Coming Around Again

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A man goes in for a routine pre-op and ends up being a baby about it.

Submitted: February 04, 2013

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Submitted: February 04, 2013

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WHAT GOES AROUND

“It’s just a routine measure honey, don’t sweat it,” Bob called from the upstairs bedroom.

No response. She wouldn’t have the conversation this way. The one that starts out, ‘what if they can’t get it all?’.

So Bob finished changing and descended the stairs to the foyer where his wife, Josie, stands with her hands clasped before her, looking down.

Bob lifts her chin and sees the tears streaming down her cheeks. He knows there are no words for this. So he holds her. And this seems to calm her a bit. But, not for long as the sobs resurge and her body trembles. He almost has to carry her into the living room and set her in the chair.

“Honey,” he says moving the hair that has fallen across her face and tucking it behind her ear. Then he brings the back of his hand down slowly caressing her cheek. This is the way he says I love you. “The doctor says he sees no reason why this shouldn’t be a simple procedure. They caught it in the beginning stages and this is where people have a better than ninety percent chance.

She squeezes his hand tightly. “There shouldn’t be a percentage Bob! It shouldn’t be at all!” she barked through her teeth. She was mad, sad, frustrated and frankly tired of crying.

He didn’t know what else he could say to ease her, so he just sat with her for a couple minutes while she put herself in a better way. She wiped the last of her tears away with a frilly ladies hanky and looked at him square on.

“Bob, I want you to know that I’m trying to be strong. But imagine how I feel knowing I could lose you,” she began.

Bob started to say that she wasn’t going to lose him and she held her hand up and stopped him.

Josie continued, “Bob, I’m a realist. I’m not worried what I’m going to do after - I’m sorry, I mean if something should happen. I know I’ll carry on. But there’s a real chance of something going wrong and I’m not going to try to fool myself into thinking there’s not. And you shouldn’t either!”

Bob remained quiet and stared straight ahead at the wall. She was right. There was no use in conversation grounded in fantasy. But Bob also had strong feelings that something good was going to come out of it. So, he took her other hand and squeezed back.

“Ok . . . no more talk about this until after tomorrow. So, let’s just get me to the hospital and in the morning you can come and pick me up. I’ll be the guy with the incision-shaped, flesh-colored tattoo on my ribs.”

Really Bob?” Josie gave him the look, but there was a hint of a smile playing around the corners of her mouth that told him she would let this one slide. After all, he must be nervous, too. So she cut him some slack.

He knew that joking about it wasn’t the right thing to do either, but “Sorry,” was all he could say

They checked in and Josie hung around for the pre-surgical meeting with the doctors. They actually made her feel better. It was their matter of fact, non-emotional delivery that soothed her. She could hear the words and wasn’t shaken by a quiver in speech or a patronizing tone. Not that Bob would patronize her, but when things were the way they were, it was hard to zoom in on reality all the time.

“I guess I’ll just rest up since I’m all attached to this cyborg over here,” he said pointing to the machinery connected to the tubes that were attached to him, “and I can’t go anywhere.”

“Ok . . . I’ll call you tonight. Or do you want me to come?” she asked.

“Of course I want you to. But, this is no place for the emotional, so I think we can both do with the alone time. You ok with that?” he asked gauging her reaction.

“That’s fine,” she said in a voice that really didn’t match the words. But, he knew she was trying to be strong for him. For her. For them. She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead and began to walk away. She made it to the door and turned to face him. She just stared for what seemed like forever.

“I love you,” she choked out.

Bob started to say it back but she had already left the room. Now, it was his turn to cry. He only wanted to make her happy, but this was not one of those things that leant itself to happiness unless it all worked out. Kind of like having a scratch card and knowing you could win; but, of course most of the time you don’t. It’s the anticipation of uncertainty that sends that rush of adrenalin though our bodies until it either fizzes out because you didn’t match any of the numbers or symbols on your ticket or it explodes in your head and heart and the whole freaking rest of you when you hit it for twenty grand!

Anyway, the only thing to do now was to wait. And that he did. The moments seemed to stretch to infinity. He wished that it would just be over. Supper came, all liquid, and he savored every last drop. When he was through with his dinner, he rested his head back on the pillow and closed his eyes. Thoughts of his eyes being closed permanently played in his head, so he opened them quickly to keep that thought at bay. He turned his head and looked at the blinking lights and squiggly line on the monitor next to his bed. His not quite awaken eyes turned the lights into a psychedelic trip that distracted him for a few more seconds. A nurse entered the room and spoke with him while she checked his vitals and adjusted the IV drip and left before he knew she had finished.

He pulled out one of the puzzle books that his wife remembered to bring and turned on the little overhead light. Word searches were the only kind of puzzles he liked. He was not so good at crosswords or any of the other funky figure this out if you can kinds, but word searches he could fly through almost supernaturally.

He completed an entire magazine and set it aside. He turned off the light and closed his eyes again. Sometime later, another nurse came in. She asked how he was feeling and he told her he was just fine thanks. She continued to talk to him but he didn’t respond. She wasn’t asking him questions, just random talk. His head began to clear and he started talking with her. She said that there were some patients here that weren’t doing as well as he was and she was going to be making her rounds soon.

Bob explained that he had a pretty positive outlook on his medical issues and no matter what the result of tomorrow’s surgery, he had no regrets.

Then she asked him if he would like to put that positive attitude to use and that brought him back all the way.

Yes . . . yes he would like to do just that. Maybe he could help somebody.

“Would you like to get out for a bit?” she asked. “I have to make my rounds and there’s one patient down stairs who could use some company.”

“Great!” he grunted trying to swing out of bed.

“Here, let me help you,” she offered.

Bob was helped into a wheelchair that the nurse had taken to attaching his necessary IV to. Together they walked down the long silent hall to an elevator which they took to the next floor down. When they got to the room, it was lit only by an amber light from outside the window. He could tell it was a woman in the bed, but that wasn’t the only reason he knew. There were signs that had read MATERNITY all along the hallway. And there was a formidable bump where her belly would be.

He and Josie couldn’t have kids. They’d tried but nothing worked. After a while they accepted it and genuinely intended on adoption at some point. But life, as they say, got in the way.

“Mr. Williams, this is Anita Sanchez. Why don’t you two talk while I go look in on some others?” She pushed Bob right up beside her bed and locked his wheels, checked his IV and left.

“Hello,” a small voice said from two feet away.

“Hi,” Bob replied, “how ya doin?”

“Eh, I’m alright I guess,” tone not matching the words. “You?”

“Yeah, I’m ok too. At least I think so. My wife? Not so much.”

“Ahh,” not a confirmation. She was weak. This woman’s monitor was different from his, but he could tell by looking at it that there was real trouble here.

“And your baby? Is she alright?” he asked gently.

“How did you know?” she asked.

“Know what? You’re in a maternity ward. You’re having a baby, right?” He was genuine.

“I mean that it’s a girl,” she explained, humored by a man’s thinking.

“I don’t think I did know. I think it was like when you talk about a car or a boat. You refer to it as she,” he fumbled for words that he couldn’t quite reach.

“A boat?” she asked raising an eyebrow at him that he couldn’t see.

Oh, sorry,” he apologized. “I didn’t mean . . .”

She cut him off. She laughed a little and then sucked in air real fast.

Bob reached for her instinctively and grabbed her hand. It was cold and she was trembling.

“My God, you’re freezing. Do you want me to call the nurse?” he asked.

She returned his grip and told him not to bother.

“My situation is as good as it’s gonna get. The doctors and the nurses know about my cold body temperature and the plight of my baby.” She went on to explain.

“My husband,” she began, “he’s a good man, really. But, sometimes . . . and I mean only sometimes, he gets angry.”

Bob interrupted, “He did this to you? He put you here?” He was emotional.

“Yes. He is the reason I’m here. Me and my baby”

Ordinarily Bob would think like any other God fearing, mother loving human being on the planet that had issues with domestic violence and vow to tell that man a thing or two. Or more.

“What happened that would make him want to do this?” he asked, now without emotional control. Tears had started leaking from his eyes the second she said, ‘he gets angry’.

It’s a long story and I’m sure you don’t want to hear my woes,” she said playing with the hem of the bed spread.

He took her right hand and placed it gently between his two and tried to warm them. “That’s exactly what I want,” he told her.

Anita looked at the sincerity and genuine love for life on this man’s face and began to weep. Bob was all too familiar with this but not for the same reasons. He would never raise a hand to Josie. He’d just assume stab himself and poke his own eyes out before he ever even came close to such an act. He let her cry as he knew she needed to. To unfold such a story takes some strength. To unfold it to a stranger takes a strength that can only come from emotion. He noticed that her hand was warming a bit and not fighting his warmth anymore.

He handed her the tissues from the table next to the bed. She took them with her left hand reaching over her protruding belly. She wasn’t letting his hand go. It felt so warm.

She placed the box on the bed beside her and drew a few breaths; shaky at first but evening out after the third. Then, she began.

About fifteen years ago I was working in a hair salon. I had just graduated hairdressing and cosmetology school and wanted to make what was supposed to be boku bucks. I found out later that’s if you own your own store for like six years and have no life. Then you’ll do ok.

I was gonna give them my two weeks and they begged me to stay .So I stayed on another few month. Then I was really itching to get out and do something else. I had no idea what; just . . . something.

Anyway, I finally left three weeks later. But before I left, I went to pick up my last paycheck and well, you know girls. We stood there crying in front of customers for over an hour, hugging and crying, crying and hugging. I was just about to leave when this guy came into the salon. He had long hair and was really handsome. I mean Brad Pitt handsome. Smooth, rough, sexy and all sorts of other things you probably don’t want to hear about.

Bob just shrugged as if to say it’s your dime.

So, well . . . he just kinda sauntered by me. Real close too. Like I could feel his rolled up shirt cuff on my arm. The smell of his aftershave as the air blew by me is what I remember the most. They say that smell is huge when it comes to memories.

Bob was aware of this. How many times had he smelled something that reminded him of his youth? After all, weren’t memories all we had?

She dazed off for a moment in some reverie that Bob didn’t interrupt. He knew better. He was in this for the long haul.

Anyway, I heard him talking to the girl doing someone’s hair down near the end of the room. I turned and saw he was holding her by the arm. Maybe it was my imagination at the time, but I thought it was a little rough. Then he shook her. He looked around and saw us all standing there staring. He straightened up and stopped with the rough stuff and smacked the girl on the ass and began walking back out. The girl, who was new and wasn’t part of our little going away party, looked over at us and giggled nervously and said, “I guess I’ve been a bad girl.” Then smiled and went back to her customer.

But as he walked by on his way out he gave me a look that . . . that melted me. I left about fifteen minutes after that. I got in my car and just lit up a cigarette, yes I used to smoke. There was a knock on my window that nearly made me crap myself. Seriously, I almost swallowed the cigarette and made pudding right there at the same time. Pretty, huh?

Bob laughed in spite of the tragedy.

I rolled down the window thinking I hope he doesn’t smell it and I started laughing. He looked at me funny and started laughing, too. It was a riot. I was roaring because I thought he might smell the crap that wasn’t real and he was laughing just because I was. And then I was laughing because he was and from there I forgot all about the crap and all we could do was laugh until we cried. Right there in the parking lot with everyone watching; even his girlfriend was peering out the door of the salon. I guess the commotion caused quite a stir because the next thing you know the police showed up and tried to arrest us for being a public nuisance. We were asked to walk straight lines and recite the alphabet backwards or something. Like anyone can do that, right?

So, after what seemed like an eternity, he let us off with a warning. I found out years later, through the grapevine, that he’d had some legal issues pending and if the cop had run him that would have been the last, and first, I ever I saw of him. It wasn’t until this point that he told me his name; Kit Parker.

Three weeks later we were living together. He dumped the ditz at the salon.

She saw the look on Bob’s face.

“Well, she was. Really. He was only hanging with her because she was a nymphomaniac. And she was working so he came by and grabbed her tips a lot to go to the bar and shoot pool and drink beer. I showed him later that he could do better and the rest as they say is history.

“That’s kind of bittersweet,” Bob commented; just a note; not judgmental. She continued.

We were married six months later. We had a pretty big wedding, too. Two hundred and fifty guests and family. The reception was remarkable. The band was covering some really cool music and everyone was dancing. It seemed like the beginning of what I had been searching for. Although, I thought it was a career, I never guessed it would be for love. Until this point, everything in our relationship was great. He got a job and worked his way up in a construction company. We were thinking about a family but he was working a lot and always tired when he got home. So, the sex slowed down. He blamed me, I blamed him. Then one day he came home in the middle of the day and not in a great mood.

I was sitting at the kitchen table with his mother having lunch when he burst in yelling my name.

“Anita! I need to talk to you,” he raged. He grabbed my arm and pulled me into the living room. I stumbled over the ottoman and went to grab the couch to balance myself and instead knocked a light of the end table sending it crashing to the floor. He spun me around and pointed his finger in my face. He smelled of beer but he wasn’t drunk. I could tell. He was upset about something but it wasn’t clear what. He sputtered something about working all day and I’m at home having lunch with his mother. I asked him why that was a problem since we agreed he’d work and I’d keep house; kind of like the American dream. He whispered between his teeth in almost a growl, ‘Stay away from my mother. She’s a freaking nut!”

He spun me around and I landed on the couch, thankfully. He left through the front door and when I went back into the kitchen his mother was gone.

I cried for hours. I was so confused. Why was he so angry? Something didn’t make sense. It wasn’t until a couple years later that I found out he’d slept with his old girlfriend from the salon. He was ashamed and this is how he dealt with the guilt. Lucky me, huh? Of course I forgave him.

He came home the next morning and apologized, as I now know they all do, and I took him back and apologized to him for being such a bad wife. He looked at me seriously and kissed me all over saying I could never be a bad wife. That if anything, he was the bad one in this relationship and he was going to do whatever it took to make this work.

“Keep in mind,” she explained, “it was really the first time anything like this had ever happened. It was pretty mild in comparison.”

Bob cocked his head and bore an ‘oh really?’ look on his face that Anita read like a brochure for confused men.

“Well, it happened twice more. This one being the last,” she said somewhat confidently.

Bob let her hand go and sat back. He was getting tired. She had started to warm up and he could feel her energy rising as she told her story.

“The last time though . . . whew! I honestly thought that was the last time. I wouldn’t be in a bed here. Let’s just leave it at that. This time was almost an accident.

Bob’s face, again with that you mean the square peg isn’t supposed to fit in the round hole look.

“I know, almost, right? Yeah well, if you didn’t know the history, one might think that.”

I was upstairs making the bed and he came in from outside. I think Kit was trying to fix something on his car cuz I heard something crash against the side of the house. My first thought is that he was hurt. Maybe the car fell on him. But then he was up to the top of the stairs shouting ‘Anita! I need to talk to you’. I came out into the hall in a robe as I have been uncomfortable in my last trimester. He even knew this. We talked about it. He understood. Sometimes he even got my robe for me when he saw the signs of my fatigue and discomfort. But yesterday, he was nowhere near there. He laid into me about lounging around in my robe all day. I was tired of this same old argument so I told him I’d put on some clothes and asked of that would that make him happy? He lost it. He grabbed my arm and did that thing barking between his teeth and said, ‘don’t mock me!’ I was crying a river at this point. He was hurting me physically and mentally to the point I was considering taking my own life for fear of him doing worse. So, I pulled away and he lost his grip on me. Really. I know it sounds like I’m defending him but I’m not. Ultimately, it was his fault because he was the one having the anger issue and it got out of hand. He would never let me help him.

I’m convinced that he’d seen his ex again and was riding the guilt train. And I was standing on the tracks about to get run down.

I fell down a flight of stairs and almost broke my back and neck. The impact . . .

She couldn’t continue. She began sobbing uncontrollably. I figured that the impact may have injured her unborn child. Maybe even cause life threatening conditions. I got back up enough to sit forward and take her hand back in mine. It wasn’t as cold as it had been the first time around, but it was by no stretch warm. She started to calm down and the room became quiet for the first time since I walked in. Just then the nurse poked her head in and asked if we were doing ok and did we want a drink or something. We said a drink would be nice.

I wanted Anita to continue. So, I was hoping it would take the nurse some time to rustle us up some beverages. All people needed sometimes was someone to listen. Not judge. Not speak. I looked at Anita and smiled. I hoped it might be contagious and I was right. She returned the smile, but her pain was rising behind it. Soon it would surface and then things could go either way. But wasn’t that life anyway. It’s just a scratch ticket.

After a few more minutes of silence, she picked up where she left off, finishing the horror so that she could heal. But there would be no healing until this thing was over. And didn’t Bob know that very thing, too?

So, I’m lying at the bottom of the stairs paralyzed. Kit is standing at the top of the stairs not moving. He’s just staring at his hands and muttering something I can’t make out because I’ve lost my hearing and feeling. He starts down the stairs slowly and stops on the step above me. I passed out. The next thing I know my mother in law is calling an ambulance and Kit is nowhere to be found.

I woke up in this bed a little before you came in. I’m actually surprised they let someone in to visit, but I’m glad they did. She did her best to squeeze my hand. It was a weak attempt, but an attempt.

“I’m surprised that you’re not in ICU,” Bob added.

“The nurse said I was rushed into emergency upon arrival. They could find nothing really wrong with me. Sure, I had sprained my back and I will be in traction for a few weeks anyway. My baby is the one that needs care right now. So, they have me in here overnight to keep an eye on her,” she paused and had to take a couple determined breaths. “But, the doctor says that the x-rays showed some complications so they called in a specialist to see whether an emergency C-section might be in order.”

Bob gave her a gentle squeeze. It was becoming their own form of communication. In a short time these two people had created a bond from nothing that they had in common other than holding onto life; one, their child’s and the other, their own.

As if on cue, the specialist arrived with the nurse right beside him. Apparently, they must have met up before she made it to the beverages.

“Mr. Williams,” she said, ‘The doctor has to examine Mrs. Sanchez so it’s time to go back to your room. She unlocked his wheels and they started out. The ride back wasn’t as smooth or happy. After all Bob had heard, he didn’t think that would change until he knew she was going to be ok.

“Nurse?” he asked.

“Yes Mr. Williams?”

“Would you please tell me if she’s going to be ok? I know it’s against the rules, but I have to know if she’s going to be alright. The baby, too.” He was ashamed that he had remembered the baby as an afterthought.

“We’ll see. I can’t make promises like that. But, we’ll see,” she said with a sincere sympathetic voice.

Bob knew it was probably useless to pursue the issue, so she thanked her and said good night. He was getting tire now. And all that he could think of was Anita and her baby. Thoughts of Josie never crossed his mind and he would never feel guilty about it either.

He dreamt that he was back in her room, holding her hands as they warmed within his own. She was crying because the doctor said there was only a four percent chance that the baby would survive with an emergency C-section. And if the baby did survive, she most certainly wouldn’t. She wasn’t upset at the prospect that she might perish because Bob told her he would always watch her little one. All of a sudden the lights and bells were going off on her monitor and the room filled with doctors and nurses. They moved around Bob as if he wasn’t there. Then he looked up and saw Josie in the bed where Anita should be. She was yelling at him.

“How could you do this to me Bob? I’m going to die now because of you!” She kept repeating this over and over while the monitor beeped and booped and the lights flashed.

Now the scene was Bob in the bed and the doctors were talking over him saying if they had only caught it sooner. Bob didn’t understand. Doctor Sahlzberg said that they caught it in time. Better; right in time.

Bob found himself surrounded by doctors and nurses. His monitor looked and sounded like a carnival winding down for the night. However, his view was a little different. He was seeing all this from behind the row of doctors. There was a single line drawing on the monitor and a low solid beep when one of them said, “Call the time”. Then he heard her crying. It was faint but audible. She was calling his name, but he couldn’t move. This was it. Josie wasn’t here and he left her without letting her know. A calm peace washed over him and he fell back into his body.

The lights and noises started up on the monitor again and the doctor who was calling then time didn’t even have a chance to say the hour. This was a good sign as it’s considered bad luck in the life saving business to call time and have someone return to life afterwards.

He became stable and could pass the battery of tests that were thrust at him. Follow my finger with your eyes. Do you have any headaches or are you experiencing dry mouth and a dozen other checklist items that determined him living by the medical association. Five minutes later he was alone in his room.

The nurse returned and said, “You gave us quite a scare there Mr. W.” She fixed his pillow and set a drink before him. She turned to go and then turned back around and faced him grimly. “I’m not saying anything, you understand?”

He nodded as he did.

“The baby’s not long for this world. And Anita may be joining the little one. I’m sure she was happy though knowing that you came and stayed with her. It meant a lot to her. There’s no one left in her life now.” She wiped a tear away and returned to her duties. He never saw her again.

A little while later, he heard Anita’s voice again.

He started to get up, but realized he was reattached to R2D2. He followed the tubes from the machine to his IV and saw that it was more flash than substance. He could detach himself without much effort and roll himself on back down to her room. He had to go to her and nothing would stop him from doing so. He had to talk with her before it was too late.

Bob was able to get the IV bag hooked onto the chair. Then he rolled himself to the door and peeked down the hall toward the nurse’s station. All clear. He took off like a bat out of hell and made for the elevator. It seemed to take forever and now he could hear someone coming.

“C’mon, c’mon,” he gritted through his teeth. He pushed the button and the elevator made a ding and opened for him. He wheeled himself inside, pushed the button for the second floor and waited for the doors to close. As they were closing, he could see the white of a uniform coming around the corner up the hall. Just before they closed completely he could make out the face of the nurse. He didn’t know if there were others in the hospital that would be expected to use the elevator at this time of night, but that’s a chance he’d have to take.

He made it to the maternity ward and rolled down to her room. It was quiet in there. His concern grew as he realized that there might not be any sound because there might not be anyone in there anymore. He quickened his pace and turned into the room to find Anita lying there not hooked up to her machine. She appeared to be sleeping.

“Oh, please God. Let her be sleeping,” he prayed allowed.

Anita opened one eye and tried to smile. “You came back,” she said in a breathy voice.

“Of course I did. Everything ok?” he asked, knowing better.

“As good as it gets I suppose. You know, considering.”

He just looked at her and took one of her hands between his again. “I died,” he told her.

She didn’t respond to this but her eyes said enough.

She began to cry without making a sound. He held her hand and told her to hold on.

“Anita. If the baby should make it and you . . . well, you know. Josie and I would be honored to raise her for you. If . . .”

She gained enough strength to squeeze his hand enough to let him know to stop with his foolishness. Bob began to cry. He stood up and turned to sit on the edge of the bed. Bob took his hand and moved the hair from her face and tucked it behind her ear. A pang stabbed him at this. Very quietly, under his breath, he said, I love you. It wasn’t for Anita and she didn’t hear it anyway. He was saying it to his wife. But it felt like he was saying good bye.

He looked at her and held his hand over her belly. She nodded and he gently placed his hand on her. There was no kick but the baby might be asleep or tired due to the day’s exhaustions. He started praying inwardly asking that this child be spared. He wasn’t necessarily a religious man but he’s been known to put a note in the proverbial suggestion box from time to time. The strain of sitting up on the bed and having nothing to lean on took him over and he got back into the chair. But, he wouldn’t let her hands go. He leaned in and held them, saying it’ll be ok . . . she’s gonna be just fine,” over and over again.

Bob could feel her hands starting to warm up. Not just absorbing his warmth but feeding off it. Her body temperature was rising.

Anita could feel that she was warming up. She was beginning to feel a little better too but couldn’t be sure it wasn’t the shot the doctor gave her to keep her calm. Then she felt Bob’s hands going cool. Concern was slow in coming as she thought perhaps he should be back in his room under a warm blanket with all the meds that he should be hooked up to beeping and booping through his system. But, she too was tired and soon her eyes grew heavy again and she drifted off.

Sometime around six in the morning, Anita awoke to find Bob still asleep. He had his head on the bed which meant that he was going to be hurting when he woke up. She brushed his hair back with her hand and found he was stone cold. She yelled for a nurse who came running in. She took one look at the scene and called for a doctor. She helped him back into the chair and rolled him out into the hall. When she stopped, Bob started to slump forward. She caught him just in time. The doctor came and checked Bob for a pulse and found none. They rushed him to the E.R. and ran the tests that finally determined that he had no more life in him.

A call went to Mrs. Williams who fell to pieces over the phone. She hadn’t been able to see her husband before he passed and that stung the worst.

On her way out of the hospital a couple days later, Anita was being pushed by an orderly in a wheelchair to a taxi that was waiting for her. She was carrying her baby girl in her arms when the nurse came up behind her and offered to hold her while she climbed into the cab. As she passed the child back to her mother she said, “I just wanted you to know that Mr. Williams wanted me to let him know if you were ok. The last I knew before your remarkable recovery was that it didn’t look good. That’s why, I’m sure, he came back to visit you.”

“I know,” Anita replied.

“I thought you might,” the nurse said.

“I know he died too,” Anita continued.

The nurse looked at her confused. “Of course,” was all she could say.

“No. I know he died in his room before he came back to see me,” she explained.

“Oh, that. I’d almost forgotten that after he actually did pass.”

“Thank you for you kindness. I’m sure Bob would thank you too if he could,” Anita began sobbing. And with that the nurse started crying as well.

Fourteen months later.

“Osie, osie, osie,” said the little sweety sitting in a high chair eating Cheerios.

“Osie?” her mother asked. “You’re supposed to say mama or mom or something.” Anita laughed at her little one and gently swiped the edge of a dish towel over her nose.

“Osie,” Roberta repeated. Anita thought that it was important that she remember the man who saved her baby’s life. Her own too, perhaps. She calls her baby girl Bobbie.

Lately, Bobbie has been saying a couple words. Much to her mother’s chagrin those words weren’t even close to mom or mommy. But, she was happy that Bobbie was on schedule with her childhood development. She was walking already. And putting the right shapes in the little plastic toy that the hospital had given her; the kind with the colored pegs shaped like zoo animals. She was going to be a smarty this one.

“Ok . . . Osie it is,” Anita said rubbing noses with Bobbie.

Bobbie took her little hand and moved the hair back from her mother’s face and tucked it behind her ear. Then she drew her hand gently over her cheek and said, “I wuv you.”

He mother backed up and did a double-take. That was freaky. Her baby couldn’t say mom yet but she blurts out I wuv you following a gesture that was remarkably grown up.

“Well aren’t you the sweetest,” Anita cried and picked Bobbie up out of the chair and gave her a big hug.

Bobbie took both her little hands and placed them on her mother’s cheeks. She just stared into the eyes that were her own and said something that chilled her mother to the bone.

“Bob.” Clear as day. No mistaking it for a variation on mom or something similar. Maybe she was trying to say her own name. Who knew?

“Honey? What did you say?” Anita asked cautiously.

But Bobbie didn’t repeat it. She just started making noises that were more silliness than anything. Although, there was an Osie in there as well.

Anita put her baby back in the chair and sat next to her. Her eyes were wide and glossy as she thought about Bob. Something she did quite often. Hadn’t he said his wife’s name was Rosie? And then it hit her. She remembered the night he was sitting on her bed in the hospital and he moved her hair aside. He had said something so soft and low that she couldn’t make it out; not that she tried. But she was sure now what it was. Anita started to cry for the first time since then.

Bobbie’s head swung around and her eyes fixed on her mother’s. She began to cry as well and Anita picked her back up and carried her about the house giving her little bounces along the way. The two women were in sync. Bobbie’s head rested on her mother’s shoulder and she fell asleep.

Anita placed Bobbie in her playpen and plopped herself down on the couch. She shut her eyes and drifted off. Immediately the dreamscape opened.

She was in her house as she is now, but it was somehow her old house. The one she used to share with Kit. Actually, the two houses were similar in design. He was sitting in the Lazy Boy and she was on the couch. Their baby was in the playpen watching the cartoons on the TV. She was making intelligible noises and then, “Bob.”

Kit looked up from his paper and scowled in the direction of his child, then at Anita.

“Why does she say that? And Osie? What’s wrong with her,” he said through his teeth.

“She’s just a baby, Kit. I’m sure it sounds like Bob but it’s probably something she picked up from the TV,” she tried to explain; to no avail of course.

Kit wouldn’t have any of it

“Are you sure it’s not your boyfriend?” he asked sarcastically. The caustic tone dripping from each word.

She shot him a look. He knew this one and got up. Anita was in trouble.

“I guess I’ve been a bad girl,” she said coquettishly. She wasn’t putting up with his crap anymore.

He strode over and raised a hand to hit her. All of a sudden, Bobbie yelled.

“STOP!” She held up her hand at him.

“Well looky here. You gonna protect your mommy from the big bad daddy?” he spoke in a sicky sweet voice, as caustic as his sarcasm. “You just shut up or your next.”

Just then a hand rested on his shoulder. It was Bob. He gently said, “C’mon now Kit. This is your family. You don’t need to be all mad like this.”

Kit whirled and saw the man standing there between him and his wife.

“I knew it! I knew it!” he yelled. “This is him, isn’t it? This is your boyfriend.”

“Kit, I don’t have a boyfriend,” she pleaded.

“Uh huh, we’ll see.” He started at Bob, but Bob didn’t budge. His face was serene and he let Kit take a swing, but his fist went right through him.

“What the . . . ?” Kit began.

“Now just calm down son. Let’s talk,” Bob’s voice was disembodied somehow.

“No talk necessary. If I can’t hit you, I’ll hit her!” he screamed.

“No you won’t” his ex-girlfriend called from behind him. “I might not be happy that you dumped me for her, but I know what you did to me and you ain’t doin that to anyone else!”

“The fuck? Where’d you come from? Get the hell outta here or you’re next.”

“I don’t think so,” his now deceased mother said from the kitchen. She was cooking something that smelled delicious.

It brought Anita back. She watched the drama unfold before her. These people from her past were her defending her against this monster.

Just then, Kit covered his face and began to cry. “I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I was gonna . . .” he feigned and tried to sucker punch his wife. Bob stood in front of her and absorbed the blow.

Bobbie was in her playpen saying his name over and over, “Bob. Bob. Bob. Bob.” On and on. The ex was chiming in as well. The next thing you knew, her mother in law was joining the Bob chorus and it overwhelmed Anita.

She couldn’t take it anymore. She stepped toward Kit and looked him square in the eye. “You don’t scare me anymore! Get out of my house! NOW!!!” She screamed for what seemed like minutes. Her throat started to hurt and through it all, she could here little Bobbie.

“Bob. Bob. Bob. Bob.” On and on and on.

She awoke screaming, “NOW!!!”

And Bobbie was standing up in her playpen just saying ‘Bob’, over and over again.

Anita looked around and decided she needed to get out.

“Let’s go for a ride honey. Us girls need some fresh air,” she told her picking her up.

“Air,” Bobbie said as she tucked her mother’s hair behind her ear and again, caressed her cheek.

“Not hair . . .” Anita began.

“I wuv you, Osie,’ Bobbie said clear as day.

“Huh?” Anita was confused and starting to panic. Why was her daughter saying these things? She needed time to think.

She got Bobbie dressed and they headed out to the car. She put her baby in the car seat and buckled her in then got behind the wheel and shut the door.

She hadn’t dreamed of Kit in months. She had felt so frightened when she was having this nightmare but she was calming down. She’d finally told him where to go and she was confident that he wouldn’t be bothering her anymore. Although, she still didn’t know where he was. In fact, no one did.

She sat there and stared at the house and wondered if it wasn’t time, after all, to pull up roots and finally move. Make that change that she had so desperately sought way back when she was cutting hair and decided to get out, but never did because she had found the love of her life. She began to cry.

The little voice from the back seat said, “Mommy.”

Anita stopped weeping and turned to look at her daughter. “What did you say honey?”

“Osie,” was what came out.

“Oh, figures,” Anita said wiping her eyes. “Well, we’ll get it someday,” she said and turned the key.

They headed aimlessly down the road. Anita was just trying to clear her head and plan their next step when she saw a small grocery store and decided to stop in. In her haste to leave the house she had forgotten to take along juice and a snack for Bobbie. So, they went in. Anita placed her in the seat of the carriage and they headed straight for the refrigerators with the individual juices and pulled out an apple flavored one. There was an apple on the box with a face on it that made Bobbie laugh. She pointed at it and said, “Bob.”

“Really? I don’t know how you came out with that little one,” Anita mused.

“Bob, Bob, Bob,” she started up again.

“Ok, Bob. If that makes you happy . . .” She stopped when she saw her daughter’s head whip around and stare at a woman at the opposite end of the short aisle.

“Osie!” Bobbie exclaimed. She pointed at the woman and Anita gently took her little hand and lowered it.

“We don’t point honey. It’s impolite,” she said looking at the lady embarrassed.

“Osie! Bob!” Bobbie called out with her little hands reaching toward the woman who was now making her way toward them.

As she approached, she said, “How adorable. Oh my, she is just an angel.”

“I’m sorry. She doesn’t usually point . . .” Anita began and the woman waved her off.

“Oh please, she’s just a baby.” She looked a bit wistful. “What’s your name little one?”

Bobbie looked at the woman and bubbled with laughter. She was generally a happy baby, but she seemed euphoric right now.

“This is Roberta. I call her Bobbie after a dear friend that passed,” Anita said as she also turned melancholy.

Bobbie spoke up and said, “Osie!”

The woman’s head spun around and she looked at the little cherub sitting there in the carriage and said, “What did she say?”

“Oh, that’s about all she’s said since she learned to talk. Osie and Bob. Isn’t that right Bobbie?” Anita lavished her daughter’s fingers with kisses.

The woman seemed put out or something because Anita noticed her lips trembling and asked if she was alright.

The woman lowered her head to eye level with the little girl and said, “Bobbie?”

Bobbie took the hair hanging in the woman’s face and brushed it back behind her ear. Anita looked on dumbfounded. Then she took her little hand and caressed her cheek.

“I wuv you Osie,” she said and the woman’s knees started to buckle. Anita moved around and caught her. There was a bench nearby and she helped her to sit. She grabbed another juice out of the reach in, popped the straw in and gave it to her.

“Thank you,” she said weakly.

“Don’t mention it,” Anita said. ‘Do you need me to call you a doctor or something?”

“No, don’t be silly. I was just overcome with joy is all,” she started. “My husband used to do that same thing.” Then she recomposed herself and said, “How rude of me.” She held out her hand and introduced herself. “I’m Rose Williams. Rosie, if you’d please.”

“Rosie? Bob’s wife?” Anita asked, now feeling weak herself.

“You knew Bob?” she asked becoming more curious about this stranger now.

“He saved my life. And my baby’s,” Anita explained.

“He what? When was this?” Rosie asked.

In the meantime, Bobbie was holding her hands out to the stranger as if she wanted her to pick her up. Instinctively, Rosie reached out and pulled the child out of the carriage. Anita didn’t seem to mind at all and was comforted to see that she hugged the woman as if she were someone she always knew.

“I was in the hospital. I had taken a nasty fall when I was eight and a half months pregnant. I had no one and the nurse said that there was a gentleman upstairs who needed his spirits lifted. I couldn’t imagine how I could lift his spirits since I was so downhearted knowing that I could lose my child. But, she was a smart one and it was Bob who actually was the one with the high spirits and positive attitude. I was on my way out for sure. I had a ninety six degree body temperature and my baby had suffered the impact of the fall worse than I had. The doctors gave her a four percent chance of living. I was beside myself. Bob said that if I didn’t make it, which was sure to happen if the baby survived, that he . . . you both would take her. He told me you two couldn’t have children.” She looked embarrassed to admit it but Rosie didn’t seem to mind that he had shared that with her.

Anita placed her hand on Rosie’s and let her sob. After a couple minutes she resumed her story.

“He prayed over and over not to let anything happen to my baby.”

“Bob prayed?” Rosie thought this odd as he had never shown any interest in God or church. But, she realized that when you’re on the edge of a dark abyss, you seek something more; something spiritual.

“Uh huh,” she continued. “I woke up the next morning feeling the best I had in a long time. The doctors were astounded. What had been a sprained back the day before was no more than a couple bruises. They had taken me off the monitors because there wasn’t anymore that they could do, but wait. Bob had snuck down in the middle of the night because the nurse had told him we weren’t doing so well. When I woke up the next morning he was gone. I cried for days. Although, I had my precious darling, I lost a dear friend in the process and I will never forget him. Do you think it’s possible to find friendship in the matter of a night?” she asked.

Rosie said she thought it was very possible. “Bob and I only knew each other from a wedding reception years ago. A friend introduced us. Neither of us was even thinking about relationships and such. Just two people out having a good time and when it ended we’d go our separate ways. And that’s what happened. We both left that night, thanking each other for a wonderful evening and just like that, done.”

Anita looked confused and Rosie sensed this.

“Well, gone for that night,” she continued. “Keep in mind that that had been the first time I’d ever seen him. But, the next day I saw him; in this store. I almost didn’t recognize him. After a couple drinks I wouldn’t have recognized myself in those days.” She laughed and Anita joined in. Bobbie chuckled too and again, tucked Rosie’s hair behind and ear.

“Oh dear, you’re not going to make this easy for me are you little one?” she teased.

Anita stroked her baby’s hair while the woman held her. She was beginning to understand the connection now and was brimming with an emotional storm that rivaled the ones she had when Bob got sick.

“So, we said hi a couple times as we passed each other in the aisles. But that was it. Then the next day I saw him at a gas station. I had a flat and was waiting for the guy to get me patched up when Bob asked if I wanted to grab some lunch while I waited. At first I was hesitant. I really still didn’t know him. But, something in me got brave and I said ‘yes’. After all it was only lunch; not a date. So we ate and an hour later my car was ready and we went our separate ways again.”

“Wow, that’s sounds romantic,” Anita mused.

“Really? Waiting for a flat tire sounds romantic to you?” Rosie chuckled.

“Well, not the tire changing part. But, the fact that destiny was throwing you two together and you didn’t even know it,” she shrugged as if to say she realized how it sounded.

“Well, it gets even better,” Rosie smiled and adjusted Bobbie.

“Here let me take her. She can get quite heavy,” Anita offered, but Rosie wouldn’t have it. The sensation she was getting from having this little girl in her arms was like having her husband there with her.

“If you don’t mind, of course?” Rosie asked.

“Not at all. She’s quite content.”

“Anyway. The next day I was stranded by the side of the road with another flat,” she began.

Anita clasped her hands to her bosom, “Oh, my. Of all the luck.”

“You don’t know the half of it.” Rosie continued. “Anyway, a car pulled up behind me and I was a bit nervous as there had been news of someone going around and assaulting women who were alone. I didn’t recognize the car at first then Bob got out.”

“Oh my. This is getting good,” Anita said excitedly.

“Uh huh. Well, he sauntered over and leaned against the back of my car and asked if there was a problem. Real funny guy, huh? So, I looked at him and said no, just hanging around for the air truck. He was like, what?”

Anita howled at that. Good for her.

“So, I proceeded to tell him about my flat and he said not to worry and he’d change it. Of course I protested saying ‘nonsense, I’ll just walk up to the next house and call for a tow.’ He was like, the hell you will. He rolled up his sleeves and popped my trunk. He peered around the side of the car and asked where my spare was. It was then that I remembered that this was my spare. I had no spare spare. We laughed for a bit and then he said he’d take me back to his house where he had one he was sure would fit. Of course, once again I protested.”

Anita was trying hard to stifle a laugh, but it had been too long since she had and it was getting darn near impossible to suppress.

“I know, right?” Rosie smiled back at her and gave Bobbie, who was fast asleep in her arms, a little kiss on the head.

“But, he was like so you want to stay here and perhaps get assaulted? And I was like oh alright. So, we drove on out to his place. A beautiful garrison right out off 132. Such a lovely yard he kept too. There was an apple tree in the front yard and a wrap-around porch. Really, it was breathtaking and . . .” She saw the look in Anita’s eyes and took her hand. “What is it honey?”

Anita was shaking a little but she spoke up and then it was Rosie’s turn to gasp.

“Trenton Road?” she asked gripping Rosie’s hand tighter. “Number 106?”

“Why yes it was. How did you know that?” Rosie asked floored by the question.

“It’s where I live now. It’s our home,” she spoke in tiny voice.

“Oh dear,” Rosie said. “This just keeps getting stranger by the second, doesn’t it?”

“You can say that again.” They both laughed again and Anita rose to get more juice from the cooler.

At this point a stock boy walked by and saw the empty containers and the ones that she was sipping from and just shook his head.

“Don’t worry, I’ll pay for them,” Anita assured him and he went on his merry way.

“So, you live in Bob’s old house, huh? Don’t that beat all?” Rosie was overcome with a preternatural revelation. “Oh my . . .”

“What?” Anita asked, concern showing on her face.

Rosie held Bobbie out and found her little eyes staring back at her.

“Rosie,” Bobbie said clear as day, except in her deceased husband’s voice. “I’m sorry I left you. Please forgive me. I love you always.” The little girl tucked the strand of hair behind the woman’s ear and caressed her cheek again. Rosie began crying and hugged the child, rocking back and forth. She finally handed Bobbie back to her mother.

Anita took Bobbie in the crook of her left arm and held Rosie with her right. She was exhausted and frankly overcome with joy and grief simultaneously. The two women and the child remained there on that bench sucking down juice boxes for the better part of the afternoon. Eventually the manager had made his way around and asked them if they were alright. They assured him they were. Just two ladies getting their hormones on. He left them and they heard him talking in the next aisle, probably to the stock boy, saying something like ‘don’t you know when people are shoplifters? They don’t hang around the store drinking juice boxes out in the open. Sheesh!’

On the way home, Bobbie spoke from the back seat, clear as day, “Mommy, I wuv you.” Anita cried the rest of the way home. Things were going to be ok.

Rosie, Anita and Bobbie became best of friends. Bobbie even called Rosie aunty. But she never said Bob again. Not in that way anyhow.

- ThE eNd -


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