The next morning Bruno walked into the hospital still completely dazed. He had, unlike he predicted, managed to take a shower, shave and change his clothes. He walked into the hospital without his signature hat and sunglasses. He tried to blend in, walking in the building with Arissa’s mother who had frantically found a way to get to Los Angeles overnight.
“This way, Kelly…” he told her as they walked together to the ICU.
“Bruno…she will be okay. You know she’s a fighter. “ Arissa’s mother reassured her son-in-law. “She likes to keep us waiting. She probably never told you that I was 4 weeks pregnant when she was born. Boy, did she make us wait to see her. She tested us. And it wasn’t the last time…” he listened to her talk about Arissa never did anything on their terms as a child, and even today, she doesn’t do things the way they should be done. She’s right. She’s always doing things her way.
They walked into the room where a nurse, Hilary, smiled at Bruno pointing to her room that was open. A nurse named Michael, who Bruno had seen the night before, stood next to Arissa filling out a piece of paper on a clip board as Bruno and Kelly walked into the room. “How is she?” Kelly asked.
“She’s getting better. Her oxygen levels are going up and you can see her muscles move. She can hear us. She’s been moving her hands and eyes as I ask her questions. Dr. Miller will be in shortly to do a full assessment.” he said turning around out the door.
“How do I talk to her?” Bruno asked cautiously.
“Just talk to her. Hold her hand and tell her you’re there. She will respond.” Brandon told him heading out the door to his next patient.
Kelly motioned him to go sit down next to her. He took her hand lightly, as he would take her hand if she was standing next to him on a normal day. He leaned down next to her ear to make sure she heard him. “Rissy…I’m here for you. I’m here forever, and ever and always. You’re my angel, my heart, my soul, my everything. And my heart is aching from not being able to hear your voice, your breath, your laugh, your cry, even for one day. I need you to stay with me. “ he felt her squeeze his hand tightly as he finished. “Arissa. Just hold on to me. Just take my hand and never let go. Please.” he felt her hand grip his again.
“Bruno…” Kelly tried to get his attention. “She’s opening her eyes, sweetheart.”
He looked over at her to see her squinting her eyes to look at him. Don’t cry Bruno. Please. I am going to be okay. It hurts. But, it’s not the worst thing in the world. Just please. You crying makes me want to cry. I know I look really shitty right now, but trust me….I’m here. And you need to quit being so damn sappy…Arissa was thinking as she watched tears fall from his cheek onto the bright white sheet she was laying on.”Ris? Oh my goodness. I….” he said in shock. “Arissa…I love you.” he said kissing her on the forehead.
“My throat hurts…” Arissa coughed after her mother and Bruno came back in the room from being escorted out as the medical staff took out the breathing apparatus.
“Shhh…don’t talk…” Bruno said running his fingers through her hair. “Shhh…” he repeated. She closed her eyes as he comforted her. “Go back to sleep, baby doll. We’ll be here when you wake up.” He continued to hold her hand as she slept. She tried to turn to the side several times and started to toss and turn in the middle of a dream but was stopped by her leg and arms. He could hear her continue to struggle with her breathing as she slept. Hilary came back in to check on her vitals a few hours later.
“Hilary, she sounds like she’s having an asthma attack…like I can hear every breath she’s taking.”
“That’s normal, Mr. Hernandez. Her ribs are still trying to reconnect and heal. She’s going to be like that for a few days, maybe even a few weeks. If she starts breathing any faster or slower than she is right now, though…come and get me right away.”
Later in the day the doctor decided that Arissa was stable enough to move her back downstairs to the room she was in the day before, which also meant he could stay with her longer
“Mr. Hernandez….” a woman in her mid thirties came into the room dressed in black dress pants, a purple top and black heels with her hair in a ponytail. She obviously wasn’t a nurse or a doctor, but she had a hospital badge hanging on the bottom of her shirt.
“Yes?” he asked turning from Arissa.
“There will be a press conference in a few minutes about those injured in yesterday’s events. We wanted to get your consent to disclose certain aspects of your wife’s recovery…” she handed him a form to look over.
“What does this mean? That everyone in the world will know what happened?” he asked.
“Well, certain things…” she explained the HIPPA Act to him as he read over the sheet again.
“Just tell them she’s here and is going to be okay. They don’t need to know anything else. Nothing more than she’s here and okay…” he told her handing her the paper checking no to all the disclosure statements.
Bruno grabbed the remote from the side of the bed to watch the press conference. I’m just curious. I don’t know what’s going…it’s only human…
Anderson Cooper interrupted a late night documentary about Earhquakes to introduce the press conference. “We’re going to hear from the doctors at Cedars Sinai as they discuss the status of several of their patients who have been injured in the San Bernadino Earthquake….” the camera cut to a live feed. The doctors explained how many people had been brought to the hospital..14...most of them had left the hospital already. However, they still had 51 in care. There were various injuries and various severities. After the doctors wrapped up their statements they asked the audience for questions.
One young reporter caught the spokesperson’s attention. “Can you tell us about Arissa Henderson? How is she?” The doctor looked down at his sheet to check to see what information could be shared. He looked confused for a few seconds before someone came over to point at a different name.
“Mrs. Hernandez is in good condition.” the doctor answered.
Another reporter walked quietly over to the spokesperson to clarify what she had just said. Bruno watched her walk over to the side, unable to make out what she was saying.
“Was that the right name?” the reporter asked the woman in the purple top.
“Yes. Yes, it was. Arissa Hernandez. 4 year old Caucasian female…” the lady in the purple shirt said.
“Shit.” Bruno heard Arissa respond to the statement made on TV.
“Risss….” he sat down next to her.
“Oww…” she whined a little.
“I’m sorry…” he kissed her on the collar bone. “Baby…people were going to find out sometime. It’s not like the people we know don’t know…”
“I know…but it still scares me to think of what all your crazy fans are going to do. I mean, like really? You married a girl, didn’t tell anyone and now she’s all messed up?” Arissa started to worry about what was going to happen.
“Arissa….please…things will be okay. Remember the first few days after Milan? Those were bad. And now it’s just like ‘Oh yeah. They’re engaged…’” He tried to soothe her nerves but wasn’t very successful. She cringed as she went back to November of the past year in her head.
“I just….That was hard. And I don’t know. If things were normal and I wasn’t half dead I’d be okay with telling people…but this is just a weird time.” she explained to him.
As he tried to find what to say to her his phone buzzed.
“Who is it?” she asked.
“Maybe he’ll know what to do.” Arissa expressed her hope in resolving the situation.
“Hey, B boy..” Bruno answered putting it on speaker.
“I know it’s late…” Brandon started. “But Lauren just called me frantic because E! and Access called within minutes of each other asking about you and Arissa…she didn’t know how to answer. “
Bruno thought quickly as he got the information. “Umm…I guess I have to say something.”
“Yeah. You’ve gotta say something…” Arissa said finally coming around to the concept hearing it from an objective third party.
“Let’s do this…” Brandon thought out loud. “We say you two were married in a quiet ceremony in December and that she is going to be just fine. And of course then you send your condolences and prayers to all the other families in the same situation…and then you perform at the telethon thing that Kutcher is putting together.”
“But how do you confront the fact that he didn’t say anything until March, Brandon?” Arissa asked.
“Bruno, that’s on you, dude. You’re always open about things. You decide what you want to say and what you don’t want to say.” Brandon told them.
“I don’t really talk about my personal life, though. It’s private….” he paused still unsure how to answer if someone were to ask him. When you love a girl so much that you can’t stand not to hear their voice, see their face or even hear them yell at you for being you, you marry them. And that’s what I did. I couldn’t ask for anything more. And, as much as I love that people know and care so much about me and my family, there are certain things I choose to share and others that I choose to keep private. …how is that?” Bruno finished his profoundly insightful statement.
“That’s a good answer.” Brandon answered. I will get this statement out soon.
Arissa struggled to get Bruno’s phone that had buzzed on the tray next to her. “Oww. Shit..” she said quietly as he slept through her struggle. “Ohhh.got it.” she unlocked his phone (protected from the famous booty tweet) to check his e-mail.
Alright, bro. This is going out in a few minutes. Holler at your boy if we need to change anything:
Bruno Mars would like to send his condolences and prayers to the families and friends of those lost in the recent San Bernadino Earthquake. Personally affected by the events, Bruno would like everyone to know that his wife is stable, healthy and healing from injuries sustained during the San Bernadino Earthquake. To show his support for those lost and injured he will be participating in the Quake Quest for Recovery on March 8, 01.
Arissa started typing a response.
It was perfect, B- Riss.
“Riss…you look beautiful.” Bruno looked at her from behind in the mirror.
“Oh my god. Stop. I can’t walk, I have a bright red sling and my chest still hurts a little. Oh, and did I mention I have a huge scar on the nose from where a rock hit me?” Arissa answered his comment.
He stepped in between her and the mirror lifting up her chin to look into her eyes. God, I could melt in those eyes Arissa thought to herself. “You are amazing just the way you are and the whole world will know that after tonight.” he kissed her a light kiss on the lips running his fingers through her now chin length straight blonde hair. “Just the way you arrrree.” he sang to her.
“Shut up!” she laughed at his singing. “The way you aaarreeeeee.” Arissa sang back to him trying to reach up to kiss him. “You’re going to have to meet me half way, Brunz. I can’t reach your lips with my legs like this.”
He bent down a few inches touching her cheek so gently it felt like his finger tips were the only thing near her. “I love you, Riss.” he kissed her the same light kiss making her weak in the knees.
Arissa tried to crumble down to her knees to show him that he made her weak, but, instead cried out. “Owwww. Oh my god. That hurt.”
“Are you okay?” he asked suddenly concerned.
“I’m fine.” she laughed.
“Come on. Let’s do this…” he said picking her up flirtatiously taking her to the car.
“Put me down! I have to walk! That’s what they said!”
“Mrs. Hernandez?” an early twenty something asked her name as Arissa played with her hair in the mirror next to another Earthquake survivor.
“Yes?” Arissa turned around to answer her.
“There’s someone from E! That wants to talk to you. Bruno said you would…” the girl told her.
“He did?” she looked at her shocked.
“I’m just the messenger, ma’am.” the girl answered.
“No, no. Don’t worry. You were just doing your job. I’m sorry..” Arissa gave the girl an empathetic look. “Where are they?”
“In the green room.” the girl answered.
“Thank you…” Arissa hobbled into the green room with her leg in a soft cast.
“Hi, Arissa. I’m Heather…please have a seat.” a skinny African American girl in stylist skinny jeans and a signature fundraiser shirt told her as she peeked into the room.
“Where’s Bruno?” Arissa asked. “Y’all didn’t want both of us?” Arissa was confused.
“No, just you. Arissa.” Heather answered.
“Oh..umm..okay…It’s just…” Arissa’s phone buzzed as she expressed her anxiety over the interview.
Don’t be nervous. Be yourself. They’ll love you.
Arissa smiled at the text looking up at the reporter.
“He always knows what to say…” Arissa smiled at Heather.”Ready?”
Heather gave the cameraman a nodded to start recording.
“Arissa...you someone landed one of the most eligible bachelors in recent years. How the heck did you do it?” Arissa looked over the questions before they started recording. She had come up with witty Bruno-esque answers to the questions.
“I went fishing for him. I just had the right bait, I guess.”
“Oh fishing…that was a great way for me to ask about the wedding. How was it?”
“It was small and we had a few people there…” I’m a bad liar… “The ones that mean the most to us. I don’t think there was a single extraordinary event…” Lies, again. It was the most amazing day ever. “We’re so normal. We danced, we sang, we drank….”
”The question most people are asking is how the heck did no one know you two got married?”
“No one will ever know the answer, Heather. I think it was just dumb luck. And he’s James Bond and I’m his Bond girl. We’re secret agents.”
“You would make a great Bond girl! You haven’t ever thought about that?”
“Oh goodness no. This makes me nervous. Going to concerts makes me nervous. This is so out of where I am comfortable. A year ago I was sitting in a cubicle in Texas. And now I’m talking to E! about some natural disaster. It’s very surreal.”
“Surreal for sure,” Heather answered. “How are you feeling now?”
“Oh gosh, so much better than two weeks ago. I’m a rock star.” Arissa answered smiling.
“You have almost become the spokesperson for the relief effort…how does that feel?”
“Shocking. I am so glad I am able to use my new found face to assist people that really need it. When everyone found out about this, when they found out I was hurt, Bruno’s fans were so supportive. The ability to direct that support to those that really need it is just so amazing.”
“And you’ll be introducing Bruno’s performance right? Can you clue us into what to expect?”
“I wish I could. He’s James Bond. Don’t forget.”
Arissa was helped to the front of the stage by Travie McCoy who was introducing Arissa’s introduction. “I’m gonna smack him when we’re done.” Arissa told him.
“Why?” he leaned down to ask her.
“They asked me what he was performing..I never know that stuff.” Arissa laughed. “Oh, and I didn’t know I was doing interviews.” Arissa told him.
“Beat the crap out of him, Riss. Do it.”
An assistant director caught their attention by waving his hand.
“Ready, Arissa?” Travie asked.
“Yeah…” Arissa closed her eyes saying a quick prayer.
“Arissa Hernandez was driving home from work. She spoke to her husband minutes before it happened. She was pinned against her car suffering four broken ribs, a fractured arm and a broken leg. Her husband thought he lost her. He said, ‘She’s my angel. My heart and my soul, and I wasn’t going to be able to survive without her. I would have switched places with her in a heartbeat….’” They played his voice making her choke up a bit. “Arissa is here today.” After showing pictures of the car and of the hospital Arissa paused to read her lines.
“I am a survivor. We are all survivors. And even with a broken arm, leg and sore ribs, I am here today thanks to the help of the doctors, nurses and staff of Cedars Sinai. This is my thank you to them.”
“Bruno Mars…” Travie started.
“You can count on me….” Arissa smiled.
“Like 1, , 3 I’ll be there.” Travie and Arissa finished at the same time.
The lights on their side of the stage faded as the lights to the side where he was going to perform came on. In between the fade Bruno began to speak. “We are a family bound by tragedy and triumph. We are friends that have been through things no one can ever imagine. You can count on me to be there.”
Arissa sat down in a chair next to Bruno on the stage to answer donation phone calls for the next three hours. While both their phones were quiet she laid her head on him.
“I’m tired…” she told him.
“I am too, baby doll. We can go to sleep when we’re done.” he kissed her on the cheek answering his phone as it rang. A photographer snapped a few pictures of them as they talked on the phone. While, I guess I have to get used to this. It’s not that bad. At least I’m not fat.
When the event was over Bruno helped Arissa hobble to the back of the building. As they were walking they saw a young woman holding two babies trying to wrangle together three other older children. One of the boys ran right into Bruno’s legs.
“Hey, little man. You need to slow down. You don’t want to get hurt.”
“Isaac! What do you say to him?”
The little boy with dark brown hair and big eyes looked up at Bruno. “I’m sorry…” A pre-teen standing a few feet from them looked at Bruno and started to blush.
“I’m so sorry, sir. They’re new. And we’re still trying to figure everything out…” she said bouncing the babies on her waist to keep them from crying.
“It’s okay…” Bruno smiled rubbing Isaac on the head.
“And what’s your name?” he asked the pre-teen.
“I’m…I’mmmmm…my name…” she was thoroughly embarrassed meeting Bruno.
“That’s Isis.” the mother answered. “Sissy…” she corrected her mother.
“Well, Sissy…do you want to get a picture with us?” Bruno asked.
She nodded her head about to faint. Oh dear. I hope I didn’t act like a 1 year old when we first met..Arissa thought to herself.
“I want to!” Isaac yelled. “And so does Manny!”
The mother took a camera from her purse that was laying on the ground while holding the two younger children.
“That was impressive…” Arissa said out loud. The mother laughed at Arissa’s comment handing her the camera to snap a picture.
“Okay…on the count of 3….say queso…”Arissa told them. “I, , 3....queso!”
Sissy ran over to the camera to look at the picture. “It’s so good! I’m never going to forget this! This is the best thing that has happened to me…ever…” she told Arissa.
Arissa looked at Bruno shocked by the young girl’s reaction. “Why do you say that, Sissy?” Bruno asked.
“Because…things have just sucked lately...being taken away from my mom and my dad is gone…and they wouldn’t let us stay with yaya…” she opened up to Arissa and Bruno…two complete strangers.
“And these are your brothers and sisters?” Bruno asked.
“Yes. They’re all my brothers and sisters. The babies are Isabella and Ivy.”
The mother reached over to shake Bruno’s hand. “I’m Helena Zayas. I’m theit foster mother.”
“Fake mom.” Isaac said rudely.
“Well, Helena, I would love it if your whole family could make it to one of our concerts.” Bruno said.
“Rissy…give them Brandon’s phone number.” he told her. She handed Bruno her phone with Brandon’s number. “Helena…call this number in the morning. He will get you all front row seats. And bring the little ones two. We’ll take care of them.” Bruno smiled.
“I’d really like to say we’ll call you, Bruno..but I don’t think that it’s a good idea.”
“Well then…give my wife your phone number and we will make sure everyone gets there.” He insisted.
Helena took a hold of Arissa’s blackberry punching in her number.
“Is it really your number, Helena?” Arissa asked.
“Yes.” she laughed.
“Then we will call you tomorrow morning.” Arissa said.
The group parted ways with Helena meeting her husband James and Arissa and Bruno walking out toward their car.
“Bruno…I want to do that…I want to make things better for kids like Helena and James.”
“Riss..that’s a big undertaking. Are you sure that’s something you want to do?” he asked her.
“It’s going to be hard for me to have kids. There are already so many other children that need help. Why not help them before we have our own?” Arissa asked.
“You make too much sense, Riss. Too much.” he smiled at her.
“You think so?” she asked looking at him while he drove. ‘
“Yes. It’s a good idea. There are so many kids and not a lot of people are willing to take care of the kids that don’t have families as good as ours were to us while we were growing up. It sounds like fun, too.”
“Really?!” her face lit up.
“Yes, Arissa…but let’s talk about all of it tomorrow morning. I can tell you’re tired. And I am too.”
They sat on the couch with Bruno’s laptop in the middle of them. Arissa started typing “foster California” and was directed to the California Department of Child Welfare.
“Click on the one on the top…it says become a foster parent…” Bruno pointed on the top. They stopped to read the requirements.
“Click on the travel thing, Riss…”
“Foster parents are required to keep foster children in the state of residence. If a foster family would like to travel outside of the county approval must be give a month in advance. Travel outside of the United States is strictly prohibited…”
“Well…that sucks.” Arissa said.
“It does…and look at all the requirements. 40 hours of training, provided on a monthly basis at the licensed child placing facility, appearances in court, biyearly doctors’ appointments, counseling and home visits at least twice a month…”
“Brunz…would you be able to do that? That just sounds like a lot…and I do travel in September and February…”
“I don’t know, baby doll. It could be too much.”
“Hmm…” Arissa thought out loud. “I think it might be too much…”
Bruno sat at a desk next to his sisters putting bracelets in boxes and licking envelopes.
“You know…if those girls knew who licked those envelopes they’d probably die a little on the inside…” Jaime told her brother.
“Should I put a little note on it that says ‘sealed by bruno’? That would…”
Jaime started laughing at him. “How is Rissy?” she asked him.
“She’s fine. She said her legs still really hurt, though. But, taking care of her isn’t that bad.”
“Did you give her one of those little bells that she can ring when she needs something?” she asked him.
“No! Oh my god. Do you remember when Pres had the bell when she got all sun burnt and couldn’t move?”
“Yes! I was the one that heard it…every single time. God. What a brat.” Jaime remembered.
“I know. She was a brat then..but she still is.” Bruno said throwing some papers off to the side of the table.
“Bruno….” her sister started to ask. “When are you going to have kids? Or are you going to be that couple that never has kids? I mean…I don’t care…but I know Arissa would be an amazing mother….”
“We haven’t really talked about it.” Bruno shrugged deciding whether he should tell his sister about what they were thinking.
“Don’t lie. She told me at the hospital she wanted babies.”
“She did? When did that happen?” he was confused. She had, of course, mentioned wanting to have children but most of it was directed towards her PCOS.
“You were gone for some reason. I think TLC was on and she started oohing and ahhing over A Baby’s Story. She said she couldn’t wait to have pretty Bruno babies.”
“That sounds like something she would say.” He smiled at her wife’s humor. “She’s afraid of actually trying though. She told me. She even asked if we could adopt kids.”
“Adopt? Bruno! That would be so amazing! e that idea. Like from where?”Jaime’s eyes lit up.
“On Friday we talked to a foster mother who is going to come to the Gibson show…I could just feel Arissa’s heart melt when she saw all the kids Helena had with her…but then we read all the requirements and it just sounds so hard to do…”
“You know kids are hard work, Bru. If it’s something you feel a calling for then look into it. You would be so good at that.”
”But I don’t know….I looked at it and it just…I want my own children. Someone to say is mine. 100% mine. A little Bruno.” he confessed. “We haven’t even tried to have kids…it can’t be that hard…”
Jaime went to her computer typing in “PCOS and pregnancy.” “Come here…” she told him to sit down next to her. They read over a few articles stating that having children with PCOS was hard, but not impossible. “Did you tell her that, Brunz? That you want your own kids?”
“No…I just…she’s just so happy thinking about it.”
“Bruno…it’s not like letting her choose the Vegan restaurant for dinner. You can’t just let her win when children’s lives are at stake. The caseworkers will be able to tell you aren’t into it.”
“But it’s what she wants…” Bruno said.
“Come with me to Batasan Pambansa next month. Don’t make any decisions yet. Maybe that will help you decide. “ she told him.
“Is that when you’re donating the money to them?” Bruno asked about the orphanage his sister had begun to sponsor.
“Yeah. I think Tahiti was going to come with too. We can all go.”
“I guess…” Bruno thought out loud.
Arissa handed Bruno a plate with chicken and rice on it. “I think I can make it right now…” she told him.
“It was perfect last time, Rissy.” he told her taking a bite of the rice.
“No…it wasn’t! Don’t try to flatter me.” she laughed at him.
“It was edible….” he confessed.
“Well, thanks for finally being honest, Bru!” she answered him. “Oh….” she grabbed her phone.
“I called Helena today. I sent her the e-tickets for her and the kids.”
“Riss…” he paused trying to wrap his head around what he was going to say. “I don’t think we should…”
“Should do what Helena and James are doing?” she asked. “I knew you wouldn’t want to.” she shrugged her head. “I don’t either. I asked Helena about it and it is…it is too much and we don’t want to change the way we do things.”
“Arissa…be the mother to my children…” Bruno stopped her rambling.
“Baby…I can’t…” she told him.
“You can! My sister and I looked it up this afternoon. You can! We have all the money in the world to have babies. I don’t care how much it costs….”
“Bruno! Stop! I know it’s possible. I just don’t want to be disappointed when it takes like a million years to have kids. It’s emotional and it’s hard and I don’t know if I can handle that. I don’t know if I can put myself through all of that. There are so many that are already…”
“You sound like a heartless asshole, Bruno Mars.” she yelled at him picking up their plates hobbling to the sink. “A heartless asshole who only cares about himself.” she turned around looking at him dead in the eye as she finished saying that. She could tell she got to him, which was exactly what she wanted to do. He didn’t answer her walking back to their bedroom.