It was Thursday evening. Cherry had been to class that day, and then helped Mrs. Kurtchum with her groceries and a few chores. She stopped at home to take a shower and grab some items to help her stay confortable at the hospital. Everything she did was precise and quick. Steven could wake up any time and she wanted to make sure that he knwe she was there for him. She had received some interesting news that morning- something that she had suspected the week before but forgotten about when the accident had occured on Monday and all of the excitement that surrounded it.
Arriving at the hospital after a thirty minute walk, she said hello to the nurses that she reognized and then stopped at the one closest to Steven's room. "Hi. Can you tell me if there have been any updates for Steven Jones?" It was a nurse she had not spoken to before and she appeared to be in a surly mood.
"Steven Jones. He has been in a comma for a few days. I am Cherry, his girlfriend."
"Cherry, hmm? Well, Cherry, I do not see you on the contacts list."
"I know that I can not go in to see him, but could you tell me if he woke up or something? I just really want to know if there have been any changes."
There was some noise down the hall and they both looked up to see Sandra come out of a room and head straight for them very quickly. The nurse did not seem to think this was unusual, and looked back at Cherry to say something. She was, however interupted when Sandra began speaking roughly to Cherry.
"Where have you been? He woke up and will not stop asking for you. I told him that you have not been in to see him and he still will not stop asking." She had grabbed the girl by her arm and was pulling her back down the hall toward his room. Cherry stopped them both and snatched her arm away from Sandra's grasp. They both glared at each other while Cherry tried to calm the anger bubbling up inside her. Suddenly, however, she realized what Sandra had just said.
"Wait... he is awake? Oh... oh!" Forgetting all about Steven's mom, she ran down the hall looking for which room she had just seen Sandra come out of. Seeing his name next to door two fourteen, she slowed down and knocked gently as she enterred his room without waiting for a response.
"Steven? Steven, it is me! Oh my god, you are awake! I am so glad you are awake... " She had rushed into the room and was very uncharachteristically excited, but she was also conciously speaking in a hushed tone, not wanting to disturb him or cause anyone to get more excited. They still had a new relationship, and she was not sure how to approach him. While speaking, she had come up to the bed and put down her bag, grabbing his hand with both of hers and looking earnestly at his face. At first she was smiling with her excitement, but when she saw him, her automatic response was one of recoil.
He smiled at her slowly, lightly squeezing her hand back, almost holding on to her during the recoil. He was wearing a mask over his face and seemed to be having a hard time breathing. His head had a bandage wrapped around it and his face appeared really swollen. There were braces and bandages wrapped around his neck and torso and there was an aircast on his right foot, peeking out from the blanket. Cherry moved to adjust the blanket as a small excuse to compose herself from the shock of seeing him for the first time. She remembered then that the doctor's had told them he had an allergic reaction to one of the medicines they gave him, and that must be the reason for the swelling. He also had a punctured lung and most of his ribs were broken, so that would explain the braces and breathing assistance. After she finished straightening the blanket, she looked back at his face with a brave smile.
Seeing that he had closed his eyes, she rested her hands in front of her, crossing her arms low across her stomach. Her mind focussed on how glad she was that he had come out of the coma. And she tried not to think of anything else. Sensing that she was being watched, she turned toward the door. Sandra was standing there staring at her, but no longer with resenment or anger. She had tears at the corners of her eyes that had not yet fallen. She was a tough woman, accustomed to demanding that things go her way. But everything was changing rapidly.
"Cherry... I am sorry that I kept you from him. I... I did not know how much you meant to him. And... well, I just... I wanted you to know that I am sorry." She turned and left the room, never once having looked Cherry in the eye during the short speech. Cherry wondered if it was appropriate to go and give her a hug or something, but instead turned back to Steven. She would just wait here until they kicked her out. He was, after all, becoming the most importnat person in her life. She had to keep him as close as possible.
Steven's sister came in shyly a few minutes after Cherry sat in the chair right next to the hospital bed. "Here, Cherry. I went to Steve's classes and got his assignment and books. Maybe you could read to him or somethign?" She gave her the books and turned to go, not looking at her brother in the bed.
"Thank you. I think I will do that." Cherry responded, watching the girl go, then looking back at the books. Right on top was his English assignment. Steven was a senior and she knew how proud he was of himself to almost be done with school. He had struggled with school, but he was determined to finish on time so that he could begin his life, which recently had started to include her.
Cherry found the correct reading assignment in the book and sat back to read the story that was marked. She could not remember the last time that she had read a story, and she was excited to start it. When the first one was finsihed, she eageerly continued to read the short stories in the text book. A little ways through, she found herself leaning forward with the book on the edge of the bed, holding and squeezing Steven's hand as she read the story to him.