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Wind in White Birch
I laid the cell phone to my shoulder, smiled at my son then stepped from the ER cubicle out into the bustling hallway. God, how I wished Jonah had been allowed to come back with us. My head was throbbing unmercifully. Rhick was being Rhick. It took all I had not to scream at the man who was in transit as we spoke.
“So where the hell were you when our son was slowly getting sicker and sicker?”
I stalked past a small gaggle of women in bright medical smocks gathered at the nurses’ station and blew into a ladies room like a hurricane.
“I was having dinner,” I said, bending over to check for feet. There weren`t any so I could let him have it with both barrels. “And before one more asinine comment comes flowing from your mouth, I had picked him up by ten and he was fine, just cranky.”
“And it never occurred to you to ask what was wrong with him? You know how he gets when his ears are bothering him. Maybe if you weren`t so concerned with spreading your legs for that punk ass Indian bastard you`d be able to be a good mother.”
The phone went dead in my hand. I looked at the Nokia then threw it against the wall. How dare he accuse me of putting my wants before Rhett`s? My hands were shaking strongly as I knelt down to clean up the twenty or so bits of busted plastic then toss them in the trash. I found my reflection in the mirror. I looked like hell. Rhett had thrown up in the truck. I had been sitting in the back with him, his head resting on my breast. My new dress – the one I would need a loan to pay off – was now ruined. Jonah`s truck was a ghastly mess. I had bags under my eyes and my skin looked blotchy and sallow in this horrible hospital lighting.
My hands splayed on the edge of a white sink. My head fell forward. If only I hadn`t been so obsessed with Jonah I would have noticed the signs. But no, I was so intent on getting my hands on the man I let my son get sicker than I should have. I was wearing my maternal guilt like a scarlet letter. S for slut should be pinned to my breast for the world to see.
I cursed and cried. The door opened. I rushed to turn on the taps and splash cold water on my face. Dabbing uselessly at the speckles of water dotting my dress I slid past a chubby woman in fleece and returned to my son`s cubicle.
Rhett was pale and in pain but I could see that the doctor and his wonder meds were having a positive effect already. The lad`s face wasn`t quite as pinched. His temperature was slipping down from the 104.3 it had been when we had been admitted. He had actually drifted off, although his sleep was far from restful. I plopped down in one of two chairs beside his bed, my head lolling to the left to rest on the cool tiled wall. How long I sat there listening to my baby breath I can`t say. His father entering his tiny room startled me from the land of half-sleep.
I met my ex-husband`s baleful glower with one of my own.
“Is he feeling better?” Rhick asked, moving to the bed to place his hand on Rhett`s furrowed brow.
“A little bit maybe,” I yawned then folded my son`s soiled coat over my lap. Rhick pushed back the boy's too long bangs then placed a kiss to his brow.
“Can I see you in the corridor?” Rhick asked, tucking the regulation blue hospital blanket under his son`s chin. I slowly got to my feet, wondering how I looked to the man I had been married to for all those years. Vomit on my dress, sneakers on my feet, my hair in disarray, and my face puffy from anxiety and tears. I pulled the door gently closed behind me then turned to look up at my ex. His handsome face was a seething cauldron of conflicting emotions.
“Rhick,” I said wearily but he jumped over my unspoken plea like some rabid verbal hurdler.
“I cannot believe I saw that damned kid you`re screwing sitting out there in the waiting room,” he seethed, his anger barely contained, his hands gesticulating wildly. I glanced at the staff moving past us. “Was he in my son`s house fucking you when Rhett was getting sick?”
I swear I do not recall slapping him. I hadn`t planned it certainly. One moment I was standing there, looking like the hangdog I always did when Rhick was chewing me out. Then – Ker-Slap! – My palm was connecting with his cheek. Stunned, I blinked at the red mark on Rhick`s fair skin. He reached for me with a viscous sneer. I danced in reverse. Jonah appeared from nowhere. Later I would find out that all Jonah had to do was stand up and look around the glass partition to see into Rhett`s room. I bounced off the wall when the blur of black hair and wide back stepped between my ex and me.
“You want to lay hands on someone, big man, lay your hands on me.” The warning rumbled from within Jonah`s chest. Nurses were already scurrying to intercede. All I could hear was someone on the intercom paging a Dr. Wilson and the nurses hissing “Sir! Sir! You`re not allowed back here!” and “Only family is allowed back here. Sir! Sir! Don’t make me call security!”
Jonah gave Rhick a shove that sent him flying forcefully into the nurse`s station. I was shocked at the power Jonah possessed in one hand. Rhick is no small man who keeps in shape. If not for the appearance of a rather mountainous orderly, I know Rhick would have come out swinging.
“Jonah, just come with me, okay?” I cajoled, tugging on his left arm until he started to follow me. The air was thick with barely veiled hatred. I managed to get the livid Seneca man out into the waiting room. Jonah grabbed his suit jacket from a chair then stormed outside nearly ripping the sliding door from its track so great was his desire to get into the frigid air.
I followed him out into the cold of the day after Valentine`s. Calling him was doing no good. He was on a direct intercept course for his truck. I lunged at him, my fingers managing to get a grip on his black woolen sleeve. He shook me off, his long legs gnawing up the parking lot. I stopped double stepping to keep up with him.
“Jonah, look at me damn it!” I shouted, my words bouncing off an idling ambulance. He stopped and turned. I shut my mouth.
“Go back inside, Dana. Your son needs you.”
“I`m not going back inside without you,” I argued, feeling a chasm beginning to open.
“Yeah, you are. You`re going back in there with your son, you`re his family,” Jonah said dully.
“You`re important to him too,” I said weakly.
“No, not really, I`m just some guy his mom is dating.” He raised his eyes to the sky, searching for something but I didn’t know what. “You can`t see the stars here. Did you know that?” He brought his dark, dark eyes back to me. “I don`t belong here, Dana, not when a family crisis is happening. Rhick belongs here, not me.”
“Don`t you dare get in that truck and go back to New York!” I yelled with my hands tucked under my armpits. “You belong here if I say you do!”
Johan shook his head. That chasm I mentioned earlier? It wasn`t a rift in the ground opening up, it was a tear starting in my heart.
“No, I don`t.”
“Where are you going?” I demanded when he spun to show me his stiff back.
He never did tell me. He just drove off, leaving me standing beside an ambulance, fingertips crammed into armpits, cheeks wet, and heart ripping in two.
Copyright 2013 ©by V.L. Locey
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