Chapter 33 – A Secret Revealed
Grace stepped out of the hospital room into the corridor when asked to by the nurse. Jane was standing outside the door. “How is he, Grace?” she asked.
“They’re cleaning Brad. He’s still unconscious. They’re trying to get his body temperature up. He made Matt wear the space blanket and he gave Matt the last bit of food and water. Matt wouldn’t have made if it wasn’t for Brad. And, now, I don’t know if Brad will make it. He’s listed in critical condition.”
“He’s strong, Grace. He’ll make it,” said Jane.
“He’s been out for two days, Jane. The doctors don’t know when or if he’ll regain consciousness, they said it’s unpredictable. I want to stay here for a few more days. I know Larry has to get back to work and you have things to do. I’ll be okay. I’d send Matt back with you, but he’s adamant about staying here. He’s even willing to skip basketball camp and you know how much he loves basketball. He went to the cafeteria to get a bite to eat.”
Jane looked at Grace, “Are you taking care of yourself? When was the last decent meal you’ve eaten?”
“Jane, I couldn’t hold anything down even if you force fed me. My stomach feels like its still in the middle of that storm.”
“You’ve got to eat. What will Matt do if you end up in the room next to Brad? Please, Grace,” begged Jane.
Grace took a deep breath, “I know you’re right. I promise I will eat something tonight.”
“I’m going down to the cafeteria now and I’ll bring you something to eat. I will stay with you until you finish every bite,” said Jane.
“You’re treating me like a child, Jane.”
Jane didn’t answer. She gave Grace a hug, turned and headed for the elevators. The nurse walked out of the room. She nodded to Grace and said, “You can go in now. He’s clean and resting.”
Jane walked into the room and stood by the side of the bed. She bent over and kissed Brad’s forehead, and told him thank you for saving Matt’s life. It was a ritual she performed each time she entered the room. She sat down in the chair next to the bed and placed her right hand on top of Brad’s left hand. It was the same chair Grace slept in the past two nights.
Grace felt exhausted. Her eyelids felt as if they had ten pound weights pulling them down. She started to close her eyes and she forced them back open. Once her head bobbed when she dozed and she pulled it straight up. The harder she fought sleep, the harder it became for her to stay awake. Her right leg twitched and her head bobbed. Maybe if I close my eyes for a moment until Jane comes back with my food. I won’t sleep, I’ll just close them and relax. It won’t be long, she thought. She closed her eyes and fell asleep.
Grace’s subconscious didn’t allow her to slip into non REM sleep, the deep sleep stage where the body begins to repair itself. She remained in the REM stage where dreams most frequently occur. Grace found herself on Indian Trail, Brad was lost, she had to find him. She looked at a hand drawn map Matt gave her. She came to the fork in the trail leading to the summit or further up Indian Trail. She heard Brad’s voice, “Over hear. I’m over hear.”
She looked around. She didn’t see him, “Brad where are you? Where are you? I don’t see you.”
“I’m here. I’m right here.”
Grace left the trail and ran through the thick underbrush, falling, hollering, “I’m coming, Brad. I’ll find you.”
Grace suddenly woke up, only she and Brad were in the room. She looked at Brad and said, “I had a nightmare, Brad. I dreamed you were lost and you were calling me. I couldn’t find you. It was horrible.”
Grace felt Brad’s hand move, he moved it out from under her hand and placed his hand on top of her hand and squeezed. Grace stood up, “Brad, Brad can you hear me?” She felt another squeeze on her hand. She bent over and kissed his forehead.
“I won’t leave you, Brad. I’ll be right here when you open your eyes. I promise,” said Grace, tears were rolling down her cheeks.
Brad rolled his head toward Grace and opened his eyes, barely audible, he mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
“You’re awake. Thank God, you’re awake. Oh, God, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
A small smile formed on Brad’s lips. He whispered, “I have to talk to you.”
“It can wait, Brad. You rest. We will have plenty of time to talk.”
Brad shook his head, “No. I need to talk now.” He squeezed her hand again.
“Okay, Brad. But, please don’t wear yourself out, Matt and I want you back.”
Brad managed another smile. He said, “My wallet?”
Grace opened the drawer on the small dresser next to his bed. Brad’s brown leather wallet was sitting among a few other personal effects. She picked it up and wondered about the wallet. The leather was soft and worn. It looked like it had been hand crafted and had carried it for years. She turned and faced him. “I have it.”
Brad said, “Open it.”
Grace laid the open wallet flat across her lap. “It’s open, Brad.”
“In the sleeve on right side, reach in and pull out,” Brad’s voice becoming weary.
Grace reached into the sleeve on the right and there was nothing there. She realized she was confusing her right hand with Brad’s right hand. She placed her fingers in the other sleeve and pulled out three items. She didn’t look at them, she said, “I have three things, what do you want me to do?”
“The photo, look at the photo.”
Grace moved an insurance card off the top, then a roadside assistance card, and then she came to the photo and gasped, “That’s, that’s Matt. Where did you get it?”
Brad’s turned his head slightly towards Grace’s voice. He struggled to keep his eyes open, “When I was deployed. They needed a fourth person for a dangerous mission, I volunteered. I only knew the other three by first names, that’s all. It started out well, we met with a native of the region who was supposed to help us. He set us up. Two of our group were killed in an ambush, one was wounded badly. I wasn’t hit. I carried the wounded soldier for two miles and scaled a cliff to escape. A helicopter came in to rescue us. The soldier’s name was Mike. That’s all I knew. He was in bad shape. The medics were working furiously on him. One of the medics looked at me and shook his head. Miked grabbed hold of my hand, he asked me to reach into his shirt pocket. I did. I pulled out this photo. He asked me to find his boy and mother and make sure they were okay. He died in my arms.
I didn’t recognize Matt at first and how many Mike’s are there in the service? I was telling you the truth when I said I didn’t know Mike. Later, after I passed the football with Matt, something about him started nagging at me. I couldn’t put it together. It wasn’t until after we swam that I looked in my wallet and pulled out the photo. I knew. I just didn’t know how to tell you.”
Brad closed his eyes. He held Grace’s hand tight. He breathed deeply, then he said, “Mike was a lucky man. You’re a special woman and Matt’s a special boy. When I get out of here, I’d like to know you both better.”
Grace’s face was streaked with tears. She whispered, “Yes, Brad. We want to know you better, too. I’d like nothing better.”