At first, I couldn’t hear anything except the ringing in my ears. One continuous note. A barely perceptible hum. I looked around, and tried to take in my surroundings, to make sense of what was happening, but it was as if the world had gone grey; for a moment, everything came down to that one sound.
Then, there was pain.
It wrenched in my gut, as two invisible hands pulled and ripped at my flesh. The world snapped to attention, like an elastic band sprung back into place. The force of it rocked me back so violently, that suddenly I was falling. Someone screamed as the ground rose up to meet me. As I hit the cold concrete, the air rushed from my chest in a sharp gasp, cutting off the agonising cries. The scream had been me.
My breaths came in short, laboured pants. Each intake caused hot liquid to well up from the hole in my abdomen, spilling down the sides of my body, warming the cold ground. Pain flashed through my veins like cold fire, burning and numbing all at once. Darks spots began to swim across my vision, and the grey world swarmed into a black storm. I considered fighting the wave of drowsiness that swept across me, but the relief that it offered was all too welcoming.
Sensing someone stood over me, I reluctantly forced my eyes open. Amongst the darkness, a small innocent face filled my vision. A little boy, no more than 4 years old, looked down on me with intensely dark eyes which seemed so much older than his years.
I couldn’t place his face, and yet it was so familiar. It was as if I knew him. And for whatever reason, the sight of him ignited a strength inside me that I’d almost lost.
When the next wave came, I was swept into warming embrace of the darkness.
But I was filled with a new determination to resurface on the other side.
After what felt like a lifetime, I opened my eyes. Intense light filled my vision; blinding, but a welcome change to the overwhelming blackness I’d become so accustomed to. Memories began to flood in to my mind: I remembered driving through the town. The blue lights obscuring my rear view mirror. Stepping out of the car. My fear when I saw the firearm. The sound of gunfire. The pain. And the little boy.
Blinking, I shook my head, as if to dislodge the thoughts that overwhelmed my senses. Instead, I tried to focus on my surroundings. Once my eyes had adjusted, the brightness revealed a well-lit hospital room, as drab and monotone as the ones on TV.
Not the most welcoming sight to wake up to, I thought bitterly. But then I saw her, the only source of true light and life in the room, asleep in the chair beside me. Her dark skin was pale from worry, her raven hair in disarray, and day old makeup lined her eyes. Despite everything, a grin spread across my face. I couldn’t help it; she was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen.
As if the weight of my gaze had physically brushed her skin, she began stir and sit up. She yawned, readjusting the little blue blanket across her lap, and rubbed one honey-coloured hand over her tired face, as if trying to wipe away sleep itself. It was only as she lowered her hand that she caught sight of me, and she flashed me a brilliant smile.
“You’re awake!” She cried, flinging herself off the chair and draping her body across my chest. I flinched slightly from the pain, but the joy of feeling her in my arms forebode me from moving her. I didn’t even protest as she began planting hundreds of warm kisses across my face, accidentally showering my skin with a light cascade of tears. I held her close as her crying grew more forceful, stroking her back and humming all the soothing sounds I could muster. Slowly all the tension and fear seeped from her body, and once she had calmed down enough, she sat up.
“I thought we’d lost you,” was all she said out loud, but the look in her eyes said more than words ever could. Gently placing both of my hands on the side of her face, I wiped her tear-stained cheeks clear, and gave her my most comforting smile.
“I’m not going anywhere,” I replied, voice croaky from lack of use.
“Good,” she said forcefully. “Because I need you.” As she spoke she took my hand, careful to avoid all the attached wires, and placed it on the ever-growing bump protruding from her belly. “Our little boy needs you.”
And as if motivated by her words, a small sharp kick nudged the palm of my hand.
Faint, but fierce.
My little reminder that I had so much worth fighting for.
– © J. E. Fitzgerald –