Chapter 2.20 A Hero’s Welcome

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Stella was at the hospital 24/7. When she wasn’t there for school, she was right by Brandon’s bedside.

“You could go home for one night,” Sarah had suggested. Since the day of the accident Sarah and Stella have become close friends. “It is better than sleeping on the uncomfortable chair.”

Stella appreciated her friend’s concern, but she wouldn’t hear any of it. She insisted on staying as close to Brandon as possible.

“What if something happens while I’m away?” Stella worried. “What if he goes into cardiac shock and I’m not here?!”

Brandon had been moved from critical to stable condition a few days ago, but Stella couldn’t stop fearing the worst.

“Well then, if you insist on staying,” Sarah knew that she was defeated, but she still admired Stella’s determination, “let me talk to the nurse to see if she can get you more blankets.”

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Stella only left the hospital one time. Brandon had been complaining about the hospital food, so Stella went out and got him a cheeseburger from Bruton’s Boxcar Diner.

“I hope that you don’t get in trouble for this.” Brandon said in between bites. He had regained some of his strength, and he tore into the double cheese burger like a lion tearing into its prey.

“One burger isn’t going to harm you,” Stella sat next to his bed and smiled. “Besides you deserve it. Collin says that you have been working really hard.”

“Yeah,” Brandon said before he shoved a handful of French fries in to his mouth. “He told me that you grill him everyday on my progress with my physical therapy.”

“It’s one of the perks of working at the hospital,” Stella replied with that Cheshire Cat smile that Brandon loved, “Not only do I know who all of your doctors are, but I know where I can find them if I have a question. I don’t mean to give Collin a hard time, I’m just eager to see how your physical therapy is progressing.”

“Well, did he also tell you that I might be able go home at the end of the week?” Brandon finished his burger. “I just have to be able to pass a few more of his physical tests.”

Collin had, in fact, told Stella everything. She knew that those last few tests were physically demanding, but at the same time necessary before Brandon could get the okay to go home.

“I know that you will do great.” Stella gave Brandon’s hand a reassuring squeeze before she left to find Mike for her study session.

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The recovery was slow, and the physical therapy was intense, but finally Brandon got the okay to be released. Stella was right there at the hospital to take him home.

“Don’t drive so fast,” she yelled at the taxi driver. “And watch for that pothole!”

When Stella and Brandon arrived back home they were greeted by the Seasons cheering in front of a welcome home banner.

“Can I get you anything? Are you hungry? Do you need another pillow?” Stella was running around the house trying out different pillows to find the most comfortable one. But Brandon smiled and said that everything was fine.

Brandon wasn’t feeling very well, so the Seasons were only able to stay long enough for May to drop off some spaghetti with meatballs, which she knew to be Brandon’s favorite dish.

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Finally Stella and Brandon were left alone in the house together. They had been alone in the house many times before, but this time things felt different. Stella had told Brandon that she loves him. She should be overwhelmed with joy, yet Stella was riddled with fear. When she found out Brandon was alive Stella decided to listen to her heart, and finally told Brandon how she feels. Then again, it was right after his surgery, and he may not have heard, or understood, what she had said.

They haven’t talked about what was said since it happened. All of the focus has been on Brandon’s recovery. Any talk of love or feelings have been avoided like the plague. Now Brandon and Stella are alone in the house together, and there is no more avoiding the subject.

“I know that I have trust issues,” Stella didn’t know exactly what to say. So, she just let her heart do the talking (for once). “And that is what kept me from accepting my true feeling for you. I was scared of being abandoned again. But the day of the accident scared me more. I thought that I had lost you, and the walls I had built around my heart didn’t protect me from the pain I felt thinking that you were gone.”

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Stella could tell that she was rambling on, but she was finally free to say how she felt. Her fears were gone, and the floodgates burst open. Stella could have talked for hours going into great detail about loving Brandon. She could write sonnets that would make Shakespeare envious. But when it comes down to it there were only three little words that Brandon wanted to hear.

“I love you!” Stella smiled from ear to ear as she gushed. “I don’t know why it took me so long to tell you, but I do.  I love you, Brandon Crowe!”

Brandon forgot about the pain in his back and held Stella’s hand in his as he leaned over and gave her a kiss. A kiss full of all of the love and passion that had been building up for all these years.

Stella has said the words that he has longed to hear. She loves him. The woman that he loves loves him in return.

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Brandon’s world was different now that he has Stella as his girlfriend. The house seemed cozier. The birds chirped sweeter. Even Harvey was less creepy. The best part was going on a walk with Stella.

Stella had been friendly with Brandon as they went on their walks, but she always kept him at a distance. Now Stella wasn’t afraid of being too close to Brandon. In fact, she couldn’t be close enough to him. Brandon would often put his arm around Stella’s waist and pull her in close as they walked. Putting her head on his shoulder made Stella feel safe.

Everything was prefect.

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Brandon had been home for a few days now and with each passing day he grows stronger and stronger. Soon he will be able to return to work. Everyone is so proud of him and his quick recovery, but Brandon knows that it is all because of Stella.

It is fascinating how different you feel when you are in love. Anytime the pain became almost too much to bare Branson pictured Stella’s bright cheery smile. Then the pain seemed to vanish.

Stella and Brandon invited April, May, and June over for dinner to celebrate Brandon’s speedy recovery, and share their announcement.

“We both have something to say.” Stella announced before dinner was served. She walked over to Brandon and slipped her hand into his.

“Well,” May cheered. “It is about time!”

Stella was trying to keep a straight face, but being close to Brandon made her smile so wide it made her cheeks hurt. And that she couldn’t hide. “I haven’t said anything yet.”

“You don’t have to say a word. That bright smile says it all.” April gushed. “Have you two finally admitted that you love each other?”

“Yes!” the happy lovebirds proclaimed in unison.

“Well, it is about damn time!” June laughed.

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Chapter 2.19 Halo

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I just want to give a warning that this chapter contains blood, and a few swear words.

Stella, sitting alone in the On Call Room, stopped crying when she heard her pager go off.

“Need you in ER again”

Stella wasn’t sure if she could handle another round of triage, but she knew that she had to put Brandon out of her mind for now. Being a doctor means that you have to put your personal feelings aside and do what is best for the patient. Stella wiped the tears from her eyes and tried to regain her composer as she jogged back to the ER. When she turned the corner she saw Sarah standing in front of the doors.

“Before you go in there, you need to brace yourself,” Sarah held Stella by the shoulders as Stella swallowed the lump in her throat.

“They just brought a few more injured solders from the base,” Sarah was speaking slowly to try to keep Stella calm. “And Brandon Crowe is one of them.“

At the mention of his name Stella pushed past Sarah and burst through the ER doors.

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Stella spotted Brandon on the third bed to the left of her.
“Brandon,” Stella grabbed his hand, “can you hear me?”
“He is unconscious, but alive,” Dr. Meeks came from behind Stella to begin prepping Brandon for the operating room. “We are taking him in to surgery now to remove all of the shrapnel.”

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Stella followed Brandon as far as the doctors would let her go; to the doors of the Operating Room.

“Don’t worry, Brandon is in good hands,” Sarah said before she sent Stella to the waiting room. “Dr. Hart is the best. Plus, he will have me assisting him. And I will personally let you know as soon as we are done.”

Stella found her three aunts already in the waiting room. The four of them embraced in a group hug, and for the first time today Stella started to feel a bit better.

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Stella filled her aunts in on Brandon’s condition, then they had some news for her too.

“We got all of the details from your friend Mike, who’s father had talked with General Moore.” April started explaining what had happened after the helicopter crash. “Several of the soldiers got trapped inside the next bunker, which had only one accessible entry in or out. Brandon and a few of the other solders cleared some of the rubble away so the trapped soldiers could escape, but most of them had to be carried away.“

“Brandon went back and forth pulling his fellow solders from being trapped from the bunker.” May added. “But General Moore was calling for everyone to fall back, because the fire was spreading faster than they could put out and getting dangerously close to the ammo.”

“Brandon was helping a man out of the bunker when the ammo went off, sending shrapnel flying everywhere.” June took over telling the story. “But even while he was bleeding and limping, Brandon helped the other man get to the paramedic safely. He even wanted to make sure that everyone else was taken away before he agreed to be taken to the hospital. Brandon passed out somewhere along the way.”

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It was the longest two hour wait of Stella’s life. She hated feeling so helpless. There was nothing for her to do but pace the floor in between sips of stale cold coffee. At least she had her aunts with her. Aunt April, Aunt May, and Aunt June never left Stella’s side. Eventually, Sarah came back with an update.

“Dr. Hart had to remove a lot of shrapnel, and Brandon lost a lot of blood,” Sarah informed them, “right now he is still critical, but I think that the worst is over.”

“Can I see him?” Stella ached to see Brandon.

“He won’t be awake yet, but they put him in Room 315.”

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The elevator was too slow, so Stella sprinted up the three flights of stairs to room 315. June was quick behind her, while April and May opted to wait.

Tears filled Stella’s eyes as she saw Brandon laying in the bed. He was hooked up to all kinds of tubes and machines. Stella knew exactly what those machines meant. He’s alive. Still unconscious, but alive!

Stella took a seat next to Brandon’s bed. She wasn’t sure that Brandon would hear any of this, but Stella couldn’t keep her feelings bottled up any longer.

“I’m sorry I pushed you away for as long as did. Because I love you. I have always loved you. I was just scared to admit it to myself. I was scared of getting hurt or abandoned again. But what scared me the most was when I thought that I had lost you.“

When Stella finished her speech she felt a light squeeze of her hand. Brandon was awake, but too weak to open his eyes. He was too groggy to speak coherently, but Stella knew that Brandon had mumbled something. Stella leaned in closer to try to hear him better.

Brandon parted his chapped lips and softly, very quietly, said, “I love you too.”

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Like most writers I recently suffered from some crazy writer’s block. Whenever this annoying bug hits me I like to listen to the radio. I love how music can evoke all kinds of emotions. Everyone has that one, or two, songs that when they hear it they think back to their first love or their first heartbreak.

I wanted to find that song for Stella. I wanted to find that song that would help me best describe her emotions as she fights her conflicting feeling. The fight between the giant wall around her heart, and her love for Brandon that has laid siege to those walls. And I think that I found that song. And I want to play it here: