Naturally, she was still under when he returned. His blood, held captive on her skin, had worked its magic, and her eye was greatly reduced, almost clear. Bruising ran the line of her face, down her cheek and jaw. It looked three to four days old, well on its way to recovery. She was restless, once more fighting the drugs. The stench of urine from the soiled bed was high, but no solid waste was in evidence. He would attend to the smell in turn. Slipping the line out, splattering the tiny wound with some blood, it healed over almost instantly. He washed her down, and spent five minutes combing her hair through. He cleared the clutter of the drip and once more changed the bedding, moving her effortlessly around. Settled back down, she was clean and her skin showed excellent colour and fluid retention. He withdrew to check his mail and faxes. It would be a couple of hours.
She awoke on the bed, hazy remembrances that fear and discomfort had become her existence. She knew where she was instantly; the pain told her that. If he was sitting in the dark beside her, she didn’t want to know. She fell as she tried to raise herself up off the bed, the pain buckling her knees. The floor came up hard and heavy, and she lay there, tears streaming down her face, for the minutes it took for it all to settle back down. She crawled on her hands and knees into the bathroom. It took about five minutes to stand up and switch the light on, but she managed. She also managed to keep her eyes tight shut until the pain from the light faded. Sitting on the bowl, a faint dribble was all she could manage. With rubbery legs she scrambled into the security of the shower stall, grateful once more for the blast of steam that soon enveloped her. She scrubbed with all the energy she could muster.
When she finally emerged into the bedroom, the light was on. Her bed was remade, pristine, fresh. The table held a tray: tea, orange juice, a tub of yoghurt, croissants, jam and butter. She wryly wondered if she’d ticked the box for ‘extra large’ on the oj. She tried to take a small sip but the smell alone made her retch. Faint from the heat and exertion, she lay down on the bed and closed her eyes.
When she opened them again he was sitting there, looking at her. She caught her breath, then quickly turned away, staring intently at the bedcover. It had been pulled up over her.
‘You were sleeping.’
She didn’t reply, tried not to move, to react. The towel she had wrapped around her head had slipped onto her shoulders, the damp had settled on her neck.
‘You have not eaten, or had anything to drink.’ She stared harder at the bedcover. It was white, soft, expensive. Linen, she was sure, although not Damask, not like the table cloth. She looked again at the table, with the glittering tray. No evidence there of her earlier clumsiness. Her head swam and she sighed, moving back on the pillows. Just let it happen, the voice said, just let whatever, happen. No thinking, no thoughts, no doing…just go with it.
He stood up, came towards her. Her head moved further to the side, away from him. She tried not to flinch. He leaned into her and something heavy was passed onto her lap. He retreated. It was the tray, magically settled on her lap on little stilts. She could see steam curl out of the teapot’s spout.
‘If you do not eat, more importantly, if you do not drink, I will be forced to take action.’ His voice was patient, measured.
She tried to absorb this, tried to make her body move.
‘Besides, there are painkillers in front of you. Painkillers that require they are administered with food.’
This caused her to search the tray more fully. She was convinced they hadn’t been there earlier, but sure enough, by a glass of water, was one of those little plastic cups you get in hospital. It contained two tiny white tablets and two huge pink ones.
‘The white ones go under your tongue. They will make the aches go away.’
Should she trust him? Did she have a choice? She knew the pink ones were anti-inflammatories, she’d taken them often enough. No thinking... do as he says! Her hand reached over for them.
‘Not before you have eaten, and drunk the juice.’ His voice was compelling, insistent.
She lifted the juice, forced it to her mouth. It tasted incredibly sweet. Once started, her mouth appeared to have difficulty stopping. Juice dribbled out the sides of her mouth.
‘Not too quickly, you will cramp. Eat now.’
She transferred her attention to a croissant, the thought of gaining some respite from the pain, the aches, the terror of her body, driving her on. It flaked in her hand, tasted of dust in her mouth. She swallowed it down with the remainder of the juice. She reached for the drugs again.
There was a pulse of impatience in her mind, an irritation at the command. The voice was there, panicked and insistent: do as he says..do as he says.. do as he says….
She fished the pink tablets out of the tub, careful to keep her eyes from straying up. It took four drinks of water before they were gone, the second one almost choking her. She picked the tub up again.
‘Yoghurt first, before you get those.’
She sighed, despite the caution. Do not annoy him.
The yoghurt was sharp, clean. She almost enjoyed it, although the silence dragging out between them as she spooned it down began to strip her of the little composure she had. Do nothing, do nothing, do nothing, do nothing. Sweat was once more pooling around her. The last spoonful gone, she reached for the little white tablets. This time, he didn’t stop her.
‘Put them under your tongue. Do not crush or chew them. Just let them dissolve.’
It was fiddly, getting them under her tongue, her distended lips making her entire mouth feel wrong, out of shape. She finally popped them under with a finger. It was a bitter-sweet taste as they dissolved. She waited for something to happen, either with him, or herself. Was this was his way of killing her? Had she taken some poison? No thoughts, no thinking, no doing. He stood, moved towards her, picking up the tray. She only realised this had happened as the weight was taken off her legs. The world was blurred, dreamy. As she realised she was no longer in pain, or rather, that she no longer cared she was in pain, tears slid down her cheeks. Everything was receding: her back, her legs, her shoulder, the burning on the left hand side of her face. The voice.
The bed beneath her was slowly becoming more comfortable, softer, cosier. The sharp, vicious world of the bedroom was losing focus, leaving her. The tears cascaded down her face, silent, unheeded. There was no emotion attached, no feeling at all. She was mostly concerned with how marvellous it was that she could know each and every part of her that hurt, map out the pathway of injury across her body, yet feel no pain. Her right wrist had its familiar ache, the always present sensation that constant use of her mouse caused. She’d lost it in the barrage of other pains, how odd it should be there now, when the others had left? He moved in front of her vision and she shrank away slightly. The bed on her right hand side dipped as his weight was transferred to it. She should recoil, she knew, but she was so content, in her numbness that she could not muster the energy. An arm slipped behind her neck, pulling her closer. Panic pricked at her then, although it was a faint, formless thing. Nothing worth her attention. She drifted, emptied, floating, semi solid, like a jelly fish deep in the ocean, swirled and caressed by the currents around her; directionless.
There was shuffling and movement, her body being jogged a little this way, pulled along that way. None of it hurt at all, which was just fine. His arm pulled her up, into him. She could smell his fragrance, clean and light. His clothes warm and soft. Her head rested on his chest, his arms enfolding her. Her body moved into his without thought, her arm snaking across him, grasping, reaching for some sense of support. Something warm to grab a hold of. His left hand reached up and stroked her forehead gently. The silent flood of tears continued, staining his clothes. She could hear the air moving in and out of his lungs. A heartbeat against her ear, soothing somehow. She moved almost imperceptibly into him, a tiny, rocking motion flowed out along her entire body. She curled tighter against him, made herself smaller. His right hand stroked down the length of her spine, sure, soft. Again and again, he caressed her back, his body matching the rhythm of hers: they slowly rocked together. Her breath quickened, her throat tightened. Tears that had fallen silently began to carry noise: distress, meaning. The pain was building. Not the pain in her drifting, echoing body, the pain elsewhere: deeper, darker, more insistent. Sobs emerged from her throat, burning tears now being squeezed from tightly clamped eyes. Throughout it all, his rocking held her, his hands soothed her body. True crying was starting to emerge, broken breathing, ragged sobs; she felt the panic begin to rise within her. As she tensed, his body changed, grew softer, released her a little. She took in a gasping breath, trying to hold onto the dreaming, the peace. A vibration distracted her slightly, building against her cheek. There was a thrumming there, a humming. A rhythm building that didn’t owe its existence to her body, to her pain. Sound carried through the drugs, slipping into her mind. There was a song, singing, some where beside her. Gradually, she allowed herself to hear the words.
‘...gonna buy you a lookin’ glass, and if that lookin’ glass gets broke...’
He had a nice voice. Soft, warm, secure. She listened as his hands resumed their slow, gentle soothing. Delicate strokes down her spine, tiny caresses of her forehead and cheeks. The crying subsided, fell away with the rest of her. Her breathing slowed, became more regular, deeper. Her heartbeat calmed, her mind melting. She fell asleep, aware only of his warmth, his weight and the blessed absence of pain.
He held her for much longer than he had intended, until she was completely, utterly asleep. He had found himself a little enchanted by her complete surrender to him. As her muscles had relaxed and her blood pressure dropped, her pulse calmed and her breath deepened, there had been pleasure in her ease. The fleeting glimpse of her as child had returned. His intent had been to do no more than hold her, calm her down, relax her with the warmth of his contact. The stroking, the singing, had surprised him. He rarely sang his loves to sleep. Not at this stage. He pulled his arm free, settling her back into the bed in a more comfortable position. It would have been useful to have examined her, checked for any serious injury, but the pain killers were giving her respite; it was a natural sleep, unlike the one induced by the sedative. A healing sleep. She might awaken and he wanted rest for her more than he needed to check her condition. Besides, that she was asleep naturally so quickly, suggested all was well.
He climbed off the bed carefully, pulling up the covers to protect her. It took moments to clean and refresh the bathroom. He tiptoed past her with towels and supplies. He took the tray back to the kitchen, returning with an insulated jug of iced water and a large bowl of fruit, which were carefully placed on the vanity unit in front of her bed. The final touch was a plain white towelling dressing gown, which he hung up on the back of the bedroom door.