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The Seed of Hardship - Chapter 19
“Do you want to talk?” nurse Dinah asked as she was checking Kristal’s vitals on the monitor. She checked the foetal monitor as well but glanced sideways at Kristel. Kristel lay in the hospital bed, beneath white sheets that covered her from her feet, up to her waist. She wore a hospital gown, but around her abdomen was a band that monitored her unborn child’s heart rate.
Kristel had not spoken since being settled into the room. In fact, she had done nothing except go to the bathroom, return to bed and stare up at the ceiling. Now, she turned to look at Dinah, tears accruing in her eyes.
Dinah pulled a chair close to the bed and sat. Kristel, turned her head away and looked up at the ceiling.
“How was your blood pressure when you had your last baby?”
“Awful,” said Kristel, trying not to swallow the tight knot in her throat. “Right before I got pregnant with Kezi, things took a turn for the worse.”
“Kezi? That’s your baby’s name?”
“Yeah,” said Kristel, wiping her face and looking at Dinah again. “Kezia.”
“What a cute name.”
Kristel sighed and looked at the foetal monitor strapped around her abdomen.
“So, what happened to your BP before Kezia?” Dinah asked.
Kristel felt fear grip her senses as she recalled the time when her blood pressure went out of control. It had been before she became pregnant with Kezia. Suddenly, she was gaining weight, her head always felt as though it would explode, and dizzy spells made it almost impossible for her to walk. She began having chest pains, and one day her limbs became so numb, she swore she was either on the verge of a heart attack or a stroke.
Matthew had found her in the bathroom, vomiting into the toilet, barely able to breathe. Immediately after as she was able to stop throwing up, Matthew rushed her to the hospital. As Matthew was escorting her to the Emergency Department waiting room, Kristel collapsed into a dead faint.
Dinah listened attentively as Kristel described her experience. “I was unconscious at that time," --Kristel continued narrating-- "but from what the doctors told me, they couldn’t get my heart back to normal rhythm. My heart was beating too quickly—tachycardia, I think?”
Dinah confirmed with a small nod.
“Then, when they finally stabilised my heart rate, I had to be hospitalised for a week and I was diagnosed with malignant hypertension.”
Dinah's eyes opened widely.
"But my kidneys weren't severely affected and neither were my eyes. Just my cardiovascular system, so the diagnosis was iffy."
Dinah reflected on Kristel’s account for a moment before asking, “Has your blood pressure been stable lately?”
“Until now,” Kristel replied. “I’m just so afraid that it will go completely out of control again. I’ve been told if that happens again, it won’t just be my heart affected.”
“Have you been treated for any heart conditions?”
“Yeah, an arrhythmia. It seems to have resolved though,” Kristel told Dinah. It was obvious that she felt comfortable speaking to the kind nurse. For a while longer, Kristel spoke with Dinah, confiding in her about her dissipating relationship with Matthew. Dinah was a very good listener. She didn’t have a judgmental attitude and she didn’t interrupt Kristel while she spoke.
When Kristel paused, Dinah spoke her mind. Otherwise, she listened intently. After an hour or so, Dinah was called away on duty, and Kristel was left alone to think over everything she had said in the hour before.
Matthew had really been there for Kristel in the past, when her health went south. She had to give him credit for that. He had stepped up and taken care of the children while she was hospitalised and he also took good care of her. So he could be responsible when he had to.
The sky was darkening, but light from the extravagant casino lit up the surrounding areas. Matthew was leaning against an old blue Volts Wagon in a parking lot packed to its capacity with all types of vehicles. He tipped his head back, and filled his mouth with beer from one of the two bottles he held in his hands. As he swallowed the warm liquid, and was about to tilt his head back to take another swig, he spotted Rob approaching him.
Rob walked with his broad shoulders square and his once-muscular chest thrust outward. Though he stopped to take a long pull on his cigarette and to gape at Matthew, he maintained his proud, almost arrogant demeanour. Only those who knew him knew what a sensitive person he could be. Otherwise, he was rather standoffish.
“Wha’d’re you doin’ere?” Matthew loudly asked, his words terribly slurred.
“I can ask you the same,” said Rob, tossing his cigarette aside, and crushing it into the asphalt with his booted foot.
“Go’ay,” said Matthew, waving his hand dismissively.
“Seriously, man,” said Rob, looking piteously at Matthew. He stood beside him and tried to pry the unopened beer bottle from Matthew’s hands. Matthew pulled his hand out of Rob’s reach and began to walk away aimlessly. He drifted so far to the left that he accidentally ran into another parked car.
Rob rushed forward to make sure that Matthew didn’t get hurt. “I’m fine!” Matthew insisted, pulling his arm out of Rob’s grip and continuing to walk away.
“Where are you going?” Rob asked.
“Nowhere,” said Matthew.
“Matt, let’s go home,” Rob told him. “Come on, let’s go find the car. You’ve had enough.” Matthew continued staggering and drifting away. As a car was reversing out of its parking space, Matthew began walking towards it. The car’s reverse lights shone on Matthew but he didn’t notice. The driver of the car honked his horn loudly, but still Matthew didn’t pay attention.
Rob ran towards Matthew and pulled him out of the car’s path. “Don’t make me drag you to the car,” said Rob.
“Ge’off me!” Matthew commanded.
“No.” Rob grabbed Matthew's arm and Matthew contended against him. He tried pulling his arm away and planting his feet firmly to make it harder for Rob to move him. Rob was a burly man compared to Matthew’s relatively small frame but Matthew didn’t care at that moment. Rob tugged on his arm forcefully, causing the bottle of beer to fall from Matthew’s hand and shatter on the asphalt.
This angered Matthew. He balled up his fist and aimed an intentional clout right at Rob’s nose. The hit didn’t even seem to have an impact on Rob, as he instantly punched Matthew right back in his face without reacting to the strike. As Matthew tried to counter-punch, Rob aimed a less severe blow at Matthew’s stomach. Matthew dropped to his knees, clutching his stomach. He let go of the other beer bottle, and vomited all over Rob’s military-type boots.
“Oh, come on!” Rob exclaimed in disgust. He was just beginning to feel the pain from Matthew’s punch. He rubbed his nose with a grimace and looked down as Matthew collapsed onto his behind, breathing heavily. Matthew tried to get up but Rob said, “Just stay down, man.” Though Matthew wanted to rebel, his body wouldn’t allow it. He leaned back against another parked car and buried his head in his knees.
“What’s wrong with you?” Rob loudly asked.
Matthew’s shoulder shook with silent sobs. For a moment he didn’t respond but when he looked up, his state surprised Rob. There were clearly tears in Matthew’s eyes. It was noticeable even in late night darkness.
“My wife left me, my kids hate me, I lost my job, I lost all my money…” Matthew buried his face in his knees again as a few other sobs escaped him. “My life’s over,” Rob heard him say.
Rob didn’t know what to say or do to console his friend at the moment. He sat beside him and stared straight ahead at the casino lights.