* * *
Hours later, the doctor, now grimfaced, came back. As they rolled Cassie away for another CT scan, a nurse spoke to them, “Mrs. Donovan. We can find a place for you to lie down, if you’d like. You haven’t slept since you got here.”
“No, no. I’m fine. I want to wait for her right here,” as the nurse turned to go, Beth touched her arm. “I want to thank you, for all you’ve done.”
“That’s quite all right, Mrs. Donovan,” the nurse laid her hand on top of Beth’s. “I understand this is particularly difficult because your husband was here, when he passed away.” Chad blinked in surprise. “If there’s anything we can do, just let us know.”
“Thank you. You’ve been so kind.”
“That’s our job. Your daughter’s probably going to be gone awhile. You may want to close your eyes and get some sleep, or perhaps go down to the cafeteria for a bite.” The nurse looked at Chad to make sure he understood before she left.
“Why don’t we go down and get some food?”
Beth’s response was automatic. “I’m not hungry.” But after a beat she added remorsefully, “But Chad, you must be. I never even thanked you for coming. And it’s Sunday, what time’s your show in Chicago?”
“I canceled it.”
Beth’s eyes grew wide. “Oh, no, Chad. You can’t do that.”
“It’s already been done,” he told her firmly.
“When Roger called earlier, he said the promoters were thrilled. They were thinking of canceling anyway because there was a huge ice storm in Chicago. This just made their decision easier.”
“Your fans will be so disappointed.”
“Don’t worry. We already rescheduled it and the venue is giving them an additional $25 off the ticket price. See, so everybody’s happy.” He gave her a squeeze.
“Chad,” she said seriously, “I’m so glad you’re here.”
“I wouldn’t be anywhere else. So, come on. Let’s go down to the cafeteria, even if it’s just to stretch our legs.”
She consented, imagining his long legs must be cramped. When they got there, Beth ended up ordering a cup of cocoa and a yogurt. Chad watched as she downed the yogurt within minutes. He finished up his bacon and eggs while she sat staring into her mug, her hands cupped around it for warmth. Chad studied her for several minutes before leaning across the table to take her hand.
“It’s going to be all right, you know.”
He hesitated, not knowing if he should broach the subject. “I didn’t know your husband had come here.”
Again she nodded. She swirled the cocoa in her cup without looking up. “Paul was gone before he even got here. But I had to come up…and make arrangements.” She glanced up at him for the first time and remarked, “It was a drunk driver. So senseless.” She shook her head and stared down into the depths of her mug again. “So, now I help out with driver’s education classes. It’s my way of trying to stop it from happening to someone else.” She shrugged, then, raised her head again. “Do you mind if we go back up now? I want to be there when she gets out of radiology.”
“Sure,” he responded, surprised. He had thought of her as fragile, vulnerable, but now he could see how truly tough she was.
* * *
Chad could tell by the weight of her head, and the steady breathing, Beth had finally fallen asleep. He sat as still as he could, knowing she needed the rest. He could see Cassie’s bed coming down the hall, but the nurse signaled to not wake Beth yet. “The doctor will want to read the tests first,” she whispered.
Chad settled back in, until the doctor came out. “Beth…” Chad murmured. She was awake in an instant.
“Well, I have good news, Beth.” Chad noted his use of a more familiar name; it must be good. “Our latest CT shows the swelling has actually gone down. I feel fairly certain there won’t be any permanent brain damage.”
Beth threw her arms around him. “Thank you, doctor! Thank you!”
“Well, well,” he replied, appearing both surprised and embarrassed. “It wasn’t my doing, I can assure you. Your daughter is a fighter. And I think your time with her may have helped, too. You can go in if you’d like.”
“Thank you,” Beth repeated, rushing forward.
As Chad moved to pass him, the doctor put a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, uh…I just bet all the nurses twenty dollars you weren’t Chad Evans of Trapped Under Ice….”
Chad leaned in and whispered, “Then if I were you, I’d either be ready to get my wallet out, or find a good place to hide.” He grinned and followed Beth into the room.
“Damn!” the doctor said, still smiling.