Early the next morning Scott awoke when a dim light clicked on over his head. Nurses had come in periodically during the night to check his progress, and he expected more of the same. Instead he was surprised to see Dr. Thorton standing beside his bed.
Dr. Thorton returned his gaze and began asking questions immediately. “How did you fall down the stairs? Was it vertigo from the accident?” The answer seemed to mean more to him than mere curiosity.
“Not exactly.” Then Scott remembered he had questions for him. He fumbled with his bed controls until he was sitting, the movement bringing a wave of pain. He closed his eyes until it was under control. Then he focused on Dr. Thorton.
“They want to take him up north. They say I can’t provide twenty four hour care. I can hire someone when I’m at work, right? Is that part of this deal?”
Dr. Thorton didn’t respond, instead he studied Scott.
“If he goes up north he’ll never complete internship,” Scott insisted. “What are the limits here? What were you suggesting yesterday? What kind of things can I count on? Are you going to run out, or will you sit down and talk to me!” The exertion intensified the pounding in his head. He closed his eyes and lifted his hands to rub his forehead. When he opened his eyes he expected that Dr. Thorton would be gone because he’d heard no noise from him, but he still stood and watched.
“Your insurance should have a section that will give an allowance for daily care, but that can’t be applied for until after he’s out of the hospital. Get that, but yes, we can discuss through E-mail the amount and conditions of a caregiver if his release papers state he needs it.”
“His parents say he does, and they won’t let him stay if….”
“He’s not going to be released for at least another three weeks. His parents are making conclusions on incomplete information. I’ve talked to specialists. Nothing is certain this early, and Kyle’s progress is promising.”
Scott closed his eyes. Promising. Keeping his eyes closed because it hurt less that way, he asked, “Do you think he’ll be able to complete his training?”
Dr. Thorton seemed to take forever to reply. Then his words were hesitant. “He never will if he thinks he can’t.” He paused. “The science of the way the brain functions is not complete. Nothing is certain. Impossible recoveries happen, and other people who should be fine are disabled. Nobody knows why. Some say attitude. Some say God. Cover all your bases. Don’t give up. Don’t let him think it’s hopeless, and pray to whatever God you think hears you.”
“Only one God can hear and do anything about it, and we’ve been talking to Him quite a bit.”
Dr. Thorton nodded, still standing. “Now why did you fall?”
Scott couldn’t come up with an intelligent, precise reason.
“No vertigo from the accident?”
“I… I didn’t notice any. Someone was chasing me, and he kind of caught me at the top of the steps, but I got away….”
“No. Kyle’s brother. He hates me because of what I did to Kyle.”
Dr. Thorton closed his eyes and shook his head.
“I know it was stupid. I shouldn’t have run, but… It seemed right at the time.” Scott thought that made him sound like a coward. “It wasn’t a fight. He wanted Kyle’s wallet, and….” The truth sounded just as stupid. “If they took his wallet up north, I thought… it should be here at his home.”
Dr. Thorton continued shaking his head.
“Just say it. Everyone else has. I’m an idiot. I ruin Kyle’s life and then bumble everything. Man, I thought I was actually doing well before. Decent grades, good job right out of school, everything working out.” Scott stopped to field another wave of jackhammers through his head.
“You’re not an idiot, and you didn’t do anything to Kyle. Your records at school and at work are exemplary. You do have something to be proud of. When you need money to hire someone let me know.” Then he left as quickly as he had on previous occasions.
How did he know about Scott’s work and school records?
The nurse came into the room. “The doctor said you needed another pain shot.”
He almost asked which doctor, but he wanted the pain shot more than he wanted to question details. He slept again, only waking briefly for the next check up.
A female voice woke him. “First you ignore me and then you try to kill yourself. Really, Scott, you’ve got to find a safer hobby than knocking yourself around.” His older sister, Sandy, took his hand as he opened his eyes. She had the medium blonde hair that he and Anna did, but her eyes were a clear blue, like Kayleigh’s.
He smiled up at her. “Mase let you come? Or is he here, too?”
“No. Just me. I can stay through Sunday. Mom says you need someone to keep an eye on you.”
Scott turned away. He knew he’d failed.
“Hey. She meant that in a good way. I’m supposed to cook and wash your clothes. Shane can’t do everything.”
Scott tried to smile to let her know he wasn’t upset. It still hurt, though. His family thought he couldn’t handle life. He’d messed up. He focused on her again and noticed she looked pregnant now. She hadn’t when he had seen her at Easter. He reached up to pat her stomach. “Seven months now?”
Sandy smiled and covered his hand with her own. “She’s a feisty little one, too. Maybe she’ll kick you.” Sandy glanced toward the door. “Hi.”
“I just….” Kayleigh turned to leave.
“Kayleigh!” The effort to raise his voice caused his head to ache, but she paused.
Sandy left his side and held out a hand to draw Kayleigh in. “So you’re Kayleigh. Scott wrote me about you. Come on in. I’m his sister Sandy.”
Kayleigh blushed, but followed her to the far side of the bed. “I told him I was nothing to write home about.”
“It was a slow week. I had nothing better to write about,” Scott said, knowing the humor wouldn’t be lost on Kayleigh. She’d known just how hectic his week had been.
“How are you feeling?” Kayleigh asked, focusing on him.
“I don’t think I’ll be into work today.”
“No. I cancelled your appointments.”
“Good.” Scott closed his eyes.
“Hurt a lot?” Kayleigh asked softly.
“Yeah. But at least I’m seeing straight now. Hurts less if I don’t see though.”
A nurse came in. “Could you two step out into the hall for a few minutes?”
Kayleigh moved for the door. “Sure. I’ve got to get back to work. Don’t want the boss to hear I’ve been goofing off.”
“Oh, I’m sure he won’t mind. Let’s go get a bagel or something,” Sandy suggested.
“I don’t know if….”
“Scott won’t mind, and it’s not like he can pile work on your desk from here.”
Scott smiled. “She’s right, Kayleigh. Relax now, because when I get back to work….” Scott closed his eyes against the increased pain of exertion. He heard Sandy whisper as they left the room together.
Then the nurses got him up to sit in the chair while they remade the bed. A few hours later the doctor came in and released him with a strong prescription and orders not to go into work until Monday. Sandy drove him home. They didn’t talk much because his head hurt too much to be social. She put him to bed, and he fell asleep to the homey sounds of her moving in the kitchen.
When he awoke later, it was dinner time. Scott emerged from his room as Sandy brought a roast to the table in the dining area of the large main room of the apartment.
Shane leaned closer to the table and took a deep breath in appreciation. “Where have you been, Sandy? Ditch Mason and move in with us.”
Sandy laughed. “Haven’t you guys learned how to cook yet?”
“Just chili, hamburgers, and TV dinners. Come on. We need you.”
“Sure. I’ll give up my husband and house, and my baby and I will sleep on your couch.” She glanced toward Scott. “Good. You’re up. Just in time.”
“Can’t miss a home-cooked meal like this.” He slipped into his chair.
“Make sure Kayleigh can cook,” Shane said.
“I think she does sauerkraut.” They’d never discussed Kayleigh’s cooking ability, but he knew Shane hated sauerkraut.
“Actually Mase’s mom told me the secret of sauerkraut. It’s in the rinsing. I can make it tomorrow if you’d like.”
They joined hands to pray. Shane looked at Scott, and then bowed his head to say grace. Shane rarely took that initiative.
Scott took a piece of roast and passed the plate to Sandy. “You can use my bed. I’ll throw some blankets on the floor.”
Shane shook his head. “He’s an idiot, Sandy. He’s a giant bruise, and he thinks he can sleep on the floor. And he didn’t get any sense knocked into him at all.”
“Well, where else will she sleep? I’m not making her take the floor.” Scott reached for the rolls, dropped one on his plate, and then put his head in his hands. Wasn’t it time for more pain medicine? He waited for the pounding to subside.
A chair scraped. A moment later he felt Sandy’s hand on his shoulder. “Here’s your medicine.”
Scott opened his eyes and tried to smile at her. “Thanks.” He took the pill with milk. Sandy sat back down.
Shane watched until Scott met his gaze. “No one will sleep on the floor, Scott. Jerry took Ian home with him.”
“Ian went home?”
“He didn’t want to, but Jerry noticed you two weren’t getting along too well and decided it was best. Fran will sleep in Kyle’s room. Sandy can use my bed, and I’ll take the couch.”
“Oh, Shane, I wouldn’t think of putting you out of your room.”
“Hey, it’s no problem for me. I don’t fall down steps, and I’m not pregnant. Besides the couch is a small price to pay for your cooking. Will you let me take you grocery shopping tonight? I’m sure you’ll need things for tomorrow.”
Sandy laughed. “Sure, Shane. Let’s fix your favorites. It’s good to be appreciated.”
“Doesn’t Mason appreciate you?” Shane asked.
“Oh, sure. But for him cooking is an expected thing. It’s nothing special.”
Scott just listened, only eating half the piece of roast and a swallow of the mashed potatoes before he went back to bed.
He didn’t know how much later it was when he heard a tap on his door. A second tap sounded before he focused. “Yes?”
The door opened a crack. “Scott? May I come in?” It was Kyle’s mother.
Scott switched on his bedside lamp and sat up. “How’s Kyle?”
Fran came in and stood nervously near the bed. “He’s doing about the same. He remembered the date though, so that’s something.”
Scott motioned her to sit on the edge of the bed. “That’s great. I wish I could go up. Maybe tomorrow. He probably thinks… Did you tell him what happened?”
Fran sat on the edge of the bed and looked across the room at his dresser, not meeting his eyes. “No. He doesn’t need to worry about you and Ian fighting.”
She faced him. “I’m sorry about what happened, Scott. I know Ian didn’t mean what he said. He really isn’t glad you were hurt. He just doesn’t know how to handle his frustration. He always looked up to Kyle. He was perfect.” Fran shook her head and looked up at the ceiling. Tears spilled and rolled down her cheek. “Kyle is so precious.” She took a deep breath. “Please, Scott. Don’t confuse him right now about Ian. Don’t make it seem like Ian doesn’t care because he can’t be here, or that he’s reacting badly. Kyle’s not thinking clearly, and Ian needs him. Don’t turn them against each other.”
“I never would!”
Fran stood. “Oh, I know you wouldn’t intentionally, but you don’t know how Kyle could take anything right now. He seems angry sometimes. He’s not the same. Please. Don’t give him a reason to be angry at Ian.” She hurried from the room, closing the door with a click.
Scott stared at the door. Great. Kyle must think he was too busy to care. He got up, ignored his aches, and changed from his wrinkled clothes to fresh jeans. Then he went through the dark living room to the door.
Shane lifted himself up on one elbow from the couch. “Where are you going?” he whispered.
Scott glanced toward the bedrooms. He could see light under Kyle’s door. “Out.” He went into the hall. He’d just reached the top of the steps when someone grabbed his arm. Vertigo and nausea competed. He closed his eyes and stiffened, gripping the staircase railing tightly.
“Where are you going?” Shane whispered. “Let me change, and I’ll take you.”
“I don’t need a sitter.”
“Great. I don’t need a job. I need a friend. If you’re up to going out, you’re up to listening.”
Scott relaxed and then turned his head, meeting Shane’s eyes. “Yeah. Me, too. I’ll wait. Get your clothes back on.” Scott carefully lowered himself to sit on the top step. “I promise I won’t move until you get back.”
Shane gripped his shoulder and then went back into the apartment. Soon he returned dressed in his jeans and pullover shirt that he’d worn at dinner.
Holding onto the railing, Scott stood, and they went out to Shane’s car. “Can we go up to the hospital?”
“Are you planning to work, sneak in to see Kyle, or check yourself back in?”
“Kyle probably thinks I don’t care. Nobody told him why I couldn’t come.”
Shane maneuvered the car in the direction of the hospital campus. “So now I’m nobody. Give me some credit for something, Scott. I didn’t go over all the details because I didn’t want to confuse him. You fell down the stairs and were in the hospital. That’s it.”
Scott leaned back and closed his eyes. “Thanks.”
“We really should let him sleep. His mom will be with him again all day tomorrow.”
“That’s just it! I want to see him alone.”
“And I’m just supposed to sit in the car and wait.”
“I didn’t mean alone from you.”
“Ian’s gone, and his mom isn’t an enemy.”
“Yeah, but she thinks I am. She thinks I’ll try to turn Kyle against Ian.”
Shane gave a sarcastic laugh. “She doesn’t know you well. The original Mr. Make-up-and-let’s-all-be-friends.” He drove in silence for a few minutes, passing the street that led up to the hospital, instead heading out of the city.
Scott decided not to protest. Shane had made sure Kyle knew he wasn’t ignoring him, and he didn’t know if he was up to all the walking anyway.
“Thing is, Scott, you haven’t been that way the last couple weeks.”
The sentence didn’t make sense, but Shane didn’t continue. “What do you mean?” he finally had to ask.
Shane hesitated. He glanced at Scott. “I know things have been hectic, so maybe I’m just talkin’. But since the accident you… you haven’t been the same.”
“I’m the same.” Shane still wasn’t making sense.
“Sure. But… well, it’s not us against them, and you should know you can trust both me and Kyle not to turn on you. Why do you think we would? You weren’t drunk. You didn’t do anything wrong.” Shane glanced at him again, and then gripped his steering wheel, staring ahead into the path cut by the headlights.
Shane was probably thinking what Scott tried not to think about. “What if I did do something wrong, and I don’t remember it? What if I did something stupid without realizing it?”
“That’s just it! You don’t trust that we’d forgive you if you did. Any of us could have been driving. These things happen all the time.”
“But Shane, he was almost killed. I probably ruined his life.”
“And if I had been driving? The exact same situation? What if I missed this curve up here? What if a deer jumped out and I maneuvered you into a tree? What if some drunk runs through the next stoplight and hits your side? Will you blame me? Will you be able to forgive and just deal with the circumstance? Tell me, Scott. Would you forgive me if I messed up your life? Maybe I should never drive anyone ever again, cause I can’t guarantee the same thing won’t happen to me that happened to you.” Shane took a few deep breaths.
Scott stared ahead, sorting through all the questions.
“Would you forgive me?” Shane asked softly.
“Do you expect any less of Kyle?”
Scott closed his eyes. “I hope he can.”
“He has. I’m sure of it. He doesn’t remember the accident yet. Ian’s told him, but it doesn’t bother him.”
“He gets angry. His mother said….”
“About things he’s incapable of doing,” Shane said impatiently. “About being sick. From what I’ve witnessed it’s not an anger directed at any one person, just his situation. Kyle and Ian are two separate people. Kyle would never throw around blame. Remember how he got after me for blaming my dad. Remember he said blame was just an excuse.”
“Not really. Guess that was just you two.”
Shane shrugged. “Maybe. But Scott, the point is, you gotta forgive yourself.”
Scott tried to concentrate on Shane’s words, but couldn’t. He’d do it later. Instead he needed to lighten the mood. He glanced at Shane’s stiff posture at the wheel. “One psychology class, and you have all the answers. Maybe you picked the wrong profession. I’m hungry. Let’s get some dessert.”
“Sure.” Shane turned the car around in the next driveway and headed back toward Ann Arbor. They stopped at Elias Brothers and ordered large ice cream sundaes. They talked as they used to about work, things they’d read, and people they’d seen. Then they headed home.
The next day was Friday. Shane had left for work and Fran to the hospital by the time Scott woke up. His head didn’t hurt as much, but he knew unwary movements would bring the pain back. He visited with Sandy and then had her take him up to the hospital late in the afternoon.
Kyle seemed pleased to see him. Shane was right. Kyle wasn’t angry with him. He let Sandy trim his hair, only protesting once that he’d rather have Scott do it.
Fran stayed in the room as they visited. She watched Scott, and he knew she was thinking about her warning. He vowed not to mention Ian or his fall.
When they went for a walk around the hospital, Sandy teased him about visiting Kayleigh. Scott grinned. “Yeah. That’s the plan. What did you think yesterday?”
“Of Kayleigh? I think we’ll get along well when she learns to open up some.” Sandy stopped him in the hall that connected the hospital to the Taubman center. “Don’t jump into anything, Scott. She’s nice, but like you said, maybe it’s just that you’re so concerned about Kyle that your emotions are jumbled right now.”
Scott continued walking.
Sandy caught up. “Have you talked about anything but Kyle and work with her? You’ve barely known her two weeks.”
Scott stopped, and the people behind them almost ran into them. Scott pulled Sandy to the wall out of the traffic. “So what did she say yesterday?”
“Not much of anything. She doesn’t talk much.”
“And that’s why you don’t like her?”
“I like her. I told you I did. I just don’t think you know her enough to decide things like marriage.”
“I didn’t decide anything.”
“Good. Wait a year.”
“Sure. Get to know her better.”
He scowled and started walking again. “I’m in no hurry.” She thought he was crazy. Maybe he was. He pushed through the office door. Elaine looked up from her desk.
“Oh, Scott, where have you been? Kayleigh said you took a long weekend. I thought you were behind.”
“I am. Where’s Kayleigh?” Her computer was still on so he knew she had to be somewhere. He started for his office.
“I think she went for a pop. Who’s your friend? Someone special?” He glanced back, as Elaine studied Sandy’s abdomen. “Six or seven months?”
“Seven,” Sandy said, stepping forward with a smile. “I’m Sandy, Scott’s older sister. I’m visiting for the weekend.”
“Send Kayleigh to my office when she returns,” Scott said. “Come on, Sandy.”
He sat in his chair when he reached it and motioned Sandy to shut the door. Then he put his head down on his arms.
He felt Sandy’s hand on his shoulder. “I thought you were being rude, but you’re still hurting, aren’t you?”
“Elaine’s a gossip. Don’t give her any fuel.” He kept his head down, muffling his words. He wanted to go home to bed.
“You didn’t bring your medicine. We should go home.”
Scott didn’t respond until he heard a small tap on his door. He lifted his head as Kayleigh entered.
She shut the door behind her. Sandy sat in the chair Kayleigh normally used. She greeted Sandy briefly and then focused on Scott. “You’ve decided to put in a few hours? I can come in tomorrow if you need me to.”
Scott smiled weakly. He appreciated her willingness to help. “I thought I might work, but I guess I’m not as ready as I felt earlier. How about we try to catch up next week or the week after?”
“I’ll plan to come back each day after my classes.”
It wasn’t her career that would be hurt if the work didn’t get finished, but she understood his would be, and she cared. “Thanks, Kayleigh. Sorry about all this.”
“Hey, no problem. I can use the extra hours anyway.” Kayleigh glanced back at Sandy and then to Scott again. “Anything else?”
Scott knew his headache would make concentration impossible. He wished he could give a different answer. “No. Nothing.”
“See you Monday then.” She left, re-closing the office door.
He wondered why it seemed so abrupt, but then realized they usually prayed in his office. Maybe she hadn’t felt comfortable with Sandy in the room. He missed it.
“We should go home,” Sandy suggested.
“I have to check on Kyle first.”
“That’s way over on the other side. Scott, you can’t walk back over there. He’ll understand.”
Scott was weak. He hesitated. Then he grabbed the phone and called up to Kyle’s room. Fran answered. “May I speak with Kyle? This is Scott.”
There was a hesitation. Then he heard the phone clatter as if dropped. “Here, I’ll hold it.” “It’s Scott.”
“But… okay.” Fran’s voice became clearer. “He doesn’t want to talk on the phone. He can’t hold onto it.”
Something clanked into the phone. “Kyle! He’s angry. I’ve got to go.” The phone disconnected.
Scott put his head down again.
“Let’s go home, Scott,” Sandy repeated.
He took a deep breath and then stood slowly, following her out of the office. He said goodbye to Kayleigh as he passed but didn’t stop. He was afraid he’d fall if he did. At home he went straight to bed, and Sandy started dinner.
Saturday Scott, Shane, and Sandy went back up to the hospital. Scott was afraid Kyle would not want to see him, but Kyle actually smiled in his normal way, greeting him as if nothing was wrong at all. Fran was already in the room.
“When are you taking me home?” Kyle asked, looking in Shane’s direction.
“As soon as they release you.”
“They haven’t said yet.”
Kyle leaned back and closed his eyes.
“You’re coming home to Marquette, Sweetheart,” Fran said. “Your father and I will make sure you’re taken care of.”
“No! Don’t need anyone.”
“Home is Ann Arbor.”
“And we’ll make sure you stay here,” Scott vowed.
Fran stood. “Scott, you can’t do that! Jerry’s a nurse. He knows what to do.”
“Do nothing! Go away.” Kyle waved a shaky arm. “Go on. Leave me alone.” Then the shaking entered more than his arm. His eyes rolled back, and his whole body jerked.
Shane left the room, and quickly a male nurse returned, asking them all to step into the hall.
They stood by the nurses’ station. “What happened?” Sandy asked.
Fran’s eyes were overflowing again, but she faced Scott. “He’s not to be upset. When he gets too upset he has fits. You can’t handle it. Don’t you dare try to take him away.”
“I’m not! But he wants to stay here and go back to work. He made the decision. You heard him.”
“He doesn’t know what’s best for himself. Now just stop it.” Fran turned and rushed down the hall, entering the rest room right before the next intersection.
Scott faced Shane. “You heard him!”
“Yeah. He’s staying with us. It’s what he wants. We’ll figure something out.”
“I’ll hire someone if he needs extra care. He’ll have everything he could possibly need.”
Frowning, Sandy stared down the hall where Fran had disappeared. “She loves him.” She looked at Scott. “Don’t jump into this from guilt. It won’t help him.”
Scott walked away from them toward the elevators. Shane caught up to him. “Hey, Scott, slow down.”
“So what do you two do? Stay up and talk about me all night?”
“I’ve barely said anything to her.” Shane grabbed his arm to stop him. “Slow down.”
Scott stopped, and Sandy reached them. “I didn’t talk to Shane. Mom told me Dad threw the guilt on you again. It wasn’t a difficult guess, Scott. I’ve had to go through the same thing.”
“You’ve never been in an accident like this.”
Sandy looked at the ceiling and shook her head, placing her hands on her hips. Then she glared at Scott. “And you’re being single-minded and obtuse right now. You know I meant that this guilt thing has no basis in reality, so don’t react on it.”
“Whether I help out my friend when he most needs me, or whether I decide to get married has nothing to do with guilt.” He raised his hand to rub his forehead. “Can we go home?”
“Sure,” Shane said. He led them through the building to the parking garage. “We should start looking for someone to stay with Kyle during the day while we’re at work. We can do the rest, right?”
“How much should we offer? We don’t have that much extra money.” Shane unlocked the car doors, and they got inside.
Scott didn’t speak. He wanted to talk to Dr. Thorton first.
“What are our choices, Scott? We can’t even pay much more than minimum wage. Who would take that when they can make a dollar more an hour throwing hamburgers on the grill?”
Sandy shifted in her seat. “If you two are serious, you could always offer room and food in exchange.”
Shane’s mouth twisted into a grimace. “No way. No roommate. Talk to your insurance company. See what all that medical clause involves.”
“I’ll see what I can get,” Scott promised.
Go to Chapter 6
© 2014, 1998 by Deborah K. Lauro. You may make one copy for personal use. To share, please direct friends to this website.