Can love and music transcend death?
There is no sex in this instalment, but I deemed it necessary for the continuation of the story. If you’ve not yet read the previous two chapters, I suggest you go back and start with chapter one – Songstress, followed by DUO. If you have read the previous two, thank you!
A huge thanks to tool1952 for his great edits, and keeping me straight when I go off on tangents!
This chapter is told entirely from Beth’s POV.
Terror couldn’t even begin to describe how I felt about the horrific scene in front of me. People were running around, shouting. I heard Billy Blake shouting in drunken defiance: “He got what he deserved, the filthy ol’ pig!”
I tuned everything else out. I looked at my precious Joel and felt something break in me.
This beautiful, kind, gentle soul, who was the light of my life, now lay bleeding and battered in my arms. I screamed for help. Joel wasn’t speaking, so I cried in his ear, begging him not to leave me. I felt helpless, but I refused to give in to panic, not with the life of my precious love in my hands.
I knew basic first aid, and seeing his battered head, not knowing what other damage these goons had done I knew I couldn’t place him the recovery position. But he was coughing up blood and started choking on it. In desperation, I tried clearing out the blood using my scarf to soak it up.
He wasn’t breathing anymore so I leaned over him and began blowing air into his mouth while pinching his nose closed. At first, I didn’t see his chest rising, so I blew harder. I didn’t know if I was causing more damage, but I had to get some air into him or lose him. It worked, I saw his chest rise ever so slightly. The bitter iron taste of his blood filled my mouth, but I wouldn’t, I couldn’t stop. Blow in, pause, spit out blood, blow in, repeat. ‘Please live Joel!’
Suddenly a voice from above me said:
“Ma’am, we’re paramedics, let us take over.”
Scooting backward, heedless of the gravel biting into my knees, I gladly relinquished Joel to their trained hands.
I recognized them as the team that was assigned to our concerts because of the size of our crowds. The first EMT immediately placed an air mask over Joel’s nose and mouth and began squeezing air into him. The other began examining my unconscious soulmate, and terror once again began to crawl through me as she looked at her partner with grave concern saying silently with that look ‘This is really bad.’
Calmly she said out loud: “Ribs pushed in toward the chest cavity, likely punctured lung. He’s bleeding internally, possibly from the the lung. Airway is partially blocked with blood, we have to intubate to get O2 to his good lung. Right pupil is blown. We need to stabilize him and get him on oxygen now before we can move him. And we need more hands. I’m calling for help.”
I was sobbing freely now, feeling helpless, as I watched them work on Joel. I heard April’s voice behind me:
“Beth? What’s going on? Oh my God is that Joel?! No, no, no, oh fuck, oh God, what happened to him?”
I stood up and flung my arms around April and wept in anguish on her shoulder.
“They tried to kill Joel, they tried to kill him! Oh God April, I can’t lose him, I just can’t lose him!!”
With April holding me, I gave in to the panic I’d been holding at bay. My heart felt like it was being pierced by a thousand knives. I couldn’t face losing my love, my life, the other half of my soul.
I screamed into April’s shoulder. I screamed out of fear that Joel was either dying or dead. I screamed in agony because my world was falling apart. I screamed at the injustice of it all.
April hugged me tightly and rubbed my back.
“He’s going to be OK honey; I just know it. God didn’t bring you two together in such a special way just to tear you apart so soon.”
I wished I could have believed her, but she didn’t hear the EMT’s field assessment. I finally quieted, just sobbing into April. I lifted my head and looked over and saw Billy Blake, Jimmy Lister, and Dewey Brown sitting on the ground, cuffed. They were surrounded by a phalanx of security guards who were there for crowd control for a concert that would never happen now.
I wanted to go over and wipe that drunken smirk off Billy’s face. I started in their direction, but April grabbed me and pulled me back.
“No casino siteleri Beth, you’ll only make matters worse. They’ll get what’s coming to them. Leave it alone.”
I stood there shivering with impotent rage. Suddenly pushing through the gathering crowd were officers from the Charlotte- Mecklenburg police force.
Assessing the situation as the officer in charge, I recognized Sgt. Vernon Davis from my law courses. He had taught us initial crime scene investigation.
He also recognized me, and seeing my distraught and dishevelled condition, blood on my face and down the front of my blouse, he asked:
“Beth? What happened? Are you all right?”
I said in a trembling voice:
“I’m not injured, this is Joel’s blood, but I’m not alright. Billy Blake and the rest of that scum over there tried to kill my boyfriend. They’ve beaten him nearly to death! Please, Vern, don’t let them get away with it!”
“Did you see them do it?” asked Vern.
“No, I just saw Joel on the ground with Billy and Dewey being pulled off by security.”
Vern called out to the security team:
“Anyone witness what happened?”
Two of the security guards came forward stating they heard Joel yelling for help and had come running through the back of the stage to witness the beating in progress.
When the police began taking statements, I lost all interest and turned back to the EMTs working on my precious Joel. He had been intubated and a bottle of oxygen was attached to the tube sticking out of his mouth.
Other paramedics had arrived and were working on getting a collar on him and strapping him onto a backboard. I felt sick to my stomach seeing him in this condition, yet helpless to do anything. I wanted so desperately to throw my arms around him and hold him forever. They lifted him up onto the gurney.
“We’re taking him to Novant” said one of the EMTs to me. I began walking beside them as they pushed him along.
Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Centre – I knew it well. My father had been a chaplain there for over 30 years.
“I’m riding with you,” I said with determination.
“Are you related?” Asked the EMT.
“I’m his fiancée” I lied in desperation.
“Yes, I can attest, I’m her maid of honor.” April spoke up.
“Good enough. But I’m warning you, ma’am, his injuries are very serious. I honestly don’t know if he’ll make it there.”
“Then I need to be with him either way” I said as tears began to flow anew.
“Go,” April said to me, “I’ll meet you there”
The ride to the hospital was terrifying. Twice the EMT had to shock Joel’s heart back into rhythm. I heard him calling it into Novant, requesting the full trauma team be activated. I held Joel’s hand as often as I could, imploring him to hang on and fight. I knew he probably couldn’t hear me, but I needed to do something.
An army of medical personnel was there to greet us. One of the trauma nurses recognized me as the old chaplain’s daughter.
“Beth, you OK? You’re bleeding. You know him?”
“He’s my fiancé Jackie. It’s his blood.” I said through my tears, but keeping up my deception.
“Oh, you poor thing! It’s OK, he’s in good hands now.”
As they wheeled Joel away, Jackie told me to go up up to the waiting room on the operating floor level. They had been prepping an OR in anticipation, based on the EMT’s field assessment.
“Beth, we’re going to take good care of him. You just pray like your daddy taught you!” Jackie yelled as she ran down the corridor.
Five hours later…
I’d been alternating between pacing the floor, and sitting, staring blankly at a wall. April had given up trying to keep pace with me, and just sat, typing away on her phone. Mandy, bless her soul, was also there. She was so enamoured by our love story; she was devastated when she heard what had happened. She sat there crying most of the time, but she just didn’t want to be anywhere else. I was cried out for the moment. I prayed constantly, imploring God to bring Joel through this, to bring him back to me, to alleviate his suffering.
April had brought me clean clothes and hygiene products, insisting I wash up and get Joel’s blood off me. At first, I resisted; I wanted to keep this part of him with me, in case I lost him tonight. April was adamant however, saying that my ‘fiancé’ was going güvenilir casino to pull through, because she wasn’t about to be denied being my maid of honour. I smiled weakly at her attempt at a jest. I just had no mirth left in me.
We had only one update from the trauma team. After stabilizing Joel further, they ran him through a series of diagnostics and tests: ECG, EEG, MRI, x-Ray, etc. The news was grim. He had three completely shattered and two fractured ribs, the tip of one puncturing his left lung. He had a severe concussion, so much so, they had to drill a hole into his skull to relieve the pressure. He had a fractured right orbital socket. They suspected some kind kidney damage from one of the kicks he received. Overall, he had experienced such trauma, his body was in shock and trying to shut down.
Multiple surgical specialists were now operating on him, either simultaneously or in sequence: thoracic, neurology, orthopaedics, plastics. They would not provide any prognosis, but I could tell from the expression of the doctor who gave me the update, they were not hopeful.
I was numb beyond words. The Mayor of Charlotte had dropped by. She was going to attend our concert for the great cause it was supporting. The Mecklenburg District Attorney, her friend, had been with her. I was just too distraught to speak, so April, God bless her, ran interference for me. She told them of the background story of the two of us, how Joel had almost immediately launched into charitable works in the community, including tonight’s concert.
Both officials were taken by the compelling love story and Joel’s acceptance into our community. They were very concerned over the negative impact it was going to have on the people of Charlotte. April implored them to not let Billy and gang get away with anything, just because Billy’s father, Peter Blake was wealthy and influential. The DA assured April that they would be charged and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Both of then were horrified and outraged at this senseless act of violence.
I barely heard the conversation. April had to fill me in later. I could only continue pacing, my mind playing over and over the images of my battered Joel. The wait was torture, but every passing minute I hoped was a good sign that he was still fighting.
My thoughts were far-ranging, but all about Joel. I wandered through memories of our times together, both online and in the short time we had been together in person. I was drawn to him almost immediately on Facebook, and when he began to message me, I enjoyed our conversations very much. He was so kind, polite and supportive to me. But when I realized I was developing feelings for him, I got scared and ghosted him. That’s something I still regret. April finally got me to seek the help of a therapist to face my feelings, rather than run away from them.
Since his arrival, he was still all of these things, and to top it off, he was so incredibly romantic. He cooked dinner for me several times, always with candles, flowers, wine and soft jazz playing in the background. He always knew how to make easy conversation and constantly looked at me with adoring eyes. How could I not love and eat up every second of it?
As if that wasn’t enough, he was the consummate gentleman, always holding doors open for me, making me first in all things. I couldn’t help but to continue falling so incredibly deeper in love with him.
I think first began to fall in love with him when I heard him sing “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables. What a voice he has! I thought about how he sings with such deep passion, the same passion he brings to all aspects of life, especially to our love making.
Of course my thoughts wandered to our lovemaking. He treats me like a goddess in bed. His only concern is for my pleasure. I’ve had more earth-shattering orgasms in the past week than in my entire life combined. In fact, I didn’t really know what a real orgasm was until I met this amazing man. Just thinking about his talented lips and tongue between my thighs started getting me wet.
Ruefully, I shook my head, ‘Not now Beth! He’s lying on an operating table and all you can think of is sex. Get it together!’
Yet, somehow, I believed that this is exactly what he would have wanted me to think, to keep me from worrying so.
April interrupted canlı casino my train of thought when she suddenly cried out:
“Holy fuck! Beth, take a look at this!” holding up her phone to me.
“Just tell me what it is,” I replied wearily
“The whole incident is out on social media. There’re pictures of Joel lying on the ground in your arms, and you giving him mouth-to-mouth. There’re pictures of those fucksticks in handcuffs, with their names splayed across their photos. Let Billy Blake try and buy his way out of this one! There are photos of you covered in Joel’s blood. It’s gone viral. People everywhere are outraged. Some are saying Joel’s already dead! Some are calling for the death penalty.”
April ran out of breath in her excitement.
“Well, we know he’s not dead and he’s NOT going to die, which means the most they can charge them with is attempted murder. And, while it’s nice we have so much support, it’s just going to be that much harder to select an impartial jury.” I said woodenly.
“Oh yeah, right. Sorry sweetie, I was just so excited to see so many people on our side.” April replied, somewhat chagrined.
Dr. Allan Westlake, the hospital’s Medical Director and a good friend of my father came into the waiting room in his scrubs.
“Hi Beth, I was personally supervising the team to coordinate the multiple surgeries. Your daddy called me after he heard, and begged me to come in. I couldn’t say no. Joel came through, although it was touch and go, we almost lost him a couple of times. I’ve seen bad car accident victims with less injuries than he sustained. Because of the brain swelling, we had to put him in a medically induced coma. We believe we’ve successfully repaired all the damage. He’s in remarkable shape for someone his age, and that’s a large reason he pulled through all that trauma and surgeries.”
I nearly fainted with relief. My beautiful man was going to make it! I silently thanked God for listening to me. Dr. Westlake continued.
“Beth, he’s not out of the woods yet. The next 72 hours will be critical to his survival. There’s only so much trauma a body can take, no matter what age it is. I don’t want you to get your hopes up just yet.”
I thought to myself:
‘I don’t care, as long as he’s still alive…there IS hope!’
Outwardly, I begged: “Can I please go see him now?”
“Normally I’d say it’s too soon, but after what your father said about the two of you, especially when he compared your relationship to his and Emily’s, I think it would do you both good being together. C’mon, I’ll take you to him.”
I said : “Just a second Dr. Westlake, you said my dad called you tonight. How did he know? I was so out of it, I forgot to call him.”
“I called him sweetie; I knew what kind of state you were in. I made a few more calls, telling the gang what happened!” said April
I turned and gave April a huge hug. “Thank you, April, I don’t know what I would have done without you! And you too Mandy, thank you so much for being here with me!” I hugged Mandy in turn.
I squared my shoulders “Now it’s my turn to tend to him. I know exactly what I have to do.”
I went with Dr. Westgate to the ICU, and when I saw my love, my heart quailed. He was on a ventilator, with almost his entire head swathed in dressings. He had so many lines hooked up to him, he resembled a cyborg in the making from a science fiction movie. I couldn’t see him under all that paraphernalia.
I vowed however, that I was not going to be hysterical, that I had to be strong for my wonderful man…this man who had come into my life and made it a song of joy.
Dr. Westlake said to me softly:
“The battle’s not over Beth. He still must fight. It’s up to him now.”
I said in a quiet but determined voice: “No, it’s up to us.”
He nodded, patted me on the shoulder and left.
I stared for a few minutes at the love of my life, and then grasped his hand as best I could with all that tubing.
I whispered to him: “I’m here and I’m not afraid anymore my precious love. I know you’ll come back to me. Our song is not yet finished, not by a long shot. I know what I must do now.”
Leaning closer to him I started singing. I would sing until I was hoarse and keep singing until I fell asleep. Then I would wake up and keep singing and singing and singing…until he awoke.
This was us, this was our eternal connection, we were DUO – Destined Unto One — one singer with two voices, and I knew he would hear me:
“The first time, ever I saw your face, I thought the sun rose in your eyes…”
Ostinato poco a poco…