Six Days After Christmas
The fifth and sixth days after Christmas were a mosaic of lucid and fragmented moments.
He mostly floated on a constant sea of voices.
Seth's was still the loudest.
"Seth, lower that television."
"Geez mom, or shall I say, Volume Nazi, I thought we were supposed to stimulate his brain."
"That was three days ago Seth, Ryan needs to sleep now. So either lower the volume on that television or go out to the waiting room."
Ryan woke up smiling.
"Oh good, he's up. I've got five bucks he can't remember a damn thing. What you are you in for Lindsay?"
"Um," Ryan heard his girlfriend falter, "Let's see. He did remember George Bush yesterday, so, uh, put me down for five that he remembers 2 out of 3."
"I'm with you Seth."
No answer. Ryan was fuzzy on what the discussion was pertaining to, but obviously Kirsten wanted none of it.
He took a deep breath, relieved that it was a little easier, a little less painful. The respiratory therapy hurt like a bitch, but it was helping.
He was breathing now without supplemental oxygen. All those tubes that were sewn in to him were gone too.
"Ryan, hey. You want anything to drink?"
"No." His own voice continued to surprise him. He still sounded like he was a few months shy of puberty.
"Are you feeling ok sweetie? Do you want me to call the nurse?"
For Kirsten, he opened an eye, gave her a half smile, "No thanks."
"Let the poor kid sleep," Sandy suggested. "Every time he moves, you people kill him with kindness."
"Um, excellent idea Father but first, your public awaits Ryan. Tell us, please, what day is it?"
Seth fanned his hands, impatient for an answer.
Ryan remained silent.
"Uh –huh," Seth responded to Ryan's lack of response. "That's one for us Dad. And tell us big guy, where are you?"
"Yes!" Ryan heard Lindsay slap a high five with someone he presumed was Kirsten.
"Oh please," Seth dismissed Lindsay's triumph. "That one was a slam dunk. Say, do you have any questions for us Ryan?" Seth asked leadingly. "Like perhaps….why are you here?"
Ryan had a sudden flash.
Beating someone up, a gun, cold against his head.
"I was in a fight. Did someone shoot me?"
The room grew silent.
"No more of this game Seth," Kirsten's authoritative voice broke the stillness. "These questions stop today. It's not funny anymore. It was never funny."
"You were hurt during a carjacking, Ryan," Sandy told him. "Today is the first day you have remembered any of it, the first time you haven't woken up completely disoriented."
"How long ago?" he asked, trying to wrap his mind around the information.
"Four days, if you count today," Sandy answered. Quick, to the point. It reminded Ryan of court.
"I have respiratory therapy."
"Yes," Kirsten pulled his blanket up a little higher. "You always remember that. The doctors tell us it has something to do with when the injury occurred, but concussions are tricky and you took quite a knock on the head."
"I've been here for four days?" Ryan asked incredulously. "How can that be possible?"
"Oh, it is, believe me," Seth chimed in.
Ryan surveyed the room and its' occupants.
The Cohens all looked exhausted, deep circles under their eyes.
"Does my mom know? Is she here?"
Sandy cleared his throat. "Uh, no Ryan, we're still trying to track her down. Caleb, of all people, has been helping."
Ryan nodded silently, tried to convince himself that Dawn's absence didn't matter.
He had a memory of waking up yesterday, asking for her when his head hurt so bad that he thought for sure it was splitting into two separate skulls.
Kirsten, he remembered.
Kirsten had stayed with him instead.
He spotted Lindsay in the corner, her face wet with tears.
Crying, yelling at him to stop fighting, hugging herself in fear.
"Are you ok?" He asked her.
"Yeah," Lindsay nodded, put her hand to her face. "I just keep crying like an idiot every time you wake up."
"You were there."
"Yes," Lindsay nodded.
"You were mad at me."
"No," Lindsay shook her head. "I was amazed by you."
"You know what? I'm hungry," Sandy suddenly announced. "Kirsten honey, are you hungry?"
"Yes," Kirsten nodded slowly, "I think I am. Starving actually. You too Seth, move it."
"But I'm not hungry," Seth began to protest.
"Yes you are," Sandy shoved his son out into the hallway.
"I guess I am," was the last thing Ryan heard before the door shut.
"They are so very subtle," mocked Lindsay. "Do you think they are trying to give us some alone time?"
"This is a different room," Ryan observed, still trying to orientate himself with everything. "It's quieter."
"You were moved here from ICU yesterday. Thank God, 'cause I don't think I could have survived another day in that little waiting room," Lindsay answered him.
She settled herself in the chair recently vacated by Kirsten.
"You….scared the shit out of me, everyone. Even yesterday, I was still worried. But today," she held out her finger. "You remind me of a certain lab partner I have."
"Really?" Ryan asked. "Does he sound like Mickey Mouse?"
"A little," she laughed. "Kind of looks like him too, has ears that stick out."
Ryan grew silent, finally asking, "What happened to us? I don't remember very much. Or…" he gave her a shy glance, "anything."
Lindsay moved to the corner of the bed, careful of his chest and abdomen, wary of the IV's. He was still Humpty Dumpty, still being stitched together.
But he was hers, and she wanted him, tubes and all.
Ryan eased over, made more space for her, encouraged her to sit on the bed.
Yesterday it was the same. Ryan had little memory of the last few days' events, but he seemed to sense that their relationship had entered a new level of intimacy. He seemed to want her close.
She went slowly, filling in all the details.
He had to take deep breaths between questions.
Finally when she was done retelling the story of the attack, Ryan leaned back on his pillow, yawned.
"You weren't hurt?"
"Not a scratch," Lindsay assured him.
"Did they find Kirsten's Rover?"
"Yeah, but it's totaled. Kirsten doesn't care. It's covered by insurance. She's just worried about you Ryan, she doesn't care about the car."
Ryan closed his eyes, couldn't keep them open to save his life.
"I remember the beach," he said dreamily. "We were sitting on the beach."
"Yes," Lindsay resisted the urge to break down into tears again. She had cried enough over the past four days. It was time to stop.
"I couldn't breathe, so I remembered the waves."
"Did it work?" Lindsay asked, curious as to the origin of the comment. Was he referring to the parking lot, the ambulance, the hospital? He has been struggling to breathe in a myriad of locations lately.
"Yes," he burrowed down deeper, put his head on her shoulder. "It helped."
The medicine and head injury were making him more emotional, his speech more simplistic, his actions more dependent. He repeated questions constantly. Yesterday he had permitted Sandy to help feed him without even a glare. The rest of them had left the room, leaving the task to Sandy, allowing Ryan his privacy. Eventually the memories would start to stick. No one wanted Ryan to perceive his vulnerability as a weakness.
The doctors told them the residual effects would last a few more days, maybe even weeks, depending on his need for painkillers and how well his brain recovered from the trauma.
This Ryan was different.
He made Seth uncomfortable, although Lindsay could tell that Seth was trying hard to hide it. She missed the old Ryan too. But he was coming back to them, little pieces at a time. So far, this morning, he was more alert than ever before.
Ryan coughed, caught his breath. "When I get out, we'll go back, to the ocean."
Four days ago, she would have never dreamt of ever returning to the boardwalk. But Ryan was on to something.
Why the hell should those assholes rob them of that place?
She studied his dark blonde hair, ran her fingers over the sprouting stubble that was replacing the bald spot with surprisingly fast growth.
The bandage was gone, leaving an ugly scar with intermittent staples.
He was still the most beautiful boy she had ever seen.
Lindsay kissed him softly on the lips, teased, "Fine. You're on Atwood, first date out of here. But this time, I'm driving."
He grinned as he drifted back asleep.
An 'old Ryan' smile.
Another piece of him, falling back into place, putting him back together again.
THE END! Thanks for reading.