A/N: For an alphabet challenge ages ago. "T" is for "Traumatic".
The knocking at the door is incessant. I'm not sure how long it goes on before my conscious swims up from the depths of sleep and hears the noise. Unraveling an arm from the warmth of my blankets, I reach out blindly towards the bedside table until my hand falls on the alarm clock. I turn it towards me and squint at the red numbers that glow in the darkness of our room.
The pounding on the door continues.
Without bothering to put on a robe, I stomp down the stairs, still half asleep. "The next time you forget your keys, you can sleep on the bloody…"
You aren't on the other side of the door when I swing it open. In your place is a man and a woman, sombre in the dark colours of their police uniforms.
My hand immediately covers my mouth. "Oh, God…"
"Are you Helen Stewart?" the man asks me.
"A Nicola Wade has you listed as next of kin," he carries on, as if he can't see me dying in front of him. "You are Helen Stewart, yeah?"
The female steps forward and softly, yet firmly, tries to help me piece my heart back together. "She's all right, Miss Stewart. But there's been an accident."
I don't remember going upstairs to change my clothing. I do recall being sick in the loo, but I have no recollection of how I got from our flat to the hospital. The police drove me, I know, worried that my state would do more harm than good on the roads. The antiseptic smell of the hospital cuts through my haze and, with the help of the female officer, I am able to find the reception desk.
"We're here to see Nicola Wade," the woman says in an authoritative tone that allows little argument. We are directed to a room down the hall and 'round the corner, and, when we arrive at the shut door, the officer hands me a card. "We don't need to speak with her straight away," she tells me, "but if you could have her ring me tomorrow, we can get all this sorted."
"Thank you," I look down at the card, "Officer Ryan." I glance up and apologize. "Sorry. I didn't even know your name until just now."
"It's all right," she replies. "Under the circumstances, it's entirely understandable."
It all still feels like a dream. "You know, I never even asked what happened."
"Insofar as we have gathered, she was going through an intersection when her car was struck by a vehicle that had run the light. We don't know for certain, but it appears that, rather than braking, she sped up. Most likely saved her life."
"And the other driver?"
"Young man in his early twenties. We're waiting for the results to come back on his blood, but it appears he might have been drinking."
I wash down my anger with the knowledge that there is someone out there who got the same knock on their door as I did tonight. "Will he be all right?"
Ryan nods. "Yes. Not sure about his two passengers, though. They weren't wearing a safety belt." I close my eyes and touch the lids with the tips of my thumb and forefinger. I feel the soft touch of Officer Ryan's hand on my arm. "Anyway, I'll leave you to it." She gestures to the card. "You'll have her call, yeah?"
I nod and she leaves me to stand alone outside the room.
We take so many things for granted, don't we? Our jobs become routines that allow us to live from day to day in a manner we often complain is mundane. Our lives are wasted away as we only look ahead. "I can't wait for the weekend," or "Only four more months 'til I can go on holiday." The people we love become part of the surroundings, part of a cycle that begins every morning we naively assume will be given to us. It takes a traumatic event to remind us that all these things, all these moments, all these people, are privileges given to us. Not rights.
The instant I open your door and see you there, I break down.
My sudden appearance, or perhaps my sudden tears, must have startled you, because I hear a very surprised, "Helen!" Then, very softly, you say, "Oh, my darling. Come here." I am in your arms in a second and I feel you shift over. "There's room for two."
I don't know how long you hold me- minutes, hours. I treasure every one of them.
Finally I hear you whisper, "I'm all right. I'm all right."
I pull back to get a look and you are my Nikki, save for a three-inch bandage above your right eyebrow.
"Bit of a scratch," you tell me. "A few stitches. Hit my bloody head on the driver's door."
"Do you remember what happened?"
Narrowing your eyes, you look away as you try to piece the fragments of your memory together. "Someone… ran the light? I hit the accelerator, but I guess it didn't quite do the trick."
"According to Officer Ryan, it saved your life." I snuggle in close again to cover my tears.
You kiss my forehead, in the same spot as your bandage. "The good news is, I'm sure my car's totalled. Now I can buy that Mini Cooper I've always wanted."
Your ploy works and I can't help but laugh. "I'd pay good money to see you fold yourself into one of those."
We laugh together and then you ask, "When do I get out of here?"
"I don't know," I confess. "I didn't bother to find out."
I start to get off the bed and you ask with a pout, "Where are you going?"
"I'm going to inquire about getting you out of here and back into our bed."
This answer seems to appease you, because you smile. "All right. I'll allow it."
My stern face at your command fools no one. But the sincerity is back in my voice when I reach the door. "Nikki?"
"I'll explain it later, but I just want to say…," I falter as I try to find the right words. "I'll never make you sleep out on the steps."
You frown your confusion. "Which one of us has the head trauma again?"
I offer you a little smile for your remark. "Nothing wrong with my head," I tell you. "Just a bit of a heart trauma, that's all."