[EDIT 5/14/11: I'm reposting this since Blogger appears to have somehow gotten its shit even more wrecked than mine. The original post was made this past Wednesday; since then, not much has changed, although I'm set to leave the hospital on Monday or Tuesday, and have been doing a certain bit of reading at Violet's request. I'll have a full update for you guys soon.]
I'd like to start off this post by saying just one thing:
Admittedly, that was a bad idea.
Now, I'll have to move on, because a lot has happened in the last week and Violet only just let me have my computer back.
The physical therapists have been in every couple of hours to re-teach me how to walk and move without jarring myself or making my wounds any worse.
Zeke arrived here last week, when I was just sort of waking up. He and Violet have been with me nearly round the clock when my dad and stepmother aren't here. My mom also comes in often, and she doesn't react to the two of them with suspicion. I think I might be starting to understand why.
As strange as it sounds, I think I recognized him before he started to speak. When I saw him come in with Violet, my half-awake brain almost thought it was Riley with her -- but that was ridiculous. Riley has hair down to his shoulders, and it's brown. Zeke's is black, and slicked back. He has a round face and he'd shaved to come in. He's actually shorter than I thought he'd be.
He had them leave and sat in the chair next to me. Vi stood at the foot of the bed. Zeke looked at me for a long moment before he said, "What did I tell you monkeys about jumping on the bed?"
So I said, "Go to hell, Zeke."
He smiled. It was a really pleasant moment, and like most pleasant moments lately, it faded into silence.
He took a deep breath.
"Let me see."
I wasn't awake enough to put together words at such a statement. But I felt my eyes burn as I shook my head, as much as I could without the pain.
"Celeste. Let me see."
I bit my lip. "No."
"I brought this," Vi said, loudly, to change the subject. She came to the other side of me and placed the metal and wooden beads in my hand. "You left your rosary when you left. Your jacket and stuff is in my car, too, for when they let you out of this place."
I looked down; Jesus and Saint Jude looked back up at me from the Crucifix and medal. I got the feeling that they didn't approve of what I'd done, either. Then again, I'm a Catholic, so it could just be natural.
I turned back to Zeke. He was still looking right through me. I knew he wouldn't let up.
"Zeke, don't make me."
"I'm sorry," he said.
I knew I'd already lost this argument. I knew the routine from the nurses coming in to change the bandages; I gathered the hospital gown around me and slowly, tenderly, maneuvered myself onto my stomach. My hair was down and covering it, so I moved it out of the way as I put my face into the pillow, unable to turn it very far. The sheets covered me up to the start of my hips, but my entire back was visible.
Despite not being able to see, I could tell that it was Violet's tiny, delicate hands that gently worked at the tape and pulled up the bandages. From the few times I've glimpsed it with mirrors, I know that the stitches are the exact opposite of attractive. The pillow hid the tears; this wasn't the first thing I'd want anyone to see of me, let alone Zeke.
"Jesus Christ, Celeste..." he hissed through his teeth. Slowly, gently, his fingertip touched the very center of the symbol.
I flinched so hard that I screamed into the pillow. I hadn't been expecting his touch, and couldn't see him reach for me. I started really crying -- more from embarrassment than any pain. He put a comforting hand onto my bare back. He felt cool and reassuring against my warm skin. Eventually, I calmed down, and he put the bandage back over it and let me turn back around.
Then he asked me questions. He asked more or less normal cop things; where I was when the encounter happened, and what Practical Cat looked like. He didn't ask me to go into detail. I think he didn't want to push too far again.
After two days of full consciousness, I finally convinced Violet to give me my phone to make a call. I waited until everyone was either out or asleep. I didn't go into my contacts; I'd promised that no one else would have access to the number that I now dialed from memory. A European number. After three rings, there was a click.
"Mm?" came the voice from the other line.
"Ava? It's me," I said.
"Celie? Wh --" Avalesca Conquest cut off for a moment, and when she spoke again, I could hear her narrowed eyes in her voice. "Are you even well enough to be using the phone?"
I shifted in my hospital bed. "Probably not. But you said when I was awake. I'm awake now."
"Fair point," she said. "How are you feeling?"
"Like hell," I said. "But the physical therapist says that nothing vital was damaged. I should be able to function almost normally within a couple of weeks, except for wearing this stupid sling. And the sooner I can get out of here and get to work, the better." I hesitated. "How are...how are you faring?"
Ava paused on the other end of the line. I could hear her false start a few times.
"I--it's hard and...odd. It's like after Ray's...d-death, I'm being reset. Emotionally."
"I think I understand what you mean, almost," I said. "My brother, when he was a Marine, used to call it a 'soldier mentality.' It's what helped them cope with seeing so much death. Who knows? Maybe we're becoming soldiers ourselves in a way."
She barked a laugh before sighing.
"What are your plans for Pussybrained Cunt?" she said. I laughed.
"Now, is that the Cat, or my stepmother? Because those words could refer to both."
She snickered. "Cat. But...tell me about your stepbitch after."
"Fair enough," I said. "Well, the Cat is, naturally, nowhere to be found again. The sheriff's department is hot on his trail for now, but that won't last. It's weird...after what happened...I'm not sure if I want them to get him. I don't want them to have to fight him. And...and I never want to see him ever again...even though I know I will."
She sighed again. "Oh, god, honey. I really -- I'm so sorry. If I could hug you and not break you, I would."
I smiled. "I know. If anybody understands, it's you."
Ava made a noise somewhere halfway between a "hrgh" and a "mm."
There was a bit of a pause. Then I said, "Zeke is here."
"I guess he's everything I imagined him to be. He got my dad and Angel to leave us and Vi alone within the first five minutes he got here."
She didn't sound amused. "Well. Good for him. He try anything?"
"What...what do you mean, try anything?"
She "hnrgh'd" again.
"Have you forgotten the rant before you went gallivanting off to kill yourself?" she asked. "And don't tell me you weren't. That was a bloody suicide mission, Celie."
I couldn't argue with that. "What's your point?"
"You're going to tell me that part of your decision to run off wasn't based on the fact that you were pissed at Zeke?"
"It was...it was based on a lot of things, I guess. But if I wasn't angry at Zeke at the beginning, I certainly was by the time I left the house."
"Mmm," she said. "How're you doing mentally?"
"I'm...better, I guess," I said. "Like you said, I guess I'm resetting, too. And that's good. I know what I have to do now, where I have to be."
I took a deep breath.
"Ava, I have something I need to tell you. Something I need to ask you, too."
"Shoot," she said.
I took a long pause, organizing what I'd been planning to say for the last two days in my head.
"I'm not sure if you remember me mentioning Scott Monaghan," I said. "He was Aunt Michelle's good friend and her partner. He came in the other night to show me details about the Ocean City place. He said that Michelle named the houses they'd kept according to a Lord of the Rings motif, since she was a lit major and he was her favorite author. Since it's a pretty place by the ocean, they used to call this place the Gray Haven. It's...it's an appropriate name to say the least, Ava. The place has three bedrooms, sleeps a total of eight at a time. It's on the seventh floor of its building, with no way up except the stairs or elevator unless you count the balcony. And...and here's where it gets a little odd.
"It has a panic room. It's a tiny place to use in case of emergencies, undetectable at first, stocked with medical supplies and stuff. And monitors. There's surveillance hidden around the place. I have no idea why they would feel like the need a panic room in the place -- it seems like it would be wasted space. But that's not the point.
"The point is that it would make the perfect safehouse.
"And...well...Ava, you're still reeling from everything that's happened. You can't stay where you are; it'll destroy you. I'll be leaving to live at the Gray Haven as soon as I get out of the hospital, because I can't stay here, either. Zeke and Violet and I are going to get the place set up, but then you could come here. You could stay with me. We could look after each other."
Ava stammered. "...It...I-- ..."
"It's okay if you need some time to think," I said. "But I just...I feel like this is the way I could finally help the fight. I could give them some semblance of safety, even if it's just for a night or two while they're passing through. The Gray Haven is the perfect place for us to start to build a real resistance.
"It's time to try defying gravity, Ava. Nobody can hold us down except ourselves. Together we'll be the greatest team there's ever been."
I stayed quiet as I could practically hear her thinking.
"I--" she began. "I can't just leave Egypt, Celie...I mean, there's so much that I could --" She cut off suddenly. "Actually, that's a lie. I've done all I can in the Magna. I'm running out of money and patience. I'm scared for my child's life.
"Give me a day or two, I'll get back to you. I have something I need to get before I decide."
"I understand," I said. "We still need to get down there and get the place ready, so take all the time you need."
We both paused and took a breath as the tension started to ease a little. I'd made my offer; there wasn't much left to say.
I heard the smirk as she said, "...Did you quote Wicked at me?"
"Maybe a little. Did it work."
"Not really," she snickered. "Are you sure the concussion's worn off?"
We laughed, but a noise outside drew my attention. "I have to go. Don't panic, it's just my mom coming to visit. Take your time and think about everything. Let me know your decision. I'll talk to you soon."
"Love you, hun," she said. "Be safe. I will get back to you."
"Love you too," I said. "Keep alert, watch your back. Bye, Ava."
"Bye, Celie. Don't take any shit from Strahm."
"Oh, I won't," I laughed, and hesitantly hung up the phone.
For the last day or two, I've been making plans. Scheming is probably the better word. Violet has agreed to begin some of my packing for me until I get out of here. I've made the announcement that I'm leaving to everyone, while they were all here. Angel looked like she was going to explode, but she didn't dare say anything in front of my mother, Violet, and "Detective Eric Riley."
Of course...leaving them also means I'm leaving the friends I've made. Detective Goldman, and Father Kelly. But it's the Twenty-First Century; I'll be able to still keep in touch with them.
Now there will be even more friends to make. I have Zeke and Vi already.
And according to a comment left on Zeke's last post, I'll have Ava too.
And if everything goes to plan, there'll be many more after that.