Chapter 3: Darkness and Light
“I can’t afford a room like this, Richard,” Casey said once they wheeled her into one of the more posh rooms in the hospital. Her voice was still a bit shaky—she still couldn’t get over her first (and hopefully only) CT scan experience. The room had curtains, an air conditioner, a television (a cable television, to be exact, which Casey found out later on), and a mini-refrigerator. It was a far cry from the private ward she had envisioned herself in. If not a ward, maybe a bedroom without the TV and ref. She had survived worse conditions compared to that.
“Hey, you saved me. I’m paying,” Richard assured her. He turned to help her up the bed, holding her hand while placing the other hand around her waist to lift her off the wheelchair. She still felt a bit woozy at some moments, and she didn’t know if it was because she hit her head or if it was her CT scan experience.
“There is a borderline, you know,” Casey started. “A limit up to where you can help me. Like you could have just left me here with some money and settle—”
Richard smiling made her stop speaking. “I am not that kind of person,” he said. “I nearly got hit by a car going about 120km/hour on an 80km/hour zone. Who knows if the sidewalk would be littered by my brain cells now if it weren’t for you?”
Casey winced. “Very graphic. Thanks, Richard,” she said, and Richard winked at her, tucking her in the bed. He watched her, remembering her panicky, nervous version of her and liked the calm version better. He took the remote control and started to flip the channels, taking refuge on the seat next to the bed.
It was her turn to watch him, remembering how he was inside the CT scan room.
Richard had to bargain with the doctor to be with her inside the room. To Casey, the doctor was looking at them weirdly, like he wondered why Richard is staying with her. When Casey told the doctor that she’s scared and she needed someone to calm her down. That or they won’t do the CT scan at all. The doctor just shook his head, and allowed Richard to enter.
“Oh lord,” Richard heard Casey say when they got inside the room and she saw the apparatus. “Hey, I’m here,” he whispered into her ear, and she didn’t smile at all. When they—one of the attendees and Richard—helped her onto the apparatus, he saw Casey cringe. She gave him the why-must-I-do-this look, and he felt guilty that he had to put her through this.
“Case, I’m here,” he whispered to her again, and he reached out and held her hand. The doctor, watching them, probably thought—ah, this is why he’s staying with her, and would smile at how silly Fate is. To Casey, the doctor is smirking at why she’s so scared. She wanted to sock him but she isn’t entirely capable as the doctor already asked her to lie down.
Casey could feel Richard give her hand a squeeze. “Hey, they’ll only scan your head and not your entire body. It’ll only take a few minutes, Case. Breathe in, breathe out,” he heard her say, and she tried to just focus on his voice. When she felt the machine move, her grip around Richard’s hand just tightened.
She closed her eyes. She didn’t want to see the darkness inside the machine. But she still could see it. She could feel the concave walls of the machine surround her head. Her breathing became constricted, but she tried to calm herself. She tried not to think about it, tried to envision that she was outside of this apparatus, standing next to Richard.
Richard just whispered the words “I’m here” over and over to her, and when it was over and they took her out of the machine, tears were on her face, surprising Richard. “Hey,” he said, pulling her towards him, making hushing sounds.
“Please don’t make me do that again ever. I don’t like that. I don’t,” she said, gritting her teeth. Richard laughed. “I won’t let you hit your head hard again so no more CT scans, I promise,” he said, shaking his head. That was his second promise to Casey, and she hung onto it too.
“Why are you claustrophobic?” Richard asked, bringing Casey and her thoughts back to the room. She groaned, turning to him. “I thought you would forget to ask about that,” she said, and Richard muted the sound of Pearl Harbor on TV.
“I did some serious comforting in that room, which I’ve never did in my entire life, so, I won’t forget that,” he said, and Casey rolled her eyes.
“When I was a kid,” Casey started, “I… was naughty. Real naughty that I always get cuts and bruises because I would just go everywhere and play everywhere. One time, my cousin and I were playing. And then she suggested we go up to the attic. My mother and father forbade me to go there but the temptation was just so strong.” She paused, a ghost of a smile lighting her face, as if remembering that moment.
“So she and I got there, but then we realized that the room was just so small that only one person could fit. So my cousin told me to go ahead, and I did. The moment I stepped into the room, the door slammed shut, like there was a wind that propelled it to close or something. And I was screaming like mad, you know? There was no light inside that damn attic, and there were cobwebs all over and I could feel something crawling up my legs, my arms, even my neck. I was banging on the door, over and over again, but my cousin and I couldn’t open the door.”
“I was stuck there for a good… five or six hours, I can’t remember. I might have made friends with the spiders and mosquitoes there too,” she said, giving him a smug smile. “I was eight.”
“Ah,” Richard said. “Let’s not trap you in cramped spaces,” he said, gentleness in his voice. She liked it that he understood—other guys had made fun of her and of her fear, which made them immature in her eyes.
“What do you do for a living?” she asked him, and he looked at her quizzically. “Why do I feel like it’s a trick question?” he asked back.
“Why? Are you a rich kid and you just get whatever you want?”
Richard rolled his eyes. “No, I am not,” he said, and he knew that she probably doesn’t know him or what he does for a living.
“I’m just kidding,” she said with a wry smile. “I know you are in a couple of commercials, but that’s about it.”
“You do?” Richard answered, amused because he actually did a couple of commercials, but not many actually think about that offhand. Some would say they recognize him, but they can’t pinpoint where they saw him.
“Yeah. I do know you did an ad for a colds medicine, and then for an iced tea?”
Richard’s mouth dropped open. Now that’s a first. “How…?”
Casey just winked at him, grabbing the remote from him and un-muting the television. Wasn’t the most spectacular part to un-mute, however, as she timed it right when Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale were making love inside the hangar amongst white cloths used for airplanes.
They looked at each other and they knew this spells a bit awkward.
“Seriously, Casey. How did you know?” Richard asked her, hoping to dispel the awkwardness, and she shrugged. “I work for a media agency. What I do? Part of it is tracking commercials.”
A look of amusement crossed Richard’s face. What do you know?
“You’ve surprised me in more ways than one today, Casey,” Richard said out of the blue, and Casey was amused.
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” she asked him.
She looked at her, his dark brown eyes glistening in the hospital light. And then he smiled, a gentle smile that was only meant for her. “Trust me—it’s a good thing,” he said in his deep voice, and Casey returned his smile.
Maybe this day is turning out to be great after all.
Click here to read Chapter 4: Leave me alone, I’m Lonely.