Oh, fuck… Fuck, this can’t be happening! I cough and gag on the stomach acid creeping up my throat, my body shaking with a wet, cold sweat as the emotions I can’t realize find another means of release. Fuck… oh, fuck… this isn’t real, this isn’t real… it can’t be happening… I keep blinking as I stare at her motionless body on the floor across the room, hoping that the truth will somehow change. Oh, God… she’s dead… she’s really dead… I can’t take my eyes off of her as I swipe at the beads of panicked sweat gathering on my brow.
She has to wake up, get up, be alive! She doesn’t move and I cover my mouth with a trembling hand to keep the roiling contents of my guts inside. Her dark hair is splayed out around her bronze face, her eyes empty and devoid of life, her chin jutted out – proud even in death, and the blood… there’s so much of her blood ballooning out around her… covering her arms, stomach, and legs in a crimson pool that’s coagulating beneath her cooling body.
Fuck, I can’t quit staring at her in disbelief… and she is staring at me, piercing me with her unseeing eyes. Another wave of shudders sends the bile up from my guts and it fills my mouth with its harsh, bitter taste. I barely have time to swallow hard and choke it back down, where it sinks to the bottom to sour and curdle in my stomach… in my very soul.
That’s it. My mind snaps away from my body as I realize my whole world has come crumbling down around me to lay broken and lifeless in the face of cruelty, and all I could do was try to protect my children while it happened. I go so rigid that I fear my bones will collapse in on themselves as the poison of this moment seeps into my soul, smothering any light that inspires life. The movement and noise clamoring around me fades into undistinguishable echoes from the furthest end of a tunnel as my vision shrinks to a pin dot of light focused on her, only on her.
My rational mind pulls itself away from my emotions, replaying the same mantra over and over like a broken record. She’s really dead… It can’t be true… no, she can’t be dead. It’s… it’s just, it can’t be… I feel the numbness of catatonia settle fully over me and I’m thankful that I don’t feel it yet. I know that the weight of what has happened, and is going to happen, will hit and hit hard, leaving me forever and irrevocably changed, but I can’t help but cleave to this long moment of reprieve.
Lieutenant Duffy steps away from the horrible tableau as the coroner and a policeman pick her up off the floor, set her in a bag, and zip it up to cover her face. No! No, this isn’t happening! I reach a shaking hand toward her, toward the end of the tunnel my world has inexplicably become as far away words fall from a rough, terror-laden voice and bounce off the walls that are closing in around me. “Bette…” I feel a sharp pain in my abdomen as my intestines tie in knots, but I can’t take my eyes off of the bag, off of her. “Bette…” I feel pressure on my hand but I’m too desensitized to focus on it. “Babe, look at me… please…”
I feel something small and warm touch my face and gently pull me away from the visage of death, as a human life is stuffed into an oversized trash bag. My eyes try to stay with her, to hold onto that piercing connection for just a moment longer, but they are finally torn away from the ghastly scene.
Tina’s hazel eyes are watery and worried as they gaze into mine. I feel the walls pull back as I focus on her and the pang of tears sting my eyes as I’m able to realize the world around me. She’s distraught, but of all of the emotions I see, the most prevalent are love and relief. How I wish I could feel those as fully. “It’s okay, babe. It’s going to be okay. Come back to me…”
She smiles a tremulous smile through her tears as she strokes my face, and I close my eyes with a ragged breath. My heart wants to soak up her comforting words, but there’s no room left. It’s too crowded with images of death… Candace’s death. “She’s right, ma’am.” I open my eyes again to look towards the deep voice and see an EMT finish bandaging my stomach. His eyes are kind as he says, “My name is Mike. You’ve torn your sutures, you have a mild concussion, and you’ve lost quite a bit of blood, but we were able to get it under control. We need to get you to a hospital for an x-ray to make sure your internal sutures weren’t damaged.”
Tina squeezes my hand again and another EMT wheels a gurney through the door. I start to sit up but Mike stops me, putting his hand on my shoulder. “You need to let us lift you. If they are damaged, we don’t want to exacerbate them. Just lie back and relax. We’ll take care of you.” His tone is warm and genuine, but none of those things affect me. I nod my head placidly and lie back listlessly, again looking to the bag as it’s lifted to a gurney of its own, strapped down, and wheeled from the house. The woman I used and… killed… is led from the house.
Another EMT comes up behind my head and crouches down. She looks me in the eyes and says, “My name’s Samantha. I wanted to introduce myself before I help Mike put you on the gurney. Just try to relax…”
My voice is cold and distant as I reply, “I-I’m Bette…”
Her voice is sympathetic. “It’s nice to meet you, Bette. This won’t take but a moment.” I feel Tina pull her hand away and suddenly feel very cold and alone. An orange board is wedged under my right side. Four different hands touch me in four different places and on a quick count of three, I’ve been shifted onto the hard surface, strapped tightly against it, and raised to be secured to the gurney. I turn to see Tina nestled up against Kit, each of them holding one of the babies, and realize I’ve completely forgotten about my children. How could I forget them?
Tears well in my eyes as I meet Tina’s anxious gaze. “Where’s Angie?”
Kit’s eyes are glassy as she says, “She’s still with Malcolm. He’s gonna meet us at the hospital. Don’t you worry, baby sis. Nothing like this is ever gonna happen again, not while I’m breathin’.”
There is a small measure of comfort in her words as a wave of dizzying nausea accompanies a sharp pang of pain in my abdomen. Duffy comes up to us, her expression pained. “Bette, I’ll meet you at the hospital to take a statement.” She turns to Tina. “I assume you’ll be there as well?”
Tina nods her head but doesn’t take her worried eyes off of me. “T, what about the babies?”
Her eyes are firm with resolve as she replies, “We’re a family; we stick together. I’m not leaving your side, and I won’t leave them with someone else. Anyway, we’re going to a hotel after the hospital, so I’ll just have Kit follow us in the Lexus. There’s no way we’re staying here tonight.”
The tears on my lashes start to fall and I nod my head but the movement is limited by my restraints. Lieutenant Duffy smiles thinly, “Well then, I’ll see you both soon.” The EMTs start to wheel me out of the door and both Tina and Kit follow. They head for the Lexus to settle the babies in their car seats as I’m loaded into the back of the ambulance. Moments later, Tina steps in behind me, followed by Samantha who shuts the doors with an eerie sense of finality.
The nurse finishes patching the large cut just below my hairline as Duffy clears her throat from the curtain that is my door. I turn my weary eyes toward the sound and she steps inside, making sure the curtain is shut behind her. Tina and Kit each have a sleeping baby and Duffy tries to break the tense atmosphere, “They’re beautiful.”
Tina looks up to Duffy before meeting my eyes. She smiles sadly as she says, “Thank you.”
Tina dips her head down and kisses Chance’s head before standing and meeting me by my bed. She takes my hand and lends her support as we face this together. Duffy takes out a notepad and clicks a pen as she says, “I know you’re both exhausted, but unfortunately homicide cases don’t wait. Bette, why don’t you start at the beginning and tell me what happened?”
The nurse stands to exit the room as Tina squeezes my hand, and I am forced to revisit a terrible place and a terrible moment so surreal that it still feels like a hallucination. My words feel like they’re coming from somewhere else as I recount the events that lead us here, images of what I’m saying assaulting my mind as I speak them.
‘There was a moment of super intense quiet as all of the chaos faded away and my heart fell into my toes. I heard the 9-1-1 operator say, “9-1-1, what is your emergency?” She kept repeating it as Tina hunkered down over the babies, turning to look me in the eye as if to say goodbye.’
The memory of her eyes, her wonderful, adoring hazel eyes loving me with their last moment, tears at my heart and I can barely bring myself to continue, but I do. The images that follow only get worse.
‘”T…?” She dropped the phone and stumbled as she tried to get to me, her face filled with anguish and tears pouring from her eyes. I felt remarkably cold as I dropped to my knees and the peace of oblivion opened up to me. “I-I love you…,” were the last words out of my mouth as the world turned black.’
I close my blurry eyes against the last memory and lower my head in grief. I feel Tina lift my hand and kiss my knuckles, and I take a deep breath. I lean my head back and watch as Duffy writes on her notepad. There’s a long moment of silence as we wait and Tina meets my gaze. All of the adoration and love is still there, but the light of life gleams in the glassy orbs and I squeeze her hand as I try to remind myself that it wasn’t goodbye, at least not yet. Duffy’s voice breaks through the moment. “And that’s all you remember?”
I look to her and furrow my brows before nodding my head in finality. “The next thing I remember is waking up. The paramedics were trying to stop the bleeding at my incision site and she… Candace… she was… dead…”
Duffy looks to Tina. “So what happened after Bette blacked out?”
Tina’s eyes glaze over in pain and she clears her throat, her voice hoarse as she continues the story. “I wasn’t sure what to do… so I stayed with the twins and called for help…”
“Hurry! Hurry, please!”
‘BANG!’ I turned my head and felt the phone drop from my limp hand as Bette gazed at her blood soaked hands in confusion. I couldn’t help the shriek of, “NO,” that ripped from my throat.
She raised her head and met my eyes, and I felt my world fall from the heavens as her low, velvet voice murmured, “T…?” Her expression of child-like innocence pierced me straight through the heart as her almond eyes went blank and she fell to her knees bonelessly, blood blooming across her white shirt like a thin cloth set over a puddle.
I lunged for her, stumbling off the couch and abandoning our screaming children as I tried to get to my wife. I wrapped my arms around her just as she uttered, “I-I love you,” and went limp in my embrace.
“NO!” I could feel the hot tears running down my cheeks to fall on Bette’s face as I frantically ran my trembling hands over all of the blood, trying to find a way to fix her, to help her, to save her. My blurry eyes focused on the darkest, wettest part of her shirt and I shakily pressed hard against it. “No, Bette, no… I love you! Please!” I prayed for what I thought were angels, but ended up being ambulances and policemen; the distant call of their sirens mixed with the terrified cries of my children, the tincture of sound echoed eerily in my panic-filled mind as help drew closer.
Anger and pain flushed my veins as I looked up to see Candace stumbling to the side, grabbing at her chest. She slammed her shoulder hard against the door as she tumbled, her chest heaving as she turned to lean heavily against it and met my eyes. For just a moment, the inhumane creature that had attacked and torn apart my family seemed human. Her expression was terrified as she gasped for air that wouldn’t come and slid down the door, leaving a wet trail of shocking red against the white surface behind her.
She landed hard on the floor and frothy, pink foam gathered at the corners of her mouth as she sat there gasping like a fish out of water. Her legs twitched and she appeared to be trying to speak before a steady stream of blood poured from her mouth, cascading out and down her chin to meet the steady spurts that had already been gushing from her chest. She went very still and stared at me as she slowly slid sideways to an eternal rest on the floor, her empty eyes never leaving mine as she gasped out one last blood-soaked breath and went very still.
I had to close my eyes in revulsion, not just for what Candace had done, not just because of the horrible death I just witnessed, not just because I was holding the love of my life in my arms as she slowly slipped away from me, but because none of this had to happen. Candace didn’t need to do this! Why couldn’t she have just moved on, learned, changed like… Bette, my Bette? I dropped my blurry eyes to my dying wife and had no ability to stop the racking sobs from shaking my body as I pressed with all my might against her wound. She had always been the strongest person I’d ever known, my tower, my champion. She could survive this, I knew it. It just didn’t have to be this way… she didn’t deserve this!
The front door pushed open hard, jostling Candace’s lifeless body as the policemen stormed in, guns drawn. They took in the scene around them and I pleaded in a grief-wracked voice, “Please! My wife! Help her! Please!” I gazed down at Bette as the EMTs pushed their way inside, falling to their knees next to us and taking her from my arms. “No…” I sobbed. I didn’t want to let go of her but two strong hands hooked under my arms from behind and I was forcibly lifted and pulled away to be held against my will. My heart beat wildly in my chest and I watched on as they laid her out flat and began to try to save her life.
I focused my eyes on her chest, the rise and fall of it the only link I had to her light, a connection that burned so bright within me that the sheer thought of it being snuffed out was incomprehensible. Her head started to move and although her groan was barely audible under the shrill screams of our children, I felt my heart constrict with a single ray of hope as my sobs grew harder. One of the EMTs looked to the other. “It’s just ripped stitches, not a gunshot. It… looks like a C-section.” They both looked to the body by the door just as the other EMTs were taking off their gloves and giving up.
The policeman holding me let go hesitantly and said, “I think she’s going to be okay. You need to sit down.” I closed my eyes for a moment. Seven words, the best words I had ever heard uttered, floated on the air around me and I clutched at them with desperation.
Kit’s voice cut through the room from the open door as she argued with the policemen blocking the entrance. I couldn’t take my eyes off of my wife as I numbly said, “Let her in. She’s my sister-in-law.” The policeman moved out from behind me and nodded his head, and I watched Bette’s chest still rising and falling. I sat next to Rory and Chance in a daze and finally turned to them. I felt immense guilt at having left them so scared and cried harder as I lifted my hands to stroke and soothe them on instinct-driven will alone. Just as I was about to touch them, I stopped, noticing all of the blood on me, Bette’s blood, their mother’s blood. I swallowed my horror as I scrubbed my hands on my jean-clad thighs, knowing all too well that even once they were clean, I would always have the memory of her blood on my hands. Some things just don’t wash off.
When most of it was rubbed off and the rest of it sticky and dry, I reached out soothe our children as best I could, trying desperately not to taint them with the reality of what had happened. Kit came rushing up to me only to stop and track her eyes over this unthinkable moment. She gazed at Bette, the impact of the scene nearly knocking Kit off her feet as it registered. She collapsed softly on the other side of the babies and met my gaze. Neither of us had any words and neither of us spoke as we gazed at each other for a long moment. It was all too much to take in and understand. It made no sense.
She picked up Rory and I picked up Chance, and each of us held onto these babies for dear life as we watched the chaos move on around us. I’m not the praying kind, but I prayed to any power listening that Bette, my wife, my champion, would pull through, that our babies would know their other mother. ‘Please, babe. Please…’ My whole world revolved around this family, and it just wouldn’t work without her… she was our sun… there would be no life without the sun…
Duffy makes a few more notes and addresses us both. “Would there be any reason for…” She flips back a page in her notebook. “…Candace Jewel to be at your home threatening you with a weapon?”
I look to Tina and she squeezes my hand once again. I take a deep breath and go back to a time of my life I wish had never happened.
I rolled over, a small smile on my face as wakefulness started to greet me. I felt strong, calloused hands pull my thighs apart and a warm, wet tongue start to roll across my sex. Something about it felt off, but then again Tina hadn’t tried something like this in ages. My smile grew wider until my mind caught up with me. This wasn’t Tina. The touch was too hesitant, unsure, unknowing. The person touching me so intimately wasn’t my wife. I no longer had a wife. No, this was Candace. I opened my eyes and swallowed my emotions as I lifted the baby blue top sheet to look down at her. She met my gaze over the dark curls at her mouth and I smiled tightly as she crawled up and settled on top of me.
She grinned genuinely before dipping down and kissing my chin and then my mouth. She pulled back and gazed deeply into my eyes as she stroked my face with her finger, and I felt a deep, sickening sadness well up in my stomach as she said, “I’m so happy to have you here.” I tried to share her happiness, but it just wasn’t in me. Any chance at happiness had died when I woke up two days ago and found my wife missing. No, not missing, I woke up and found my wife had left me without a word and with too much cause.
I came out of my thoughts long enough to realize that Candace was still gazing at me, watching the emotions flash across my face. I couldn’t find any words, but the expectant joy on her face was pleading with me for something I was incapable of giving, not even to Tina, and especially not to her. “Hi.”
I pulled my head away from her and gazed over her shoulder. She ducked her head into my field of vision with a worried and loving expression as she asked, “Hey, where did you go?” I gazed into her eyes and released a heavy breath as I clenched my jaw. I didn’t have the ability to love to anything or anyone, but was there a delicate way to say that? She got even more worried as she asked, “What’s going on?”
I decided to be honest. There was no good way to do what I was about to do, so it might as well be true. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
She furrowed her brows in confusion. “What do you mean?”
I released a sigh. “I mean that Tina is the love of my life and I have no idea what I’m doing here. I must have gone temporarily insane.”
I watched as the bright joy on her face faltered for only a moment before it returned triple force. Ignorance is bliss, they say. “I know it’s new, and you’re probably unsure, but it will get better. Soon, you’ll realize that you’re better off without her, that you’re better off with me.”
I gazed at her as if she’d grown a second head. Was she not listening? “Candace, I love Tina, only Ti-”
She put her finger over my lips to cut me off. “You feel that way now, but given what I’ve seen, what you’ve said, you were miserable with her. You’ll see, Bette. I’ll show you.” Her smile was genuine and warm, and my heart sank into my toes as she said, “I’ll love you so much better, Bette. That nightmare, that terrible time in your life with that ungrateful bitch, is over now. She’ll be a distant memory in no time…” I gazed into her eyes for a long moment and realized that I was in over my head. Tears welled in her eyes as she said, “I love you…”
I was shocked to say the least as she leaned down and kissed me passionately, moving her hand down my side and between us to start stroking me harshly, possessively. My mind was elsewhere as this happened. Tina was done with me; that much was obvious. Would it hurt to have someone I truly didn’t care about taking care of me even though I’d never reciprocate? Would it be okay to use her? That was the arrangement, wasn’t it? We would use each other to satisfy carnal needs?
I focused on her touch and her kisses as she moved down me and I began to feel as if I was a corpse being violated. Her touch did nothing but leave another dirty mark on a decaying soul. All that I could get from her I had already received, and I was still left empty. No, even an empty future was fruitless at this point. I sighed and touched her head. “Candace…” She kept going, ignoring me as she redoubled her efforts. “Candace, come on…” She looked up as she continued, her smile obvious in her eyes. “Candace… stop…” I tried to lift her, to stop her, but she was relentless. “Candace, fuck, stop and listen to me!”
She finally pulled away from me and lifted up to lean over me, her expression of sickly puppy love nowhere near diminished. “What is it, love?” She started stroking me again and I huffed out a breath as I pushed her off of me and quickly struggled out of the sheets and got to my feet.
I started gathering my clothes and dressing quickly as she laid on her side, smirking at me. I was at my wits’ end with her. “Candace, this is over.”
Her expression of satisfaction was completely unchanged as she grinned at me. “We both know you’ll be back. You won’t be able to stay away for long.”
I snorted and rolled my eyes at her. “You’re delusional…”
Her grin grew wider. “Bette, you couldn’t help yourself before. What do you think has changed now? You know you want me…”
I furrowed my brows. Was she insane? “Candace, don’t flatter yourself. It was mediocre at best… you… are mediocre at best.”
Her overconfidence faltered for just a moment before she sat up and gazed into my eyes. “No one will want you now, Bette. You’re… you’re just confused. You’ll figure it out soon enough. We belong together.” Her eyes glazed over as she smiled confidently, and for a moment I was a little scared. My fear was fully realized as she said, “If I can’t have you…”
My gaze hardened and my fear turned to anger. “You’ll what?” I finished pulling my blouse over my head and settled it across my waist, my voice controlled as I continued. “You sound like a lunatic. You should seek help. We’re fucking over; do you understand?”
Her movements were quick and threatening as she rushed up to me, naked and reeking of dishonest sex. My stomach roiled as she yelled, “Don’t say that!” I’ll admit I was frightened, but I didn’t budge. I wouldn’t give her ground or feed her intimidation tactics. She needed to get this through her thick skull, and then see a good therapist. “We’ll get through this… I love y–”
I grabbed her roughly and dipped my head to make sure she could see into my angry gaze. “There is no we; there is no us; this…” I gestured with disgust to the sex mussed sheets where I crucified my heart to leave it dying. “…was an aberration, a joke, a twisted and sick game, nothing more. And it’s over.”
She was silent for a long moment and I watched the tortured wheels in her simple mind try to twist what I was saying to fit her skewed delusion. I turned and grabbed my purse as I made my way towards the door, determined to get a restraining order until she finally caught on.
I’ve never delighted in being cruel, but some people make polite conversation impossible, and honestly, I had no will or desire to care, not with her. Just as I approached the front door, I felt a jolting shove push me violently against its surface. I turned with wide, shocked eyes as she yelled, “Who do you think you are to use me and throw me away?! You have no idea who you’re fucking with, Bette!”
She was breathing hard and I pushed her away from me, turning to quickly release the bolt and open the door. She pushed it shut from behind just as I started to open it, and I could smell the musky reminder of the death of my soul on her breath as she said, “I’ll give you some time. I’m a patient person, but you will come back to me, one way or the other…” She released her hold on the door and smiled as I quickly made my exit. I heard a low purr of, “I’ll see you later, lover,” as I slammed the door behind me. I wouldn’t even go home to shower and change before heading to the police station and having her forcibly removed from my life.
Tina smiled sadly at me as she stroked the back of my hand. I had never spoken a word of that to anyone, not even her. Duffy’s face is incredulous, but she’s a professional. “Did you file a report?” I nodded my head and she smiled in reply. “Good; when was that?”
I thought back to Provocations. “October, about five years ago.” She nodded her head and made another note in her pad. “Duffy, there’s more…” She looks up and I sigh. “She stayed out of my life until I started to reconcile with Tina, then she made a reappearance. She put up a billboard on Sunset three years ago; we have pictures. She also took pictures of us from our backyard during a… private moment, and sent them to us after posting them on OurChart. We still have those as well.”
“Did you file a report on all of these incidences?”
I shake my head with a sigh. It had been so long that I thought she was just trying to split us up. “That’s not all…” We both turn our attention to Tina as she continues. “She showed up at our bachelorette party in New York…”
Duffy considers this for a moment and the information seems to click. “That’s right. I thought I recognized her this morning but I couldn’t remember from where. She’s started a riot with you at that club on 86th street.” She smiles mischievously. “That’s good.” Tina eyes her speculatively and she chuckles as she continues. “I mean, it’s on record, so that’s good.” We both nod our heads in understanding and she continues. “Did she do anything else, anything that you can prove?”
I look to Tina as we both consider this, and she turns to Duffy. “No, that’s everything I know of.”
Duffy turns to me and I nod my head in agreement. She crosses her arms and says, “That’s odd. The incident in New York was what, three years ago? Why would she lash out now and not earlier?”
I sigh a wearily. “Um, a friend of mine, she has… connections, family. They threatened her and kept an eye on her for me for a while. I tried to talk to her but she just wouldn’t listen to reason, so I let them take care of her for me. It… it was wrong.”
Duffy purses her lips. I can tell what she’s thinking, but she’d never say it. “I’m not a judge, Bette. I just seek out the facts. Did you do anything illegal in your… management… of the situation?”
I consider this for a moment. “I don’t think so. Like I said, I just sort of sicced the dogs on her. I’m not entirely sure what they did. I think mostly, they were just warning her to stay away. And, they made her leave California at my request.”
She poises her pen and sighs as she says, “I’ll need the names of these individuals.”
I hate to do it, but I don’t really have a choice. I just hope Carmen understands. “I’m not sure of all of their names, but the person who helped me was Carmen de la Pica Morales. She’s a good friend of ours…”
She starts scribbling the name in her pad and tucks it away in her pocket. “Okay, I’m going to have your hands swabbed for gun powder residue. This will either corroborate your stories, or tell a new one entirely. Don’t get me wrong, I believe you both but I’m sworn to be unbiased and thorough… you understand.”
Tina links our fingers and squeezes me gently. “We understand, Lieutenant.”
Duffy smiles tightly. “As for right now, since it sounds like it falls under self-defense, I won’t be placing you under arrest. However, do not, under any circumstances, leave L.A. until you’ve been cleared. I’ll be in touch tomorrow.”
I close my eyes for a moment in relief. “Thank you, Lieutenant.” She nods her head and exits through the curtain, and I look up to Tina, resting my head against the back of the upraised bed. She’s playing with my fingers as she bounces Chance, her head lowered to gaze at him adoringly. “T…?” She meets my eyes and I try to read any reaction to what she’s just learned, but there’s nothing, just love and acceptance. I furrow my brows, “Are you angry or upset… with me?” She considers me speculatively and I continue. “I mean, I’d honestly understand if you can’t even look at me right now. This is all my fault, my fuck-up, and not only did it tear us apart, but today it nearly got us all ki–”
My words are cut off as I feel a heartfelt kiss placed sweetly on my lips. She pulls back and gazes at me. “I forgive you, Bette. I don’t hold that against you anymore. You can’t change what happened, but you’re not responsible for her inability to move on. You didn’t do anything wrong and you’re not that person anymore. I’m with you, no matter what. Don’t doubt that, and don’t doubt yourself.”
“Mm-hmm, she’s right, baby sis. You did what you had to do.” I glance at Kit to see her bouncing Chance, a serious look in her eyes.
Tears well in my eyes. “Thank you, both of you.”
Tina leans down and kisses me softly, resting her forehead on mine. I hear a soft sigh and her warm breath washes over me as she says, “I love you, Bette.”
I hear Kit’s voice. “We both do…”
I hear movement at the curtain and we look to see Ming step in with a clipboard. “I came as soon as I heard. I’m so glad you’re all okay.”
She walks up to Tina and gives her a half-hug and smiles at Chance as she plays with his hand. She looks me in the eyes and says, “I saw your x-rays and convinced Marcia, the nurse who patched you up, to let me take over from here.”
I’m exhausted and weary as I ask, “So what’s my prognosis?”
She slips into professional mode as she explains, “They’ve scrubbed and stapled the incision site to reclose it. Your internal sutures were aggravated, but you are very lucky that they’re still intact. The scar will be more substantial now, but you should be fine in about six weeks.”
She lets go of Chance’s hand and flips through the papers on the clipboard, pulling random ones out as she continues. “You may experience slight dizziness or headache because of a mild concussion and moderate blood loss, but that will go away in a few days with lots of rest and fluids. The doctor has prescribed an antibiotic and a painkiller, but since you’re breastfeeding, you can’t take the painkiller. You can have two Tylenol or Ibuprofen every four hours though.”
She takes the gathered papers and lifts them for us to see. “These are aftercare instructions for keeping the incision site clean as well as authorized activities.” Tina takes them and walks over to place them in her purse. “It’s okay to walk, but you need to be very careful when bending, sitting, and getting up. Just take it very easy for the next six weeks, no lifting, running, reaching, or activities that are at all strenuous, even if you don’t feel any pain. And if you can, lie down instead of sit. Take the full six weeks to heal, and you should be good as new from that point on.” The twinkle in her eyes is nearly blinding as she adds, “You’ll also have me watching you like a hawk, as well as a very concerned wife who will strap you down if needed.”
Ming laughs and I scoff before realizing that Tina hasn’t made a sound. My wife smirks at me and says, “You think she’s joking now, but I really will if I have to.” Ming laughs harder, Kit joins in with a soft chuckle, and Tina winks at me. I know, for a fact, that my wife would, and I love her for it. I wish I could partake in the levity of this moment, but I just don’t feel it like I should.
I do manage a genuine smile as Tina reaches forward and brushes the curls from my face, exceedingly gentle where my head has been bandaged. Ming pipes in again. “Malcolm’s with Angie. He’s pulled the Lexus up and they’re waiting for you. We’ll help you get settled in a hotel for the night. I wish my apartment were bigger. I’d happily offer it to you if there were room for the four of you, but six hundred square feet just wouldn’t cut it. We do plan to keep Angie for the night to give you two a chance to rest. I thought you might want to see her first. I’d offer to help with the twins, but I didn’t think you’d want to part with your three day old children.”
Tina hugs Ming again and says, “No, but thank you. You’ve already helped tremendously.”
Ming steps up to me, wedging the clipboard under her arm as she reaches her hands out to me. “Let’s get you two settled then. You’re all done here.”
I take her hands and she shows me the proper way to get up while I’m healing. I’m weary, emotionally and physically, but at least I can cling to my wife and my family. I’d be nothing without them.