I could hear words. I tried to open my eyes, but they wouldn’t cooperate. As I tried to force them open, I listened.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Desmond. There’s nothing more we can do. It’s up to your wife now. If she’s strong enough, she’ll live.”
“I know. What about my boy?”
“We’re doing what we can for him. We’re keeping him warm and giving him oxygen. Doctor Couney’s incubators have worked for thousands of babies, many of them much smaller and weaker than your son. Most of them have survived. There’s a good chance.”
“Thank you, Doctor Garber, and thank you for letting me stay with her.”
“You paid for the privilege, Mr. Desmond, and I have to say that I think it’s a good thing. I wish the hospital rules were different about that.”
“Do you think she can hear me?”
“Who knows? It can’t hurt to talk to her, though. Maybe you can get her to wake up.”
I am awake! I screamed the words, but no one heard me.
I felt pressure on my hand, and I somehow knew Erik was holding it. “Sweetheart, please wake up,” he sobbed. “Please, Sarah, don’t leave me. Please.” Then I heard something I never thought I would. “God, please don’t let her die. Don’t take her away from me, too. Don’t do this to me. Let her wake up, please, God, please. Give her back to me.”
“Erik? No change yet?”
“No. Keenan, what am I going to do? I can’t do this without her. Why is God doing this to me? Why?! Does he want to completely destroy me?” The anguish in Erik’s voice pierced me like a knife, and I fought to let him know I was okay.
“I don’t know why, Erik. You’ve been through so much; I don’t know why he’s putting you through more, but no matter what happens, you have to be here for your son. He needs you as much as Sarah does.”
“I know,” Erik sobbed, and I felt his lips on my hand.
“I love you, baby girl,” my father said, and then he kissed my forehead. “Visiting hours are over, Erik,” he said. “Are you sure you won’t come home and get some sleep?”
“I can’t leave her. What if she wakes up and I’m not here? She’ll be scared. I can’t leave her.”
“I understand, son. I’ll be back tomorrow, all right?”
Erik didn’t say anything, and soon the only sounds I heard were his sobs. Eventually, even they stopped.
Wake up! I yelled at myself. Let him know you’re fine! Wake up! I struggled and battled my way through the thick, dark fog surrounding me. It seemed like days that I tried to find my way back into the light where Erik was, but finally, I was able to open my eyes. I shut them again almost immediately against the brightness of the room, and then I slowly opened them until they adjusted. I looked around the room, and it looked like a typical hospital room except for the fact that mine was the only bed in it. That’s right. We got a private room. I heard a gasp, and I turned my head to the left. Erik was sitting in a chair with his head on the bed, asleep, his face turned toward me. He let out another sob without waking up. His hand was loosely entwined in mine, and he was still dressed in his tuxedo shirt and pants. The rest of his tuxedo was nowhere to be seen. He looked so young. Even with them closed, I could see that his eyes were red-rimmed and puffy, and I wondered why he was so sad.
“Erik.” My voice sounded funny, but his head snapped up, and his bloodshot eyes flew to mine. “What happened?”
“Oh, my God! Sarah! You’re awake!” He slid off the chair onto his knees and sandwiched my hand between his as he bowed his head. “Thank you, God. Thank you.” He leaped up, dropped my hand, and ran to the door. “Doctor Garber! She’s awake!” He came back to me and knelt on the floor again before taking my hand. He placed kisses on it and cupped my cheek gently. “Sweetheart, can you hear me?”
I nodded and tried to speak, but all that came out was a harsh cough that caused my belly and chest to hurt. I swallowed and tried again. “Erik, the baby?”
Erik smiled through his tears. “He’s beautiful, Sarah. He’s really little, and you’ll both be in the hospital for a while, but the doctors say there’s a good chance he’ll be fine.”
“He? A boy?”
Erik nodded just as Doctor Garber came into the room with a nurse. “Mrs. Desmond,” he said with a smile. “Good to see your eyes open. Mr. Desmond, sir, you need to move. I need to examine your wife.”
After one more kiss to my hand, Erik moved to the end of the bed and put his hands on my feet, rubbing them through the blanket. The doctor held my eyes open and looked at them through a scope, and then he checked my ears, my throat, my chest, and my belly. The nurse wrote down everything he said, and when they were done, the doctor asked, “How are you feeling?”
“My throat hurts,” I croaked, and Doctor Garber told the nurse to get me some ice. When she left, I said, “And my belly. What happened?”
“You had what we call a placental abruption. That means the placenta tore away from the wall of the uterus which is what caused your pain and bleeding. I had to perform an emergency caesarean section to save your son and you. I was able to stop the bleeding, but you’d already lost a lot. Even with transfusions, we weren’t sure you’d pull through.” He smiled. “I’m very glad you did.”
The nurse came back with the ice, and he gave me a few small pieces. It felt heavenly. “How long have I been here?”
“Two days, Sarah,” Erik said, and I looked at him in shock. “Two awful, horrific days.” He dropped his head. “Two days, and you wouldn’t wake up.” His voice caught on the last word, and he shook his head as if to clear it.
I stared at him for a moment, and then I looked at the doctor. “Can I see my baby?”
“Not just yet,” Doctor Garber said. “You can’t get out of bed, and he can’t be brought here. Maybe tomorrow. We’ll see.”
“How long do I have to stay?”
“A week or so. I’d guess your son will be here about a month, though.”
A month! A month without my son in my arms. Tears filled my eyes. Doctor Garber saw them.
“Don’t worry, Mrs. Desmond. You and your husband can visit him often.” He glanced at Erik with a smile. “Mr. Desmond is a very persuasive person. He’s got the director of the hospital agreeing to all sorts of rule-breaking. As soon as you’re able, and as long as you go through the same sterilization preparations the doctors and nurses do, you’ll be able to see your son and maybe even hold him.”
He spent another fifteen minutes or so asking me questions and checking me over. Then he raised the head of my bed up, gave Erik the ice, and told me he’d be back later to see how I was doing.
Erik sat back down in the chair and took my hand. He tried to feed me the ice, but I just held out my other hand. “Just give it to me, Erik.” He grinned and handed me the cup. When I finished it, I handed it back, and he put it on a small table on wheels. I took a good look at him.
His face was haggard, there were dark circles under his red eyes, and there was stubble on his cheeks and chin. That was unusual. Erik never let his facial hair grow. His shirt was horribly wrinkled, as were his pants. I reached out and ran my fingers over his cheek. “Erik, how long have you been here?”
The look he gave me made me feel like I’d asked if the sky was purple. “Two days, Sarah.”
“You haven’t been home for two days? Why?”
He looked at me like I was crazy. “What do you mean why? The love of my life and my son were in the hospital struggling for their lives. Where else would I have been?”
I cupped his cheek, and he leaned into my touch with a sigh. “I’m sorry,” I said quietly. “I didn’t mean anything.”
He kissed my palm and held my hand to his face. “I know. I’m sorry, too. I didn’t mean to snap. I’m just so tired.”
“Have you slept at all?”
He shrugged. “Not much. An hour here and there.”
“Have you eaten?”
A frown formed as he thought. “I don’t think so. I can’t remember.”
“Erik, you’re going to find yourself in a bed here, too, if you don’t take care of yourself. I want you to go home, eat something, clean yourself up, and get some real sleep.”
His frown deepened, and he shook his head. “I’m not leaving you, Sarah.”
“You heard the doctor. I’m going to be here at least a week. You can’t stay here forever. You need to go home.”
He nodded reluctantly. “All right, but I’ll be back soon.”
“What about visiting hours? Is that one of the rules you’ve broken?”
A sheepish grin crossed his face. “It seems fifty thousand dollars can buy a lot of indulgences. I am the director’s new favorite person, and so far, he has refused me nothing. I really shouldn’t be here now.”
“Then go home. I’m just going to go back to sleep anyway.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Please go home.”
“Okay.” He took my face in his hands and kissed me softly before resting his forehead against mine. “I prayed, Sarah,” he whispered. “I prayed to God that he would give you back to me, and he did. I prayed for your life and for the life of our child, and he gave me both.” He kissed me again. “Maybe he really does exist.” I smiled, and he stood up. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
He left, but he kept looking over his shoulder at me until I couldn’t see him anymore. Almost immediately, a nurse came in.
“Mrs. Desmond, how are you feeling?”
“I’m a little sore, but I think I’m fine.”
“That’s good. Is there anything you need?”
“I’m still thirsty, and I have to use the restroom.”
“I’ll get you some ice, but you have a catheter in.”
“It’s a tube inside your bladder. It leads to this bag here. We’ve been giving you fluids through that tube in your arm, so I’m not surprised your bladder is full. Just relax, and it will go into the bag.”
I frowned. “How long will that stay in?”
“I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t think much longer. Doctor Garber will let you know when it can come out. I’ll get that ice for you now.”
After she came back, I couldn’t help but do as she had said, even though it seemed disgusting to me. I felt better, though, and I ate the ice slowly. Then I fell asleep thinking of Erik and our baby boy.
When I woke up again, it was dark outside the window, and the first thing I noticed was that the catheter and the tube in my arm were both gone. The second thing was that Erik was sitting in the chair by the bed. He looked better but still tired. He had clean clothes on, and he had shaved.
“How long did you sleep?” I asked him.
“Probably a little less than you did. A few hours.”
I sighed. “Go back home, Erik. Get a full night’s sleep.”
He nodded. “I will. Later. It’s only five o’clock now.”
“I promise, Sarah; I’ll go later.” He smiled. “I’m just so glad to see your eyes open.”
He raised the head of my bed, and I patted the mattress. He moved to sit beside me.
“Tell me about our son,” I said, and Erik’s grin and sparkling eyes told me that he already loved our boy.
“He’s perfect! Bright blue eyes and black hair. He’s little, though. He only weighs just over three pounds, but there is a doctor on Coney Island who has done wonders with incubators, and they had one brought here. It’s keeping him warm, and they are giving him oxygen because he was having trouble breathing.”
“Is he going to be okay?”
“The doctors are hopeful. They said he was actually on the large side for one born so early, so there’s a good chance he’ll be just fine. He has to stay in the hospital until he weighs at least five pounds, though. They are feeding him with formula, and, like Doctor Garber said, it could be a month or more before he’s ready to come home.”
“But he will come home, right?”
“He will, and he will be the most-loved child on the planet.”
Taking Erik’s hand, I smiled and said, “And what shall we call this most-loved child?”
“Well, I have an idea about that.”
“Yes. I was thinking of Erik Keenan Desmond.”
“You want to name him after yourself?”
“I do. Is that all right with you?”
I nodded. “I like it. Have you told my father yet?”
“No, I wanted to make sure you liked it first. Do you think he’ll be happy?”
I was about to answer when a crash in the doorway caused us both to look up. I gasped, and Erik slowly rose to his feet. A dark-haired nurse was standing in the doorway, her blue eyes wide and her hands over her mouth. A metal tray was at her feet and what looked like broth was slowly flowing toward the bed. She was staring at Erik, and she stretched out one hand as if to touch him. It shook violently.
“Erik?” she whispered.
I knew what I thought I saw, but I looked up at Erik. He had a pained grimace on his face, and he looked dazed. He took a step backward and started breathing heavily. He swayed on his feet, and his mouth opened and closed once. Then it opened again. “Mama?” he gasped, and then he shook his head. “You…you’re dead. He…he said so.” And with that, his eyes rolled up into his head, and he crumpled to the floor in a dead faint.
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