All those First Aid classes I took ages ago suddenly came back to me. I felt for a pulse at her wrist -- it was a bit fast, but steady. Then I ran to the bathroom and came back with a damp washcloth which I applied to Nicky's forehead. Her skin was cold and clammy to the touch. She might have a concussion, but I knew it was best not to move her for the moment.
I went to brush away her dark hair from her face and suddenly froze, my hand hovering over Nicky's face. I marveled at the instinct that would make me do such a thing. Why didn't I feel rage against her? That would have been the expected response -- the normal response -- and no one could argue I did not have a right to feel that.
But what I felt for her now, this stranger I'd known for mere minutes, was not antipathy; it was something akin to sympathy, even pity.
I could not help but compare myself with Nicky -- the differences between us, physically speaking, were so stark. She had glossy masses of raven hair whereas my hair was pale blond and pin-straight. She was petite and slender, flower-like in her delicacy, whereas I was broad-shouldered and tall, standing a foot over her. And then of course there was the issue of her youth. She was at least a decade younger than I. She was, in short, my exact opposite.
Nicky groaned suddenly and opened her eyes. The color was coming back into her cheeks, though her eyes seemed glazed and unfocused.
Her eyes took me in and she groaned again, closed her eyes again.
"Oh, no, oh no. It's really happening. Oh, no..."
"Nicky, listen to me. Does your head hurt? You fell pretty hard and I worry you may have gotten a concussion. Are you feeling at all dizzy?"
She lifted herself up on her elbows wearily and sighed. "No, I'm not dizzy." A surprised look came upon her face, lighting up her eyes. "Ohh..." she said and put a hand to her belly.
"What is it? Are you all right?"
Just as I was debating whether or not to call rescue, she grabbed hold of my hand and placed it on her belly.
I felt a flutter of movement beneath my fingertips. My breath caught in my throat, and Nicky turned to me then and smiled, the blaze of it brilliant across her beatific face. The effect was dazzling.
I dropped my hand, the answering smile dying premature on my lips. I realized for the first time the attraction Nicky held for my erstwhile husband -- it wasn't just her youth, it was her naivete, her inexperience. She was still fresh, still unsullied by the world's grubby hands. Everything was happening to her for the first time. And her euphoria was contagious because it was so genuine, childlike in its transparency.
Despite myself, I couldn't help but feel a brief but certain satisfaction in knowing I'd stolen this moment from James.