Chapter 10: Cage (3/6)

“ELLE! ELLE! ELLE! WAKE UP!” JZ yelled as he frantically shook her body.

She did not wake up.

“ELLE! ELLE! ELLE! WAKE UP!” he yelled again, frantically shaking her body.

She did not wake up.

People gathered closer to see what happened to her and if she would wake up.

JZ did CPR and breathed in her mouth.

“Don’t breathe in her mouth,” New Guy said very worriedly.  “You’re giving her CO2; people can’t inhale CO2.

“Call an ambulance, NOW!” JZ yelled, still doing CPR but stopped breathing in her mouth.  A few minutes later, JZ heard the ambulance and carried her in his arms.   While he walked as fast as he could out of the studio, he ordered, “Big, take my car and to follow the ambulance.  Bring CeeCee with you.”

“I’m going right now,” he said loudly.

In the ambulance, JZ explained what happened to the medic in the back with him.  “She was singing and then she fell.  I did CPR and she still didn’t wake up.”

The medic used his stethoscope to listen to Elle’s heart.  “I can barely hear her heart beating.  Do you know if she’s allergic to anything?”

“No.”

“Do you know what she might have eaten?”

“No.  She’s a vegetarian.  How deadly could that possibly be?”

“Do you know if she has a condition or illness that would harm her health if she sang?”

“No.”

“Was she singing something that would stress her lungs or heart?”

“Maybe.  She was singing with a lot of passion.  I felt her soul while she was singing.”

The ambulance arrived at the hospital and JZ was ordered to stay in the waiting room, despite how much bribing and begging he did.  Shortly thereafter, CeeCee and Big also arrived, seeing a big crowd surrounding what was mostly likely JZ, in the waiting room.  Big moved everyone out of his and CeeCee’s way so they could get to him.

“They said I have to stay in the waiting room.  How ridiculous is that?  I’m JZ and I can’t see or know what they’re doing to her,” he said frustratingly.

“They keep everyone away from the patient so they can do their jobs without distraction.  Look at yourself, you’re the symbol of distraction,” CeeCee said, trying to comfort him.

“Great, my identity stops me from being with someone I really like at a time when she needs me most.”

“This is not meant to hurt you, but you can’t help her now.  That’s why you have doctors making her better.  You can’t think about yourself at this moment.  Ask yourself what would she want you to do in a situation like this.”

“She usually doesn’t want me to bother her, so I guess I shouldn’t bother the people trying to help her,” he admitted with anger in his voice.

A moment passed before anyone else said anything.  JZ punched the wall behind him.  “It was my fault.  I made her sing.  If she didn’t sing, she wouldn’t fall, and she wouldn’t be here.”

“You didn’t make her do anything,” said Big trying to be supportive.

“Yes, I did.  I knew she would do her job to the fullest, whatever it may be, and yet, I forced her to do something that stressed her heart and lungs.  You’re only saying that because you weren’t there.  I saw her face.  I heard her arguments trying to dissuade me.  But my album was more important.  How could I choose my album over her?” he punched the wall again.

“This is one mistake you won’t make again.  That’s what makes a better man, right? Not making the same mistake twice,” said Big.

“You didn’t know she would be sick, JZ,” said CeeCee.  “None of us would know.”

Another moment passed before anyone else said anything.

“What would you do when they release her from the hospital?” asked Big.

“Take her to my place and nurse her back to health,” he replied.

“Does she have a say in this?” asked CeeCee, trying to help him see his mistake.

“How can she refuse? I can have whatever she needs brought to my suite.  I own the damn building, and I can buy whatever she needs and hire whoever she needs.”

“The point I’m trying to make is that she is scared and feels safest at home.  If you change everything that makes her feel safe, she would resist, and you don’t want her to waste her strength fighting you, right? I think the best course of action is to ask her what she wants instead of deciding it for her.  She has taken care of herself for at least three years since she’s been in China.”

“I understand what you are saying CeeCee.  I really want her in my suite so I can take care of her.  She belongs in someplace nice, not in her apartment.”

A doctor came to the waiting room to look for JZ.  “You must be JZ.  My son is a huge fan.  Can I get an autograph for him?”

“Of course,” he signed the doctor’s prescription pad.  How is she, doctor?” JZ asked worriedly.

“Right now, she’s stable,” he replied.

“What happened to her?”

“She fainted.”

“Fainted? Why?”

“She hasn’t eaten anything in 4 or 5 days and hasn’t drunken enough water to keep her body going.”

“Really?” JZ asked very shocked.

“Yes.  Are you her husband?”

“No.”

“Are you her boyfriend?”

“Not yet.”

“Do any of you have a phone number for me to contact her parents or grandparents?”

“No.”

“Has she been under a lot of stress lately?”

“Yes.”

“Right now, if the three of you are the closest people she has, all I can advise you is to tell her to eat more and extra nutritiously, and drink more water.  If she does eat fish, be cautious of high levels of mercury, so don’t let her eat too much of that.  Also, she needs to relax more.”

“She’s a vegetarian.  Is it better if she ate meat also?”

“I would advise her to eat some meat, but if she’s a strict vegetarian, then soy products are good substitutes for protein.”

“What if she’s very involved with her work, and since she’s really stubborn, she won’t take time off from work.  How can I make her job less stressful?”

“Stubborn women are a crazy bunch of people, but if her job requires her to lift heavy objects, don’t let her lift heavy objects.  If her job requires her to work under intense pressure, like having strict deadlines, don’t give her strict deadlines.  Things like that.”

“Are her heart and lungs ok?”

“Her heart is fine, but her lungs show damage from air pollution.  She needs to wear a surgical mask whenever she goes outside, and we hope that with time, her body can recover from this.  I can get her one later.”

This image shows two Chinese models in Nanjing, China showing off jewelry but they are also wearing surgical masks because of terrible air pollution.  Spectators are also wearing surgical masks.
Models Showing Off Jewelry (and Surgical Masks) in a Nanjing Fashion Show. Most of the spectators are also wearing the masks but notice the two standing on the right side.

“Thank you, doctor.  When can we take her home?”

“Let us examine her one more time after she wakes up.  Then you can take her home.  She also needs to visit the doctor regularly.”

“Why?”

“To check her health.”

“Alright.  Thank you doctor.”

“No problem.  Let me take you to her room.”

They walked through the squeaky clean hallway with posters that reminded people to wash their hands when using the toilet, and wear masks to avoid air pollution.  Elle’s room was all the way in the back.  She was still asleep with a feeding tube in her mouth and an IV in her arm.

“I’ll leave you guys alone,” said the doctor, and left.

“See, it wasn’t your fault,” said CeeCee trying to cheer him up.  “You might have even saved her life.  If you didn’t make her perform, we wouldn’t know she needed help, and her heart and lungs are ok.”

“Um, JZ, I think this is the time to tell you the truth.  We have been watching her sleep, and now that I think about it, she might have been fainting all this time.  We honestly didn’t know she was fainting.  We thought she was bored or tired from reading the dictionary all day, or the long subway ride and the heat made her tired.  If we knew she was fainting, we would have told you,” confessed Big.

“I know,” said JZ in a deflated tone.

A moment passed until JZ quietly said, “Why don’t you guys go in the hallway to let everyone know she’s ok.”

“Consider it done,” CeeCee said, and left the room with Big.

JZ held her hand, unable to look his angel in the face, he cried softly, wiping his tears with her knuckles.  “I didn’t mean for you to be under so much stress that you would starve yourself to complete your work.  I won’t make you sing ever again.  I do not deserve to hear your assuring voice.  I do not deserve to hear your passionate singing.”

He opened her hand and looked at her scars.  “You need one more on your heart line,” and he traced an invisible scar where he was the mark.

***

Elle opened her eyes slowly, adjusting to the light.  She felt a warm and wet feeling in her hand, so she lifted her head slightly to see what was going on.  JZ’s tears were fighting not to fall, but they landed in her hand as he was tracing a line on her palm.  She reached her other hand to his face, but was stopped by the IV cord.  He looked up saw her arm up, looked at her face and saw her eyes slightly open.  She was mouthing the question, “Why are you crying?”

He was so happy that she was awake.  He cupped her face and gave a generous kiss on her cheek.  His face was in her reach now and she wiped his tears with her thumb while her other fingers rested on his face.  He backed his head away and lifted his hands from her face.  She mouthed the question again, “Why are you crying?”

“I was really scared,” he replied in a shaky voice and wiping his tears.

“Scared of what?” she mouthed.

“I couldn’t do anything to help you.”

“Don’t worry, I’m ok.”

She felt bad that she made the guy worry so much that he was actually shedding tears.  But she realized that he genuinely cared, that was why he had wept.  She lifted herself from the center to the side of the bed closer to the medical machines.

“Don’t get up,” he said, sounding alarmed, and tried to help her but he did not know what she wanted.  Then she patted the space.  He gently and partially sat on the bed, his face turned to her.  He took her hand and brought it to his lips.  She took her hand back and waved horizontally and looked at him.  He looked like he did not understand what she wanted, so she waved her hand again, this time over her body.  He looked like he had an idea of what she wanted, but he did not try it.  He took out his phone and placed it in her hand.  “Lie down next to me,” she typed, looking at his eyes while handing it back to him.

“Really?” he asked, not believing what he was reading.

She nodded to affirm.

The bed was not big enough for two adults.  Elle was lying on her back on the edge of the bed, while JZ was lying on his side on the other edge of the bed.  She took his hand and placed it on the far side of her face, cupping that side of her face.  Then she smiled and closed her eyes, her hand still on his.  He snuck in a kiss on her cheek and she smiled a tiny smile.  He smiled too, knowing that she was ok and that she liked it.  He kissed her again, but she was already asleep.  He watched his angel sleep until CeeCee gently knocked on the door.

“The doctor is coming to check on her,” she whispered.

“Ok,” he whispered back.

CeeCee took her shock in the hallway.  “JZ is lying on the bed next to her,” she told Big, trying to contain her voice.

“What? Really?” he asked, not believing what he was hearing.

“Yeah, go take a look,” she said.

He went to take a look, and was very shocked at what he saw.  He took a picture of them on his phone and sent it to his brother, with the caption, “Is he incredible or what?”

Back in the hospital room, the doctor was checking Elle’s vitals.  JZ, realizing how awkward he was on the small bed with a bachelorette, whispered to the doctor, “She woke up earlier and moved herself.”

“Wow, good for her,” the doctor replied, not believing him.

“She really did,” he whispered a little louder.

“Of course she did.”

“Did you give her any medications to help her sleep or some sort of relaxer?”

He quietly laughed, “She was already unconscious when she came in.  There’s no need to give her sleeping medication.  We want her to wake up on her own, so she would be fully rested when we talk to her.  As for the relaxer, she seems to be relaxed when she’s asleep.”

“Is she getting better?”

“She’s getting a little better.”

“This feeding tube has been here for a while.  You can see she’s really small.  Isn’t she already full?”

“Food going to her stomach is regulated, and she needs the food.  Just wait until the bag is empty or when I come back to check on her again.”

“If she wakes up before you return, should I call for you?”

“If you want.  I plan on returning in about an hour; if not me a medical student or a nurse will be here in about an hour.”

“Thank you doctor.”

“No problem.”

When the doctor left the room, JZ began quietly singing one of his songs to her.

***

Back at the studio, One Word called everyone to the common area.  He was on the small stage and asked, “What do you think we should do when she gets back from the hospital?”

“I think she’s a curse and needs to be fired.  All she does is cause problems.  We didn’t have any of these problems before she was here,” said a young man.

“I hear you and I see your point of view, but that’s not your decision.  You may feel that way but those are the kinds of things that nobody should say to her or whisper around,” One Word said firmly and stayed calm.  “Back to my original question, what do you all think we should do when she gets back from the hospital?”

“We can have a party to show that we’re glad she’s ok,” said another young man.

“That sounds like a good start, but I was looking for something more permanent.”

“How about a party every Friday?” suggested that same young man.

“That’s a little much but let me talk it over with JZ.  How about always having drinking water in the studio? That’s something that would not just help her but help all of you.”

“That sounds good,” said a few people.

“If you have any other suggestions, let me know.  For now, everyone get back to work.  Interns, you stay,” announced One Word.  “Let’s go get some water.”

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