Recovery, Relapse, Relationship (part 2)

(Continued from the last post. Click here to catch the whole story from the beginning.)

I quietly pushed open the door to her room and peered inside. The first thing I noticed about Clydene was her face. It was almost recognizably human. Her face was striped with welts and cuts. Her tight, red curls were matted and splotched with blood. Her left eye was covered with a large bruise, which stretched from her cheek across the bridge of her nose. She wore a hospital gown, and welts sketched an irregular pattern from her cheeks down her neck and past where I could see. A similar pattern of welts and cuts traced her arms, from her hands into the tunnels of her sleeves.

Ted had pulled a chair to the far side of her bed, next to the window, and there he sat, longing after her with love and tenderness. That was the first impression I had of him, and first impressions count. And I’m sure of that impression. Love was clearly what it was. Otherwise, why would he have been there, sitting patiently next to her side? Whatever else he was feeling, he clearly loved her, wretchedly, desperately loved her, lost-without-her loved her. You could see it in his eyes, if you had been there.

He reached out and caressed her hand, not where it was sore and bruised, but along the back of her thumb, slowly, gently. Still asleep, she yanked her hand away. Ted seemed taken aback.

“She may not want you to touch her for awhile,” I said, as matter-of-factly as I could.

He regarded me suspiciously.

I added, “But she still needs you.” He had been through a traumatic experience of his own, and he needed to know she was not rejecting him.

“And who are you?” He glared at me, annoyed.

“I’m from the Sexual Assault Crisis Center,” I answered.

“You have an answer to this crisis?” Ted stood as he said it. He towered over me, still glaring, now with anger.

I instantly sized him up, saw it in his face. He felt guilt, maybe even shame. He blamed himself for some part of what happened, and he would probably blame himself for whatever happened from here on out. Even more, he seemed to be the type who needed to maintain the illusion of being in charge. He was top dog, and he wasn’t about to give up that spot voluntarily. The situation was already out of his control, which must have enraged him. And I might need to take what little control he had left away from him, because part of my job was to make sure no one, not the police, not the doctors, nor even he, bullied Clyde into a doing something she didn’t want.

His question was more anger than query. Do I have an answer to this crisis? All I could do was to tell the truth and to level with him as best I could. But I also needed to stand up to him, to retain my own authority.

“No, I don’t,” I replied, again as matter-of-factly as I could.

I had been in situations like this before, but they always made me ill. I did my best to hide that I felt anything but confidence. I absolutely hate being the bad guy.

“So why are you here?” A challenge.

I explained it to him, again as matter-of-factly as I could, without returning his anger, but also without ceding ground. I could see that he loved his wife dearly. That’s where his sympathies lay. And that’s what I focused on, what she will probably feel, what she will need.

“Because when she wakes up,” I said, “she’s going to think this was her fault, and she’s going to be as angry at herself as you are at yourself.”

(To be continued…)

This story is tangential to The Conscience of Abe’s Turn and takes place in the Abe’s Turn universe. If you enjoy this story, please also check out The Conscience of Abe’s Turn (the novel).

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