* * *
Beth hovered over her daughter. Her heart was full of gratitude for the miracle the doctor had announced, and full of anguish over the long road back Cas’ would have to take, physically, as well as emotionally. “How am I going to tell my baby her best friend is dead?” she whispered to Chad.
“You’ll find the right words when the time comes,” he reassured her.
Beth put the rail of the bed down so she could hold Cassie’s hand. She struggled to find her words. “Cas’, baby, I’m right here.” The mother paused, unsure of what to say next. “Cas’?” She rubbed her daughter’s arm, peering again into her still face.
Then, for no particular reason, Beth remembered a trip to Chicago they took when Cassie was little. “Remember that time Dad and I took you up to the Navy Pier and Shedd’s Aquarium?” she said out loud, starting slowly. “There was a Beluga whale making all kinds of noise because she was about to give birth. I think it was one of the first Beluga births in captivity, but I’m not sure. I know they were very excited about it.”
There was no return, except for the beep of machines.
“Keep going,” Chad encouraged her.
“And then we watched the dolphin show. You always loved dolphins because of those silly smiles they always wear. You were so excited because you got to be part of the show and feed the dolphins. And remember the seahorses? They had a seahorse exhibit and we never knew how many different kinds there were. Some didn’t even look like the seahorses you usually see in books.”
Chad saw Cassie’s foot move.
“And we discovered the males carried their babies--”
Cassie moved her head a fraction. “M-mom?”
Beth struggled for a second with the lump in her throat. “Oh, Cas’! I’m right here, honey. I‘m right here,” she choked out.
“M-mmm,” she moaned, her eyes still closed. “Wh-what happened? Ohhh!” She seemed agitated, as if she was in a lot of pain. Beth’s eyes flitted to the nurse.
“I’ll get the doctor to up her pain meds.”
“Sweetheart, you were in an accident. But you’re okay now.”
“We’re you just talking about the dolphin show?” Cassie asked as the doctor entered in a rush, followed by the nurse.
Beth smiled, “You remember it?”
“I got to make him do a trick.”
“That’s right. I had forgotten that.”
“Cassie,” the doctor inserted, “I’m Dr. Tuilly. How are you feeling?”
She opened her eyes, blinking in the bright light. “I’ve had better days.”
They all smiled, exchanging relieved looks.
“Listen Cassie, we’re going to give you some more pain medication, but first I need for you to do a couple of things for me.” He pulled back the covers on the bed and placed her heel in his hand. “Cassie, can you push on my hand with your left foot?” It was clear she could. Beth squeezed Chad’s hand. “Good, good.” The doctor ran Cassie through a series of tests, all of which she passed with flying colors. “You’re getting tired now, aren’t ya, hon?” Cassie nodded, again closing her eyes. “Well, we’re going to give you some good stuff now to help you get some sleep. Say goodnight to your mom.”
“Goodnight, Mom. Hey, Chad! What are you doing here?”
“I was in the neighborhood. I’m glad you’re feeling better,” he reached down to squeeze her hand.
“Thanks,” she mumbled with a smile. The doctor nodded to the nurse, who injected something into the IV. Cassie closed her eyes, and drifted peacefully off to sleep.
“Let’s step outside,” the doctor suggested in a hushed tone. But when they were in the hall, the doctor was hardly able to contain his excitement, blurting out, “This is the best possible scenario. All her neuromotor skills seem to be intact, there seems to be no memory loss…. Mrs. Donovan, she’s going to be just fine.”
“Oh, you’re the best!” Beth threw her arms around him again, kissing him on the cheek.
Once more, the young doctor seemed embarrassed by Beth’s exuberance. “As I said before, we’ve done little more than make Cassie as comfortable as possible and monitor her progress. The credit goes to you and your daughter.”
“Yes, but doctor, you knew what pain medications to give her, and you monitored her progress so you could be ready to step in and help her if the time came. You’ll forgive me, I hope, for my excitement. You’ve just returned my daughter to me.”
He grabbed her hands, “Okay, Mrs. Donovan, you win. I’m glad I could be of help. And I thank you, too. A doctor can also get excited about a patient getting better, and this has made my day. Now…Cassie will be out for at least 2 hours, more likely close to 4, so stretch your legs, or do whatever you need to.” He turned to go, but as he passed Chad he added, tapping his shoulder with the medical chart in his hand. “Now, you, Mr. Evans, I’m not so happy with.” Both men grinned as they parted.
“What did he mean by that?”
“Uh, I’ll explain later.” Chad grabbed her up in a huge bear-hug. “See,” he whispered in her ear, “I told you it would be all right.” They parted and she kissed the singer happily. “I think we should stretch our legs,” he commented, “as the good doctor advised. Hold on, I’ll be right back.”
Beth watched as he went up to the nurses’ station to ask a question. The nurse was gesturing with her response, and Beth could tell he had asked for directions.
“What did you ask them?”
“You’ll see,” he hinted, taking her hand and leading her down several halls. He finally opened a set of double doors, and they stepped out into a small courtyard. The entire courtyard was covered with giant skylights, so it was like being outside, without the inclement weather. There were several tables scattered about, but they were alone, possibly due to the fact that, despite the designer’s best efforts, it was still fairly cold in the area.
As soon as they entered and the door closed behind them Chad grabbed Beth by the hips and pulled her to him. “I couldn’t wait to get you alone.” He bent in and kissed her, long and deep. They separated but laid their foreheads together. “Mmmm…that’s more like it.”
“If you kiss me again like that, I may not be able to let you go.”
“Who said anything about going?”
“Chad…you have shows lined up. Now Cassie is awake, and doing well…you should go, be with the guys.”
“I’ll stay if you need me.”
“Of course, I need you,” she replied, kissing him again. “But I’ll be fine.”
“Well, this time I’m giving you my cell number, and if you need anything….”
“I’ll call you. I promise.”
“Well, I guess I should go, then.” He rubbed her arms in the cold. “Roger’s probably having a mini-cow by now. He can be pretty anal.”
“Actually, he called me on a hospital line when you were in the bathroom.”
“Yes. He was very sweet. Wanted to know if there was anything I needed.”
“I don’t know if I like that clown callin’ my best gal.”
“You,” she whispered tugging on the sides of his leather jacket, and then gazing up at him with both sincerity and longing, “have nothing to worry about.” And the kiss she gave him left little doubt.
They strolled back towards Cassie’s room, arm-in-arm, both quiet, occupied with their own thoughts. Beth stopped in mid-step.
“It never dawned on me to ask before, I don’t know why, maybe because I was just so happy to see you, but, how did you know what had happened?”
“When you didn’t show up at the stadium, I started calling your house. By the time your friend, Cali, answered, I was half-crazed.”
Beth smiled, “Cali.”
Beth laughed. “Let’s just say, she’s my Roger.”
“Ohh. God help us both.” They laughed.
“She should have been here by now,” Beth commented, checking her watch. “But knowing Cali, she probably stopped at Starbucks, and got her nails done.”
“Heyyy!” came a loud cry from down the hall.
“There she is!”
Chad looked up to see a loud, leggy, good-looking blonde approaching with, ironically, a carry-out tray from Starbucks with two cups and a bag of some sort, which the blonde, without warning, shoved into his hands.
“Take this so I can give my girl a hug.” She drew Beth in and then pulled away to ask seriously, “How is she?”
“Much, much better,” Beth answered her with a smile.
“Good. I told you my prayers would work.” Cali smiled up at Chad, taking the tray back. “I’ve got an in with The Big Man.” Chad somehow doubted that. “You’re Chad Evans,” she balanced the coffee and extended her hand. “Nice to finally meet you.” She leaned into Beth, “You’re right,” she whispered loud enough for him to hear, “he is hot.”
Beth giggled but swatted her friend on the shoulder. “And he was just leaving.” Chad extended his hand to take Beth‘s. “Just sit right here, Cal. I’ll be right back.”
“Sure you will.”
“She’s…interesting,” Chad stated again.
“Yeah, but she’s fantastic.” They had reached the door. They could see a couple of cabs waiting for a fare in the taxi stand across the circle drive. “I’ll miss you,” she said, brushing her lips over his.
Without pulling away he ordered, “Remember, call me if you need anything.”
She pointed at the pocket where she kept her cell phone, which he had programmed his number into. “I will.”
The rocker snagged her bottom lip in his and then kissed her one last time, hating to leave her, but knowing he probably should.
Beth watched until the cab had driven away, partly wishing she had made him stay.