She knocked softly on the door, opening it ever so slightly when she heard his deep voice.
“Hi.” She was surprised to see him looking so healthy and alert. Most of the hospital staff had given him slim odds of even surviving. The ones that had any hope had suspected he’d live the rest of the days in a comatose or vegetative state. It was safe to say no one expected a recovery like this. “I’m Ashley. I’ll be your primary nurse.” She stepped a little closer to his bedside, watching his reaction, happy to see that he seemed calm and pleasant.
“Ashley.” He repeated her name, the syllables rolling off his tongue slowly as if it was a word in an unfamiliar foreign language. “I thought Melissa was my nurse.”
“She was just filling in while I was on leave.” That was a good sign, she thought as she paused to note his observation in his chart. There was clearly no issue with his short term memory. “Melissa tells me that you’re not able to remember much.”
A puff of air left his lips in a hurry, but not in a way that showed real frustration. He smiled at her, his eyes showing slight aggravation, but his face relaxed enough to prove he wasn’t dwelling on his misfortune. “I can’t remember anything…not how I got here…not who I am…not where I’m from…not a thing.”
“Wow.” She pulled the small chair away from the wall and closer to his bedside before sitting down. “That’s got to be frustrating.”
He nodded. “It is, but” He straightened, smoothing his hospital gown as if he were getting ready to give a speech, “I’m very grateful to be alive.” He flashed her a disarming grin as he recited the words dutifully.
“Been told that quite a bit, have you?”
“Just a few times….It’s not that I’m not grateful..I am. It’s just that not knowing who you are or where you’re from it’s not as freeing as some people might think. It’s kind of…” He searched his mind for the right word.
“I would imagine it’s kind of terrifying,” Ashley said quietly.
“It is…It really is.”
Being a nurse had been her dream, ever since she was a little girl, and this was the reason why. It was people like this that made her job worth doing. It wasn’t about the daily monotonous vital signs or the countless charts to notate. It was the chances she had to truly help people. “Well,” she smiled, “I’m going to make you my personal mission.”
She giggled a bit as she watched his eyebrows lift in confusion.
“Your own personal mission?”
“Yes,” she said cheerfully. “There has to be a way to figure out who you are and where you’re from and, now that you’re awake and out of the woods, there’s no good reason not to get started solving this mystery.”
“And how exactly do you plan to do that?” He settled back against the pillows. “I remember nothing….literally nothing. I’ve tried everything. I’ve met with the psychiatrist. I tried that relaxation crap, the visualization. They read me names and places, showed me pictures…nothing stuck…nothing.”
“Well, then we go another route. We start with fingerprints. Maybe you’re on a database somewhere…like with the police department or something…”
“You think I’m a criminal?” He smiled again. “That’s nice.”
“I don’t mean like that…maybe you’ve been fingerprinted for a job or maybe when you were a child you were fingerprinted for one of those safe kids programs. It’s a possibility. It’s certainly worth a look, isn’t it?”
He nodded. “Yeah, you’re right. It’s worth a shot.”
Ashley smiled as she stood up. “I’m going to go make some calls and get everything set up. I’ll let you know what time someone can come in and get everything done, ok?”
She scurried out the door without another word as he watched. Her name continued to echo in his mind. There was something strange about it…something he couldn’t quite place. Grabbing the pillow behind his head, he shifted his weight to his side. Things seeming strange was nothing new, he reasoned—the entire world was strange to him.
Ronan took another drink from the bottle, pausing to study her face before speaking. “Well, I guess we’ve pretty much covered it, huh?”
Phyllis shifted a bit, the warm feeling in her cheeks now spreading down to her neck and chest. “Covered what?”
“Come on, Phyllis. I’ve been here for almost an hour and the most weighted thing we’ve talked about is breast feeding.” He laughed a bit as she coughed, sputtering as the water she tried to swallow fought its way down her throat. “Sorry,” he whispered.
He waited a moment for her to settle, his heartbeat automatically beginning to race as he watched her eyes slowly rise to meet his. “I just…Did you want me to say something about?”
“You don’t have to say anything….It’s just that I thought we were past this. I thought we were better than this?”
“Better than this?” From the moment she’d seen his face at her door, she’d had to fight the urge to reach out to him. He’d seen her broken before and he’d still wanted her. He’d been there—by her side, to fight for her and comfort her…and he would have stayed if only she’d let him. Now, there was a part of her that would give anything to feel that kind of safety and comfort again.
“Phyllis, you know what I mean. Sitting here, talking about the weather and Genoa City gossip—that’s the kind of crap you do with your manicurist..with the guy that installs your satellite. That’s not the kind of thing that we talk about…that’s not the kind of thing you talk about with someone you…” He stopped himself, fearing that saying the word would be pushing too far too fast.
Ronan stood up quickly, his own fears and insecurities reminding him of why he’d stayed away so long to begin with. “You know what—I shouldn’t have come here. It wasn’t fair to you and I’m sorry I…”
“Wait, Ronan, please..” Her eyes were shining at him as she now stood across from him, one hand clasping his wrist. The close contact allowed him to feel her slight tremble and it took every bit of restraint in him not to wrap his arms around her to steady her.
“Don’t go…not like this.”
“I shouldn’t have come.” He pulled away, breaking the contact, his eyes now staring down at the floor. “You told me when I left that you…”
“That was a long time ago…a lot has changed since then.”
“Yeah.” He turned to face the bassinet where Grace still lay sleeping soundly. “A lot has changed…maybe too much. That’s why I think it’s best that I…” His eyes were still on the bassinet as he spoke, but he stopped as soon as he heard her shaky intake of breath. Turning back towards her quickly, he saw the tears streaming down her face and sheer instinct took over.
She was in his arms again before she had a chance to think it through, before she had a chance to determine if it was too soon or if it was more than she deserved, and as listened to his deep, soothing voice whisper words of comfort into her ear, she realized that she just wanted to be held.