I could hear the beep of a heart monitor, and my first thought was — Finn is still alive.
I forced my eyes open, thinking maybe, somehow, I had moved backward into my past. Even if it might be a dream, I’d take it, anything to have another moment where my baby was still with me, still in this world.
But when my surroundings came into focus, I realized we were not in an NICU, nor was I waking in my own bed. The hospital room was gray-walled and sterile, and the rails by my shoulder could only mean that I was the patient.
Something creaked, and I turned my head. A thousand painful shards shot through my neck and up into my skull. Gavin slept slumped over in a chair, the footrest kicked out. He looked bedraggled, his black hair spiking up every direction, the scruff on his jaw even longer than usual. He was perfect. My eyes sparked with tears, pinpricks that magnified the pain in my temple. He was here. Finn was still gone, but Gavin was back.
I closed my eyes again, and the ache eased enough that I could sort through my last memories. The beach. Walking with my friend Jenny. Her crazy green coat that made her look like a frog.
And Gavin. He’d told me about getting a vasectomy after the baby’s funeral. How much he’d hurt.
We both hurt so much. That’s why I’d walked into the frigid sea, not caring anymore.
But he’d saved me. Pulled me from the water like I was meant to be reborn.
Footsteps approached. “Did she wake up?” a woman asked.
The chair creaked again. “I don’t know,” Gavin said.
I opened my eyes once more, trying to accept the pain. A nurse in blue scrubs leaned over my bed, her merry weathered face topped with a riot of gray curls. “Well, lookie there, Miss Corabelle has brown eyes.”
Gavin jumped from the chair, his face lining up beside hers. “You’re awake, baby. We’ve been so worried.”
I wanted to talk, but my throat was raspy and dry. The painful need to cough seared my chest, which felt heavy and stiff.
“Let me get you some water,” the nurse said and turned away.
Gavin grasped my hand and pulled it to his chest. “You got pneumonia. You had fluid in your lungs from—”
He fell silent when the nurse returned, and I washed over with relief. If he wouldn’t talk about it, then no one knew I had gone into the waves intentionally. I wouldn’t have to suffer through the attention, the concern, not until I was ready to admit I might have a problem. Maybe no one would ever have to know but Gavin.
The nurse pressed a button, and a motor hummed as my shoulders rose a few degrees. The blood drained from my head, and a lightness came over me, sending my vision to black and white. The feeling was comfortable, a dark place I went often when I needed escape and going unconscious was my way out. But today I didn’t want it and squeezed Gavin’s hand as though I could pull his strength into me.
“Stay with us, Corabelle,” the nurse said. “Don’t make me break out the smelling salts.” She lifted a straw to my mouth. “Crazy thing, going swimming when it’s forty degrees out. Young kids in love.” She smiled over at Gavin as I tried to suck and swallow. The water was cool and soothing and I wanted more of it, an endless amount, but she pulled the cup away. “Take it slow, honey. You’ve been getting it through your veins for two days.”
I felt something strange against my thigh and realized I had a tube taped to my leg. A catheter! One hand was heavy and I lifted it to examine the IV running up to a bag on a silver stand. I turned to Gavin for confirmation, and he nodded, his lips tight. “We knew you’d pull through.”
I opened my mouth, but as soon as I tried to use my voice, a cough came over me, weak and pitiful but sending another shower of pain through my head. I sucked in air, trying to breathe normally. The nurse held my arm. When it all calmed again, I managed to squeak out, “Do my parents know?”
Gavin squeezed my hand. “They took a flight this morning. They’ll be here very soon.”
“Did you call them?” My voice sounded foreign, like it was passing over sandpaper. Each breath was painful, as though I had to wrench my chest wide to let in air.
Gavin nodded, his face heavy with concern. “That first night, when we realized you were staying. They couldn’t get out yesterday. No flights.”
The nurse pulled a thermometer from her pocket and sheathed it in plastic. “I actually get to take this the old-fashioned way now.” She stuck it between my lips.
My parents’ arrival worried me more than anything that had happened to me. How would my parents feel seeing Gavin again? He left the day of our baby’s funeral, and I had not told them that we were seeing each other again after a four-year separation. I didn’t know if they’d be supportive or cautious. They were not invasive parents, and we only talked a couple times a month. But they were protective. Gavin’s sudden departure had been hard on all of us.
“Excuse me a second, sweetheart.” The nurse stepped between us, and Gavin had to let go of my hand.
The thermometer beeped, and the nurse took it, squinted at the number, and jotted it on her iPad. “Still a little high, but nothing like what we had yesterday. We could have fried eggs on your belly button.”
I wanted to shake my head, but even the subtle shift of lowering my chin after she took my temperature sent pain spiking behind my eyes. “Am I taking pain meds?” I asked.
“Got some aches, do you?” she asked. “That would be expected.”