CLARITY /'Klariti/ - (Noun): The ability to think clearly and not be confused "In the end, the clarity that comes from moments of horror can help us recommit to deeper principles." ___________________________________________________________________________________ J.R. restlessly drummed the floor of the elevator with his foot. The damn machine had never moved so slowly before. His nerves were shot, after the abrupt end to his phone-call with Jack. It left him with a terrible sense of unease. Impatiently, he monitored every numbered floor the elevator descended. The sudden impact of what could only be described as an explosion shook all four walls and tossed him onto his backside. His descent continued, in spite of the violent jolt, and J.R. rushed from the lobby into the crowd that had started to form outside. He blindly stumbled between the bodies and followed their horrified expressions upward. Plumes of smoke erupted from his office window and vitriolic flames followed suit. Workers from the office complex flooded onto the street from every possible exit and the downtown Dallas street became the epicentre of chaos. “Your wife…” J.R.’s ears were partially deafened by the noise of the explosion but he heard the two most important words of all when one of the security personnel barrelled toward him. He suddenly became hyper-aware of Sue Ellen’s car parked haphazardly on the street. ___________________________________________________________________________________ The medical torch blinded Sue Ellen and she involuntarily flinched backward, as the professional approved her for release. “You’re an incredibly fortunate woman. Your injuries are minimal.” The first responders on the scene had marvelled, too, at how she had escaped a supposedly-lethal explosion with a dislocated shoulder and two broken ribs. J.R. drove her home from the hospital. The news of Jamie’s death had been overshadowed in media outlets by the explosion at the company’s office complex but the call from Pam had hit them both hard. It didn’t evade J.R. how easily it could have been Sue Ellen; if she had been one step closer to the blast, it could have been her charred body that lay cold, ice-cold. The family lay in wait for their arrival, and Sue Ellen looked like a soldier on his return from battle. There were a collection of scratches all over her body and a pompous bruise on her forehead that had already started to turn a deep shade of purple. John Ross bolted toward Sue Ellen, serendipitously intercepted by J.R., “Hold up, son. Be careful with your mama.” Sue Ellen’s heart physically split open, when John Ross cautiously curled his little arms around her waist. Limited in movement by the shoulder immobiliser and perpetual ache in her chest, she softly stroked his head with her free hand and whispered ‘I-love-you’ from above. J.R. facilitated Sue Ellen’s amble up the endless staircase and into the bedroom they had always shared. “I wasn’t sure I’d make it back here.” There was a moment, however brief, that Sue Ellen didn’t think she would survive. Trapped beneath rubble and shards of the shattered windows, her existence seemed to fade… until J.R.’s voice beckoned her like a beam across the dark sea. “It’s over, darlin’,” J.R. tenderly reeled her body into his chest. Sue Ellen nodded her head, convinced, as if his words made it so. She buried her face into the crook of his neck. He was home, he was where she felt safe. “Are you okay?” “Yes,” she bravely forced herself to reply. “But I’m tired and filthy and I need a bath.” Dried blood matted her usually perfect curls, the smell of burnt debris had stuck to her clothes and dust particles dulled the complexion of her skin. “I’ll run one for you,” J.R. volunteered, but the squeeze of her hand halted him when he hot-stepped toward the en-suite. Sue Ellen searched his eyes and spoke queitly, “You were incredible today.” He had beaten first responders onto the scene and remained by her side for the drive to Dallas Memorial Hospital. He tenderly squeezed her hand, if her consciousness slipped, and shared her sorrow when they received word of Jamie’s death. “So were you,” he returned the compliment, astounded by her bravery. “But you never should have been there in the first place.” “I was worried about you,” she softly murmured, with a shake of her head, and it was confirmation that she didn’t blame him; not that it mattered - he blamed himself. His business ethic, or lack thereof, had nearly resulted in her death and had been the direct cause of Jamie’s. After the year without Bobby, J.R. wasn’t sure his family would sustain another round of heartache. J.R. smiled weakly and planted a kiss on her forehead. He delicately steered her into the en-suite and filled the bathtub to its brim with hot, bubbly water for Sue Ellen to soak in. He cautiously removed her blue jumpsuit and recoiled at the reveal of additional bruises she had sustained. It was little wonder the doctor was reluctant to release her from the hospital, and only did so under the strict condition that J.R. have a private nurse monitor Sue Ellen at Southfork. While she immersed herself into the mass of scented bubbles, J.R. tucked John Ross into bed. He returned to find Sue Ellen in awe of a particular bruise, inches above her knee. He winced, “Does it hurt?” She twisted her lips, “My shoulder hurts more.” A nurse had ruthlessly manipulated the joint back into its natural position but a sharp ache remained and Sue Ellen had refused heavy-duty painkillers, in ode to her recovery from any substance. “Would you wash my hair for me?” J.R. rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt, “Sure, honey.” Shampoo oozed from the bottle and he rubbed the foamy liquid into her scalp. His hands caressed her head and neck, where he applied mild pressure and squeezed out the tension of all she had endured. “That feels nice,” Sue Ellen moaned appreciatively, as she leaned into his touch and he washed all clean. Mindful of her injuries, his hands scoured her entire body until the water threatened to temporarily wrinkle her skin, and he helped lift her partially disabled body from the bathtub. “J.R.?” How deliberately her husband avoided her eye hadn’t escaped Sue Ellen’s attention, especially as he wrapped her body in a white towel and his navy-blue robe. “Would you stay with me?” He peeled back the bedsheets, which were blue no more from the last time they made love. “The nurse is downstairs…” he mumbled the prelude of an excuse but his voice trailed off to silence. It was the least he could do. “I want you,” Sue Ellen whispered, her sultry tone seductive. The private nurse patiently waited downstairs with the intention to monitor Sue Ellen, in the case of any nasty after-effect from the knock to her head but Sue Ellen didn’t care for just anyone; she needed her husband. She affectionately caressed J.R.’s cheek and leaned inward, but he turned his head to one side and her lips brushed his skin. “Believe me, I want to.” J.R. attempted to placate his wife with ample reassurance but her disillusionment was palpable. “I don’t want to hurt you, that’s all.” He flashed a contrite expression and pressed the back of her hand to his lips. “You won’t,” her lips planted tiny butterfly kisses on the nape of his neck. J.R. made his best play for resistance but her physical powers of persuasion were too much, even for him. ___________________________________________________________________________________ Entwined in the sheets, J.R. stretched a protective arm around Sue Ellen’s back. They had made love slower than usual but as passionately as ever before. She winced, as she curled into his side, and J.R.’s head shot up. “Should I call the nurse?” Sue Ellen shook her head re-adjusted the position of her body near his; her cheek rested on his chest. “I don’t know what I would have done if I had lost you today.” The events of the day had led to his moment of clarity, the complete and utter realisation of what J.R. had suspected for some time - he was as dependent on Sue Ellen, as she had been on him. “You and John Ross are all that matter to me.” Sue Ellen contentedly stroked her foot up and down his shin. “You didn’t lose me and you never will.” He forced himself into a happier state of mind; miles away from the memories of her unconscious body pinned beneath his office desk. “Now that this is over and done with, I think you and I deserve a vacation. We could fly anywhere in the world… somewhere warm.” J.R. played with strands of her brunette curls, blissfully unaware that exhaustion had crept over Sue Ellen until her head became heavier on his chest and she snored faintly in response. He reached for a nearby blanket and draped it across her waist, “I love you, honey.” While half-asleep, she subconsciously kissed his bare chest and mumbled, “I love you, too.” ___________________________________________________________________________________ *This title has also been posted here as part of the Dallas Drabble Collection.