Daniel is in prison and I’m in the hospital. I’m trying not to hate him. I know he is sick. But if my baby dies right now I don’t even think the prison walls will stop me from ripping his heart out like he has ripped out mine.
If not for Cal and Lily I’d be dead right now, my baby too. Instead I’m hooked up to all of these lines and tubes and my precious one is in NICU fighting for every breath she takes.
Lily brought me some stuff from the house. The doctors told her that I need to get things off my mind; that I was dwelling too much. That it wasn’t healthy. What else am I supposed to think about while I lay here helpless to change things? My baby could die. My baby.
I’ve been crocheting Feena … Josefina like my mother … a little dedication gown. My journal was stuck down in the bag with the thread and needles. I’m almost afraid to finish the gown, afraid it will be her funeral shroud instead. So I’ll write. Maybe that will make me feel better. I doubt it but for her sake the doctors say I have to try.
Mr. Lowery had called and asked to talk to me, he said that he wanted to ask me about a few things that Daniel had said that didn’t make sense. I wanted to ask him which things because Daniel was beginning to make sense less and less again. I met him for lunch but we never even made it in the cafeteria because all the man could do was cry. It was so strange; I didn’t know what to do. It wasn’t the not knowing what to do that was strange but the feeling that I wasn’t supposed to do anything that came with it. It was like God was telling me not to get involved, that I wasn’t the one that Mr. Lowery was supposed to be turning to for answers. Not that I had any answers to give.
I went back to work but on my break I called the church office and asked to speak to the pastor. I asked him if he would anonymously put the Lowery family on the church prayer chain. I told him what had happened and how I had felt that things were going bad for them and that maybe they had trapped themselves without really thinking things through. I figured if any man on this earth would know what to do with that knowledge it would be Pastor.
Two days later I was boxing up the last few things in the house. I had decided to move to the only thing left of my inheritance after probate court had gotten a hold of everything. The twenty acres in Ruskin has been in my family since before Ruskin even came into being.
Most people think if you have any Spanish heritage in you that you are a Mexicano that must have crossed the border or that you are a “wet foot dry foot” Cubano. Not hardly. The Hispanic parts of my family were living in Key West back when it was called by its original name of Cayo Hueso and refused to be permanently resettled to Havana when England took over Florida in the 1700s. We moved back and forth between Key West and Cuba until about the time of the US Civil War when they moved to an area off the Manatee River that would eventually be known as Ruskin.
Quite a history lesson yes? I had this stuff drummed into my head from the time I was little bitty. Our family heritage may be Spanish but we are American first and foremost. My parents believed we were just as entitled to be called pioneers as some other families were with less time on this country’s soil. My grandfather was even worse about it. He used to be a school teacher and missionary. The normally even tempered man could turn into a real Florida panther if someone mistook us for descendants of the migrant workers that still live in the area. I heard that from the time I was little bitty too. We all lived together in that house until they died, one by one.
But I can’t think of that right now, if I do I’ll start crying again. The nurses say that it is stress and pregnancy hormones … only I’m not pregnant anymore, it’s my body complaining about that fact. It is trying to remember how not to be pregnant and driving me crazy in the process.
And I do feel crazy. But not as crazy as Daniel. God put me out of my misery before I ever go down such a path that far. Never let me harm my baby the way her father tried to harm both of us.
After I had called Pastor, he called and set up a meeting with Mr. Lowery at their home. He had a couple of the deacons – friends of Mr. Lowery – go with him. They saw that Daniel basically had his parents barricaded in their home. He was out of control, refusing to take his medication, and in general … well … acting crazy. Mr. Lowery and Daniel’s mother finally agreed that having him live with them was not healthy for anyone. With Pastor there offering moral and spiritual support they called Daniel’s doctors and arranged for him to be admitted to a special living facility until room could be made for him at the hospital again.
Pastor and the deacons stayed with them until Daniel came home and they informed him of the arrangements. I think that the others being there is what saved Daniel’s parents serious injury. Instead Daniel broke down and cried hysterically. They got him to take some sedatives and eventually he fell into a deep sleep. He was gone the next morning when Mr. Lowery got up for work. It had happened frequently so all they thought they needed to do was wait until he came back and they would take him to the facility. It didn’t work that way.
I was taping up the last box when suddenly Daniel was just there in the kitchen with me. He didn’t say anything, just stood there smiling like it was old times. He had something behind his back. I thought it might be a flower. He used to do that when we were dating. I thought it was sweet. I saved every one of the blossoms, pressed them between the pages of the giant dictionary that used to set on my grandfather’s bookshelf. His smile reminded me of the good times. I didn’t feel threatened in the slightest and I smiled back at him.
It wasn’t a flower; it was one of those baton things that people carry for self-defense. I lost count of the times he hit me, I was trying to protect the baby. Then a voice in my ear told me to be quiet, to stop moving, play dead. I figured it couldn’t be any worse than what was happening so I did. And amazingly he stopped.
He said, “No more crying Aria, none. I won’t put up with it. You’re trying to control me with all the crying and I won’t let you. They’re a disease and contagious. I won’t let your tears infect me the way you’ve gotten to other people. They’re poison, like acid eating my brain away.”
I think he said some other stuff but I was too busy trying to ignore this ripping and burning feeling inside me. And then there was some noise from outside but I was trying to figure out why I was so scared. Then I heard a scream and then not much else. The world slipped away.
Cal and Lily had stopped by to see if I wanted to go out to dinner, their treat. They’d taken a lot of interest in me and Lily had seemed fascinated by the whole pregnancy and baby thing. I think she might be changing her mind about having kids which will probably thrill Cal.
They said they sensed something was wrong as soon as they drove up and saw Daniel coming down the steps saying, “Took care of that problem. Took care of it like it should have been taken care of before. Not my fault. Nope, not my fault things turned out the way they did. No one listens to a word I say so it’s not my fault.”
Cal asked Daniel what he was doing there? If Uncle Fred had dropped him off because he wasn’t supposed to be driving. Suddenly Daniel took Cal off guard and growled then rushed him but Cal is a big guy and deals with violent offenders and people trying to run away every day he puts his uniform on. Lily ran into the house before Cal could stop her and she was the one I heard scream. While Cal took Daniel down and subdued him Lily called 911. I regained consciousness on the way to the hospital only to discover I was in the middle of giving birth. Everything after that is just flashes of the same nightmare.
The baby wasn’t breathing, I stopped breathing. They’d get us both back up and breathing and then one or the other of us would crash again. I lost a lot of blood. Shock. All of that medical stuff that goes with it. I didn’t have to have a hysterectomy even though it was on the table if they hadn’t been able to stop the bleeding. The baby … my baby … is small. She has stabilized but they still won’t say whether she is going to stay that way or if there has been any lasting harm being forced from my womb prematurely and so quickly and violently. Only five weeks but it’s the way that it happened.
A lot of people have come by. At first I tried to be nice, tried to listen to them say how sorry they are that everything has happened the way it has. But I just couldn’t keep it together, not even for Daniel’s parents. The doctors don’t let anyone in to see me now except Lily and Cal. They say my blood pressure does nasty things when it is anyone else. And no one is allowed to see my baby, she’s still in the NICU and I’ve never even gotten to see her. I keep wondering if they are lying to me and she is dead just like my little boy baby and when I start talking like that the doctor smiles and the nurse puts something in my IV that makes me sleepy and the world goes away for a while and I can rest.
They promise that when I can stay unhooked from all of the machines longer they’ll let me sit by her little spaceship looking container in the NICU; I’ll be able to at least see her even if I can’t hold her. Right now they say we are both too fragile.
Her wee little arm is broken and so is her leg. That’s how hard Daniel hit me. Not even my body and all of its cushion could protect Feena. I lost my spleen and a small piece of my liver. I may lose a kidney, they don’t know yet; it sure isn’t working the way it is supposed to according to the doctors.
I’m tired. I have to put this away before I fall asleep and someone finds it and locks me up the way they’ve locked up Daniel.