Saturday, June 27, 2020

Chapter 15

Katie hung up her call with Jay, believing he would be able to find her the best legal counsel that her money could offer. She returned to standing with Matthew and Becca just outside of Nick’s treatment room where the doctors and nurses continued to try and awake Nick. Katie thought she heard something positive coming from the room and she bent an ear toward the open doorway. She poked her head around and stood in the doorway, next to the outer most wall. 
Nick was fighting to wake up when he heard the voices calling him. This time he did not recognize any of the voices. He heard beeps and tones and the whistling sound of an oxygen tank. He recognized the steady beeping tone of a cardiac monitor. He felt something squeezing his arm by way of some kind of motor, hugging his upper arm as if it were cutting off the circulation to his lower arm. When Nick opened his eyes further, the bright light began to have definition. He grunted and groaned, trying to speak, but he only felt a slight vibration in the back of his throat. The spotlight on his eyes only increased the pain in his head, forcing his eyes to remain closed. 
“That’s right Mr. Thomas. Now open your eyes wider for me. Can you hear me? I’m Dr. Spann, I’m the resident neurologist here at UK hospital can you hear me. Can you squeeze my hand?
“Teach,” he mumbled. 
“Teach? Teach what?” Mr. Thomas, can you hear me? Dr. Spann looked back at Katie who had cleared her throat.
“Do you know what that means?” Katie nodded and smiled. Becca came into the room when she heard him mumble Teach. 
“Katie, you call to him. He’ll respond if he hears your voice." The doctor stepped back, and a warmer, softer petite hand replaced his cold bulky rough touch. She bent down close to his ear. 
“Nicolas Paul, PC, c’mon now, wake up.” She leaned even closer, and whispered in his ear, not wanting anyone to hear. “PC, it’s me Princess Cindy, now open your eyes, and speak to me.” She lifted her head. “Wake up, talk to me. I’ll be nice if you open your eyes wider.”  
Nick’s eyes opened wider, yet when he focused in on the bright light overhead, pain shot through his eyes and radiated throughout his entire head. He moaned from the pain and promptly closed his eyes. 
“No, that doesn’t qualify. I should have said being nice is contingent upon you staying awake. That little eye opening stunt does not fit the qualifications for me being nice.”
“Whatever happened to not kicking a man when he is down?” A feeble voice came from Nick’s barely moving lips and in slightly more than a whisper with his eyes closed. Katie looked up and smiled, relieved that he was coherent enough to respond. The doctors and nurses all nodded, giving Katie the thumbs up for getting Nick to speak. 
“You’re the exception. There are a lot of people who have been calling you. Now wake up for good, so this angry author can set into motion payback, Italian Yankee style.” Nick turned his head and squinted trying to see Katie. She moved away when the doctor tapped her shoulder. 
“That’s good Mr. Thomas. I’m Dr. Spann. Can you open your eyes?”
“Yes, but I’m not going to unless you turn off that fluorescent sun over my head, shining down on me. My head is killing me, if I’m not already dead.” The doctor moved the light, and Nick cracked his eyes open. His eyes searched, and he slightly moved his head, looking for his Teach.
“Where is she?” The doctor looked at the nurses and technicians. No one had noticed that Katie had slipped out of the room. 
“Who, Mr. Thomas, the woman here that was just talking to you?” Dr. Spann asked. A male nurse interjected to inform Dr. Spann.
“That’s Katie Lynn Moore, the author, and he’s Nick Thomas. You know the rivalry between the author and the country singer, Dr. Spann?” 
“It is vaguely familiar, but I haven’t been keeping up with the latest gossip.” Dr. Spann returned to study Nick’s face and eyes. “Are you talking about the author, what’s her name, again? He said looking back up at the nurse.
“Katie Lynn Moore, yes, where is she?” Nick answered. Dr. Spann looked behind him and surveyed the room. Most of the attendants shrugged their shoulders.
“Hmm, she must have left. Do you want me to go look for her?”
“No, if she comes back, she’ll be locked and loaded, and I’m not sure I can deal with that with my headache.” The nurses laughed, then a chuckle by Dr. Spann.
“It’s not funny. She’s good at it,” Nick said.
“Mr. Thomas, I’ll write an order for the pain. On a scale from one to ten, with ten being the highest, what is your pain level?” 
“Twenty,” he said. 
“Okay, I gotcha. I’ll give you something.” He proceeded to give the order for a mild narcotic until Nick interrupted. 
“No, not if it will make me any sleepier. I have to face the music.” Nick said. 
“No pun intended right, Mr. Thomas?” The nurse asked.  
“Well, maybe intended a little bit,” he answered borrowing from Katie’s infamous expression. 
Thirty minutes later, Katie was sitting next to Nick’s gurney with her head down in on the side of his bed. She was praying while waiting for the orderly to come and take Nick for his CT scan. 
She continued to try to awaken him, again, but he lay still, not moaning in pain, nor opening his eyes. She hoped it was the alcohol that he was sleeping off, and not a devastating brain injury. Nick’s phone rang, again, and it was Shawn calling for an update. 
“Hey, Shawn. They are coming any minute to take him for the CT scan. I’ll go with him, just in case he wakes up. He woke up once briefly, but he’s been back down ever since. How far away are you?” 
“We are closing in on forty-five minutes away.” Katie leaned back in the chair. “That’s great. Maybe you’ll be able to wake him. Becca’s worried which makes me so much more worried. She says if he doesn’t wake up on his own in the next few hours, it would be a very bad sign.”  
Katie heard Shawn put the phone by his shoulder and update the guys, while Matthew came into the room. He leaned over to whisper to Katie to inform her of some new developments.
“Shawn,” Katie said calling to him while walking about the room.
“What is it, Katie?”
“Matthew just told me that there is a girl out in the waiting area. She’s claiming to be his girlfriend. She’s being pretty persistent, he said. It might be that twit he was with, the one with the Facebook page that hates me. Matthew is going out to look.” Katie stuck her head out the doorway to watch Matthew.
“Katie, he doesn’t have a girlfriend. You are the one he loves, although he’s been a shit lately and so underserving of you.” She backed up into the room, nearing Nick’s gurney.
“Shawn, I’m not his girlfriend, and I never will be, or anything else like that, again. Never, did you hear me? I said NEVER!” 
“Don’t say that. Give me a reason to wake up,” Nick’s feeble voice said from the gurney. 
Nick battled the pain of opening his eyes to the bright lights, to get a glimpse of his Teach, but eventually, gave up the fight. She stood near the gurney holding on to the rails with one hand and the phone with the other. A huge smile lit up her face with a twinkle in her eye that chased away her panic. 
“Welcome back, you big oaf.” She pulled in her lips, with tears forming in her eyes, out of gratefulness. “Shawn, he just woke up, again, thank God.” 
“So, you do care.” Katie battled telling him she loved him and telling him she hated him. She could not decide how she felt. Nick opened his eyes, but the pain was too much. He rested his hand on the back of it on top of his forehead, as if to block out the light. He alternated between closed and squinted eyes. 
“You are my Teach, aren’t you?” 
She nodded her head very slowly. “Yes, I’m also the woman you have been berating and slandering and calling an ugly bitch whore,” she said.
“I would never say that to you. Don’t you believe that?” He squinted his eyes looking at the blurry figure of his Teach.
“Well, I heard it, Matthew, Becca, and Scotty heard it, so I don’t think I was hallucinating.” 
“I didn’t know you were my Teach.”
“Oh, so that gives you an excuse to be vulgar, hateful, and rude?”
“I was near blind and stupid, besides drunk and foolish.” 
Katie’s shoulders and defensiveness dropped with that statement. A tear fell from Nick’s eye. Katie brushed it off with the back of her finger. Shawn listened, grateful as Nick and Katie were going at it. That meant he was cognizant enough to know where he was and with whom. Shawn called to Katie over the phone.
“Katie, tell Nick we’ll be there in about forty-five minutes, or so.” Katie took the phone down away from her ear. She put it against her shoulder. 
“Hey, you big stupid-star, Shawn is and the guys are about forty-five minutes away.” 
“Shawn left with the guys. They quit. It’s my fault, I pushed them out.” Nick said. 
“Well, they must still care because they are on their way back. They were about halfway to Nashville when he called. He saw a lovely picture of us, with you ruining my favorite jeans with the blood from your head.” 
“I’m sorry. I’ll buy you new ones. I think I remember. A brick wall was thrown at me?” Nick asked. 
“Yes, courtesy of my Scotty. He saw you on top of me. He thought you were hurting me.” 
“Why was I on top of you?” 
“That’s neither here nor there. What’s important is that you are awake. Shawn is on his way back, because that’s the kind of friend he is, as opposed to—,” Nick interrupted.
“You don’t have to say it, I know. As opposed to me.” He squinted, opening his eyes slightly, bearing the pain and saw the phone in Katie’s hand, up against her ear.
“Is Shawn on the phone, now?” 
“Yes.” He reached his hand up to indicate to Katie that he wanted to speak to him. Katie moved in closer to Nick. 
“Shawn he wants to speak to you.” 
She put the phone up to his ear and held it there, and then Nick covered her hand with his. She tugged her arm back to pull her hand out, but Nick would not let go. He opened his eyes and bore the pain to look in the eyes that he’s missed and longed to see again for two years. Her eyes were locked onto his as if he were holding them hostage. She started breathing heavy as the shiver returned in full force to her chagrin. Her heart started to beat in double time, and both had dilated pupils beyond their control.  
“Shawn,” Nick said with his weakened voice quivering, while staring into the eyes of the only woman he could ever love.
“Hey bro, how ya’ doin?” Shawn asked. Nick took in a deep breath in attempt to control his emotions. 
“Shawn, I’m so sorry. I’m so very sorry. I was a shit. I don’t remember half the things I said. You were trying to tell me that Katie Lynn Moore was my Teach, and I was being too much of an arrogant ass to listen. Please forgive me, even if I don’t deserve it. I’m so very sorry. I didn’t mean anything I said. You’ve been right all this time, and I’ve been a stupid ass, or stupid star, as my Teach keeps calling me. ” He spoke in Nicolas Paul’s intonation and genuine spirit. He was their friend, again.
“Nicolas Paul, welcome back. We’ve missed you, bro,” Shawn said with his voice breaking. Shawn closed his eyes to hold in the tears as he nodded his head yes to Mike who was watching his reaction.
Katie sucked in a huge breath, her eyes immediately squeezed shut as she pulled her hand away from Nick’s and turned her back to him. She stepped over to the counter, and with her back to him; she gripped the counter to hold herself steady, as her body shook with a deep silent sobbing. 
Tears flowed from Nick’s eyes as a steady stream. He sniveled and Katie turned to see salty tears running down the side of his head, on to the pillowcase, forming a dime-sized wet spot. She grabbed some tissues from the small tissue box on the counter and stepped closer to him to blot away his tears. He continued to stare into her eyes. She put her hand on his chest, and he covered her hand with his other hand. He pierced her soul with the sorrow in his eyes, trying to reach her heart.
Back in the Suburban on the Bluegrass Parkway, on their way back to Lexington, Jerry kept looking in the mirror, trying to catch a glimpse and read Shawn’s expression, noting the watering red eyes. Mike motioned that he wanted the phone, and Shawn handed it over, while Shawn tried to compose himself. 
“Nick, it’s me Mike, how ya’ doin?” Nick refused to let Katie go with his stare, as he spoke to his old friend.
“Well, I guess for someone who had a brick wall thrown at them, I’m fair. I wish someone would take the skewers out of my eyes, so I could enjoy the view more.” Nick’s voice was very feeble and weak, and it worried Mike. His words were slurred and he spoke at almost a whisper. 
Katie put her other hand to her mouth and then observed the fluorescent light behind him. 
“The lights, I’ll get them.” Reaching back behind him, with her upper body close to his face, Nick took in her essence. It was the same perfume she had on that night, and it sparked a happy feeling from Nick’s memory. She turned out all the lights and pulled the curtain closed, trying to block out the light from the opened nurses station area.  
While Jerry drove, he was making a motion with his hand that he wanted to speak to Nick. Mike handed the phone to Jerry. 
“Nicolas Paul, it’s Jer’ how ya doin’? We’ve missed you, ole’ buddy,” Jerry said. 
“Thanks, I’m so sorry to all you guys. I’ve been a total shit.”
“Those are the best words you’ve said in a year, pal. We’ll be there soon. Stay awake. You’ve got everybody worried.”
“I’m fine. I’m stupid, but I’m fine. Jer’ who’s driving?” Nick asked. 
“I am,” he said. 
“Good, cuz, Mike drives like shit.” The two men laughed, and Katie joined in with them. Jerry held the phone away from his ear and repeated what Nicolas Paul said. They all laughed grateful to have Nicolas Paul and his sense of humor on the other end of the line. Shawn took the phone back from Jerry. 
“Nick, it’s me Shawn. I just got a text from your Mom; she’s on her way up there.” 
“Did you call my Mom?” Nick looked up and asked Katie. She shook her head no.
“I did. Katie told me that she was calling your phone, and she wasn’t comfortable talking to her,” Shawn said. 
“Well, text her and tell her to go back. I don’t want her here. She’ll make trouble with my Teach. I don’t want my Teach to have any more trouble from anyone in my camp.” He looked at Katie when he said that. She shook her head, again. 
“I’m not your Teach, and she won’t make trouble, because as soon as Shawn gets here, I’m outta here-ah,” Katie said combining her accents. 
“No, please don’t leave, please,” his voice cracked when he pleaded. 
Katie motioned for Nick to hand her the phone. As soon as she had the phone to her ear, Matthew came into the room and updated Katie on the identity of the girl in the waiting area. 
“Shawn, it’s that twit, she’s making a stink. She wants in here. She’s claiming to be his girlfriend.” Katie eyed Nick while she reported that to Shawn, as she raised her skeptic eyebrows. Nick dropped his eyes and shook his head in disgrace. Shawn spoke out the directions to Katie and she repeated them to Matthew. 
“Shawn says for you to get security, and tell them that she’s on his watch list, and have them remove her.” Katie put the phone under her chin. 
“No!” Nick interrupted. His fear of Brooke was alive and well. “Just tell her I’m fine, and I’m staying put for a night or so, and that I told her to go home. I’ll get in touch with her when I get back to Nashville.” Katie’s eyes popped open. She sensed fear in Nick’s voice. 
“Katie what’s that all about?” Shawn asked. She repeated what Nick had just said, while staring at him and squinting, knowing something was going on with Brooke and Nick. 
“She’s gotta have something on him,” Shawn said. Nick made a motion to get the phone back. 
“Shawn, I’ll take care of her later,” Nick said with guilt in his voice and his eyes, as he relayed his shame to Katie while watching her.  
“Good, we’ll talk about this later, and we will talk,” Shawn said. Nick sighed knowing he was going to have to confess at least to Shawn. “We are on our way, we’ll be there soon.” 
“Shawn, wait.” 
“What is it?” Shawn asked.  
“I love ya, bro,” Nick’s voice broke. Shawn’s eyes began to sting. Katie started to cry with Nick as she wiped away more of his tears. 
“I love ya too, buddy,” he said with his voice cracking. “We’ll be there soon. Katie says you need to stay awake.”
“All right, that’s enough.” She took the phone from Nick. “Look, he’s in a lot of pain. He needs to rest. I’ll see you all when you get here.” 
“Katie,” Shawn said.
“Thank you, very much for taking care of that idiot. He doesn’t deserve it,” he added. Katie lowered her head and pressed on her closed eyelids with her thumb and index finger. 
“No, he does not, but who among us, doesn’t deserve some grace at some point. He’s in a lot of pain now. So, I’m going easy on him, but when he’s better, he’s going to wish someone put those skewers back in his eyeballs.” Shawn laughed, and Nick joined in chuckling.  
“Oh, boy he’s in for it.” 
Katie could hear Shawn telling the guys what she just said and they all laughed. Right before she hung up, Nick popped his head up, remembering something else. 
“Tell Shawn to call Jeff, and fill him in on what’s going on.” Katie relayed the message while still staring at Nick.
“Nick says to tell you to call Jeff,” she said. 
“Oh, yeah, that’s Nick’s driver. He’s probably sound asleep. Tell him I’ll take care of everything. He’ll beat us there. He’s a big guy, his name is Jeff Cotter. Tell them at the desk to let him in when he comes.”
“I got it. Thank you, Shawn. I’ll see you when you get here.” Katie disconnected the call. She put the phone in her other back pocket. “I’ll take care of this until Shawn arrives.” 
“Please don’t leave. I need you here.” Nick said to Katie. She shook her head in denial.
“You don’t need me. You are going to have Shawn and your mother here. You’ll be fine.” Katie said. 
“No, princess, I need you. I’ve been waiting two years for you to come back. You’re here now, don’t leave, please?” His breathing rate increased as he reached out for her hand. Guilt compelled her to put her hand in his briefly, until hurt forced her hand away. 
“I’ve been here the whole time. You were too full of yourself and that twit to open your eyes and see.” Katie started sobbing and sniffling. 
“The text is still in there, Princess and so is my heart for you.” 
“Now, that will be enough of that. I am not your Princess Cindy, Teach, Kat, girlfriend, jolt-giver, or anything like that. We were wrong to let it go so far that night.” 
“We weren’t wrong. We fell in love.”
“I never said that.” 
“You didn’t have to. I saw it in your eyes, and I tasted it on your lips. I smelled it in your essence, and I felt it in my heart.” 
“Oh brother, the Prince Charming act won’t work this time. I am so much older and wiser, and I’ve seen that new side of you.”
Katie walked away from the gurney and sat in a chair in the corner, forcing herself to look away from Nick. Making eye contact with Nick would surely pull her back into him, especially now with Nicolas Paul reemerging. She held her head in her hand. He watched her fight like anything to not let him have her heart, again. Nick moaned and grabbed his head. Katie leaped to his side. 
“Are you okay?” 
“No, my head is killing me,” he said covering his eyes and reaching for his wound. Katie popped up and grabbed his hand. 
“Don’t touch that. I’ll go get the nurse to get you some pain relief.” Nick took a hold of Katie’s hand and would not let go. He held his gaze upon her. 
“No, don’t.” 
“Why?” Katie asked fixed and trapped in his stare. She tugged at her hand in his, but he would not let go of her. 
“I don’t want to be any sleepier than I am now. I don’t want to sleep one second you are with me. I deserve this pain. I want to fix this, so bad.”
 She pulled harder to get out of his grasp and pulled herself away from him and his love for her.  She took in a huge sigh, letting it out slowly. He reached his hand out for her, and she contemplated taking a hold of it, and started reaching for his, but her locked up heart called her hand back. 
“You can’t, it’s too late. Too much has happened. You have to stop calling me those names. If you do it again, I’m walking. I’m Katie. Hey stupid will do, also.” 
“Nicolas Paul Thomas?” A young man said as he entered the room. Katie popped her head up to see an orderly with some papers in his hand. “I’m taking you for your CT scan. I need to see your ID bracelet. Can you tell me your name, hold up your hand for me?” The orderly inspected Nick’s wristband with what he had on the orders. 
My name is Nicolas Paul Thomas,” he said looking at Katie, using his intimate name and nodding. 
“Do you want to come, ma’am?”
“Don’t call her ma’am, she hates that,” Nick said. Katie snorted a brief laugh and shook her head. She looked at Nick to question him. 
“Do you want me to come with you?” 
“Did you really have to ask that question?” Nick asked. Katie shook her head no and then looked up at the orderly. She stepped near the gurney. 
“Umm, excuse me, but can you give us a minute, please?” Katie asked the orderly. 
“Sure, I’ll be right out here.” Katie leaned over the gurney and spoke quietly in his ear but with firm conviction.  
“Now, you listen here, you singing-sorrowful-salad of sadness, I do not want anyone to know that I was Cindy in the liner notes, you hear me?  Do not call me Teach, princess, or any pet name. It’s already a media nightmare out there. There are all kinds of Florence Nightingale references on Twitter. It’s a mess. I’m going to have to dodge the press for days, now. Things were bad enough.” Nick swallowed hard and looked like he was going to cry. “I do not want people to think that there is something going on here. The story we’ll give is that with your injury, we’ve called a truce, okay?”
“I got it. We’re not enemies, and we’re not lovers,” he said with such sorrow and want. 
“We’re not even friends, you got that?” Nick nodded with such a sad look. 
 “I hear you. We’re just two former rivals. Not friends, not lovers and not destined to be together, just nothing. You were just being humane staying with me until my friends came. I got it,” Nick said with such grief. She gave a loud sigh. She put her hand on his chest, giving him a nice jolt. 
Right away Katie regretted saying that. It was cruel, her anger and bitterness was bringing out a Katie she was unfamiliar with, and she surprised even herself. 
“Ah, damn it, I’m sorry I said that, it was mean. I’ll go with you now, but the second Shawn gets here, I’m gone. Scotty’s probably pissed, waiting for me somewhere. When he finds out that you are going to live, he’s going to throw the book at you, tossing your butt in jail. You may be a king-of-the-hill-top-of-the-line-jerk, but you don’t belong in jail. I’m just as much to blame here. I wanted him to take you out to the woodshed. I just didn’t anticipate any of this. I’m actually more to blame. I was the sober one.” 
“No you are not. I started it, I came over to your table and pick a fight.
Tea…, Katie, can I ask you a question?”
“Yes, what?”
“Why are you still with him? You said he wasn’t very nice to you. As a matter of fact, he beat you up, twice as I recall.” 
“You listen here; Scotty hit me twice with his fists. You on the other hand, stomped on my heart with your cowboy boots, not once, not twice, but dozens of times over this past year. I’ll take Scotty’s fists over your cowboy boots on my heart any day.” Nick squeezed his eyes closed and grimaced his face, tightening his lips with guilt and remorse.
Katie walked out to tell the orderly that they were ready. The orderly wheeled the gurney as Katie walked behind it, not looking at Nick who was sobbing silently over what he had done. 

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