The Road Home

#women #abortion #choice #relationships #parenting #teenmoms

Chapter 3: Left Behind

When her eyes opened, a harsh light accosted her, so she quickly closed them again. There were sounds poking and prodding at her ears. Steady beeps, coming in at various volumes, some far away, one that seemed right by her head. The light came in red behind her eyes, still so bright. Taking a deep breath, she filled her lungs with stale, sterile-smelling air. The sounds and smells were familiar, from when she visited her parents in the hospital. From when she gave birth to Gray.

There was something in her hand. Or on it…or both? Flexing her fingers, she found the thing to be warm and soft. And it moved.

Throwing her eyes open, she flipped her head to the left and met a pair of startled eyes. Taking in the face surrounding it, she instantly knew she was dreaming. The face reminded her of Graham, but it was like looking at him through a pool of water. His features were all wrong. Squinting and blinking didn’t seem to help.

“Cerulean?” Water was in her ears, too; his voice was too deep. A pain shot through her head and she squeezed her eyes shut. It didn’t take long for the water to wrap around her once again.

***

Cerulean floated upward through the pool of darkness. Closer to the surface, the sounds and smells and feelings returned, this time, in full force. She moaned, rolling her head up. Vaguely, she remembered her dream about the hospital, being under water. Still tired, she hoped that she could go back to sleep, but she doubted it. She felt as though she had been hit by a train…

and glass danced around her like rain, settling around the grill of the huge truck…

The memory hit her with the same force of the truck. Moaning again, she let her eyes drift open. Recognizing the posters near the door from her dream, she realized that she really was in the hospital. Which made sense, considering she had been run over by an eighteen-wheeler yesterday.

Just like in the dream, she could feel something in her right hand. It was another hand. Daven had probably left work and stayed by her side since the accident. Laboriously she flipped her head to the left, feeling an involuntary smile lift the corners of her slick, fuzzy mouth.

Holding her hand, he had fallen asleep with his head on her arm. As she stared at him, the water from the pool bubbled up around her again. This person’s hair was too long to be Daven’s. His hand was too small, and it didn’t have the same tanning and calluses from his work outside. Suddenly she remembered that she had seen Graham earlier, but it hadn’t really been Graham, so maybe she had been dreaming after all…but she definitely wasn’t dreaming now.

There was a stranger at her bedside.

When she pulled her hand away, the man startled awake, and she saw that he was no man at all, but a boy. Or rather, a teenager. She felt her breathing quicken as the weight of the water settled on her chest. She was dreaming, she was dreaming. This person looked like Daven, but couldn’t be Daven. Not only was he too young, the eyes were different. There was a slightly different curve to his chin. But other than that, she could have sworn this was Daven. But…a teenager.

The stranger stared back with equal surprise. His face broke into a wide smile, and in her next breath, he had run out the door.

This had to be a dream. Once again she squeezed her eyes shut and focused on waking up. However, her eyes wanted to be open. She felt the way she had last Friday, when she had had a day off and Daven had taken Gray to daycare. She had slept until she couldn’t sleep anymore.

“Ms. Tarindale?”

A doctor strode in, followed by a nurse and the teenager. “See! She really is awake this time,” he exclaimed, that wide smile on his face. Looking at him hurt her eyes, as her mind tried to resolve it into something that made sense. His voice brought the water to her ears again, because she recognized it, somehow. She turned to the doctor, who was checking her monitor. This was beginning to feel too real.

“How are you feeling, Ms. Tarindale?”

When she opened her mouth to speak, nothing but a squeak came out. Licking her lips and swallowing did nothing much to help. “Here, have some water,” said the boy. All she could do was stare at him. At his outstretched hand that had been holding hers a few moments ago, now wrapped around a plastic cup of water. A face superimposed over her boyfriend’s.

The doctor watched her intently. “Why don’t you go find your dad, kiddo,” the woman suggested, taking a seat on Cerulean’s bed. “We will come find you when she’s ready.”

His face fell, and he rested the cup on the side table. “But – ”

“We talked about this, remember?” The doctor looked pained. Reluctantly, the boy shuffled out. Coming to stand near the doctor, the nurse rested a hand on Cer’s shoulder. “Ms. Tarindale –”

Cerulean tried to interrupt, and tell the doctor to call her Cera, but once again, her voice wouldn’t work. The nurse brought the cup to Cerulean’s lips and she drank, hating the flavour her teeth leant to the water.

“What…?” she was finally able to croak.

“Do you know where you are, honey?” asked the nurse.

“Hospital,” she managed.

The nurse smiled. “Yes, dear. You’re at the hospital. This is Dr. Aldo, and I’m Nurse Clemens. You can call me Della.”

“Hi.” Cer took another drink, swishing the water in her mouth.

“Hi, dear. Do you know what happened to you?”

She nodded, and her neck cracked. “Truck. Yesterday?” She was beginning to think she had been lying in this bed for more than a day. It felt more like a few days, at least. From the look the Dr. Aldo shot Della, Cerulean knew she was right.

“How do you feel, Ms. Tarindale?”

Again she shook her head, wincing. “Cera. Headache. Bad taste. Sore legs.” Complete sentences seemed too daunting right now.

“Yes, I’m sure you are in quite a bit of discomfort. You were hit by a semi truck.”

She already knew this. What she wanted to know was why everything felt like an alternate dimension, or like she was seeing things through someone else’s eyes. Pointing toward the door, she asked, “Boy?”

“Do you recognize that boy?” asked Dr. Aldo.

Cer bit her lip. “No….Yes?” She shrugged, causing her shoulder and back to pop. Suddenly, she had more pressing questions. “Gray? Daven? Where?” Where was her family? Daven should be here.

The nurse took her hand. An IV line grew out of her skin like a plant. “Honey, I want you to listen to me, and let the feelings come as they will.” Frightened, Cer squeezed the nurse’s hand and nodded. “You’ve been asleep a long time, honey. The accident put you in a coma.”

“How long?” she asked, a choked feeling creeping into her chest.

The door burst open. “Graham, wait!” she heard someone shout from outside her room. The teenager bounded in, a determined expression on his face. An expression that she knew very well.

“Graham?” Cer parroted, squinting through the confusion in her eyes.

The teenager smiled. “Mom. You’re back.”

Following behind him came a man with a baby girl on his hip. Once again, she looked, but didn’t quite see. This was Daven, but at the same time it wasn’t. Looking back and forth between the teenager and man, Cerulean felt as though she were in the past and future both at once. “Graham, what are you doing?” the man snapped. “We were told to wait.”

The baby stared at Cerulean unblinkingly. Nothing was making any sense, but suddenly, looking into the baby’s eyes, Cer remembered the rest of the facts from the day before the accident. A feeling of overwhelming love came over her, just like when she decided to keep the baby. When she decided to turn left, to go pick up Gray at daycare, instead of right, toward the abortion clinic. When the semi had plowed into her car like a diver into a lake. Looking at the baby now, she realized she had made the right choice.

She really had been asleep a long time. This baby looked about nine months old, so it must have been a year. In that moment, everyone else in the room fell away.

“Hi baby,” Cerulean breathed, suddenly choked with sobs. “My baby girl.”

“Cerulean…” the man started. The boy beside him looked stricken, as though she had hurt his feelings somehow.

“Please,” the doctor insisted. “Please go wait outside.”

“No!” Cer protested, and forced out more raspy words. “I want to hold my baby.”

At that moment, a seventh person entered her room. It was definitely getting crowded in here. “Do you mean my baby?” the woman asked, breezing through the door. She had a tan, high heels, and a designer jacket flung over her perfect arm. An expensive-looking diaper bag dangled from her other hand. Snatching the baby from the man, she smiled at Cera. “Welcome back, sleeping beauty.”

The doctor stood and turned on the party. “Everybody out!” she ordered, shutting the door behind them and leaning against it.

Cerulean felt like her mind was being torn apart from the inside out. Her breathing began to feel out of control. “What…is…happening….” she gasped. Then she realized she was screaming.

“Here, here, here,” the nurse soothed, bringing a mask down from the wall above Cera’s head. Supporting her neck with one hand, Della guided the mask onto her face. “Just let the feelings come, honey. Don’t fight them.”

She had to fight. The water was closing in on her again. She moved the mask aside. “Tell me,” she gasped before she had to pull the mask back on.

Once again, the doctor sat on her bed. She seemed to collect herself, and finally, she began. “I’m afraid you’ve got a lot of adjusting to do, Ms. Tarindale. The truth is, you’ve been here at the hospital for a very long time…” at Cerulean’s annoyed look, the doctor took another breath before continuing. “For ten years, one month, eleven days, and twenty hours, to be exact.”

Cer kept her face carefully blank as she chewed the information over in her mind. Her breathing slowed, and she once again pushed the mask away, reaching for the water. “Go on,” she prompted.

Slightly flummoxed, the doctor reached for the clipboard. “Well, like we were explaining before, your accident put you into a coma. We’ve been taking care of you ever since.”

Finally, her throat felt usable. “So I’ve missed ten years of my life. Of my family’s life.” The roaring water rose within her once again, but she shoved it down. “That really was Gray? And Daven. Gray…my Gray is fourteen?” She recalled the last time she had seen him. Wide eyes taking in the scenery as they drove. Feet dragging as she took him to daycare. His small arms around her neck as he hugged her and wouldn’t let go.

“Yes. Graham turns fifteen in a few months.”

She laughed a tinny laugh. “So it’s true then. Kids really do grow up in the blink of an eye.”

The nurse and the doctor exchanged disturbed looks. Cerulean laughed again, then grew sober.

“And my girl…she’s nine now? Where is she? Who was that other baby? When can I see her?”

The nurse patted Cer’s hair and took her hand. “Honey, you suffered trauma to your abdomen during the accident. We tried to save the baby, but with your condition, we lost her at six months.”

A tear slipped down her cheek. She remembered trying to figure out how to tell Daven that she had lost their baby by accident. She even set the stage for her “miscarriage” that morning. Once again, she pushed down the storm that brewed in her mind. It was getting harder, though. “Oh,” was all she said. “So whose baby is that?”

“Would you like us to bring Daven in to explain?” asked Della.

“That old guy who was holding her?”

“Yes. Your old boyfriend. He’s with someone else now, and they had their baby last year.”

She swallowed. “How…long? How long have they been together?”

“Why don’t we let Daven explain?”

There was a large window behind Della. Looking outside, Cer observed a parking lot, a busy, tree-lined street behind it. Beyond that, there were businesses lined up like rows of colourful teeth. She didn’t notice many differences in the town she had grown up in. A couple of the storefronts were new, a few old ones had been repainted. Nothing indicated that she was ten years in the future.

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