This is Brittany writing. Chad can't write.
He was shot Monday morning in court and the bullet hit his head. He had pushed Dad out of the way. Uncle Mitch says he saved Dad's life. The bullet still gave Dad a flesh wound in the shoulder. Chad is in a coma. The doctors say he's just resting. His bodily functions are all there, he just isn't conscious.
I'm staying in the room with Chad. The hospital wasn't happy about that until Mitch and Dora weighed in. The rule about "no visitors overnight except family" was waived and I stay in Chad's room full-time.
For the last four days and nights, I've been reading to him from his journal. He had told me about it and I had read some of it before. I knew where it was and am glad I took it with me to the hospital. It is graphic! Very graphic! It also shows Chad's private thoughts. I value those so very much. I read to him to remind him that he needs to come back to me. I feel lost without his strong arms around me and without his loving eyes on me.
We have had guests all during visiting hours but Mom runs interference. Dad says Chad is being shown in the paper as a hero. He's always been my hero. He always will be. "Oh, Chad! I need you back! Beautiful man, please, please, come back to me! I need you so!"
I didn't realize that I had cried those words out loud but I heard a weak voice say, "Always, ladylove."
I screamed with joy and was kissing Chad's face frantically as I cried tears of joy. The doctor on duty and two nurses came rushing into the room to see Chad holding me as we kissed.
"You're back! You're back! I love you, beautiful man! I love you!"
"I'll always be back, ladylove. Always."
The doctor leaned over and said, "It would seem you're back among the conscious again. We will want to watch you and run a few tests but, if all is okay, we should be able to release you soon.
"Young man, that is a dedicated young lady you have there. Hang on to her. She's a keeper."
Chad said, "I've know that for quite a while and that's my plan.
"Britt, call Mom and Dad. They will want you to wake them."
I fumbled for my phone and made the call. "Mom, he's back! My beautiful man is back! Tell Dad, tell Mel, tell Uncle Mitch and Dora. Tell the world!"
Mom said, "Dear, you are already. We'll be there soon. It takes me a few extra minutes to dress Charles. Give Chad a kiss for us. We'll be there shortly."
I thumbed the phone off. The doctor said, "I'm confused. Your last name is Stevens and my patient is Chad Arnold. I know his parents are District Attorney Arnold and his wife. You were calling them, Mom and Dad, though."
"It's simple. They became my guardians this spring and are Mom and Dad to me. When Chad and I marry, they will be in fact."
The doctor smiled, "Thank you. I understand sufficiently."
He looked at the nurses and said, "You may go cover the section while you," he looked at a young man, "will look over his bandages. Remove the tubes. I think the young man will be busy." He looked at me. "Make sure he doesn't have a relapse."
"Yes, Doctor." I said.
The doctor and the other nurse left. The young man began the process of removing the tubes. He got them out of the way. He said, "Chad, would you like to sit up?"
Chad said, "Yes, I would. Actually, I feel pretty good. I have a tiny background headache though.
"What happened? I remember jumping in front of Dad to push the gun. That's the last thing I remember until waking up to Britt screaming over me."
I said, "Beautiful man, you jumped in front of Dad and the bullet creased your skull. I will get a mirror and show you your head later. Dad was shot in the arm and Uncle Mitch said your thick skull deflected the bullet enough to save his life. Mom tells me that you've been written up in the paper as a hero. The sheriff's deputy killed the guy before he could get off another shot. There is an investigation to try to figure out how he got a pistol into the courthouse.
"I've been staying here with you waiting for you to come back to me and you did."
"Always, ladylove." His voice was stronger this time.
The nurse said, "My name is Dan. I will be here for two more hours until shift change.
"Chad, what can I do for you?"
Chad said, "I could really use some water, please."
"On the way," Dan said. He hurried into the bathroom and returned with water giving it to Chad. Chad took a big drink.
"Thanks. Let's get this bed up now." Dan worked the controls showing us what to do. Chad said, "Thanks again, Dan."
I said, "Move over, Chad. I want to be next to you." He shuffled over and I lay next to him with his arm around me. "There. That's better."
Chad said, "Yes, it is." He kissed me and I shivered with delight.
I said, "Dan, are you new as a nurse?"
He said, "Yes, I graduated this spring and passed my exams to be a R.N. Since I'm the new guy, I get the graveyard shift.
"If you need me, press the button. I will be close by anyway. I need to help Georgia. Those screams of joy woke a few people. I'll bring you some iced water soon."
He left and I told Chad that I was proud of him but had been scared. I said, "My world is us. You worried me badly."
He said, "I would try to make it up to you now but hospitals aren't very private and Mom, Dad, and Mel are on the way."
"Now that you're back, I know we'll have plenty of time."
Minutes later, Mom, Dad, and Mel came rushing in and all began to hug and kiss Chad.
Just as things quieted down, Dan walked into the room with a plastic container of ice water. He saw Mel and dropped it. "Melody! It's you!"
The water and ice on the floor were forgotten for the moment. Mel said, "Dan, I haven't seen you since high school!"
Dan said, "Melody, you're all grown up! Wow! I get off at seven. Could we have coffee?"
Mel said, "Yes, that would be fine."
Dan looked down. "Chad, I'll get some more water and ice for you and clean up the mess. I'm sorry."
"Don't be, Dan."
Dan returned moments later another container of ice and water and two towels. He mopped up the ice and water from the floor. He left quietly.
Dad said, "Thank you, son. Mitch says you saved my life."
Chad chuckled. "At least, my hard head proved good for something."
Mom said, "It's good for a lot. You worried us. It does seem you are quickly getting back to normal."
We all talked quietly. I was surprised when Dan knocked on the door wearing regular clothes. "May I come in?"
Chad motioned to him to enter. He came in and Mel said, "Mom, Dad, I want you to meet Dan Jones. He was a senior when I started high school.
"Dan, this is Charles and Lois Arnold, my parents. Chad is my brother and Britt is on the bed with him. I'm not sure she's speeding or slowing his recovery but she's affecting it."
Dan said, "Mister and Missus Arnold, it's good to meet you. Chad and Brittany have become well known around the hospital and all over town.
"Melody, if you're still interested, I'm off and we can get some coffee and maybe a bite of breakfast."
"That sounds good, Dan." They left together and I smiled.
Chad and I will write together in the journal from now on. Chad's a much better writer than I. I am more even-handed on how other people see him than he has been. In reading his journal, quietly and out loud, I have a better understanding of his love for me. My purpose in writing will be to give him similar words from me for any troubled times we might have in the future.
[Chad] We sat together with Mom in Dad's lap in the only other chair. Britt had stayed in bed by my side. I was under the sheet and she was on top and dressed so we could greet people that way with only slight comments. The day nursing crew arrived and checked me out. The nurse, an older woman, wasn't happy about Britt lying with me but her feelings went away when the doctor made it clear that he heartily approved.
Doctor Martin made his rounds and was glad I had awakened. He told us, "I am comforted that Chad is awake and talking intelligently. I will start the release process tomorrow. Don't worry, young lady. You may continue to stay with him.
"That will give enough time to be sure as reasonable that he will likely be okay. Chad, I want you to walk the hall at least twice today. Also, you may dress in normal clothes. If you feel weak or lightheaded, I want you to inform the nurses and lie down immediately. They will get the information to me quickly."
"Okay, Doc. The only time I feel lightheaded is when Britt kisses me." Everyone laughed even the nurse.
Doc Martin said, "I will come by late this afternoon." He looked at Britt, "Young lady, you will watch him. If he doesn't look right, get him in bed and call a nurse. Head trauma is very serious."
Britt said, "Yes, sir. You can depend upon me."
At eight, visitation began. Apparently the word passed that I was awake. I had Britt help me dress and we went out to the floor's waiting area. It was a good thing. People were crowding in everywhere! I had people coming to see me that I wasn't sure I knew. People from Dad's office and the judges were coming in; people from church; kids from school. It never seemed to end. Britt looked at me and said, "Enough. Chad needs to lie down and rest for a while. Talk to Mom and Dad." She grinned broadly. "I'm taking him to bed." Everyone laughed but parted so I could be led back to the room by a grinning Britt. She made me lie down on the bed on top of the covers. She said, "That's the first time I could say that in public!" She kissed me as we lay together on the narrow hospital bed.
I drifted off. When I woke, Britt was there curled next to me. Mel was sitting in the chair watching us. Mel held her finger to her lips to shush me. She smiled happily. "You two sleep together well."
"Thank you." I whispered to her. I felt Britt's eyes open. She looked up at me and smiled. She looked over and saw that Mil was the only one in the room and that the door was closed.
She said, "How long did coffee with Dan last, Mel?"
Mel looked dreamy. She said, "We were together about two and a half hours."
I said, "That's a lot of coffee."
Mel said defensively, "We had breakfast, too."
Britt said, "Tell us about him."
Mel said, "He's just an older guy from high school."
Britt said, "It's us, Mel. Tell us the truth. Don't hide anything or we'll know."
I said, "Is this the same Danny that I remember hearing about?"
Mel said, "Okay. I will tell all but don't spread it around. I'm not sure it means anything. It was a young girl's dream at one time. Now, that we're older, he may not feel anything." She looked at us and shrugged.
"We went down to the cafeteria. When he found that I hadn't eaten, he insisted on buying me breakfast and eating with him. He picked out a table and we brought each other up to date on life since he left high school. He was always very smart. He still is. He made it through college in four years easily and passed the exam to become an R.N. on his first try. He wants to go to med school but can't afford it. He's working for a couple of years to save some money and try for some more scholarship money.
"I didn't think he knew me from high school but I had idolized him from a distance. I was always afraid to even talk to him then. Now, it seems easy like we are old friends. He's still just as handsome as ever. I love listening to his voice." She trailed off looking in the distance not seeing us.
Britt said, "When are you seeing him next?"
"He's coming over tonight before he starts work." Mel blushed.
Britt said, "Mel, he spent two and a half hours with you and is coming over tonight. It means something. There was a dropped container of ice and water in this very room to prove it. Where is he living?"
"He has a studio apartment close to the hospital. His parents don't live here any more."
"What about church?"
"He thought we were Methodist or Episcopalian. He didn't know we were Baptist."
Britt said, "So he knows now."
Mel said, "Well, yes. He did say that's why he hadn't seen me at church."
Britt said, "Which one does he attend?"
"He said that he had been visiting around but hadn't settled on a church yet."
""I bet he tries Baptist next."
"He did say he would like to go with me if I were agreeable."
"How did you answer him?"
"I said that would be fine. Britt, quit giving me the third degree. He's a fine guy and I had a girlish crush on him years ago. There's nothing more to it than that and getting to know someone from school. I think he's been lonely."
I said, "Mel, you're smart. Add the numbers. He comes back to a place where he has no relatives. He's been checking out the denominations that he thought were yours. He dropped a container of water and ice upon seeing you.
"You need to look at the facts, Sis. He had no trouble recognizing you when he saw you for the first time in, what, over four years?"
Mel said, "Oh!"
Britt said, "Oh is right. I missed some of that. I had my eyes on Chad."
I said, "I think our mission may be complete though I didn't know I would have to get shot for it to be successful."
Mel's mouth was hanging open. At that moment, the nurse came in. I said, "Nurse, would you answer a question for me?"
"Do you know Dan Jones?"
"Yes, he's one of the bright ones. I think we will lose him to med school though. He wanted this section this week and even agreed to the graveyard shift to get it. I don't understand that."
I grinned. "I do. She's sitting right there with her mouth hanging open collecting flies."
Britt was laughing and pointing. "I think she has just now figured it all out, Chad!"
The nurse said, "You seem to be doing well. I'm glad. See you later."
Mel looked bemused though she did manage to shut her mouth.
Mom came in. "Chad, are you feeling well enough to talk to a reporter?"
"Yes, Mom. I'll come out there in a moment."
Britt said, "No, we'll come out. He and I stay together."
Mel said, "You go ahead. I think I need to contemplate what you two have figured out. I'm not really sure how I feel about that."
[Britt] We went outside to the crowd and the reporter. He had a photographer with him who took shots of us as we stood together. Chad won't tell this truly so I'm writing this part.
The reporter said, "Do you remember what happened?"
Chad said, "Not really. I saw a man with a pistol pointed at Dad and leaped. That's actually the last thing I remember until I woke this morning."
The reporter said, "How does it feel to take a bullet for your father?"
Chad said, "I have a headache."
Everyone laughed. Even the reporter smiled. He asked, "Did you know that the young lady here hasn't left your side while you were unconscious?"
"I didn't know until I woke up this morning. I am glad and I appreciate her love and support. She is a great lady." [Chad made me add that since he did say it.]
The reporter looked at me. He said, "Were you worried?"
I said, "Of course. I prayed to God that we had more to do as a couple and that I wanted him back to be with me. God answers prayer."
The reporter said, "A lot of people have been praying for him and for you."
I said, "On behalf of both of us, we thank everyone praying for us. We will be back in school in a week." I looked at Chad. "We are looking forward to it."
The reporter looked like he had more to say but Mitch and Dora moved to stand blocking him. Dora said in a quiet but commanding voice, "You have enough. The young man needs his rest and there are many people yet who have come to see them."
The reporter looked at her for a moment and then at the rock standing beside her named, Mitch, and nodded. He left.
I suddenly had a new appreciation of Dora. She gave Chad a big embrace though was careful about how she held him. While she hugged him, Mitch came to me and hugged me.
"We're glad you're back. We missed you. Britt is hard to get along with without you around."
"Uncle Mitch, that's not true. Just comply with my wishes and I'm easy to get along with." Everyone laughed.
[Chad] We sat down with Britt sitting beside me. They told me that she had been in the room from the time I was put in there and refused to leave. Dad was still getting his arm patched and Mom was with him. Dora said, "Mitch and I had to go talk with the hospital administrator for a while to get him to understand that the police force considered it to be of prime importance that one Brittany Stevens be allowed to stay with the hero. When the District Attorney came in and added his two cents worth, the Administrator capitulated. The only time she hasn't been by your side has been for bathroom breaks. Then, it was Lois, Mel, or I.
"Where is Mel?"
I said, "She's thinking about something. She's in the room and will be out in a minute.
"Would you two entertain Mom and Dad this evening until fairly late. Mel needs some privacy to talk with a young man though she may not know it yet."
Dora said, "Is this for your project?"
"Yes, I think so. If Mel finds it's right, she's not sure. We will talk to her."
That afternoon, we went for a CAT scan and X-rays. Well, we went and I had the CAT scan and X-rays. Doctor Martin came in that afternoon and asked, "How are you feeling, Chad?"
"I'm a little tired but ready to go home. I have the best nurse in the world to care for me." I gave Britt's hand a gentle squeeze.
Doctor Martin grinned, "She may be the prettiest and, for you, is surely the most dedicated. Chad, I'm going to sign the release papers after I see you on the morning rounds."
"Thanks, Doc. I appreciate that."
Mom and Dad came in to talk to me while Britt talked to Mel. Mom said, "We have been invited to Mitch and Dora's for the evening. Why do I feel the dynamite duo has something to do with this?"
I said, "We did mention it to Mitch and Dora that you might want to get out of the house this evening."
Dad said, "Why?"
"I'm sure being out with them will be relaxing for you. They are great friends to us all."
Dad said, "That's not the only reason. We are being roped into aiding and abetting but in what?"
"The young man who knew Mel, Dan Jones, is coming by this evening. Britt is talking to Mel. She can use my car to get home if she needs to. She can bring it back in the morning. Britt and I feel she needs privacy to talk to him and neither of us think she should use her bedroom for that privacy. The living room is better right now.
"So, go along and don't let on that you know. We'll all have a good time tomorrow kidding her."
Mom and Dad looked at each other. Dad said, "We'll trust your judgment. I hope you're right."
"We believe we are reading the situation thus far correctly."
Britt came in with Mel. Mom said, "We're going out with Mitch and Dora for the evening. Will you be okay at home, Mel?"
"Yes, Ma'am." She looked at Britt like she was really weird but then shrugged.