“Abby! She’s my wife! You can’t keep me out of here!” the shout filled her ears.
Why can’t I move? Her head spun as she drifted within the darkness.
“Noah, she wouldn’t want you here!”
Stop the shouting! Her arms wouldn’t move as her brain commanded them. The pain so unbearable. Amongst the shouts all around her, the flow of her own blood pounded in her ears.
“She isn’t your wife any more Noah! You need to leave her and Morgan alone!”
“I’ll be damned if you’ll keep me from my son!”
He was so angry. She felt his pain even as she remained in the darkness enveloping her.
“She told you she’s divorcing you, Noah,” the woman hissed.
“I’m not signing those papers! She is still my wife dammit!”
“She hasn’t been your wife for a long time Noah! Let her go!”
So much anger. The man and woman fighting. Must tell them to stop shouting.
Oh God, can’t breathe! Someone please, help me! What is that loud shrilling sound? God, make these noises stop!
“Both of you need to leave!” another woman’s voice ordered. “Code blue!”
She felt another slice of pain race through her head as something was yanked from beneath it and her head fell against something hard. The blood flowing near her ears not rushing as fast. There, quiet. No more pain. Yes, much better.
The doctor entered the lounge. It’s only occupants, a man and a woman on opposite sides of the room. The man was the first to notice his entrance and swiftly made his way to him.
“Doctor, how is she?”
“Yes,” he answered breathlessly. “Please. My wife. What happened?”
The woman had also approached by now. She extended her hand to the doctor. “I’m Abby Baxter. Eden is my sister.”
Seeing no other occupants, the doctor gestured for them to sit. He sat before them and began. “She’s stable, for the time being.”
Noah Carrington was beside himself with grief. His wife had left in an angry state over two weeks ago. She’d served him divorce papers. He was powerless to stop her. Sure they’d been having problems. What couple didn’t? It wasn’t something that couldn’t be fixed. He thought she was over-reacting. He’d thrown the ultimatum at her as though it were nothing.
“You walk out that door Eden, I won’t come after you.”
She glared back at him, “I wouldn’t expect you to Noah.” And, then she simply closed the door. On him. Their marriage. Surely she’d calm down and they could talk this through.
But she hadn’t come back. Not later that night. The next morning. Or the morning after that. The house was eerily silent, so he’d avoided it. Morgan’s laughter; missing. His wife and son were gone.
“Are you alright, Mr. Carrington?”
He shook free of the memories of the last time he’d seen Eden. Alive and well and mad as hell.
“I’m sorry,” Noah apologized, getting a disapproving look from his irate sister-in-law.
“As I was saying,” the doctor began, “your wife sustained some significant injuries. We contained the internal bleeding with surgery, but she lost a significant amount of blood.”
“The nurse told me all that while she was in surgery,” Noah softly replied. “What just happened?”
“Eden’s heart stopped,” the doctor stated.
Abby let a sob escape. “No,” she cried.
The doctor reached for her hand. Even with the events taking place before them, Noah couldn’t bring himself to offer any comfort to her.
“We’re going to keep an eye on her tonight. A nurse will be in her room every minute. We’ll know more tomorrow,” he told them.
“Know more what?” Abby asked tearfully.
Noah wanted the answer to that question as well.
“If she’ll survive,” the doctor stated matter of factly.
“If she’ll survive?” Noah asked in shock.
Abby angrily pulled her hand free and glared at Noah. “This is all your fault Noah!”
Before Noah could respond, the doctor spoke. “Ms. Baxter, your sister was in the car alone. For that we can be grateful.” When Abby looked at him quizzically, he continued. “The officers noted the child seat in the back.”
“Morgan,” Abby wept.
The doctor turned to Noah then back to Abby. “The nurse also told me you two were arguing in her room,” his voice had a stern, fatherly tone. “Based on her vitals, I’d say Eden was aware.”
Abby glared at Noah again, “I told you this was your fault!”
“Ms. Baxter, you were both arguing.” He paused, looking at them for a moment. “I can see there is hostility here. If Eden is to heal, she needs support.”
“What are you saying?” Noah asked the question first.
“If you cannot be civil to one another, I can restrict your admittance to her room.”
Noah abruptly stood, “She’s my wife!”
“Not much longer Noah!” Abby returned.
The doctor stood, his anger at them apparent. “I can see you both care for Eden a great deal. I’d recommend working together.”
“I’ll do whatever is best for Eden,” Noah offered.
“You know what would be best for her Noah,” Abby angrily hissed.
Noah was reaching the end of his patience with Abby. She was the last person he needed in this situation. He didn’t know she was in town visiting her sister until she simply showed up at the hospital while Eden was in surgery.
“I’m going to ask a counselor on staff to sit and talk with the two of you,” the doctor told them.
“Counselor?” Abby asked.
“This is a traumatic event you’re both dealing with. Some significant decisions will need to be made on behalf of my patient.” The doctor looked directly at Abby. “Mr. Carrington is her husband. By law, he will be making her medical decisions.”
“But, she served him divorce papers!”
The doctor turned to Noah. “Is that true, Mr. Carrington?”
“Yes. But I haven’t signed them. And I don’t intend to.”
The doctor asked one of the nurses to join their discussion. “Mr. Carrington, can you state that you will make the best possible decisions for Eden’s care?”
Noah swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. “I love my wife, doctor. She’s the mother of my son. Of course I have every intention of making the best decisions.”
“Very well,” the doctor turned to the nurse to make note of Noah’s authority going forward.
One of the first decisions was making it known he and Abby were not to be in the room at the same time. He had enough to deal with. Arguing with Abby was not going to help Eden.
Noah followed the doctor to the nurse’s station in the intensive care unit. “Doctor Fredericks. I get the feeling you aren’t telling me something.”
The nurse standing at the station spoke up first, “Mr. Carrington, you have our best physician on staff. He’s also honest to a fault.”
Noah looked at him, “Doctor?”
“As I said, if Eden survives the night, her chances increase with each day.”
“If she survives?” Abby’s voice came from behind Noah. Now Noah was exasperated. Did Abby think he’d been kidding when he’d told them in the lounge?
“Ms. Baxter, your sister is at a ten-percent chance of surviving the night.” He then looked to Noah. “I sincerely hope Eden has a strong will. She’s going to need it.”
If anyone had a strong will, it was his wife. Sometimes, too strong. Everything had its place and time. One of the things causing a problem in their marriage the past couple of years. She needed to have control and routine. Though it kept everything and everyone organized, it also caused a great rift between them.
“Mr. Carrington, Eden has lapsed into a coma. The extent of her injuries is significant.”
Noah forced a swallow. “How do I get her through this?” he asked.
“This is all up to Eden now. All we can do is be patient and wait.”
Three days since the accident and Noah was beside her bed. She was so pale. As he looked at her, even her auburn hair seemed less vibrant.
He held her hand, trying to come to grips with the events of the past four days.
“Oh Eden, why were you out driving in the rain and fog?” he asked her.
The nurse entered and began another IV. Noah didn’t recognize this nurse.
“What are you doing?” he asked her.
“Mr. Carrington, your wife’s temperature is very high. Dr. Fredericks has put her on a second antibiotic.”
“Why does she have a fever?”
Noah couldn’t keep up with all the crisis that were coming up since her accident. Just seeing Eden hooked up to monitors and IVs felt surreal. Eden hated needles and would freak at knowing all the poking and prodding she was going through. And now the nurse was adding a fifth medication to her IV.
Dr. Fredericks entered and heard Noah’s question.
“Mr. Carrington, your wife has developed pneumonia.”
“Her body is very weak right now. Infections are difficult for her to fight off. We need to get her temperature down and fluid out of her lungs.”
Noah ran his hand through his hair. “I don’t understand. You said if she survived the first night her chances would improve.”
Dr. Fredericks motioned for Noah to leave the room with him. Once in a consult room, a room Noah was really beginning to hate, he sat and waited for the doctor to continue, wondering just what decision he’d have to make today.
“Mr. Carrington, we need to concentrate on this pneumonia.”
“What are you saying?”
“If we can’t get this under control, we’ll have to put her on a ventilator,” the doctor told him. He saw the disbelief Noah felt. “Mr. Carrington, we’re in an hour by hour situation with your wife.”
“Hour by hour?” Noah barely had a voice.
“I’m sorry Mr. Carrington, but Eden’s chances of survival are less than her first night.”
“What are they?” Noah asked. “Her chances.”
“She’s in very critical condition. She’s at a five percent chance right now.” He let Noah take in the information. “Mr. Carrington,” he called and waited for Noah to look at him. “If we ventilate her, you’ll have to make some difficult decisions.”
Noah stood and paced. “No, I will not give you permission to let her die.” He looked at the doctor. “Morgan needs his mother.”
“I’m not giving up Mr. Carrington. I’ll do everything I can as long as Eden fights with me.”
Eden was a fighter. Always had been.
“Eden won’t give up,” Noah told the doctor.
Noah entered the lounge after meeting with the doctor. He wouldn’t be making it back to work today.
Powering up his cell phone, he tuned it to the channel restricted to the office. Using the walkie-talkie feature, he found his voice.
“Lorraine? You there?”
“Noah? Where are you? I thought you’d be back after lunch.”
“I won’t be back in today.”
She heard the sadness in his voice. “Noah, what’s going on?”
“Eden’s taken a turn for the worse.”
“How could she be worse?” Lorraine asked confused. “She’s in a coma. How can it get worse than that?”
“She’s really sick Lorraine. The doctor is dealing with her survival on an hour by hour basis.”
“Hour by hour?” Lorraine’s voice soft in disbelief. “Oh Noah, are you alright?”
No, he wasn’t alright. The thought of losing Eden through divorce was hard enough. To think he, and Morgan, could lose her completely was something he just couldn’t wrap his brain around.
“Look, I don’t know how long I’ll have to be here. You know, to make decisions. I’ll touch base with the site foremen, but you need to consider me unreachable until I get in touch with you.”
“I can talk to the foremen for you,” she offered.
As owner of his own construction company, he had the ability to be away from work if needed. Something he was very thankful for.
“No Lorraine, I can do it. If anything does come up, you know what to do.”
“I’ll make sure he knows Noah. Take care of yourself.”
He disconnected with Lorraine and made his next call. A difficult one.
“Michelle?” he called into the phone when it was answered.
“Noah, what’s wrong?” She could tell by his tone something was wrong.
“It’s not good Michelle. Eden’s worse.”
“Oh my God.” Michelle began to cry. “How are you holding up Noah?”
He had no idea how he was making it minute by minute. He couldn’t give up. His son needed him to be strong.
“I’ll be alright,” he told her. “Hopefully they can get her fevers under control and then her recovery can get back on track.”
“How bad is it Noah?”
He swallowed. Michelle was Eden’s best friend. He couldn’t lie or keep anything from her. “The doctor is going hour by hour.”
“Noah, you know Eden. She’s going to be fine.” Michelle paused. “And don’t worry about Morgan.”
“I’ll stop by tonight to see him.”
“Noah, concentrate on Eden right now.”
His emotions were beginning to build. “Michelle, he’s a part of Eden. I need to see him.”
“Alright. I’ll tell him Daddy’s doing bath time tonight.”
“Thanks. Hey, I gotta go.”
“I’m here for you Noah. Anything you need. You know that.” She paused. “I love her too.”
“I know. I’ll see you later.”
He disconnected and powered off his phone.
He paced trying to come to terms with all of this. It was so hard sitting by her side. He thought waiting the seven hours she was in surgery was tough. What he was going through now was nothing short of pure hell. Eden had always been so full of life. Her auburn hair should have been his first clue to her zest for life. Her smile always filled his heart. Sitting in the silence of the lounge, he wrestled with how they’d grown so far apart the past three years. He’d slowly lost her day by day.
He sat, resting his hands on his thighs he prayed, Please bring my Eden back.
He walked back into her room. No more time for self pity. Being positive was needed to get through this. To get his son through this.
They began giving her oxygen and inclining her bed to help her lungs. Tubes and wires everywhere. Through it all, she looked so peaceful. Did she know what was going on around her? Did she hear him talk to her about Morgan each day? Was she scared?
He rubbed at his face as he stood at the window looking out at all the people going about their normal lives while his was in complete chaos.
“Noah?” a man’s voice called from the entry of the hospital lounge.
Noah turned to find James Falcon, Eden’s oldest brother standing there.
“James,” he greeted as he walked toward him.
“How are you?” James asked.
Noah had been dealing with so much hostility from Abby, he was sure James was going to erupt into big brother mode any moment. Eden was the youngest of the four, and they all treated her as though she were a china doll. Noah knew full well his wife was anything but that china doll. Her determination and stubbornness only increasing as time went by.
“Tired. Confused,” Noah finally answered.
“That’s understandable. How’s Morgan?”
Noah combed his hand through his hair. “He seems alright during the day. At least, that’s what Michelle tells me. At night, a different story.”
Noah pictured his son in his mind. His big brown eyes and white blonde hair. A toddler of three who missed his mother terribly and no amount of comfort was welcome. He wanted his mommy and was totally confused by the circumstances.
James took a seat, prompting Noah to follow suit. “Look, I’m not here to fight Noah.”
That was a relief. The tension in his shoulders eased a little at the thought.
“I thought Abby…”
“Yeah, Abby called both of us. Jake is here as well. We’re staying at a hotel.” James told him.
“I appreciate you guys coming, really. But, the doctors have no idea how long she’ll be like this.” Noah bowed his head as he leaned forward, his forearms resting at his knees. “It’s like Eden doesn’t want to wake up.”
James leaned forward, his hand on Noah’s shoulder. “Hey, we’re lucky she pulled through. Give Sprite some time to gain her strength back.”
Noah smiled, of the two brothers, James was the most protective. He was ten years older than Eden. Because of their circumstances growing up, Eden had wrapped her big brother around her finger. Their mother an alcoholic who drank herself to her own world each day, leaving Eden a lonely little girl as her older siblings slowly moved away. James had a soft spot for his little sister and tried to fill the void left by his mother and their workaholic father.
“About Abby,” James intruded on Noah’s thoughts. “I can’t guarantee anything, but I have asked her to back off.”
“Thanks,” Noah responded.
“I’m not saying I won’t be keeping an eye on you Noah. My little sister’s been hurt. But, I also know a marriage is between two people. If she decides this divorce is what she wants when she wakes, she’ll have my support.”
“All married couples have problems, James,” Noah explained.
“I know that. But, if Eden has determined your problems are too much to take any more, she has that right.”
“Can we shelve this for now?” Noah asked.
After a moment of silence, Noah gave James the low down on what was currently Eden’s condition. The look of shock that fell down James’ face was undeniable.
James asked to see Eden. His baby sister so small in the hospital bed. So many monitors. He closed his eyes, coming to grips with what he was seeing before walking over and sitting by her side.
Noah left them alone and returned to the lounge. He was having a hard enough time holding it together himself. He knew what James must be going through and gave him the privacy he felt he needed. James was a strong man and Noah knew what he was going to feel.
A half hour later, James entered the lounge. Noah didn’t say a word on noticing his red eyes.
“Noah,” James called to him. “She’s gonna be fine.”
Noah knew what he was doing. It was the same thing he did. Say it out loud so you’d continue believing it.
“Yeah. I know.”
“I’ll help you in any way I can. I know you’re making a lot of decisions right now.”
That was an understatement. Half the time when he signed permission forms, he had no idea what was going on. No one could understand why she was still comatose. All Noah could see was she was so far away. Totally unaware of anything going on around her. Not the curious Eden he’d known for seven years.
“Look, you’re all welcome to stay at the house. I’m not there much anyway.” Noah changed the subject.
“Where’s Morgan?” James asked.
“Michelle’s keeping him. We tried bringing him to the house, but he just keeps looking for Eden.”
Michelle and Eden had been best friends for years. Michelle had a way of comforting Morgan Noah didn’t possess. He loved his son. He just didn’t know how to relate to him. Morgan and Eden seemed to have a world, a family unit all their own. One he wasn’t a part of. He couldn’t think about that now. He pushed up and began pacing.
“You think I’m a horrible father, don’t you?” Noah asked.
“I don’t know if you are or not Noah. Only you know that.” James stood and approached. “Are you doing what’s best for him?”
“I think so,” Noah answered. “I don’t know. I’ve got doctors and nurses asking me if they can do so many things, I can’t keep that straight. I’ve got a small boy who won’t even come near me ’cause I don’t have Mommy with me. Man, I don’t know if I’m doing anything right at all.”
James chuckled, bringing Noah’s attention to him. “Then you’re doing the right thing,” James told him.
“Yeah? Tell that to Abby. She doesn’t seem to have a problem telling me I’m doing everything wrong.”
“She’s just emotional over this,” James told him.
“She’s emotional? Look, I have enough on my plate here. Abby is just making things more difficult. Eden moved away from the family to get away from this cocoon of over-protectiveness. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think Abby knows what Eden would want. I think she’s trying to force what she wants.”
Noah thought for sure James would erupt. No one went against the norm in the Falcon family. Noah felt Abby was using this as an advantage of getting Eden back into their fold. He knew Eden didn’t want that.
“Like you said, let’s table this until Eden recovers. I’ll talk to Abby some more.” James looked to Noah sincerely, “We all want what’s best for Eden.”
“Thanks,” was all Noah could think to say. He was too in shock at James’ cool-headed behavior to do otherwise.
Water. I’m so thirsty. The cloak of darkness was beginning to lift. Strange sounds began sounding around her. Beeping. A slow, rhythmic beeping. Comforting. Voices in a distance. Who’s talking?
Her tongue felt like lead within her mouth. Where am I? Need to move. Can’t. Why can’t I move?
A soft noise caught her attention. There’s that beeping again. A cool cloth placed on her forehead. Oh, that feels good. Still can’t move. Need to see. She focused all concentration on the one act of opening her eyes. You can do this! she scolded herself. Open your eyes!
Her eyes fluttered open. Okay, now move your head. Figure out where you are. That was easier said than done. Why did her head feel like a lead balloon? Rustling noises. What’s happening?
“Hey,” a soft voice called to her. “We’ve been waiting for you to wake up.”
The voice had an owner. She turned her head in the direction of who’d spoken. A woman with short blonde hair and pale blue eyes smiled as she looked at her.
Major effort, but she licked her lips. “Who…” Oh God, where did my voice go?
I’m Melanie,” the woman told her.
Okay, that answered one question. “Where…”
“You’re at Mercy General Eden,” Melanie told her.
Okay, this Melanie woman knew who she was. That was nice to know.
She was quite good at figuring out what she wanted to know.
“You were in a car accident.”
“Daddy…” Eden managed before exhaustion flowed through her again. The woman was gone.
Noah sat at his desk when Lorraine entered, breathless. “Noah!” she called to him. “The hospital called.”
He jumped out of his chair. Now what medical crisis had developed? The past sixteen days had been one nightmare after another. Eden experiencing fevers that couldn’t be explained. Her reflexes wouldn’t respond to stimuli. Would this nightmare never end?
Lorraine reached for his arm to stop him. “Eden woke up,” her face beaming at the words.
“What?” Noah couldn’t believe it.
“Only for a moment or two, but she woke up. The nurse just called.”
Eden woke up! A heavy weight lifted from his heart. He reached for Lorraine and swung her around.
Setting her down, he looked at her. “I gotta go,” he was breathless.
“I know.” Just before he reached the exterior door to the office, Lorraine called out to him, “Noah?”
He turned, holding the door open. “Yeah?”
Wouldn’t that be great? he thought as he drove toward the hospital. Racing to the hospital to see his wife awake for the first time in weeks. His wife. No, he couldn’t think of the divorce right now. Not even Eden would, would she?
Two hours later, he was still sitting beside her bed. She hadn’t moved. He looked at the nurse who entered and replaced an IV bag. “I thought you said she was awake?”
He sounds nice. My hand, whose holding my hand?
Melanie gave a comforting smile, something he hadn’t seen the entire time since the accident. “She’s tired Noah,” she told him. “Her vitals say she’s simply sleeping.”
“Eden?” someone called from so far away. “Tell me you can hear me,” the voice said. “Squeeze my hand if you can hear me.”
Her mind concentrated, but why wouldn’t her hand do as she commanded?
The nurse watched as Noah spoke to his wife, something he did with every visit. She stood behind him, her hand on his shoulder, “In time, Noah.”
Noah’s heart felt like it would shatter. Eden’s legs wouldn’t move. Her arms. Nothing.
“Please, Eden,” he begged softly, holding their joined hands at his lips, willing her with his own determination.
His voice is so nice. Why is he sad? Okay, one more try.
“Look!” Noah called to the nurse. They both saw the slight movement of Eden’s fingers as they relaxed again.
The nurse had tears welling in her eyes. “She knows you’re here Noah,” she said before leaving the room to find the doctor.
Noah stood and leaned over, placing a soft kiss to her lips.
Oh, that felt nice. Do that again, she called out in her mind. This has to be heaven. So peaceful.
“Tired,” she whispered.
Noah almost leapt out of his skin. He kissed her hand he still held in his.
“Stay here,” she whispered. I want to stay here. So peaceful.
Noah looked to the doctor who just entered then back to Eden. “I’m right here Baby,” he told her before kissing her forehead. His free hand then brushing back hair from her face.
The doctor smiled at him. “This is a very good sign, Mr. Carrington.”
“When will she be awake?” Noah sounded like Morgan at the thought of his favorite treat.
The doctor chuckled. “She’s got a long road ahead, Mr. Carrington. Baby steps.”
Noah felt a surge of impatience. He’d been waiting sixteen days. Sixteen days of not knowing if she’d wake.
The doctor took a small light and shone it in her eyes, she winced at the brightness, grasping his hand tighter.
“Stop!” Noah called out to him.
Dr. Fredericks finished his exam and turned to Noah, “Mr. Carrington, if she hadn’t done that, I’d be concerned.”
The doctor gestured for him to exit the room with him. Noah didn’t want to leave. She’d asked him to stay. Reluctantly, he let go of her hand as he set it gently down on her stomach.
As they left her room, Abby, James and Jake, Eden’s other brother, stood by the nurse’s station. Abby approached first.
“How is she?” Abby looked first to Noah then the doctor.
“Quite well,” Dr. Fredericks answered.
“But she didn’t wake up,” Noah stated.
The doctor took them to a conference room. Once they were all seated, he began. “Eden has had a major breakthrough in the past three hours.”
“But, the hospital called and said she was awake,” Noah stated.
“Mr. Carrington, awake for Eden right now means not comatose.”
Noah stood, frustration rolling through him. He took in a few deep breaths then turned to the rest of them. “Okay, what happens now?”
“She will regain consciousness more and more. No one can predict when she will be awake as you understand it. Rest assured, it will happen. Her body is still healing from a very traumatic experience.”
“Then what?” Abby asked, just as impatient as Noah.
“Then, she tells us how she’s feeling,” the doctor answered.
James could see Noah’s frustration. “Dr. Fredericks,” James started, “I think we’re all trying to understand the process. Is there some sort of timetable so we can gauge what to expect?”
James gave Noah a reassuring look. Noah was grateful. He wanted Eden to wake up and be healthy again.
“Mr. Falcon, your sister’s body has been through a horrific ordeal. I’m encouraged with her grasping Noah’s hand…”
“She did what?” Abby interrupted.
The doctor looked to her and smiled. “She’s showing awareness. Her body has been immobile for over two weeks. Moving her extremities, or squeezing a hand as it were, takes significant effort. Hence why she said she was tired.”
“She spoke?” Jake managed through a tight throat.
“Yes,” the doctor told them. “She also asked Noah to stay. All very good signs.”
“She asked him to stay?” Abby repeated.
James took her hand. “Abby,” his tone a warning.
“It appears she recognized something, or someone, of comfort. A common occurrence with couples.”
“But they aren’t…” Abby started.
“Doctor,” James shot her a severe warning glare. “What can we do?”
“The same as you have been. Eden is in control of this. We’ve done everything medically we can. When her body is ready, she will respond accordingly. You have to remember, she’s very weak right now.”
“More waiting,” Abby voiced the frustration of all.
Three more days passed. Eden’s progress was being described as nothing short of miraculous by the medical staff, though Noah thought it still slow and painstaking. He felt in such turmoil. He wanted Eden to recover and yet was afraid of what lie ahead at her recovery. Was he only about to lose his wife all over again?
Eden’s siblings gathered at the house along with Noah’s sister, as Noah brought Morgan home. It had been more than a month since the boy had lived there. On previous visits he’d simply cried out for his mother.
Morgan seemed his happy self with all the attention from his distant relatives. The phone rang interrupting their play.
James noticed Noah’s features as he took the call. Rising, he followed Noah to his den.
“What’s up?” James asked.
“I really hate these phone calls,” Noah answered. “They call when she wakes, and I keep thinking she’ll really be awake. Ya know?”
“Look, Sprite is a fighter. Before long, she’s gonna be giving us all hell.”