In the silence of night Winnie gradually became aware of her surroundings. A soft beeping registered somewhere nearby but far enough away that she knew the sound wasn’t in her room. An unpleasant antiseptic odor assaulted her, but the smell was familiar enough to not bother her.
She was in a bed and she knew it wasn’t her own bed but she didn’t know how or why she could tell this wasn’t her bed. Her left hand was uncomfortable like there was a needle stuck inside, and her right hand held something warm. She squeezed lightly and the warm thing moved, causing her to jerk away.
“Winnie?” Joel? Was Joel here? She squeezed her right hand again and a hand squeezed back. Joel! Joel was holding her hand! “Winnie, can you open your eyes, sweetheart?”
No, opening my eyes would require too much effort. I’m just going to lie here and hold your hand. Okay?
“Winnie? Can you open your eyes?”
I just told you I didn’t want to open my eyes. Didn’t you hear me?
“Winnie, can you hear me?”
I just asked you that.
“Winnie, babe, open your eyes. I want to see your beautiful green eyes. Look at me, Edwina.”
“Green?” She whispered. “My eyes are hazel.”
“Your eyes are gold with green and brown speckles,” Joel said with a smile in his voice. “They’re captivating and mysterious and intriguing.”
“You flatter me, Mr. Anderson.” She still hadn’t opened her eyes, but her head turned in the direction where his voice originated.
“I’m in love with you, Mrs. Anderson. Now open your eyes and look at your husband.”
“Kinda bossy, aren’t you?” Winnie sighed and allowed her eyes to flutter open and Joel’s face came into view. “You look tired.”
“I am tired, baby. It’s late.” His five o’clock shadow looked more like a midnight shadow.
“What time is it?” Winnie asked.
“What day is it?”
“Still?” Winnie tried to wrap her brain around why he was here. “Itz beena long Monday.”
“Sure has.” Joel leaned forward and kissed the tip of Winnie’s nose. “Do you know where you are?”
“Smells like a hospital.”
“Do you know why you’re in the hospital?”
“What’s the last thing you remember?”
“Spinning.” Even that was foggy.
“You collapsed in ballet class,” Joel said. “They brought to the hospital because you wouldn’t wake up.”
“Thought I was better at spinning than that,” she said, suspecting they both knew there was more to the story but neither of them wanted to vocalize their suspicions.
Joel looked up as someone approached her bed. “Your brother, Marshall’s here with me.”
“Hey, l’ill sis.” Marshall carefully lifted Winnie’s left hand in his and she cringed because there was an IV tube sticking out of the back of her hand. “Sorry, does that hurt?”
Winnie gripped his hand, not wanting to let go even if it did hurt. “Yes but hold me anyway.”
A tear ran down Marshall’s cheek. “How are you feeling?”
“Tired,” Winnie said.
“Me too,” her brother said.
“You should sleep,” Winnie said. “You can move my costumes.”
“Huh?” Marshall raised his eyebrows.
“She uses our extra bedroom as a costume room. She’s always sewing things. You’ll probably get to sleep with some sequins, and you might find a pin that escaped the pin cushion.”
“I’m careful,” Winnie defended. “No pins escape my cushion.” She yawned.
“We’ll come back in the morning, okay babe?” Joel’s sultry voice pulled her attention away from her brother.
“Okay.” She smiled at her husband; thankful he was here in the city. Everything was better when he was here.
Joel leaned forward and kissed her lightly on her lips, stirring emotions she wouldn’t expect to feel when she felt this sick. He whispered, “I love you, Edwina.”
“I love you, Joel,” she whispered back.
“Goodnight, Sis,” her brother said.
“I love you, Marshall.” She gripped his hand one more time while he leaned over and kissed her forehead. “M’so glad y’er here.” Her eyelids were growing heavy, and she didn’t try to fight.
She felt her hands rest onto her bed and somehow knew her boys had slipped away. They would be back in the morning. She thought maybe she smiled as she drifted off, but she wasn’t sure.