Face Down and Freefalling
It was all Emmy could do after she left the day room to keep her mind from wandering back to her earlier conversation with Aidan. There was something she was missing– a piece of the puzzle. According to his records, he’d been out of the military for four years. Why on earth would he suddenly go off like this and decide to end his life? The young man was hurting and she wanted with all her heart to figure out how to help him.
She set about finishing up her shift, finding it difficult to concentrate on the other patients or what she was doing– her thoughts ever wandering back to Aidan. Finally, she called it quits when she realized she’d just spent the last half hour in a therapy session with another patient and realizing that she hadn’t really heard a word they’d said the whole while.
Emmy decided the best thing for her to do was to clock out so she headed to her office to gather her files on Aidan and head home. On the way, she made a stop by the nurses’ station, leaving orders for Nurse Lettie to check up on the patients in the day room and to see to it that Aidan had his dinner in the dining room this evening instead of in his room. She knew he’d balk at the idea just as he had about spending time in the day room – especially after his winning the wager they’d had during the chess match - but she really felt the best place for him at the moment would be around others instead of by himself. “And how the hell did he win that chess match, anyway?” she wondered to herself.
Emmy closed her office door and slid into the chair behind her desk– Aidan’s files spread out in front of her. “What was it, Aidan?” she asked the empty room, “What was it that made you give up on life?”
After several hours, Emmy let out a sigh, rubbing her tired eyes, deciding finally that she’d simply have to start from the beginning with him and pray that she could spark something inside him to open up to her more. Therapy took time and patience, but somehow Emmy knew in her heart that time might be running out for this patient. He’d been running on fumes for so long, it seemed. It was only a matter of time before he’d completely shut down.
Frustrated by the old-school route, Emmy decided to bring her research into the 21st century. She flipped up her laptop and opened her web-browser. “Fine, Mr. O’Brien,” she said out loud as she typed in his name, “if you refuse to give up any information then I’ll just see what more I can dig up.”
“Knock, knock!” Dr. Bloomfield called out to her as he poked his head into her office.
Emmy jumped, startled by the intrusion. “Oh,” she said, straightening in her chair. “Dr. Bloomfield, come on in, please.”
“It’s getting late,” he told her, entering her tiny office. “I thought you’d left for home already.”
“I was just about to,” she replied, rubbing her sore shoulders. “I just wanted to do a bit more reading up on that new patient of mine.”
“You’ve taken quite an interest in him, I see,” Dr. Bloomfield said, taking a seat on the opposite side of her desk.
“No more than any of my other patients,” Emmy replied, blushing.
“Hmm…,” Dr. Bloomfield grinned at her.
“Really,” Emmy tried to assure him, and maybe herself a bit as well.
“Alright,” he said, letting her off the hook. “So, tell me, what have you found out about our John Doe then?”
“His name is Aidan O’Brien,” she said, “he’s twenty-eight years old, war hero with a rap sheet a mile long. Petty theft, mostly. He was a runaway – was brought back numerous times before he finally left for good when he was just twelve. Dropped out of school at a young age, though he’s quite intelligent from what I have observed.”
“Any close relatives we should notify?”
“None that I can see,” Emmy told him, shaking her head.
“Alright then,” Dr. Bloomfield said, getting to his feet. “Let me know if any turn up. For now, though, you should go home and get some sleep. Doctor’s orders.”
She knew her boss what right - she couldn’t keep up the pace if she didn’t get some sleep soon. “Alright, alright,” Emmy sighed, closing the lid on her laptop. “I’ll just check up on a couple of my patients and then I’m out of here.”
“Good,” Dr. Bloomfield told her, exiting her office, “I’ll see you in the morning.”
Emmy gathered up her files and emerged from her office– armed with new information and a desire to see if she could make any headway now that the complete picture was being painted about her patient.
She found Aidan sitting on his bed– a book propped up in his lap as he read. She smiled when she noticed what it was he was reading. “The Bible, huh?” she commented, smiling.
“Yeah, well, you told me I should read a book, so…,” he replied, turning a page and continuing to read. He pretended not to notice as Emmy sat down in the chair across from his bed, scooting it up so she could be closer to him. Her sweet scent –vanilla, with just a hint of lavender – wafted through his nostrils and he couldn’t help but to smile.
“Good choice,” she told him, watching him as he read. “Never figured you for the religious type.”
“I’m not, really,” Aidan admitted, looking up at her for the first time since she’d entered the room. “I mean, I believe… in God and all. At least, I did…before….,” he trailed off, looking down at the leather-bound book in his hands, conscious that she was staring at him.
“Before what?” Emmy asked, curiously.
He closed his eyes a moment, the image of his wife and child flashed in his mind suddenly and then just as quickly– they were gone. “Nothing,” he replied, opening his eyes again and shaking off the memory, “never mind.”
“Ah,” she said, “well, if you’re trying to read up on souls – washing them clean, making them whole…” she gently took the book from his lap and flipped towards the back third of it, “might I suggest you start your search here in the New Testament?”
“Thanks,” Aidan told her, quietly, as he took the Bible back from her. As he did, his hand lightly brushed hers, sending a tingling sensation –electric almost – through his body. He cleared his throat, trying to mask the conflicting emotions that were stirring in him.
“She’s your shrink,” he thought to himself, not for the first time today, “completely off limits, no matter how attractive she is. Let it go, just let it go.”
Emmy watched with interest as he read through the passages. “So,” she said, breaking the silence after a moment, “was your dad a religious man?”
“Not especially, no,” Aidan answered, turning another page. He stopped, thought for a moment, smiled. “Not unless you count whore mongering and boozing as being religious.”
“No, no,” Emmy chuckled. “Those activities are mainly frowned upon in the Bible, you’ll find.” She paused, amused by his comment, then went on, “So what about your mum?”
“What about her?” Aidan asked, nonplussed.
“Was she a religious woman at all? Teach you about God or Heaven?”
Aidan thought for a moment. “Maybe,” he replied, “a bit. Mostly she tended to tell me all about the devil and Hell and how I was gonna go there and burn for all eternity if I didn’t straighten up and fly right.”
“And your step-dad?”
“Pretty sure he’s gone there ahead of me,” Aidan smirked.
“So I take it he wasn’t a Christian then?” Emmy said.
“Only mention of God that came out of that bloke’s mouth was when he was taking His name in vain.” He looked up at Emmy, his eyes met hers. “And you?” he asked, tilting his head, “Did your parents take you to church every Sunday?”
He smiled as he pictured her as a young girl dressed in her Sunday best as she happily skipped - hand-in-hand with her parents– into the chapel.
“Every Sunday,” Emmy grinned, remembering it fondly. “Well, except during Footie season. Dad - being the avid sports fan and all - said the Lord wouldn’t mind if we skipped a Sunday service here and there to cheer on our club. But enough about me,” she said, shaking off he own memories and changing the subject back to Aidan. “Your step-dad, I take it you didn’t get along with him?”
Aidan shifted uncomfortably at the mention of his step-father again. “You can say that,” he told her, wondering where she was going with this.
“That why you ran away?” Emmy asked slowly, watching his eyes.
“Maybe,” Aidan said, fidgeting.
“Tell me, what was so bad that a seven year old decides to leave home?”
“Perhaps I just didn’t like being told what to do all the time,” Aidan replied.
“Lots of kids don’t like being told to clean their rooms or eat their veggies and what not,” Emmy told him. “And they don’t run away…,” she paused, opened his file and read, “…twenty three times over a five-year period. Wow.” She closed the file, looked up at him and scanned his face for any kind of a reaction.
Aidan clenched his jaw as he sat there on the bed, unmoving. The anger and rage he’d felt all those years ago towards his mom and step-dad were beginning to bubble to the surface and it was all he could do to contain it. Long-buried memories flashed in his mind, causing his head to spin.
“That was a long time ago,” he managed to say through gritted teeth. “I really don’t think rehashing my childhood problems is gonna help anything.”
“Oh but I do,” Emmy told him. “Aidan, the things that happen to us when we are growing up helps to shape our lives, makes us who we are. I’m just trying to understand what happened and how you got from point A to here at point B.” She moved in closer, scanning his face. “Did he…hit you?”
“Drop it,” Aidan warned, angrily, leaning away from her.
Emmy let out a sigh, sat back in her chair. She didn’t want to push him too hard, not yet. “Alright,” she told him, “for now. But,” she took his hand in hers, “just know that whatever it was, whatever he did to make you feel you had to get away... you didn’t deserve it. No child does, no matter what they do or say.”
Aidan nodded, images from his childhood flooding through his mind as he desperately tried to shut them out.
Emmy got to her feet, headed towards the door. “I’ll see you in the morning,” she told him, smiling.
“Dr. Brooks?” Aidan asked, looking up at her as she stood in the doorway.
“I didn’t cheat,” he said, quietly.
“What do you mean?” Emmy asked, taking a step back into the room.
“Earlier,” he told her, “in the day room. I wasn’t lying to you about never having played chess before.”
“Then how did you beat me in the least possible moves ever?” she half-chuckled, still not fully believing that a beginner could win like that.
“I had a good teacher,” Aidan grinned slightly, “and like I said, I’m a quick learner. Things have just always seemed to come naturally to me.”
Emmy smiled at him, “Alright,” she said, still not totally buying his story. “We’ll talk more in the morning. ‘Night!”
Aidan nodded quietly, intently watching her as she exited the room. Once she’d gone, he let out a deep breath, set the Bible aside and flopped back on his bed. Dr. Brooks just wouldn’t give up, wouldn’t stop pushing him for information. He squeezed his eyes closed in an attempt to block the images of his past that were flashing before his mind’s eye at an accelerated rate. “Be strong, Mate,” he told himself. “One more day, one more day.”
As Aidan drifted off to sleep, he thought about Dr. Brooks– how she’d looked standing in his doorway – her face lit up with a smile for him. He reached out to touch her, go to her, but the awful sound of machine guns, crashing metal and screams filled his head as memories he was now unable to block out flooded his mind.
He crouched in the dark corner of the room, his fingers entwined around the girl’s smaller ones. Footsteps! He was coming! She’d heard them, too and let out a soft cry as the sound of boots on the wooden floor grew louder and closer.
“Shhh!” the boy whispered in her tiny ear, “He’ll hear you.”
“I’m sorry,” she cried, wetting herself, unable to control her fear or her bladder any longer. She wept softly, embarrassed by the puddle she’d made.
The boy put his small hand over the girl’s mouth in an attempt to keep her quiet. He gnashed his teeth, mentally preparing himself for the beating that was sure to come once they were found. “Not this time, not ever again,” he told himself, praying the old man would eventually give up his search and pass out somewhere until morning.
They listened quietly for several more minutes, the sound of the footsteps moving all around them, filling them with dread.
“Gotcha, ya little bastards!” the angry voice surprised them, sending a wave of terror through their small bodies. “Thought you hide from me, didn’t ya?” The acrid scent of his fowl breath all around them, causing the boy to gag as he and the girl were dragged screaming and kicking out of the room by their hair.
And then he was awake, lying in the tiny hospital room, sweat drenched and out of breath from the nightmare he’d just endured. “Allie,” he managed to breathe out. He jumped up out of bed, quickly untwisting himself from the sheets and stumbled towards the door. Locked! Dammit! Of course it was locked - it was the middle of the night and patients weren’t allowed out of their rooms again until morning.
Aidan had to get out of there, had to see Dr. Brooks, had to talk to her! The nightmare had sparked a memory– one he’d buried so deep and for so long that it overwhelmed him with horror and grief. Frantically, he pounded on the door, screaming out for the nurse on duty.
“What’s all this fuss, then?” Nurse Alice’s annoyed voice sounded outside his door.
“Dr. Brooks,” Aidan told her, anxiously, “I need to talk to her, now!”
“Well, I’m sure you do but she’s not here,” Nurse Alice told him. “You’ll have to wait ‘til morning unless you’d prefer I go and fetch Dr. Harrington for you to talk with.”
“Just…call her, on the phone,” Aidan said, ignoring her suggestion to speak with the doctor on duty. “Please.”
“Sorry, ‘fraid I can’t do that,” the nurse told him, impatiently. “Now, you’d best get back in your bed and stop all this racket. You’re waking the whole hospital.”
“No!” Aidan yelled, not willing to give up. “I have to talk to her now! Let me out of here!” He continued to pound on the door with his fists.
Suddenly, the door and Aidan was shoved back to the floor with a thud as a doctor and three large orderlies held him down.
“No!” he screamed, his body writhing under their weight as the doctor pulled out a syringe stuck it into his upper thigh. “My sister…,” he cried out, weakly, as the drugs quickly began to take effect. “Twin…”
“Help me get him in the bed and get the restraints on him,” Dr. Harrington told the others, as they lifted Aidan’s limp body off the floor.
“Poor Bastard,” Nurse Alice said, shaking her head, “Must have had a hell of a nightmare. Insisted on talking with Dr. Brooks –and at this late hour, no less!”
“This’ll get him through the rest of the night,” Dr. Harrington told her, ushering everyone out of the room and locking the door behind him.