Julia

byweftandwarp©

My neighbor, Julia, and I always greeted each other with little more than a "hello, warm day," when we saw each other. She was often in her garden, pulling weeds from the ranunculus filled borders. When they finished flowering she put in salvias. It was a beautiful backdrop to her smile. I was always tired and appreciated having the colour and cheerfulness in my life rather than the repetition of work and overtime.

Julia always looked wonderful in the garden with a broad brimmed hat and smiling face over a tight shirt that showed her large breasts to advantage. Sometimes she wore shorts, sometimes short skirts that always seemed to ride up and show her underwear. Frequently, I wondered whether she was wearing underwear, it was difficult to know with the shadows of her skirt. I looked, but not so much that I'd be labelled a pervert. It was interesting to fantasize. She was too attractive to be interested in me.

I always wanted to stop and talk but knew work had made me dirty and I needed a shower to get rid of the smell of it. By the time I'd finished my shower she'd always gone inside. I wondered if she was avoiding me. I'm not the most confident person.

For about a week I didn't see her. It felt longer and I was concerned. I went to her front door and knocked. There was no response. Another try and still nothing. One more and her neighbor on the other side appeared to tell me she was in hospital. It didn't sound good. She told me she was sure Julia would like me to visit. I asked which hospital and was told it was the Queen's, Ward 2b. I said thank you and went home.

Next day I refused overtime and went to the hospital to see her. On my way I realised I only knew her by her first name. At the nurse's station I asked where Julia was. They looked at me for a while.

"How do you know her," I was asked. I explained she was my neighbor and I thought I'd offer her my support and help if she wanted it. They talked together and then said they'd take me to the door of her room but I wouldn't be able to talk to her because she was in isolation, on a ventilator and medication. She wouldn't know I was there. I could do nothing at the moment but later she would need all the support she could get. They took me to the room and through the small window in the door I could see a nurse sitting beside a machine agnd her bed. The nurse was wearing a gown, gloves and full face mask. Julia was on her back, made comfortable with pillows and seemingly asleep with tape to ensure her eyes were closed. There were a lot of tubes in her. I had no idea what they were for.

"Come," the nurse said and I followed her back to the nurse's station. I was told she would be like that for some time yet and it was impossible to say how long. This was as much as she could say because the hospital takes confidentiality very seriously and probably she had already said too much. "It is always a balance," she explained. I agreed and told her I planned to be very responsible.

Every other day I refused overtime and went to see her through the little window in the door. For three weeks there was no improvement, clearly she was non-responsive. A machine was breathing for her. I didn't have to talk to anyone to know. When I went home I changed my clothes and worked in her garden, weeded her ranunculus and mowed her lawn. It was good therapy for me. I was surprised to be so compelled by her situation and couldn't stop thinking about her.

The protective clothing and the stand it was on were removed from the outside the room and I was told she was no longer infectious. The door was opened but there was no change to her condition.

A week later, as I stood at the doorway, I was invited into the room by the nurse. She suggested I sit beside the bed and talk to her. It wasn't easy. I couldn't think of what I should say and sat looking at her hair spread like a halo around her head. The breathing machine was very regular, monotonous and sleep inducing.

"Hello Julia. I'm your neighbor, Jim. I hope you don't mind me being here. I'm here to say hello and wish you well. If you could tell me of anything you need I'd do my best." I took her hand in mine and gave it a gentle squeeze. "I also want to tell you I miss your smile at home and I think you are doing well now. I know it's been difficult." Already, I'd run out of things to say.

"You know, you could get her some nice toiletries. If you do, please have a bag for her to keep them in. They could be for Christmas," the nurse suggested. Then she added that when talking to her it is good to keep it simple at the moment. "Tell her what you did yesterday. Tell her what you've been doing and what you're planning to do today. You don't have to talk about her. Chances are she's heard enough about that already. She is probably listening to us now. We have to assume she is."

On my way home I called at a chemist and asked for help. The lady was kind, though perhaps her suggestions weren't the cheapest. Soap, shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser, disposable razors, it was extensive. I also bought chocolates for the nurses. At home I found some fabric and sewed a bag from it for the toiletries. With a golden drawstring I bought at a fabric store it looked good and was just in time for Christmas.

Two days later I was there for Christmas. Not having to go into work, I spent most of the day with her. She couldn't thank me for the gift but the nurses were thrilled. I was her only visitor, company for the nurse and the ventilator.

Next time I was there the breathing machine, they called a ventilator, and most of the tubes were gone. She was breathing on her own. I sat with her hand in mine and talked. I could see movement under her eyelids and hoped she was coming back. I played with her fingers, hoping it would help establish feeling in them. My fingers felt course and big compared with hers. The nurse watched and approved. She showed me where to find sorbolene to help with massage.

At home I tended her ranunculus bed. They were doing well. I wished Julia was doing the same.

When I visited her next day I saw her eyes were following me. "Tracking," the nurse said. I was so pleased and it gave me the thought she was recovering. I took her hand in mine and did the usual finger exercises. She looked at me as I did them, first one hand and then the other. When it was time to leave she stared down to the foot of the bed. I couldn't help but think she was disappointed. I said goodbye and I'd be with her tomorrow. When out of her room I began to cry. I don't know why. A nurse found me and gave me a hug. "Difficult, isn't it?" she said. I admitted it was as I dried my tears. I wondered why it had happened then.

I anxiously looked forward to being with her. The feeling of hopelessness had passed and it was exciting.

With the next visit the nurse told me she was communicating. To say yes she looked up and when she meant no she looked down. "Just watch her eyes." Then she said not to overload her with lots of questions because she'll tire easily. I asked if it was ok for me to visit her. I saw a yes very quickly. The nurse left the room, explaining there was no need for both of us to be there and to let them know when I was leaving.

"Is it ok for me to stimulate your hands?" I asked and her eyes went to the tops of their sockets.

"Can I do more," I asked. Again she said yes. Her response seemed slower and I thought she must be getting tired. With a hand in mine I started massaging it. When done I massaged up past her elbow. Then I went to the other side of the bed and massaged her other hand and arm. She watched me with little breaks of concentration where her eyes closed and she seemed to be asleep. I went to sit beside her and saw her eyes were looking down. I realised she was saying no and asked if I'd done something wrong. She indicated no. I sat to think it through, picked up a hand and began to massage it. Yes, she said. I told her about her front garden and of how I was doing my best, not as good as she would have done though. She indicated yes again.

That evening I took pictures of her front garden. Next day I held the pictures in front of her. She seemed very pleased. When I picked up her hand she moved a finger. Her eyes were looking up. I was thrilled and I thought she was too. I gave her hands and arms, up to her shoulders, a thorough massage. I hadn't realised before that under the sheet and blanket she was naked. When I told her of my surprise she gave me an emphatic yes. I tried to tuck the linen around her to protect her modesty but she was saying no.

"Would you like me to continue the massage?" I asked.

"Yes." So I continued trying to stimulate her arms to get more movement. The sorbolene was wonderful.

When I finished she was looking down and I asked,

"Would you like your feet done too?" The yes was emphatic. She was so helpless and beautiful. I massaged them and moved them around. She seemed to enjoy it.

At home I thought of little else. I resolved that if she wanted more massage I'd do it. I also thought about moving her limbs for her, as she would if she was well, determined I would help rather than sit uselessly. I went to the garden centre and asked when it would be time to plant salvias.

At the nurse's station I checked in and went to her room. There was no nurse with her. They had explained there was no reason for a nurse to be present all the time. I told them of my plan and they were encouraging. She only had to say no and I would stop.

In her room I sat and told Julia of my plan and she gave me a definite yes. She looked at her hand and showed me she could move three fingers now. She also gave a little grunt, most unlady like but she was clearly pleased to be able to produce sound. I giggled with the exhilaration of progress. I wanted to kiss her but didn't. I didn't want to take advantage of her.

The massage went well. I felt she enjoyed it. Half way through a nurse came into the room and watched. After a while she stopped me. I sat and watched as she showed me how it was done. She gave Julia's face a massage with sorbolene. Then she picked up an arm and moved it around, calling it range of movement exercises. First one side, then the other. I was surprised at the vigor of the exercise. The blanket fell off Julia to expose her breast. I went to cover her as the nurse didn't and she grunted, her eyes were looking down. I left her exposed as she wanted.

"I think she is saying the exercise is more important than modesty," the nurse said and added she would be the same. "Sometimes, there's no place for modesty in hospital."

Julia was agreeing.

From her arms the nurse went to Julia's legs. She pulled the blankets up from the bottom of the bed to fold them over her lap. Then she went through the range of movements. Each time she lifted a knee the bed linen moved a little higher. I was a little surprised as it quickly left Julia exposed. There was no effort to protect her modesty and when I moved to do it she grunted again to indicate a firm no. The nurse laughed. I guess it was funny. Serious too because Julia must have been tired of her linen cocoon.

When the nurse had finished she asked Julia if she'd like me to do it all again. There was a grunt and her eyes indicated definitely. The nurse left the room and I started. I felt awkward at first but soon developed confidence. When I went to cover her breast she said no again. I found a towel near the hand basin and when I tried to drape it between her legs she grunted a loud no. I continued and talked to her as I went through her range of movements. After a while I forgot about her being exposed. I told her of everything I planned to do so she could say no if she wanted. It was good to do. She seemed to enjoy it. At one point I saw a nurse at the doorway watching. She gave me a thumbs up, l had no idea how long she'd been there.

Next day was wonderful. The grunt remained for no but she was able to say yes. She was also able to move her lips into something of a smile. She grunted her "no" when I tried to protect her modesty and when I told her the massage and stimulation was completed. She gave me a "yes" and her lips smiled when I said I couldn't think of more to do. I told her of work and what I was doing before I left.

Slowly she developed her language skills. She learned "no", "more", "please", and then, with a rush she started to talk simple phrases. She also developed physical skills, able to move all her fingers and elbow on her own. She delighted to say "These off," as she touched the blankets. I hesitated. She repeated it so I folded the blankets from her and she showed me how she could raise her knees. It took a lot of effort and was special. She was very proud of herself. When her knees were bent up they dropped to the sides. She looked at me and grinned. I saw how wet her vulva was.

I gave her a long massage, used a lot of sorbolene and did every exercise I could think of. She loved it and kept trying to talk. It was difficult for her to talk because I kept the massage going throughout. At the end I told her I wouldn't be in for two days. At work they were worried and wanted me to catch up. They understood my commitment to Julia but pointed out that I had done so little overtime in the last few months and a big backlog had built up. The boss would roll up his sleeves and help. We should get a lot done.

The two days were difficult. I missed Julia so much. The boss and I worked well together. We had a few breaks and he asked about her. He was surprised and agreed it was important for me to be with her. Just two days and we'd be mostly caught up he hoped.

I was pleased when the two days were over. The boss expressed surprise that my job was so complicated and busy. Then he handed me a big box that was carefully wrapped in bright paper and tied with ribbons.

"For Julia ," he said. "My wife prepared it today. I told her about Julia last night and she wanted to help. I hope you don't mind. You will see my gift for you in the bank when you get paid. I put in a little extra, my way of saying thank you. I'm also thinking of promoting you. We need time to make transitions but it will happen soon." He grinned at me and pulled me to him for a hug. Then he looked embarrassed and said he didn't do that often. I said, "me either" and gave him another hug as I said "thank you."

I was thrilled. Next day, after work I raced into the hospital to see her. When I handed her the gift she dropped it and it bounced on the bed. No harm done but I knew she wasn't strong and needed a lot more therapy. I helped her to unwrap the gift. She was excited to find so many beautiful toiletries. I'd been meaning to replenish her toiletry bag. We both had tears. I kissed her, then looked to see if she approved. Her eyes were looking up and she was saying "'yes".

I started with the massage. In the box there was a big, beautifully scented bottle of sorbolene and I gently massaged her face. She was able to talk in monosyllables, sometimes a little more. She'd done a lot of work in my absence. She insisted I take the linen off. As I folded it off and placed it on a chair I couldn't help looking at her naked on the bed. So beautiful. She said she wanted to say thank you.

"Touch me," she said, "I want." I started massaging her shoulders. "Tits," she said emphatically.

I didn't know what to say. I was a little embarrassed.

"What if someone comes in?" I asked.

"Won't."

"How do you know?"

"Asked," and she grinned.

"You asked everyone to stay away?" I was shocked.

"Yes. They think- married. Door." She was grinning.

I sat and thought a moment. Obviously, with the turnover of staff it had been forgotten we were neighbors. I stood and went to the door to close it. There were no locks.

I went back to her and with sorbolene on my hands I massaged her face. She wasn't expecting it and delighted in the touch. I straightened her legs so they wouldn't get tired. She kept saying no but I did it anyway. "Naughty," she said, "very naughty," and she smiled. I massaged her neck. It was lovely, her neck so thin and once so poised. Her shoulders, broad for a woman, were massaged. Then her chest. When I took a breast in my hands she said "Yes." I raked my fingers up it and massaged it like I was pulling everything to her nipple. Then I played with her nipple. "Kiss it," she pleaded and when I kissed it she said, "More." I took it in my mouth, she sighed as I flicked it with my tongue and gently sucked. Then it was the other breast's turn. She sighed again.

"Nuff," she called after a while. "More." She looked down her body to indicate where and smiled. I raked my fingers down her body to the luscious hair. I feather fluttered around like my fingers were butterfly wings. She sighed. Then she raised her knees, clever Julia, and let them fall to to the sides.

"Touch me," she said, "Please." I curled my fingers in her hair, raked it slowly and parted it down the middle. I reached up to her and kissed her forehead".

"More," she said and smiled. I kissed her lips. "Mm. More," she repeated. I took her face in my hands and gave her an open mouthed kiss. "Mm. Good," she told me. She looked at me, waiting. I wasn't sure what to do.

"Cunt," she said. "Touch. Please." I was surprised by the word and her impatience. I slid my hand and finger down across her skin so it lodged in her vulva, separated her lips and continued on to enter her. She sighed. I kissed her. I heard the door knob being turned and the door quickly opened.

"Oh, so sorry," a nurse said. She quickly exited and closed the door behind her. A moment later there was a knock.

"Come in," I called as I sat with my hands in my lap.

"I want to apologize. Sorry," she said, and closed the door as she left.

We didn't do anything more that day. I think she understood how vulnerable I felt. It would have been completely understandable if it was interpreted as me abusing Julia. I thought about not coming any more. I worried that I could be seen as being a predator and worried about what others would think. More importantly, I was worried about me, it wasn't the kind of behaviour I'd ever been associated with and I was disappointed to be involved with it. I had always thought I could walk away from it, but now I was being tested and had failed badly. I lost a lot of sleep over it and promised myself I'd do better. She was so beautiful, I couldn't stay away, she needed me, if not for the massages, for company. It hurt to think I was her only visitor. I also realised I needed her. Work isn't enough. It never gave me the feeling of being valued like I felt when I was with her. On my way out of the ward I stopped to ask whether she was thinking properly. The nurse smiled and said the doctors have said she has "testamentary capacity". "That doesn't mean she has to think the way you do."

Next day, a nurse at the nurses station stopped me. We talked about Julia's behaviour. She said everyone is different but Julia seems to be making up for lost time. "Eventually she will adjust to what people consider normal. I wasn't sure either Julia or I wanted her to be normal but I listened. The doctors and psychologist think this is a transition and it would be best to allow her to work through it. Instead of a punitive environment she needs time and encouragement to explore." She said that in times past many coma patients emerged from the experience totally cowed. Their recovery was about rebuilding confidence which was very time consuming. "You are making a difference. She eagerly anticipates your arrival. She tries to talk about you endlessly while you're not here."

I'd never met the psychologist but knew she was a woman of long experience. Sometimes I wished I could visit on a weekday to meet everyone but I was always at work and unable to be there during regular hours. I was concerned too that I was taking on so much responsibility for her because prior to her illness I'd said little more than hello to her. I knew they'd found no next of kin.

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