The first thing I notice is the hands on my body. Someone's moving me around, almost like they're dressing me. Distantly, I know this should bother me, but it doesn't. I'm too tired to care.
There are voices around me now, telling me to wake up and open my eyes.
I'm sleepy. Go away.
I try to slip back into the comforting blackness that I'd enjoyed only moments earlier, but these voices are persistent. They burrow into my dreams, dragging me up into the waking world.
"Jane? Wake up. Open your eyes, honey."
Who are these people? Why are they bothering me? I didn't do anything to them. I don't think I even know them. And what's with that woman calling me "honey?" I don't recognize her voice at all.
Oh, there we go. The hands are back, and the voices have gotten louder. Maybe if I open my eyes, they'll leave me alone. If I do it quick, I don't think it'll wake me up too much.
There. Done. Now will you leave me alone? What was the point in this little exercise, anyway? It's too dark to see anything.
Why are they still talking to me, still telling me to open my eyes?
Oh, that's why it's so dark. Didn't actually open them at all. I wondered why I couldn't see anything. Now, blurry images of strangers are floating all around me.
"She's conscious," one blurry object says.
"Status?" Another blob asks.
"Ready for transport. She's stable. We were only waiting to see how she came out of the anesthesia."
Yeah. Blah blah blah. I'm going back to sleep.
Is that Eddie's voice? It sounds like he's talking to Liz, but I don't hear her. Is he talking to himself? Oh well, another mystery I'm not gonna wake up to solve.
You know, I never noticed how comforting Eddie's voice is. Deep, resonant, soothing. It has almost a musical quality.
Wait. He's stopped. He said, "Goodbye." and it sounds like he hung up a phone. The room is really quiet now. So quiet I can pick up the sounds of springs coiling and fabric shifting as he sits down. So quiet I can just make out his breathing.
That's it. I'm waking up. I want to hear that voice again.
I blink my eyes open, but they feel really gummy, and I can't quite get them to focus. How long have I been asleep, anyway? I try to move my arms up to rub the sticky stuff away, but only my right one moves. My left arm's tied to something that's keeping it floating in the air. That's not right. I tug on it...
Bright electric sparks of pain shoot from my hand all the way up my shoulder and speed through my body. I squeeze my eyes shut against the racing agony. but it doesn't help. I can't catch my breath. Damn, it hurts so much!
"Jane? Jane, baby, it's ok. I'll get the doctor right now," Eddie says.
He's next to me now. I didn't hear him get up, but that's not surprising, what with my arm falling off. I want to look at him, reassure myself that he's really there, but it feels like if I relax even for a second, the pain will increase and overwhelm me.
What did he say about a doctor? Yeah, that's a good idea. That's probably the most amazingly wonderful idea I've ever heard.
Now, I can hear a woman talking, but I still can't open my eyes, and... Oh, that's a little better. The sharp agony's fading, turning into a less sharp ache. I can even focus enough to hear her walking away. Wait, where's she going? Come back. Gimme more of the good stuff.
"Jane?" That's Eddie's voice again.
The fear and concern just in the way he said my name is so strong it's almost palpable. I want to reassure him that I'm all right. Well, not exactly all right, but at least I don't feel like I'll die if I open my eyes.
When I squint up at him, his face cracks into a crooked smile of pure relief.
"Hey," he says.
I try to answer, but sometime during my sleep someone replaced my voice with a toad's. My throat's so dry that I can barely croak out his name, and my voice sounds as raw and sore as it feels.
Eddie quiets me, telling me it's ok. Even though I know he's just saying that to reassure me, it still works. Just hearing him say that he's here watching out for me makes everything seem better.
A doctor comes in, and after getting me a nice, cooling drink of water, he introduces me to a magic button. He tells me to press it and... Ohh... yeah... The pain's fading to a dull ache. Mmm... I want more of that. I press the button a few more times, but it doesn't seem to work anymore. The doctor pulls my hand away, explaining how it works and that I'll have to wait before I can get some more. That's not very nice. Magic buttons should work all the time, right?
The doctor's messing with my left hand. now. He tells me wiggle my fingers. Then, I have to touch all my fingers to my thumb, one at a time. Now, he's poking me with some sort of pin, telling me to let him know when I feel something. It's like I'm a prize poodle doing tricks, and even though a part of me's really annoyed, I just can't get up enough energy to protest. It's easier to just do what he says and hope that he'll leave quicker if I cooperate.
It's only when I get a good look at my hand, that my surprise and shock overcomes my lethargy.
"Whut... da helll?"
It's wrapped in a thick bandage from knuckles to elbow, looking almost like a cast, but with soft bandages instead of a hard shell. That, and there's two, straight metal pins poking out of my wrist. It looks almost like they stabbed me with metal knitting needles, but why would they want to do that? Why would Eddie let them do that?
The doctor, I think Eddie called him Dr. Roberts, explains what was wrong with my wrist. I've never had a broken bone in my life, but now I've got five just in my wrist and arm. The pins are actually there to fix my arm bone, the... um... radial, radius, something like that. The bones in my wrist had to be repaired differently. They've got screws in them. Little screws that hold the breaks together. Screws that will stay in there for the rest of my life.
His explanation's unnerving enough, but the guy's so proud of his handiwork that he pulls out X-rays and a portable display stand. There they are. Screws, in my hand, drilled through bone. There's a hardware store in my hand. No wonder it hurt so much. Thank heavens for magic buttons.
I wonder. Will I still be able to go through metal detectors or will I make them beep? Eddie always said I was a little screwy. I guess the next time he tells me I have a screw loose, he might be right.
Ok, now I'm getting silly. No more Eddie screwing jokes. Whoa. Now there's a mental image. What'd they give me when I pressed that magic button anyway?
Wait. I missed something. The doctor's putting my arm back in the sling. I think he's done. Uh huh, he's leaving.
Eddie's still here, though. He's looking at me. Worry, relief, and a whole slew of other emotions are playing over his face. I want to ask him so many questions. Where are we? How did I hurt my arm? Why does my chest ache every time I breathe? How long are we going to be here? So many questions, but I know my voice won't stand up if I ask all of them, so I settle for an all encompassing, "What happened?"
"What's the last thing you remember?" Eddie asks me in return.
Nuh uh. No fair. I can't talk very much. You're supposed to answer my question, not ask me another one. Oh well, let's see... I remember going to work, getting ready for the show, freaking out about being interviewed as Marie Charles by Diane on national television.
"This morning," I answer. "Dr. Charles... will be... on show."
"You don't remember telling everyone you were Dr. Charles?"
Oh no, I didn't. What did Diane do? She must've blown up. I know I was feeling really nervous and guilty about it, but telling her right before the show... Wait. Did she break my arm?
Eddie's still talking. "Yeah, when you admitted to being Dr. Marie Charles on national television, I have to admit I was very surprised."
On national television? I'm lucky Diane didn't kill me with her bare hands. What was I thinking? What did I say? Hm, Liz was taping the show. I'm sure I can get her copy to see how badly I embarrassed myself.
Think about it later, Jane. Listen to Eddie now.
"... And then I got out of the cab, and you told me you loved me... It was amazing, Jane. I don't remember the last time I felt so happy, so right."
I told him I loved him? This is Eddie Alden. I thought if I ever confessed how I felt, he'd run before I finished saying the words. It's not that I don't think he cares for me, it's just that he's so relationship-phobic, I didn't think I'd ever have a chance. Whatever I did seems to have worked, though. I wish I could remember exactly what it was so I can do it again. Still, none of this is telling me how I got hurt.
"... We went home for the rest of the afternoon. You went up first..."
He's stopped talking. He's running his fingers through his hair nervously, like he's not sure what to say next.
"When I got to the apartment..."
He's broken off again. Is that... I think his hands are shaking. He's jammed one in his pocket and he's started rubbing at his chin with the other one, keeping the palm over his mouth so the words are more muffled when he says, "You were... There was... We were robbed and you found... One of them was still there and he... That's why you're hurt. I stopped him. He won't hurt you again, but... Anyway, that's why."
Ok, did he just tell me what happened? I think I missed that. There was something about a robbery in there, but I didn't get any specifics. Still, his voice was trembling so much towards the end, I don't have the heart to ask him more about it now.