CAGED

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WHEN I FIRST MET HER

“Stefen, I am so sorry this happened to you. Can you hear me Stefen? It’s me April.”

I could hear Aprils voice and could feel her warm soft hand on my arm, only I wasn’t able to answer her or move. The words were there, they were just unable to reach my lips. I was in no pain or discomfort, only my body felt as if it were floating. My eyes desperately wanted to open and tried to open, but every effort was hopeless. Finally, I realized that I had been in a car accident and was now at the hospital, but I was powerless to move or speak. My throat felt full and stiff almost as if I were suffocating.

“Excuse me.” Said a male’s voice. “Miss, my name is Dr. Carter.” The footsteps that accompanied the professional sounding man came very near to me then stopped and I could feel Aprils hand leave my arm, then as her warm touch slowly faded it was quickly replaced by the chill of loneliness.

“Hi Dr. I’m April, Stefen is a good, good friend of mine,” April said. Her voice was shaky and she sniffled as she spoke. “Dr. Carter, please, is he going to be okay?” She asked.

“Well.” The man’s voice started.

“Dr. please tell me what his injuries are.” April’s unsteady voice said.

“He has TBI. Also known as a Traumatic brain injury. The damage is the result from his head being whipped back and forth and side to side from his car accident. The jarring about, so to speak, has caused bruising of his brain tissue, specifically his frontal and temporal lobes.”

“Oh, Oh my Goodness.” April cried out. Then I could hear a squeak, and what sounded like metal chair legs sliding against the floor. I imagined that the Dr.’s prognosis had sent April collapsing into a hospital chair. “How long will recovery take?” She asked. The direction of the Dr.’s voice had changed, it seemed as if he was now closer to me, possibly comforting April.

“Miss, recovery time varies from person to person it is not the same in any two people. With mild TBI, someone may recover quickly and completely, while another may experience substantial challenges for years to come.” Dr. Carter went on to explain. Once he wakes up, he will eventually begin rehab, depending on his injuries. He will have good days and bad. Right now it is too soon to tell. We have his body temperature near hypothermia, and he’s in a medically induced coma. This is the best form of treatment to help prevent his brain from swelling, and force his brain cells to rest. Too much brain activity will speed up any damage that may have been produced. It’s important to not mention anything to him that could be upsetting. It’s been known, for some coma patients, to still be able to hear sounds, voices, and conversations happening around them. This is a delicate time for your friend miss.

My heart was hurting for April. Neither one of us knew exactly what my condition was, or would be. I did know for certain that I had to get better, get out of here and find Melody. How would I be able to tell April to not to worry about me, and to continue our search? I wanted, and needed to know how long I had been here, and if she ever went to the police. The last thing that I do remember, was skidding out of control and having a head-on collision with a truck. I don’t recall anything after that. And without being able to see what was happening around me or the ability to ask questions of my own, instead, I tried my best to access my injuries. Apparently, my brain is somewhat functional, I can comprehend what the Dr. and April are saying. I must be intubated, which would explain the fullness in my throat. Turning my attention on my lower extremities, I then tried to wiggle my toes, but suddenly I felt Aprils warm, now also wet hand on my arm again. I wished that I could talk to her and let her know that I was awake and I could hear everything that was going on around me.

“I’ll leave you two alone now.” The Dr. said, as his voice faded, he must be walking out of the room, I thought. Memories of Melody started to fill my mind. Her bright and beautiful smile that always lit up any room, her grace and charm, and the time when she saved a starving kitten. The scrawny little thing showed up on my door step one night, no bigger than the palm, of my hand. It stumbled around and squeaked instead of making a purring sound or meow, it looked very sickly and his ribs showed through his fur. I would have taken it to the animal shelter, but Melody felt terrible for the little guy and decided to adopt him. Later we came to realize that Mikey; which was what Mel named him, was actually cross eyed. To me, it was funny to see a cross eyed kitty that was always looking at his nose. But to Melody, it was all the more reason to call him her own.

“How cute are you?” Melody would ask him, stroking his dark gray fur.

Mikey soon became a permanent addition to my apartment, since Melody wasn’t allowed to have pets at hers, and she adored the little guy. Spoiled him with cat toys and treats, and sometimes giving him more snuggles than she would give me. She would stop by early on most mornings to tend to him, by filling his water bowl, scooping out his litter pan, and of course feeding him his gourmet kitten food.

“Whoever heard of fancy cat food Mel?” I would ask her.

“It’s gourmet, and he’s had a rough time out on the streets for a long-time Stefen, he deserves the very best.” She would reply while nuzzling with her now too ‘spoiled’ fur baby. The two would occupy my sofa most days, with Mel reading the latest People Magazine and Mikey curled up on her lap. I thought about the first time that I saw her. I was at the local basketball court with some of my buddies, we were in an intense game of 21 when she jogged by. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and she wore bright pink athletic shorts that failed as a distraction to onlookers’ eyes from her long-tanned legs. She immediately caught my eye, and I stopped playing ball to admire her physique. Melody looked as if she were in her own world as she jogged passed the basketball court, unaware that all of us guys had stopped playing to stare at her. She was absolutely beautiful. Weeks later I made a quick stop at a nearby coffee shop and nearly knocked her down in the door way. But before I could open my mouth to apologize, I recognized her immediately when our eyes met. I stood there stunned and shocked because I had just bumped into the girl that took my breath weeks earlier. All I could do was stand in the doorway, frozen stiff and stare at her with my mouth gaped open.

“Excuse me.” Her Angelic voice sang out. She gave the impression of being in a hurry to move past me, but my feet were glued into place. The crowd of java and pastry lovers and cranky business men who wore urgent looks on their faces while they dashed in and out of the shop disappeared and at that moment it felt like it was just the two of us. I could smell her light rose scented perfume, and was mesmerized by her smile that was heavenly and innocent. I wanted to speak to her and introduce myself, but my brain was stuck on stupid.

“Hello?” She said laughing, “Is anyone in there?”

“Hey, hello, ah yeah. I’m sorry, excuse me. Here let me hold the door for you.” I finally choked out. She brushed passed me as if she were floating in the air, dressed in a thin yellow jacket and long floral skirt, with a blue and green plaid nap sack strapped to the back of her tiny frame.

“Thank you.” She giggled.

Most of the morning crowd hurried in and out of the coffee shop, impolite and rushed. Taking their cups of coffee from the barista, while others wore tired faces that gazed down at their cell phones, mindlessly scrolling down the screen with their thumbs. Melody seemed to be someone who relished life and was starting her morning worry-free. I watched her meander through the crowd, then eventually lost sight of her as more people swarmed into the shop.

Before I could finish my reminiscing, the sounds of April’s sobbing brought me back to the here and now. I listened to the tune of her sandals, tapping this way and that like she was pacing the floor, and I anxiously wanted to tell her to pull herself together, and that there was nothing that she could do for me, but a lot that she could do for Mel. The beeping from the monitors was consistent and reassuring that I still had a heartbeat, and if I had listened to the cop that let me go with just a warning and slowed my speed down instead of driving like I was in the Indy 500, then I wouldn’t be in this mess.

“Stefen,” April said through her tears. “I received a call from a detective. He’s the one working on Melody’s and the other girl’s cases. So much has happened Stefen. Please, I need you to wake up!”

An imaginary gasp came from inside me and I felt my body tense up. I tried to force myself to open my eyes, sit up or even jump out of the bed. Detective? Others? What the hell is she talking about? I demanded to know. Only these demands were screaming inside of my head, and April couldn’t hear them. Damn it I wanted to yell out, answer me now, tell me what has happened. But instead, I lay destitute and hopeless. Unable to communicate with the outside world, powerless to help with any efforts that seemed to be taking place to find Melody. Or had she been found? A million hopes of my Mel being safe and well, rushed through my head. April if you don’t start explaining yourself right now, I swear.

“DR!” April yelled out. I heard the sound of her footsteps increase in stride then fade away.


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