Chapter Four | Proper Introductions
◦◦ Sawyer ◦◦
Five and a half hours later, NCH Baker Hospital
“...I can’t breathe. God I can’t catch my breath. Don’t leave...please? I’m scared...”
Recollections of earlier this afternoon at the beach started rushing forward the moment I came to from a short nap I’d been taking, and I blinked slowly in confusion as my head lolled to the side seemingly on it’s own with leisure. The smell of rubbing alcohol was strong, making me wrinkle my nose. You know that feeling you get when you know where you’re at, but not? That’s sort of what waking up at NCH Baker, especially like this, felt like for me.
Did I...really admit that I was afraid to someone? To...the lifeguard who saved me. Kate?
I could still feel the warmth of her steady hands clasping onto one of mine as I was fading in and out of consciousness. Paramedics gave me the creeps, and the last thing I wanted was to be strapped down on some stretcher while I was helpless to do anything about it. My eyes widened as they darted all around in a panic, and I started hyperventilating. Only for a minute though, because as soon as I realized Kate was squeezing my fingers I found it in me to slow my breathing.
Restraints in general make me uneasy, but I’ve blocked out nearly every experience of having to deal with them. For good reason too, because I can get violent fast when I feel threatened enough.
The only thing that kept me from losing my ever loving mind was Kate’s concerned hazel eyes burning with intensity as they locked on mine. She was so close, the scent of salty ocean water and tangy pineapple embedded into her skin teased my nose. It was as if gravity itself was pulling me toward this girl, and I didn't dare question why.
“I know, I’m right here. Try and calm down okay? You’re not drowning anymore, you’re safe. Inhale and exhale...yeah, just like that. You’re doing great! I need you to do me a huge favor, okay? Don’t fight them; They’re going to take good care of you.”
I half whined when she was forced to step aside so they could start trekking along to load me into the back of a nearby ambulance. I strained my neck to keep looking at her almost in shock as low mummers surrounded us. “No...where the hell are they taking me...where’s Erin?”
Kate forced herself to smile, and it was so breathtaking that I started wondering how many hearts she melted on a regular basis with one of her genuine ones. She dashed over last minute, and maintained eye contact with me while briskly keeping up with the EMTs urgently speaking into their walkie-talkies.
My goose bump covered flesh shivered as the wind caressed it, and I so wished for a fucking blanket or something to soothe me. I kept myself from obsessing over my discomfort by admiring the way Kate’s dark bangs blew into her expressive, light eyes.
“Your friend is a bit shaken up, but she’s waiting with my supervisor by the ambulance. Is there anyone you need us to call, so they can meet you at the hospital?”
We were running out of time together; I didn’t want to waste our last remaining moments explaining how I had nobody worth contacting except Erin, who was already around here...somewhere. So I grinned weakly instead and croaked, “I’m Sawyer by the way...”
A broad grin complimented her by now amused features, and I think my previously racing heart literally stopped beating. Just before they wheeled me out of sight, I caught two incredible hazel eyes dancing coyly in my direction.
“Yeah, I know who you are. Just like you knew my name is Kate. Now we’re properly introduced. Take it easy, Sawyer.”
Her voice, woven from fine imported silk and sweet honey was the last thing I remembered before blacking out again.
Kate....what I wouldn’t give to see her again....and I told myself I would. Assuming I can ever show my face back at Naples beach, anyway.
I struggled to hold onto the memory, and smiled softly to myself just before the creaky sound of a door opening snapped me out of my thoughts. A kind face appeared, ridden with stress from a long shift but pleasant nonetheless. I gave her an emotionless gaze in return as she stood beside the uncomfortable bed I was resting in.
“Alright Sawyer! Doctor Xiao says you’re all set for release. Per your extensive diagnosis list, he wants you to continue taking your prescribed anxiety medication and keep away from excitement for a little while. I’ll just be right back with your discharge paperwork.” The middle aged nurse whose name I honestly don’t remember (nor care to for that matter) flipped through a stack of medical slips securely pinned to her clipboard, humming a sickeningly sweet melody as she flounced right back out of the room as if on auto pilot.
I guess that made enough sense; I’m no one special here, just another dumbass who drank herself into a stupor and passed out in front of dozens of onlookers in public after experiencing a massive panic attack. It’s her literal job to know who I am, just another task to tackle before quitting time.
How many people does she see in here a day? How many fuck ups like me? Go back on Prozac? Hilarious joke. I flushed those loopy pills months ago. Ugh...my stomach kills...
My ears strained to listen as her raspy voice mingled with two or three others, but they all stopped just as soon as their conversation was getting started. Then there was that uncomfortable silence again; The only remaining sound coming from an obnoxious clock hanging directly overhead. It’s reliable tik tock filled an evident void festering in the pit of my soul. If it weren’t for the fuming energy radiating from a few feet away, I probably would’ve stared at it to pass the time a little faster.
“...Think you’re sober enough now to tell me what the fuck you were thinking back there, Sawyer? You should be, they had to pump your fucking stomach to prevent alcohol poisoning. I still can’t believe this shit. Like, you could’ve drowned. Does that mean anything to you?”
You wouldn’t get it, be grateful for that.
My eyes were fixated on what was just beyond the glass barrier keeping me prisoner. The large window stretched from one end of the wall to the other, granting me a spacious view of Naples in all it’s gorgeous glory. Lights. Traffic. Fresh air. God, I could really use some of that right about now.
“Hello? Any sparks connecting in that stupid brain of yours?” Erin bristled with an exaggerated, heavy sigh.
Fidgeting nervously, I scoffed under my breath and continued staring out of the window in a passive state. “Fuck off if you’re going to treat me like I’m five, dude. My mom kicked the bucket, remember? I don't need another one so lay off.”
I couldn’t bring myself to look at Erin, because I could just tell she was furious with me from across this suffocating, all white room. Her tone said everything, never mind that these are the first words she’s spoken to me since we got here.
Feels like it’s only been five minutes, but I know I’m way off. Medical staff are somewhat required to give a shit, they wouldn’t discharge me without thoroughly making sure I wasn’t going to pass out again or worse. This is the longest I've been awake in I'm sure hours.
I couldn’t take Erin’s irritation right now, and believe me when I say she was heated. Not necessarily for drinking like an out of control asshole and putting myself in a risky situation, but because I scared the shit out of her when I didn’t listen like a smart person would and ignored every attempt at reason despite the consequences.
Because I do what I want WHEN I want, but even I knew I fucked up big this time.
“Christ, fuck this. If you’re insisting on not giving a rat’s ass about yourself, then you can find your own way home while you're at it. I’ve done enough for one night.” Erin bit out in a wounded tone as she roughly scraped out of her chair. I rolled my eyes with a scowl, not making a move to try and stop her because why the fuck would I?
Yeah. See you tomorrow, Erin.
“Woah! Everything okay?” A familiar voice questioned, trailing off as Erin grunted a string of obscenities on her way out. I whipped my head to the side and grinned involuntarily. Kate was standing just outside, practically leaning against the doorway while she watched my highly annoyed friend storm off. As she lingered, I shamelessly checked her out. Kate did away with her form fitting swim suit, and was dressed in a pair of ripped blue jeans and plain white tee-shirt. A thin black hoodie and matching converse sneakers completed her casual look.
I’m usually one for much flashier attire on women, but Kate could make a brown paper bag look glamorous. It was her messy, sexy hair style and the calming mixture of vibrant greens, molten golds, and earthy browns that made up her extraordinary hazel eyes.
Something about having her around made me feel like everything that was wrong with my life just didn’t matter anymore.
I drew in a breath, which caused Kate to glance over at me. She wore the softest smile and held up a paper cup. Liquid was steaming from the small opening. “I’m off work, and I thought I’d bring some coffee and check up to see how you’re feeling on my way home.”
She’s thoughtful too; The complete package.
I licked my teeth flirtatiously and giggled, making Kate’s cheeks burn like they had the first time I laid eyes on her only hours before. So cute.
“Much better now that you’re here. Hey, do you think I could catch a lift home? I’m kinda stranded now that my friend decided to ditch me.” I would've been able to call an Uber or whatever, but I wasn’t about to pass up such a promising opportunity. The captivating lifeguard I couldn't get out of my head was here, standing a mere few feet away from me.
Kate opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by that same nurse from before as she hurried back into my room. “Okay, here you go. If for any reason you start feeling like things are getting worse or you have reoccurring symptoms, come back and see us.” A thick packet was dropped into my lap, and just like that she was gone again.
“Well, they’re efficient. I’ll give them that.” I muttered, casting a sly glance toward a chuckling Kate. Damn, even her laughter is getting to me. It was airy and feminine, and I savored every bit of those lovable giggles. When she quieted down, I offered her one of my best roguish smiles. “So... about that ride? I can give you gas money, it’s no big deal.”
She ran a confident hand through her dark shoulder length hair and ambled over, gingerly setting my coffee on the small wooden bedside cabinet. “You can drink this in the car. No need, about the money. I’d be glad to run you home. I’ll uh...just wait out here for you to get dressed.” She started to turn back towards the door, but was stopped by my next statement.
“....Or, you could stay and watch?” I bit my lip, well aware that my rock hard nipples were straining against the flimsy hospital gown I was forced to wear. "I know you want to, Kate...admit it. Who knows...I might need your help again..."
I absolutely refused to let her go on thinking I was some pathetic loser. Shameless flirting for the win!
Those hazel eyes twinkled almost humorously, but there was a hidden intention swirling around too; Lost, and unavailable without any sign of revealing itself. We stared each other down as the clock kept ticking, until Kate broke our gaze with an incredulous snort.
“Nice one, Sawyer; Alas, you'll have to get it together without me. Hurry up before I change my mind.” She smirked playfully with a sarcastic nod before heading toward the door, and closing it behind her quietly.
I raised an eye brow and stretched my lean frame out gradually.
You're not going anywhere without me, and you know it well; Keep brushing me off though and see whose bed you wind up in.