Thank you for visiting Book Club Mom’s Friday Fiction. Below is Chapter 46 of Jessica. The story is winding down, but there are still some loose ends hanging! I hope you will follow me to the finish and tell me what you think.
Chapter 46 – “Small Gestures”
We walked into Stevie’s house, stepping quietly through the door. My eyes went straight to the bed in the living room and in the darkness, I could only see my brother’s small shape under the covers. I wanted to see if he was still breathing, but Carrie motioned for me to follow her into the kitchen.
I sat at the table, feeling heavy and helpless and watched her put a kettle on the stove for tea. “Here,” she offered, presenting me with a box of assorted tea. “Pick a flavor and I’ll make you a mug.”
Just minutes before, I had bounded up to Stevie’s door, thinking I would finally connect with him. I’d had the wild thought that I could convince him to let me tell Mom and Dad. Despite the bad years, I thought they would be relieved to know where he was. And even if there was nothing anyone could do to change his prognosis, I hoped there was something we could do, right now, to make things right between us all. How quickly things change. Stevie might never reach that point.
I was fighting for the right to be treated as an adult, and I had won the first battle with Dr. Hutchins. I was sure I would know how to talk to Stevie, but he changed everything when he picked up that gun. What are the rights of a dying person? What stays private? What are the rights of that person’s family? Now all I wanted was to be a child again, and for someone to come in and make my decisions for me.
Carrie grabbed a second mug and sat down with me and selected a tea bag for herself. She looked exhausted, but I was jealous of her anyway. I wished I could trade places with her, to just have her job and be able to put it all away when the day was over. It wasn’t her brother in that bed. It wasn’t her still-broken family about to face this crisis. And it wasn’t this only half-stable person running the show. I glanced at the kitchen clock. It was already 12:30. I knew Stu would be waiting for me at his house. I’d have to leave soon to get there in time.
“I’m glad you came, Jessica. It’s been such a long night. I called the doctor right after I got Stevie settled, but you’re the first person I’ve been able to talk to about it all. I’d never gone through anything like that before. I was so frightened, not so much for myself, but for Stevie. You may not believe this, but I care a lot about Stevie and I would have been devastated if he had pulled that trigger. Who can blame him though? I’m sorry. Maybe I shouldn’t say that. Until today I thought he was alone in this world. I can almost understand how he feels. I’m glad now he has some family nearby to help him. Maybe you can make something good out of this time.”
Carrie reached out and touched my arm. A small gesture, part of a nurse’s job, I thought. But as I looked at her, I saw a well of tears in her eyes. I choked back my own tears. If she only knew the mess of a family she was hoping would help Stevie.
The tea kettle whistled and Carrie jumped up to get it, worried, I thought, that the sound would wake Stevie. She poured the hot water into our mugs and returned to the table with them. “Here, I know it’s not cold outside, but wrap your hands around this mug anyway. It always does some good to have something warm to hold onto.”
I held my mug in place on the table, feeling its warmth and the power of her suggestion. She was right, I thought.
“I’m glad you are here too, Carrie,” I answered, continuing our conversation. “There’s a lot going on in our family and I only just found out Stevie was living here. He wasn’t happy when I discovered him, but he agreed to see me today. Now I wonder if he decided to do this because he knew I was coming.” It was too much to consider.
“No, don’t think that, Jessica! I think this has been coming for a while. I’ve seen a change in Stevie over the last few weeks. His health is sliding and he’s more depressed. Let’s wait until Dr. Mathis gets here. He can tell you more.”
Dr. Mathis arrived in a sweep of preoccupation. Carrie and I watched as he examined Stevie and updated the chart by his bed. In one swift motion, he clicked the button on his pen, slid it into the inside pocket of his jacket and turned his arm to check his watch.
“He’s stable now and should sleep for the next few hours. I have to leave for an appointment now. Check his pulse every half hour and call my service if anything changes.”
Carrie looked alarmed. “But Dr. Mathis, we’ve been through a crisis here. This is Steven’s sister, Jessica. Can’t you stay and talk to us?”
A tight irritation spread over the doctor’s face. He looked out of place in his crisp suit and tie. It seemed wrong for this kind of polish to be in the room. He let out an impatient huff.
“Nurse…Carrie, is that your name? I’ve done all I can do. You are here to keep a close watch on your patient and I’ve instructed you to call my service if anything changes. If you were expecting someone to hold your hand through this, call your mother or boyfriend. I’ve got appointments all day.”
Anger erupted in me. “Hold on!” I yelled. “Now look, Dr. Mathis. Maybe it’s not important to you, but my brother almost shot a bullet through his head last night. You’ve checked on him, yes, but I need to talk to you about his health and about what’s ahead.”
“Don’t you tell me to look, Missy. I responded to the emergency call as soon as it came in. I changed my schedule to come see your brother. He’s dying of cancer. Nothing will change that. He’s stable now. I doubt anything will happen today. Is that what you want? Someone to tell you when he’s going to die? I can’t do that. Wait until your brother wakes up. Talk to him.”
In three swift strides, Dr. Mathis was out the door.
Carrie looked at me in disbelief. “Well I’d heard Dr. Mathis was like that, but I’d never met him before. I’m sorry, Jessica. I didn’t know he would be such a pig.”
“I’d call him much worse.”
“Here, come back to the kitchen and we can talk this all out,” she offered.
I had a delusional and suicidal boyfriend in the hospital and a brother who had lost all hope in the living room. I could barely hold myself together.
But at Carrie’s suggestion, relief spread over me like a warm blanket around a rescued child. “I’d like that, Carrie.”
I called Stu and explained what happened with Stevie. I didn’t care anymore what Stevie’s privacy rights were. This was about me too. “I have to stay here at Stevie’s house now. I’ll visit Jimmy tomorrow, Stu, if you can take me.”
“Of course,” he answered. “I’m going to leave now. Call me tonight and we’ll make plans for tomorrow.”
Set plans, small gestures. First Carrie now Stu, holding me together.
Thank you for reading – all comments are welcome.
Just jumping in? Click below to check out earlier chapters.
Chapter 1 – “Jimmy”
Chapter 2 – “Stevie”
Chapter 3 – “A Photo and a Letter”
Chapter 4 – “The Life Within”
Chapter 5 – “Jimmy’s Truck”
Chapter 6 – “The Springs Diner”
Chapter 7 – “Dinner and a Game”
Chapter 8 – “He Made Me Nervous”
Chapter 9 – “I Called Dad on My Thirteenth Birthday”
Chapter 10 – “Connections and Time”
Chapter 11 – “The Reverse Apology”
Chapter 12 – “Empty Bedrooms”
Chapter 13 – “Job Description”
Chapter 14 – “The Car I Saw”
Chapter 15 – “It’s Not What You Think”
Chapter 16 – “A Different Route”
Chapter 17 – “Choosing Balance”
Chapter 18 – “A Mother Sees”
Chapter 19 – “Taking More”
Chapter 20 – “Robbing the Future”
Chapter 21 – “I Thought I Didn’t Need Her”
Chapter 22 – “It Was Up to Me”
Chapter 23 – “Separate and Icy”
Chapter 24 – “Striking a Nerve”
Chapter 25 – “Help Has Its Price”
Chapter 26 – “Who Asked for Help?”
Chapter 27 – “You’ve Done Enough”
Chapter 28 – “The Plan”
Chapter 29 – “Who Says I’m Not Okay?”
Chapter 30 – “What’s So Great about Balance?”
Chapter 31 – “I’ll Call You When It’s Over”
Chapter 32 – “Sorting It Out”
Chapter 33 – “Truth and Lies”
Chapter 34 – “The Car-Port House”
Chapter 35 – “It’s a Dead Yard”
Chapter 36 – “I Just Want To See Him”
Chapter 37 – “I’m Not Going Anywhere”
Chapter 38 – “He’s Here Now”
Chapter 39 – “Not Everything Changes”
Chapter 40 – “Anger’s Release”
Chapter 41 – “What Are Rights?”
Chapter 42 – “Visiting Stu”
Chapter 43 – “Control”
Chapter 44 – “Balance of Power”
Chapter 45 – “Stevie’s Battle”
© All rights reserved. All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.