When I wake the next morning, Eddie's still sitting next to my bed, still holding my hand, as if even when I was asleep, he wanted to reassure me of his presence. He's snoring lightly, slumped back into the chair with his head resting against one shoulder at an angle I know he'll soon regret.
My left hand and my ribs ache, but I don't have the heart to release his hand and find the morphine button on my IV. It's a dull pain; one I can endure until Eddie wakes up.
His jaw's clenched, the muscles of his face taut, as if even in sleep he can find no rest. The flesh around his eyes is puffy and almost bruised by dark circles.
How long has it been since he's slept a full night? Every time I've woken up, he's been there, ready with soothing hands and comforting words. I have him, Liz, family, friends, doctors, and nurses all doing what's best for me, but is anyone doing anything for Eddie?
He's suffering. Yesterday, when I asked him how I got hurt, he could hardly force out the words, and then when Alice came... I have to call her. How could she be so purposefully cruel? In my whole life, I've never known her to do something like that. And Eddie. When she blamed him, practically yelling accusations, I saw it in his face, his eyes... He broke. It wrenched my heart, the pain expressed in every movement as he turned and left.
Even then, even when it would've been so much easier to just leave me here, he came back. He sat down, smiled at me with reddened eyes, and held my hand until I fell asleep. How can I ever deserve someone so wonderful?
The door whooshes open, breaking the silence, and a cheerful voice calls, "Good morning, Jane. And how are we feeling today?"
I pucker my lips trying to shush the nurse, but it's too late. His snoring's stopped. A moment later, he lets out a groan and reaches a hand up to rub at his probably very stiff neck.
The nurse, a new one with long red hair braided down her back and a smile so saccharine, I'm sure I'll develop cavities before the end of the day, ignores my hateful glare and begins studying my chart.
Eddie's still massaging his neck with one hand, but he's looking at me now, his features even more haggard than when he slept.
"Hey. How're you doing?"
I nod to him and answer, "Better," with a gravelly voice.
"You need anything? Some water?"
"Water will be fine," the nurse interrupts in a chirpy voice. "It'll help with our walk later."
"Walk?" I ground out.
"Yes, Dr. Roberts has cleared you to go ambulatory. Of course, before you can do that, we have to remove your catheter," she says, reaching down and flinging the covers back so that only my feet are covered.
"Hey!" I yell. Ok, so my throat's sore, and I can't really take a full breath without pain, but that made me mad. I'm lying here, probably looking the worst I have in my life, and she whips off my blankets right in front of Eddie. I'm spread out so flat that I can't even tell if this joke of a hospital gown is pulled down far enough to keep Eddie from seeing everything God gave me.
"What are you doing?" Eddie demands of Nurse Nicey-Nice while I'm using my good hand to feel around for the bottom hem of my gown and see if I can't pull it down further.
"It's ok," she answers Eddie and then turns to me. "It's ok, sweetie. There's a 'do not disturb' on the door, and it's not like he's never..." She shrugs. "...seen you before. Now if you'll just move your hand..."
"No." That's just the point. He never has seen me completely naked, and I really don't want this to be his introduction.
"Hon, if I don't take it out, walking's gonna be pretty uncomfortable," then her voice, although still friendly, turns firm, "and the doctor wants you walking today."
"Do you want me to leave?" Eddie asks, his eyes focused completely on me.
Well, if she's really going to do what I think she's going to do, then yes. And no. I really don't want him to see me like this, but...
"Will it hurt?" I ask the nurse.
"Some patients have found it... uncomfortable."
Uncomfortable. I've heard that word before. It means "damn painful, but it passes quickly." These medical types have a talent for understatement.
My decision made, I look back at Eddie. "Can you stay?"
He smiles and nods before scooting the chair even closer to me.
I look down at where the nurse is waiting and then back into his eyes.
I release the protective hold I had on my gown and say, "Just... don't..."
"I understand." he says, taking my now free hand. He lifts it and kisses my fingers. "I won't."
Then, I feel air on my bare skin, and the nurse gets to work.
I discovered not two hours later that probably the worst thing about getting a catheter out is that you've got to get out of bed to pee again. With broken ribs and a trussed up arm, it's quite a production just getting me on my feet.
First, the nurse wrangled a sling over my head and good arm. I know she was trying to be gentle, but my ribs sent twinges of pain every time I moved.
After the sling was in place, she released my arm that resembles a padded erector set more than a part of my body from the traction above my bed. Getting it into the sling around my neck was another few moments of misery. Two pins holding my bones in place stick out past the bandages, and even though they're attached to each other with a fixator, when they get caught on the fabric of the sling, it still hurts like hell.
Eddie tried to help, but mostly all he could do was watch. That is, until I had to sit up. With a bad arm on the left side and bad ribs on the right, I can't really leverage myself up without help. Kimberly, the redheaded wonder nurse, got on one side and told Eddie to get on the other. Then, holding onto my shoulders, they pulled while I grunted and pushed, and, oh yeah, "ow"ed myself up.
"Ow ow ow OW ow ow OW OW ow." Don't ask me why, but the muttered mantra really seemed to help me get moving. Also, when I raised my voice during particularly painful shifts, Kimberly and Eddie reacted by being more careful.
Finally, finally, I sat up. Then, all it took was swinging my body around so my legs hung over the side of the bed and sliding down over the edge to get on my feet.
It's weird to be standing after days flat on my back. I feel dizzy, and I can't quite find my balance. If I fall now, without my arms to catch me, it's really gonna hurt.
Kimberly puts a surprisingly strong arm around my waist and leans in to support me, while Eddie takes hold of my good arm on the other side. Then, with Kimberly pulling the IV tree along, the clumsy dance to the bathroom begins.
It's only a few feet, but I'm still pretty proud of myself when we reach the door. Of course, my entourage and I can't fit through the way we are, so Kimberly turns us sideways and we shuffle through like a slow, bedraggled chorus line.
That's such a funny mental image, I want to laugh. Then, I see my reflection in the mirror, and I want to cry.
Both of my eyes are blackened like I've been punched, the bruising standing out in sharp contrast to my pale, drawn face. In fact, every inch of exposed skin I can see sports a variety of bandages, bruises, and abrasions.
I already knew my arms were bruised, but my shoulders, my jaw... my neck. My neck has a little square bandage covering where the breathing tube used to be, but the rest of the skin is exposed. I can see two, purple, overlapping handprints enveloping my neck. The thumbprints are in front, but as I turn my head in the mirror, I can see where the fingers wrap around to the back. The skin of the bruise is swollen, standing out like a tenderized tattoo.
It never really hit me until this moment. Oh, I'd heard Alice yelling that I'd almost died and I'd been shocked, but until now, it didn't really seem real. I've always considered myself a nice person. I mean, who would ever hate me enough to actually want to take my life? But standing here, seeing this, it's undeniable. Someone actually wrapped their hands around my neck and tried to kill me. Kill me! Poof, no more Jane.
"C'mon, honey, we're almost there," Kimberly encourages, but my feet are frozen to the tile.
I can feel and see tears welling in my eyes, and when I look at Eddie's reflection, his eyes are equally moist.
"Jane," he says in an unsteady voice. "You survived. That's the important thing."
"But..." I release his hand from my grasp to gesture at my reflection in the mirror. "I almost."
"You didn't," he says, leaning in to kiss me gently on the hair above gauze wrapped like a sweatband around my head. "And I thank God every second of every day that you didn't."
"Besides," Kimberly adds with a bubbly voice. "The scars will hardly be noticeable in a few years."
Scars? A few years? What?
For the first time, I see a chip in Kimberly's perky personality as she searches for a positive spin on what she'd just said.
"You know, your hand... You can't expect to have surgery without getting a scar. That and your trach scar will..."
"Trach scar?" Eddie jumped in.
"Yes, the tracheotomy... To help her breathe." She looked back at me. "It's a small scar, and after a few years, most people don't even notice. Besides, as long as you wear tall collars, turtlenecks, or scarves, no one will even see it."
My neck will be scarred for the rest of my life? Every time I look in the mirror, every time Eddie sees me... we'll never be able to forget.
Eddie. What if he doesn't want a girlfriend with scars? Damaged goods.
I don't like where my mind is going, but looking at myself in the mirror again, the injuries stand testament to the ferocity of my attacker.
While he had me down, did he... I can hardly force myself to think the word, let alone ask Eddie or the nurse.
Would they tell me even if I asked? Have they been keeping it a secret to protect me, hoping that my memory of that night doesn't return? Did anyone even check?
Was I raped?