Authors: Allyson Young
Lacey knew the woman was being cheerful for her sake, and wanted to let Marie’s bonhomie penetrate the heavy blanket of sadness that was settling over her, but it was hard. She contented herself with an upturn of her lips and hoped it passed for a smile. No way was she staying here one more minute than she had to, and if she seemed depressed or upset, they would probably make her see a social worker or somebody. She just wanted to be home in her little bed where she could pull the covers up and recuperate in time for work on Monday. She thought, with considerable bitterness, that the miscarriage had at least happened on a Thursday so she wouldn’t miss too many days on the job. Tears of loss and self-pity gathered in the corners of her eyes, and she blinked furiously. The nurse handed her a tissue and clearly contemplated saying something further. Lacey knew there was some bad news coming even before Marie unpursed her lips and said, “Your, uh, Greg, that is, Mr. Jackson is waiting in the hall to see you. Apparently he’s been there all night.”
Lacey’s heart leapt into her throat and lodged there for a moment before dropping back into her chest like a stone. He was going to be the death of her. She could see her hands trembling and tucked them under the covers, hoping Marie hadn’t noticed. Marie was a buxom blonde, the type of woman Greg used to favor, maybe did again, and Lacey knew he had worked his charm on her to full effect. She longed for Sheila to return and asked Marie where she was.
Marie’s baby blue eyes narrowed, and Lacey realized she had offended the nurse. She hastened to add, “I didn’t have a chance to thank her yesterday before I fell asleep.”
Marie’s expression relaxed, and she assured Lacey that she would pass her gratitude on, and then said, “I’ll just help you clean up a little, get you to the bathroom, and then you and Detective Jackson can have breakfast together.”
Lacey closed her eyes against the other woman’s avid stare. She had no ally there. She went for broke. “I don’t want any visitors, thanks. I’ll just get cleaned up and eat.”
Whatever Marie was going to say was interrupted by a tattoo of fingernails tapping on the door, and Lacey’s stomach unclenched when a little redhead poked around the frame. “Ms. Munroe? I need to poke you.”
Marie said, “I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Her back was rigid as she marched out the door, and Lacey could empathize. She had never liked to disappoint Greg either. Too bad. The little lab tech found a vein without any trouble and drew enough blood to satisfy a whole family of vampires. As soon as she left and the door swung closed, Lacey pushed her way out of the confining hospital linens and put her feet on the floor. The room swung crazily for a few seconds and then settled back into balance. The cold tile helped to ground her, and Lacey made her way, carefully, to the bathroom, holding onto the metal sides of the bed and then the little bedside table. Aside from a little dizziness and a whole lot of weakness, she didn’t have a problem, but it was lucky that the bathroom was so close. She used the toilet and discarded her protection and plucked another off the shelf, focusing on the task and ignoring the reason for it. She stayed sitting, reaching over to run water into the sink, the high, U-shaped faucet splashing first cold, then warm water, and she dampened a washcloth. She scrubbed at her face and neck, then threw the cloth into the hamper. There was a little tube of generic toothpaste on the shelf, and she levered herself up to reach it, hanging onto the sink to steady herself. She longed for a bath, but it had taken too much out of her to even wash past the most basic manner.
She clearly had a long way to go before she was back to normal, whatever that might be. She wanted to cry again and somehow made herself stop. Using her forefinger and a lot of paste, she managed to clean her teeth to some degree and felt marginally better. She spat vigorously, and her temples pounded, and cold sweat broke out over her whole body. Okay then. Too much effort. She thought she’d just sit and wait for a few minutes until her strength built up.
The bathroom door pushed open slowly and once again Lacey’s stomach relaxed when Marie came into view. This was insane. At some point Greg was going to come in, and she would be on tenterhooks until he did. Marie didn’t look pleased, but as soon as she saw Lacey’s demeanor, her nursing persona took over.
“You should have waited for help,” she chided. “I told you I was coming back. Are you finished in here?”
Lacey just nodded. She was done. Greg didn’t appear to be. How to get out of this? She wanted the time to process her loss, to grieve quickly and avoid things, to heal, and he wasn’t letting her by dint of his presence. Damn him. She didn’t want to share this with him, allow him to help her through it. Fortunately, Marie didn’t say anything further about Greg, just escorted her back to bed. The return trip took considerably longer, and Lacey was nearly panting by the time she was safely back under the covers.
The breakfast fairy had come in at some point, and a plastic tray sat on the little table, a stainless steel cover with a hole in the top hiding whatever culinary delights had been chosen to aid in her recovery. Marie rolled it to fit over the bed at Lacey’s thighs, and Lacey cautiously lifted the cover and viewed a small dish of what appeared to be wallpaper paste, the ubiquitous cherry Jell-O squares quivering in their own container, and a cup of what turned out to be coffee, clearly ladled from the dishwater rinse and colored with some dregs from the coffee grinder. Lord, she needed to get out of here. She mixed the Cream of Wheat with the Jell-O and forced it down, knowing she needed sustenance and accepting that they wouldn’t let her leave if she didn’t show signs of getting better. The coffee was simply out of the question, and she longed for an extra-large Dunkin’ Donuts, heavy on the cream. She absently wiped the tears from her cheeks, and wondered at them. It seemed that one part of her brain remembered why she was here, even if the other parts were obeying her edict not to think about anything except convincing her doctor to discharge her. Her insurance was void if she left against medical advice.
There was a tap on the door, and the man she needed to convince strolled in. So that was the other male voice she had tried hard not to hear conversing, colluding, with Greg out in the hallway. Whatever happened to patient confidentiality? God save her from men everywhere. Lacey blanked on the doctor’s name, and was grateful to see that he, too, had a nametag on his hip-length white coat, if only he would come close enough so that she could read it. He stared at her, probably assessing her condition, and picked up her chart from where it sat in the metal cubby on the foot of the bed. Crap. She hadn’t thought to look at it.
“Well, Ms. Munroe. You gave us a bit of a scare yesterday I see. How are we feeling today?”
The whole freaking bunch of them were doing the royal thing. Lacey forced a big smile.
“I feel fine,” she lied happily. “Just waiting on you to give me the ‘all clear.’” Men liked happy, sweet, charming women who pretended to be in awe of their superiority. It didn’t matter who they were. Dr. Atkinson proved to be no different. He visibly thawed and beamed at her, and Lacey knew she had won. The doctor’s next words corrected her presumption. She must be losing her touch along with everything else, although it was more likely that Greg had gotten to him.
“You lost a great deal of blood, Lacey, and I’m not happy with your count. It’s coming back up, but you definitely need more rest and a proper diet. We transfused you, and you hemorrhaged again when we did the D and C. You needed more blood then. I heard you’ve been up and around twice, which amazes me, and I’m not pleased that you were allowed up last night at all.”
“Please,” Lacey tried. Men sometimes gave into tears and pleading, and she no longer had any shame about manipulating the situation. “I don’t want to stay here. I can recover at home.”
“But the woman who brought you in said you live alone. You need someone to care for you, or at least be available should you need it.”
“I have a wonderful landlady, and there’s another tenant on the floor above me.”
Dr. Atkinson smiled at her, and Lacey braced herself. He didn’t disappoint. “I spoke with your gentleman friend in the hall. He told me you would want to be independent. He has offered to have you stay with him until you have completely recovered. I understand that there has been some difficulty in the past, but that he would like to make amends. He is a police detective, and I know how attentive he has been with his partner. There are few secrets in a hospital, after all! She is no longer in need of his support, and so I am quite inclined to discharge you into his care.”
Lacey wanted to scream and throw something if only she didn’t feel so drained. So KarLynn had died. Great. Now Greg would mourn her and blame himself some more while he “took care” of Lacey. The man was a freaking saint. Good for him. No, make that a martyr. She’d write the Pope on his behalf.
“I’m afraid it’s out of the question.” Dr. Atkinson’s face tightened at her flat response, then smoothed out.
“He has also lost the child, Lacey,” he said quietly. “You need to pull together.”
Lacey snapped. Oh, not in a way that she would have liked to, not by screaming at the pompous, self-appointed judge who wasn’t a shrink, who looked at her so kindly, so self-righteously, and who didn’t possess ovaries or a vagina. Not by throwing and breaking things, preferably his face. She didn’t have the strength, but the tear reservoir seemed bottomless, and she knew all the words, even if she would modify them in deference to his god-like doctor status.
“Screw you, Dr. Know It All,” she managed, as the salt flood poured down her cheeks. “Screw men everywhere. You know squat. Get out of my sight, and if you let that man near me, I’ll sue you and the hospital. You’re supposed to heal me, not gut me.”
Dr. Atkinson’s stunned and outraged visage turned her tears into hysterical laughter, and Lacey choked. She could hear her sobbing mirth reverberate inside the walls of her head, and the room spun. Then she felt a heavy hand on her hip followed by a sharp poke and knew no more.
When she next awoke, Lacey’s head throbbed and vied with the continuing ache in her abdomen. A large bouquet of her favorite spring flowers graced the bedside table and once the implication of who had sent them penetrated, she turned her head away. And there was the sender, large-as-life, handsome face etched with worry and what she suspected despair looked like. Funny he should be feeling the same thing that she was. Well, she was used up. The son of a bitch of a doctor must have stuck her with a sedative or something, because she really didn’t care. He had obviously written off her dead-serious threats to sue as the reaction of the weaker sex, the chauvinistic prick, if Greg’s presence was any indication. Lacey accepted that her heart still belonged to Greg, no matter what had transpired over the past months, and gave up for the moment. He reached out to take her hand, and she didn’t resist, although she didn’t respond either. Her heart might be his, but there was no energy or life in it. It was no more than he deserved.
“How are you feeling?” he asked quietly.
Lacey blinked and managed a tiny shrug, but he caught the movement and his hold on her hand tightened. She felt it from afar.
“The doctor said you could leave tomorrow morning if your hemoglobin continues to rise, and if you have someone to take care of you, baby.” Greg waited but she couldn’t summon the energy to respond. He looked at her carefully and didn’t seem to like what he saw, because he touched her forehead with his other hand and frowned.
“You’re kind of warm. Are you feeling worse? C’mon, Lacey, talk to me. You didn’t used to be a coward.”
Lacey heard the taunt and vaguely understood the inference, but frankly didn’t care. Greg liked submissive women and deserved that, too, she guessed.
Greg sighed and released her hand. “I heard how upset you got with the doctor, and I’m sorry. I’ll take you to your home, baby, and stay with you there, if it’ll make it any easier, but I’m going to make sure you get better.”
Lacey didn’t acknowledge him, rather liking the insulation of her spongy brain. It was comforting, and she didn’t have to think, or feel for that matter. She stared just over his head and after a little while, Greg stood, pressed a kiss on her cheek, and left the room. Marie came in immediately thereafter and checked her pulse and took her temperature, giving her a worried look. She leaned a bit closer and said, “I’m sorry, honey. We women need to stand together, and I know you think you’ve been bulldozed into this care plan. I think it’s for the best, but you know more about it than I do. Give it time. You’re a strong gal, or you wouldn’t have been with Greg in the first place. I know his type.”
When Lacey didn’t answer, watching and listening as though with another person’s senses, Marie, too, patted her hand and straightened. “You’ve got a bit of a fever and the sedative isn’t agreeing with you. I suspect it’s making your brain slow. I’ll get some Tylenol and see how you do.” True to her word, Marie returned in a short time with two little tablets in a little white paper cup. Lacey obediently opened her mouth to let Marie tip them in, and swallowed some tepid water to wash them down. She stared at the ceiling and mentally connected the tiny dots in the ceiling tile to pass the time.
Greg came in with her lunch tray and tried to feed her some soup. Lacey refused to open her mouth, and he threw up his hands. “Damn it, Lacey! You have to eat. Let me help you. Talk to me!”
Lacey just stared at him, and he finally got the message. He set the spoon down, his rigid self-control evident as he did so, and she picked it up. She managed a few mouthfuls of the slop and then pushed it away. The tea was marginally better, although there was no honey. She wished Sheila was working. She wished her mom would come and take care of her but knew better than to ask, or even tell her parents what she had done. They would see things as God’s will and that she was deserving of it, like retribution, and maybe it was. Greg wordlessly took the tray and brought her a wet cloth to clean up with.