The nightmare replays in my head over and over, until I open my eyes.
I listen more to muffled voices on the other side of the door. Where am I?
"But she’s asleep."
"I need to see her,” a deeper voice replies
I stir my body to sit upwards. With a frown on my face, trying to fully wake up.
"We are still running tests."
A sour taste lingers on my tongue.
I find myself in a spacious hospital room. Everything is white and the lines are clean. There are fresh plants by my bed. A window to my right spills new sunlight on the inside.
"Will she be alright?"
My eyes shift towards the closed wooden door on my left.
How did I get here? What happened?
A short nurse, dressed in blue, appears and walks up to me with a smile. She asks me something slowly in English, despite her accent.
I look at her, dazed. My index finger feels heavier than usual. As the nurse sets a dish of food over my bed, I look down at my arm.
My elbow is hooked up and my finger is attached to a pulse oximeter. The machine beside me beeps along with what I guess is my heart rate.
The short nurse asks me something else. Though I didn’t get what she said, I only nodded my head. My eyes go back to the door again, as my brain registers Judah’s voice.
"And... the, um..." he stammers, ”The baby?"
"Again, we’re still running tests."
The machine attached to me beeps faster.
“Relax, take a deep breath. You’re going to be fine,” the nurse tries to sooth me.
After, the doctor walks in. My neck strains to see the hallway, as the door opens, but it quickly closes.
The doctor and the nurse exchange some words that are foreign to me. I’m still in Italy, somehow. My mind tries to concentrate on the fact that I’m still alive.
Is my gummy bear?
“Um...” I voice.
The doctor looks at me, and then observes his equipment.
“How are you feeling,” he asks, friendly. “Mrs. McAuthor?”
I stare at the doctor blankly, not knowing whether I heard him right.
“Fine,” I answer.
My head no longer is hurting, so that must be good.
“Do you have any allergies, Mrs. McAuthor?” the doctor scribbles on his clipboard.
I wince at the name he keeps giving me. He lifts his pen and waits for an answer.
“N-no,” I mumble.
“Have you experienced vaginal bleeding before?” he asks.
My body stiffens on me. I nod, but my head barely moves. What does this mean? Has it happened again?
“Are you feeling any pain, anywhere?”
My hands clutch the scentless sheets. Fear creeps up on my shoulder.
“No,” I answer.
“We’re going to keep monitoring you for another hour or two. You’ll have to eat your meals to regain your strength,” the doctor informs me, before exiting.
I pray to God for gummy bear to be alright.
I promise to get as far away from Judah’s world as possible. I promise to put my feelings for him aside. I need to get out of this, because I know I won’t be this lucky again.
The nurse talks to me every now and again, as she feeds me my breakfast.
I chew slowly, realizing that I’d forgotten what food tastes like.
The nurse cleans up the food containers and leaves me to sleep.
A few hours later, and a few naps in between, the nurse pops in. I watch her roll in a sonogram machine. I rub my sleepy eyes and sit upright.
“We’re just going to take a quick look at the baby, before discharging you.”
I nod, unsure what to expect.
“The baby is okay?” I breathe out, lifting my head.
She smiles, as she rubs gel on my belly. I stare at the screen without moving an inch. After a moment, gummy bear lightly wiggles between the black and white trapezoid. I blink away my tears, thanking God. After everything, it’s a miracle—one that I cannot take lightly.
“The baby is a bit smaller than average, so you really have to make sure you eat a nutritious diet. Taking supplements is important. Also, you need a lot of rest, so avoid stressful environments. And restrict exercise down to at least walking 30 minutes daily.”
I nod my head, deciding to actually listen and act accordingly, because no one else is going to take care of gummy bear.
I’m not going to make another sacrifice for Judah’s sake.
Finally, Rosalie. You finally made a decision.
I wake up in my hospital bed to the morning. I’ve gotten used to the linen smell. I stretch my arms and yawn, feeling a hundred times better. My breakfast even waits for me nearby. I smile at it and eat it all. For one thing, Italy has the best hospital breakfast.
Suddenly, my door unlatches and swings slightly ajar. It stays like that.
My eyes search for the ghost that seemingly came inside, then stare back at my door. It inches open very slowly, until familiar grey eyes land on me.
Half of me is relieved, elated to see Judah. I want to throw myself to him and hold him, now knowing for certain that he’s okay. I want to thank God that he’s alive and breathing.
The other half of me wants him to stay on the other side of the door, or better yet, disappear.
He steps in and closes the door behind him. My eyes leak tears without control, acknowledging how unstable my emotions are.
He silently comes to my side and sits down. His eyes are weary, and the corners of his lips droop down. I can’t imagine what I must look like.
“You’re alive...” I say out loud.
“Just some of me,” he says.
I swallow, feeling my throat dry up.
“I thought... you were shot,” I scan my eyes over his body.
He weakly smiles and lifts the sleeve of his t-shirt. I stare at his excessively bandaged shoulder that has a round stain. My air escapes me.
“He was never good at aiming,” Judah says.
My hands gather the sheets around me. I want to hold him so bad. He looks like he’s going to fall to pieces. I settle for letting my fingers brush over his palm. His skin is cold and clammy.
I wonder how much he fought with the doctors to come see me...
I open my mouth, trying to keep a strong front. I need this to be done. I need to leave him. I won’t survive if I don’t.
“I... The doctors said...” I shift my eyes to his, determined in my lie. “I lost the baby.”
Judah blinks, and his dry lips part. I watch him lick them, and he looks away for a moment. He then surprises me by grasping my hand and squeezing it.
It’s only when he brushes his hair back and breathes out heavily that I notice the moisture in his eyes.
“I couldn’t protect you,” he looks at me, slowly shaking his head.
He grins, “I’m useless, huh?”
I try to prevent my shoulders from trembling. Judah buries his head in my lap.
I’m taken aback. My hands want to push him away, yet don’t know how.
I let my fingers brush through his thick hair. I didn’t think that it would hurt him this much. I didn’t think he’d care. My voice is unsteady.
“I’m going to go home... And I’ll... go back to school. I’m going to graduate. I’ll visit my parents. I’ll take a trip to the Grand Canyon or something. I’ll rent my own place. I’ll finally get my driver’s licence, you know. I’ll get a job. I’ll live... without you.”
I feel his heavy breaths sweep above my thighs. My hand smooths his hair back.
My eyes finally get a chance to read the tattoo written that’s behind his ear, trailing down to his neck. My palm presses over my mouth, as my whole body quivers.
I’ll never breathe again...
“You will,” he whispers, “Sweet cheeks.”
My rose is the rose that blooms forever.