Over and over again Joleena has muttered the Virgin's prayer
and while sitting and worrying, hiding her wound in the blood-sodden folds of a towel, enduring this dull throb... which ought to hurt worse; yet the unsightly damage feels numb... as in foreign... as in not really hers; she denied the resemblance that haunted each glimpse in her Jeep's rearview mirror, stunned by her insides exposed through her outsides, sick at the sight, aghast and unnerved, compelled to disown, hide the 'goof,' the 'mistake,' like a child tries to cross out some boo-boo. How ugly! Was she really disfigured? She writhed at the prospect. Deformed! Scarred for life! Could she, who already had borne subtle censure, face open derision from those unimpaired?
PLEASE, she implores! Her appeal is a humble one: quick restoration—no prettier, no homelier—but normal, the same, like she looked just before. "Just before"; what a boon! What a fabulous state! Would she were able to will the clock backward, elude Willie's knife, wrestle loose, lash out first. Any scenario, other than this one, was certainly better by far... save for him, the man seated next to her, nameless yet tangible, arm unabashedly wound around hers, indifferent to patients and staff raising eyebrows, attitudes hostile or feigning concern—whereas his was authentic, if mute. Who needs blah-blah when what is important stays put, by her side, supportive, effective in warding off insults; for though people ogled they did so covertly, instinctively fearful of Ahmed's fierce poise. Inscrutable; why had he helped her, stuck by her? Having taken her money—Bruce's money—why wait? Why act as her escort, her nursemaid, her chaperon? Or did he regard her a comrade in arms? She was wounded in battle; honor-bound, he remained—after whisking her off from their enemies; heroically! This was the sense that his loyalty conveyed, or such was Joleena's conjecture.
Hushed by Ahmed's finger brought abruptly to her lips, Joleena looks askance at her protector.
Joleena disengages arms to adjust her hiked-up skirt, then changes hands—the towel still concealing her dreadful laceration.
Ahmed's blank expression suggests the term requires translation.
Ahmed still appears to miss Joleena's meaning.
Faces turn at the sound of Joleena's outburst. An armed guard turns and glares. Woeful, self-concerned, she resumes her supplication...
...while Ahmed makes a gesture that suggests he needs the restroom.
Fearful, tense, Joleena tastes an orphan's fear, feels abandoned, feels forsaken; doubtlessly, her 'hot-blooded man' will not return; she has offended him. Fuck religion! No one's prayers are ever heard; appeals to Allah, Christ, or Zeus are of equal ineffectiveness. The pleas she makes are remnants only, vestiges from childhood when belief in myths could inspire a toddler's hope. What recourse now? Expecting miracles done by Deities, never mind denomination, strikes Joleena as a stupid waste of time. Yet who else ask?
Were eyes equipped with teeth, Joleena's would gnash.
She peels the towel from her cheek with a wince of anticipatory pain as though revealing it were akin to reliving the moment of mutilation.
Skeptical, out of patience, out of tolerance, out of sorts, Joleena once more hides in the sanguinary wash towel.
The nurse returns.
Hands in pockets, Ahmed wends his way through the overcrowded corridor, stopping short where Joleena intercepts him to ask directions.
He looks confused.
He moves to shield them from whoever might bear witness to his passing her a garment.
Joleena's throat constricts, tears well upon receipt of Ahmed's briefs. She can barely nod her thanks for his chivalrous gesture.
As Ahmed mans his post Joleena clip-clops to the bathroom, ducking in and out in record time, hurrying back to where the nurse awaits with pen and clipboard, bending down to remove her mateless pump, handing it to Galahad, her Knight, her newfound Prince, then proudly, resolutely proceeding down the hall.