Catch up here.
The sun is high over Makiki District Park. Ethan plays with his blocks on the quilt while I leave J.D. a message. “Hi, baby. I’m doing more packing after Ethan goes down for his nap. We need more boxes if you can find some.”
I push Ethan in his stroller across Ke`eaumoku Street towards our building. Lance is leaning against the utility pole when we reach the corner. I freeze.
“I didn’t know you had a kid,” he says prying himself off the pole.
I pull the stroller back. “Don’t even think about it.”
I fish my phone out of my pocket, flip it open, and dial 911. Lance slaps it out of my hand as I press send and it clatters to the ground.
“You’ve gone too far,” he fumes.
“I’ve gone too far?” I yell hoping someone in the nearby apartments will hear. “You’re the one stalking me!”
“You could’ve talked to me!”
“I did! But you wouldn’t take responsibility for the letter or accept that I’ve moved on!”
“Because I missed you!”
“That was your fault!” My heart races as I see Ethan trying to reach for my phone. ”You claim you love me. This isn’t love, it’s sickness,” I hiss keeping one hand on the stroller while squatting to pick up the phone.
Lance snatches my wrist.
“Let go!” I straighten and push my fist towards him then yank up and back, freeing my wrist.
His eyes widen. I gather all the fear and anger he created and punch him in the stomach. He doubles over groaning.
I run past him with Ethan and the stroller then bring the phone up to my ear. “Hello?”
“Police are on the way,” the male operator tells me. “We had several calls to report a disturbance after the phone fell.”
I explain Lance’s repeated protective order violations then give him my home address.
A hand clasps my shoulder from behind and pulls me off-balance. I scream as white-hot fire hits my lower back.
“MOMMY!” Ethan shrieks in response and I feel him shifting in the stroller trying to look out from under the protective shade.
“I’m done playing games with you,” Lance whispers in my ear, twisting the blade then yanking it out and stabbing again.
My energy whooshes out and is replaced with pain and sweat. I clutch the stroller to keep from falling and breathe in to gather my strength then kick out hard to the side. My foot connects with his groin.
He drops to his knees covering himself. I kick again, this time ramming his hand with the knife which falls and clacks against the ground. Sirens wail louder and louder.
I fall to my knees and seize the knife, slicing his neck as I draw it up. He grasps his neck with both hands and blood oozes between his fingers. I open my hand and the knife clacks on the ground again.
“Mommy!” Ethan wails reaching for me from the stroller.
Two police cars, an ambulance, and the paramedic truck from the firehouse down the street line up. The world spins around me as pain radiates from my back. I collapse to my right while officers and paramedics rush from their vehicles.
I am rolled onto my stomach by several hands. Air blows across my exposed skin and something presses into my lower back. Hands turn me back over and lift me on a gurney. The paramedic moves to give me a shot once we are in the ambulance.
“My son,” I whisper.
“The officers have him and are following us,” he reassures me.
The ride is a blur after he administers the pain medication.
Officer Oliver carries Ethan into the emergency room and the diaper bag in hand. Ethan has his head down and eyes closed.
“What can I help you with, Officer?” Nancy asks at the desk.
“We need to find the emergency contact for the victim that just went back.” He sets the diaper bag down.
Nancy fishes through the bag and draws a wallet out. She stares at the license and her face drains. She drops it and picks up the phone rapidly punching numbers.
“What is it?”
“I know her.” She jabs more numbers and sets the phone back in the cradle.
“Does she work here?”
“She works in our behavioral health department. Her husband is one of our doctors.”
J.D. strolls up to the desk with a chart he passes to Nancy. “What do you have, Nance?”
Ethan’s tear-stained face pops up at the sound of J.D.’s voice. “Daddy!” He twists himself around and throws his arms out.
J.D.’s heart slams in his chest as he pulls Ethan onto his left hip. “Hey, buddy,” he greets Ethan and kisses his head, trying to mask his alarm with joy.
Ethan wraps his little arms around J.D.’s neck and squeezes tight. J.D. closes his eyes and rubs Ethan’s back while choking down tears.
He looks to Nancy. “Where is she?” he asks with a calm he musters for Ethan’s sake.
He removes his cell phone from his coat pocket and passes it to her. “Would you please call my brother and the guys? Explain what happened and whoever gets here first can take Ethan.”
“Sure, James.” She takes the phone and sets it on the desk in front of her.
“Ethan, can you stay with Auntie Nancy while I check on Mommy?”
Ethan nods his head against J.D.’s neck then reaches for Nancy.
J.D. tears through the hall then bursts through the double doors. He spots ebony hair at the head of the table in the middle of the room. “Ari!” he calls rushing for her.
“Dr. Devlin, you can’t be here,” a nurse says pushing him back to the door.
“She’s pregnant, Jessie,“ he blurts out fighting against the nurse.
Jessie sucks in a breath. “Get out, James,” he orders sternly while keeping his eyes on Ari.
J.D. pivots, slams the doors open, and smacks the opposite wall with his left palm. Tears well up and burn his eyes. He flattens both palms against the wall and stares at the ground. He wipes his face on his scrubs and pushes off the wall as anger surges through him. He storms back down the hall to the front desk.
“Where’s Lance?” he asks Officer Oliver who just returned with Ethan’s stroller.
“The man who put my wife in that room!” he shouts pointing down the hall.
“He bled out on the way in.”
“He killed himself?”
“It looked like your wife fought him off after he stabbed her. She managed to get the knife from him and hit an artery.”
J.D. leans back against the counter and slides down to the floor. He rests his elbows on his knees and covers his face allowing himself to openly weep because all he can do now is give in to the torrent of emotions.
“James,” Nancy says next to him once he quiets. “Do you want to hold Ethan?”
J.D. looks up at Ethan, obsidian eyes like Ari’s calling to him. He struggles to his feet then takes Ethan into his arms and strokes his head. He rocks side to side and hums Just Like Heaven. Ethan lays his head on J.D.’s shoulder and closes his eyes. J.D. sways to his humming back down the hall and leans against the wall watching his co-workers through the windowed door. Tears stream down his face again as he massages Ethan’s back in circles.
He watches the team lift the rails then wheel her through the doors towards the elevator.
“What’s going on?” J.D. follows and keeps his hand on Ethan’s head.
“It’s her kidneys. We got her stabilized enough to get her upstairs,” Jessie answers plainly.
“I’m coming with you.”
“Ethan shouldn’t be there, James. You know that.”
The elevator doors close between them.
“Brad is on his way and Sheila is coming in to cover the rest of your shift,” Nancy informs J.D. as he slips his phone into his pocket.
“Thanks, Nance.” He paces behind Nancy until Brad arrives.
“Thanks for taking him,” J.D. says as he straps Ethan into the stroller.
“No worries. Just let us know how she’s doing when she gets out of surgery.”
“Of course.” J.D. kisses Ethan’s cheek as Ethan gnaws on his own fingers. “Be good for Uncle Brad. ‘Kay?”
“Uh-ko.” Ethan holds out his wet fingers to Brad. Brad takes the proffered wet hand and Ethan grips a finger smiling at him.
J.D. pinches the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger to hold off the tears. Brad clasps J.D.’s shoulder with his free hand. J.D. stands and embraces Brad tightly. Brad feels hot tears seep through his t-shirt and lets a few of his own fall. J.D. breaks away and takes the diaper bag out from under Nancy’s desk. He fishes out Ari’s keys and wallet. He shoves the wallet into his coat pocket and holds the keys out to Brad.
Brad waves him off. “I’ve got the set you guys gave us.”
“You’ll need the car seat in my car.”
Brad accepts the keys and shoves them into his shorts pocket.
J.D. runs to the elevators and slaps the ^ button. He paces with his hands on his waist as he waits. Doors open to his left and he lets people off before jumping in and punching the floor for the operating rooms.
He finds the room Ari is in and walks into the observation room. He pushes the heel of his hands into the frame of the window and leans on them. The surgical team works together fluidly, each member correctly anticipating each other’s movements and the doctor’s directions.
J.D. intercepts the doctor, Alex Carter, as he leaves the room.
“James,” Alex greets impassively.
“Her vitals didn’t look good from where I was, Alex.”
“They’re not. It looks like her attacker twisted the knife into one kidney and nicked the other. I did what I could, James. I’m not going give a prognosis. You know all the possibilities.”
“Fine for now. But the trauma, pain medication from the paramedic, and anesthesia are not helpful.”
J.D. rubs his face with both hands.
“I’m sorry, James.”
“Thanks, Alex,” he replies hollowly.
J.D. uses the phone at the nurse’s station in Intensive Care to give Brad the update. He sets the phone down after saying goodbye and heads into Ari’s room.
Her tan skin is ashen and her face is scrunched.
He pushes the bed rail down then sits next to the bed and covers her left hand with his while running his right hand over her hair.
“You can’t leave us. We need you.” He lays his head on her shoulder and closes his eyes.
My eyes flutter open to a blurry surrounding of white and glass, and something brown on my shoulder. I struggle to reach over, my hand feeling heavy, and touch a head of hair. The head stirs.
“Ari!” J.D. jumps up and presses his lips against mine.
“Where?” I ask with effort.
“Intensive Care.” He peers up at the monitor on the other side of the bed and frowns.
“What?” I croak.
“How do you feel?”
His frown deepens and a tear falls.
“Hold me. Please.”
He strips off his coat and drapes it over the chair then pulls the pager off his waistband and drops it on the chair. He lifts me up, sits behind me across the bed, and draws me back carefully. His arms wrap around me lovingly.
“You’re a stubborn fighter. You can fight this,” he sobs.
“But I know when to give in.” I take in a labored breath.
“I can’t do this without you.”
“You can,” I rasp slowly. “You’re just as stubborn.” I lift my heavy left hand to his cheek and catch tears with my thumb.
His body trembles from crying.
“Promise me…move to Moloka`i.”
He curls his hand around mine and slides it to his mouth then presses his lips against my palm. He moves my hand down over his heart where I feel the familiar thump-thump rhythm.
“Will grow up with his family and will know how much his Mommy loves him.”
I smile feebly and a tear falls. “I love you, James.”
He lets go of my hand and caresses my face. He leans in and locks our mouths together with finality. He pulls away a fraction and gazes into my eyes with adoration. “I love you more, babes.”
©Debi Smith, 2013