The next morning Scott’s family went to church with him. Covenant Community was closer to Ypsilanti and their old apartment than their new home near the University of Michigan’s north campus. Sometimes Pastor Joe Prescott’s sermons drew him in and revealed more of God’s wondrous character to him, but today his mind would continually wander back to Kyle. He sent up plea after silent plea on his behalf. Then he’d focus on the sermon only to have Kyle’s bloody face before him again.
After church his father took them to Red Lobster for lunch, but Scott only ordered a bowl of clam chowder. His mother tried to pass off some of her shrimp to him. He ate a couple to placate her, but he wasn’t really hungry.
Back at the hospital they gathered in Kyle’s room. Anna stayed in the corner, making no move toward Kyle, just watching. After the visit his father said it was time to head back to Cincinnati. Scott walked down to the parking garage with them to say good-bye. His father hugged him after his sisters did. He pulled away. “You do everything you can for that boy.”
“No matter what he needs.”
“I will,” Scott repeated.
“Even if it’s not pleasant.”
“Dad, I know I owe him. I’ll do everything I can.”
“Including moving to Marquette to help his family.”
“No, Jim,” his mother protested. “He’d be even further away”
“I’ve already told him I’d do that if it was best for him. Right now I think he can eventually return to his internship, so he’s staying here.”
“Don’t fight his family about this.”
“I’ll do whatever is best for Kyle,” Scott repeated.
“The other option is you moving closer to us and bringing him with you.”
“I’ll do what’s best for Kyle,” Scott said yet again. Did no one listen to him?
“Jim, it wasn’t Scott’s fault,” his mother protested. “He needs to think about his own career and family.”
“Barb, if he waits, others will take his responsibilities and….”
His mother’s eyes flashed, and her hands went to her hips. Scott had never seen her use that pose with her husband before, just him and his sisters. “Jim, you’re wrong. This isn’t Scott’s responsibility. He didn’t do anything. You’ve always been too hard on him.”
“Barb, not now….”
“Yes, now.” She turned to Scott and reached up to touch his face. “It’s not your fault, Honey. Don’t let anyone tell you it was.” She looked back at his father. “It could just as easily be Scott up there. Drunk drivers don’t discriminate. Don’t lay the blame on anyone but where it belongs — that rotten drunk wherever he is. He could have killed them both, and then who would you be lecturing about responsibility.”
“Just once tell him you care without throwing a lot of rules around. Can’t you just love anyone?” His mother hugged Scott tightly then and kept her eyes hidden on his shoulder.
Scott held her, unsure of what had just occurred. His parents never really fought before that he’d known about, but he hadn’t lived at home for almost eight years now.
His father stared at his wife and then Scott. He glanced at the girls watching from the car. They looked away quickly. He focused on his wife again and then met Scott’s eyes. “I’m glad you’re safe,” he said roughly. “Do all you can to find that guy and make him pay.” Then he got into the car.
His mother lifted her wet face to look at Scott. “He loves you, Scott. And he’s proud of you, too. He just doesn’t know how to show it.” She pulled away, but still held him. “You know how though. I’ve seen that part in you.”
Scott’s emotions were too near the surface, and he tried to hold them back, looking at the concrete ceiling of the parking garage. “I’ll do all I can for Kyle just because he’s closer than a brother.”
“I know. I’ve always been so glad you found these friends when you moved away. So many boys get into trouble when they leave home, but you’ve always done good.”
Scott glanced toward his father, wishing he’d hear these words from him also.
“He feels this way, too. He tells me every time another friend’s son has troubles. And Sweetheart?” She waited until his attention was focused on her face. She boosted herself up on her toes and pulled Scott down a little to whisper in his ear. “It just makes him feel needed to give advice. Remember that, and don’t be hurt. He loves you.” She looked into his face again. “Remember, okay? And don’t let it get you down anymore. Sandy went through the same thing. Talk to her. She’ll tell you.”
Scott managed a small smile, sure that his older sister didn’t understand what it was like for Scott, as the only son, to live up to his father’s expectations. “Thanks, Mom. I’ll try to remember. I’ll miss you.”
She kissed his cheek. “We’ll come again next month, unless you can bring Kyle and Shane for a vacation.”
If only Kyle would be well enough within a month! “Yes, Mom.”
She released him and finally got into the car. Scott watched them drive away before he went back into the building. His mother’s words had helped mute the pain but deep down he knew his father must have thought he’d neglect his friend in need if he didn’t make it clear what he had to do. He didn’t trust Scott to do what was right and honorable, and that hurt as bad as knowing Kyle may never be there to encourage and challenge them again.
Monday Kyle was moved to a room on the sixth floor, and his physical and occupational therapy began. Tuesday morning Scott finally had a chance to see Kyle alone again. It was before visiting hours, but he didn’t disturb the nurses as he slipped in. Kyle’s eyes were closed, but he opened them when Scott took his hand. Kyle lifted his free hand to the bed controls, but it shook, and he couldn’t get the button he wanted. Scott released Kyle’s hand to push the button and raise the head of the bed. “That good?”
Kyle closed his eyes. His shaking hand came down to rest on the bed. “Wha… What day?”
He was speaking! He’d asked a question. “Tuesday. The twenty sixth.”
“No. You haven’t been in here that long. It’s still May.”
“May?” Kyle leaned forward. “When?”
Scott’s elation left. He was speaking, but he was still confused. “The twenty-sixth.”
Kyle nodded and leaned back. “Thirsty.” He met Scott’s eyes. “I need… need water.” His voice wavered slightly, just as his hands did whenever he raised them.
“Sorry, Kyle. I can’t get you water until the doctor says it’s okay.”
Kyle turned his head away, as if angry.
“Please, Kyle. I know you’re mad at me. If I could change things, I never would have tried to pass that guy. I knew he was drunk.”
Kyle faced him again. His shaking hand came up and then fell down to clutch Scott’s arm. “Scott. Take home.”
“You want to go home?”
“With me and Shane?”
“Yeah. Quieter there.”
“I’ll make sure that’s where you go when they release you then.”
“Do you want me to bring the clippers and even it out?”
Scott squeezed his hand. “You know you can’t have any yet, don’t you?”
“Tuesday,” Scott repeated, wondering if Kyle would remember anything they talked about.
Kyle shook his head, closed his eyes, and leaned back. He was quiet, and Scott could think of nothing else to say, so he began praying for him again. Kyle’s hand contracted against his, holding on firmly. Muscle tremors rippled through his hand.
Scott looked up when he heard movement near the door. Dr. Thorton stood just inside. “I’ll come back later.” He turned and left.
“Wait.” Scott jumped up and caught him in front of the bank of elevators. “Wait. You’re not Kyle’s doctor, are you?”
Dr. Thorton’s eyes were red and puffy, as if from lack of sleep, and he didn’t face him, instead looking off to the side, but not quite out the window. “No.”
“Then how do you know him? Were you one of his instructors?”
“I’m… a concerned faculty member. I… I’m starting a fund… we are, some of the doctors here, for… for deserving… injured student doctors. If… anything the insurance doesn’t pick up that he needs for recovery… you let me know.”
“Really? I never heard of this.”
Dr. Thorton shrugged and took a step toward the window, staring outside now. “It’s not well known. In fact, don’t….” He nodded and looked back at Scott. “Don’t publicize it. We don’t take applications; we seek out people to help. We’re very small.”
“All anonymous. I… I’m the only spokesman, and I’ll relay information on progress and requests for needs. Yes. This will work well.” He reached into the pocket of his shirt under the white doctor’s jacket and took out a card. He wrote on the back before giving it to Scott. “Contact me by E-mail. Keep it to yourself.”
“No. No,” he said quickly. “The less people involved….” He searched the courtyard outside the window again as if looking for an answer. “We don’t want to have to turn people away,” Dr. Thorton finally said, facing him again. “We don’t have unlimited funds. Don’t tell anyone. I’ll have to deny it if you do, and then Kyle Sloan might not get the help he needs.”
Scott tried to find a hole in his story. Either he was lying, or the group was new and he’d never approached anyone before. He certainly wasn’t polished about it. “Who else have you helped?”
“It’s all confidential. You think about it. I must go.” Dr. Thorton escaped into the elevator as a couple came out. The doors closed before Scott could protest.
He leaned against the wall below the glass and looked at the card. Dr. Bernard Thorton, Plastic Surgeon. His office number was listed as it had been on the sign he’d read. The card also included a phone number and university E-mail address. On the back was a different E-mail address, apparently the one Scott was to use. It seemed strange.
Scott wanted to talk to someone about this, but who? If he did, Kyle might not get needed help. What other motive could the man have for sneaking around in Kyle’s room and then offering to help? Try as he might, Scott couldn’t come up with a better explanation than Dr. Thorton had given.
Scott went back to Kyle’s room, but the nurse was with him. She warned him visiting hours didn’t start until nine, sending him away, so he walked down to his department.
Kayleigh was already there at her desk, ten minutes early. “How’s Kyle?”
“Better. I could understand him when he spoke. He’s still confused.” Scott motioned her back to his office and closed the door. She sat in the chair beside his desk and Scott sat behind it. “Have you ever heard anything about an anonymous group of doctors who help other injured doctors?”
Kayleigh shook her head.
“Someone approached me and told me not to say anything to anyone.”
“So you tell me.”
“Because you’ve proven I can trust you. He told me not even to tell Kyle’s parents, but that I can go to him for financial help for Kyle’s needs.” He shook his head. “Doesn’t that sound strange? Shouldn’t he have talked to Kyle’s parents?”
“You’d think, wouldn’t you?”
“I mean, his father’s a nurse and all. He’d know more than me.” Scott tapped his desk as he thought. “Of course, Kyle’s family wants him back in Marquette, and this guy agrees we should try to do everything to get Kyle back to his medical training.”
“Then maybe that’s your answer. The goal of this group might be to help doctors complete their training. I’m sure there are doctors out there that help sponsor others. Med-school is expensive, isn’t it?”
“Kyle is finished with school, but doctors need a sort of paid apprenticeship before they can practice on their own. He was just starting that. But right now Kyle’s parents think Kyle has too much brain damage to be a doctor. I wish Dr. Thorton had approached Kyle’s parents and told them he really believed Kyle had a chance. It’d be a lot easier to keep him here. And if I tell them what he said, Dr. Thorton says he’ll deny it and everything’s off.”
“Boy, Scott, how can you know?” She paused. “You did call your parents, didn’t you? We were so rushed yesterday I forgot to ask.”
“Yes, and they were here Saturday and Sunday.”
“Your parents are pretty together, aren’t they? Maybe you should ask them.”
“My dad just told me to help out Kyle any way I can.”
“Then I guess that’s your answer. What can it hurt? If he doesn’t come through with the money, what have you lost? What’s your risk?”
“That’s just it. I don’t see any risk, but there has to be one.”
“Maybe Elaine’s heard of something.”
“Oh, please. That’s all I need. Don’t tell the campus gossip.”
“There are ways to get info without giving it.”
Scott smiled. “Of course. I know I can trust you.” He held out his hands, and they prayed about the situation. Kayleigh went back to her desk.
“Lord, if it be your will, I’m going to marry that girl someday.” The thought was startling and yet comforting. A certainty that nothing would change. He didn’t need to rush or worry. When the time was right, it would fall into place. Right now he could focus on Kyle, knowing his life wasn’t over and neither was Kyle’s.
Scott almost told Shane about the mysterious Dr. Thorton, but they were kept busy with Kyle’s parents. His father, Jerry, was getting ready to return to Marquette. His mother, Fran, and Ian would stay, using Kyle’s S-10 pickup. Scott wanted to protest, but how could he?
That evening Shane came into Scott’s bedroom when the Sloans went to spend the last hour of visiting time with Kyle. “If Ian gets a hold of that truck, Kyle won’t have anything left. He’s even wearing his clothes! Have you noticed? He’s probably searched every secret corner of his room.”
“So I’m not the only one who wants Ian to go back to Marquette.”
Shane shook his head. “That kid has an attitude. I can’t believe they’re brothers. He thinks life isn’t fair. He’s got a bum deal. Poor thing.” Shane’s eyes narrowed in anger. “If I’d had half the advantages he did….”
Scott put his hand on Shane’s shoulder. “You did great without them.”
“Because of you and Kyle.”
“Because you’re a worker. This is old hat, Shane. Remember what you told me. Just blow that attitude off. Don’t let it bother you.”
Shane stared at the wall another moment and then grinned. “And did you listen to me?”
“We should go in there and take out some of Kyle’s things and hide them.”
“Oh, that will go over well. You can bet Ian has them all memorized by now, and we’ll be accused of stealing.”
Shane went into Kyle’s room anyway. Kyle’s bed was rumbled. The Sloan’s suitcases stood along the wall opposite the bed. Shane grabbed one. “This is Ian’s, isn’t it?”
“He’ll never know. I just want to check. Remember Trevor.”
Trevor had been one of the failed roommates. He’d tried to steal from all three of them. When they caught him they threw him out, but for months afterward they’d discovered things missing.
“But his own brother?”
“The only people I trust completely are you and Kyle. Maybe you guys’ parents… maybe.” Shane opened the suitcase and looked through it. Just clothes. “There. Now we both feel a little better.”
Scott laughed. “Yeah. He’s not a thief, just a jerk.”
Shane pointed to the dresser. “All Kyle’s things are rearranged.” Shane opened the top drawer and took out Kyle’s wallet. He looked inside. “The kid is a thief. There was forty seven dollars in here. Now there’s seven. Shit. His credit card is missing. I’ve got to get it back.” He stuffed the wallet in his pocket.
“No, Shane. Put it back. He’ll suspect you’re on to him if you remove it, and you’ll never get the card. One of us will have to go into work late and try to get his wallet when he’s in the shower.”
“Good idea.” Shane put Kyle’s wallet back in the drawer.
“Besides I bet he’ll say he’s keeping the card safe from us. Probably believes that, too, the way he glares at us — me.”
“And the forty bucks?”
“Holder’s fee? Who knows.”
“It’s a good thing I checked out his wallet before leaving it in here.”
Scott gave a short snicker. “Sure is, Nosy.”
“Hey, Honey Drops. I’m just protecting what’s his, and I can’t do it when I don’t know.”
Scott heard a thumping somewhere in the building. “Is that them?” Flicking off the light, they ran out of Kyle’s room and into Shane’s room directly across the scant hall. They closed the door and listened. Nothing. Then they started laughing.
Shane’s hand came up on Scott’s shoulder. “I’m glad you’re feeling better.” He became serious. “You are, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, I am. Still a little stiff and sore at times, but not near what it was.”
“I’m getting married.”
“What! Don’t even joke about it right now.”
“Don’t worry. I’m not leaving you to care for Kyle alone. I’m with him all he needs. I’m not in a hurry. The girl doesn’t even know yet, and I probably won’t tell her for quite some time.”
“You’re serious. You met someone.”
“You met her, too. Kayleigh Edwards.”
Shane shook his head. “When? I don’t remember.”
“In emergency. She prayed with us, and she’s been praying with me almost every day since. She transferred, and now she’s my secretary.”
“Your secretary? Scott….”
“I know. That’s another reason I’m taking it slow. One, Kyle. Two, Ethics. Three, She doesn’t trust men.”
Shane laughed. “But you’re positive that when you make your move, she’ll fall in your arms. What an ego, Honey Drops.”
Scott grinned. “You seem to think that every girl will.” He shrugged. “Besides I won’t ask until I know she’s ready. I’m not in a hurry,” he repeated.
Shane became serious. “Man, Scott, everything’s changing. Kyle and now you.”
“I’m not going anywhere. And Kyle will be back here with us.”
“So she’ll move in with us?”
Scott shook his head and sat on Shane’s bed. “I don’t know. It’s not going to be for a long time. I just felt it today. I never felt that before.”
Shane sat in the chair near the bed, facing him. “Felt what? Lust?”
“No, it wasn’t anything like that. I’ve felt lust plenty of times. This was… well, I know I can trust her completely, and I just… knew she’d be my wife.” It sounded stupid when he said it, and he wondered if he’d imagined it. Maybe his mind was playing tricks on him because of all this uncertainty with Kyle. He looked up to see Shane watching him with an odd expression. “What you thinkin’?” he asked, subdued.
Shane shook his head. “Awed, I guess. Maybe a little jealous. Sometimes I think I’ll never find the right one.”
“Don’t try. I mean, I didn’t do anything.” Scott stopped before he bumbled and said something he shouldn’t.
“Easier said than done. How do you not try? I’ve had to work for everything I ever got.”
“But what about when we met. It just happened, you know. And how we met Kyle. That’s what I mean.”
“Predestination?” Shane asked with a grin.
Scott laughed. “Let’s not go there again. You and Kyle….”
“He’s wrong, and he knows it. He just won’t give in.” He grinned.
“You and Kyle….” Scott’s mood dimmed. “Hope you and he will be able to argue it out.”
“Me, too,” Shane studied his hands. “I learn a lot trying to keep him accurate.”
Scott stood. He left the debates to Shane and Kyle. Scott didn’t like discord. After the first year, Shane and Kyle’s debates no longer held the rancor they had at first, and Scott enjoyed listening to them. It hurt to know they may never bicker again. “I’m going to get to bed before Ian comes back to glare at me.”
Shane stopped him. “I’m gonna miss you.”
“Miss me? Shane, we’re all going to stay closer than brothers even after we all marry, right?”
“Closer than brothers. You really feel that way about me?”
“Yeah, both of you,” Scott said, not meeting his eyes. “Don’t you?”
“Yeah, me, too.” Shane said, going past him out the door to the bathroom.
Scott went to his room and changed to his pajamas. Shane knocked once and then opened his door to look in. “Will you really move up north if Kyle’s parents take him?”
Scott hesitated. Then he said with certainty. “He’s staying here.”
Shane smiled. “Yeah. He’s staying here. We’ll make sure he does. Are you staying tomorrow? I have to give advance notice.”
The wallet caper. Scott didn’t like it, but someone needed to get Kyle’s card back. “Sure. I’ll do it.”
“Thanks.” Shane went back to his room.
Scott tried to sleep in the next morning, but couldn’t. He arose earlier than usual, showered and dressed, but then went back to his room to answer his E-mail. Sandy, his oldest sister, had written several messages, the last one chastising him for not letting them know about the accident sooner. She’d been away over the weekend with her husband, Mason, or she would have come with the rest of the family. Scott answered her letters and confided to her about Kayleigh, asking if she thought his impression that they would get married someday was irrational.
Scott heard Shane get up and leave. He waited. Then he heard Ian moving around. He shut off the modem and turned off his computer. When he heard Kyle’s door open and then the bathroom door close, Scott snuck into Kyle’s room. Ian’s jeans from the day before were bunched on the floor. Scott felt for the wallet and then took it out. Sure enough the credit card was right there.
“What are you doing?” Jerry Sloan asked quietly.
Scott dropped the pants and stared, feeling the heat rise through his face. Jerry’s voice hadn’t been accusing, but Scott suddenly realized how guilty he looked. “Ah… he… Kyle’s….”
Jerry took Ian’s wallet, and Kyle’s credit card from Scott’s hands.
“We noticed Kyle’s credit card was missing. I was just getting it back for him. He wouldn’t want anyone using it. He might need it,” Scott ended, rushing his words together.
“In the hospital?”
“Ian took it from Kyle’s wallet,” Scott insisted, still feeling he wasn’t being as clear as he could. He took Kyle’s wallet from his drawer, and then he reached for the card.
Jerry pulled it away. “I’ll keep it.”
“It’s Kyle’s! There’s forty dollars missing also.”
“I’ll speak to Ian.” Jerry reached for the wallet.
Scott backed away. “No. This has everything he needs. He’s not being forced back up north.” A small part of his mind told him he wasn’t seeing this picture clearly, but the only picture he saw when he tried to figure out the problem was Kyle’s skeletal bloody face.
“Forced? Scott, he needs long term care. You won’t be able to provide it.”
“Yes, I will.” I have to. He has to get better.
“How? You can’t be here twenty four hours a day. Both you and Shane work.”
“So do you and Fran.”
“When school starts up in the fall I plan to switch to second shift at the hospital.”
Scott wanted to say he’d switch, but he knew neither he nor Shane had that option. “I’ll hire someone to stay with him during the day. A nursing student or physical therapy major.”
“You don’t have the money for that, and neither do we.”
Scott remembered both his parents’ offer and Dr. Thorton’s. “Yes. I can get it. Don’t take this away from him! If he leaves, you know he’ll probably never complete his training. If he stays here….”
“Scott! You’re being unreasonable to expect he’ll be able to perform to the same standards.”
“Ask a doctor.”
“I have! He’ll never be a surgeon.”
“He can! I’ve talked to a doctor who says… You got to give him the chance. Give him something to work for.”
“I’m sorry, Scott. I’m taking him home. Give me the wallet.”
Scott ran past him out of the room. They wouldn’t force Kyle home if Scott could help it.
Ian came from the bathroom, chasing him, but Scott made it to the front door. In the hall Ian grabbed Scott’s suit jacket, pulling until Scott lost his balance, tipping backward. Then Ian pushed him forward off the top step.
Scott fell and rolled to the bottom of the steps, barely slowing down his tumble at the landing. The world was still spinning when pounding footsteps came closer. Scott jumped up, ignoring his pain and nausea, still clutching the wallet. He made it out the door and into his Cherokee. He locked all the doors as Ian reached him and started pounding on the truck. Nausea. Pain. He started the engine. He saw two images of Jerry come toward him. His hand went to the gear shifter. He closed his eyes.
Presently the pounding beside his head stopped.
“Scott. Scott,” he heard dimly. “Can you hear me? Scott, I’m going to call an ambulance, okay? Scott?”
Then someone was beside him, turning off the engine. “I’m okay,” he mumbled. “Just need some sleep.”
He felt the wallet removed from his grip. “No,” he tried to protest. “You can’t. Being a doctor meant everything to him.” But his voice sounded like it belonged to someone else.
He was barely aware of the next few hours. He knew he went through emergency. Light was shined in his eyes several times, and he was assigned a room. The word “concussion” was used.
Scott awoke when a hand gripped his. “Why did I just know you couldn’t do this?” Shane said quietly. “How can you help him when you’re joining him?”
Scott squeezed Shane’s hand, but didn’t open his eyes. “I’m all right. My head is killing me though. Back, shoulders, arms, legs.”
Shane gave a small laugh. “I get the picture. You’re one big bruise. Thank God you’re talking to me.”
Scott knew he had to though it hurt his head to do so. Shane needed to know. “Gotta call my parents. Tell them I messed up again. I’m out tomorrow though, right?”
“That’s what they hope. Geez, Scott. What’d you go and fall down the steps for? You should have just given him the dumb wallet. Kyle can stay without his driver’s license.”
“Soc Security, student ID. How would he get into things without his ID?”
“You’re an idiot, Scott. Just a damn big idiot.” His voice cracked.
Scott opened his eyes a slit. The room was still, but Shane’s face held shiny lines of wetness. Scott closed his eyes. He couldn’t be seeing right yet. He squeezed Shane’s hand, because it didn’t hurt to move that part of his body.
“I gotta get back to work. I’ll be up later.” Shane left.
Scott slept. The nurse woke him once to check his responses. He begged for another pain shot and got it.
He awoke again to a soft hand in his. He opened his eyes to Kayleigh’s. “Hey, it’s my guardian angel.”
Kayleigh smiled. “Shane told me you fell down some steps this morning. Guess you hit your head.”
“Yeah. But I’ll be back to work tomorrow… afternoon.”
Kayleigh gave a soft laugh. “The place won’t fall apart without you. Go rest.”
“How can I with Ian the terrible there? I’d rather be at work with you.” He closed his eyes. The medicine had helped some, but the pain was still there. “I messed up big time. I… Ian… It hurts to talk. Just pray Kyle will somehow get to stay here.”
“Sure,” Kayleigh said. A moment later he heard her soft voice praying for him, for Kyle and his family, for him again, and then a request to give Shane strength to handle two sick and stubborn roommates.
“I’ve got to get to class, but I’ll be in tomorrow.”
“I’ll be here.”
Kayleigh gave his hand an extra squeeze before she released it and left.
Go to Chapter 5
© 2014, 1998 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.