Just One Song
Author:Stacey Lynn

chapter Twenty-Four





Once at the hospital, Jake ushers us up to the waiting room on the second floor. I fall into Melody’s arms and begin sobbing immediately. All the emotions I have held in for hours are released as his mom’s arms comfort me just like my own mom’s would have. We say nothing as she holds me tightly and just rocks me in her arms.

“He’s going to be okay.” Her words soothe me like no one else’s could have in this moment. She is strong. I want to be strong, but I can’t. Not yet. She has no idea the hell I am re-living thinking another car accident.

“I can’t lose him, too. Not like this.” I continue to sob into the woman’s shoulder as she slowly guides me down into a chair never loosening her grip around me.

“I know,” she soothes into my ear, “but he’ll make it.”

I slowly pull back from her and wipe my tears. Jake sits next to me, his arms resting on his knees, his head dropped down. Garrett holds much the same position across from me, with Chloe next to him, one arm wrapped around him, holding him close. I can’t even smile at her, although I’m glad she’s here, too. She nods slightly at me as if she knows what I’m thinking. I look up to Sammy and smile pathetically. She looks completely lost just standing there, her pixy-like bright personality replaced with utter worry. I slowly walk to her, hugging her when I reach her. I know how much Zack means to her. He’s the most important guy in her life, and I realize we’re all hurting and scared in our own ways. This isn’t just about me and my own fear, and I have to be stronger than I currently feel.

“Hi,” I say meekly as we wrap our arms each other. I sit back down by Melody as Sammy takes the chair on the other side. I lift my eyes to Mia who sits directly across from me. Chase’s arm wraps protectively around her. With his head leaning against her temple, I can tell he is whispering something but I hear nothing. Her tired eyes are focused directly on me filled with worry about how I am handling all this.

I lean back and close my eyes and let the events of the last several hours flood through me. I grip the arms of my chair as visions of Mark and Andrew’s accident flash into my mind. It’s all I have seen and relived so painfully since I hung up on Rachel but I can’t stop them. Sobs break through me again but I can’t stop the memories and terror I felt not too long ago. I fall forward into Mia’s arms. “I can’t do this again. Mark…”

“Zack isn’t Mark,” she whispers to me assuredly. “This is different, Nic. Just keep telling yourself. This is different. He’ll be okay.”

Jake moves his arm and rests it strongly across my shoulders. I don’t move from either of them. They love me, like I love Zack and I don’t want to turn away from the warmth and comfort their arms provide me. All conversation stops as we sit huddled in the stark white waiting room sitting in uncomfortable plastic chairs. You’d really think hospitals would at least make these rooms comfortable for the scared and tired people who spent so many hours in them. They remind me of the uncomfortable plastic egg chair in Zack’s studio lounge room and I choke back another sob as I remember everything that happened that day. The day he asked me to move in with him.

Time seems to stop while we wait for news. I peer at the clock at one point and see that it is after ten at night, midnight for me, with the time change. I should be exhausted, but I feel nothing. When I look at the clock again, thinking hours have passed, it pisses me off to realize it has only been five minutes. I’m anxious for the doctor to come back in. I won’t leave until I hear an update from him. I’m actually not leaving until Zack comes home, but I’m certainly not leaving this little pathetic waiting room until I hear something. Anything.

Finally, I hear the door open and a man wearing a long white coat steps in solemnly. Melody stands up and steels herself for any news this man has for her; for us. He briefly glances around the rest of room, until his eyes focus on Melody and now Sammy, who stands next to her mom. She reaches down and grabs onto mine as well giving it a tight squeeze. Mia is still on her knees in front of me holding on to my waist while Jake’s arm tightens around my shoulder. I don’t know if it’s for my comfort or his, but either way, I need it.

“Ms. Walters,” the doctor begins in an even-tone, almost sounding bored. “We reviewed Zack’s tests from earlier.”

I brace myself for the news unable to take my eyes off the man in front of us.

“So far, we haven’t been able to find anything that would indicate he’ll have any permanent damage. However, there is still some swelling. We’ll slowly taper him off his medication over the next few days if the swelling decreases as we anticipate.”

“When will he wake up?” Melody asks.

“That will all depend on him and how fast his body recovers once he’s off the medicine, propofol. It could be anywhere between 48 hours and up to two weeks.” I can’t contain the gasp that leaves my throat. Zack in a coma for two weeks?

“Can I see him?” I ask quietly.

The doctor turns to me, perhaps surprised that someone else has spoken.

He begins to shake his head. “I’m sorry. Only family is allowed right now.”

“She is family.” Sammy’s quiet but fierce voice brings a solemn grin to my face. Her hand grips mine more tightly as I look to her. They think of me as family and it is a wonderful feeling. The doctor considers Sammy’s request but looks doubtful. Regardless of whether or not he believes her, he slowly nods his head. “Only for five minutes; and then no visitors until tomorrow. He’s in room 209.”

“Thank you Dr. Hassen.” Melody politely dismisses him with a polite, but sad smile. As the door shuts behind him, a collective sigh rings through our small crowd. I feel the tension in the room decrease by a power of ten as we all look to one another.

“He’s going to be just fine. Like I said, Zack’s too stubborn and strong for this to be nothing more than a small setback.” Melody’s voice is quiet but confident.

Like hell it’s a small setback, I think. Fortunately I have some manners and keep the thought to myself as I turn towards her.

“Do you mind?” I realize she hasn’t even seen her son and yet I was the one who asked to see him. It’s completely selfish of me, I know. Fortunately, everyone in the room understands why it’s so important to me. Thank god.

She simply nods at me. “Go ahead.”

Mia pulls me onto my feet. “I’ll walk with you.” Her words leave no room for argument, although even if I had the energy to argue I wouldn’t have. I need her too much.

***

Nothing could have prepared me for what I see in Zack’s hospital room. I try to brace myself before entering the room, taking a few deep breaths so my nerves won’t get the best of me, but none of it matters once I stand in the doorway. His left leg sits above the bed sheet, covered by a temporary cast that runs up past his knee. His face, at least the part I can see not covered in bandages, ranges in colors from pink to purple to black. I falter immediately and feel Mia’s arm steadying me. Slowly I take in the surroundings of his room. It’s a standard stark white hospital room overcrowded with machines that beep and drip at opposing intervals almost creating their own creepy music.

I take the chair on the left side of the room and push it up to his bed. I can’t see Mia. I don’t know if she’s in the room with me or waiting in the hall, and I don’t even think to look. All I see is Zack, the man I love, the man who has opened me up to the possibility of ever being able to love again, laying their motionless. His comforting, sensual expressions are completely gone, leaving the look of a man who is peacefully dreaming.

I want to crawl into those dreams instead of living the nightmare that has become my life once again. I take hold of his right hand and lay my head down on it. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know if it even matters if I speak, if he can hear me at all. It’s one of the few very moments in my life when I have absolutely no clue what to do or say. I am paralyzed with fear.

Then I begin to cry. Tears fall silently as I hold him gingerly, afraid to cause him any more pain. The doctor may say he is going to be just fine, but until I see it with my own two eyes I can’t believe him. I close my eyes, smelling Zack’s hand and kissing it simultaneously. Even with the prevalent smell of sanitized hospital sheets and air, I can still smell his clean and masculine scent that always draws me closer. I breathe deeply. Minutes later, but still crying, I feel Mia’s tender hand on my shoulder.

“It’s been five minutes, Nic. We need to leave.”

I can’t leave him. I am too terrified I will never see him again if I leave. I’m terrified something even more dreadful, something I don’t want to think about, will happen if I am somewhere else.

“I can’t,” I gasp through my tears.

When a nurse comes to the door and murmurs something about our time being up, Mia slowly stands me up. I keep my gaze on Zack’s hand the entire time. It’s the only part of his body I can see that isn’t injured. It looks completely perfect; even with his fingers callused from strumming a guitar. I think about how those rough hands felt when they moved against my body just a week ago. And I think of how badly I want them on me now. How badly I need them on me to erase all my fears and pain like only Zack can do.

“We can see him in the morning.” I don’t even nod in response. I know I have to leave, but it’s the last thing I want to do. I want to scream and shout that this isn’t fair. It isn’t right for someone as perfect and loving as Zack to be here. And I still, most definitely, want to know why he is here in the first place. I want to know what happened and why he was at Rachel’s. Her name in my head wakes me up briefly, at least enough to realize I’m still standing in his room with a grumpy nurse in the doorway staring at me to leave. I look down at Zack and reluctantly let his hand go as Mia leads me back to the waiting room. I want him, but I still need answers. I still need to know if he wants me.

I silently walk back to the waiting room with Mia’s hand on my elbow. The only people left are Chase, Melody and Sammy. All three women hug me as I return before I collapse onto a nearby chair. I lean my head to the side of the chair next to me and close my eyes. I barely hear them whispering of going home for the night and coming back the next morning. Their words sound like they were coming from a far off tunnel as I drift further away from them.

“I’m not leaving,” I whisper. I open my eyes and look at all of them. “Go home. I’m staying here. I’m not leaving him.”

They seem to know there is nothing they can say or do to convince me otherwise. With quiet nods, they leave the room. Even Mia leaves, and as much I love my friend, I’m grateful she knows I need the space to process this entire hellish day on my own.

With a soft kiss to my cheek she whispers, “I’ll get you a blanket and will bring you clothes tomorrow. We’ll be back first thing.” I don’t care about the clothes, or the blanket, but I nod obediently. I toss and turn all night long on the uncomfortable chair until sleep finally claims me.

***

I refuse to leave Zack’s bedside for the next week. Christmas comes and goes, but I don’t care. I have only vaguely thought of the presents I left half-wrapped on my living room a week before when the phone call came. All I pray for, all I hope for is to see Zack open his eyes. Mia camps out with the rest of his family at his house. Periodically someone brings me food and a change of clothes. But the only thing that matters, the only thing I desperately want to see is Zack’s eyes gazing down on me. And until that happens, I am not going anywhere.

“Hey girl.” Mia speaks quietly when she enters the room. She acts like she is afraid of waking someone up. She shouldn’t be. I hardly sleep anymore. And as for Zack, who knows if he can hear anything. I turn from her when she walks in and back to Zack. The bruises on his face have started healing, turning from shades of deep purple to a light green and yellow. The bandages around his head have been removed and the scratches from hitting the glass are scabbing over now. If it wasn’t for his casted leg, he would look like he got in a small bar fight instead of a car accident.

Zack is off most pain medication now, and his breathing tube was removed yesterday. We continue to wait, very impatiently, until his brain recovers and he’s able to wake up on his own. Dr. Hassen stops by every day with no update to give. While his original MRI’s and scans indicate no potential damage, we won’t know anything until he regains consciousness. We were told it could take up to two weeks for him to wake up, and the doctors don’t seem at all concerned that he still hasn’t woken up yet.

I on the other hand, am getting desperate to see his sparkling green eyes. I don’t know if I can take another week of just waiting. And what will happen if he doesn’t wake up then? Then what would we do? I have been too afraid to ask the questions, but they replay constantly through my mind, while I try to force my will on him to wake up every single moment, of every single day.

“I brought you breakfast.” Mia’s voice chirps from behind me. “Eggs and bacon, your favorite.”

“Can we dial down the perkiness a notch?” I growl at her. I don’t mean to be bitchy. But let’s face it – no sleep, lack of food, and the man I love in a coma doesn’t make me love the mornings. I sigh deeply.

This isn’t her fault and there is no reason to take it out on her. I still want to take it out on Rachel but I learned the other day that she left for Vegas for some small role in a movie. It must be nice to be her. She can cause all this damage and then simply leave the state, leaving the rest of us behind to pick up the pieces. I hate her more now, than I ever did before, and I wasn’t sure that was possible.

I turn towards Mia and apologize.

“It’s okay.” She hands me the plastic breakfast container as my stomach growls.

When I’m done with my breakfast, Mia stands nervously at the foot of Zack’s bed. “I called my boss in New York today.”

I glare at her. “You better not turn down the job on my account.” She says nothing, which tells me her answer. “Call them back and change your mind. You have to take this.”

“I don’t want to leave you,” she says so quietly I can barely hear her over the beeping of the machines.

I take a deep breath and turn to her. “You have to do this, Mia. I’ll be okay. Melody and Sammy are still here, and my parents are coming down next weekend. You can’t put your career on hold for me again.” I briefly turn back to Zack.

“Besides, once he wakes up, everything will be okay again.” I so desperately want to believe it and hope it’s true.

I look at her again, standing firm. “You need to do this, for me, at the very least. I won’t be the reason you miss out on your dream job. I’ll be okay. I promise.”

She nods and I make her leave the room immediately to call her potential boss in New York hoping once she explains the situation she’ll still have a job. When she returns, we spend the rest of the morning discussing where she wants to live and what she’ll be doing. I smile, outwardly for maybe the first time in two weeks when I realize that she mentions Chase an awful lot. It makes sense, of course, since he lives in the area, too. But she says it so serenely, and it makes me happy to know she’s met someone too. I’m thrilled for her, truly. After six years of working every day for this, her dream is finally coming true.

I only have to stop and wipe away tears a few times wondering when my dreams will finally come true. But I try as hard as possible to push the thoughts aside at least for a few hours to focus on all the good things going on in her life. She leaves me a few hours later to go back home and tell Chase her news.

I stay in my standard chair right next to Zack’s bedside table for the rest of the day and night. Things are changing. Mia is leaving. I’m currently stuck in a holding pattern, not knowing for sure if I’ll be recording an album, and if not, what kind of job I’ll have, where I’ll be living if something happens to Zack. I can’t even stop the thought from entering my mind but when it does, I lose myself in grief and fear for as long as I can bear it. It happens too often. I want the pain and fear of loss to stop and I want Zack back. I want to know that I still have a place in his heart and in his life. Forever, just like we’d planned.

It feels like a lifetime ago now, as I lay my head on his hand and slowly close my eyes, hoping sleep may actually come to me tonight.