The man's image stayed with her while she slept, and as her consciousness circled around a form of wakefulness her first thoughts were of him. Who was he? Why did he save her? What had happened on the bus to make it hit her? Wakefulness seemed too nimble for her to attain though, and it easily eluded her with frustrating ease. It came in stages, not all at once, and her brain struggled to keep up, as if it was shrouded in cheese cloth.
She was aware of the pain first, and she meant to call out, but she couldn't find her lips. A beleaguered moan escaped the confines of her dry, cracked throat but that was all. Sounds made their presence felt next, though muffled, and she recognized none of them. She wanted nothing more than to open her eyes and take a look around, but her lids were sluggish and loath to respond to her coaxing. Somewhere in the back of her mind, rattling around back there, was a familiar smell she could not quite place.
She found her mouth, but it felt numb, and it was all she could do to repeatedly run her tongue over the roof of her mouth.
From somewhere far away, she heard the echoing voice of a calm individual say, "She's about to wake up now, I think."
And then she placed that smell: it was disinfectant and alcohol. She was in the hospital.
There was a flurry of activity just above her, and something lightly brushed against her face. She heard words but she couldn't quite make them out; it was as if she was eavesdropping on a conversation in another language. More light brushing of her cheeks and chin, and suddenly she knew what it was: kisses.
And instantly she knew the reason for the commotion right outside her limited realm of awareness: Mom! She was so relieved and comforted to be in her mother's care once again, almost like she was still an infant. The significance of her mother's touch was a tremendous weight lifted from her shoulders, and tears of joy and fear seeped from her closed eyelids and ran down her face, to her ears. She sobbed openly and reached out with her hands to embrace the person who had given her life, the person whose touch she so desperately needed at that moment.
"Momma," she cried and felt the warmth of her mother's cheek against hers in a giant embrace.
"I'm here, baby. Don't you worry about a thing, okay? You're gonna be fine. I love you."
That was why she hadn't recognized the dialog before: she barely kept up with her spitfire mother's conversations during especially lucid days, never mind lying unconscious in a hospital bed.
She felt her mother shudder with sobs of her own, "Ohhhhhh sweet baby, I was worried sick about you. I am never letting you go."
From somewhere just beyond her regnant mother, another voice said, softly, "I'm here too, Grace."