A few weeks had passed and Frank was now at Walter Reed doing his rehab, Denise was by his side every second just like she promised. Jaylynne was being kept a close eye on by Frank's parents, Claudia Joy, and Michael.
The first three days Frank had done very well, but the fourth was very hard on him. They had him in a back brace suspended with all types of apparatus helping him strengthen the muscles in his chest and abdomen to make breathing and sitting easier on him. He managed to complete the regimen but when Denise was allowed back to see him, she knew it had taken its toll.
"You're in pain aren't you?"she asked.
He was using the oxygen; he hadn't needed it since a week after his accident. "Yes, tired is all," Frank said and sounded it. "Was rough."
"Just rest up. Want me to get you anything?"she asked tentatively.
"Feel like going home, just stay like this for life," he sighed. "Too hard."
"Frank, don't give up, you can get through this," she said encouragingly.
"Too much, Dee, it's all too much," he sighed before falling asleep.
Denise waited until she was sure Frank was totally out, then left the room. It was so hard seeing him like this, so tired, so defeated...She went to the cafeteria and had a soda...she was almost through when she heard, "Well, if it isn't the Mona Lisa."
She turned around quickly, "Mac, hey," she said a little surprised to see him.
"You working here now?" he asked. "I am."
"No, my husband is here, he's been injured," she replied.
"You remarried, that's wonderful," Mac said. "Congratulations! How did your son take it?"
"No Frank and I called off the divorce," she said and didn't even acknowledge the reference to Jeremy.
"That's great, good. So how are things, what's new other than his injury? Amputation?" Mac asked pulling up next to her.
"No, he just needs to do therapy for a while," she replied not wanting to disclose too much.
"Denise, talk to a friend, okay," Mac pushed. "I can tell you're upset."
"Yeah, I am. I just don't like seeing him so tired and defeated," she said sipping her drink.
"Want me to talk to him?" Mac offered. "I'd be glad to."
"Yeah, sure, might help him," she said smiling. Mac helped a lot of people even during their brief acquaintance.
"Great, you get some rest, you look tired. What room is he in?" Mac asked.
"317," she replied with another genuine smile. "Thanks."
Mac planned to go see Frank the following day. He wanted to get a look at the man that held Denise's heart.
When he arrived at Frank's room the next afternoon, he wasn't sleep, but it was clear he was not in a very good place. He went to the bed but didn't speak; he let Frank take the lead.
"You're Mac, right?" Frank asked.
"Right," Mac replied. "How did you know?"
"Denise told me you'd be coming," he replied, he didn't try any false pleasantries, he was just his grumpy old self.
"I see...How you feeling?" Mac asked. "The first week is rough even with legs."
"Tired is all but good otherwise and yourself?" he asked politely, Denise would be upset if he didn't try.
"I'd be better if you stopped lying to me," Mac said. "I've been there, it sucks, probably worse for you than for me, if you want to know the truth."
"Lying," Mac confirmed. "You're pissed as Hell and you think you aren't ever getting out of a wheelchair if you're lucky enough to make it into one. Don't kid a kidder."
"Yeah I guess you're right, I am pissed and I know Denise is too."
"Denise ain't pissed man, she doesn't come in that flavor," Mac laughed. "She's frightened."
"I know and I can't do a damn thing to make it better." His frustration was finally coming up to the surface. This man was if nothing else talented.
"Arms still work don't they?" Mac asked. "Denise likes to be held, but she likes to be included too."
"Yeah I know she's always been like that, how do you know all this?" he asked.
Mac turned white; Frank hadn't made the connection between Mac and Riley McCadden. "Uh...she was my nurse at Mercer." He hoped he still wouldn't connect those dots.
"Oh," he said still clueless, he'd put that behind them.
Mac took this to mean he'd made the connection, "Look, she needed somebody okay, after all that business, she needed somebody."
"What are you talking about? What's going on?" Now Frank smelled the rat.
"Forget it," Mac said. "The point is you can't let this stuff get you down, that's the fastest way to mess up big time."
"I'm not going to forget it!" he snapped then it clicked. "You're the man she had an affair with."
"That was not an affair!" Mac protested. "It wasn't like that at all, there has to be feelings for it to be an affair."
"So you used her?" he asked, angry.
"It wasn't like that either," Mac said look. "She uh...She's pretty."
"Yeah, well from what heard you left her and went back to you old girlfriend."
"I loved Leanne, Denise was old enough to be my mother," Mac said not realizing how deep this hole was getting. "She needed to connect with someone."
"Denise is not old!" he said clenching his fist together.
"Never said she was, but I was a corporal I was 22, she was close to 40! It was ridiculous to think anything more than sex was going to happen and if she did...It was not an affair, I didn't love her, that's it!"
"Well she fell for you and you hurt her, she wasn't just in it for the sex," he said getting more pissed by the minute.
"She didn't fall for me," Mac denied. "That is ridiculous!"
"Yes she did and you did use her, you used her for sex!" he thundered.
"Okay fine, I used her for sex! She wanted it, she was the one who kissed me, she was the one flashing her freaking breasts in my face, she was using me just like I was using her, it wasn't me she was sleeping with either!" Mac snapped.
"Get out of here now, I mean it!" Frank yelled.
"I promised Denise to talk to you..." Mac said but Denise heard the commotion. "What's going on in here? You were supposed to talk to him, Mac, not upset him!"
"I didn't he is insane!" Mac defended.
Denise looked at Frank, "Honey?"
"Get him out of here Denise, I'm serious!"
"Mac, please go. I need to get him calmed down, it's not good for him to get so worked up," Denise said. "Thanks for the help."
"You're welcome," he said and left the room quickly.
Denise sat next to Frank and wrapped her arms around him, "Ssh," she comforted. "Calm down."
"He is the guy you had an affair with isn't he?" he asked shrugging off her touch.
"Yes," Denise said keeping him in her arms. "Yes, he is, but he's also a great motivational speaker."
"I never want him in here again, I don't want him near you!" he ordered.
"I was only trying to help you," she said. "Please...hold me, okay?"
"Dee why in he'll did you bring him in here, he used you and you bring him in here to talk to me," he said angry and confused.
"I thought he could help you," Denise said. "You are shutting me out and closing yourself off and it's scaring me!"
"So you decide to bring your lover in here?"
"He's not my lover, he never was!" Denise said starting to cry. "You are the only man I have ever loved, ever!"
He sighed, he hated her tears. "Come here, Dee." He held his arms out to her.
"I love you, Frank," Denise cried. "I love you and I just wanted to help you. I'm scared."
"I love you too Dee and I know you're scared," he comforted.
"I wanted Mac to help you, Frank. He's good at that, he really is good at that," Denise said pulling back to look at him. "I watch you struggling and it's hard. It's hard."
"I know and I'm sorry so much of this is falling on you," he said. "Dee, can you give me a minute alone?" he asked.
"I don't want to," she said fighting her tears. This was how he built his walls.
"Dee, I just need to be alone for a while," he said.
She sniffled, "Do you need anything before I go?" she asked. "Are you comfortable? Thirsty?"
"When can I come back?" she asked, he was pulling back, she could feel it.
"In a little while," he said turning his face away.
"When's that?" Denise asked.
"I'll call you."
Denise bit her lip, "Okay." She went to him and kissed him, "I love you. Rest, okay?"
Then she left.
Denise waited by the phone all night and into the next day, it never rang. She went to the hospital and observed his therapy, but aside from a grunted greeting or a gentle touch on her arm he didn't interact with her at all. No matter how hard she tried to reach him she couldn't. The one day he called for her, she wasn't able to go to him, the stress had taken its toll and she was incapacitated with a migraine headache and nausea.
She felt horrible for not being able to be with him when he needed her to be.
He called her himself the second time that day, the first time it was the nurses. "Hello," she said as if half asleep.
"Hey honey, you okay?" he asked concerned.
"I'm sick, Frank, today isn't a good day," Denise said. "Not after all the other days I could have been there."
"I'm sorry Dee, I just wanted to be alone," he replied. "Migraine?"
"Yeah," she sighed. "For five days you wanted to be alone, that's crap Frank, you don't get to act like you give a damn now."
"That's not true Denise!" he protested.
"What's not true? That you didn't shut me out for nearly a week or that you don't give a damn that I'm sick as a dog in this hotel room?" Denise asked. "Whatever we're going back to Charleston on Sunday, we can ignore each other at home instead of here."
"I wasn't ignoring you and I do care that you are sick," he said angry that she was accusing of him.
"Then show me," she said near tears and hung up the phone.
He hung up the phone. How was he going to do that being stuck in here?
On her tenth trip back from the bathroom that day, a knock came at the door. Pale as a sheet she made her way to the door and opened it, "Yes?"
"Flowers for Denise Sherwood," the delivery man said.
"I am," she sighed. "Thanks."
She accepted the flowers and went to get a tip.
She tipped the guy and took the card from the roses "To my beautiful wife - Hope you feel better soon- Love Frank," is what she read.
She smiled and sat them down, she thought it was sweet of him but it just wasn't enough, not this time.
A few hours later Frank called again, and woke her from an uneasy sleep again. "Hello."
"Hey honey, you get my flowers?" he asked smiling.
"Yeah," she said still trying to wake up. "It was sweet of you Frank. Thank you."
"You're welcome, I'm sorry for hurting you by shutting you out. Forgive me?" he asked.
"It's not that easy Frank," Denise said pain of many origins evident in her voice. "Not at all. I've got too much going on right now to fight with you."
"Then let's not fight Denise," he said softly.
"You picked this fight Frank, not me," she said, her voice getting softer. She hadn't kept anything down.
"I'm sorry," he said, he knew she was sick and tired.
"Sorry doesn't help all the...time..." she faded off.
"Denise?" he said concerned.
He was met with nothing but silence.
He heard a tiny little whimper, then more silence.
"Dee honey, what's wrong?" he asked, he was starting to panic.
Silence once more. Denise still had the phone in her hand, she heard Frank's calling her but she couldn't respond and she didn't' know why.
Frank hung up the phone; he had to get her help.
His nurse responded quickly, "I'm sorry I'm late for you medication, Colonel. We'll get you some relief in just a minute," she said patting his arm.
"I'm not in pain, I need to get out of here my wife is in trouble," he told her thinking on what he would be able to do for her.
"What do you mean in trouble?" the nurse asked. "Try to stay calm."
"She is on the phone but she won't talk she has been sick and I need to get to her," he repeated.
"I can't let you leave the hospital, you aren't ready to do that..." the nurse began.
"I don't care; get me out of this bed and to my wife now!" Frank demanded loud enough for half the floor to hear him.
Mac was walking down the hall and heard the commotion and stepped in "Hey what's going on in here?"
"I need to get out of here and get to Denise, something is wrong with her," Frank told Mac. "I was talking to her and she just stopped answering me, something is wrong!"
"Okay come on, let's go. I will take you to her," Mac offered. He owed them.
"I can't get in the chair by myself," Frank sighed. He looked at his nurse, "Do not tell anyone I helped you," she warned then quickly transferred him to the wheelchair and disappeared.
Mac took Frank to his car and helped him inside and drove him back to Denise's hotel.
It took longer than Frank wished it did and hurt pretty badly, but soon he was outside Denise's hotel room door with a key from the manager. He let himself in and with Mac's help got the wheelchair to her side. She was lying on the bed, phone still in her hand.
She was awake but looked weak and wasn't moving.
Mac stayed back and watched. "Dee," Frank said softly. He touched her hand. "Denise?"
She couldn't speak; she was too weak she just whimpered in response.
"I'm here, baby," he reached and tried to pull her but he didn't have the muscle strength yet. Mac went and helped him get her closer to him. "I think we need to call for help," Mac told Frank but waited for his approval.
"Okay, go ahead," he said and focused on Denise.
He called the front desk first to see if they had a First Aid officer, they did and soon she was there with them. "You need to try to get some liquids into her," the woman advised. "See if she'll drink for you, if not we need to get her to a hospital." She handed Frank a bottle of water and a straw.
Frank held the straw gently to her lips to see if she would drink.
Slowly Denise started to suck down the contents of the bottle at Frank's gentle prodding, after about half and a bite of a carrot muffin she perked enough to realize he was there. "Frank? What are you doing here? What happened?"
"Honey, you stopped responding to me on the phone. I got worried and when I got here you were so weak you couldn't talk," he explained.
"I've been getting sick," she sighed. "For a few days but today was worst. Let me down, I'm hurting you."
"No you aren't," he said quickly.
"How did you get here? Can you sit this long?" Denise was worrying again but a second later she was off his lap and back in the bathroom losing the water and the muffin.
Frank wanted to go after her but couldn't.
Mac went to her, he knew she needed help. There was nothing for her to lose. He gave her more water then helped her back to Frank. "She's real shaky," he told him. "She done this before?"
"Yeah when she was pregnant," he replied.
"Is there any chance you could be pregnant?" Mac asked. "Anything?"
"I don't think so," she said weakly.
"When was your last monthly, sweetheart?" Frank asked cuddling her. "The last time you looked like this was when you were carrying Jer...Jeremy."
"Over a month, maybe more," she replied. She'd been so stressed…
"My wallet is in the back on the back of the chair, go get some tests," Frank told Mac. "Hurry up, and get some cola too warm if they have it."
"Okay," he said and hurried from the room.
"Mac drove you here? You hate him," Denise whined the wiggled to get down again.
"I don't hate him and I had to get to you," he said.
"Let me go Frank," Denise said trying to get off his lap before she threw up on him.
He let her go and she ran to the bathroom.
She stayed on the bathroom floor when she was done and curled up into a ball for a few seconds before feeling the urge again and finally starting to cry.
Frank heard her crying and with all his energy he got into his chair and went to her
He was breathing hard by the time he reached her; she was paler than she'd been before. "I can't be pregnant, Frank, I can't."
"Why Dee?" he asked reaching for her hand.
She held on, "I can't take care of Jaylynne and you and do another pregnancy like Annie's or Jeremy's I can't do it."
"Okay, well honey you won't have to take care of me for long, I am going to get better," he said with a false sense of confidence.
"I know you want to but it won't ever be the same Frank," Denise sighed. "You know that."
"No it won't be exactly the same but it will get better."
Mac arrived then, "They had Pepsi that was warm so I got that and some crackers. They had three kinds of test so I got all three."
"Thanks," Frank said and took the contents from him.
"I'm going to wait downstairs, you have to go back to the hospital tonight so don't think I'm not dragging you back once she's feeling better," Mac said before leaving.
Frank helped Denise back into the bedroom and helped her lay down "I'm miserable," she said weakly.
"I know, let's get some sugar into you then you can take these, if you are pregnant we need to get you under a doctor's care quickly."
"I can't drink anything else," she said turning her head.
"You have to baby, I'm not going back until you do," Frank said, he knew his health was the card he'd have to play. "I'll help you."
"You have to go back."
"Not until you're better, forget it," Frank said. "Drink up, small sips."
She gave in and took a few small sips then pushed it away.
"Now a cracker," he said holding it for her. "Half a cracker."
She at a few bites from a cracker "okay, that's enough I can't eat anymore."
"You think you can manage a test?" Frank asked. "You don't want to be pregnant, do you?
"It's not that I don't want to, I'm just scared," she confessed.
"Me too, the last pregnancy that started like this ended with you in my arms vomiting blood, I'm scared," Frank sighed and kissed her hand. "Let's get the test done. Then you come back to Walter Reed with me, I'll tend you myself, not some stranger."
"No Frank, you can't, you don't have the strength yet," she said weakly.
"I'll find it," he said with conviction and anyone besides Denise would have believed him, but she knew the limitations of someone in his condition and no amount of heart could help.
"Frank I wish you could but it's not that simple," she replied.
"Yes, it is," Frank insisted but his body was making a liar out of him. His abdominal muscles were spasmed so tightly but he fought it off. "Go test.'
She nodded and went to take the tests.