Chapter 43: Dee
Dee did not know how many hours she had spent at the station but the rush hour had come and gone. Tired from her sleepless night, she had been dozing when Isla finally arrived, waking with a start at sound of her name being called. Isla approached her slowly, limping and without her daughter. She had two black eyes and carried herself like a broken woman. Dee choked back a sob and jumped up to embrace her friend.
Isla fell into the embrace, leaning hard on Dee and whimpering slightly as the gentle hug set off a relay of pain in her many injuries both seen and unseen. She pulled away slowly and looked Dee right in the eyes. Dee could see that they were full of fear and threatened tears.
“Come” said Isla simply. She seemed to have neither the energy nor the vocabulary for further words. There was a cab waiting at the station entrance and Isla indicated that they should both get in, then she told the driver to take the pair of them as fast as he could to St Thomas’ Hospital.
Dee’s thoughts turned instantly to Milly – presumably that was why they were heading to the hospital. Dee realised that she could not bear the idea of anything ever happening to the little girl who had so gloriously brought tight hugs and technicolour to her muted life.
What was going on, she wondered. But she knew that in time, she would know what horrors had unfolded for Isla and her daughter and that Isla was clearly not in a position to talk about it yet. So Dee allowed herself to be led, first in the taxi and then on foot, until eventually she found herself at the bedside of the child that she loved as if she were her own. And this child, this glorious, beautiful, bubbly child, usually so very full of life was deathly pale with tubes and wires forming a macabre nest around her tiny body.
A ventilator was making her chest rise and fall whilst a beeping machine monitored her heart beat. Instinctively, Dee reached out a hand and took Milly’s tiny hand in hers. She realised she was crying when a tear splashed down upon their entwined hands.
Finally she summoned the courage to ask Isla
“What happened?” Isla took a deep breath.
“He did.” She said. And that was all the explanation that was needed.
Chapter 44: Isla
Isla could not face this alone.
She could not face the prospect of maybe losing her child without someone by her side, so with barely enough strength to hold herself upright and with pain searing through every inch of her body, she had gone to get Dee. It was many hours after their normal meet up time, but Isla had known instinctively that her friend would be waiting for her and would accompany her in her hour of need.
Isla was not well enough to be out of bed, but she kept dragging herself to Milly, desperate to be by her side as she fought for her life. Dee talked to the nursing team and arranged for a bed to be wheeled up next to Milly’s. She made sure that Milly was comfortable, and that Isla had all that she needed. It seemed that it did not cross Dee’s mind to leave, and the staff seemed happy to allow her to stay; and so she did.
For days and nights she remained right by Milly and Isla’s beds, their hands in her hers, Isla absorbing the love and strength of her friend as she and her daughter slept and slowly healed.
Chapter 45: Dee
Side by side in their hospital beds, Isla and Milly slept on and on.
Milly was in a medically induced coma due to the extent of her injuries and the painful healing that must happen, but there was no such explanation for Isla’s slumber and staff seemed somewhat puzzled and troubled by it.
Dee was less concerned though – Dee saw a broken woman who had stayed too strong for too long. A woman who had fought to keep her child safe and saw danger around every corner. A woman who had been on high alert not for minutes, hours or even days on end, but for weeks, months and years. That, Dee knew, would be utterly physically draining for even the strongest body, so it was no surprise at all that it completely ravaged an already broken one.
Dee looked on at Isla with wonder. How had she managed? How had she been able to keep herself and her daughter physically and emotionally safe enough to function every day? From where did she find the strength and courage? And why? Why had Isla not left long ago?
Briefly, Dee explored this avenue in her mind and though it made her feel guilty to do so, she found herself questioning whether Isla’s choices had always been in the best interests of her daughter. But she soon dropped this line of questioning with herself, realising that Isla had no more made a choice than she herself had. They were both the victims of abusive relationships, the only difference was that Isla’s husband was the perpetrator in her relationship whilst Dee’s own mind was her abuser.
Dee knew enough about abuse and suffering to understand a little of why Isla had not walked away. Of why this wicked man’s abuse had been allowed to perpetuate for who knew how long. Dee found herself wondering – had he been abusive even before Milly had been born? She remembered reading something about how pregnancy and parenthood can be a trigger for domestic violence. Perhaps this had been what happened with Isla and Milly? Dee did not know yet. Perhaps one day she would when Isla was ready to share this story, but for now she could only watch on, pray for healing, keep everything tightly crossed, and quietly plan.
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Thank you for feeding back each day. I’m building in your edits and suggestions to the version held on my local machine so the initial raw version will remain here. When I’ve got questions, I’m going to ask them each day – don’t feel obliged to answer them, but if you’re happy to they’ll help me as I try to craft the story. If you have questions or observations I’d be keen to hear them too.