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Ruby between the cracks, p.20
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       Ruby Between the Cracks, p.20

           P.D. Workman
 

  * * *

  Ruby awoke hazily, trying to open her eyes, but finding them sticky and heavy. She turned her head to look around. There was the murmur of voices around her, footsteps up and down the hall. There was a steady beeping beside her somewhere. The walls and ceiling were white. She was in a metal frame bed, and her limbs were heavy and immobile. Ruby swallowed, her throat dry and sore. She tried to blink her eyes to clear the dark spots and see more clearly.

  “Are you awake, Ruby?”

  She turned her head towards the voice and tried to focus on the speaker. It was Mrs. Winters. Ruby tried to speak, but her throat was swollen and her mouth wouldn’t move to form the words. A small sound came out.

  “It’s okay. Don’t try to talk. They just took the tube out a little while ago. Just try to rest.”

  Ruby closed her eyes and drifted back off.

  The doctor examined Ruby. He glanced at Mrs. Winters.

  “Has she said anything?”

  “No. She’s surfaced a few times. But she hasn’t been able to talk.”

  He looked at Ruby’s eyes and tested her reflexes.

  “Well, only time will tell how much damage there’s been.”

  “Do you think she will be okay?”

  “No way to tell. We can only wait and see.”

  Mrs. Winters nodded. The doctor finished up his examination and left. Mrs. Winters left the room to call Ruby’s new social worker, Mr. Clive, the one who had called her to see if she would sit with Ruby through her initial recovery. He must be a good social worker. When he was called by the rehabilitation center and told of Ruby’s condition, he checked her file and started calling her most recent foster families to see if anyone would sit with her as she went through this ordeal. He didn’t have to do that. He could have just let her lie in the hospital room all by herself.

  She went back to Ruby’s room and sat down on the chair beside her bed. She rubbed Ruby’s shoulder.

  Marty stood uncertainly in the doorway until Mrs. Winters looked up. They’d never met face to face, but Mrs. Winters knew immediately who she was.

  “Marty? Come in.”

  Marty came in, and looked down at Ruby.

  “How is she?”

  “Better than when I got here.”

  Marty caught Mrs. Winters’ eyes on Stella.

  “Ruby’s baby,” she explained.

  “Oh. How old is she?”

  “Almost two.”

  Mrs. Winters frowned, but didn’t say what she was thinking. She motioned to Ruby.

  “When I first got here, she was on a respirator. She’s been breathing on her own today.”

  “Has she been awake?”

  “Only for a few seconds at a time. She’ll open her eyes and then drift off again. The doctor says she’s improving, but we won’t know how much brain damage there is for a while.”

  Marty set Stella down on the bed and watched to make sure she wasn’t going to crawl away. She could walk, but mostly she still crawled. She only walked a few steps if you stood her up.

  “Was Ruby pregnant when I had her?” Mrs. Winters questioned, looking at Stella again.

  Marty nodded.

  “Poor kid. She had so many problems. I wish we could have done something for her.”

  Marty sat down on the edge of the bed beside Ruby and Stella.

  “You helped keep her off the streets for a while. That’s as much as you could do. And you’re here now, but you didn’t have to.”

  Mrs. Winters nodded, watching Ruby sleep.

  Ruby woke up looking at Stella playing on her legs. She frowned, trying to remember where she was and make sense of it.

  “M-marty... ?”

  “Ruby? Are you okay?”

  Ruby turned her head to find Marty.

  “W-wa-w-wa…” she couldn’t quite get the word out.

  Marty followed her gaze and picked up the glass of water and held the straw to Ruby’s lips. Ruby sipped it carefully. Marty wiped away the dribble down Ruby’s chin.

  “Better?”

  Ruby nodded.

  “How do you feel?”

  Ruby licked her dry lips.

  “W-what... ?”

  Marty stroked Ruby’s hair gently.

  “You had a fight with someone at the rehab center, do you remember that?”

  Ruby nodded.

  “Well, the doctor figures you got a blood clot in your brain... and had a stroke or something.”

  Ruby looked at the water, and Marty gave her another drink. Mrs. Winters came back in. She looked at Marty and Ruby.

  “She’s awake. How’re you feeling, Ruby?”

  “S-s-scared.”

  “I’ll bet you are. I’d be terrified. Do you want to sit up?”

  Ruby nodded. Mrs. Winters raised the head of the bed. Ruby tried to move her arms. She looked down and saw that they were strapped in place.

  “I’m sure the doctor will take those off. You were having seizures, so... I’ll see if I can find him and make sure.”

  The doctor was happy to see that Ruby was awake.

  “How’s she doing?” he asked Marty and Mrs. Winters.

  “She’s a little confused,” Marty said, “and she’s having trouble talking.”

  “That’s expected. She will probably need some physical therapy. Hopefully there will be no lasting damage.” He swiftly unbuckled the straps holding Ruby’s arms, and took her hand. “Give me a squeeze, honey.”

  Ruby’s fingers moved uncertainly.

  “Good girl. How about the other hand? And can you wiggle your toes for me? All right. You still need to get as much rest as you can. Don’t stay up gabbing.”

  Ruby nodded. The doctor patted her on the shoulder.

  “You’ll be just fine, honey,” he promised.
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