She awoke slowly, aware of nothing but the intense pain she felt coursing through her body. She was afraid to open her eyes, dreading the horrible sight that she was sure awaited her. Gradually, she became aware of a soothing voice beckoning to her, calling her by name. She found herself unable to resist the urge to respond.
She reluctantly opened her eyes and found herself looking at a somewhat familiar man dressed all in white. Utterly confused, she closed her eyes, then reopened them. The man spoke to her, seemingly pleased to have her looking around the room. She struggled to speak, finally managing to painfully whisper, “Who? Where?”
The man’s words began to penetrate the fogginess she felt. “I’m Dr. Gregory, Mrs. Belden. You’re in the hospital.”
Helen moaned aloud, as she wondered “Hospital? I’m not dead? I’m alive?” Too weak to lift her head, she contented herself with gazing around the room again. This time, she noticed the sunshine that was just beginning to peek through the window.
Dr. Gregory continued to speak to her, asking her to try to move her hands, her feet. She tried valiantly, wanting to please him for reasons she couldn’t explain. She succeeded in lifting her hand off of the sheet, but couldn’t suppress a groan. She had never felt such agonizing pain before.
“I know it hurts, Mrs. Belden,” he said gently. “It’s a miracle that you’re even alive to feel it.”
“A miracle,” she thought, remembering the events of the previous evening. She recalled all of the precautions she had taken to ensure that she couldn’t be saved. She wondered if she had been given a second chance, if it wasn’t too late to make amends after all. Summoning all of her strength, she called out, “Peter!”
Moments later, in a room down the hall, Peter Belden dozed fitfully. He awoke as Dr. Ferris came in and spoke to Andrew. After several hours, Andrew had finally managed to convince him that he wasn’t to blame for Helen’s decision, but there was still guilt mixed in with his sorrow and grief.
Turning to Peter, Dr. Ferris spoke the words that Peter had despaired of ever hearing. “Helen’s awake, Mr. Belden. She’s asking for you.”
His heart leaped as he demanded his clothes. He dressed quickly, not wanting to waste any time in going to his wife. He combed his hair without looking in the mirror. Then he rushed out of the room.
Halfway down the hallway, Peter suddenly realized that he had no idea where Helen was. He looked back at Dr. Ferris, who motioned him the other way. He finally caught up with him, stopping just outside of the intensive care unit. The doctor admonished him, “Before you go in, you need to understand that it’s going to be some time before she’s back to normal. She’s going to live, but she’s still very weak and very sore. Be very careful touching her, a simple embrace will be agonizing for her.”
He nodded his understanding, then quickly entered Helen’s room. He walked to the bed, tears flowing as she spoke his name. He very gently laid his hand over hers, telling her that he loved her.
She smiled weakly, saying, “I’m sorry.”
He smiled back at her, saying the words that he suddenly believed with all of his heart. “Don’t worry, sugar. Everything’s going to be all right.”
Andrew entered the waiting room with a much lighter step than he had had the previous night. He was thankful that Helen was awake, but even more relieved to know that Peter would be all right. He took a seat with Mart, Brian, and Diana.
“Has Dr. Ferris spoken to you?” he whispered to Brian.
“Not yet, but he’s coming towards us now. Is there any news?”
Andrew didn’t have time to answer before the doctor came and asked them to step into his office. Silently, they followed him down the hallway, stopping in front of a small room. Dr. Ferris led them inside, asking them to be seated.
“Brian, Mart, I don’t have to tell you how difficult it is for anyone to survive an overdose that large. The chances were that if she did manage to live, that she would be in a coma from now on. Just a few moments ago, your mother woke up. She’s weak, but…” he trailed off as Mart’s whoop drowned out his words. He smiled, continuing after Diana shushed her boyfriend. “It’s too early to tell how much damage has been done, but she’s alive and conscious. Your dad’s sitting with her as we speak.”
“Is he all right?” Brian asked.
“Yes,” Dr. Ferris responded. “He’s going to be just fine. The news that your mother is awake was the best medicine he could get. However, he’s still in no condition to listen to what’s going to have to happen now, so you boys are going to have to understand what’s going on.”
Brian and Mart nodded, as Andrew listened closely.
“First of all, she’s going to remain in the intensive care unit until we’re able to remove the life support.” He looked compassionately at Mart, who moaned at the mention of life support. “Then, after several days of observation here, she will be transferred to a hospital in the city. Dr. Gregory will give you those details later on.”
“Is there any way that you could keep her here, instead of having her moved?” Brian asked. “Any way at all?”
Dr. Ferris shook his head. “Brian, you know that we can’t give her the treatment that she’s going to need. I wish we could, but we’re not set up for it.”
Andrew noticed the look that passed between the two men, hoping that Mart and Diana wouldn’t notice. He knew that they were referring to a mental hospital. His hope was granted as Mart asked, “How long do you expect it to be before she’ll be able to go home?”
“A great deal depends on how rapidly she improves. It’s possible that she could be home in a few weeks, but it could be months. Mart, I don’t mean to discourage you, but at this point, the fact that she’s even living is a miracle. I know it’s hard, but right now, we’re having to take it one day at a time as far as schedules go.”
Listening as Dr. Ferris spoke about what to expect in the days and weeks to come, Andrew was suddenly struck by a new thought. Knowing Peter would insist on the the boys returning to school and that he would naturally want to stay by Helen’s side, he suddenly wondered, “What about Bobby?”
“Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you?” Regan asked Trixie.
She bit her lip, saying, “I do, but this is something I really need to do on my own.”
He nodded, reminding her that he would be waiting for her right there when she came out. Impulsively, he hugged her, then watched soberly as she walked through the doorway.
Trixie entered the room, relieved to find that her dad was there, gently holding her mother’s hand. She returned his small worried smile, smothering a gasp as she saw her mother. This pale woman lying in the hospital bed bore little resemblance to the active, youthful Moms that she remembered. She wondered how much of the change in appearance was due to the havoc wreaked by the drugs and how much had occurred over the past two years.
She tentatively approached the foot of the bed. “Moms?” she spoke softly.
Helen’s eyes opened, drinking in the sight of her daughter. “Trixie?”
No other words were spoken, as Helen raised her hand, taking Trixie’s hand in hers. Suddenly, Trixie’s fears vanished. She knew that everything was going to be all right.
Assorted Author’s Notes: I want to thank everyone for your support and encouragement during this story. Well, for your insistence that I hurry, anyway!
The title for this story is a paraphrase of Psalms 30:5. The actual quotation is “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
I have tried to be as realistic as possible concerning Helen’s recovery and planned treatment. However, according to the research I’ve done, if this scenario happened in real life, Helen would not have survived. Fortunately, this is fiction. However, I want to emphasize that suicide is not the way out of your problems. No matter how dark things may seem, it can and will get better. If you or anyone you know are considering suicide, please talk to someone, please get help. For more information and statistics, visit Save.org or Befrienders.org.
Thanks again, everyone, for bearing with me while I wrote this story!