In a stagnant room, an exhausted body lied awake and departed in the middle of the darkness. On her side, and unable to move with ease, she felt helplessly anchored in the firm hospital bed. Although, the discomfort was mild compared to the unanticipated milestone she concluded mere hours ago.
Silver latches folded into the door, and calm footsteps resounded into the dusky expanse. With a quick flip, the grey atmosphere was washed away by bright fluorescent lights. A set of weary eyes studied over the small cup of ice cubes that were abandoned by the bedside for quite some time. Like her, many hours ago, the cup sweated all over– leaving the cloth underneath it drenched in its perspiration.
The tray was pushed back by a middle-aged nurse that carried a loving smile on her face; however, the patient refused to see anything but the pattern of flowers across the scrubs. She was lifted with care as the woman, indented with endearing wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, replaced the weary head’s soft pillow.
The nurse titled her furrowed face and let the woman on the bed hear her soft voice for the first time, “Do you need anything, dear?”
The sweet worker received nothing– lips did not part, and a body did not move. Tired eyes remained set ahead, now peering at the white wall.
“Okay. I’ll leave you to rest,” the woman whispered– a doleful tone this time. Footsteps echoed back out into the busy hall, and the door softly closed from behind.
The patient didn’t expect to be rushing to the hospital the night before. She was unprepared for the early arrival and was anticipating an overnight stay for the following week.
After all of this time, somehow she was still fearful of what had just happened. For many months now, she knew it was coming. She thought she knew what was going to happen until the time arrived– the moment that she understood would change her life forever.
Rich brown curls were still messily divided over a deadpan face. She had no energy to shift any part of her body, nor did she have the desire to do so.
Hurried movements and frequent openings and closings of the door hardly bothered her. She chose to ignore the generous and frequent bouts of life that intermittently filled the room. The nurses did their duties. They tended to her bed and made sure her room was prepared for an unwanted guest. None of the activity had her attention until a uniform patterned with delighted ladybugs blocked her view. Like she knew it would happen, she was asked the frightful question again; consequently, she remained silent.
Behind this young nurse was another, placing down a small tray of cut fruits and vegetables.
This time it was a soft mellow voice that suggested, “You should eat something.”
A weak and vacant stare lifted up to the young woman. She saw the hope in anticipating brown eyes accompanied by an innocent and gummy smile.
“I’m not hungry,” an exhausted voice returned.
She could see the round face of the young woman be filled with disappointment. It was strange to see someone so fresh-faced so early into the morning. However, it wasn’t the wavering look of joy that disturbed the patient, but the mere presence of a young, cherub-faced girl before her.
The nurse took in a deep breath and nodded before rolling on her Crocs and strutting to the window. The tired person in the bed didn’t want her to part the blinds, but she told the nurse nothing and let the bright morning sun blind her.
Finally, she was granted solitude for another hour. All she wanted to do was rest her eyes and fall asleep. However, the drowsy and restless slumber was interrupted by the violent vibrations of her phone beside the bed. She picked up the thin device and stared at the screen.
There were more than ten new emails forwarded to her by the Director of Information Technology. She took in a deep breath and bit her bottom lip as a faint sheen transformed her eyes into glassy orbs. He never forgot to remind her of her unending responsibilities.
It shouldn’t have affected her at all, and she couldn’t understand why she was violently wiping tears away from her face. She couldn’t wrap her head around why she was so emotional on the outside, yet complacent on the inside. She knew the reality of it all, but then again, she wasn’t able to anticipate how it would feel the moment she was to experience it.
Another set of footsteps entered the room, but they were swift and identifiable– the harder soles indicating that it wasn’t a nurse.
“You should put that away. You don’t have time for that,” she overheard a voice command with familiar tenderness.
“I still have work to do,” the young woman responded, now confidently swiping her thumb against the screen.
She heard a deep sigh from behind, but the bedridden patient refused to divide her attention from the shining device that shook from the deficient grip that held it. Beginning to compose a message, she ignored the compact figure that stepped in front of her with hands on her curvy hips.
“You just–” the irritated woman began again, but her fury was cut short by angry, bright brown eyes that looked up at her from the hospital bed.
If anything admirable about her washed out appearance, it was a brilliant halo of chocolate brown–extra rich, as they fanned out from the central golden hue near the pupils.
“I know. There is no need to say it, Emmy,” the patient warned, trying to hold back her exasperation, though there was a thicker glaze skewing her vision.
Emmy ran her hands over her dark, kinked pushback that was loosely secured by a floral headband. She lacked as much vitality as the woman in the bed and could remember what it felt like to be in that position– half stripped of life. Emmy had stayed up through the night and into the early dusk of the morning to make sure that her employer was going to be cared for, but most of all, not alone.
Impatient, brandy-colored eyes observed the distant figure, “Ms. Kelly, you’re going to have to see her much sooner than later.”
Ignoring the caretaker once again, Ms. Kelly– who was too concerned with the little screen– continued to reread the draft before hitting send. Then, all of a sudden, she was making efforts to push herself up on the bed, and Emmy lunged to the bedside to help.
“Thank you,” Ms. Kelly grumbled, before using what strength she had left to sit erect.
Without thinking twice, she was about to scroll through her emails again, but Emmy’s grasp around the device was swift.
She successfully snatched the phone from Ms. Kelly and scolded, “Eliza. Stop.”
“I have to tend to these emails,” Eliza demanded with indignation. “Hand it back!”
“I swear, if you could have, you would have been making phone calls, sending emails, and setting up meetings while you were in labor,” Emmy snapped coldheartedly.
Eliza turned away from her sudden oppressor and narrowed her eyes at the numerous shadows that passed at the window of the door. Overworked and anxious, she extended her hand to the half-melted cup of ice, but she could hardly grab it with quivering fingers.
Emmy secured the little cup in Eliza’s hand, muttering, “You can’t keep this up for long, Ms. Kelly.”
“What do you mean?” Eliza grumbled back, her voice shaking before shoving two measly cubes of ice in her mouth.
Emmy informed her with kindness, “Pretending that it didn’t happen. Pretending that you aren’t suddenly a mother.”
The dark circles underneath Eliza’s eyes felt permanent as Emmy heartlessly reminded her of why she was non-ambulatory in a hospital bed.
Emmy’s small hand pushed back the thin, tightly-coiled strands of hair that curtained the new mother’s forehead. Emmy smiled with her eyes at the drained and flushed face. Eliza’s features were gaunt and a little grey, but it wasn’t anything new to the caretaker. In fact, it was one of the few times that such a tired face would cause the ends of full lips to curl up with delight.
“Are you going to change your mind about it?” Emmy pressed on, but this time with caution as she petted Eliza’s cheek.
Eliza shut her eyes and shook her head in answer. A morbid peer pulled away from the sunken expression and over to the door. Emmy wanted to smile at the swaddled bundle that was approaching in the nurse’s arms, but she hesitated to know what could happen.
With haste, Emmy softly cooed the infant carefully cradled in her arms. She took a moment to recall what it was like to hold her firstborn. Emmy remembered being overwhelmed with happiness and accomplishment. However, that type of memory would not uphold the same for Eliza.
Emmy quietly thanked the nurse and turned back to meet the bedside.
“Don’t you want to hold her?” Emmy asked, while softly petting a tiny tanned cheek with her thumb.
Eliza’s heart wanted to eradicate itself from her chest. Her worst fear was so small and rested in the arms of a woman whose touch was more appropriate.
“Eliza, please,” Emmy whispered with eyes glistening with the pain of already knowing the answer.
Shaking hands clenched into fists. Her wet eyes shut with all their might.
With a tremulous whisper, the frightened mother denied her again, “No.”