Chad saw her the minute he walked into the hospital.  Beth wore jeans and a white tank top with a faded denim shirt over it as she paced a short pathway.  God, she looks good, he thought instantly.  Leaving Roger behind, he rushed towards her. “Beth!”
            Beth glanced up and, seeing Chad, started to run to him.  They clung to each other for several minutes, neither of them saying a word. 
            When the pair finally released their hold, they began talking over each other.
            “Oh, Chad, I didn’t know how to reach you.”
            “I know, it’s all right.  How’s Cassie?”
            “She looks awful.  She went halfway through the windshield.  The driver was killed, she was Cassie’s best friend.” Beth peered up at him, tears pooling in her eyes.  She had the wild, desperate look of someone in shock.  “Her face is all cut up.  She looks awful.  It was her best friend….”
            Chad pulled her into another embrace, “Beth.  Beth.  It’s all right.”  He added in a whisper, “Everything is going to be all right now.”
            It was the words she had been saying to herself for hours, but somehow hearing it from Chad made her almost believe them.
            “Listen,” he held Beth at arm’s length, bending down to look her in the face.  “We’ll get the best plastic surgeons--”
            “You don’t understand,” she responded tearfully. “They aren’t even sure if she’s going to…they said something about twenty-four hours….”
            Chad pulled her close again, finally understanding the severity of the situation.  “Beth, why don’t you sit down here for a minute?  I’m going to talk to Roger, but I’ll be right back.”
            Roger stood right inside the doorway, looking uncomfortable in the hospital surroundings. 
            Chad strode towards him, his boots ringing down the corridor.  “You’re going to have to cancel the show in Chicago.”
            “Cancel the show, man!   I’m not leaving her now.”
            Roger was always the bottom-line man, the dollars-and-cents kind, and cancelling a show was tantamount to treason in his book.  But, peering down the hall to where Beth was sitting, still looking shell-shocked, he swallowed. 
            “Okay, okay.   I’ll call Stan.”  He pulled his eyes away from Beth to look at Chad, “Just take care of Beth, Chad, and give her our love.  Anything you guys need….”
            Chad hugged him.  “Thanks, Rog’.  You’re the best friend a guy could have.”

*          *          *
            Chad returned to Beth’s side.  He sat down and put an arm around her.  She leaned into him and rested her head on his shoulder.  Beth was comforted by his body heat, by his smell, by his closeness.  They sat that way for a long time, Chad rubbing her arm to soothe her.  With a lot of time to think, Chad wondered why it was always misfortune bringing them together.  Was it an omen?  Or was it a divine intervention of sorts, allowing him to be there for her when she needed him the most?
            The door across the hall opened and Beth jumped up, startling Chad, who was an instant behind.  A young, prematurely-balding doctor, with a kind face, started talking to Beth right away. 
            “Mrs. Donovan, the results of Cassie’s new CT show no further swelling, but she is still nonresponsive.  This is good news, but not the best.  We are concerned about her still not regaining consciousness.  I encourage you to talk to her, like you were doing before.  It may help.  The lacerations and abrasions on her face look very good, but there will be some scarring.  We can talk about further plastic surgery when she’s out of the woods.  I wish I had more I could tell you,” he put a hand on her arm, “but at this point, I’m afraid only time can give us our answers.  I know waiting is difficult, but hang in there.”
            Beth struggled to find her voice.  “Thank you, Doctor.  Can we go in now?”
            The doctor gave Chad the once-over.  Only family was allowed in, and he knew Mrs. Donovan was a widow; but she seemed much calmer, more put together now….
            He smiled down at Beth.  “That would be fine.”
            They opened the door, and slowly went in.  A nurse was still adjusting an IV and taking notes.  She smiled encouragement when they came in, but did her best to hide in the background.  Chad had both hands on Beth’s shoulders.  He could feel them start to shake.  She covered her mouth with her hand, weeping without making a sound.
            He was shocked by what he saw.  Of course, there were the usual tubes and wires running everywhere, but Cassie looked so pale, and small, on the big hospital bed.  Her face was worse than Chad expected.  Small, jagged cuts could be seen everywhere, as well as two large gashes, one on her cheek, one, in her hair-line on the same side.  She must have turned her head a little, he surmised.  They were forced to shave a section of her hair away to stitch the cut above her eye.  Beth later told him it took hours for them just to remove the glass from her face and scalp. 
            They approached the bed, and Beth talked to Cassie in a soothing tone.  She reached out a shaking hand to touch her daughter, but hesitated, seeing there were even cuts on her hands. 
            The nurse noticed her movement from the other side of the bed.  “It’s okay.  You can touch her.  She’s got enough pain medication in her now that she’s not feeling anything.  But she will recognize the warmth of your touch.”
            Beth nodded, and touched Cassie’s hand gingerly.  The feel of her daughter’s skin seemed to overwhelm her anew.  “I used to hold these hands when she was little,” she whispered, “to help her across the street, to keep her safe--” A sob interrupted her words.
            “Beth, you couldn’t prevent this.”
            “I know, I know.  It just hurts.”       
Chad saw her beautiful eyes were full of pain. He hadn’t felt so useless in a long time, powerless to take this away from her. He’d gotten used to being able to solve any problem by calling in the right favor, by throwing money at the right people. This he couldn’t fix, and it was killing him.

*          *          *



  1. Great snippet... a shame it was deleted:)

  2. Thanks! My editor was right. I was trying to do too much with the book, but it's nice to be able to share it this way! Thanks for reading!


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