Sophia had died and gone to heaven, so she told herself. She could see a blurred image showing against an opaque light in the background. There was also a sound … a murmur. Sophia tried focusing her eyes, but to no avail. She had not come to realise her blurred vision was partially caused by her injuries, and from the operations to her head.
A soothing touch to her hand gave her reason to think, is this God?
Barbara had moved closer to Sophia on hearing her stir, and with a gentle movement stroked her hands. “It’s Barbara. Can you hear me?”
Sophia’s eyelids flickered at a rapid rate as they fought to stay open, but her body refused to obey her mind’s commands.
Then her memory gave up its secret. The vicious impact to her back, followed by the sensation of being airborne, made itself known. The replay of her head hitting the tiled floor of the vestibule, and the horrendous pain that followed also came flooding back. It happened so quickly, I do remember the pain in my head. It felt like my brain exploded. She could see in her mind’s eye a darkened figure standing over her as she lay on the floor, but identifying that person would have been nigh on impossible. As she relived the punishment and the events that had ensued, Katherine’s image also appeared. Where is she? I need to know! God, please, God, where is she? She begged silently, hoping for an answer. Tears were welling.
Barbara dabbed them softly with a tissue as they began to fall onto the top of her exposed cheek, above the bandage.
Sophia’s left hand unexpectedly gripped Barbara’s right forearm. The strength of the hand encircling the lower part of her arm was vice-like, surprising Barbara. She immediately interpreted it as a sign for her not to leave.
“I’m here. You cannot speak. Your jaw is broken. Please, you need to relax. I promise I’ll stay.”
Sophia tried moving her head in the direction of the sound, but the pain only increased, and so did her dizziness. Trying to maintain a hold of Barbara’s arm also was becoming an almost impossible task. With her energy sapping, her body wanted to surrender to the darkness. She refused to accept its pull. Is Katherine okay? Has she been injured? If she is, I’m to blame! Please, tell me what had happened to her? I need to speak. Her hand relaxed its hold.
Unfortunately, she was about to enter another hell. Frustrated by not being able to converse, the pain in her skull had increased, and it travelled to sit behind her eyes and her inner eardrums. With bulging eyes Sophia’s arms and legs began to flail violently on the bed.
Her eyes are going to explode, Barbara thought, just as she ran from the room.
“Will she be okay?” she asked the nurse, as Sophia settled.
The nurse had increased Sophia’s morphine level “She should be alright . . . but she’s been through a rough time. Patients with severe head injuries sometimes go through what you saw. You can go back to Katherine, if you want, and I’ll keep an eye on her. When she wakes I’ll come and tell you.”
“Alright, but are you sure she’s okay?”
“She’ll be fine.”
Barbara returned to find JM asleep in a chair and Katherine with closed eyes. Hospital chairs are never comfortable, she thought. Nevertheless, that did not stop her from following the steps of sleep. Exhaustion from the events of the day had taken its toll.
The tapping to her shoulder woke her, but her brain wanted to remain in her present state. Although a struggle to wake, Barbara eventually glanced up, to see JM standing near her chair. He was looking in Katherine’s direction. For some inexplicable reason she remembered her dream. The low-tide waves were washing up and retreating from a deserted beach, to join the next and return to the sand, creating sounds and movements that gave the illusion of tranquillity. There was something about the sound of waves slapping onto a beach that made life a little easier, she thought.
“She’s awake,” JM said calmly.
“Darling, thank God you’re awake. Are you okay? Are you in any pain?” Barbara asked, as she sprang from the chair to stand beside her daughter.
Katherine’s eyes were as usual, a fixed stare.
“Please? If you are in any pain, I will get the doctor to increase the morphine. Just tell me.”
“Katherine . . . please, talk to us.” It was JM’s turn to plead.
The absence of any emotion led JM look at Barbara. To signify wanting to talk in private he made a head movement toward the door.
Once in the corridor he put his arm over her shoulder, then leaned his head close to hers. “We need Doctor Gilmore to examine her. She does not appear to be responding. What do you think?”
“There’s definitely something wrong.”
“If you stay with her I’ll ask if he’s available. If he’s not, I’ll ask for another doctor to come and look at her.”
“Don’t be too long.”
With his examination complete, the duty doctor joined them in the corridor. “She’s definitely awake. I’m sure she has eye contact, but she’s not speaking. It could be she’s still in a state of shock. We’ll know more when we do some tests. I’ll ring Doctor Gilmore and tell him of my observations. If he’s available he may visit her later in the morning. I’ll ask a nurse to organize for her to be bathed. At least she’ll feel fresh. Take care with not upsetting or agitated her when you speak to her. We don’t want her to relapse. Unless she’s sustained a brain injury, which I doubt, she should resume communicating.”
JM was far less confident. “Let’s hope so.”
“She looks better,” Barbara commented, at seeing her bathed daughter.
Katherine heard her mother. If they hadn’t gone away, I wouldn’t be here. I know they love me, but how am I supposed to trust them? This will be my new world. I’ll remain silent. I won’t talk about what happened. What will people think? I need to get out of this nightmare.
Closing her eyes had become a fearful act. The man wearing the ski mask would appear, so did reliving the torture. Slide-by-slide her brain would play the re-enactments, and in slow motion. She desperately wanted to scream, but it would have meant betraying her new sanctuary.
Doctor Gilmore arrived mid-morning, accompanied by a nurse. He was endeavoring to be as delicate as possible as he touched Katherine’s groin, but he was also aware of her embarrassment. This young girl has been through a horrendous ordeal. “I’m sorry, Katherine. I’m almost finished.”
With his operating skills having been re-examined, he then looked into her eyes, moving her head slightly left, then right.
“Why don’t you want to speak?”
“Are you in pain? You can tell me!” Suspecting she would remain silent, he immediately asked, “If I give you a pencil and paper, would you write your answers for me?”
“Could you get some paper and a pen, or pencil, please?” he said to his assisting nurse.
She hurried from the room, but returned just as quickly.
Doctor Gilmore turned to Barbara. “Is she right or left handed?”
Placing the pencil in her right hand, he then lay the sheet of paper on the examination chart.
“Do you want me to increase the morphine?” He was sitting on the edge of the bed, awaiting a response. “If you can’t speak or write can you blink once for yes or twice for no?”
As he studied her, she was observing him. She sensed she almost knew what he was thinking.
“Okay,” he said, in almost resignation. “We won’t ask any more questions today. Get some rest.” Turning to Barbara and JM, he said, “Could I see you both in the corridor, please?”
“She’s healing okay, even though she’s still at an early stage. I think her not wanting to speak or communicate is deliberate, a kind of defensive mechanism. It’s voluntary, not physical, and I’m sure she’ll eventually come out of her shell. When she speaks, I guarantee you’ll be first to know. It’s obvious she’s received plenty of love and that should carry her through her ordeal. When you’re in her presence remain strong … she’ll be better for it. I’ll be back later to see how she is.” He reached out and placed his left hand lightly onto Barbara’s right shoulder. “Everything will be fine,” he said, before walking away.
“Do you question yourself as to why this happened to us? I don’t mean us as in you and I, but us as a family,” she asked.
“Every waking moment.”