For those of you who might be curious about last week's post, this is how Derrick and Melody met.
Derrick went directly to the grove. He stared at the pond morosely; he’d missed the solstice, and his observances of the moons were diminutive at best. He climbed up to sit on the cromlech in an effort to find some kind of calm. I thought I had recovered from what Alexina did to me. Am I so vulnerable? And then another thought bubbled its way to the surface of his dark thoughts. Why did I bring Hollie here? I can’t have a woman here, not a normal woman. How could I possibly be so selfish?
Next thing he knew, his mouth was being wedged open by fingers that smelled of green and earth, and a sweet liquid was being dripped in. His throat was absorbing the liquid before he could make the muscles there move enough to swallow. The sun’s heat alternated with the moon’s chill twice while the sweet liquid trickled down his throat, but when Derrick remained unresponsive, a hard hand rocked his head first to one side and then to the other.
“What are you trying to do, human? Do you wish to die? Would you curse this place with your death?” The hand struck again. “Wake, human. If you must die, go somewhere else.”
Derrick tried to move, but nothing responded. Not even the knowledge that his death here would curse the grove could motivate his mind with enough cohesion to move his body away from this place.
The sweet water continued to trickle down his throat and the heat and chill of the outside world continued to pass over. The voice changed from time to time, but the words were much the same.
Sometime later, other hands came and Derrick felt motion, and then he was no longer lying on stone. His final resting place was soft and warm, and the voices he heard were smooth and slick; the only thing that hadn’t changed was the sweet water that continued to trickle down his throat.
Another stretch of time passed in that dark warmth. Dimly he was aware of being moved again. His resting place was less soft, less warm, but not cold. No more of the sweet water trickled down his throat. The slick voices were replaced by a soft, but persistent beeping.
Eventually the beep brought a spark…and then, quite unwanted, came memories. At first, they were just snapshots…faces…emotions…words. The faces grew identities…the emotions turned into tidal waves…the words began to string together – to make sense – to spark more emotions and more faces – faces that laughed – faces that cried – faces he loved.
He yearned for shelter from the faces and what they brought with them, but there was none. Each woman appearing before his mind’s eye brought up such sweet memories, and such painful ones. Words of endearment caressed his heart, and news of death ripped it to shreds.
Sometimes he was the one to die first and there was unbelievable regret, and sometimes the face didn’t pull at his heartstrings so hard, but it was the times when she was the one to die first that came near to killing him.
Most of the times it was death that separated them; the times when she turned away were hard, but understanding shored up some of the shredding.
Somewhere along the line, he realized that those memories were coming from those other lives drifting in the back of his mind. They came forward now to show him that he had survived before; that he could do it again. The only difference was that, always in the past, it had been her to turn away. This time, it had been he who had sent her away and understanding did nothing to cushion the pain – not this time. All true, but the fact remained; he’d survived before, he would survive this time too.
The beeping put the memories where they belonged, but the tidal wave still washed. Renewed grief over a dozen painful losses pounded at him all at once. He opened his eyes; over there, standing in front of the window, was a woman. Her honey-brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. Suddenly breath came in painful gasps and the change caught her attention. She turned to see Derrick’s tear streaked face.
“Oh, lord.” She was beside him sitting on the edge of the bed. She pulled his arms apart and he wrapped them around her. Not sitting up, he buried his face in her belly and sobbed, his entire frame quaking with the force.
Long minutes later the sobs let up, leaving the tears still and he pushed himself away, ashamed that he’d gotten Anya’s shirt all wet. He sniffed and used the corner of the pillowcase to dry the tears that continued to flow.
She handed him a Kleenex from the bedside table and he blew his nose and soaked up more tears. “I’m glad to see you awake.” She was looking into his face, hoping for answers.
“I’ll…survive,” he said as more tears rolled.
“What happened?” she asked. No one knew and this was so unexpected. When a renewal of the sobs threatened, she stopped his attempt to answer. “Later. Save it for later.”
As he continued to gulp at air, she rolled his bed up some and poured him a glass of water, then she reached over and turned off the machine and its beep.
Drinking the glass of water showed Derrick the needle in his arm and the plastic tube that led to a bag hanging from a tall rack on the other side of the bed. He drew enough air to speak and forced his chest to stop convulsing. “How long have I been here? Where is here?”
“You’ve been here for a couple weeks, and here is Los Angles. The Los Angles Medical Center, where I work, in California. I told you once, remember.”
“I remember,” said Derrick, but then he frowned. “How did I get here and why here?”
Anya smiled. “Well, I’m glad you can ask questions. The elves brought you here. Aramil found you in your grove. The dryads had been doing what they could for you, but you wouldn’t wake. Not even Lord Galánodél could get a response out of you, so they brought you here. Nobody knows what happened. You sent Aramil home some three weeks before – if he hadn’t come back to check on you, who knows how much longer the dryads would have been able to keep you alive.”
Derrick gasped. “The grove.”
Anya watched the blood leave Derrick’s face. “Take it easy. The grove is fine.”
Derrick shook his head and then closed his eyes, dropping his head in shame. “I really messed things up this time. Maybe I should go back to my father’s house and give it all up.”
“No, Derrick. You’re a good guardian, maybe the best that’s been for hundreds of years, and if you hadn’t gone to the grove, you’d have died. Tell me what happened.”
Derrick sucked a deep breath and found that breathing wasn’t so difficult now. He’d been distracted enough that at least some of the words might come out with some kind of reason. He dropped his head back on his pillow and stared at the ceiling. “I’ve been in contact…from time to time…with the detective who was looking for me from the first. He handles cases like kidnappings and child abuse. Aramil and I were out hunting – sort of – when we came across a manhunt. I recognized one of the detectives…he was the partner. I asked him.” Derrick’s eyes traced contours in the ceiling while his mind ordered events. “They had lost their quarry. I had to find them or the hunt might penetrate too far.” Derrick closed his eyes and shook his head. “I took the girl home…to my home. It was so sudden…so fast. I think I would have died for her…I would have taken a bullet to protect her…her very existence was my life. He had beaten her and she was so afraid and so ashamed. She wouldn’t go to her home…not like that, so I took her with me. In truth, I could do nothing else. I made her a promise though – a promise I vowed to stand by. She had to tell me everything, no lies, not one; if she lied…” Derrick gasped hard three full times before he continued. “If she lied, I’d wash my hands of her. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise, but I was trying to think of a plan. I wanted her to stay. So bad, I wanted her to stay. I’d have done most anything…I think.” Tears were rolling down Derrick’s cheeks again, but his voice stayed clear. “She couldn’t do it; she told me a lie and it wasn’t just some little white lie, it was a big one, an important one. I think I died then…inside. I kept her there for another week and I think most of her lying habit had been broken. I taught her a few things and she grew confident…but I’d made a promise…a promise I had to keep. She’d lied to me. She had to go. I took her to the detective’s house and left her there. I remember going to the grove.” He sniffed and looked up at the ceiling again with red eyes. “I don’t remember much else in real time.” Anya handed him another Kleenex and he blew his nose again. “I had dreams though. Other wives. Other girlfriends. Me dying first. Them dying first. Sometimes old, most times young. Them deciding not to stay with me. I think I must be doomed to love too much – too hard. But if they died or they left…I survived.” He closed his eyes again and drew another deep breath. “I survived.”
“So this girl’s lie brought all this on? It must have been a pretty big lie.”
“Her lie was irrelevant – part of a fabric of lies she’d woven around herself to justify hating the man her mother had married. It’s just that…I wasn’t prepared. You see, she looks – looked like…like – ha, I can’t even remember her name now. I thought I loved her too. Her lies were all to cause my death, and I don’t remember why, but they did – one of the few deaths I can remember.” He looked at Anya directly. “I can tell you this now because I remember it now – what’s left of the memory that is, but I remembered none of it then. I think the rest of me did though. I think the rest of me tried to repeat history. I don’t ever want to feel like that again.”
Anya reached out and brushed some hair away from Derrick’s face. “The life of a druid isn’t always easy. Especially the kind of life you lead. Most of us have a job and a family, children. You know, there’re only two groves in the United States and you guard the oldest one. The other one is up in Yellowstone right out in the open. Nothing like yours, but a grove just the same and carefully watched over by several of us who work there.” She smiled a sympathetic smile. “Maybe you’ll meet someone at moot. You’ll feel differently then. I hear you’re fourth now. You’ll be getting a formal invitation to attend soon.”
“It’s fifth now, since…well, for almost three months now, I guess. I can’t ask another druid to join me,” said Derrick.
Anya’s smile grew a little wider. “Fifth? Amazing. The Grand Druid is advancing you so fast. He must want you to catch up with others of your age. And don’t worry about girls, though only druids and sometimes elves come to moot, that doesn’t mean that some of them don’t have daughters at home.”
“Ah no; you’re not going to play matchmaker on me, are you?”
“You never know what a rumor might accomplish,” said Anya. “The bathroom’s right through that door. As soon as you feel strong enough, why don’t you take a shower? I’ll lay out some fresh PJs for you.” She disconnected all the wires and removed the needle from his arm, then she went over to the cabinet by the door and pulled out folded material that she put in the bathroom and then she left, still smiling.
Derrick had to smile too, though it was more from dread than anything else. He wondered how many fathers would seek him out when he attended moot. He wondered if any of them would look him up before then. And then he thought about what she’d said about the Grand Druid. She doesn’t know that the Grand Druid hasn’t promoted me even once. He must be keeping it a secret. But why would he keep such a secret from the council? And then he remembered. I never sent him word of the Lady’s latest visit.
He lay there puzzling this out for a while longer, but lying in bed was rapidly getting old; he didn’t even have the beeping from the machine to keep him company.
When Derrick rolled over to get up just as he always did, he discovered that a lot of his strength had leached away over the last however long, forcing he to test his balance slowly and carefully, forgoing all efforts to tend the gown that was only tied at his neck. It was such an embarrassing piece of material and it was more of a hindrance than of any use, so as soon as he could balance on his own two feet alone, he untied it and discarded it. He had just reached the center of the room – two or three steps from the bed and still two or three steps left to go – when a young nurse came in.
“Oh,” she said when she saw Derrick in his altogether. Then she blushed and tried to hide a smile as she stepped forward to help him cover the rest of the distance. With his grip safely on the bathroom door, she asked, “Will you be all right, or would you like me to send in a male nurse?”
Derrick looked down on the dark golden knot at the back of her head. Her hands had been strong and solid despite her furious blush. Now, she was purposely facing away from him though she had not moved. “I think I’ll be fine. I’ll be careful.”
“Okay. Since you’re already up, I’m going to change your sheets. Just call if you need any help, or there’s a buzzer in there by the sink and one by the toilet.”
“All right, thanks.”
She stayed where she was until Derrick turned on the shower before going to his bed to strip the sheets.
Not since before he had gone into his mountains, had Derrick been shy about his physique, but he’d never been in a position where he had made some girl blush. The dryads and the Lady didn’t count and they certainly didn’t blush. It was a pleasing feeling, though he couldn’t be certain if it was his physique or his being nude that had been the cause. It didn’t matter really; it was another Band-Aid on his already rapidly mending heart.
He adjusted the water so it was far less than hot. He hadn’t taken a civilized shower for years, merely washing from a bucket of warmed water right there on the hearth or bathing in a creek on hot days.
He was just wishing for an accommodating branch to scratch his back when the nurse’s voice sounded from the door. “Can I help you wash your back? You’re still weak and it might be difficult for you.”
Derrick jumped and he dropped his soap, but he recovered quick enough to answer. “You must be a mind reader; that would be nice. My back really itches.”
Her hand scooped up the soap from the floor of the shower and then gently pulled the washrag from his. “The water’s pretty cold. Are you sure you don’t want it warmer?”
“It’s hot enough. I’m not used to a hot shower. I haven’t taken a shower at all for a long time.”
Her hand lifted his hair to in front of his shoulder and then started scrubbing the soapy rag up and down his back. His back did indeed itch and her firm hand was winning a purr from his chest.
She chuckled. “Are you purring or growling?”
“Yeuhmm, both. Don’t stop.”
She rinsed out the rag and soaped it up again. This time, her reach went up his neck and around his ribs. Derrick was in heaven.
“I’m going to set a stool in by your feet. Sit down and I’ll wash your hair.”
Derrick did as he was told while her fingers combed some sense into his hair before adding the shampoo. It didn’t take long before her fingers renewed his purrs and she chuckled again. She pulled the showerhead loose from its hook to rinse the soap from his hair. She repeated the process three times before she was satisfied.
“Do you need help back to bed?”
“Na, I think I’ll just fall asleep right here,” said Derrick, thoroughly calmed and soothed.
Her humor was leaking into her voice. “Oh no you don’t.” She dropped a towel into his lap and then used another to mop up his hair and dry his back.
Derrick moved the towel up his chest and buried his face in it.
“Do you think you can manage your pajamas? I could call for some help.”
“I’m not sure I can manage this towel, but don’t call anyone; you’re doing just fine.” Secretly, he wanted to see her blush again. He turned around and she dried his feet and lower legs before threading them into his pajama pants and pulling them up past his knees, then she spread her towel on the floor for him to stand on while she caught his towel as he pulled his pants up. Using his towel, she dried his arms and shoulders, squeezing more water from his hair, and then helped him with the pajama shirt.
Though he was steadier on his feet than before, he needed her support to negotiate the vast distance back to the bed.
“Do you feel like a chair? I could comb out your hair before it dries.”
Derrick doubted he could stay awake for another five minutes, but the offer of more pampering was irresistible. Sitting in the chair while first her fingers and then a comb ordered his hair with a light touch, Derrick first slipped down and then ducked his head a bit…and then fell asleep. Her touch melted into his dream…a dream where Mahentee did the same each night and again first thing in the morning. It was almost his favorite part of their relationship. Then his heart gave a painful lurch and Derrick jumped awake. Mahentee had died, leaving him with a newborn only days old.
“Are you all right?” asked the nurse.
Still reeling from the so vivid memory, Derrick said, “I’m fine, Mahentee, just a bad dream.” The moment he said the words, his dream slid back to its place in the background of his memories and the present took its place.
“My grandfather used to call me that when I was a child. He said it was his grandmother’s name. He told me he had a portrait of her and that I was going to look just like her. I never saw it.”
“You do,” said Derrick, and then regretted those words too. How could he possibly know? He didn’t tell her that Mahentee had worn her hair in a knot too, but only when he was away; when he came home, she’d let it down loose; her thick hair reached half way down her back. It always fanned out wide across her back when it was loose and it always smelled of…of her.
“Well that’s what he said.”
Her voice interrupted his thoughts and Derrick breathed a quiet sigh. She thought that was a question. Better shut up now.
Though his hair was still wet, she braided it loosely and had Derrick climb back in bed.
“What’s your name?” he asked before she left the room.
“Melody,” she replied.
A touch on his shoulder and a timid “Mr. Johnson? Supper” woke Derrick with a start, causing the girl to step back. “Sorry sir, but your supper is here. Can I roll your bed up?”
Derrick glanced around and saw that the sun was dimming outside and the various apparatuses he had been hooked to had been taken away. These people move around like ghosts. “Sorry. I didn’t hear you. I’m not usually such a sound sleeper. No, leave the bed the way it is please.” Derrick sat up in the middle of his bed while the girl placed his tray on a wheeled table and rolled it to within easy reach. “You’ve been sleeping for a long time.”
“Were you watching over me?” asked Derrick, knowing better, but wanting to see her reaction.
“Oh no, sir. I’m only here after school, but sometimes the door was open.” She ducked her head in an effort to hide a smile.
Derrick smiled back at her. “Thanks…for supper.”
She smiled even wider. He might have won a blush from her too, but she was much darker than the nurse and it didn’t show.
“Lorie, come on,” called a voice from the hall.
“Coming,” called the girl, Lorie, in return. “I gotta go. I’m glad you’re awake.” She hurried from the room, her white shoes making no sound on the tile floor.
Derrick watched her go. Fascinating creatures, women – girls too. He pulled his tray in front of him and after taking one look at the contents, considered making something else, but then he’d have to explain where the different food had come from or why he hadn’t eaten what was left behind. In the end, he decided he’d eat what he was given and make more if he was still hungry – he wasn’t.
After eating, he looked around for something to do. Without moving closer, he could see nothing from his window, and the rest of the room, though intended to feel comfortable, was merely functional. Having never been one to merely sit and do nothing, Derrick decided to explore both the limit of his endurance and his surroundings.
He wandered down the hall and found his way to a balcony on his first try. There he stood and watched the sun peek out from under a thick bank of clouds just as it disappeared below the horizon. Those clouds were way out there and didn’t show much sign of moving ashore. Here it was hot and dry. With a sigh he made use of the space and tried a few of his exercises – he just didn’t have energy for more than a sample of a few unarmed routines learned from the elves. He did, however, acquire an audience during his brief workout.
“I’m Nurse Carlyle. You’re Mr. Johnson? You just woke up this afternoon after a two-week coma and you’re able to do that much already?”
“This was pretty pitiful; I only managed a few minutes. But Anya says I’ll be here for a few more days. Perhaps you would like to join me.”
“I don’t think so. I’m very busy. You better get back to bed now. You did only just wake up.”
“Yeah, my thoughts exactly.” He headed back to his room; nurse Carlyle quickly leaving him behind.
Derrick woke early the next morning and made his way to the balcony again, preferring the leftover heat from yesterday to the artificial cool inside. He knelt in the center of the space to meditate, intending to stay there until full light. He wished for a small flame, even the rising sun, but neither were to be had – not here. Renewed and refreshed, but still feeling weak from his long sleep, his next order of business was to rebuild his strength as quickly as he could. He worked his way through the animal kingdom from the small squirrel to the fleet deer, touching on each one only briefly because he wanted enough energy left do some unarmed exercises and maybe even get up to speed.
He was just reaching a medium pace when his energy ran out and he was forced to a faltering halt. Breathing harder than he had in a long time, he clutched the railing of the balcony.
“There you are. I’ve been looking for you. Your breakfast is waiting.” It was the nurse, Melody.
Derrick spun around at the sound of her voice and then stumbled to a knee.
“Are you all right?” said Melody as she rushed forward to help him.
Using the rail, Derrick climbed back to his feet and Melody’s hands were a solid support. “I’m fine. I just stumbled. I’m still weak.” Though his words were true enough, that wasn’t the only reason for his stumble. How could I have come across two women – on opposite ends of the continent to be sure – who remind me so much of long dead wives? Though he had seen her in his room, he had been more concerned with maintaining his feet. Yes, she’d reminded him of Mahentee, but he didn’t realize just how close her resemblance was. As if her pale brown hair, streaked with sun and her fair skin, glowing with a delicate tan weren’t enough to remind him, her light brown eyes, nearly golden, was the final piece.
Oblivious, Melody pulled his arm over her shoulder. “What you were doing didn’t look too weak to me, but that stumble sure did. Come on, I’ll help you back to your room. Your breakfast is waiting.”
Derrick moved slowly; he didn’t lean on Melody, but with a hand on the wall and her arm around his waist, he made his way back to his room, and once she had seen him settled with his meal in front of him, she returned to her rounds.
After breakfast, Derrick lay in his bed for a while, sleep was far away and the energy he’d spent was rapidly returning, so he decided to do some more exploring. Instead of heading for the balcony, he went the other direction. The nurses’ station was the hub of four corridors so Derrick turned right intending to explore the remaining two…eventually. If the balcony faced the ocean, this corridor headed south, unfortunately, it didn’t end in a balcony. Instead, it ended in a roomy lobby with a large, many-paned, darkly tinted window using up most of the southern wall with a padded bench in front of it. Off to the right, there was a TV with three couches facing it, and in each corner there were a cushy chair beside a tall lamp. Six people, all of them dressed in the going hospital attire, occupied the room.
Derrick looked around at all of them. He’d seen something like this once before though the physical activity had been much more. At the bus station, people had been boarding the bus and people had been leaving the bus and the station to go home – none of them had looked directly at another. Here, the TV was on, but only one person sat on a couch and watched it. Two people sat in the chairs picking the chairs opposite of each other as far apart as possible, one read a book, the other thumbed through a magazine. Another person sat on the bench with his back to the window reading a newspaper and a man stood near the edge of the window looking out. The last person was standing not far from Derrick, looking through the bookrack and its offerings of reading materials.
Derrick sighed, such a loss; all this company and everyone was so alone. How could a species that guarded their young so closely allow itself to become so fractured at the same time? Maybe he could heal the fractures in this room at least.
He walked into the room and pushed the empty couches to the walls. “Hold on,” he said to the ancient lady who sat on one watching the TV. He flashed her a wide smile and her surprise melted into one in return. Clearing the center of the room also attracted everyone’s attention. After he turned the TV off, he spread his arms and turned a circle first one way and then the other, meeting each person’s eyes as he found them. “If you could be anything else – anything at all, what would it be?” He turned again his question for any of them who wished to answer. “Anyone?”
“I like birds,” said the old woman sitting on the couch.
“A bird it is, then.” He sank down in the middle of the floor and pulled himself into an eggshell. He didn’t want to go too far back, so he first started to twitch here and there and then his head broke through the shell, next came his feet as he kicked the shell away. Keeping his hands resting behind his butt, he tested his newfound legs by chasing bugs and worms on the floor. After every two or three finds, he stretched, spreading his wings wide and arching his back to look up at the beckoning sky. The next step was to test his wings, strengthening them, learning how to make use of them, learning how to make use of the air. He still had to eat though so he learned how to hunt, chasing flying bugs until they led him off the ground. He was bigger now and bugs weren’t enough. He hunted mice and other small rodents, graduating to rabbits and even fish. As he got stronger and faster, he targeted other flying birds in complicated aerial battles. He finished the life of his bird by flying off into the sun. His actions won a few giggles and a gasp or two, but for the most part, everyone just stared.
He was sweating freely, but his soul still soared. He turned to the people. “All right, it’s your turn. Come on now; you have no idea how good it feels to fly.” In the end, he had to physically pull some of the people into the center of the room with him, some weren’t well enough to do this and so they watched. They were all weak from their illnesses so he only took them as far back as a baby chick hunting bugs. Talking them through everything he did. At first, they were self-conscious. The flying part finally drew his small class into the activity. Everyone was giggling as they dove and hunted; Derrick was pleased when one, and then another, admitted missing their target. No one liked to admit a miss, but in truth, hunting birds missed more than they caught while hunting – unless they happened to be very lucky.
When his flock had all flown off into the sun, they sat on the couch and bench by the window breathing hard, but smiling and laughing with each other.
Two of the people hadn’t been able to join their flight – the old woman and the man who’d been reading the newspaper with his back to the window. He had a thick cast on his leg and on his forearm. A bandage covered one eye as well. He was smiling though. Derrick helped him to move to the couch by the old woman. “It’s your turn. We’ll make it simpler for you two.” He brushed the cheek of the old woman. “You might like birds, but you get to be a flower today. You can be a bird when you’re stronger.”
He started from a seed. Talking this time from the beginning, he encouraged a feeling foot to take root and then a tentative leaf to reach for the nourishing sun. Then there was another leaf followed by longer branches and more roots. The whole exercise took far less overall time than the bird did, but slow stretching and growing was taxing to their limited abilities. It was very rewarding to see their smiles widen even further when Derrick explained that the flowers they were pretending to be were smiling at the sun.
When he was finished, he saw three nurses watching from the door. He smiled a mischievous smile at his flock and his flowers, and swept the nurses into the center of the room. With them, he became the hunting wolf and they became three young rabbits for the wolf to play with. His words led them into the scene and under the encouraging laughter of the patient-spectators, the nurses played along. They dodged and tried to flee, hanging close together, each taking turns trying to hide behind another. Laughing, the nurses looked nothing like rabbits, but the threat of Derrick-wolf was unmistakable as he played with them. “I’m not very hungry, I’ve just eaten breakfast, but I will take one of you if I can’t get more. Who knows when my next hunt might be.”
He carried the hunt until his quarry began to tire and then he allowed them to perceive an escape. As they fled past, he pounced, carrying nurse Melody away from their line, causing one to run out of the door faster and the other to turn back into the room.
Irresistibly, Melody let out a shriek when Derrick’s teeth touched her throat where it met her shoulder.
Laughing, Derrick held Melody until she caught her breath recovered from the embarrassment of actually screaming. Everyone was laughing out loud, his three most recent prey were more tentative about it, but they still laughed.
Their less than subdued antics caught other attention and Nurse Carlyle was now watching. “This is a hospital, not a playground. People are trying to sleep.”
The three nurses all filed past her murmuring some sort of “yes ma’am” if they said anything at all, leaving Derrick standing in the center of the room. “Play is healthy. It builds strength and confidence. With strength and confidence comes healing. You can plainly see the difference.” He took a step closer to her. “Or are you more interested in keeping your patients as patients than you are in seeing them heal?”
No emotion showed in the woman’s face. She merely said, “Go back to your room. Dr. Federal will be making her rounds soon.”
Derrick turned to his impromptu class and said, “Same time, same place.” Then he too walked past the woman, moving slowly, staring at her eye to eye until she glanced away. Back in his room, behind his closed door, Derrick sank into his chair. He was exhausted and the morning was scarcely half-gone. Just as he was starting to doze off, he made himself get up and take a shower. The less than warm water revitalized him.
He was just heading for the bed when Anya came in. With his head buried in a towel, he didn’t see her. Not until he turned to sit on the bed did he know he had company and by then she was holding out clean pajamas for him. The smile on her face said she had been there for a few minutes at least.
“You really should wear clothes all the time around here,” said Anya.
“So I see,” said Derrick as he dressed himself.
“How are you feeling today?” she asked as Derrick was tying the string on his pants; he left the shirt on the chair.
“Weak as a baby,” said Derrick. “It’s really rather frustrating, but I’d rather go home. I can recover just as well there as I can here.”
“Possibly, but I’d rather keep you here until you’re more yourself. Your breakdown has me concerned. You’re not strong enough to weather another one by yourself.”
“I don’t think I’ll be breaking down again, not like that. Tell me something though. Who exactly is Melody?”
“Melody? Oh, you must mean Melody Sanders. I don’t know much about her personally. She’s been working here two years now and she seems to be a very reliable nurse. Why do you ask?”
Derrick sighed, but he’d started this conversation so he had to finish it. “You know about my memories?”
“Yes.” Her word was tentative.
Derrick sucked in a breath and plunged ahead. “I think she may be one of my own descendants. It’s rather unsettling.”
“I should think so. What on earth lead you to that conclusion? You didn’t say anything to her, did you?”
“Those kinds of memories are hovering rather near the surface just now and it popped up, and no, I didn’t say anything to her, nothing that she caught anyway.”
“Well don’t, she would never understand. Saying things like that could get you a padded cell all too quickly.”
“I certainly don’t plan on saying anything to her, or to anyone else. I just thought you might know if it was true. I thought she might belong to a druid family or a branch of one. It must be just a coincidence; a child was born but I’m not sure if there were any other descendants. It must be just a coincidence. Another thing; Nurse Carlyle, are you sure she has her priorities right?”
“She’s head nurse for this floor during the day shift and she runs a tight ship. Why do you ask?”
“She was very angry with me when she saw some of her patients laughing.”
“She was? They were laughing? I think that’s wonderful. I’ll have to have a talk with her. Why don’t you get some rest? I need to continue my rounds.”
“I am resting,” said Derrick.
“Then get some sleep,” she said, chuckling as she turned for the door.
Derrick watched her go. He liked her, a lot. She was easy to talk to and she seemed honest in her answers, but he hated sleeping during the day without very good reason. It generally didn’t agree with him very well. Though he hadn’t had any night terrors since he’d regained his memories, he preferred to sleep at night unless he could earn a day’s sleep by staying up all night.
He elevated the head of his bed some and lay back. If he fell asleep, so be it. If not, well, he still rested. He slept.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
And if you'd like to know what led up to Melody's need for protection, just ask and I'll post that next week.
At this point I've decided that the druid joining is off. Derrick will keep his distance, though continuing to protect her.