Everything looked white and colorless when Clisty walked into Faith’s hospital room. Life and color, nearly sterilized out of the entire building, lay barely breathing in front of her. It was true, Clisty did like simple, monochromatic décor in her own home, but in this room it was different. The crisp white cover on the hospital bed hardly moved. Clisty studied the body of the stranger, yet friend, who didn’t appear to have enough energy to breathe. Stranger—yes—but oh how Faith looked like her mother. Clisty’s blue-green eyes filled with tears.
“If you study her closely, you’ll see she’s still with us,” a familiar voice spoke softly from the corner of the room.
“Jake!” Clisty gasped in a hoarse whisper and jumped. “You startled me.” She didn’t take her eyes off her friend. “Do you think she’s asleep or in a comma?”
“I talked to the nurse when I got here. She said that Faith is lost inside herself right now, trying to heal by sleeping. The staffs come in every hour, rouse her and direct her to breathe more deeply.”
“Imagine, being so exhausted you forget to breathe,” she shook her head.
“Come and sit here beside me.” He patted the empty chair beside him and then rested his hand on the back. “It’s about eleven-thirty. You should be at home but I know you want to be here. They should come back in a little while to talk to her.”
Clisty removed her coat and placed it over the arm of the chair and, with one motion, sank onto the cushion. “What are you doing here?” But, she didn’t look at him. She fixed her gaze on Faith.
“I watched your newscast here in Faith’s hospital room,” he gestured toward the television that glowed from its mounted brackets on the wall. “I turned it down so it wouldn’t bother her. But, I can still hear it.”
When Clisty adjusted her senses to the lower volume, she could also hear Faith’s shallow respiration. The room was like a quiet cocoon waiting for her to awaken and begin a new life. “Then you heard my pledge to follow the story into the past,” she whispered.
“I did. That’s why I’m here, too. If she tells you anything, it might help us apprehend her captor.” He reached above the chair back and rubbed Clisty’s shoulder.
His closeness felt warm and inviting, but she couldn’t relax yet. “Then, we can work together on this?”
“Absolutely.” He sipped from the coffee vendor cup he held and looked inside as he swished it around the rim. “Besides, I wanted to see how you’re doing. It’s been a long day for you. I knew you would come here before going home.”
“I’m okay.” She brushed off Jake’s concern. While she liked his interest, she would not give into her exhaustion. Then she turned and saw his skeptical expression and changed the subject. “Where did you get the coffee?”
“From the machine in the lounge; I’ll get some for you, but it’s not very good,” he offered as he studied the cup in his hand. “How about come cocoa?”
“That would be even better,” she agreed and then added, “I admit ... I am very tired but I really am fine.”
As he stood up, he smiled and slowly removed his arm from around her. “I’ll be right back.”
“Thanks, Jake.” She leaned her head back and closed her eyes.
“You’ll be asleep by the time I get here with your hot chocolate,” he said as he paused at the door.
“I hope not. I want to be awake when they rouse her again.” She didn’t open her eyes but smiled as he closed the door.
It felt so good to finally relax, she fought her body’s need to let go and sleep. Her muscles twitched as mental pictures of two happy girls danced in her head, riding their bikes to the park and skating on Miller’s Pond in the winter. One day, she and Faith rode in her dad’s truck with him as he drove out onto the thick ice to where his friend, Ed, had set up a small fishing shack. All four of them sat on small wooden stools around the hole in the ice through which he fished. The images warmed her like the camp stove that stood in the corner of the shack, where Ed made gooey marshmallow s’mores over the heat.
Ring! The room phone dissolved the precious images and rattled Clisty’s rest. She may have nodded off a little she admitted to herself. She jumped up and paused first to steady her sleepy legs before she moved then darted across the room to answer it before Faith awakened. “Hello?” she said softly.
The caller said nothing at first. All Clisty could hear was the dead air of an open line and ... just perhaps, some breathing on the other end. “Hello?” she said again.
“Let me talk to Jocelyn,” a rough male voice demanded.
“Jocelyn? You must have the wrong room,” she started to replace the receiver when she heard a female Voice on the line.
“Please, Ma’am, put ... Faith on the phone,” the person asked with a tremor in her voice.
“Who is this?” Clisty nearly dropped the receiver as her heart pounded.
“Never mind that,” a scuffle was heard on the line. “Gimme that phone,” the man shouted at the woman.
Just then Jake came back into the room carrying a cup of hot chocolate. Clisty motioned for him to come to her side. She had to be strong, to keep her wits about her, so she held the receiver away from her ear allowing Jake to listen in. She pointed to the receiver and grabbed his shirt in her fist to draw him closer.
“You listen to me, girly,” the gruff man barked. “You put Jocelyn on this phone right now.”
“I’m sorry there is no Jocelyn here.” She thought quickly and asked, “Where are you calling from?” Hoping to get some information, she waited frantically for the answer.
“That ain’t got nothin’ to do with nothin’, Missy,” he growled. “You don’t need to know where I am. You just need to put Jocelyn on this phone, now!”
“Well, if you’re calling long distance ...” she thought fast, “I wouldn’t want to keep you on the line very long and run up your phone bill.” She looked at Jake for assurance.
“Please,” the woman begged again.
“There is no Jocelyn here,” Clisty repeated. When she saw Faith stir a little, she hurried the conversation. “Sorry. Have a good evening.” With the receiver replaced on the phone cradle, she buried her head in Jake’s chest. “He asked for Jocelyn, Jake. But, the woman asked for Faith. She knew her real name.”
“Try to remember all they said, Clisty,” Jake coached her. “I’ll write it all down.” He pulled a small notebook from his inside jacket pocket.
“They really didn’t say anything,” she tried to clear her tired head so she could think. “The man asked to speak to Jocelyn and when that didn’t work, the woman asked for Faith. That was him! I’m sure of it. I will never forget his meanness.” Her eyes darted from Jake to the hospital bed. “They’ve found her,” she gasped.
“But, it didn’t sound like they were here, not in Fort Wayne,” Jake assured her. “Since he took her so many years ago, he may suspect that she would have tried to come home.” He put his arms around her and rocked her back and forth. “Was there anything else?”
“No information really but ... flavor, a sickening taste in my mouth, bitter, awful.” She pulled back and stared out the window into the night. “He was gruff in manner, demanding, cold. He used poor English, ‘ain’t’ and ‘girly.’” She rubbed her forehead and tried to force herself to think. “The lady was gentler. She caved in to the man’s demands. She sounded a little more educated, maybe ... oh, I don’t know. They were on the line for such a short time.”
“You did great, Honey. You learned a lot in a matter of a few sentences.” Jake gathered her in his arms again and pulled her close.
“No,” Faith gasped with a frail voice. With closed eyes, she kicked and flailed her arms like she was fighting someone off.
“Faith, Honey,” Clisty soothed her by trying to stroke her forehead.
“No,” Faith fought her off and slapped her hand away.
“Faith, it’s me, Pooky,” she tried again but was careful not to touch her this time.
“Pooky? Where is she? Where’s Pooky?” She rose up slightly on her elbow and looked around the room with eyes that didn’t seem to see.
“It is a very long story, Faith. But, your daughter, Pooky is safe. She’s with your parents.” How much she wanted to hold her friend but did not make another attempt for fear of frightening her.
“Mama and Daddy?” she asked with a strained expression, her eyes large with fear. “No, no!” She looked around the room, searching every corner.
“You’re in the hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Honey,” Clisty assured her.
The lost child-woman nodded, like the words sounded familiar but her surroundings were foreign to her. “Where?” She nodded again. “Where am I? Where is Pooky?”
“Who is Faith?” she questioned as she drew her fists up to her temples and massaged them frantically. “I don’t know Faith anymore. I don’t know what you’re saying,” she cried.
A nurse in a blue uniform came crisply into the room. “Oh good, you’re awake. I’m Kim and I’m your nurse tonight.”
“But, she’s so—,“ Clisty whispered through her tears.
“I know ... confused. She’s been through a lot.” Kim came over to the bedside and grabbed Faith’s wrist but she immediately jerked away. “I’m sorry,” she spoke gently. “I was just so happy to see your big beautiful eyes, I moved too quickly.” Kim patted Faith’s arm.
“Try ... calling her Jocelyn,” Jake offered.
Faith’s expression softened a little. “Jocelyn,” she agreed.
“All right then.” Kim placed her hand slowly on Faith’s forearm. “I would like to pick up your hand, Jocelyn, and take your pulse. Is that okay with you?”
Faith said nothing at first. “Pulse? I ... I don’t understand.”
“I’ll hold your hand just above the palm,” Kim began slowly, “then touch your wrist gently. Okay?”
Faith nodded as she laid her head back in an attempt to catch her breath. Suddenly, she threw her hand to her chest as a look of panic crossed her face.
“Nurse ...?” Clisty covered her mouth with her hand as she tried to gain composure. Frightened by what she saw, she feared for Faith’s ability to come back to her mentally.
“She’s hyperventilating,” Kim explained. “She has been breathing very shallow since she came in and now she’s panicking.” To Faith she explained, “I’m going to put my hand on your diaphragm. I want you to breath by pushing on my hand.” Slowly, Faith began to calm and breathe normally. “Good. Now, see there. Your respirations are much better.”
With her patient stabilized, she spoke to Clisty and Jake in hushed tones on the other side of the room. “Except for the episode just now, she is doing as good as can be expected. Before she can remember who she is, she has to have more energy. Her crushed spirit is very fragile. Our first goal: we want her to be able to inhale and exhale.”
Then she turned to her patient. “Jocelyn, I’m going to put an oxygen cannula on your nose. You don’t need to be frightened. It will help you breathe.”
Faith watched the cannula come close to her face and nodded. “Lady too,” she said as she began to breath more naturally. She looked up at Clisty and gasped in a moment of recognition. “Pooky?” she asked.
“Yes,” Clisty nodded as tears streamed down her cheeks.
Her childhood friend reached out her hand and hesitantly took hold of Clisty’s. She pulled her close to her. “Pooky ...” she begged as she looked at her with her first expression of recognition, “keep Pooky safe. He’ll be coming for us. He always said he would.” She closed her eyes while tears ran down her face. “He’s coming again you know.”