Chapter 14: Part 1

St. Mary’s

Jackson’s voice cracked as he told Sara that Nora had been admitted to St. Mary’s hospital in downtown for an overdose of xanax and alcohol poisoning. Her stomach was pumped of its entire contents, alcohol and xanax. She had not eaten in at least 3 or 4 days and although the EMTs were able to revive her, Nora had fallen into a coma. Sara bit into her lip and rushed to find Nigel. Giving him away, the boom of his drums reverberated the walls in the 18th century bungalow. Nearly losing her balance on the stairs, Sara cried out for her husband. She complained, unreasonably, to him that she hated when he practiced because he seemed to ignore her when she called for him. Nigel’s black medium length hair was sprinkled with silver. He credited his wife for every single silver hair especially when he found himself listening to illogical accusations. Was she deaf? He would ask taking the headphones from his head and switching off the receiver.

“They’re drums for fuck’s sake! If Hitler himself returned from the dead, resurrected the SS and attacked London for old time’s sake, I wouldn’t hear a goddamn thing! So how in the hell -”

“Nora OD’d, we have to go to New York tonight,” Sara calmly told him then turned to head back up the stairs

Dazed, Nigel placed his headphones on the floor and followed close behind. They stood in the kitchen not speaking. The French country dining table held a large cutting board of chopped kale, red onion, raisons and other vegetables. The teakettle whistled madly. She crossed to the stove and pulled the pot from the open flame. Nigel came from behind her and held her. He comforted her then realized that it was not Sara that was crying.

“Doctor? Doctor?” Jackson shouted running after the doctor, “she’s waking up!”

The emergency room doctor had treated over 250 OD’s just that morning and at least nine out of ten of their loved ones always mistook a muscle spasm or eye movement as a sign that they all would be going home soon and getting back to normal. He greeted Jackson with the same level of humility he did with everyone in his emergency room.

“She keeps moving, I think she’s waking up, you have to come with me,” Jackson was insistent.

Dr. Fiora explained that although Nora was in a coma, muscle spasms, rapid eye movement, even talking sometimes are common but not usually a sign of the patient waking. He apologized knowing that he had not comforted Jackson and advised him to be patient. He also added that if Nora is dreaming it might also be helpful that he talk to her, be positive and encouraging.  She could awake tonight or not for another week – unfortunately, they would all just have to wait and see. He patted Jackson on the arm and continued on his rounds. Defeated Jackson returned to Nora’s side and gently rubbed her shrinking body.

The night faded sadly into the next morning. With his arms folded over his chest and his long legs stretched out in front of him, Jackson slept soundly. Paulie entered the room alone and trying not to wake him, he stood quietly on the other side of the bed. He leaned over and kissed her forehead. Paulie wiped his tears and shook his head. He reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out Chapstick and carefully dabbed the red tube onto Nora’s dried cracked lips.

“Jackson!” he raised his voice slightly.

Jackson shot straight up and blasphemed God’s name.

“I’m sorry…I…I didn’t mean to startle you. How is she since yesterday?”

He cleared his dry throat, and adjusting himself in the hospital chair  explained how Nora’s eyes had rolled endlessly to the back of her head and as if her strings had been cut, dropped to the floor. Clearing his dry throat again, he asked Paulie why hadn’t he stopped her from emptying the brown glass bottle? She seemed to be popping pills every ten minutes. He had only gone over to that fucker’s studio to make sure that he had not hurt her too badly. When he saw his actual hand print on the side of her face, his mind went blank and his heart filled with fear.

“What is the doctor saying? How long do they say she’ll be in this coma?” Paulie asked impatiently.

Jackson shook his head and mumbled something about the doctor’s advice to be patient and encouraging.

“She could come out of this today or next week, hell, or a year from now. Those assholes have no idea!” he admitted.

The Four Seasons: New York City

“And it’s my fucking job to remind everyone why they’re fucking here,” Robbie sneered into the phone at Shelley, “now get a release out with my and Dirty Herberts’ sincerest condolences for Conlin’s fiancé and be sure to add a soft mention of my solo project. This shit will light up!” he hung up the phone.

Since 6:30 in the morning, Robbie spoke loudly and quickly to his assistant and watched the entertainment news. Penny Dresser assured the press that Jackson’s record would not be delayed because of Ms. Frances’ personal problems. The Shanty’s of course are deeply concerned for her quick recovery but come February, or next week, it was back to the studio. They all agreed that Nora would want it that way. His phone rang in his hand.

“Hey Nigel, you got the boot packed tight for the move to the Big Apple?” Robbie began.

He poured a large glass of freshly squeezed juice and listened to Nigel’s grave tone explain the reason for their early arrival to the city. Unaware of Nigel and his wife’s friendship with Nora Frances, Robbie offered his mate his sincerest good wishes and begged that if there was anything he could do – pay for a better hospital, get her the best rehab doctor – whatever it took, he only had to ask. Nigel thanked him then quickly got off the phone to tend to his strangely calm wife. Robbie glanced up at the TV and saw Nora staring back at him. Underneath her name it read “Jackson Conlin’s fiancé”.

“Now there’s a mouth you should see more often on a bird,” he said to himself.

Robbie dialed his phone and called Shelley back. She was ordered to have six of their largest bouquets delivered to St. Mary’s Hospital. Since Ms. Frances was a close friend of his new drummer, this pathetic OD which now affected the Johns Corporation, would need to be spun into gold.

“Okay Shell, have you sent out the release yet?”

Shelley insisted that he must think her to possess magical powers as he had only just told her to send the release less than 5 minutes ago. Laughing at his own impatience, he apologized to her then quickly told her to add to the release the new fact that Nigel was a close friend to Ms. Frances. He also wanted her to add something that would express how now is not the time to worry about record sales or petty differences, blah, blah, blah.

“You’ll think of something, I trust you. Also I want to send her flowers. So please be sure to order those from Fiona’s, it’s the only florist I’ll use. All right? Right…now, I want the card to read something to the tune of Dear Nora, the world needs your…uh… beauty…I dunno…your art…um…your love and you. You’re in my…no…you are my thoughts, Robbie. Now read it back…brilliant. And I want those delivered within the hour. Thank you Shell.”

In response to seeing herself on T.V., Penny covered her face and groaned, “God, I made it sound like she’s dead.”

She turned and watched Jackson hold onto Nora’s hand. Penny turned the TV down and sat next him. Without looking at her, Jackson explained how he worried that if he left her side that she would wake, not realize where she was and be frightened. He wanted her to know that she was safe. He threw a bedraggled curl from her rapid moving eyes.

“She looks like she’s dreaming. Can you dream while you’re in a coma?” Penny asked hesitantly.

The morning nurse joined the two and checked on Nora. She informed them that due to Nora’s circumstances they would need to move her into a private room. She changed Nora’s bedpan and suggested to Jackson that he get some sleep. If she woke, they would notify him immediately. Stubborn, Jackson ignored her advice and continued to squeeze her hand. Unable to convince him, Penny suggested that she get him something to eat and left the room.

On her way out of the hospital, she ran into Paulie and Evan. Evan talked on his phone to Ian’s lawyer. Recognizing Penny, Paulie, left Evan’s side to speak with her. He asked if there was any change in Nora’s progress. Penny shook her head and explained to him what the nurse had said about Nora needing a private room.

“They’re not planning on her waking up anytime soon,” Paulie acknowledged grimly.

Penny shrugged and excused herself to get Jackson some food. Evan hung up the phone and clapped his hands. Noticing his lover’s exuberance, Paulie asked why he was so bloody happy.

“He’s free!” he said with bright eyes, “Ian’s getting released today!”

The judge took and early review of the case and decided that since there no longer seemed to be any communication from the ‘victim’ it all was a mute point. A fellow footballer himself, the judge also agreed with Evan and George, if one was foolish enough to show up to a gun fight, then he must know that he may get shot. The two hugged one another.

“Do you mind if I not go into hospital with you? I want to go and get my brother,” Evan asked.

Paulie assured him that it was fine and to tell Ian hello. He did however advise that Ian not come to the hospital. Evan agreed and left. Paulie walked through the electric doors and noticed in the lobby an enormous amount of flowers. Curious, he asked the woman minding the station. She explained that the flowers had been pouring in since that morning, however the recipient was in the ER where flowers were not allowed. Paulie nosed around the bunches of orchids, burnt orange lilies, yellow and peach dahlias, six or seven bouquets of brown-eyed susans accompanied with yellow and white gladiolas, fuchsia nasturtium and the Gerber daisies in every color of the rainbow. While the attendant answered a phone call, Paulie discovered and grabbed a card.

“‘Dear Nora, the world needs your beauty, your love and you. You are my thoughts, Robbie.’ Oh shit!” Paulie read it to himself.

Jackson, thinking it might be Penny, answered the phone. It was Robbie Johns’ assistant, Shelley calling to inform him that there had been a few flower arrangements sent over to the hospital for his fiancé. However due to the hospital’s ER policy regarding flowers, they were sitting in the lobby and would most likely be trashed. Jackson thanked her, hung up the phone and placed it on the nightstand. Nearly drowning out the sound of Nora’s breathing and feeding machines was Ian’s loud voice, demanding to see Nora.

He had received the news of his freedom from his lawyer hours before the phone call to Evan. Ian had promised to pay the lawyer an extra couple of grand to keep his mouth shut long enough for him to get from the prison to St. Mary’s. Trying to keep himself out of jail, Ian calmed down and asked very nicely if he could please see Ms. Herrera. He lied and said that he had been out of town for business and had just received the news. The nurse appreciated his calmer demeanor and kindly explained that all visitors had to be approved by Ms. Herrera’s fiancé, Mr. Conlin. The nurse excused herself to see about Mr. Smith saying hello to his friend. Paulie reached the ER and noticed Ian standing by the nurses’ station.

“How in the hell did you get here so bloody quickly?” Paulie asked shocked.

“You gotta get me in there, Paulie,” Ian grabbed hold of Pauie’s arm.

“I should punch you in the face, you bastard fuck!” his voice was loud.

The nurse and Jackson appeared from the tiny room. Fraught with fatigue, underneath his eyes, Jackson’s dark circles contrasted heavily against his pale skin. His thin yet broad shoulders had given up and slumped over. Not recognizing Ian at first, Jackson asked Paulie if he could confirm who Lionel Smith was. Paulie looked to Ian and back to Jackson and claimed that Ian was in fact Lionel Smith, and worked with Nora at the fashion house. Jackson, stood out of Ian’s way and allowed him to enter the room alone.

Overwhelmed at the sight of all the different machines working to keep her alive, he broke down and sobbed.

He begged her, “Baby, it’s Ian, wake up!”

Removing his shoes and coat, he carefully climbed into the bed and wrapped his arms tightly around her. He kissed her and cried softly for her to come back to him. In the intimate silence, he admitted that he could not live without her. In his arms, she was small and lifeless. Jackson, with Evan and the ER nurse closely behind him, burst into the room and demanded that he leave immediately. From the doorway Paulie watched. Jackson punched Ian in the head and hurt his hand. Angry, Evan shoved Jackson out of his way and dragged Ian out of the bed. The nurse quickly replaced into Nora’s arm the feeding IV.

“Sir you cannot get into bed with the patient. I will have to ask you all to leave, with the exception of Mr. Conlin,” the nurse ordered sternly.

“You can’t keep me from her!” Ian stated.

“The hell I can’t!” Jackson threatened.

“Look, everyone calm down, Jesus shitting Christ,” Paulie tried.

“Stay out of it Paulie!” Evan demanded.

Angered, Paulie left the room. Ian turned to join him but Jackson had grabbed onto his arm and tried punching him again. Much stronger and more skilled at fighting than Jackson, Ian twisted out of his grip and wrapped his hand around Jackson’s neck.

“Ian, don’t!” Evan hollered.

Ian released Jackson, and left the ER. Jackson turned to Evan and quietly asked him to leave the hospital and not to ever return. He would allow Paulie to visit with her but he was no longer welcomed.

“Do you think that I want my brother mixed up with her? They are a disaster. He will end up in prison if he pursues this,” Evan explained, “Look we don’t have to mates but let’s try working together to see that this relationship, never happens.”

“I don’t get it,” Jackson said.

Evan began to divulge his scheme when the nurse quickly emerged from Nora’s room.

“Who is Ian? Ms. Herrera is awake and she is calling out for an Ian?” the nurse asked.