An Important Notice to Readers...
Although this fiction blog is illustrated with photos of dolls, and dollhouse miniatures, the language and content of the storyline is intended for an adult audience. Please be advised.
When, years later, he would look back at the events of this day, Fr. Kevin O'Kenney would say that in those hours, he learned several valuable lessons on the peculiar angles of life. Lessons that would change forever the advice he'd give to troubled souls seeking his advice. But in the harsh reality of the moment, under the blanket of organized chaos that was the common place of hospital emergency rooms, everything moved in painful and dazed slow motion.
Mrs. Sherman became his instant life line, locking up the church and rectory, driving him to the hospital, and organizing a prayer circle on behalf of his sister. She had offered to contact his siblings for him, but Kevin felt news of this nature needed to be delivered by a family member, and he declined. He did, however, appreciate the promise of a prayer circle, as the best he could muster in the way of spiritual communication was a few "Please, Lord...not her".
He was informed upon arrival that his sister was in surgery, and that a doctor would be out to discuss her status with him as soon as possible. Demands for more information were met with general comments of the same nature. Everything that could be done, was being done, and Mrs. Beckett was in good medical hands. So, he paced the waiting room, ignoring the sign that suggested people use their cell phones outside, and began the wrenching task of calling the rest of the O'Kenney clan.
An ear to his cell, he heard his brother-in-law's arrival before he saw him. The wailing of sirens, and the screeching of tires outside the ER door preceded Ted's appearance by mere seconds. He marched through the sliding doors in the same manner he entered any room, an air of complete control and command swirling like some invisible force around him, though the priest noticed that the hard lines of his face looked even tighter than usual, his jaw clenched like a vise, and his complexion the color of gray chalk.
Beckett first headed toward the reception desk, fully intent on interrogating the duty nurse, but upon seeing Kevin, abruptly turned in mid-sentence, and veered toward the waiting room. Before he could begin to explain, the man dived into a full set of questions, not waiting for a reply to any.
"Where's my wife? How is she? Have you spoken to anyone about her condition? What did they tell you? Who do I need to talk to?"
The priest put a hand on the man's arm, both as a greeting of sorts, as well as a way to halt the barrage of inquiries, but the man tensed with such force, that Kevin was forced to remove the offending contact with more than a small degree of mortified embarrassment.
"I haven't really spoken to anyone." He pointed to the woman at the desk, who was watching the drama unfold from the corner of her eye. "The nurse at the desk said that Maureen was in surgery, and that a doctor would be out to talk to us when it was possible. All I know is that she was in some kind of car accident. The hows and whys of it all? I'm just not sure. Where in God's name would my sister even get a car? Was she driving? Or was she a pedestrian? Those are questions I have myself."
There was a small downward twist to the Sheriff's lips, the only change in his stone like demeanor. "Apparently, she was driving my Mustang. One of my new deputies was the first on the scene. He didn't recognize my car, or Maureen's name, until he ran the plates. He called me seconds after I hung up on you."
"Your Mustang? But isn't that a manual shift? Maureen can't drive stick! She can barely drive a regular car decently!"
There was no response from the man, who looked over Kevin's head, at the doctor drawing toward them. The surgeon, still in blue scrubs, sized up both men, and then put a hand out to Beckett.
"Sheriff Beckett? I'm Dr. Adleman. I'm the surgeon on call this evening."
"How is she? How's my wife?"
"She's still in surgery, but holding her own. We were able to stop the majority of the internal bleeding. The impact focused mostly on the thoracic region, so she's not out of the woods yet. The next 36 hours will be crucial. But she's young, and in good cardiac health. I'm hoping to give you a more positive prognosis later this evening."
Fr. Kevin let out the breath he was holding, the escaping air sounding like a deflated tire. "Thanks be to God." Seconds later, he'd wish that he had kept that statement to himself, because Beckett would never, ever understand his faith, but in the relief of the moment, it slipped past his lips without thought.
Ted shifted his weight, and his shoulders dropped an inch or two, the only physical reaction to the physician's news. "And the baby, Doctor? My wife was nearly six months pregnant."
The man looked down at his feet for just a second, a dead give away to the bad news he was about to deliver. "I'm sorry, Sheriff. We did everything we could. Even with the air bag, the blow to the abdominal region was quite severe. She went into labor shortly after she arrived here. The baby was just too premature to survive." And in the best misguided fashion he knew, the doctor added the following statement, meant to offer comfort where none could ever be found. "Your wife is a young woman, Sheriff. Once she heals up from all this, she should easily be able to conceive again. There was no damage to the ovaries or uterus. A stroke of good fortune in all of this."
Fr. Kevin felt as if all the oxygen in the room had been sucked out, leaving both his brain and his tongue unable to function. He forced himself to look at his sister's husband, not knowing what he might see in response to the doctor's pronouncement. Beckett's face was deathly still, not a muscle moving except for his eye lids, which blinked several times in rapid succession. Both men stared at each other, their eyes locked to the outside world, and in that instant, the priest was sure he saw the man dissolve into a million tiny pieces, shattering like a piece of crystal under the weight of a heavy blow. But in the same turn, the mask was back up, solidly in place, the jaw clenched, the eyes seemingly focusing on nothing.
Sheriff Beckett pumped the surgeon's hand. "Thank you for saving my wife's life, Doctor. When can I see her?"
The doctor, relieved to avoid an emotional scene, returned the handshake. "I'll let you know when she's in recovery. I expect her to be groggy for several hours, but you can at least sit with her."
"Does she know? About the baby?"
Grim faced, the doctor nodded. "She was conscious when they brought her in, and stayed that way until we prepped her for surgery. She is aware that the fetus did not survive, and even asked if she could see it before we took it away. But, we needed to get her into surgery as quickly as possible, so we had to postpone that opportunity." A quick glance at his feet again, and the man added, "Again, Sheriff, I'm sorry we couldn't do more. It was...just not possible."
There was another round of posturing handshakes, and the doctor turned around to leave, moving down the hall before Beckett called out to him. The surgeon, obviously anxious to be on his way, moved back a few steps closer before the Sheriff posed his question. "The baby...was it...a boy or a girl?"
The man thought a moment, then replied, "The fetus was male, I believe. I can arrange for a viewing if you wish."
"That won't be necessary, Doctor. Thank you though, for the offer."
"Well, let us know if you change your mind." And then the man was off, practically jogging to avoid being called back for further questioning, and leaving Fr. Kevin alone with his new brother-in-law.
He raised his hand again to offer physical comfort, then quickly changed his mind, the memory of his early rebuff stinging in the back of his head. "I'm so sorry, Ted. About the baby. If you want to talk, I'm here."
Beckett looked at him oddly. "Talk? No, O'Kenney. I don't want to talk about it. It is what it is."
The stone mask was back in place, but Kevin would not be deterred, the mind's eye vision of the man disintergrating like glass still fresh and raw in his head. Beckett, despite outward appearances, must be grieving the loss of his child, coupled with anxiety over the condition of his wife. It was only human to do so. "Look Ted, it's okay to be sad. Angry even. No one expects you to be stalwart in a situation like this. Especially not Maureen."
His expression never changing, Becket held up a hand. "I asked nicely, Kevin. I don't want to talk. Not to you. Not to your family. If you want to stay, keep me company, support your sister... that's fine. But we're not having any discussion. If you value our friendship at all, you'll just sit there and keep quiet."
Fr. Kevin opened his mouth, but closed it without another word. The set of Ted's chin, and fists clenched into tight, angry balls, spoke louder than any verbiage. He was surely on the verge of exploding, and when he did, the priest would be there. For both Maureen, and her husband. Instead, he changed the whole venue of the conversation.
"Well, if you don't mind then, I'm going to call the rest of my family. Let them know what's happened. I have to notify Patrick. I called him on the way here, and promised to update him when I knew more. He's planning on taking the 8:00 PM train out of Boston. Should be here by 10:30ish." He thought for a moment, and then hesitated, searching for the right words. "You know...they'll want to come here. The family, I mean. Be here for Maureen. And for you too. It's just the way we do things." He was pretty sure his sister would want some type of service for the child, but this was not the time to bring it up.
Another wave of the hand. "Fine. Whatever. Book them into the same hotel they stayed at for the wedding. Charge it to me. I don't care. Just don't expect me talk to them."
He would have liked to discuss the logistics further, to try and explain to Ted how having family around in a crisis was helpful, but they were interrupted by the appearance of one of the Sheriff's deputies. He whispered in Beckett's ear, and the two of them moved to another corner of the room, out of hearing range. From his position on the bench, he could see the conversation unfold, animated as it was, and when the man walked back to his seat, his facial expression hadn't changed a bit, but his eyes were filled with fury that was almost frightening in their intensity.
Beckett flopped down in the chair without a word, and turned his face away. He pulled out his cell, and begin slamming out a text message, but to whom, Kevin could not see. He tried to bite his tongue, hoping not to make a bad situation worse, but the whole new level of emotion that followed Ted back to the chair was unnerving.
"What's wrong? I can tell you got more bad news. What is it?"
"It doesn't concern you, O'Kenney. I'll handle it. You focus your attention on your sister, and leave me the hell alone."
The nasty tone and rude dismissal, charged with the high anxiety of the situation, mixed in his head like a sour cocktail. Despite every effort to remain the compassionate servant of Christ, Kevin wanted to fire back at the man, let him know just what an unfeeling, selfish bastard he truly was. And he would have too...told him right to his face... if the surgical nurse hadn't at that very second decided to make an appearance.
Both men jumped up, though it was clearly the Sheriff the woman was speaking to.
"Sir, your wife is in recovery. She's awake...and asking for you."
Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2014
All Rights Reserved