Excerpts from the personal diary of Ellie Duberry Sprague
2 beds, 1 bath
Built in 1923
1,040 sq. ft.
Cozy living at its best and turn-key ready, this is a well-maintained home with longtime owner. Good sized living room and dining room, open floorplan. Original woodwork and hardwood parquet flooring throughout. Two nice sized bedrooms with large closets. Kitchen has all appliances and lots of lower cabinets for storage. Original tile bathroom with nice vanity. An extra room with a separate entrance in the back could be used as a tool room or hobby area. Attached 2-stall garage with laundry space. Hurry, this one won’t sit for long!”
As I drank my orange juice, I put the newspaper down on the table next to me. The ad was right about one thing, this little house would be snapped up within days and may already have offers pending. In Fortress Rock, real estate moved quickly, so if you didn’t pounce immediately, you would miss out. It wasn’t very close to the Capitol which was a drawback since I worked at the Off-White House with Rosetta.
If I wanted a new start, though, I would have to take what I could get even if it meant moving across the bridge to the Colony Hill neighborhood. If I moved here, I would also have to buy a car. Holden and I didn’t have any savings to speak of so you can imagine my surprise when Rosetta handed me the check for his half of the brownstone. I had no idea it was worth that much but I should have guessed since it was situated in the Historic District and was a short train ride to the Capitol.
Resting my hand on my swollen belly, I murmured more for myself than the unborn child, “We’ll be fine. I’ll make sure of it.”
This was something I could turn into a positive and, I needed a positive in my life right now more than ever. Staring down at my plate of toast, my stomach turned. Holding everything together hadn’t been easy in the least. I thought I was all cried out yet whenever I thought about how long it had been since I felt Holden’s strong arms around me, tears automatically sprang to my eyes.
I could still remember that day in the hospital, every detail as if it was happening now. The waiting room was blindingly white, the intrusive smell of antiseptic and urine in the air, the faint noise from the television playing some kind of western. A man and woman were seated on one of the sofas, the woman wretching and vomiting into a plastic basin as the man complained loudly about how long they’d been left to wait.
As my stomach flip-flopped, I focused on what I remembered since Rosetta and the paramedics had shown up at the cottage.
I had ridden with Holden in the ambulance from the Christmas Cottage, Rosetta followed us in her car. During the treacherous ride across icy roads, I did as the paramedics said, staying out of the way, staring at him as he barely clung to life, my fingers and hands sticky with his blood. They poked him with needles in order to give him intravenous fluids, put some kind of oxygen mask over his nose and mouth, and examined the wounds to his head. I heard one of them say something about medications to reduce brain swelling and then my mind drifted elsewhere.
Memories of Holden courting and wooing me, our wedding, happy days on our honeymoon as we took long walks and built a snowman. These were the thoughts floating through my numbed brain. Had that really only been a day ago that we were still enjoying ourselves without a care?
After we arrived at the emergency department, Holden was whisked away on his gurney before I could even kiss him or tell him I was still here. I watched for as long as I could as the paramedics and medical staff, running alongside the stretcher, shouted at each other about what had been done. I didn’t understand any of it.
And then, they were gone. Two large metal doors closed behind them and it was clear I could not follow any further. I don’t know how long I stood there like that in the silent hallway before I realized Rosetta’s hands were on my shoulders and she was guiding me to the waiting room. She was talking to me, I could hear her voice, but I couldn’t understand anything she was saying.
A while later, a nurse came to us to let us know Holden had been rushed straight to surgery because of the brain swelling. Rosetta fired question after question at her but she didn’t have many answers. He was in critical condition, and no, she didn’t know how long the operation would take, she didn’t know when we’d be able to see him, she didn’t know what his prognosis was. Instead of answers, she encouraged us to go to a hotel so we could get cleaned up and then to come back.
I didn’t want to leave and I don’t think Rosetta really wanted to either but she reasoned we couldn’t sit around like that all night. If she was looking to me to make any decisions, she had looked in the wrong place. I was only partly aware that she was escorting me toward the exit the same way she had brought me to the waiting room.
As we went outside, the chill in the air seemed to revive me a little and I was able to walk to the car with her. She agreed with me that we wouldn’t take long. And so, after we were showered and dressed, we returned. All we knew then was, he was still in surgery.
“You’re here!” Rosetta exclaimed, running into her parents’ arms as they joined us. “He’s in surgery but other than that, we do not know anything.”
Marty wiped her eyes with a ragged looking tissue she was carrying in her fist and nodded. “Oh, Ellie, are you and the baby all right?”
The tenderness in her voice reminded me of Holden so much that I began to cry.
Immediately, Marty hugged me, rubbing my back just as my own mother would have if she were here. “Oh, darling, you poor thing.”
Xalen stood by quietly, his eyes darting toward the door from time to time and I supposed it was the surgeon he was anxiously looking for.
As Marty and Xalen listened, Rosetta told them everything she knew about the events that had placed us here.
“Do you have any idea who would do this?” Xalen asked me point blank.
I shook my head. “I can’t imagine anyone we know doing this. Everyone loves Holden.”
Rosetta’s eyes narrowed. “Not everyone.”
“What are you thinking?” Marty asked her.
“This was no accident. Whoever is responsible for this is going to pay dearly. I know people.”
“Goodness sakes, Rosetta!” Marty gasped.
“Let’s not think of that now,” Xalen said. “I am sure the police will be questioning everyone soon. Right now, let’s focus on Holden.”
As I gazed at Rosetta, I could still see that determination in her and I knew whoever shot Holden would never escape from her. At the moment, however, I felt too shocked and numb to think of vengeance. My thoughts were solely on what my husband was going through in the operating room.
“You’re white as a sheet,” Marty murmured, standing next to me once more, her arm slung comfortingly around my shoulder. “I think it’s best if you sit down.”
Stubbornly, I shook my head. “I can’t just sit there, I’m too fidgety.”
Xalen squeezed my hand gently in his and then let go. “It is all right, we understand.”
“Excuse me,” came a friendly male voice. “Are you the Sprague family? I’m Doctor Bob Kline. I’m the neurosurgeon who performed the surgery.”
Xalen firmly shook his hand and introduced the rest of us. As a wave of nausea hit me, I was happy to allow him to take over.
“What is happening with my son?”
Dr. Kline, nodded slightly as he gazed directly into Xalen’s eyes. “He survived the operation but is still in critical condition. He is in recovery at the moment and will be taken to the Intensive Care Unit right after.”
“Can we see him?” Rosetta asked.
“We have very strict rules in the ICU. You may see him, one at a time, immediate family only. It will be another half hour or more before he is there and situated, though, so let me fill you in while you wait.” He paused, looking at each of us, I presume to see that we understood. “We had to do a craniectomy which means that his brain was swelling badly. In order to relieve the intracranial pressure, we had to remove a piece of the skull. The swelling is usually the worst about three days after the trauma occurs so a second surgery will have to be performed in order for the piece of skull to be replaced.”
“Is he going to live?” Marty asked in a gasped whisper.
Dr. Kline regarded her solemnly. “It’s too soon to tell, I’m sorry. I wish I had better news. If he does survive, there is also no way to tell at the moment what kind of damage we’re dealing with.”
“What do you mean?” I asked as tears once again formed in my eyes.
“There are risks involved in this type of surgery such as the possibility of infection, bleeding, blood clots, seizures… well, the list goes on. I’m not telling you this to squash your hope, but rather so that you know what we may be in for. His injury is very serious and so is this surgery, I’m afraid.”
Rosetta lifted her chin defiantly even though there were tears in her eyes. “My brother will get through this and recover.”
I put my hand over my mouth as if that would staunch the steady flow of tears now trailing down my cheeks. “If… if he makes it, will he be able to dance?”
It may have seemed an odd question to the doctor but I knew if Holden couldn’t dance, it might be enough to drag him down enough to hinder his recovery.
“Again, it’s too soon to tell what the specific damage is. The bullet traveled through his right frontal lobe which controls motor function, problem-solving, memory, language, judgment, impulse control, and some behaviors. All of these or none may be affected. I know everything I told you is the opposite of what you wanted to hear, and for that, I’m sorry. Due to the dire condition he is in, I feel I must be completely honest with you. We are far from being out of the woods just yet but his condition will be monitored very closely, I assure you.”
It seemed like ages before I was allowed to see Holden when really, the doctor was right about it being about thirty or forty minutes.
I was led to the ICU where I was told each nurse was responsible for one to two patients each due to the complicated natures of their injuries or illnesses. When I entered the room, the nurse sitting at the desk gave me a little wave.
“Hi, I’m Ron, Holden’s nurse.”
“I’m his wife, Ellie.”
“Nice to meet you. You might want to bring a sweater next time since we keep it a bit cooler in here. But, go on in and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.”
“Thank you,” I mumbled as I stepped inside Holden’s part of the room.
Ron was right, I was shivering already as I stepped over to where Holden was lying in bed. It took all my effort not to focus on the IV’s and other machines in the room. With a shaking hand, I gripped the bedrail, still in disbelief my husband was so near death and may not survive.
“Holden?” When I said his name, my voice cracked and my eyes glistened with tears.
He didn’t stir at all even though I had the notion he would open his eyes, sit up and ask where he was like they do in the movies. As the tears continued to roll freely now down my cheeks to drip off my chin, I leaned over him, resting one of my palms against his chin. I knew if he were awake, he’d want a shower and a shave immediately. He never let stubble sit on his face like that.
Forcing my eyes upward, I saw the ugly, Frankenstein-ish staples that were holding the incision closed. And all that beautiful hair… gone. Turning away briefly, I thought I might vomit. Panting a little bit and trying to regain control, I swallowed hard and willed my stomach to settle down. From the speaker, I heard Ron speaking to me from the other room.
“Are you all right, Ellie?”
I nodded and waved to indicate I didn’t want assistance. Moving back toward the bed, I gave myself a mental talking to.
This will never do, I told myself. Holden needs you right now more than ever and you are not going to be some kind of fainting flake that can’t handle it. You’re his wife! The mother of his child! Buck up and be a woman!
Be strong, I repeated over again in my head.
I knew no matter what, Holden would be there for me. This was not going to break me. I would hold it together and show Holden how much I love him by being strong for him.
Slowly, as I began to calm down, I realized Ron was watching me, a doubtful expression on his face. He probably wondered what kind of mess he might have on his hands if I collapsed. Well, if I had my way, he wasn’t going to find out!
Leaning over Holden again, I forced myself to get used to the ugly incision. What if he woke up and saw me flinch every time I looked at him? That would be ghastly. The longer I gazed at it, the less frightening it seemed. I could do this.
Leaning over him further even though the bedrail felt like it was cutting me in half, I kissed his forehead, my lips lingering against his cold skin.
“Holden,” I whispered near his face, “I’m here and I love you so much. Please don’t leave me. Please…”
Holden spent five days in the ICU, then, he was moved to a private room which allowed the entire family and our friends to visit. While he showed a lot of improvement that gave us all hope, he was also demonstrating a lot of muscle weakness and lack of coordination, especially in his legs. This made him irritable as he was determined to get out of bed and back on his feet.
Dr. Kline had the annoying habit of repeatedly saying, “One step at a time.” That first step, he told Holden was standing on his own two feet again. In order to do that, he would need a lot of physical therapy. Holden didn’t accept this but continued to talk about how he would surprise that stupid doctor.
The other thing we all noticed was some memory loss. It wasn’t as if he didn’t remember who he was or who we were. What he couldn’t recall was the past year or so of his life. He was delighted when I told him that, yes, we had gotten married but he was frustrated about having to be told that instead of realizing it himself. Dr. Kline explained that gradually, his memory may return but again, it would take time.
Holden acted as if time was something he didn’t have. It was difficult for him to talk to me about his concerns so, from what I’ve gathered here and there, I think he’s worried about the baby arriving because he won’t be working yet. And if he isn’t working, he doesn’t feel like he’ll be a good stay at home dad because he’s unable to walk.
It didn’t help that his parents always gave him these pitiful looks either.
Marty and Xalen meant well and, of course, they love their son. So, it was very difficult when I had to have the talk with them. I was afraid, though, that if I didn’t speak to them, Holden would and he hadn’t been the most patient or even kind person lately.
Luckily, his parents didn’t take offense with our conversation. They tried very hard to understand what their son needed and, after a few weeks, they returned to their work with The Inheritance with the promise I would let them know immediately if he needed anything.
Dear Diary, today I had a long discussion with Holden. He is in his third month of rehab where they are working intensely with him. He has had to relearn so much. His coordination is showing some slight improvement but he still doesn’t have the strength needed in his legs to walk. He’s due to come home very soon where he will continue with a physical therapist.
I’m so happy he’s going to be home, yet I’m burdened with the task of finding somewhere to live that is one story. Even though he didn’t complain too much about it, I could see the disappointment in his eyes. Everything had changed and he had no control at all over any of it. It was up to me to find a house and to arrange things with Rosetta so we could afford it. Most of all, he was sad, I think because he was still in a wheelchair.
She was able to get the money to us fairly quickly. In turn, I was able to get a realtor, tour the house in the ad and make an offer. Rosetta was with me throughout the buying process and even went to the closing with me.
I present to you now, our new house.
Before coming home from rehab, I showed Holden pictures of the house and he seemed to like it. He never came right out and said that but I could see in his eyes that at least he wasn’t finding fault with it.
There was plenty of room for him to use the wheelchair inside although outside might be a bit difficult as the terrain was kind of rough.
Holden’s irritability came and went and I chalked it up to frustration. In PT, he learned how to get on and off the wheelchair, into bed or out and so forth. He told me the last thing he wanted was for me to have to lift him at all.
During those long months when he was busy in rehab, I was setting up PT appointments for him for when he was released and furnishing our home. I got a lot of things resale and refinished the items or painted them. In the end, I was very happy with the results. And, it felt like home.
It was the day before Holden was to be released to come home and I was beside myself to make sure everything was ready for him. I was both excited and fearful. What if he hated the house once he was settled in? This worried me the most because he’d had no input in the selection at all.
Holding my stomach, I groaned. I hadn’t been feeling especially well all the night before and this morning, I didn’t think the toast was going to go down and stay down. Carefully, I pushed it away. Soon after this failed breakfast, I felt the first labor pains…
It wasn’t until my tiny daughter was in my arms that I realized the responsibility and overwhelming love one could hold in their heart. She was the most precious, darling little thing and the delivery had gone without a hitch. I was a little frightened and alone at first because Rosetta had gone to pick up Holden a day early so he could be with me.
I’m not sure how long I’d been laboring before he got there. All that really mattered to me was that he was. He sat in his wheelchair next to me, holding my hand and encouraging me when he could. He winced at my pain and stroked my arm.
When Beatrice was born, tears streamed down his face and for the first time since the shooting, he said he was glad he was alive and well enough to be there in that moment.
It was a memory we’d hold onto for the rest of our lives.
The hospital only kept me and Beatrice for twenty-four hours. Can you believe that?
Anyway, it was so much fun to dress her in cute clothes and snuggle with her. Our family and friends visited in a steady stream and provided a lot of help.
The most endearing member of the family was Rosetta. Sure, I can see where people think she might be cold or self-absorbed. But to me, she is gold.
Author’s Note: Well, it looks like Holden is going to pull through but only time will tell what kind of life he can expect to have.
I wanted to point out a few things medically… first of all, they wouldn’t have shaved his entire head but only the part where the actual incision was. I couldn’t find any hairs that helped me show this. lol Also, after brain surgery, they are probably going to have him sitting up in bed to also help with the swelling, but yeah, I did what I could. The bed wasn’t working right and I also wanted him to be under a blanket, so I OMSP’d the heck out of all of that. If there are any other medical flaws, I apologize. 😀 😛
As always, thank you for reading, liking, lurking, and commenting,