Julie was getting restless.
Robin had been gone for a long time. As unobtrusively as possible, she made her
way past the registration desk, slipped around the corner and pulled aside the
curtain of the small exam room where Robin had gone. He was sitting in the chair
beside the narrow bed, his face buried in his right hand, his right elbow on the
chair's arm. With his left he held an icepack to the side of Joimus' face.
"Robin," she whispered, and he looked up.
"Ah, Julie," he sighed. "I didn't mean to leave you for such a while. But Joimus overheard the doctors talking about how the General had died for a moment during surgery and was most distraught."
"How's she doing now?""
"They gave her something to help her rest." He lifted the ice pack so Julie could see her face. It was swollen terribly from her left eye all the way down to her jaw-line. "There's a small fracture in her cheekbone," he explained. "When she was thrown from the car, this happened."
"Oh, Robin, so much pain and suffering tonight."
"It is all too familiar, my love, and I do not like it. I did not think to find so much of it in this new land."
"Bad men do bad things no matter where one is."
"That is God's simple truth, though it be a shame and a blot upon humanity."
She came up behind him, sliding her arms around his shoulders, kissing his hair. "How's your head, darling?"
"It pains sharply, but is of no matter."
Joimus woke rather suddenly, looking at them groggily, her left eye now almost swollen shut, making it harder to focus. "Maximus? Is he...?"
Robin put his hand on her arm. "He is still in recovery, still being transfused. But he lives."
"I must see him!" She tried to sit, finding her entire body ached with the movement.
"I'll get someone," Julie said quickly, hurrying out of the room. In a moment she returned with a male nurse.
"Mrs. Meridius, I think the doctor was hoping you would rest longer."
"I can't rest. I need to see my husband. I need to see him NOW!"
"You must hearken to this lady's request," Robin said, standing and looking imposingly at the nurse.
The nurse looked at him a moment, a 'what...the?' expression on his face at the man's choice of terminology. "I'll check with recovery," he said and left.
Robin helped Joimus sit on the side of the bed. "You are highly bruised," he commented, noting her arms and legs. The lower half of her long skirt had been raggedly ripped away and mud and bits of grass clung to her clothing and hair.
Julie went out again, finding a pleasant-looking female nurse. After speaking with her, she and the nurse came back with a set of green scrubs for Joimus to change in to. Robin and Julie went back to wait with Cort while the nurse helped Joimus change.
Cort looked at them with intensely concerned eyes. "Tell me," he said. And so Robin explained about the Meridiuses. Cort sighed deeply, squeezing his eyes tightly shut when it hurt his ribcage.
"Does Claire know you're here?" Julie asked him.
He shook his head wearily. "I don't want her driving here in the night and the rain. I'll still be broken in the morning. Time enough then." He managed a wry grin.
He'd been thinking about Claire a lot as he'd sat there alone. The lovely soft gentleness of her face as he saw it in his mind provided a needed contrast to the ugly brutality of the night. He wanted to bury his face in the curve of her neck, smell the sweet scent of her flesh.
"You are tired, my friend, and in need of rest," Robin said. "I must remain until I know the outcomes for Maximus and Alistair, but when Julie and I leave for the Glen, consider that there is a place for you in my vehicle."
"You had a collision, didn't you...on your way here?"
"A small incident, yes, the loss of a bumper. The Mercedes is still drivable, though I fear I must take it to Colin's garage upon our return."
"I'd be mighty obliged for the lift," Cort said. "Thanks."
When Joimus was in the scrubs and had hospital slippers on her feet, the male nurse returned with a wheel chair. "Doc says you can go see your husband but he doesn't want you to walk."
As she settled painfully into the chair, she asked him, "Do you know anything about Reverend Harris?"
"All I know is they took him off for scans. Haven't heard anything yet, Ma'am."
She sighed and motioned down the hall with a slight movement of her hand. "Please."
He wheeled her down several long hallways, around corners, and then into a room where Maximus lay. Her teeth sank into her lower lip. He was still much too white. "How long...?"
"It takes a while," the nurse said. "I'll leave you now. Be back in a while."
"I want to stay," she said.
He smiled, not replying, and turned to leave.
The bed was too high and the railings were up. Sitting low in the wheelchair, she felt shut off from him, so got to her feet, standing there, her hands gripping the railing. He lay quietly, monitors on his chest, an oxygen cannula on his face, the IV in his right arm, the upper left part of his shoulder and chest swathed in thick bandaging. "Oh, my darling, darling," she sighed, touching his cheek, "this was so close, so frighteningly close."
His eyes opened, small slits of his green showing. "I am...here." His voice was low, very weak.
"It is only because of that that I still live," she smiled, curving the backs of her fingers tenderly down his face.
He was barely able to keep his eyes open even that much, but he saw her face. "You...you...?" A frown creased his forehead.
"I'm fine, beloved. Truly. Don't worry about me. Just rest...rest...and grow strong again."
He blinked, opening his eyes more widely. "Oh, Joimus." Tears brimmed as he looked at her.
"Shhhh!" she murmured. "This is only temporary. I'm not in any danger. There's nothing for you to worry about, my darling."
He tried to lift his right hand, needing to touch her, but only managed two or three inches before it fell back to the bed. She took his large hand in both hers, lifting it for him, pressing it to her lips as she leaned close. "I love you with everything I am," she said almost fiercely.
He smiled a little, then his eyes closed and he drifted off.
She remained standing there, holding his hand, just filling her eyes, her soul, with the sight of his livingness and even when her body protested loudly and her legs began to tremble, she stood because the will to stand was stronger than the need to sit.
Alistair was awake but his head hurt like the hounds of hell were fighting furiously inside his skull. He felt confused, disoriented, and couldn't figure out how he'd gotten where he was. Had the smoke done this to him? Was he in the hospital because the mill was burning? Someone was fiddling with an IV beside his bed. He was aware, too, of a band of liquid fire across his hips and lower abdomen. That was from the seat belt as the car had rolled across the field and then suspended him upside down. He had no memory of any of that, could find no reason for the pain there. Whatever the person with the IV was doing, was beginning to help somewhat and he looked blearily at them, asking, "Ahnna?"
"I'm here, darling." Ahnna came through the doorway and he tried desperately to focus on her.
"Ahnna?" he asked again. She was being pushed in a wheelchair up close to his bed. No, that wasn't right. That couldn't be right. He tried to lift his head again but waves of bilious green nausea washed through him and he lay back, gasping.
"Lie still," Ahnna said quickly, urgently. "Please, darling, lie still."
She slid her arm through the bed railing, curving it over his shoulder. "You've got a concussion," she explained, "a really severe one." She blinked back tears as she remembered the doctor saying how lucky he was that he didn't have bleeding into his brain.
"Cold. Head's cold."
"You have ice packs around you. They're trying to keep your brain from swelling. So far you're doing really well."
Cort had explained to both the doctors and police about the thick shards from the vase he'd found where Alistair had lain in the entryway of Dwayne's house. The impact had fractured Alistair's skull but hadn't depressed the bone. His scalp had split somewhat, but had been repaired.
"Hurts," he said then tried to look at her again, though sometimes there seemed to be two of her overlapping. "Why...why chair?"
"Do you remember Zack drove you and Maximus to the mill? Joimus and I came with you to the hospital."
"Not...not much. No."
"Dwayne hit you with a big vase, but you somehow managed to get word to Maximus."
Very vaguely he recalled that. "All right? He...all right?"
An odd looked passed over her face. "Tell...tell...what happened?"
"Bud killed Dwayne. He, Dwayne, had a gun to your head."
She was glad he didn't remember. "Maximus was shot, worse than anyone knew. He nearly bled to death."
"Oh...God! I called...him. My...my fault."
"None of this is your fault. It's all Dwayne's doing. So you stop that right now, you hear me?"
"At the mill, we all got into Joimus' station wagon because there was more room. Zack was driving and somehow Dwayne's man got loose and came after us, made us run off the road. The station wagon flipped over and over." She closed her eyes. "I thought it would never stop. Then it did, but it was upside down." She breathed deeply then looked at him again. "I'd gotten seat belts on you and me, but Joimus didn't have a chance
and she and Maximus were thrown out of the car."
His eyes widened, making his head hurt worse. "She...?"
"She's hurt some. Not too bad I think. I haven't seen her since we got here. I've been...."
"My back mostly. Sprained pretty bad when the car rolled. I've got this sort of temporary brace thing on." She touched her middle above her hospital gown.
"There's more. Zack had to kill the man who ran us off the road. Whoever he was tried to shoot him, maybe us, too. I don't know. Then Robin and Julie were there and Julie called for help. That's how we got here."
He couldn't believe so much had
happened he had no memory of. "Maximus...he's...?"
"I don't know, darling. I saw him briefly as they wheeled him into the ER. He was very white. But don't worry. I'm sure he's getting good care here."
He closed his eyes and she thought he'd gone to sleep, but then she saw his lips moving and leaning close found despite his own horrid pain he was lifting Maximus in prayer. Her heart almost burst with how much she loved this man and tears slid down her cheeks as she sat quietly, watching him, silently thanking God that He had let her husband live.