David's Star II: Journey's End - Chapter 9
By the time evening had fallen, the sick berth was quiet. The lights had been dimmed and several of the patients had gone to sleep after their supper had been cleared away.
For the first time since he'd awakened, Archie had been allowed something to eat. It had not been solid food but he didn't mind being served ice cream. It had greatly soothed the raw feeling in his throat.
Above, in the Captain's Cabin, Archie knew the men of the Retribution had been invited to stay for supper with he and his main Officers. Although Styles and Matthews had preferred to eat with their friends in the Sailing Crew, Horatio, William, and Hobbs had stayed. Katryn and Jesse had also joined the group for dinner, leaving Allyssa and Hannah to watch the patients in the sick berth.
When he'd heard that Katryn was in on the invite to dinner, Archie had laughed. Remembering her lack of table manners, he thought that would be very interesting indeed. Unfortunately, Katryn had promised Horatio she would be on her best behavior. Archie had been disappointed, as he'd found her lack of manners rather comical. However, it was unlikely that SuperFly would be invited to this meal, so at least she was unable to feed the cat under the table. A pity, Archie mused.
As promised, Horatio had made sure Archie's sea-chest had been delivered to the sick berth. It had been kept covered up so the crew would not know what it was they were moving. Not all the men would be able to keep silent about Archie's escape, if they were to know of it; so only the men that Horatio trusted completely had been told.
Archie was reading one of his books, when Hannah interrupted to change his bandage and replace the empty IV bags.
Returning the book to his tray table, Archie watched Hannah switch the empty bag of blood for a full one.
"Where do you get the blood?" He asked, curiously, keeping his voice low, not wanting to disturb the others who were sleeping.
Hannah gave a shrug. "We have a few crewmen who happen to have the same blood type as you do." She informed him. "They acted as blood donors. Then there are also a few who have type O negative, and that type is generally compatible with all other blood types, so they gave some blood, too."
"And how did they know what type I was?"
"You submitted to a blood test the last time you were here." Hannah reminded him. "Your blood type is in our files, as is the blood type of every member of this crew."
Archie nodded, remembering well the reasons Katryn had given him the blood test.
Hannah quickly finished switching the IV bags and moved to pull away the blanket to check the front of the gown Archie was wearing. Sure enough, the blood had once again seeped through the bandage.
"At this rate, you may as well leave the gown off." Archie remarked, with a sigh. This was at least the seventh time his gown and bandage had been changed since he'd awakened.
"Actually, it's not that bad this time." Hannah replied, honestly. "The bleeding is starting to slow. In fact, I don't think you'll need another bag of blood after this one finishes."
Archie shrugged. "Well, I suppose that's good at least."
"The other IV, on the other hand has to stay—"
"Until I eat something solid and keep it down." Archie finished. He remembered this part well.
"Glad to see your memory is still intact." Hannah commented. "Saves me the trouble of explaining it all."
Archie gave a half smile as he watched her pull a fresh gown from the cabinet, checking to make sure it had buttons on both sleeves to allow for the IVs.
Accustomed to this routine, Archie leaned forward to let her unsnap the buttons at the backs of his shoulders, that held the gown he was wearing in place. Holding the blanket securely at his waist to protect what little of his modesty he still had, he allowed her to pull away the soiled gown.
Noticing his discomfort, Hannah paused. "Would you rather Jesse did this?"
"No, I'm alright." Archie answered, shaking his head. "Mostly it's just habit. Somehow I doubt I have much you haven't already seen."
Hannah gave a shrug, but Archie did not miss the glimmer in her dark eyes. "True enough." She replied. "I was the one who put in the . . ." she stopped, realizing what she was saying. "On second thought, you're better off not knowing about that part.
Archie frowned, noting her look. "What part?" He asked, suspiciously.
"Forget it." Hannah insisted. "Some things you just don't want to know. Believe me."
Archie chewed his lip in thought. "I'm guessing you're referring to some medical procedure that would be completely embarrassing?" He mused.
"Well, now that you mention it, yeah, it's something like that." Hannah replied, as she gently removed the soiled bandage from his chest.
His curiosity was piqued. "Is it worse than getting sponge bathed in front of your closest friend?"
Hannah blinked. "Uh, yes." She answered, after a moment, turning to look him in the eye. "Wayworse."
Archie considered this. His rational mind told him she was probably right that he wouldn't want to know, but his curiosity still couldn't keep him from asking exactly how much worse it could be.
Hannah shrugged with a sigh and leaned closer, keeping her voice pitched low. "Let's just say that the tube down your throat was not the only tube Katryn insisted on having removed before you awakened." She informed him, pointedly.
Archie's blue eyes widened, as he realized exactly what she was saying. Then it dawned on him that she had just told him she had been the one to put this other tube in place.
"On second thought, I think you're right." He managed to get out, his face turning crimson. "There are some things I really don't want to know about, after all."
Hannah gave a small, sly grin, her eyes glittering with mirth. "Then you don't wanna know who took it out?"
"No, not really." Archie remarked, indignantly. "I'd just as soon remain ignorant of it, thank you very much."
"If it's any consolation, you're not that bad looking." She assured him, matter-of-factly. "Seriously, none of the three of us was complaining about the view-"
"STOP!" Archie ordered, positive the red on his cheeks was never going to go away. "I honestly don't want to know any more!"
Hannah held her gloved hands up in surrender, before she returned to washing the blood away from the surgical site.
They remained in silence until she had finished applying a fresh bandage.
"Is it safe to assume you have read through my medical files then?" Archie asked, after a moment.
Hannah was quiet a beat. "Not completely." She finally responded. "But yes, I read enough of it."
Archie nodded in thought. He desperately wanted to know her own story, but he still said nothing, for fear of upsetting her again.
Hannah remained silent as she secured the clean gown, making sure she didn't miss any buttons in the dim light. As soon as the clean gown was settled and his blanket was straightened, she slowly removed her gloves, tossing them into the nearest trash can. She then sat down in the chair beside his bed, looking down at her lap, lost in her own thoughts.
Archie, not wanting to dissuade her, kept silent waiting for her to make the first move.
"His name was David Raven White Eagle." She finally spoke up, her gaze not moving from her lap. "They said he'd been born with a defect in his heart, and none of the doctors caught it soon enough."
Archie frowned, confused. "None of the doctors could see what was happening to him?"
"I had no health insurance to have him tested for anything." Hannah explained. "I had him when I was fifteen, and after the hospital bill from when I had him, we couldn't afford the cost."
Archie looked down at his lap. "You were by yourself then?"
"I lived mainly with my older sister, Anna by that time." Hannah told him. "She was working as a waitress to support us. I couldn't work because David was so small and sickly I had to stay with him constantly." She paused. "And in the United States, you have to be at least sixteen years of age before you can get a decent job."
"What happened to your Mother and Father?"
"My mother died in childbirth with my baby brother." Hannah explained. "He was born premature because she was so sick. He followed her in death only two days later. My father later drank himself to an early grave. It drove his blood pressure too high. He suffered a heart attack, but he would have died anyway, because he was also suffering from liver failure. He followed my mom by six years."
Archie nodded. "How old were you when you lost him?"
"I was seven and Anna was twelve." Hannah answered, still not meeting his gaze. "I don't really remember my mother, but I know Anna looked a lot like her. I have only one picture of her and my father."
Archie watched as she pulled what looked to be a little booklet from her back pocket. She handed him two pictures. One was obviously her parents. The other was a younger woman he could only assume was Hannah's older sister, Anna. The young woman in the picture was with a young man, who was, like Hannah and her family, an American Indian.
"You look like your father." He noted.
"I know." Hannah replied.
"Who's this man?" Archie asked, pointing at the young man with Anna.
"That's Jared Blackwater." Hannah informed him, as he handed the pictures back. "Anna's boyfriend. He was like my brother for a long time."
Archie nodded, waiting for her to go on.
"When our father died, Anna and I were sent to live with our mom's sister, Ruth, in a trailer park not far from our school." Hannah continued. "At the time, my Aunt Ruth was a waitress who had dropped out of high school when she was sixteen. She didn't have much for us all to live on, so we ended up on Welfare."
"It's like a charity group the government funds by taking a little money from the average working people." Hannah explained. "They give out food stamps for groceries, and pay some medical fees." She paused. "But when you're a girl in school, it's an embarrassment to have to depend on charity."
"I suppose I can understand that." Archie replied, thoughtfully.
"As soon as Anna turned sixteen, Aunt Ruth got her a waitress job in another restaurant." Hannah continued. "Anna managed to complete high school, but when she graduated her grades weren't all that good. She never went to college, but she was able to work full time after she graduated."
"So when did she meet this Jared?"
"At the restaurant where she worked." Hannah answered. "He'd come in to eat and the two of them hit it off. He was six years older than her and he owned a mechanics shop that he'd inherited from his father."
"By mechanics, I'm assuming you mean he fixes things?" Archie inquired.
Hannah nodded. "He worked on cars and motorcycles, fixing them and selling them."
Archie nodded, understanding. He knew about cars and motorcycles because Katryn had told him about them the last time he'd been here.
"I loved Jared." Hannah went on, smiling. "He was everything I'd ever wanted in a brother. He was always nice to me, letting me come to his shop after school. I didn't like to go home to the empty trailer where we lived with Aunt Ruth. I did my schoolwork in Jared's office, and hung around watching him work for hours. Usually until Anna got off work, and Jared took us home."
"When Anna turned eighteen, she moved in with Jared." Hannah went on. "I was still in school, living with Aunt Ruth, but most of my time was spent at Anna and Jared's home. I only went back to Ruth's once in a while. She had, by that time, stopped being our guardian. She was hardly home and we rarely talked."
"There was no protesting about them living together without being married?" Archie asked, confused. He knew that in this time, such a thing would be considered a terrible scandal.
"We were raised mainly Atheist." Hannah explained. "And in the future, there are so many people doing it that nobody cares anymore. Besides, Jared didn't have enough money to get married, and neither did Anna."
"I see." Archie responded. Apparently he had a lot to learn about the future if he was going to live in it.
"But, you're right." Hannah informed him. "It's against Christian beliefs for a couple to live together outside of marriage and my morals have changed a lot since then. I would not do such a thing now, nor would I approve of a family member doing it."
Archie nodded. He could certainly understand this, from his time spent at the theater when he was avoiding his own family. "I understand why you would rather spend your time with your sister, than with your Aunt, though. I cannot say I would not have done the same."
Hannah smiled, before her head turned. She seemed to be listening for something.
"What is it?" Archie asked, frowning.
"I believe dinner is over." Hannah answered. "Your friends will want to see you before they leave, I suspect."
Archie nodded. Horatio had told him as much before he'd gone upstairs to dinner. Disappointed at not getting to hear more of Hannah's story, Archie looked down at his lap. "Would you mind coming to talk more later?" He asked, uncertainly.
Hannah turned to meet his gaze. "Maybe not tonight." She answered, covering a yawn. "It's been a long day and I'm really tired." She paused, watching his face. "But we can talk tomorrow."
Archie perked up, and gave her a smile. "Alright then." He finally responded. "Until tomorrow."
Hannah stood up and stretched, as the door to the sick berth opened and Katryn, Jesse, and Horatio entered. "I have to go give my report to Katryn on how you're doing now." She remarked, giving his shoulder a squeeze. "Good night, Archie."
"Good night, Hannah." He returned, grinning as she disappeared through the curtain.
Her place was soon taken by Horatio.
"Was I interrupting anything?" Horatio asked, noting the distant look on his friend's face.
Archie blinked, and turned to meet his friend's gaze. "No, she's going to bed anyway."
Eyeing the new IV bags above, Horatio shifted his gaze to the front of Archie's gown.
"It's slowing down, if that's what you're wondering." Archie informed him, with a pointed look. "She said this will hopefully be the last of the blood transfusions."
Horatio sighed, relieved. "Good to know." He replied. "How many times have they changed that bandage now?"
"I don't really know." Archie remarked, thoughtful. "It depends on how many times they changed it while I was in the coma." He paused. "I'm guessing a lot."
Horatio was quiet a moment, thinking.
Archie watched his eyes. There was something bothering his friend, he could tell, but somehow, he already knew what it was.
"I just wish I could know for sure if you're going to be alright there." Horatio finally said, quietly.
"I told you would try to let you know."
"I know." Horatio intoned. "But I still worry."
Archie gave a slight tilt of his chin. An almost unnoticeable glimmer in his blue eyes caught Horatio's attention.
Horatio sighed. "What?"
Archie shrugged. "I know how you feel." He returned, the glitter of mirth in his eyes, giving away the fact that he was teasing. "I'm not all that sure you're going to be alright after I'm gone. How many times have I had to save your worthless hide already? I just know that the moment I leave, you're going to go out and get yourself into another fix, and I won't be there to get you out."
Horatio finally cracked a smile. "Well, I suppose Will could take over that duty for a while." He pointed out. "I seem to remember saving him a few times lately."
Archie chuckled. "After all the trouble he's gotten into with either of us, he'll more than likely make it back to England and flee in blind panic at the very mention of your name."
Horatio shook his head, laughing.
"Well think about it." Archie pressed. "After all the times you've nearly drowned him, he may actually swear off the sea for good. Then who would get you out of your next fix?"
"Alright, you've made your point." Horatio managed to get out, gasping.
Archie sighed, letting his head fall back against his pillow. "You'd better get going." He spoke up, quietly, listening to the sounds from above. "They'll be waiting for you."
Horatio set his jaw, and stood.
"There is one more thing." Archie put in before he could turn away.
Archie pulled out an envelope. It was sealed and blank but for one name.
"Take this to Devonshire and give it to no one but the name on it." Archie told him, pressing the envelope into his friend's hand. "Do not give it to anyone else, and deliver it in person only."
Horatio read the name written in the middle of the envelope. 'Lord Bridgeleigh.' He had heard the name of Archie's father mentioned only a few times. Archie did not speak of him often and when he did, it was usually brief, and emotionless.
"Some things that needed to be said and I do not want it to have to go through William." Archie informed his friend. "Promise me you'll see that he gets it."
Horatio slipped the envelope into his topcoat pocket. Somehow it made sense that Archie would want to attempt one last appeal to the father who had all but abandoned him. Horatio had seen in his friend's eyes the desperation and the desolation Archie had faced the last time he had tried and failed to see the man. Archie had not spoken of where he had gone that day, or why, but Horatio had known; and the pain of the rejection he'd received had gone unnoticed to all except Horatio. Whatever was in the letter, it was clear what it meant to his friend.
"I give you my word I will get it to him if I have to break into the house and find him myself." He answered, solemnly.
Whatever it took to get the letter into the hands of Archie's father, he would do, Horatio decided. After all Archie had done for him; all he'd given up; he owed his friend that much.
Archie met his gaze. "Goodbye, Horatio." He returned, watching as his friend turned and left through the curtain.
When the door to the sick berth had closed behind Horatio, Archie closed his eyes, finally giving in to the tears he'd been holding back.
Through the torrent of silent tears, a voice finally cut through Archie's pain. It was Katryn, from the other room, doing her stretches on the mat in her room, as she sang.
And as she sang, he listened.
"I've been there a thousand times; felt the rain like a thousand knives
And it hurts. I know it hurts.
I've been there like a fighter plane, trying to fly my way
Thru a hurricane and it's hard. I know it's hard.
Don't be afraid. You'll make it thru. Just call out to me;
And I'll come running to you.
Hold on . . . Hold on;
When the current pulls you under; and your heart beats like thunder.
Just give me your hand; and hold on . . . Hold on;
Until the storm is over; and I'll be fighting for you.
Just give me your hand and hold on . . .
"I'll give you hope. I'll give you faith and if it's dark I'll light the way for you . . .
By your side until the end. Until you're standing tall again;
I'm here. I'll always be here; always be here.
And if the tide sweeps you out to sea;
When your strength is gone and it's hard to believe;
Hold on . . . Hold on;
When the current pulls you under; and your heart beats like thunder.
Just give me your hand; and hold on . . . Hold on;
Until the storm is over; and I'll be fighting for you.
Just give me your hand and hold on . . . Hold on . . ."
(Hold On By 33 Miles)
Archie's eyes closed as he fell asleep, content for the moment that although he had been through one of the hardest days of his life and said goodbye to the only family he had ever known, he still had the support of a whole new family that would not let him down.
No matter what the trials were in the new world he had yet to enter, his new family would not let him face them alone.