Lights passed overhead, cutting through the night. On the quiet streets, the car drove faster and faster through the downtown of the city. Sweat beads gathered on the driver's forehead, as their hands gripped the steering wheel. The red gauge on the odometer rose steadily. Haphazardly, the driver grabbed a bottle from the passenger seat and slammed back the hard drink. Empty.
Frustrated, the driver turned on the radio. Country music over took the night, but the driver quickly changed. Jazz came, followed by some classics, before the radio settled on a rock station. Heavy electrics and pounding bass fueled the driver's anxiety. The light ahead turned red; the car didn't stop. With adrenaline rushing through their veins, the driver stomped in the gas pedal, rushing through the intersection.
A loud rush of horns went off, but was unheard over the rock and roll. Night and sound stopped as the electric riff was interrupted by the sharp crush of metal and glass. Sparks fell into the air; glass littered the road; the horn of the Ford Yukon echoed into the night, its driver unconscious, unaware.
When she woke, Jenny Parson was welcomed by a fluorescent white light. Cautiously, she sat up, taking in her surroundings. Somehow, Jen was in a sterile hospital room, a heartbeat monitor making its steady beep. Jen found it discomforting, hearing her life in such a clinical manner. With nerves fried, Jen swung her legs over the edge of the bed, her feet touching the cold floor.
No nurses, no doctors, no blaring alerts stopped Jen, who noticed she was still in her street clothes. Slightly disoriented, she took another step, then another, her feet coldly slapping on the tile floor. Standing in front of the bathroom mirror by her room, she noticed the white bandages. Where her bruises used to be, Jen noticed white gaze, hiding her shame. For the first time in years, Jen noticed the woman behind the bruises. Her pretty green eyes and fair complexion stood out, no longer marred by the wounds of the past.
"Ma'am?" a questioning voice asked. Jen looked out from the bathroom, and noticed a scrub-bearing nurse in the room. "Mrs. Parson?" The name still sounded pleasant to Jen. How she could bear the name, and not the scars and bruises it carried, she wondered.
"Yes," her voice was dry and weak.
"How are you feeling? You fainted hard in the lobby; we put you in a spare bed to rest." Jen noticed the nametag.
"I'm feeling...a bit disoriented, Rachel."
"That's natural; you just need to get the blood circulate right like. Give it ten minutes top, you'll feel as a right as rain."
"Thank you. Is it all right, the bed and all?"
"Oh sure! It's been a slow night," she sweetly smiled, "Mrs. Parson, is there someone we can call for you? To pick you up? It may be dangerous for you to drive."
"My hus-"Jen stopped herself, "I'll be fine. I was just tired, that's all."
"All right, I need to continue my check-ups; the doctor will be in shortly."
"To check on your baby, ma'am."
Jen put her hands on her belly, feeling for any life inside of her. Slowly she peeled up her shirt, and noticed the bandages over her belly. Her mind went back to the first day, when she found life from the pain.
"Are you sure, sir? Like, really sure?" Jenny was skeptic; she and Sam had tried for months to get pregnant, and Jen wasn't ready to get her hopes high. But since he started to change, they hadn't tried for a baby, until that one night. He had come home, repentant from his actions. Looking into his eyes, Jen believed in his remorse, his regret. It was her prodigal hero, back for a moment of time. He didn't stay long before he went on another binge of desire and lust, but Jen had loved him, she never stopped. And now, she was witnessing life from her love. Her mind drifted to Sam, as the doctor doubled-checked his charts; she hadn't seen him in two days. What would she tell him about the baby? Would she even tell about the baby?
"Jenny, I'm certain. You have a growing embryo in you; you're pregnant Jen. We can do an ultra-sound sometime next week, and you can see it for yourself."
Jen sat, unsure to laugh or to cry. The doctor patted her knee before exiting the room. Alone, Jen couldn't contain the raging joy inside of her. A bright smile creased her face, and new tears came to her eyes. For so long, these tears were from sorrow, Jen found a new freedom in her joy.
My God, you are good.
Sitting back down, Jen settled back into her bed as the doctor entered.
"Hello, Jen." His tone was sharp; Jen knew in the moment that he knew the situation she was living under, the source of her bruises.
"Hi," she responded shyly. Determined, he walked over to his charts by her bed, and sat on his stool. The shuffle of papers unnerved Jen, who could feel sweat on her brow. Anxiety struck her; worry over her child's life overcame her.
"Are they all right?" She asked quietly. He looked straight at her.
"Jen, you are fortunate. Your life, and the life of your unborn child, is at risk. And don't give me the excuse of failing down the stairs. Don't." Jen felt her breath stolen from her, not by blows but the doctor's words.
"You should have called the police; you could have come here."
Jen looked down, ashamed at her cowardice. How could she have been so foolish? As soon as she found out about her child, she should have gone. She should have. Why didn't I?
"Even more fortunately, checking the baby's vitals, it looks like the embryo is alive. We are watching the situation carefully; those bruises on your stomach were brutal; there are signs of damage on your ribs. We'll get an ultrasound machine in here, to double-check, and ensure all is in order. Okay?"
She nodded with tears in her eyes.
Applying the Jaws of Life, the rescue units ripped off the door, desperate to get to the quickly dying man. Fifty metres down the road, a white Accord was been attended by another team of rescuers. Glass shards cracked under the boots of the men working the scene of the two car T-bone crash. All around, people had stopped on sidewalks and in their cars to watch the life-saving work.
"I want a gurney here, now!" screamed the demanding leader. A blink, his request was fulfilled. The ambulance had been quick on the scene, seconds before the emergency responders. Now the scene was filled with paramedics and firemen. Heroes.
"Sir, he's unconscious!"
"Can you get a pulse?"
"Faint sir -"
"No, looks like they can move freely, neither looks broken." The paramedic did a quick check before giving the firemen freedom to remove the driver. As a well-oiled machine, the firemen worked in tandem, swiftly taking the man out of the driver seat and strapping him on the gurney.
"Okay, let's move out!" yelled the paramedic as the man was loaded into the ambulance.
Lights raging in circles and sirens blaring, the ambulance made a hasty retreat to the nearest hospital.
A black and white image moved frantically on the screen by Jen's head. Slowly the doctor moved the probe over her gelled stomach, trying to catch images of the child. More humbling than hearing her heartbeat was seeing the small beginnings of life inside to Jenny. Finally, the doctor got another shot of the baby in her womb.
"There we go," a satisfactory grin on his face. "Thankfully Jenny, it looks like the baby is okay, from our vitals and these visuals." Jen felt a steady tear stream down her face.
"What does this mean, Doctor?"
He began cleaning up her stomach, and shutting down the ultrasound.
"Well Jen," a touch of remorse on his tone, "I can't let you go back home; look at what happened to you. However, I can't force you to do anything. Most I can recommend is go to a woman's shelter Jenny. Be safe; keep your child safe." The thought of a woman's shelter scared Jen. To admit she needed help, it wasn't her. Moreover, something compelled to say no. She still longed for her hero to come home.
The doctor began walking out.
"Doctor?" Jen asked.
"It's a boy." He walked away.
She smiled; a boy. To her, a son was given.
My God, you are good.
Ten minutes later, Jenny Parson was standing in the lobby of the hospital. Looking around at the people, she no longer felt their harsh stares. All she could think about was the life inside of her. He was okay, so she was okay. A nurse handed her a clipboard, requesting her signature. Looking over the sheet, Jen saw her name. Jenny Parson. Extraordinary, it still felt as romantic the first time she had read on her wedding program.
"Honey, you are beautiful. Exquisite," whispered the sweet words of her mother. Jen stared at herself, dressed in white before the mirror. In a whirlwind of eight months, Jen had planned her perfect wedding. The colours, the guests, the food, the music, the venue, and mostly importantly, the groom were all perfect.
"Thank you mom." Jen's voice broke softly. Her mom's battle with cancer had made Jen fearful that her mother would never see her walked down the aisle. By God's grace, as her mother said, Jen's mom would see her daughter fall in love, and to be the bride she had dreamed of since she was four.
"Truly honey, I couldn't happier. I remember my wedding day, peanut," Jen's mom grabbed her hands and looked into her eyes, "walking down that aisle, I knew, I knew I could never leave him. Honey I must tell you, don't give up on love. I know there have been times I've grown frustrated, and wanted to leave. I've wanted to give up. But, by God's grace, I've never stopped loving him. That stops me from running away; my heart always wants to run to him. Love Sam with all your heart, peanut. No matter what, love always. Til death do you part, sweetie." She kissed her daughter on the cheek, and pulled the veil over her face.
The music began to play. The wedding had started.
Til death do you part. The words echoed in Jen's mind and heart. Jen lifted the pen to sign her name when the hospital lobby ignited into a rush of chaos and noise. Doctors rushed into the lobby, swiftly surrounding a gurney being loaded from the emergency landing.
"Check the pulse; let's an IV in here now!" One doctor ordered the others and the nurses to action.
"We got any identification on this man?" A nurse said as they rushed the gurney into the emergency ward.
"Samuel Parson," came the echoing response.
Jen's head snapped up, staring firmly.
The name repeated endlessly. Steadily pacing, Jen began marching to the emergency door.
Swiftly, she was into the door, a nurse protesting. Her words were a muffled shout compared to the voice in her head.
She felt a hand pull on her arm.
It was her doctor.
"Jen, you can't be back here."
"That," ripping her arm away from his grip, "is my husband!" Her vision grew murky with the tears building in her eyes. She resumed her determined march, looking for the room where her husband was, dying without her at his side. Hot tears ran down her cheeks as she looked frantically from window to window.
Suddenly she stopped as she looked into one window, and saw her husband in a rare state. Blood was being cleaned from his face, as a team of doctors and nurses attending to the many lacerations on his body. He was hurt. Softly, Jen placed her hand on the window, desperate to hold her hero, to stop his pain.
Sharply disoriented, Jen stepped back. How could she love him?
He had beaten her, bruised her, humiliated her, and damaged her. In their years, Jen had felt pain, fear, terror, sorrow, betrayal, despair. Yet she couldn't deny her heart.
She loved him.
A single sustained note pierced Jen's heart. Looking up, she could see the flat-lined heart monitor.
Jen burst through the emergency room doors.
"Get her out of here," a man yelled fiercely.
"Ma'am, come with me," a nurse called to her. Jen ignored it all and pushed her way to her husband. Her dying hero on the hospital gurney; Jen felt her heart sink.
"Sam! Sam, hear me!" She screamed at her husband's motionless form. A firm grip pulled her away as the doctors placed two electrodes on his chest.
"Clear!" Her husband's body jerked from the hospital bed, as electricity surged through his body.
"Sam!" Life was forced into him again, as the doctor coursed electricity through him, trying to resume his heart.
"Sam!" The steady beep cut the noise in the room. Sam's eyes opened; Jen struggled and ran to her husband's side. She placed her hands on his head, determined never to let him go. His brown eyes, what first caught her attention, looked passionately on her.
"Sam," she pushed his matted hair from his forehead, "Sam, you're alive. Thank God."
He couldn't respond; Jen saw his eyes his answer. Softly, she kissed his lips again. Lips she hadn't kissed in so long. It was like that first wedding day; she loved him then, she loved him now.
"Jen," came the soft whisper, "I give up."
"Sam...Sam, I'm never going to leave you. Do you hear me? I'll never leave you."
Tears pooled in his eyes.
"I...I can't do this...I don't...deserve any of this, of you." his voice was soft, but his words were thunder to Jen's ears.
"Hold on Sam, these doctors...they're going to fix you."
"No-" A strong cough cut off Sam's words; Jen thought she could hear his lungs wheeze as he struggled to catch his breath again.
"No, Jen...I'm sorry. God, I'm sorry."
The beeping grew faster, louder in the room.
"I'm scared Jen," he whispered breathless.
The beeping flat lined.
Again, a grip came on Jen.
"No! Let me go!" She held fast to Sam's body.
"Let us save him!" shouted the doctor.
Jen stepped back, feeling like she was leaving Sam alone in the dark.
God, help me.
Jen sat in the armchair in the lobby, blood still on her hands. She had refused to let the doctors wash the blood off her hands. It was the last time Sam would touch her skin. It was the last life she had felt in him.
Out stepped the doctor from the emergency ward; Jen knew.
Her knees gave out, and she crumbled to the floor. The nurse, Rachel, ran Jen's side and held her as Jen cried. Not for the pain, the bruises, the fear, or the hurt, but for the truth that she loved her hero, for never being held again in the arms of her hero.
5 Years Later.
"I love you. I always will. Whoever said til death do us part were liars." Jen stared at the grey tombstone, red roses lovingly laid below their words. Samuel Parson, my imperfect hero, 1978-2010.
Jen rubbed her hands across the engraving, remember their first night, that honeymoon night.
The sun was revealed from the clouds, illuminating Jen's face. Spring was awakening. A gentle breeze ran through the trees, casting leaves down around Jen. Standing, she smiled at the moment. In such a deathly place, there seemed so much life, so much healing. A soft ring alerted Jen, who retreated after blowing a kiss to the grave of her husband.
Looking into the mirror of the car, Jen rubbed her tanned cheeks, remembering the bruises many years ago. Years of life didn't erase memories, but Jen chose not to dwell on the past. Slapping up the mirror, she looked out on the schoolyard. Checking the time, she was thankful she had set her phone alarm, she always was late. Not this time. Jen smiled at her corny organization.
A blonde hair boy in the distance snatched up his backpack and came running to the car. Unabashedly smiling, Jen watched her son jump into the backseat.
"Hey Sammy, how was school?" She asked, looking back.
"Awesome. Ms. Daniels let us out early to play on the jungle gym." The green-eyed boy smiled proudly at his accomplishment.
"Well it sounds like you worked up an appetite then. How about we get some food then?"
"McDonald's," the boy excited waved in his hands.
"Good idea," Jen whispered as she turned over the engine and smiled.
My God, you are good.