Trials of Adam, Ch4- Guardian angel
I struggled to open my eyes. My body felt too weak to even breathe. But I had to. If there was a time to fight it was now.
“Daddy?” Cece was in a wheelchair, her hands trembling as her eyes seemed to look out into the distance. My daughter placed one hand upon the railing of my bed and with a breath, she stood up and quickly collapsed.
“Cece!” My heart nearly stopped.
“I’m ok!” she said quickly, pulling herself back to her chair. “Sorry, I just thought I could do it. I’ve been in therapy for about a week, but I guess I’m not as strong as I used to be.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “You’re plenty strong.”
“I can’t wait for us to start physical therapy together. I missed you so much.” Cece gave me a hug, and kissed my cheek. Her beautiful energy was truly palpable.
“So, where’s Jamie?”
“He’s still with me.”
My eyes darted around the room. “Here?”
“No, I see him in my dreams. He told me to tell you,” she paused, clearly in deep thought, “Jamie said he knows about you and Leo but he’s cool with it. Whatever that means.”
“Have you met Leo?”
“The angel with the rainbow hair? I’ve seen him around.” Cece moved closer, resting her head on my chest.
Her long black hair was pulled up into a ponytail, allowing me to stroke her back. “Will I finally get to see you dance?”
“You’ve seen me dance.”
“Will you dance just for me?”
“I love dancing just for you.”
Cece spent the next few hours by my side, the surgery had taken most of the day but she said she didn’t want to waste a moment of our time together. She had lots of plans for physical therapy. As a dancer, she had studied pressure point massage to help with her own discomfort. I had no idea to what extent she had been injured in the past; pull muscles, microfractures, etc. She told me all about her college plans, to apply to a school in Colorado to start her undergrad work in a pre-med field.
“Why Colorado?” I asked. We had been to Denver a few times for vacation, but I never realized she had such an affinity for the state.
“Why not? Snow, legalized marijuana- what’s not to love?”
The next day I was wheeled into physical therapy. I needed a few days for my new half-a-leg to heal but I wanted to see if I could perhaps regain some upper body strength. despite how sick I had been, my arms and chest had maintained muscle memory. I actually felt like I was working up a good sweat when suddenly the world went dark.
“Dad!” Cece shouted.
I awoke to the sight of Cece entering the therapy room in her wheelchair. “Sorry, I think I just overdid it a little.”
Cece handed me a bottled water. “You don’t need to prove anything to me or anyone.” After a moment she took hold of my hand. “Now, you are going to sit in my chair while I attempt the parallel bars.”
Cece was struggling to regain her strength. Her body was in atrophy due to the coma, but there was nothing physically wrong. She just needed to relearn how to walk. By our second session, I was fitted with a temporary prosthetic for my lower leg, so I was able to do more than just spot her.
As we trained together, she told me about the incident; the rape, the attempted murder. Cece was able to make a police report and with a rape kit, they were able to get DNA matches on all three attackers. “I’ll testify, I mean like whatever, right?”
“Right,” I replied, despite my uneasiness. I knew I would be by her side for the entire ordeal and that was all that mattered.
“And the DA is getting them a plea deal.”
I had been in the middle of a weight rep, lifting well over fifty pounds on my chest. The bar fell with a loud clank. “Um… what?” I took a moment to catch my breath. There was a sharp pain in my back, which prevented me from sitting straight up.
“Because I’m not dead,” Cece said as she finished her legs reps. “The most I can hope for is an assault charge for Jason and accessory charges for the other two.”
“But you told me that police found DNA from all three?”
“You know, I’m kinda tired. I think I want to go back to my room.” Cece stood up with a walker. she could walk without it, but not as quickly.
“Cece, wait!” I took me a good moment to get up, and get in my chair to follow her. By the time I left the room, I spotted her all the way down the hall, closing the door to the unisex restroom. Checking the handle, I was not surprised to find it locked. “Cece,” I said, calming knocking on the door. “I just want to know you’re ok.”
“Cece?” I looked around for a nurse or anyone but all I could see was the cleaning crew.
I knocked harder, but there was no answer. “Cece? Please open the door!” I started to feel shortness of breath. My vision blurred as I fell into the door with a thud.
Cece opened the door. “Hi, Dad.” She immediately sat facing the opposite wall, with her arms crossed.
The spastic speed and jerkiness of her movement was mildly disturbing. I needed her to look me in the face, but for that to happen, I had to choose my next topic carefully. “Talk to me about Colorado.”
Cece started to breathe fast and loud, as if on the verge of tears. “I just want to get out of Mississippi, start over.” Her voice seemed to fade in a ghostly whisper. “Would you come with me?”
As a squadron commander, I had witnessed panic attacks, so I thought I had some idea of what to do. “Of course.” I maneuvered myself out of my chair, to sit at her level.
“Cece, I love you with all my heart.” I gently put my arms around her, but quickly retracted. My arms were covered in blood.
“I’m sorry, Daddy.” Cece crossed her arms over her chest.
I took the opportunity to force her body to face me. My little girl’s arms were covered in deep cuts. “What have you done?”
“Please don’t tell mom.”
“How did you?” How did you cut yourself? How did you go from being my strong little girl to…
“I have a blade that I keep on a necklace,” she explained calmly. Cece wore a metal cross, but the bottom had been filed down to a sharp edge.
“Why did you lock the door?” I knew why.
Cece cupped her hand over her mouth. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. You came all this way to see me, and…”
I made my way to her, to get a closer look at her wounds. “Do you need a doctor?”
“No,” she said through tears, “I need you. You’re the only one who truly understands.” Cece put her arms around me, burying her face in my shoulder. She was sobbing, hyperventilating, so I held her. With my arms around her slender body, I pulled her to my lap, rocking her in my arms. “Do you have the ring I gave you?”
Cece nodded. “Great-grandma’s ring, I never take it off.”
“Do you remember when I gave that to you?” ‘
“T-the stone, it’s the color of your eyes. when I look at it, I-I feel close to you.” Cece looked into my eyes, unblinking. “Am I hurting you?” Cece repositioned her legs, straddling my hips. “How’s your leg?”
“My lack of a leg?”
“Yeah,” she said softly, her lips cracking a smile. “Your… stump.”
I could feel her cold hand on my hip, then my thigh, resting her fingers along my pelvic bone. Her chest was pressed against mine, so close I could feel her the breath in her lungs.
“Can you feel my heart, Daddy?”
“I don’t want to do this.” I couldn’t tell what my body was doing. If I had an erection, I couldn’t feel it. And I sure as hell couldn’t feel my own daughter touching me. It was like my mind was trying to protect my soul.
“I do.” Cece leaned in close, stopping just short of my lips. “I’m already a whore, a slut.”
“No, baby, you’re not.” Her words cut to my soul, searing harder than any bullet. “You’re my angel.”
“Do you know what I thought about when they were raping me? I thought about you. my hero, my savior. If I could survive, I could make my way back to you.” Cece took a deep breath, pressing her lips to mine. “Back into your strong, loving arms. And everything they made me do,” she licked my earlobe, her voice dropping to a soft breathy whisper, “every dirty nasty thing… I would do it for you. because you deserved to be the one.”
I grabbed her wrist hard. This was not what I wanted, never in a million years.
“Aren’t I pretty enough, Daddy!” Cece sank her nails into my cheek, drawing blood. “I wanted you to be the one to fuck me until I scream! To shove your cock down my throat and finish in my ass!”
With one swift motion I gripped Cece’s face. I wanted to slap her, to beat some sense into the daughter that I raised. but that’s probably what her boyfriend did. The bastard fucked her like a rag doll and threw her out with the trash. Instead, I held her gaze. “What do you see, when you look at me?”
Cece stop screaming as tears streamed down her cheeks.
“Do you see someone who would ever hurt or degrade you?” Looking deep into my daughter’s eyes, I prayed for a hint of light. The beautiful light of innocence that once burned so bright.
“No, Daddy,” Cece whispered as she shook her head. “I’m sorry, Daddy.”
The door flew open and a team of three nurses entered. Two large males pulled her off of me, while a third female nurse injected her with what appeared to be a tranquilizer.
My wife’s scream emanated from outside the room, “Oh my God! What happen?”
I knew I needed to answer. “She was cutting herself.” The fact that I was covered in blood brought validity to my story and Cece was immediately moved to the psych ward.
“You want to get a cup of coffee?” Marni asked. “We’ll be allowed to see her in about an hour.”
“This happened before?”
“She’s had a meltdown before, if that’s what you mean.”
It was clear we both had stories to tell. “I think I could use a cup of coffee.” We went to the cafeteria which was long closed to the public. but luckily the vending machines were still available. Over paper cups of cheap scalding hot coffee, we sat and talked. “Beautiful night,” I said casually, looking out at the view of the dumpsters.
Marni chuckled and rolled her eyes. “So really, what happened with Cece?”
“We were talking about the case,” I said, nervously tapping my fingers. “She told me the DA is cutting the boys a deal?”
“Yeah, the deal is the best we could hope for.”
“Why? because she’s a slut? because she’s asian?
“No,” Marni said as she patted my shoulder, “because she’s alive. The plan is to get them locked up as quickly as possible. Then we can go after their families in civil court; maybe get a settlement to help pay for the medical bills, and Cece’s college fund.”
“Is she going to college?” My real question was much worse. Was she forever damaged?
“You mean, can she function in society? That’s for the doctors to decide. But you being here is a big step towards her recovery.”
I nodded and took a sip of the bitter, watery drink.
“She came on to you, didn’t she?”
I coughed hard, narrowly avoiding spilling scalding liquid on my chest. “You knew?”
“The girl puts you on a pedestal, Adam; always has, always will. So, it’s logical to assume that in her current emotional state something inside her is opening up…”
“It’s not that weird.”
“Yes, yes it is.”
“Think about it, you come home maybe once a year, if we’re lucky. And when you do come home it’s this huge deal! Doesn’t matter if you came from Iraq or a convention in Ohio. She was there jumping screaming, crying.” Marni smiled as a single tear streaked her face. “When Cece was in third grade, she used to write stories about a marrying a handsome prince with sky-blue eyes.”
“What color are Jason’s eyes?”
“Jason’s eyes are the color of the darkest night.”
I needed to pray. “This is too much.”
“It’s not a big deal. I’m not saying I want you to have sex with our daughter, but she needs something to lean on and you’re the only one with shoulders strong enough to hold her.”
I had to admit, she was right; I needed to trust her. (Or I needed to our crazy her.) Over a dozen cups of vending machine coffee, I told Marni about Leo and Jamie, the trials of sin. I needed her to understand. “I’m not a religious man, but-”
“You don’t have to be religious to believe in destiny.”
“Destiny, fate, whatever.” Says the pregnant woman drinking her fifth vending machine coffee.
“You think I can save her?”
“Maybe, just try not to get lost along the way.”
After a few hours we went to the psych ward where Cece was settled, in a solo room. Marni asked if we could stay in the room with Cece. “She’s not dangerous, I think will be good for us as a family.” Had this been anywhere except Mississippi, this would have been a no-go. But in the south, no one would deny a kindhearted mother. The nurses brought in recliners to sleep in. They were comfortable, even if there was no way to lock the wheels in place. Marni leaned the chair against the wall, allowing herself a relaxed position. But my leg was in too much discomfort. I needed to sleep on my back.
Cece was asleep on a mattress on the floor. She wore hospital issue sweatpants and sweatshirt but no blankets or bedding. Was she truly suicidal?
I rested my body by her side, laying on the cold, tile floor, prepared to sleep. I closed my eyes as I reached for her hand.
“You know she’s sorry,” said Leo. I opened my eyes to see Leo’s angelic form standing over us, his large glowing wings, wrapped around his shoulders like a jacket.
“I’m not too sure about that.”
“I can’t tell you how to feel. If you’re not comfortable, then you’re not comfortable.” Leo placed one hand over Cece’s heart and another over my hand. “And FYI Jamie is still laughing is ass off.”
I couldn’t help but crack a smile.
“But you know more then you give yourself credit for.” Leo patted my shoulder as he started to fade away. “Have a good night.”
In the darkness, Cece was shivering. I wanted so badly to hold her. “Baby, are you awake?”
She nodded, the movement ever so slight in the moonlight.
“Would you like me to come closer?”
She nodded again. “It’s so cold,” her voice was scratchy, weak, “why does it have to be so cold?”
I scooted myself on to her bed, holding her close.
Cece rested her head on my chest. “I really do love the feeling of your heartbeat.”
I closed my eyes, stroking her hair. In that moment she was my daughter, my Cece.”I know how it feels. I know what it means to want to be touched.” I thought about what Leo said. I did understand. But it really killed me that Cece was hurting as badly as I once did. “Sophomore year I took a fast ball to the shoulder, busted me up real bad. I had a hairline fracture with the possibility I would never play again, but all I could think of was: good.”
“Good?” Cece asked.
“Because now, the constant pain in my shoulder,” the emotion of the words choked in my throat, “it came from that fastball. It did not come from getting slammed against a brick wall, as a six-year-old who could barely walk.”
“The pain didn’t belong to your attacker,” Cece replied, “I understand.”
“Yeah, that pain was no longer his, it was mine. But it still hurt. I clung to that hurt. Junior year I tore a muscle in my arm, it’s why I didn’t get scouted to college.”
“Wow, I never knew that.”
And I wish you never did. “I don’t ever want to be the reason you hurt.”
Cece opened her eyes and looked at me. “Thank you.”
“Just you and me against the world, kiddo.”
Cece nodded in agreement. “Jamie said, next week you start chemo.”
“Jamie said that?” My primary doctor hadn’t even told me a start date. What else did Jamie and Leo know? Just how sick was I? How much pain would I be in?
“Can I stay with you?” She asked, her voice breaking with genuine sadness. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, if you’re going to be allowed to return to physical therapy, or…”
“I want to come with you to Colorado,” the words escaped my lips. I had no idea what they even meant. Did I want to leave my wife? No. Did I want to leave Mississippi? Maybe.
“Of course,” Cece said with a smile. She took a moment to wipe tears from her eyes. “We’ll keep each other strong, the way we always have. I love you, Dad.”