonstrated the life reentering her veins.
He called Boss and gave him the good news, thanking him for retrieving the blanket.
He waited excitedly for her wake again. He was anxious to hear her voice again. For her to tease him about something inconsequential. For her to challenge him to something new.
It didn’t take too long this time before she returned. When she turned and saw him, that familiar smile creased her face. She agonizingly slowly scooted over and patted the bed for him to join her. That probably wasn’t a good idea. But she convinced him, and he curled up next to her, careful to not bump her, appreciating her gesture more than anything else in his life.
“I missed you” he told her, and she gave him a crooked look.
“I didn’t hear your voice for three full days, sweetheart. I missed hearing your voice. I missed your jokes. I missed your company. I really did miss you” he ended.
She took this all in. He loved how she processed everything before replying, like she really was listening to listen, not just listening to respond.
“Break me out of here” she joked.
“Where should we go?” he asked, playfully. He was about to suggest Hawaii or Florida or somewhere with a beach, but before he got a chance her face fell and she looked sick.
“I’m so sorry” came out of her lips.
“Sorry for what,” he asked curiously.
“Sorry for the bandage on your face. Sorry for lying to you” she said, picking up momento. “Sorry for getting your house destroyed. Sorry for the gasoline staining your gym. Sorry for…”
He cut her off. This was unbearable. “None of that was your fault, except maybe lying to me. The Monster hit my face. The Monster destroyed my house. The Monster soiled my gym equipment. Not you. That’s not on you, lady. That’s on him.” And he meant it. He wished he could get her to understand.
Perhaps being on the run for that long had altered the way she thought, when the only person to converse about these things with is yourself. People can be their own worst enemies, their own biggest critics. She most likely had gotten trapped in that herself. If he had anything to do with it, he was going to help her see the world in a way more kind to herself.
“I only lied to protect you. I didn’t want you in the Monster’s path. I was going to take care of him before he could ruin any other lives. But I failed. And you got hurt,” she said, the pain still entering each word she spoke.
“How were you planning to ‘take care of him?’” he asked, guessing the answer already.
She looked away. “I was going to kill him.”
Her voice was hoarse with emotion again. She continued, “Reason number five hundred and fifty two that you should stay far away from me: I am willing to murder apparently.”
She did pull the trigger, but clearly in self-defense. Not out of some sick, twisted plot to take a life. Luckily for her the gun jammed. Had he not been there to take the bastard down, he would have wanted it to fire. But he was there and the gun didn’t fire. “I see it more as you are willing to take care of yourself. You didn’t rely on anyone else to take care of the situation for you, you were going to defend yourself. He had the gun pointed at you. He could have pulled that trigger on you. But you outsmarted him. You fought for your life, and you won. I am proud of you.”
She shook her head and waved him off, stopping him from convincing her of how strong and incredible she was. “I’m tired.” Was all she said before her eyes immediately drifted back off to sleep.