CAGED

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INJURED

“Dr. what is happening?” I commanded.

“Miss April, I need you to move out of the way now.” The Dr. said to me with his hand on my shoulder, he gently led me to the far side of the room, while a swarm of nurses hurried inside. They encircled Stefens hospital bed and the Dr. began to give out orders. I could see one of the male nurses injecting something into Stefens IV. The others were focused on the monitors that were attached to his body, and to the reaction of the Dr. as he used what looked like a pin needle, as he placed it into Stefens feet and legs. I sprung towards the hospital staff, wanting answers.

“What is happening? Tell me what you are doing to him!” I said, making my way closer to his side.

“Ma’am, lets step outside into the hallway, shall we?” One of the younger nurses said to me while reaching for my arm. I jerked away from her, accidently bumping into the hospital bed, then a loud beeping sound came from one of the monitors.

“Okay!” That’s enough, escort her out of the room, NOW!” The Dr. yelled.

I covered my hand over my mouth to muffle my gasp, while hot tears poured from my eyes and I began to shake all over. I didn’t know what was happening to my friend as he lay helpless in the beige colored hospital bed. Gray cords connected to his body lie draped over the bed rails, while a plastic hose filled his mouth. It’s been 46 days since Stefens car accident, and his state hadn’t changed. Day in and day out I made the trip here, and every day I wished for his recovery. The driver of the pickup truck Stefen collided with was arrested for drinking and driving. He was treated for minor cuts, then released to the county jail. If only Stefen could have been so lucky to have walked away. Instead the tragedy only added to the ripple of unfortunate events. First our Melody was missing with no sign of what could have happened to her, which lead to the start of our frantic search, and ended with Stefen comatose, and still no sign of Mel. Just in these few weeks, the police have had numerous reports of women, similar to my best friend, who have disappeared. Over a six month span a total of 19 young women have been un accounted for by their families. An eerie scene on the news reported a young lady matching almost identical features, and dressed in similar work out clothing that Melody had on the last day that we were together. That same night I received Stefens desperate call about Melody’s whereabouts, and the night that his accident happened. I never considered or thought that Mel’s disappearance was connected to the uncanny “breaking news” on the T.V. or that she could be a part of a series of kidnappings. But to the officers, that’s what it was starting to look like. I was heartbroken for both of my friends, as well as for the families of the other missing girls.

“Are you okay Miss?” A nurse asked me as she guided me by my arm into a chair, that sat down the hall and away from the room where my friend was either dying or already dead. I stared at the multicolored squares that speckled the hospital floor, imagining what would become of me if both Melody and Stefen were gone forever from my life. I loved them both. Melody has been my best friend since before we were teenagers, always inseparable and known as the dynamic duo to many. She’s always been my ‘rock’ and my strength, and brought the best out of me when I felt like nothing in this world mattered. The day my grandfather passed away from Alzheimer’s disease, I was left torn and broken. The man that I grew up calling Papa, was taken away from me by an ugly senseless thief. When I felt like I couldn’t face another day, and the pain of losing him hurt my entire being, Melody was there for me. She had already experienced the death of both her parents, and she could relate to my tragedy and heartbreak. She lifted my spirits and helped me to see the light, at the end of a gloom filled tunnel of endless sorrow. I looked up at the dark-skinned nurse, that was soft spoken and wore a very concerned look on her face. Her hair was braided in very loose and whimsical twists that danced around her face, reminding me of my aunt and how she loved braiding my hair. I would sit on the floor with my elbows propped up on my aunt Vicki’s knees for hours while she braided my hair and hummed African American spiritual songs. A long and grueling event that made my scalp sore for days.

“No, I’m not at all okay. He’s my friend, and I don’t know what’s happening to him.” I said to her. She stared back at me and smiled. Her teeth looked like bright white pearls against her chocolate skin.

“He is in the best care. I assure you of that.” She said, while pulling another chair away from the wall, and positioning it in front of me.

“Mind if I sit with you?” She asked.

I leaned on the arm rest so that I could see around the nurse, I wanted desperately to talk to the Dr. but, knew that it was best to stay out of the room. For now, at least. As soon as he and his team of nurses and staff come out of the room I would pounce on him and plead for an explanation.

“You do believe me? Don’t you?” She asked, moving her body to the side, blocking my view of the hallway.

“What is your problem?” I barked at her, holding up my first finger and the rest of my hand clenched into a tight fist. “You know what? You should be in there right now helping Stefen instead of out here bugging me.” She stared back at me with her dark brown almost black eyes, neither one of us making any attempts of looking away. Then suddenly over the hospital intercom, came an announcement about a code ‘Blue’ and that 3rd floor nurses should report to the nurses’ station for instructions. I gasped and sunk my hand into my chest, I could feel my heart pounding throughout my body. “Stefen.” I whispered.

“Excuse me.” The nurse said to me as she scooted the blue plastic chair back against the wall. She began to walk away from me but I reached out and grabbed her wrist, and while looking up at the young nurse I started to feel warm tears stream down my cheeks as my lower lip and chin began to quiver. She kneeled down in front of me, placing one hand on my forearm.

“I have to go check in at the nurses’ station, but I promise as soon as I am done there I will come straight back.” She stood up and patted my shoulder. “I know that this is all very hard on you, but you need to stay strong for your friend, you know that he wouldn’t want you to be upset.” She said to me. “We are doing everything that we can, to treat his injuries. She came closer to me, almost brushing her cheek against mine as she spoke softer.

“Listen we have a fabulous cafeteria here, and when I come back, why don’t the two of us go down and grab some coffee. My name is India by the way.” The scent of her perfume was lenient and fresh, and I could smell the mint on her breath. She stood up still looking into my eyes, then turned. I watched her small frame walk away, then disappeared onto the next hallway. Her hospital scrub top was form fitting and rested nicely on her hips. Not like most nurse’s outfits, that usually were loose and did nothing to make it evident that there was a person’s body underneath. I shook my head, trying not to imagine what she looked like without the dark blue hospital attire, but to direct my focus back to Stefen. I shouldn’t be thinking of drinking coffee at a time like this, I wanted to know what was happening in that room, and was Stefen going to be okay? After pondering over the ‘what if’s’, I instead started to consider the coffee invitation. I wasn’t doing either of us any good taking my frustration out on people who were trying to help matters or thinking the worse about the situation. I leaned back against the hard-plastic chair and rested my head on the wall closing my eyes. Imageries of Stefen laying helpless, and Melody’s charming and innocent smile faded as the full pouty lips of the nurse came into light. The smell and feel of her skin so close to mine, could have made my mouth water under any other circumstances. I wondered if I should feel guilty about leaving the floor that Stefen was on while he was having an episode of some kind, just to go downstairs and chat with a complete stranger. A lump started to form in my throat and a helpless feeling ripped pains of betrayal into my chest. How can I be so selfish I thought? I need to just stay right here in this chair, and wait for the Dr. to come and tell me what is happening with Stefen. Minutes passed as I sat with my eyes resting, and my head propped up against the white painted wall. When the sound of footsteps startled me, causing my eyes to dart open. I sat up at attention and forced my eyes into focus, while looking down the hall way towards Stefens hospital room. No one was near his door or even on the entire hall, it was empty and quiet, only the sound of my own heart beat filled my ears. I stood up and stretched my arms above my head, shaking my hands and making them into fists, then stretching my fingers out. I must have been imagining the footstep sound. I thought. I stood on the empty hall for what seemed like an eternity, but then decided to check up on the Dr. and nurses attending to Stefen. When I arrived at his door I slowly peaked around door frame, not wanting to alert anyone, being that earlier I was sent out of the room for causing a disturbance. I could still hear the dull beeping sound of the monitors, and low muffled voices coming from inside of the room. Taking a few slow steps forward, I managed to quietly make myself known with a hushed clearing of my throat.

“Hello”. I said politely, surprised that the room had been cleared out. All except for Stefen and one nurse. “Is it okay for me to be in here now”? I asked the male nurse, who seemed to be jotting notes down on a clipboard while humming. He looked up from what he was doing and made eye contact with my breasts.

I’m up here pal. I wanted to say. But instead, I patiently waited for him to snap out of his male chauvinist moment so that I could ask him the details of Stefens condition.

“Yeah sure” He finally said. “Dr. Carter left about 10 minutes ago, so you’re safe with me. Well, and him too I guess.” He nodded his head towards Stefen and chuckled.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I fired at him. Taking a step backwards and crisscrossing my arms. I demanded to know what he meant by that comment. He swept his hand through his dark brown hair, then tucked his ink pen behind his ear.

“Oh, I’m only kidding with you, love.” He smirked. “Doc is running some blood tests on your boyfriend here, and you will have the results soon.” And with that, he banged the gray clipboard back inside of the metal basket attached to the foot of the hospital bed. I wanted to tell him that Stefen was not my boyfriend but thought that it would go over easier to have him believe that he was, then for me to tell him that I was a lesbian. Most people are uneasy around Gay people, and I didn’t need that negative attention. I only wanted answers about Stefen.

“Okay, I’ll just wait here for him to get back.” I said to him, then focused my attention on the newly placed bandages on Stefens arms. “Wait.” I blurted out. “What are those bandages for?”

The nurse looked annoyed at me as he stopped making his way to the door. I guess his rounds were now over and he was on his way for a much-needed break. Not that he looked busy or over worked, by any means. More like a High School drop out that likes to play dress up and ask his daddy for lunch money.

“From the venipuncture, to obtain a blood culture for testing.” He replied back with a superior look on his face. He stood inches away from the door, and I could tell that he was irritated and growing tired my questions. What is this guy’s problem I thought to myself?

“Is there anything else that I can help you with Angel? Would you like a latte or scone from the cafeteria?”

The arrogance coming from his mouth was flooding the room and I had every notion of exposing him to it. But Instead I politely replied.

“No Patrick, I won’t be needing either of those things. But thank you for offering.”

He twitched the corner of his mouth into a crooked smile, and I felt that he had more to add to my response, but without leaving the opportunity open for anymore of his haughtiness, I turned my back to him and gave my attention to Stefen. He lay peacefully in his hospital bed, and the only sound in the room that could be heard now, was the soothing sounds of the ventilator. I quietly exhaled, hoping that Patrick would leave without any more of his rude remarks.

And he did…

Since Stefens accident he had lost a total of 32 pounds and had transformed into a frail and delicate being. His face began to sink and his eyes were becoming more deep-set every day, my friend was beginning to appear almost hollow and ghost like. His lips continuously stayed dry and cracked, even after I moistened them with a pink sponge stick. On my many visits, I would lotion and massage both of his hands, avoiding where the IV’s were taped in to place, and with the length of time Stefen had been motionless in his hospital bed, I felt that I needed to move his limbs. Carefully, one by one I would lift his arms and legs then bend them at the joints. I needed to do something other than sit and wait for him to wake up.

Or not wake up…

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