Hope couldn’t get the memory of the first time Kelley was injured out of her mind, no matter how hard she tried. She remembered hovering just above the field, proudly watching Kelley play after getting her first high school varsity start. She couldn’t wait to see how much the extra practice Kelley had been putting in would pay off once she was finally allowed to shine. There were too many times, in Hope’s opinion, where Kelley’s light was dimmed because of people who couldn’t fully appreciate her skill and intelligence on the field. Hope knew better than to underestimate her soulmate, on or off the field.
So when Kelley went in fast and hard toward the goal, deftly outmaneuvering the other team’s defense, Hope couldn’t help but to be overjoyed at the level of skill and talent that her soulmate possessed. The coach had obviously wasted precious time not starting her in the first place. Hope couldn’t help but to smile with such pride and admiration.
Then, the world came crashing down on her in an instant. An outsmarted defender, desperately trying to stop Kelley before she got a shot off at such a close range, slammed into Kelley’s body from the back, twisting her ankle in an unnatural position. Hope swore that they would be able to hear the loud snap that ensued from the beyond. Hope was simultaneously livid and desperately concerned for Kelley’s safety. When she heard the young woman’s cry of absolute pain, she wanted nothing more than to shed her guardian form and offer the clumsy defender a lot more than just a few choice words of disapproval. She wanted the girl’s head. Instead, all she was able to offer her soulmate was the calming nature of her presence. That night, Hope was frustrated beyond belief.
Now that Hope had the opportunity to comfort Kelley in a real, physical way, she was anxious to do so. She knew that Kelley wanted to see her body, even in the damaged state it was in, so that they could try to understand what needed to be done as quickly as possible. But she knew that what Kelley would find would most likely not bring her peace. In fact, Hope didn’t think it would bring anything but pain and sorrow. Still, she knew that this was a necessary part of the process, so she followed Kelley willingly into the hospital. She would follow Kelley down to the hot fires of Hades if Kelley just asked.
Hope tried to take her mind off of the way that Kelley’s touch burned into her skin, like she was being branded as hers. She tried to ignore the way that almost all she could think about in that moment was not trying to return her soulmate to her human form, but to tug on Kelley’s hand, spin her around and pull her closely into her body. She tried to ignore the way that she missed the smaller girl’s body against hers when they were airbone, because at that moment Kelley didn’t need a lover, she needed someone to protect her. And since Hope could finally do what she’d wanted to do for so long, to tend to whatever Kelley needed, she pushed her own personal desires down so that they could concentrate on the task at hand.
But that didn’t mean that she didn’t feel it.
That didn’t mean she didn’t notice when Kelley had gripped her body tighter in the mid-flight, her nose tickling Hope’s neck as she nuzzled closer. That didn’t mean that the closeness, the nearness of her soulmate, didn’t drive her body in to absolute overdrive. If the situation was different, if they weren’t being pursued by the evil ones, even at this very second, Hope would have done things a little differently. She would have searched Kelley’s eyes for confirmation that what she was feeling, what they shared, was okay with the younger girl. And they she wouldn’t have hesitated when she pulled Kelley’s body closer, tilted her chin up and united their mouths together finally. It was a moment that Hope had longed for: her soulmate’s kiss.
But she knew that now was not the time to be thinking about how soft Kelley’s lips looked. How her soulmate’s eyes had flickered down from her eyes to her lips, then back up earlier that day. How Kelley seemed to breathe Hope’s scent in when she was tucked in close to her. Now was the time to worry about the state of Kelley’s body. Now was the time to worry about when the evil ones showed up, attempting to possess Kelley’s body to enter the human world. Now was the time to fight for Kelley.
Hope lead Kelley up the stairs to the fifth floor of the hospital, where her human form was resting in a room down the hall. Hope looked at Kelley’s face, trying to spot any hesitation, before she stopped Kelley outside of a room.
Kelley seemed to sense that her human form was near. “I’m in there, aren’t I?”
Hope nodded in confirmation. “And my family, they’re in there, too?”
“Yes, Kelley, they are,” Hope said gently. She wanted nothing more than to take her soulmate’s fear and anxiousness away. What Hope wouldn’t give to have the situations reversed, to be the one in danger instead, so that her soulmate would remain protected. What Hope wouldn’t give to take Kelley away from all of this.
“Okay.” Kelley took in a deep breath, steeling herself for the scene she was about to take in. “I think I’m ready to go in. Well, as ready as I can ever hope to be.” Kelley gave a weak laugh at herself at using Hope’s name in a sentence.
Hope tried, but failed, to mask her pain behind a small chuckle at Kelley. Once again, she looked at her soulmate in admiration for her ability to stay so calm in such a difficult situation. Kelley picked up on Hope’s unease in an instant, reaching out and touching Hope’s face gently.
“Hey,” Kelley said stroking her thumb over Hope’s cheek, “I know this isn’t easy, Hope. But I’m trying to understand everything right now. And I can’t do that unless I know what’s wrong with me. I can’t figure anything out until I’m in there. I know that nothing can prepare me fully for what I’m about to see, but I feel so much better because I know that you’re with me. I trust you.”
Hope’s heart swelled with love for Kelley. There was no doubt that she was hopelessly, irrevocably in love with the freckled-face girl standing in front of her.
Hope nodded at Kelley to show her that she understood, unable to form a coherent sentence because at that moment, at that very moment, Kelley was touching her in a way that she had always reserved for her closest friends and family members. Kelley never touched anyone with so much tenderness unless they were important to her. Hope could do nothing to respond to her. Instead, she took the steel handle of the door knob and turned it. She paused for a second, and then led Kelley across the threshold.
Kelley had always hated hospital rooms. Being in one almost never signified anything good. Aside from the birth of her niece, hospital rooms held all of her worst pain. The damaged part of her soul was housed here, in a room just like the one she was standing in, in the deepest part of her. She wasn’t prepared to be here.
Standing in the doorway, unable to move any closer to the body lying motionless, save for assisted breaths that were allowing the body to breathe, Kelley remained frozen. If it weren’t for Hope’s hand, holding her firmly in place, Kelley would have turned on her heel and sprinted out the door without a glance over her shoulder.
Hope’s presence next to her calmed her. It made her feel strong, finding previously undiscovered and untapped reserves of strength. Kelley wasn’t sure if the strength came from herself, or in the feeling of her hand in Hope’s. If it weren’t for her shell of a body lying in the bed at the end of the room, Kelley would have felt indestructible.
“Kelley?” Hope’s low voice broke into the thoughts running through Kelley’s mind. Her feet still firmly planted in the doorway, Kelley’s head turned slightly, a sign to acknowledged that she knew that Hope had spoken. Her eyes still remained locked on the figure in the bed.
Just then, an older woman in a white coat came striding in through the door where they stood, effectively breaking Kelley’s trance. Kelley took in the scene around the room for the first time. Instantly, she found her father’s soft eyes, who were looking intently at the doctor. His eyes, usually warm and friendly, were red and puffy from trying to hold back tears. Her mother stood next to her father. With the exception of the tear marks streaming down her face, their expressions were the same.
“Mr. and Mrs. O’Hara, my name is Dr. Ellis. I administered care to your daughter when she first arrived here at the hospital. She’s a fighter.” Dr. Ellis paused for a second in order to allow her patient’s parents to absorb the information before continuing.
“Your daughter sustained a number of life-threatening injuries and she lost a lot of blood. We performed multiple surgeries in order to repair what we could at this time. The left side of her body sustained most of her injuries. Those include a shattered femur, a broken tibia and various fractures in her arm. All of the ribs on her left side were also broken. From the impact, she also sustained a few internal injuries. We were able to clear most of the bleeding from her traumatic brain injury. Your daughter is currently in a medically induced coma to allow the swelling in her brain to come down. We won’t know the extent of her brain injuries until she is able to wake up. Right now, we expect her to keep her in this state for the next 48 hours and then re-evaluate. Do you have any questions for me at the moment?”
Kelley could see that her parents were still in shock. They couldn’t really wrap their mind around what had happened to their daughter. Seeing they were unable to form any type of sentence, Dr. Ellis continued. “Okay, I’ll be in to check on your daughter in a few hours. You are welcome to ask me any questions at that time. Your daughter is doing very well for the state she was brought in and I hope that she will continue on a good path to recovery.”
With that, Dr. Ellis turned and swiftly walked out of the room. As soon as the door clicked shut and the sound of the doctor’s boots faded down the hallway, Kelley’s father broke down and cried.