Disclaimers: See Part 1
My thanks to Bookie, beta reader extraordinair.
The dark haired woman heard the scream and charged toward it. She could see the dirty clothes of the man that had her friend pinned to the old brick wall in the alleyway behind Tory's gym. He had a knife to her throat, a thin line of blood slid down, staining the beautiful silk blouse. Rage and fear filled Rachel's heart and soul. She had to save Meg. With all her strength she pumped her powerful thighs and dove for the assailant, but the air around her became thick. Like running through a bog, her legs sucked down by some unseen force. The harder she struggled to reach her friend, the thicker the quagmire that held her. The frantic woman watched in horror as the filthy vagrant forced Meg to the ground. Screams of fear and pain filled her head, "Rachel, help me! Please, help me!" The terrified little blonde called out to her.
"Noooo, don't hurt her! Meggie! Awww, God! Noooo, Don't, please, don't hurt her..... MEGGIE!!!"
"Hey, Rach, I'm here, love. Wake up. You're having a nightmare." Meg soothed her thrashing lover.
"Meggie?" Rachel felt frightened and confused. Weren't they just in the alleyway? She rubbed her eyes and tried to get her breathing under control as her heart galloped in her chest. A gentle hand stroked the fevered brow and a soft voice spoke to her until she calmed. "I must have been dreaming..... It was so real. We were back at Tory's and that bastard had you, but I couldn't reach you in time. It was like the earth was sucking me down and I couldn't move. I couldn't do anything but watch and hear your screams." Rachel stopped as a coughing fit took her breath away and tears stung her eyes.
"Take it easy there, Tiger. It was just a nightmare brought on by your fever. I'm here, Rachel. You did reach me in time and we are alive and happy, if one of us is less than well for the moment." Meg patted her lover's red cheek. "Let me take your temperature again. You feel awfully hot to me."
"I need to pee." Rachel complained.
"Can you make it to the loo alright?"
"Sure." Rachel scooted off the bed and took a few steps before the room tilted and she had to hold onto the wall to anchor herself.
Meg saw it coming. The beautiful face drained of color and the normally graceful stride looked more like a wino's shuffle. The little blonde was at her partner's side offering support before Rachel could hit the ground. With the help of the wall, she was able to steady her well enough to continue the trek to the bathroom and back.
"Rach, do me a favor, will ya?" Meg panted.
"Sure." Rachel croaked through her ever-increasingly sore throat.
"Don't get out of this bed without help. You're gonna hurt yourself."
"Ok." Rachel agreed, then allowed the thermometer to be placed under her tongue.
There was a knock at the bedroom door. "Are you two decent?"
"Come on in, Daddy..... I'm taking Rachel's temperature. She's getting weak. Almost took a header trying to walk to the head." Meg joked and her father chuckled. "102.3 degrees. Well that's some slight improvement."
"What has she taken to lower her temperature so far today?" Ben asked as he prepared the viscous Penicillin injection.
"I gave her two Tylenol about an hour or so ago." Meg answered, helping Rachel to get more comfortable under the covers.
"Alternate the Tylenol with Advil every three hours until the antibiotics take affect..... Rachel, I want you to roll on to your belly for me." Meg helped her turn over. "That a girl..... Now, when I say so, take a deep breath for me....."
"Yeow! You said when you said so." Rachel complained as Ben forced the thick injection deep into her muscle.
"I didn't want you to tense up. Now, all done. I'd stay on my belly for a while, if I were you. That's quite a knot." Ben dropped the syringe into the small sharps box he brought in with him and pulled the chair up as close to Rachel's head as he could. "I need a sputum specimen from you. You know how to use this specimen container, I'm sure." Rachel nodded. "I also need to swab your throat." Ben prepared the long sterile cotton swab then took Rachel's chin in his hand. "Meg, turn the lamp shade so I can see Rachel's throat." Ben looked closely at the reddened tissues and the small white pustules beginning to form. "Mmhm. Now, young lady, I hear you have a lovely singing voice so repeat after me...ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah." Ben went up and down the scale and Rachel mimicked him, allowing him the space he needed to get a clean swab of her throat and escape before she could bite down on it. Her chest heaved with a violent fit of coughing. The struggling woman grasped the specimen jar and forced it open, coughing up an impressive specimen for Culture and Sensitivity.
"Oh, that's attractive." Meg said as she grimaced, rubbing her partner's back.
"Good girl. I'm going to call the lab and see if my pal, George, is working today. He'll run these through for me right away." Ben said as he picked up the phone and dialed Lakeview Regional Hospital's lab.
"Hey Georgie, it's Ben Poche'. How's life treating you?"
"Happy New Year, bud. Life's treating me just fine. The Saints are in the playoffs and Jack owes us twenty bucks a piece and all the beer we can drink at the poker game Friday night. Aaah, life is sweet, my friend." The director of the medical lab fairly glowed. "Now, I know you didn't call me to chat, so what can I do for you?"
"I have some specimens I need a stat C and S on. Can you slip me in?"
"It just so happens that things are a bit slow so, if you can get them to me now, I should be able to expedite matters. Of course this is going to cost you." George teased.
"Ok. What'll it be?" Ben rolled his eyes.
"I think a nice fresh King Cake from Randazzo's Bakery would hit the spot." George smiled at the thought of the traditional New Orleans confection.
"My mother was right. The way to a man's heart is through his stomach." Ben laughed heartily. "I'll bring one Friday night." And, hung up the phone.
"Ok, young lady. I'm going to drop these off. I want you to take two Advil and stay in bed." Ben told Rachel.
"Yes, sir." Rachel said.
Rachel slept off and on the rest of the day and on into morning. Meg called Darren to ask him if he would keep Sandy for a few more days. He agreed, happy to spend more time with Rachel's furry little buddy. "She's great company for me right now. Robbie is doing the 11p to 7a rotation this week, so I'm glad to have something warm to cuddle up with at night. You tell Rachel to get well and not to worry about her baby. Sandy is in good hands at the Marino residence."
"Thanks, Darren. You and Robbie are the best. I'll give Rachel your message."
"And, let me know how she's doing. Ok?"
"Ok. We don't really know what it is yet. But, as soon as we get the specimen results, I'll give you guys a call. Thanks, again. Bye now."
"Bye, bye, sugar."
Rachel woke up near noontime with a sore back and a temp of 101.5. Her partner sat at her side reading a lesbian gothic novel. The exhausted beauty cleared her throat so she could speak. But it only served to cause a painfully deep cough. She held her side and grimaced.
"Hey, there. It's time for your Tylenol and cough medicine." Rachel took her medicine without a fuss, letting her partner know she still felt too lousy to fight. Rachel struggled to sit up and drank down a large glass of water.
"What time is it?" She croaked.
"Time for lunch. Mom's fixing you her famous homemade veggie and chicken soup. Guaranteed to cure what ails you."
"Meg, I don't want your mom putting herself out for me. I'm perfectly capable of opening a can of Campbell's at home." Rachel stopped to catch her breath. "Is tomorrow Tuesday?"
"I need to call work. Hand me the phone, please."
"Here ya go. I'll be back with your soup in a few." Meg walked to the door and turned around to observe her lover, then shook her head as she left the room.
"Was I right?"
"You were right. This soup is awesome. I haven't had homemade soup since my grandmother was alive. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside."
"Good. You deserve it."
"Yeah, you do. Rachel, my family want to help you, love. Please, let them." Meg beseeched her partner.
There was a knock on the bedroom door.
"Come in." Meg called.
"How's the patient?" Dr. Poche' inquired.
"Enjoying your wife's delicious soup. You're a lucky man." Rachel rasped.
"Don't I know it, too. Glad to see you eating. How's the temp doing?" Ben asked.
"It's gone down a lot. 101.5 degrees about 30 minutes ago." Meg responded.
"That's quite an improvement, but still too high. Now, I have something to discuss with you, Rachel. I just got a call from the lab. The preliminary report is positive for strep pneumonia."
"Aww, shit!" Rachel moaned.
"Is that really bad?" Meg asked in alarm.
"It's not good." Rachel complained.
"The good news is that we caught it early. The bad news is Rachel will need IV antibiotics and respiratory treatments for a few days, which means she'll have to be admitted to Lakeview Regional today. The sooner we get those antibiotics in her, the sooner she'll come home.
The tall beauty groaned and shook her head in disgust.
"Can't you treat her here?" Meg asked.
"I already looked into that, pumpkin. Insurance won't cover any IV antibiotics unless they are administered in the hospital. Those are very potent and damned expensive." Ben responded.
"Now, it's only for a few days and your mother will stay with Rachel while you're at work."
"That won't be necessary, Ben. I appreciate your generosity. But, I am a nurse and can take care of my....." Another coughing fit took Rachel's breath away, causing her head and chest to throb.
"I'll call in your orders, then Gaston and I will help you down to the car." Ben grinned and shook his head in amusement.
Rachel nodded, then fell back onto the soft linens, rolling her eyes in frustration. "I'm not a happy camper." She groaned.
"I'll pack your bag and call Tory." Meg offered.
"Thanks. I'll just lay here." Rachel rasped.
Rachel fell into an exhausted sleep after being carted off to radiology for chest X-rays, then lab for blood work and finally to her private room and the rough sheets of the hospital bed. Meg sat on the convertible chair/bed talking on her cell phone to her secretary, rearranging her schedule to lighten her patient load for the rest of the week in order to be with Rachel every morning. Her mother would sit with her in the afternoons until Meg returned.
The Nurse and a Respiratory tech busied themselves hanging the IV antibiotics and an aminophyline drip to ease her breathing. Then, they hooked Rachel up to humidified oxygen at 2 liters via nasal cannula. Their patient slept undisturbed.
It was about an hour later, when the Respiratory Therapist came in to administer a treatment, that Rachel awakened. She looked around, taking in all the machines and tubes, then sat up in order to read the labels on the IV bags and the readings on the pulse-oximeter that was attached to her finger. She smiled in approval.
"Ms. Vincenti, I need you to put this in your mouth and take deep breaths for me." The Respiratory Therapist instructed as she took Rachel's vital signs and recorded them. Rachel took a few deep breaths resulting in a bone jarring coughing fit. "There you go. Let's cough that up." The therapist encouraged and began percussion upon her back
"Oh, God! That hurts!" Rachel complained loudly as a firm slap hit upon her sensitive healing ribs.
"Wait! Stop! You're hurting her!" Meg jumped up and stood across the bed from the bewildered therapist. "Be careful of her ribs. She had two ribs broken a few months ago and your beating right on them."
"Oh, my. I'm sorry. No one told me. Show me exactly where they hurt and I'll avoid that area. I'll make a note in your chart so this won't happen again." The nurse was red-faced with embarrassment. "I'll go tell your nurse you need your pain med."
"Thank you." Meg breathed a sigh of relief as she sat next to her partner on the bed and rubbed her arm, offering the comfort of her touch as tears of pain slipped down her partner's hot cheeks.
The therapist left them alone briefly, but returned with a look of frustration. "I checked your chart, Ms. Vincenti, but all you have ordered for pain is Tylenol or Advil. Your nurse is getting it for you."
Meg shook her head, got up from the bed and flipped open her cell phone. She hit a number on the speed dial. "Daddy...."
The nurse returned in a few minutes with a shot of Demerol and Phenergan to be given slowly through the IV.
Rachel was awakened every four hours for her IV antibiotics and breathing treatments, leaving her tired and cranky. She gratefully accepted Meg's tender kiss on her forehead, then watched as the petite blonde collected herself and left for work.
Marguerite rapped gently upon the door, then entered with a Tupperware container filled with aromatic soup and a bag filled with warm French bread. She struggled to balance her load with the collection of board games under her arm.
"Morning, Rachel. How are you feeling?" The older woman cheerfully inquired.
Rachel blinked the sleep from her eyes and swallowed, trying to speak through her painfully parched throat. Finally, she just nodded and grimaced.
"That good, huh? ..... Here we have a nice nutritious lunch for you. And, I brought some board games to keep us occupied til Meg can rescue you."
Rachel watched her partner's mother in disbelief.
"Do you play chess?" Marguerite asked.
Rachel nodded mutely.
"Good. Me too. I find it strangely stimulating and relaxing at the same time. Now, would you like to be black or white?"
Rachel opened her mouth to answer when she was halted by the older woman's raised hand.
"Ah, ah, ah." She waggled her index finger before Rachel's eyes. "No speaking. Rest your voice, just shake your head "yes" or "no". So, is black ok?"
The dumfounded woman nodded.
"Great. You set up the board while I pour us some of my soup." Marguerite proceeded to pour the steaming concoction into a pair of Styrofoam cups and handed one to her charge. Rachel grinned as the warm broth soothed her raw throat.
"Mmmm, good. Thanks." Rachel rasped.
"No, no, no. I do all the talking today. You rest." Marguerite piped up.
Rachel nodded and smiled sheepishly.
"Now." Marguerite scooted her chair close to the bed and lowered the over-bed table in order to more comfortably reach the chess game. "Why don't I regale you with tales of Meg's childhood while I cream your butt? Did I mention I was my high school's chess champion of 1962?" The older woman winked as she opened with her Queen's pawn.
Never one to backdown from a challenge, Rachel sat up as best she could to face her opponent.
Two hours later: "These two playground bullies used to pick on poor Gaston every day at recess. They made my baby's life miserable until Meg saw him sitting on our front stoop crying his little heart out. Well, once she heard the story, she went into full "big sister" mode, walked him back to the playground, confronted those boys and beat the ever-loving daylights out of them. I'll never forget the look of pride on both their faces as they marched into the kitchen covered in mud and blood. You never saw two happier children. Of course, I had to pretend to be shocked at such violent behavior. But all the time I was beaming inside. Needless to say, no one ever picked on Gaston again."
Rachel absorbed Marguerite's stories of Meg's childhood with unmasked glee until the respiratory tech interrupted the older woman's reverie.
"It's time for your breathing treatment and CPT, Ms. Vincenti." The technician bustled about the tubes, connecting the mouth piece and squirting the medicine into its receptacle.
Rachel's eyes showed a glimmer of fear, which Marguerite immediately responded to. "Rachel, dear, what's wrong?"
"My ribs. The CPT hurts my ribs." Rachel quietly confessed.
"Where does it hurt?" Marguerite inquired and watched as the younger woman pointed.
"Is that from your surgery?"
"Yeah. They had to break a couple of ribs. They're still healing."
Marguerite read the name on the technician's badge. "Joseph, when you perform CPT on Ms. Vincenti be careful of this area where she has had surgery recently."
"Yes, ma'am. I see it right here on her chart. I'll be gentle. And, if it starts to hurting ya too much, you just let me know. Ok?" The friendly technician agreed.
"You're not from around here, are you?" Marguerite chimed in.
"No, Ma'am. I'm from Arkansas." Joseph gave a big toothy grin.
Marguerite studied the still worried look on Rachel's drawn face and made a decision. "Joseph from Arkansas, whattaya say we give my young friend here a pain shot before her treatment?"
The tech looked back and forth between the pale frightened face of his patient and the fiercely protective demeanor of her friend and quickly decided to err on the side of caution. "Sure thing. Be right back, ma'am." He turned on his heel and scampered from the room.
Rachel looked into her new friend's eyes, which reminded her so much of her partner's, in awe. She saw only a maternal affection shining back at her. Not knowing how to respond she just smiled and whispered "Thank you".
Rachel fell into a deep sleep after her pain shot and respiratory treatment, her warm hand held in Marguerite's.
"Hey Mom. How's our patient?" Meg whispered as she entered the hospital room.
"Shush.... She's getting some much needed sleep....."
Meg nodded and kissed her mother's cheek.
"I'd say she's had a good day." Marguerite got up and began collecting herself.
Meg noticed the chess board and sighed. "So, I see you've found a common interest. Who's winning?"
"I am, of course. But, she's no slouch. Rachel is an honorable opponent. Very sharp."
Meg beamed with pride. "Yes. She is. Thanks for sitting with her. It means a lot to me."
Marguerite hugged her daughter and kissed her forehead. "You're welcome. I'm happy to help. After all, how often do I, not only get to play chess but have a captive audience entranced by stories of my little girl's rambunctious childhood." She gave Meg a mischievous grin.
Meg groaned and rolled her eyes. "Oh, brother."
To be continued in Part 9
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