is a fictional story which contains scenes depicting sexual acts. All the
normal legal warnings apply.
all those who are reading this story on Nifty I encourage you to visit
their home page ( www.nifty.org
The Intensive Care ward of
the Macquarie Harbour Hospital was much like I expected it. Sterile. Cold.
Smelling of disinfectant. Lots of machines going 'beep... beep... beep...'.
Nurses and doctors rushing here and there. Anxious family members fearful of
what is happening with their loved ones. Then add to that the occasional
sound of crying or wailing.
When I first came here two
weeks ago, following Ben's accident, it was a very scary place. Now it's
almost like a second home, but not a home that I really want to live in, let
me tell you.
Everything that has
happened from that day to this has been something of a blur.
First there was the news
that Cye's old boat was overdue and that there hadn't been any contact with
them for several hours. I remember getting a call from Scott, then rushing
down to the wharves with both Luke and Tim where we met up with him. A short
while later Guy joined us as well and the five of us ended up waiting there
for the remainder of the day, Scott telling us that everything would be
okay, Tim and I desperately clinging to each other, just hoping and praying
that everything was okay.
When the wild and wet day
turned into a miserable and even wilder night, and there was still no word,
I think that was when we all started fearing the worst. I thank God that
Scott was there with us though. He was, and has continued to be, a real
tower of strength for us all.
We spent a sleepless night
huddled around a heater in an office built into one of the boatsheds beside
the wharves, then when sunrise came at least it brought with it some calmer
weather, however there was still no word on the fate of 'The Wanderer' and
her crew. The State Emergency Services clicked into gear and started a
search, sending out a plane to scan the oceans, while most of the other boat
owners also joined in to help.
While this was happening
all we could do was to wait. We drank coffee. We paced up and down the
wharf. We prayed.
Eventually, around mid way
through the morning, we received some good news though with the boat having
been spotted some distance east of the harbour and making her way under her
own steam, although travelling very slowly. The searchers were still unable
to make contact by radio however, so it would be a little while yet before
we would know if everyone was all right or find out what had happened.
The relief at hearing this
was unlike anything I had ever felt before in my entire life, but I still
knew that until I could actually talk to Ben and know that he and the others
were all okay then I wouldn't be totally satisfied.
As the day dragged on and
morning turned to afternoon some more news finally started to filter
through. It was taking forever for Cye and our boys to cover those last
miles but one of the other boats had managed to come up along side 'The
Wanderer' and the crew were able to talk to our boys, yelling questions and
answers across the waves to each other, then relaying those messages to the
other searchers. They managed to find out that there had apparently been an
accident of some sort, although the details we were given were sketchy at
best. The one thing that was certain though was that one of the crew members
was severely injured, but they couldn't - or wouldn't - say who it was, so
once more the rest of us were plunged into a fearful waiting game, made even
worse a short time later when an ambulance arrived at the wharves, standing
by for their arrival.
`I hope that whatever it
is it isn't too serious,' I remember Tim saying.
`I'm sure they'll all be
fine,' Scott said, trying to reassure us, though I was certain that he was
just as concerned as the rest of us were and suspect that he was trying to
reassure himself just as much as any of us.
By about this time word
had spread that 'The Wanderer' had been found and was on its way back into
the harbour, so a sizeable crowd had started to gather. Quite a large number
of people were lining the breakwall and scanning the horizon for the first
sign of the boat and her crew, the public's morbid fascination about
accidents and injuries no doubt being the catalyst for their actions.
When eventually they were
spotted, a mere speck on the distant horizon, with dark smoke spewing out
behind them in a great cloud, a cheer soon went up, sending us all running
for the end of the breakwall to get as good a look as we could.
It would be a couple of
hours more before we would see the boat come past us where we stood on the
breakwall however, almost close enough for us to touch her, and we would
find out who it was who was injured. We could see Cye in the wheelhouse,
looking even more haggard than we had ever seen him before, while Ben,
Justin and Matt were nowhere to be seen. We could also see that there was
some damage to the boat, a smashed window, a boom half hanging down, almost
dragging in the water, aerials broken, so it was obvious that something had
happened; we just couldn't be sure what though.
We were all looking at
each other, lost and dazed and confused, not quite knowing what to think,
when Matt emerged from below decks and gave us a wave. There were no smiles
or shouts. And there was still no sign of Justin or Ben.
`Are you all right?'
Luke called out to him, struggling to be heard over the noise of the engine,
which didn't sound healthy at all.
`Yeah, I'm fine,' he
`What about the others?
Where are they?' Tim asked.
`Below decks,' Matt
called back. `Ben has been hurt.'
My heart was in my mouth.
I grabbed hold of Scott's arm and held on for dear life.
`I'm sure he'll be all
right,' Scott said to me, putting his arm around me and giving me a hug.
`I'd like to believe
you,' I said to him.
Cye brought the boat into
the safe harbour behind the breakwall and manoeuvred her into position
alongside the wharf. Matt ran forward and threw a line to a man on the
wharf, who secured it around a post, then went to the back of the boat and
threw another line to someone else who then did the same.
I made a move to go
onboard to go and see Ben, but Scott held me back.
`Just let them do their
job,' he said to me, nodding toward the ambulance officers who were
boarding the boat just as soon as she had berthed. We watched as Matt lead
them below decks to where Justin and Ben were, while another officer went
straight to Cye, who seemed to have collapsed onto a seat in the wheelhouse,
looking more than just exhausted.
A few minutes later Matt
emerged from below the decks, jumped over the boats railing and landed on
the wharf, then came over to where we were all standing. He gave Luke a hug
and a kiss, with gasps quickly coming from the gathered crowd. Then he
`How's Ben?' I asked
him. `What happened out there? And what's happening now?'
`We were hit by a freak
wave. Ben got knocked out when he fell and hasn't woken up yet,' he
I gasped, fearing what
injuries he might have.
`The ambulance guys are
checking him over and will bring him out soon. Justin's OK,' he said to
Scott, `he's just staying with Ben for a bit.'
Scott nodded to him.
`We were out near Kings
Island when the motor gave out. The weather was really shitty and the sea
was bloody rough. While Cye and me were in the engine room working on the
motor, with the hatch open above us, Justin and Ben were looking down and
watching us and passing tools down or whatever,' Matt said.
`We got hit broadside by
this huge freak wave and it knocked both of them from their feet. Justin
managed to grab the nets that were hanging right beside them and hang on,
but Ben fell forward into the engine bay where me and Cye were and hit his
head on part of the engine. He's been out to it ever since, though
thankfully he's been breathing okay.
`We couldn't leave him
in there, we had to take the risk and move him, so we made a bit of a
stretcher out of a bunk and got him through the door into the galley.
Justin's been with him ever since and keeping a close eye on him. When we
got hit by the wave it also somehow broke the boom and it swung around and
smashed the windows and radio aerials too, so we had no way of
communicating. None of us have ever thought to take a phone out with us.'
`Well, at least you got
the motor going again,' Tim said.
`Yeah, eventually. But
it was touch and go there for a while. We were drifting toward rocks on the
island and thought we might end up smashed to pieces on those.'
`What about old Cye? He
looks buggered,' Scott asked. We all looked across at where he was
sitting, with the ambulance officer still talking to him.
`He's just shattered. I
haven't ever seen him like this. He thinks the motor is pretty much stuffed
now. Reckons he might not even bother getting it fixed, doesn't think he can
afford it. So I don't know what will happen now.'
It was just then that a
Police office came over and asked to speak to Matt, so he went off with him,
then a few minutes later there was some activity on the boat as they started
to bring Ben out, secured to a stretcher and being handled with kid-gloves.
Pulling away from Scott I
rushed over to see him, with the guys all coming in my wake. As we waited at
the edge of the wharf they brought him ashore, still unconscious. Pretty
much all I could see was an unruly mop of brown hair sticking out the top of
everything, an oxygen mask covering his face, his neck in a brace, his body
completely covered with one of those silver metallic emergency blankets,
making him look like a spaceman. I had never seen anyone in such a state and
it really gave me a fright.
Turning around, unable to
cope with seeing Ben like this, I looked away, burying my head into the
chest of the person closest to me, who happened to be Luke. He hugged me
close, while I sobbed.
`Sshhhh.' he was
saying. `He's going to be all right.'
`How can you possibly
say that?' I sobbed.
I wasn't angry with him
for saying it. It was just... just that I was scared. I didn't know what was
going to happen. He just hugged me tighter.
As they carried Ben to the waiting ambulance I pulled away from Luke and followed them, then as they were loading him in I asked, `Can I travel with him, please?'
The ambulance officer who
appeared to be in charge looked me up and down and asked, `Are you his
`We... we live
together,' I answered.
After a moments hesitation
he nodded and helped me up into the back of the ambulance.
By this time Justin had
come over and joined us, with he and Scott embracing and giving each other a
kiss, much to the amazement of the gathered crowd. If there was anyone in
the town who didn't know about Scott and Justin, or about any of our guys
for that matter, it was bound to be public knowledge by nightfall. I just
hoped that they were ready for how the community might react to that news,
though just at the moment I had other things to worry about.
`We'll follow you into
town,' Tim said to me just before the ambulance doors closed. All I could
do was offer a sad smile and mouth the words `thank you' to him before
the engine was started and a deafening siren was switched on, drowning out
all other sounds.
As the ambulance moved off
into the gloom I could see our friends standing in a group watching us,
their faces lighting up red with each flash of the lights, and growing
smaller and smaller the further we drove away.
So, as I've already
mentioned, when I first arrived at the Macquarie Harbour Hospital it was a
very scary place.
When we pulled up outside
the emergency department people came running out to meet the ambulance and
Ben was whisked away to be poked and prodded and scanned and x-rayed and to
do whatever else they needed to do. I was told I would have to `wait
outside' while he was examined, and just like that I was shut out. All of
a sudden I was alone. And I was frightened.
Thankfully it was only a
few minutes later when Tim and Guy showed up, with Matt and Luke in tow,
then Scott and Justin came through the doors shortly after that. Matt and
Justin still dressed in their grubby work clothes, stinking of fish and oil
and quite clearly causing offence to some of the nurses and others in the
waiting rooms; not that any of us cared about that.
`Have they told you
anything yet?' Scott asked as soon as he came to me. I could only shake my
head, tears very close to the surface and in danger of being let loose any
second now. I was trying to be strong, trying to tough it out, but I
wasn't sure how long I could keep that up for.
`I'll go and see if I
can find out anything,' Scott said, then went off in search of answers
while the rest of us waited. And waited. And waited.
While Scott was away the
rest of us sat around in silence in the drab waiting room, looking at each
other, looking at the community health posters stuck to the walls, some of
which were faded and with their corners starting to turn upwards, or
downwards, as the case may be. There were a few other people in the waiting
room, a woman with a teenage son who had an injured arm, and another elderly
couple, but just like us, they were pretty much keeping to themselves. We
could hear people hurrying along passageways, wheeling trolleys, talking in
hushed tones, going about their work. And all the while we continued to
It was Tim who was first
to eventually break the silence.
`Holy shit!' he said
quietly, but with some force. `Has anyone thought to ring his parents?'
I looked up at him to find
him looking directly at me, before then turning to Guy. Blank expressions
`I guess I'd better do
it,' he said after a moments thought. `It'll be best coming from me I
He got up and pulled his
mobile phone from his pocket and as he headed outside he started punching
the numbers. He passed through the sliding glass doors and they closed
behind him. We couldn't hear what he was saying, but I could easily
imagine the reaction from the other end. If it was anything like my own it
would be quite upsetting for them.
Eventually he disconnected
and made his way back inside, looking rather grim.
`Spoke to his dad,' he
told us. `He was upset, but took it pretty well really. He thanked me for
calling them. Ben's mum is out somewhere. He's going to go and pick her
up right now and they'll come straight down. It's quite a few hours
drive, so they won't get here until later tonight.'
`Thank you,' I said to
Tim as he sat back down beside me, giving his hand a squeeze.
`You're welcome,' he
replied. `Ben and I go back a long way, so he means almost as much to me
as he does to you.'
`I know,' I responded,
Just then we heard foot
steps coming down the corridor and looked up to see Scott arriving back,
complete with a doctor in tow, with both wearing rather grave expressions.
`Scott has advised me of
the situation here and Ben's relationship with you,' he said to me,
`so even though you aren't technically his next-of-kin I think it will
be all right for me to tell you what his status is.'
`Thank you,' I said to
`Has anyone contacted
his parents yet?'
`Yes, I have,' Tim
answered. `They're on their way.'
`Ahhh, that's good then. It appears that there is quite a bit of swelling to the brain, as a result of his hitting his head,' the doctor said, getting straight to the point, `so it won't really be possible to get a good idea of what is happening, and if there is any lasting damage, until that subsides.
I nodded, but wasn't too
sure if I fully understood.
`The good news is that
there are no fractures to the skull or the neck, he's breathing on his own
and there doesn't appear to be any other lasting injuries apart from the
bump to the head. I can't say for certain that there won't be some sort
of damage, but all being well he should recover fully, given enough time.'
`Damage?' I asked.
`You mean, as in brain damage?'
`And how much time are
we talking about?' Tim asked.
`That's hard to
say,' he answered. `It could be days, or even weeks before the swelling
goes down, then after that we can assess him further.'
`He will wake up
though?' I asked.
`There are no guarantees
as to what will happen, but yes, based on similar injuries I've seen
before, I do believe he will wake up and that he'll make a full
It wasn't exactly an
ironclad guarantee, but at least there was hope. I guess that's all I can
`How long will it be
until his parents arrive?' he then asked.
`Later tonight,' Tim
answered. `It's about a five or six hour drive from where they live.'
`I see. Well, if I'm
not still here the staff can call me when they arrive if they need to.
I'll let them know. And if you have any other questions don't hesitate
to ask, all right?'
`Thank you, doctor,' I
answered. `Can we see him?'
`Of course,' he
replied. `But, just don't expect too much, okay?'
The group of us all
followed him down the corridor and through some glass doors with EMERGENCY
DEPARTMENT written in bold red letters across them.
We passed a reception
counter and nurses station then found there were a number of cubicles along
one wall, each with curtains across the front of them, some of which were
open, while a few of them were drawn. We stopped at one of these drawn
curtains and the doctor pulled it back to reveal a near naked Ben laying
there, a sheet draped over his waist and legs being all that covered him.
Ben had tubes going into
him in places, with a drip feeding into his arm, an oxygen mask on his face,
monitors attached to him and machines going beep...beep...beep...
Beside his bed were
several trolleys and on one wall, just above his head and to one side, was a
light box with several x-rays on display. Head x-rays.
My initial reaction was
one of deep shock, seeing him there looking so helpless while hooked up to
so many machines. But he also looked so peaceful laying there, his hair
sticking out this way and that, his breathing steady, his chest rising and
falling evenly with each breath he took.
I stepped forward and
stood by his bed, while the others stayed back near the curtain. Taking one
of his hands in mine I brought it up to my cheek and just held it there. I
wanted to cry. Hell, I wanted to cry out. I wanted to tell him I loved him.
That I wanted him to come back to me... to us all, really... I wanted him to
know that we were all here for him.
The doctor left us there
with Ben, with the nurses periodically coming and going, taking readings and
writing stuff on his chart and generally keeping an eye on things. After
about half an hour the doctor came back and stood beside the drawn back
`They have a bed ready
for Ben in the Intensive Care ward now, so we're going to move him to that
ward in a few minutes. We will keep a very close eye on Ben there, for the
next couple of days at least, then after that we will assess his condition
again and see what the best options for his care might be,' the doctor
said to us.
`All right,' I said to
`He'll be in the best
of care,' Scott said to me. He was standing directly behind me, one hand
on each shoulder, listening to what the doctor was saying.
`Yes. I know,' I
replied. `Thank you. Thank you to everyone.'
It was two weeks before
there was any sign of improvement in Ben. Two weeks during which he had been
laying there like a vegetable, without the slightest sign of anything
The machines kept up their
infernal beeping sound. The disgusting disinfectant smell of the hospital
that had made me so nauseous to start with soon became normal. Everything
that had scared me to start with now wasn't quite so scary any more.
But they were also the
hardest two weeks of my life as I watched him every day, motionless,
helpless, and there wasn't a damned thing that I, or anybody else, could
The doctors kept telling
us all that this was normal. They also told us that they could see the
swelling going down and that we would know soon enough what the future would
I kept asking them when.
They kept telling me soon. And still we waited.
On the plus side at least
I got to know Ben's parents, Tom and Elaine, a lot better, and for the
first time in a long time I was starting to feel like I was a part of a
family again. Don't get me wrong, I mean Tim and Guy and Matt and Luke,
who Ben and I shared the house with, were as much family to me as anyone,
but what I'm talking about is a real family, with a mum and a dad and
brothers and sisters. It was something that I had really missed since my own
parents had spilt up and as I got to know them all just that little bit
better I finally started feeling like this was a family to which I could
That in itself however,
soon triggered more anxiety, when the doctors told us that when Ben did wake
up there would be every chance that he would have no memory of any of us.
What if he didn't know who I was? What if he didn't know who his family
was? What if he never remembered us? What then?
I didn't know if I would
be able to cope with that. I feared that losing him, then getting him back,
only to lose him all over again would be just too much to deal with.
I spent hours talking to
Tom and Elaine, hearing all their stories about Ben's childhood, and
hearing a few about Tim as well. The two of them were inseparable as kids.
And things weren't really that much different now.
Then came the day,
finally, that we had all been waiting for. The day that Ben finally opened
his eyes and came back to us, or if not to us, at least back to the land of
I had been taking the
morning shift, while Ben's parents were taking the afternoon shift. We
were taking turns at sitting with him in hopes that something, anything,
might happen, while still giving us all some time to do all the other things
that needed to be done in life. It had only taken us a few days to drop into
this new routine, and I have to say that I was grateful that they were here,
not only for the fact that somehow their being here helped to share the
burden of dealing with this all alone, but also for the fact I was getting
to know them better. At least now I was no longer considered the older woman
who had stolen their son away from them.
One night I had ended up
falling asleep on a chair in Ben's room. I dreamt of those things that
were now constants in my life; the hospital machines, faces covered with
surgical masks and the pungent smell of disinfectant.
When morning came I awoke
with a start, just as the doctors and nurses were about to wheel Ben away
into some dark room, away from me, away from his family and friends, and
never to be seen again. Of that I was sure.
With sunlight streaming
into the room and with a blanket draped across me (it must have come from
one of the nurses I think) I yawned and stretched and rubbed the sleep from
my eyes. Looking across toward Ben's bed I found him sitting up and
looking straight at me, a confused expression covering his face.
`Hey. You're finally
awake!' I said to him, jumping to my feet and going to his bedside.
`Hey,' he managed to
croak back at me, but by the sound of it he could barely manage that.
Leaning over him I kissed
him on the lips, then picked up a cord that was hanging from the frame of
the bed and pressed the red button on the end of it. Somewhere off in the
distance I heard a buzzer going off.
`They said you would
come around soon, once the swelling inside your head went down. That's what
they were waiting for.'
`They?' he croaked
again. I picked up his hand and held it.
`The doctors of
Moments later in rushed a
nurse, apparently in response to the buzzer that had been pressed.
`He's awake!' she
I thought for a second
about asking her if she graduated at the top of her class. By the look on
Ben's face I think he was thinking the exact same thing. He did manage
something of a grunt, receiving a rather patronising smile as the nurse
poked and prodded and wrote stuff down on a chart, before proceeding to
fluff his pillows, waving her ample bosom in his face as she did so.
While this was happening I
continually held Ben's hand. I didn't want to let him go
`What happened?' Ben
asked, after the nurse had left.
`You've been in an
`Two weeks ago.'
Next came the killer
questions. The ones the doctors warned us to be ready for. The ones I was
dreading he would ask.
`Who are you? And who am
Hearing that for the first
time was painful, hitting me full on, like a punch in the stomach. I had
thought that I had prepared myself for that to happen, but I guess until it
does happen to you, you can't really know what to expect.
Then, as if he sensed my
disappointment he said, `I'm sorry. I hope I haven't hurt your
feelings. I'd really hate to upset someone as pretty as you!'
`Well, at least it
doesn't look like you've changed much,' I said to him, smiling. `The
old Ben was just as big a flirt as you obviously are. Maybe you haven't
lost all of your memory after all?'
To that he just smiled.
And it was a smile that lit up the room.
`So, my name is Ben?'
`Yes. And my name is
Samantha,' I replied.
`Walker. Ben Walker. And
we've been together for a couple of years now.'
Just then the doctor came
in, followed closely by the nurse who had responded to the buzzer a few
`I see you two have met
then!' the doctor remarked.
I gave Ben's hand a little squeeze. He didn't squeeze back though. The old Ben would have squeezed my hand back. Instead he simply looked up at me, as if studying me, before finally giving me the faintest of smiles.
`Perhaps we should give
Ben's parents a call? I'm sure they'll be keen to hear the good
news,' the doctor said.
`I have parents too?'
Ben quickly blurted out.
`Yes Ben, most of us
do,' I offered. `And they've also been here every day waiting for you
to wake up.'
The doctor gave a nod to
the nurse and she hurried off, presumably to make the call that would bring
Tom and Elaine running.
`So, what now?' I
asked the doctor. `Where do we go from here?'
EDited by Ed
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