If you've never read, but want to, the first part of the story is in my right sidebar under I Like To Write. Just be warned that it's getting long. Entirely too long.
Nurses changed shifts. Dave went home to shower and came back still looking haggard, but clean. Tamara stayed, dozed on a hard plastic chair for a while and once with her upper body draped across Joshua's feet. She drank coffee from a vending machine and ate candy bars and bags of peanuts. She studied herself in the bathroom mirror and thought she looked profoundly wasted--eyes small and glassy, hair all over the place, clothes wrinkled and starting to stink.
Yet she couldn't go change into her own shorts and shirt, clean up or grab a proper meal. She was in a purgatory that, she couldn't help believing, was of her own making. She just had to endure it. Endure Dave's anger and her guilt and Joshua's comatose state. By enduring, she was, in a way, repenting. Which was the only thing she could do for Josh right then.
"Why don't you run home, see the kids," Dave suggested, pulling out a fresh copy of the Sentinel and rubbing his cleanly shaven jaw.
"Who's with them?"
Tamara must've slid him a questioning look, because he said, "Theresa's daughter."
"All this time?"
"She's good with them," Dave said.
Just then they heard a small rustle coming from the bed. Tamara scraped her chair up to Joshua as his head rocked, just slightly, back and forth. His eyelids peeled back and he looked straight ahead with unfocused pupils.
Dave rushed to the bed and grabbed Joshua's limp hand. "Josh, it's dad. We're here. Mom's here," he looked pointedly at Tamara as he said this. "You hit your head, but you're gonna be okay. You're gonna be okay."
He had no way of knowing that, of course. But Tamara kept her mouth shut.
Joshua's eyes drifted from one side of the room to the other, then closed again.
"Shit," Tamara muttered. "Shit. Joshua?"
She ran out into the hallway and grabbed a nurse. The nurse listened to their recount of what had happened and nodded. "Let's hope for more and more of that," she said, but didn't offer further encouragement. She jotted something in Joshua's chart and left them again.
The room was silent. Or as silent as a pediatric ICU can be, with machines humming and people talking quietly in the hall and the far off trill of a phone.
Dave was looking at Tamara with watery eyes, his lids opened so far that the whites were visible around the entire perimeter of his irises. Like small, floating rafts, she thought.
"How could you have left for so long?"
The harsh honesty of the question made her jump. She didn't expect to be asked outright. At least not yet. It was more Dave's style to criticize around the edges of the main issue, to make it clear in small and biting ways how hurt he was.
She came back with, "How could you have forgotten about me? About you and me?" She would've done anything, in that moment, for a drink. Anything except walk out of the hospital while Joshua was in the big, white bed, his body so small and vulnerable surrounded by metal boxes and rubber tubing. "Everything became more important to you than me and us," she added. "Golf. Work. Mail. Everything."
"You do not know that," he said, pointing at her with his first two fingers stuck together. A small oddity of his.
"I felt that," she said, and her voice was hoarse with emotion. She sensed the tendons in her neck straining, the vein along her right temple bulging.
And in that short exchange they had cut the complexities and small disappointments of their relationship down to what it was. Tamara saw it as something palpable, like a small, lumpy sculpture she could hold in her hands. She had no idea, though, if it was malleable, or too set in its shape to morph into anything else.
"Do you feel this?" he asked, his gaze cutting to their son, their oldest child.
She thought of all the times she'd spent with just Joshua, while Dave worked and before Caitlyn and Eli had come along. Just the two of them trying to fill the days. Going to Gymboree and napping together on the futon in his room.
She remembered the excitement of feeding him his first bites of liquified sweet potatoes and the hair-ripping frustration of potty training him. They'd been a team. And she'd often thought, as tedious and isolating as a lot of it was, that she should have stopped with him. Should not have gone on to have more children.
"Of course I do," she said.
He said, "Good. Because I thought maybe you were done feeling."
She had to chew her lip and clamp her hand over her mouth to keep from fighting anymore. It wasn't right. Going at it there in Joshua's room. For all they knew, he could hear.
She sat back down, laid her head on Joshua's mattress and rested that way for a long time. Finally, she sighed, stood and said, "I think I will run home and check on the kids. The car out in the lot?"
He threw the keys hard and they skittered across the white, tile floor.
She scrambled for them and, kissing Joshua's forehead, she left, thinking, please, please, please, please.