Exclusive Excerpt from A Broken Promise
by Mel Gough
Donnie rolled onto his back, trying to locate the source of the familiar female voice. He struggled to get his eyes open, but they were sticky and uncooperative. When he managed at last, there was Sara, their friend and a doctor at Emory Hospital. She crouched by the bed, looking worried.
“Ben call you?” Donnie whispered. The words hurt his cracked throat and he winced.
Somewhere out of his field of vision, Ben said, “Sara needs to inject your ART. You’re not keeping anything down, so you can’t take your pills. It was that, or get you to the hospital.”
“He’s worried about you,” Sara added, her gaze so gentle it was like a caress. “He hates to see you hurting.”
A surge of guilt gripped Donnie and he squeezed his eyes shut. He still wasn’t used to someone loving him this much. Ben just wanted to help. Why could he never just shut up and accept it? Ben meant more to him than his own life. You’re being a ginormous dick, Saunders. His insides gave a warning rumble, bringing the pity party to a hurried end. With a groan, Donnie pushed himself up.
“C’mere…” Ben’s strong arms got him to his feet, mindful not to press on his aching belly. Ben was always there, no questions asked. Love, shame and embarrassment warred inside Donnie’s heart, but his more pressing problems distracted him immediately.
“Ouch.” Donnie bit his lip and pulled away, holding on to the furniture and stacks of boxes as he made his way to the bathroom.
Over the last hour, Ben had made him drink what felt like a gallon of ginger tea, and everything that hadn’t come straight back up had gone through in minutes. So how was there anything left inside now? And his stomach hurt something awful. Was this really just a bug? What if Ben was right? The pain was so similar to the pancreatitis. But Donnie pushed that thought away. He couldn’t go through that ordeal again.
“I brought some IV anti-emetics as well as the ART,” Sara said when Ben had helped him back to bed. She stroked his sweaty brow. “Don’t worry, sweetie, we’ll have you back on your feet in no time.” She set about getting the injections ready.
Donnie’s eyes drifted shut. He felt so tired, it was impossible to stay awake. Sara’s voice and her hands on his arm startled him from his doze.
“I should get you to Emory,” she murmured, looking for a vein. “You’re so dehydrated, and your temperature is climbing.”
“No, please, don’t,” Donnie pleaded.
She held up the syringe. “Is it likely? I brought these, didn’t I? But you need to promise you’ll stay in bed until this has passed, and to keep going with the fluids, even if they make you feel bad.” She raised an eyebrow at him. “Deal?” When he nodded, she picked up a butterfly needle. “And once you’re feeling better you’ll go for a full check-up at the HIV clinic. Blood tests, doctor visit, the works.”
Donnie sighed. He had no energy to protest. And anyway, she was right.
Ben sat on the other side of the bed. He looked so worried it made Donnie’s insides hurt even more. He reached out a shaking hand. Ben took it. “You hate this fuss, I get it,” he said quietly. “But I’m really worried.”
“I know,” Donnie sighed. “I appreciate it, and I’m sorry…ouch!” His stomach gave an angry spasm.
“Here.” Ben helped him roll onto his side.
Sara asked, “Have you guys got an electrical blanket or a hot water bottle?”
“I think there’s one in the moving boxes in the living room.” Ben got up. “I’ll get it.”
Sara took Donnie’s arm again and lifted the butterfly syringe. “I’ll put this in your arm so I can give you the meds over the next few days, all right?” Donnie nodded, and Sara swabbed a small spot near his wrist. “Is Zac at Arthur’s?” she asked.
Donnie flinched as the needle pierced skin. Sara secured the catheter, then stroked the back of his hand. He willed himself to relax. “Yeah,” he said, more pain piercing his heart. He missed the little guy already. “It’s too much work for Ben, looking after two of us. I just hope bub’s all right, though, and didn’t catch this.”
“I’ll call Arthur and check in.” Sara patted his hand. “You rest now, sweetheart. Sooner you’re better, sooner bub can come home.”
“Yeah, all right.” Donnie wiped away a tear. He missed their baby so much. Out of all the things that sucked about being sick, being separated from Zac was the worst.
Ben returned with a hot water bottle, and more tea. Donnie curled up around the heat. It felt wonderful against his aching middle.
Ben took Sara’s spot and held up the mug. “Here, drink something, and then you can go back to sleep.”
He helped Donnie take a few sips, then Donnie lay back down and closed his eyes. The pain in his gut was mirrored by the misery and guilt in his heart, but he was so exhausted that he dropped off within minutes.