Chapter Fourteen

The hospital was a zoo. Natalie was in a lot of pain, and scared out of her mind. I don’t want to die alone! Michael, hurry! After the doctors got through poking and prodding her, and administered a morphine drip, she felt marginally better, but was still terrified. She heard a familiar voice in the hallway – it was Julie.

“How’re you feeling, sweetie,” she asked, as she came into the room.

“I’ve felt better,” Natalie replied.

Julie chuckled. “Still a wise-ass, I see. I called Michael a few minutes ago. He had stopped off at your place to pick up a few things, and should be here any minute.”

“I’m here!” he shouted from the doorway.

Natalie’s eyes teared up. “Thank God. I was afraid I was dying, and I was all alone and -- ” she choked off a sob as the monitors went crazy.

“You’re not alone, and you’re not dying. Not today. Not if I have anything to say about it. Just take a deep breath, and try to calm down. I’m here, and I’m not leaving until you do.” He pulled up a stool to Natalie’s bed as Dr. Stilson entered the room.

‘You must be good and scared,” he said to Natalie. “You’ve had another mild heart attack. I’m afraid the damage done this time, well, we’ll need to admit you. You’re stable now, and we’ve upped you meds, but you need a monitored bed.” He put his hand on Natalie’s. “I’m sorry. I know being at home meant a lot to you, but we have to do what’s best for you right now. I’ll have Julie see about your room.”

“I know, I’m sorry too,” Natalie replied.

Michael saw Patti standing in the hall. Natalie followed Michael’s gaze, and waved the other woman in. She had a clutch of four roses in her hands.

“Natalie, I came as soon as I could – how are you doing?” Patti leaned in to kiss Natalie’s cheek. The two women had become friends in the months she and Michael had been dating.

“Oh, you know, same old, same old – I’m dying. How about you?”

Patti gasped, and swatted at Natalie. “I’m fine, you twit. Don’t even joke about that, or you won’t get your flowers. They’re from the guys.”

An orderly came to take Natalie to her room upstairs. For the time being, she had a private room. When she was settled, Michael opened the bag he’d brought from Natalie’s house and took out her portable CD player with the “Thank You” CD among others and the picture of the four guys surrounding her on the stage.

“I thought you’d want some things from your house. I guessed on what to bring. I grabbed your music, your comfiest robe, and this,” he indicated the photo, “for inspiration. Don’t give up without a fight.”

Natalie just sighed. “I’m just so tired. Michael, give my music; I need to relax.” She put on “Thank You”, and closed her eyes. In a matter of minutes, she was asleep.

Michael pulled Patti into a hug. “Thank you for coming. I don’t know how I’d get through this, this waiting without you.”

“I’ll be here as long as you need me, Michael,” Patti replied.

Several hours later, Natalie awoke to find Michael and Patti snoozing on chairs next to her bed. She moaned a little, making Michael jump. “Natalie, thank God you’re awake. You’ve been out for hours. How’s the pain?”

Natalie took silent inventory. “Not too bad anymore. Oh, Michael, I’m not going home again, am I?” She started to cry softly.

Michael started to cry, too. “No, Natalie, sweetie, probably not. God, I’m so sorry.” Patti had slipped out of the room to give them a little privacy, and to find some coffee.

When she got back to the room, she saw Michael pacing the hallway. “Michael, what’s going on? What’s wrong?” she asked, handing Michael a cup of coffee.

“The docs are checking her out, and asked me to step out of the room. I don’t like leaving her in there by herself.”

“She’s strong,” Patti said, “she’ll be all right.”

Michael’s face darkened. “How the hell can you stand there and tell me that she’s going to be all right? My baby sister is in there and will probably never come out. You have -- ” by now he was crying in earnest “ – no right to tell me she’s going to be all right. She’ll never be all right again!”

Patti knew this was grief talking, but still was hurt at his words. After she processed the hurt, she vented her mad. “Don’t you dare yell at me, Michael. And, don’t you dare let her hear you giving up on her! She needs all the strength you can give her. Of course I know she won’t be all right – not without some miracle. But, don’t you let her think for one minute that you believe she won’t walk out of that room.” She smacked his chest with her fist. “Don’t you dare!”

Michael drooped. “Dammit, Patti, I’m sorry. It’s not your fault, and you’re right. I need to be positive, to be strong for Nat.” He pulled Patti into an embrace. “Thank you for setting me straight. You balance me. Thanks for being here.”

The doctor emerged from Natalie’s room. “Before you go back in there,” he said, “we need to talk. Natalie’s condition isn’t improving, although the rest seemed to do her good. I’m seeing higher levels of stress than I’d like. I want to put her under – into a coma if you will – to try to get her body to heal itself, to try to give her a little more time.”

“What? No. No way,” Michael replied.

“You don’t really have a say – Natalie has already signed the consent forms. If you think about it, you’ll see it’s best for her. Go talk to her. We aren’t doing anything just yet.

She looks so small, so fragile, Michael thought, when he entered the room. “Hey, babe,” he said, forcing a smile. “The doc tells me that you’re looking to take a nap for a while. What’s up?”

Natalie smiled a sad smile. “Come here,” she said, holding out her hand. With her other hand, she gently stroked the side of Michael’s face. “You know that you’ve been my rock, my protector. I couldn’t have asked for a better champion, a better brother, or a better friend. I love you so much, but, God, I’m just so tired. The doctor,” she swallowed the sob that was threatening. “The doctor seems to think that this coma thing may help. Michael, they want to make me sleep. What if I never wake up? I’m so afraid.” Unable to hold back tears any longer, harsh sobs racked her body. Michael sat up on the bed next to her, and just held her, until the crying subsided.

“I’ve never met anyone as brave as you. I couldn’t have asked for a better source of inspiration, a better sister, or a better friend. I love you, too. If you need to sleep, then sleep. I’ll be right here by your side, waiting for you to wake up. You don’t need to be afraid; I’ll be here for you.”

“Michael, I’m just so damned tired. Promise me you won’t leave me until I fall asleep? Promise you’ll make them let me listen to my music? Promise…” she was fading, and the doctors were hovering.

“I promise. Everything you want, I’ll do. I’ll be here when you wake up.” He kissed her tenderly, then nodded at the doctors in the doorway. “Rest now angel, and leave the rest to me.”

“I love you, Michael,” Natalie said with a sigh.

“Back atcha babe. I love you too.”


Stephanie said...

OMG! This is so sad. I'm glad that Patti talked sense into Michael. Fight til the end, that's the only way. Love this story Jennifer. Keep up the good work. :)

Tara Leigh said...

Evidently Tara needed a good cry tonight. That had to be why I found this story tonight.

Such a strong girl...Michael is being really good as well, and I like that Patti is keeping him on an even keel.

Anonymous said...

Bawls uncontrollably... Found this about an hour ago can't stop reading or crying dammit... what've you done to me...
*rushes off to read next chapter*

Anonymous said...

OMG, I think I'm there with Tara, I guess I needed a good cry tonight.

Michael is a wonderful, strong brother and Patti is doing her best to keep him steady.

Off to go cry some more with the next chapter.