Chapter 7 – Where’s the rest of me?

I arrive back at the hospital and step into the elevator, pressing the button for Tina’s floor. The large stainless steel box is as slow as it is depressing, and the faint smell of phemaldehyde and harsh chemicals is as heavy in air as the reason for my time here is heavy in my heart. It finally reaches the fifth floor with a cheerful ding and I step out, making my way to Tina’s room. As I approach the door, what I see inside stops my heart.

”Damnit, get the crash cart! We’ve got to shock her!” The room is deathly quiet except for the insistent and steady hum of the heart monitor and the hurried movement of feet as they all look to the read out.

”Let’s move!” A machine is pulled up to the side of the bed and I feel like my feet have been nailed to the floor. Charging…two hundred joules!” The nurses scurry to prepare the paddles, coating them in jelly before placing them over Tina’s bare chest. ”CLEAR!” There’s a heavy click and Tina’s body convulses violently before I close my eyes against the bile rising up in my throat. ”AGAIN! CLEAR!” I hear the sharp hum of electricity as it sparks, and I stumble back to lean against the wall behind me staring into the room, unable to take my eyes off of the tableau taking place. ”Still V-tach! Nurse, more gel!”

I drop my overnight bag and the bear before I slide down the wall, and they coat the paddles again, placing them to her side and sternum. ”Charge to three hundred…CLEAR!” Her limp, lifeless hand falls over the side of the bed as she jerks violently. It’s blue and it dangles at an odd angle as it drops the letter it holds to the floor. The churning in my stomach tries again to come out my mouth, but I swallow hard as the tears sting my eyes. It’s quiet for a long, tense moment before the weak sound of a rhythmic beat starts to beep again. ”She’s stabilizing.” Everyone breathes a sigh of relief as they move the cart away and start to clear her of the extra life-saving entanglements, but I can’t will myself to move to her. My limbs and body are tense with shock and it feels like everything has shut down, my body, my heart, my mind…

The staff file out of the room, one nurse staying behind to make sure she’s comfortable again. My muscles finally start to release me and I stumble to my knees, using the wall to crawl into a somewhat standing position. It’s as if I could feel the jolt of violent energy that gripped her muscles so tightly that they nearly snapped the very bones they cling to. Stretching myself to my full height is almost painful and I crawl along the wall, barely making it to the bathroom down the hall before I heave all of my pain into the sterile porcelain portal at its focal point.

There are no tears. I almost feel numb with tension as I stand on wobbly legs and clean myself in the sink. I lock my elbows to brace my arms against the bowl as I feel the tremulous shudders of shock and intense pain wrack my body. It almost feels like I’m shivering. I feel cold, cold to the very bones of my weary soul. I step from the bathroom in a daze and sleepwalk back to Tina’s door, hesitantly peeking past the threshold to see if everything’s really okay. Nothing feels real, seems real, and I can’t really tell anymore.

The nurse is gone and Tina looks just as she did when I left late last night. I knew I shouldn’t have left. I definitely shouldn’t have fallen asleep there. She needed me here. ”Bette…are you all right?” I turn to see Dylan and Helena eyeing me critically, and Helena reaches a hand out to touch my shoulder as she looks into the room to find Tina unchanged. She furrows her brows and again turns to me but I can’t find the will to look up from the worn and over-polished linoleum. I’m afraid to attempt to speak just now. I’m not even sure I have a tongue.

She turns to Dylan and points to my overnight bag and the bear behind us. She retrieves it and they both carefully usher me into the room, folding me like starched canvas into the chair. Helena sits next to me and takes my hand in both of her own while Dylan checks Tina. Her voice is warm but I can’t feel it as she speaks to me. ”Bette…has something happened to…Angie?”

A rush of terror sweeps through me at the suggestion as I jump to my feet and jog to the nurse’s station, nearly slamming into the counter. ”I need to know if our daughter is okay.” It’s the same nurse that I had words with yesterday but this time her concern seems genuine. She knows who I’m talking about; she took me to meet Angie for the first time.

She types something into the computer to her left and she smiles. ”She’s fine. In fact, she’s gained fourteen ounces since her birth. She has a healthy appetite.” I close my eyes and breathe a sigh of relief as I nod my head. ”Thank you…”

Helena approaches me cautiously. ”Bette, please, I think you need to sit down. You look ill…” I meet her uneasy gaze and finally the coiled tension in my muscles snaps like an over-stressed rubber band and the tears quietly leak from my eyes and down my face. I can’t really feel them. I only know they exist because my vision becomes hazy and blurry. Helena puts her arm around my shoulder and rubs soothing circles on my back as she ushers me back to the room, again folding me into the chair.

I scrub my face as I sink into the concrete slab of upholstery and I finally try to explain. ”I went home…” I watch the rhythmic rise and fall of Tina’s chest and start to feel pins and needles settle into my limbs. ”…when I got back, she…um…Tina…she died…” There’s a thick moment of heavy silence hanging in the room and in the back of my throat choking me. ”…they um, they brought her back…”

I see Dylan come over to Helena and half sit, half stand on the arm of Helena’s chair. There aren’t any words, they know it, and I sure as fuck know it. The thread of Tina’s life is wearing thinner by the minute and there’s nothing to be done to fix it. I close my eyes. She has to want to live, fight for it. She’s on her own and I’m helpless…


 

I open the impossibly heavy lids of my tired and swollen eyes to see Helena shaking me gently on the shoulder. ”Bette, I’m sorry to wake you. I can’t imagine how exhausted you are, but there’s a man here that says you’re expecting him.”

I furrow my brows before I realize just exactly who I’m expecting. ”What time is it?”

She looks down at her watch. ”It’s nearly six.”

I sit up and rub my puffy eyes and run my hands through my messy hair. ”Where is he?”

”He’s in the waiting room. We weren’t sure what to do. He says his name is Thomas Kennard…”

I meet her gaze and smile sadly. ”Yes, I spoke with him earlier today. He’s Tina’s brother.”

Her green eyes go wide with incredulity and I nod my head as I release a deep breath, slap my hands on my thighs, and stand stiffly. I start to make my way toward the door but Helena stands and puts her hand on my forearm to stop me. I eye her curiously and can see the true concern in her eyes. ”Bette, do you think this is wise? I mean, with everything going on, adding further stress might be overwhelming…”

I reach up and squeeze her hand. ”I appreciate your concern Helena, but there’s a lot to explain and I’d like to talk to Tina about it first before telling anyone. I don’t think this will be stressful. But I promise you, if he tries to make it that way, he’ll need to be admitted as well.”

She smiles knowingly and releases me. ”Al right then. Dylan went to the café down the street and brought back some coffee and other goodies. They’re just there.” She points to the table between my chair and Tina’s bed. ”She had to get back to the studio and I’m afraid I should go as well.” She smiles sadly. ”Is there anything you need or anything I can do before I go?”

I turn and give her a short but tight hug. ”No. Thank you for helping me earlier. That was…”

She strokes my arm conveying her understanding without making me relive it with words. ”If you need anything…anything at all…I want you to call day or night.”

I smile a half-watt smile. ”Thank you. I appreciate everything, truly. I’ll be okay.”

She lowers her head as if afraid her eyes would convey her disbelief as she resettles the purse at her shoulder. ”I know things seem hopeless Bette…” Her sad eyes meet my own. ”…but I’d be willing to bet anything that if there is a way, you and Tina will find it.” She grabs my arm and shakes me a little as she smiles. ”Don’t give up yet.”

My returning smile is more genuine. ”I won’t…but thank you.” I know the words sound like I’m placating a child questioning the existence of Santa Claus, but I just don’t have the confidence I should just now…not after what I saw.

She seems to understand this with a quick bob of her head. ”Right then…” She makes her way towards the door and stops to smile and point at me. ”…if you need anything, you will call. Understood?” I chuckle and nod my head and her smile is radiant as she walks away. My own grin fades and I take a deep breath as I trace her steps, stopping at the waiting area.

There’s an older woman and young girl asleep on an equally uncomfortable hospital loveseat against the far left wall, and a shorter, well-dressed man with thick, honey blond hair styled in a very traditionally preppy way. He has a thin but well maintained goatee, and he’s wearing a sky blue polo shirt and pressed khaki chinos, rounded out with shiny brown Italian leather on his feet and square hips.

He’s pacing anxiously but he stops and looks to me as I enter. He looks just like his father in the picture from Tina’s graduation and he has the same hazel colored eyes as Tina. Other than that and the hair color, you’d never know they were siblings. I meet his gaze with my own and he smiles as he approaches me. ”Bette?”

I smile a sad smile and reach out to accept his hand. ”Thomas…it’s nice to meet you.”

He releases a nervous breath and I can’t help but match it. This entire week seems so surreal. There’s a long moment of awkward silence and I finally address the biggest issue. ”Thomas, I’ll take you to see her, but…I…I just want you to be prepared. She hasn’t had a good day.” His glassy eyes sheen over with fear and I would reassure him but I just don’t know how to. I don’t even know how to reassure myself. ”She’s alive, but they had to revive her a few hours ago.”

I can see the tears gather in his eyes and he nods his head. ”Come on. I’ll take you to her.” He nods again and follows me from the room, down the hall, and through the doorway. I step aside and watch as he stops and stares at her for a long moment, taking in the frightening clarity of pain this situation may very well have yet to give. He finally approaches her slowly, and hesitantly reaches out to touch her frail hand below the deeply imbedded IV.

His shoulders shudder as he slumps to the edge of the bed and quietly mourns seventeen years of misspent opportunity and lost time. It’s quiet and it goes on long moments. He doesn’t take his eyes off of her as he addresses me with a deep and rough voice. ”Thank you for letting me be here. I’ve missed so much already.”

I can’t help the tiny bit of bitterness that leaks from my lips. ”I’m just glad one of you cares.” He sighs and I walk wearily to my bed of bones and perch myself next to her in silent vigil.

”I deserved that.” He finally meets my gaze. ”But I do. I truly do.”

I soften and try unsuccessfully to find a comfortable spot, only to give up with a sigh and sit forward. ”Then that’s all that matters. Do you…need a minute alone with her?”

He smiles warmly at me. ”No. There’s nothing I would say to her that I wouldn’t say in front of you. You’re her other half. You complete each other.” I can’t help but grin genuinely for the first time in what feels like forever. We fall in to an oddly comfortable silence as we both gaze at her longingly. She is my other half as well. We fit together like two masterfully crafted puzzle pieces, and I crave to be near the warmth of her soul just one more time. I’d do anything to see the light in her eyes just…one…more…fucking…time…


 

I walked into the house carrying two giant cherry slurpees, juggling them as I shut the door behind me. It was two-fifteen on Sunday afternoon, and the trip went fairly quickly even for a city as alive as LA. I managed to get the door locked and dropped my keys and wallet on the table near the door before making my way up the stairs to satisfy the ball of unpredictable hormonal cravings I share a bed with.

I walked into the room just as she came waddling from the bathroom with an exasperated look on her face, and her lacy black tank top stretched tight over her distended stomach. I couldn’t help but smile as I set the slurpees on the nightstand. ”The pressure on my bladder is making me insane. I wish she’d move just an inch higher.” She picked up one of the slurpees and took a huge drag off the straw, closing her eyes and releasing a low, sensual moan. ”I’ve never had to pee this much in my life.” She takes an even bigger pull from the straw, draining nearly a third of the slushy substance in three successive gulps. ”It has to be her…”

I chuckle at her and she squints her eyes at me, the straw permanently attached to the corner of her mouth as she continues to indulge. Tina has always been an extremely sensual woman, at least in my estimation, but at nearly five months along, she was swinging like a pendulum from one mood to the next and she was just utterly adorable, and utterly desirable.

She seemed to read these thoughts on my face and finally let go of the straw to set it back down on the table, turning to me and pushing me down on the bed with knowing confidence. I picked up the end of her tank and reverently kissed her swollen stomach as I stroked down her sides, letting our daughter know just how loved she is. Tina released a contented sigh and lifted her tank the rest of the way, pulling it up over her head as I nuzzled my face and lips against them both. I would probably miss this the most when Angie comes. Tina let her head fall back as I continued to lavish all the love welling in my heart on both of them.

Her breathing became labored as I palmed her engorged breasts through the black lacy lingerie and kissed the furrow between them as they heaved with each expanding and detracting breath. Her skin was so smooth and velvety and beautifully pale that it almost appeared to be pearlescent. As much as we had been through, and as far as we still had to go, the connection between us was an indescribably, involuntary force, like magnets.

She stroked the haphazard curls from my eyes and leaned down to ravish my mouth slowly and intimately, her velvet tongue stroking mine with toe curling sensuality, and the sheer eroticism of her actions only further heightened the intimate dance that pushed us beyond ourselves and our bodies, into a place where only the one soul we shared lived. She lifted my own tank from my shoulders and pulled me back in to gaze in my eyes, her lips hovering just above my own as she quietly demanded, ”Touch me here…” She pulled my left hand down and under the large, soft band of the maternity pants that cradle our child to stroke the silky folds of her incredibly hot and soaked center.

”Oh my God…” The pregnancy had made her so tight and unbelievably ready that it was almost like touching a completely different creature. ”Oh my fucking God…is this okay? Will this hurt you?”

I pressed my face against the soft cushion of her chest and placed another open mouthed kiss on the downy expanse of skin as I continued to stroke her smoothly. She leaned down and answered my question with an open and dizzying kiss as she unclasped my lingerie and pulled it from my shoulders. Once I was freely exposed to her, she leaned back and I whimpered at the loss of her full and luscious mouth. She gazed on my broad, muscled shoulders in wonder as she stroked down the sides of my breasts and cupped them in her hands to caress them reverently.

We lavished tender and loving kisses on one another as we continued to divest each other of what clothing remained. She pushed me back further into the bed as she lovingly demanded, ”Lay on your stomach.” Not only was I happy to let her lead this dance, giving and taking equally in our physical needs, I was actually excited. Our love making had become creative given the inconveniencing size and shape of her. I thought I might miss this as well, hoping that we would be able to maintain this spirit of adventure, creativity, and compromise.

She crawled up behind me, her silky skin stroking across mine before spooning me as best she could with the warm, heavy weight of our child between us. I felt her warm fingers reach up and drag up my scalp from the base of my neck, only to travel back down between my shoulder blades and over the swell of skin at the base of my spine. Her knowing caress twisted to delve gently but deeply into the waiting and ready reaches of my center.

The gooseflesh left in her wake covered my skin in tingling warmth as she left wet, open-mouthed kisses on the sides at the base of my spine. My hips ground against her involuntarily, and she nipped me lightly with her teeth as her pace increased in urgency. Her stroke was filling and far reaching and utterly calculated, and I felt the rush of release crest and sweep through me as it gushed out of me in several waves of euphoria and physically emotional gratification.

The spent release of physically manifested love and devotion settled over me only to be replaced with a craving ache for her so intense that it outweighed the heavy exhaustion of those first moments of afterglow. My limbs obeyed and I wasted no time crawling over her and settling behind her, running my tongue along the exposed side of her neck to the delicate fold of her ear to leave warm, open mouthed kisses on her neck and face and finally her succulent mouth.

My hand traced a tender path to the center of her and I resumed the previous stroking, her sex even more swollen and prepared for the touch only I could provide as her lover in body and soul. I traced my fingers gently around her opening, easing my way into the tight canal and pulling her gently to relax the narrow opening to my touch.

Her telling moans were breathless and her whole body began to rock and sway with the easily aided rhythm. I nipped at her freckled shoulder and she reached up to anchor herself with her arm around my neck, tangling her fingers in the mussed curls of my hair. I felt the tell-tale spasms of tightly clamping muscles and the rush of warmth gather thickly at my knuckles as her extremely sensitive walls contracted, shattering her into oblivious bliss once and then twice. Low keening breaths escaped her lips and an involuntary jolt of gentle release rushed through me as well with just the gratifying intensity of this incredible woman filling my senses and replenishing my soul.

We both went still and she turned her face to meet my own, gazing deeply into my soul as we kissed and soothed one another. I couldn’t help but smile disbelievingly at her, at this incredible moment that would rival all moments of contentment in my life.


Continued in Chapter 8 – This is the land of legend, where everything is possible when seen through the eyes of youth.

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