Romance Fiction Inspirational

Every day, it’s the same thing. I look at Nathaniel’s chart. I stare at the machines as they make their pings, the screens show graphical readouts in real time. I see the air pumping in and out into his body. It is exactly one week since the accident. I sit in the washable chair and stare at his motionless body. I remember everything.

I recall the event. The day was clear. It was the perfect day for a ride. We weren’t going to ride far. Nate had just gotten me a barbie pink helmet. It was so cute. I remember him saying that it would go great with my blond hair. We rode together on his new bike. A drunk driver did not see the light. He ran straight into Nate. Nate was flung from the bike, and I fell out and hit my head into a tree. By the time the ambulance came he had lost a lot of blood. I was released from the ER the next day with only a concussion. Nathaniel was brought straight to this room. He was in a coma.

I let the tears come. They are fresh. I have not really processed the entire situation. It’s not fair that I’m the one alive and well. He did everything right. He was not the one drinking. He bought us protective gear and we used it. I almost begin cursing God but stop short. That night I make a promise to stay by Nathaniel’s side no matter how long he needs to be in that coma, and in that room.

The next day, I am still here. I bring him a favorite song and play it. I hope it is enough to make him come back to me. The nurse assures me that if I talk to him and give him something familiar to hear that it can help. He is taken off the air and is breathing on his own, but still not coming out of this coma. I tell him how I am there and want him to wake up, but it still does not work.

A month goes by, and it is Valentine’s day. Nathaniel would have done something so sweet. He always surprises me. I surprise him. I make him a card, and I write inside it. I place it by his bed. I tell him that I need him to wake up and see it. I tell him that I love him, and I cannot wait to be his wife. Before the accident we were planning a June wedding.

The following week, I am sitting by Nate’s bedside, stroking his hand when my phone rings. I pick it up. I want to walk out into the hall, but I cannot leave Nathaniel’s side. I answer it. It is my sister, Nonie. She is trying to convince me to cancel the wedding. She tells me I am dreaming that Nathaniel will be awake in time. I tell her that she is probably right, but I feel like if I continue with the wedding plans, I feel like he will still be right there beside me while I do. She tells me she understands, as I begin to cry again.

The next month, I realize that I have to cancel the wedding. I cannot go through with it if I have no groom. Nathaniel is still not awake. It is now March. People ride any day of the year in Miami. So, it’s not like we had to worry about ice in the winter, but now that I think about it, we should have been more careful to worry about drunk drivers. They are plentiful around here. Maybe if I had just stopped him from getting the motorcycle, he would not be here in this room, in this coma.

I lay down next to Nate. I put my hand in his. It’s too cold. I put a blanket up over us. I tell him that we are going to live happily ever after, even if we don’t have the wedding this year. I tell him how much I love him. I fall asleep. When I wake up, it’s the nurse, telling me that visiting hours are over.

Easter is here and am putting up decorations in his room. I hope that if he wakes up, and I’m not here, that he’ll see something beautiful. I picked out cheerful paper eggs, ducks, bunnies, and crosses. His mother is here. She places some Easter Lilies on a window sill. She sits in another chair and starts to talk to me.

“Marnie, how are you holding up?”

“I’ve been better. I guess you got my note about the wedding being canceled.”

“Of course, dear,” she says swatting her hand as if it was no big deal.

“Fred and I predicted that was coming. I’m just worried about you.”

“Me? Oh, I am getting better at coming in here every day and expecting him to get up to greet me. I’m getting better at healing the rage inside at the drunk driver. How are you? I bet it is difficult worrying about your son from the other side of the country.”

“Yes, it’s been difficult. The thing is, I’ve been fortunate because I know he has you. Whenever I worry, I think of how he might have been all alone that night, and never would have had anyone to watch over him like he does now. And you always fill me in on how he is doing. I am so blessed to have you. You don’t need a wedding for me to know that you would be an excellent daughter-in-law.”

I start to cry. Mrs. Chatlin stands up and puts her arms around me. I hug her back and she starts to cry too.

The next month brings little change, but the doctors say they are hopeful. Whatever he heard last month made his brainwaves change. The only thing different was the conversation between me and his mother. I decide that I will put his mom on speakerphone more often.

The following month is difficult for me. It’s the month we were to be married. It’s June. The air outside his room is stifling hot, but here inside is cool and comfortable. He has no idea what day it is. I tell him that it is June and that we would be getting married soon. I tell him that I would have a beach bridal gown. All our family and friends would be here in Miami. We would have the biggest party there ever was, and everyone would be happy. While I speak, a tear lands on his hand, but it doesn’t move. I look at the monitor, I do see the pattern there change slightly. It gives me hope.

Mr. and Mrs. Chatlin, and my sister all gather together in November for Thanksgiving in Nathaniel’s room. We all sit at a table and eat turkey and stuffing from the cafeteria. It’s a miserable concoction. It tastes like Styrofoam with gravy and cranberry sauce, but at least we are together. My sister tells me she is grateful for this time. We lost our parents when we were young, both of us raised by our grandparents. We have always had each other as family. I take a swig of grape juice and tell everyone that I am glad to be together as well. I look at Nate. Tears well in my eyes. I know he would not want us all here. He would want us at home together, but we wanted to be with him. We want him to hear us as a family with him included. I pray to God, ‘please let him come back.’

I put a tiny Christmas tree in his room with tinsel, and I play Christmas music. I tell him the nativity story. I read him The Night Before Christmas, and The Grinch. I put the TV on to all the classic holiday movies. As I sit there and watch them, I think of how I want our children to watch these together. During a movie, I fall asleep. The door is closed, but I hear a knock.

I answer, “come in.”

“There is someone here to see you and Mr. Chatlin,” the floor nurse says.

“Let them in.”

An older man, in his 50’s or 60’s, comes into the room. He stands close to the door. “I have to talk to you and your friend.”

I want to tell him that he his my fiance, but at this point, I guess it doesn’t matter. I tell him to have a seat. I also tell him that my boyfriend is in a coma. He can hear but won’t be able to speak.

“Oh,” the man says, and looks forlorn. “That’s too bad. I really want to hear what he has to say, but maybe it is better this way. I never meant for this to happen. I am lucky to be here. I have had a hard time finding who you both are and where you are. The holidays make me think more, and I realize that what I had done was wrong. I’ve been to rehab, this whole year. They took away my license. I am so sorry for drinking and driving. I am sorry for the accident.”

The man looks long at Nathaniel and then at me. “I never meant for it to happen. I am an alcoholic. I’ve been sober for twelve months now. I hope you can forgive me. The last time I touched alcohol was the day of the accident.”

“I’ve hated you and what you did for a long time now. I don’t want to forgive you, but Nathaniel would want me to. My heart is telling me to, so I can move on. I’ll forgive you.”

The stranger across from me starts to cry, awkwardly. He thanks me profusely. He tells me that he can heal too, that this is actually one of his twelve steps, to ask for forgiveness and to apologize. He pulls a small package out from his coat. He hands it to me.

“Give this to him when he wakes up. You tell him it’s from me. If he doesn’t wake up, well, it’s yours to keep. Merry Christmas.” He offers his hand to me to shake. I shake it.

I watch him walk out of the room and close the door. It is suddenly very quiet in the room. The quiet is like a third person, there to replace the man who just left. I push the call button for the nurse. She comes into the room. I ask her if she knows when the doctor will be coming around again. Not until the day after Christmas she informs me. I ask her if I can spend the night with Nathaniel, since it is Christmas time. She agrees. I set the box on his nightstand. I turn out the light and fall asleep next to Nate.

It is January, and a whole year has passed. I ask the doctors if Nate could be regaining consciousness. They tell me that too much time has passed. His brain is deteriorating. They put him back on a ventilator at the end of November. I decide to open the box. If Nathaniel is not going to make it, he needs to know what is in there. I peel off the wrapping paper, which has a fine layer of dust by now. I lift the lid.

There inside is a business card and a signed blank check made out to the business. The card is for a motorcycle company. A small note says, I know it won’t bring back the memories, nor your bike, but at least I can get you a new one.

“He is buying you a new bike, Nate.” I said. “And he is sober.” I cried. I knew it was too late. “He apologized, and I forgave him. He wants you to know he is sorry for everything.” I held his hand.

I studied Nathaniel’s face. The stubble was raw. His face was gray. His hair was matted. This was not the Nathaniel I fell in love with, but the ghost of the man. The one I fell in love with was already gone. I mourned him every day I sat here wishing for him to come back. I put the gift box and check in my purse.

“I’m gonna let them pull the plug, Nate. You need to go. I need to go. I am going to use this gift and see the world. I saw this room for a year. This next year, I am going to see many places. I am not scared. If I do get hurt, I know you’ll be there waiting for me. I am going to go visit your parents first. I will always love you Nathaniel.” I place a kiss on his cheek.

I reach for the call button. The nurse comes in and I tell her that it is time. I head for the door with my jacket and purse. I turn to look at Nathaniel. “See you on the other side,” I whisper. I start to leave as the staff comes in. Time to go.

March 08, 2021 16:45

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