Part 11

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A week without sleep and I was having trouble focussing. I couldn't sleep in Caitlin's bed with her, she'd scream the place down if I slept in my bed or anywhere else, and I couldn't wake her up. I swear I was so exhausted my eyes kept closing of their own accord, but it was only a matter of time before she had another nightmare and woke me.

"Help me, get me out of here!" Caitlin screamed.

I tried calling and then shouting her name, begging her to wake up.

"You promised…" Caitlin sobbed.

I tried talking over her, saying whatever came into my head. I may as well have talked to myself. She was oblivious to whatever I said.

"Let me go, you bastard!" Caitlin's hoarse voice hissed as I crossed the room to the bathroom.

I saturated a face washer with cold water from the bathroom basin and squeezed it out so that it dripped onto her face and neck.

She started to cry. Her voice was a raw whimper. "Please…so cold. Give me my clothes back. Or a blanket. Get me out of here…"

I picked up her medical charts, trying to decipher her doctor's scribbled terminology in the hope that it would put me to sleep. The word "hypothermia" caught my eye on the first page and I looked more closely at the hieroglyphics surrounding it. I remembered how cold she'd been on the beach, too cold to shiver in air that was close to freezing. Oh shit.

I got a towel from the bathroom and dried every droplet off her skin. I wrapped her up in her hospital-issue blanket and hugged her 'til her tears dried up, too. Dawn came before sleep did.

I called my sister and asked her to get me some earplugs. I tried them the very next night. I got to sleep fine but Caitlin's nightmares just got worse until she was screaming so loud the earplugs were useless. It took forever to calm her down.

"Please, don't let them…" Caitlin begged, over and over. Her words echoed in my head even after she lost her voice.

The earplugs were in the bin before the sun rose.

I prayed to any deity who'd listen that Caitlin would wake up and the nightmares would stop.

"Oh God, please, stop…" Caitlin sobbed. Yes, please, stop.

No deity heard me. Her cries for help were more heartfelt, more urgent and delivered in a far more desperate voice than mine. Even I listened and I couldn't do a damn thing for her.

I don't deny I was desperate to leave. But the more I heard of her nightmares, the more I realised the horror of what she'd been through. I wasn't cruel enough to leave her here alone when I'd promised her I'd stay 'til she woke up.

"Please…you promised…" Caitlin's voice was a pitiful moan.

I wanted to tell her how sorry I was for not helping her sooner.

I turned the TV on, to find it was Disney time. Close to the end of it, I guessed, because Prince Charming was about to kiss some girl in a long, impractical dress and make the whole world perfect again. She woke up and was so pleased to see this perfect stranger in her bedroom that she fell for him, instead of calling the police.

Wouldn't it be nice if the world worked on Disney principles…

I couldn't begrudge Caitlin one kiss, in the faintest hope it would help. Hell, it couldn't hurt, could it?

I shook my head and laughed at my own misguided idea. Sleep deprivation makes you think of stupid things.

I dozed fitfully until the sun went down and woke to screaming.

Some hours later, in desperation, darkness and insanity, I kissed her. I pressed my lips to hers for a second – nothing more. She froze for that second, then called me names and tried to claw my eyes out. My heart sinking with guilt, I closed my eyes and held my hands up in surrender, backing away slowly. I didn't dare touch her again, let alone try to fend her off.

What kind of scumbag kisses a girl without her permission as she slept? A lower form of scum than the bloke who stole her ice cream. Kids' cartoons had no concept of rape. Prince Charming was never up on an assault charge, no matter how much the sleazy bastard deserved it.

I pressed the nurse call button. There was nothing I could do to calm Caitlin down this time.

They had to reset three of her broken fingers and there wasn't a scratch on me. I kept my own fingers crossed that the nurses didn't ask me how or why Caitlin had ripped through the dressings on her hands. By some twist of fate, they didn't say a word to me at all. Good thing, too, because I wasn't sure I had the guts to admit to anyone what I'd done.

I paced up and down at the end of her bed 'til the nurses were done. When Caitlin's fingers were firmly wrapped once more, the nurses left.

Caitlin was quiet for a few moments and I lay down on my own bed to try and get some sleep.

"Let me go, you bastard!" She hissed this through gritted teeth, but with considerable venom.

"You keep fighting them, even in your dreams," I mumbled in her direction, closing my eyes. "Whatever you do, angel, don't you let them win, no matter what."

"Keep fighting. Don't let them win," she murmured softly.

I sat up in surprise, looking at her, but her eyes were still closed.

Come on, Caitlin, wake up. It's my turn to sleep.

But still she slept. 

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