• ~Psalm 46:4-5~

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Friday Flowers – Week 5 –

Hubster has outdone himself again this week with my beautiful birthday promise flowers.

sunny sun flowers

A few months after our engagement, Hubster went on a mission trip to the island of Corsica for spring break. He enjoyed balmy oceanic breezes and exotic accents while I slaved away at the Kaplan office, getting soaked as I dashed out to my car in the rain each evening, and working to finish my preparations for the MCAT. Every night he would call me with news of the latest adventure. Every night my heart broke at the physical distance between us. It was the l..o..n..g..e..s..t.. week of my life.

blue ceramic vase

Somewhere along the way on that trip, he found this beautiful blue ceramic vase and bought it for me. He wrapped all of his clothes around it and stuffed paper inside so that it wouldn’t break on the flight home. We rode homefrom the airport in the backseat of his parent’s mini-van with our fingers and arms entertwined. He absent-mindedly twirled my engagement ring around my finger. We laughed at his perfect impersonation of the French accent. I remember sighing happily at the thought that I’d never have to let him go off on a trip without me again.

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Death of a Ballerina -Part 15-

Last night I updated part 14, so today you get an extra installment. For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Clary left the Armitage room with tear streaks on her face and a dripping nose. She held a wadded up tissue in her left hand. As a medical school student, she had been trained to deliver bad news to a patient. None of her lessons had dealt with trauma of this nature, however. She felt overwhelmed.

Greg had asked her to call as soon as Honey could answer questions about the case. She checked the clock above the nurses’ station before calling her brother. She grinned through her tears, maliciously hoping that she would wake him up.

“Good morning!” Greg’s cheerful answer assured Clary that he’d been awake long before her call. Her brother had always been a morning person.

“Yeah. Hey, Greg. I just broke the bad news to Honey Armitage.” Clary shifted her weight and looked down at her Mary Jane Crocs. She swiped at her nose. “She said that she’ll be ready to answer your questions in a couple of hours. She needs to call her mother and her sister first.”

Greg agreed to meet her at 8am in the Armitage room. As Clary clicked her cell phone closed, she calculated the time difference for another phone call. She ached to hear Elizabeth’s voice, even if it was a voicemail message. Her best friend had gotten a placement in a very competitive residency program, and Clary felt enormous pride in all that she had achieved, but the placement had been on the other side of the country. Three time zones, and roughly twenty two hours of driving, stood between them.

She stared at the closed cell phone for a minute, and wavered. In the end she decided to wait. She would certainly catch her friend post-call with only one hour of sleep in a foggy state of stupor. Or worse, she would be loopy from taking an Ambien, and she would never remember the phone call. Clary decided to wait until lunch time. Her heart felt heavy as she dropped the phone back into the pocket of her white coat. Another tear rolled down her cheek, but this one was not for her patient’s loss. She grieved for her own loneliness.

Straightening, Clary folded her arms and squared her shoulders. Rounds would take place at 7:30, so she needed to check in on her remaining patients. She brushed the tears off of her face and marched around the corner where she ran into and bounced off of another white coated individual.

She grabbed frantically in the air, but ended up seated in the hall with an aching bottom. Above her loomed a man in his late twenties with a long face and spiky brown hair. His eyes were wide behind a pair of thin red glasses. “I am so so so sorry,” he stammered.

She smiled up at him and watched as relief flooded his face. Chuckling, she reached up and he supplied a hand to assist her.

“My fault.” Clary tossed her hair over her shoulders as she stood up. “I wasn’t paying attention. Totally absorbed by the lives of my patients. As usual.”

“Aren’t we all?” He grinned at her and Clary felt the color rising in her cheeks. He was actually quite handsome, and she suddenly felt nervous.

“My name is Will Jackson. I’m a third year IM resident and I was cutting through OB for a geriatric consult.” He paused as he realized that Clary was studying his white coat intently. “What are you looking at?”

“Oh.” Clary blushed. “I was just noticing that your name tag doesn’t say Will. It says A.W. Is Will short for William?”

His cheeks turned rosy. “Er, no.” He looked down at his watch intently. “Will is short for Wilkes.”

“Wilkes Jackson?” Clary’s eyebrows furrowed.

The man sighed and his head dropped. “It’s actually Ashley Wilkes Jackson.” He paused for a second. “My mom went through a big Gone With the Wind phase.”

Clary’s eyes danced and she beamed as she stuck out her right hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Will.” Her voice caught, and she almost broke out in laughter, but she held it in miraculously. “My name is Clary. Which is short for Claire Marie Anderson.”

He took her hand and rolled his eyes. “The pleasure is all mine. But I’m going to have to run if I’m going to make it back to the floor in time for rounds. My attending can be a hard-a….” Will looked at the ceiling for the right word to substitute, “act to follow.”

Clary laughed and felt herself relax. “Then you’d better run. See ya around!”

Will took off and Clary moved quickly to  her next patient’s room. Her steps seemed lighter and she felt a smile bubbling up from the inside. Somehow she felt sure that she would be seeing Will again.

Death of a Ballerina -Part 14-

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Rose groaned as she rolled over to stare at her bedside clock. The bright red numbers alerted her that she still had a few hours left before the sun would rise. She turned away from the clock and winced in pain. Her shoulder ached from the night before. A groan leaked from her lips as she remembered the previous night’s events.

The house had gone dark and quiet after her mother had flipped the breaker switches on the circuit box. Megan had screamed and Rose had waited for her eyes to adjust to the darkness.

Her heart had been hammering in her chest as she crept silently towards the hall. She found a flashlight perched on one of the bookshelves at the edge of the living room. The cold metal had given her courage but she shivered at the thought of using it as a weapon against her own mother.

The breaker box was located in the basement, so she had crept towards the basement door after finding the flashlight. As she reached for the door, it flew open and a second later her mother tackled her screaming. Mouthfuls of gibberish filled the air with an occasional “Murderer!” thrown in for good measure. Time seemed to stop as Rose stared at the woman. She tried to dodge away from the fists that were flying, and then without warning, it was all over.

Ben had picked up the flailing old woman. Rose tried to shut her eyes against the memory. The image of her mother’s face, twisted with crazed rage as she was lifted up and Ben’s wide eyes as the woman turned to fight him off.

Megan had run to the kitchen. Rose remembered the sound of the cell phone clattering on the tile floor. Her daughter had called 911, just like she had been coached to do if her Grandma ever went off of the deep end.

Eleven minutes later, red flashing lights illuminated the yard. Rose was at the door as the paramedics came in with a gurney that included wrist and ankle restraints. She watched the men take her mother and hugged Megan tightly. There hadn’t been enough time to explain things to Ben. She and Megan began to scramble to get ready to go to the hospital. Despite his offers to come along, Rose could sense that Ben felt uncomfortable. She struggled to remember what he had said. She wondered if she would ever hear from him again after such a disastrous evening.

The bedroom air seemed cold, and the blankets around her were so warm. She yawned and closed her eyes. Without even realizing it, she drifted off to sleep.

Death of a Ballerina – Part 13 –

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Honey’s eyes opened in the dim hospital room. A machine beeping behind her head held a tiny green light that outlined the furniture in the room. Ronnie was snoring softly in the chair to her right. She sighed in relief at the sight of him. Then she searched the room for a clear bassinet. Her arms ached with the desire to hold her baby boy.

The door creaked open allowing the light from the hallway into the room. Honey could see the silhouette of a doctor’s white coat. She leaned forward in an effort to sit up but gasped at the shock of pain. Clary was at her side an instant later.

“Lean back. That’s it. You’re okay.” Her voice had a calm authority. “Is it easing some?”

Honey nodded and glanced over at the digital clock on the nightstand. “Dr. Anderson, is it 4:30 in the morning? I barely remember anything from last night. Where’s my little Peanut? Did he make it out okay? And what about Alleson?”

Clary found a spot on the bed and nodded as she sat down. “Your baby boy was born at 6:32 last night.” She flipped the chart open in her hands to read the rest of the details. “He weighed 7 pounds and 3 ounces. His Apgar scores were 8 and 9 respectively. He was 19 inches long. No hair yet but just as cute as a button. He spent the night in the NICU but he can come to your room whenever you’re ready to see him and then he’ll go to the regular nursery when you need a break.” Clary paused to see if Honey had any questions.

Honey opened her mouth to speak but closed it abruptly. She looked down at the woven blanket covering her lap. Tears glistened in her eyes when she looked back up at Clary. “I need to know about Alleson.” She pressed her lips together and winced as her eyes and nose started running at the same time. Clary stood up and found a box of tissues.

“I think we’re both going to need these.” She smiled as she sat back down. Honey, remembering her recent pains from moving, waited patiently for Clary to pass her the box. The first tissue that she pulled out slipped from her fingers and fluttered through the air. She gasped and stared at the Kleenex as it landed softly on the floor. “I dreamed about Alleson last night,” she said. “She came to me. Here in the hospital room.” She looked up and pointed to a spot in the room.

“Something about that tissue reminded me. She was wearing her white tutu and sequins, from the dance recital.” Honey looked up at Clary and searched her face. Clary felt goose bumps rising on her arms. “She showed me her routine, and the room expanded to a stage so that she could leap and twirl in her pointe ballet shoes. It was beautiful.” Honey’s face held the rapture of a mother watching her child. Clary could see that she was reliving the dream. “Then the stage grew dark and she walked down the aisle until she was standing by my bed. She told me that she loved me and she was going to dance with Jesus. She told me to take good care of her baby brother.” Honey stared at the wall behind Clary as the words sank in.  “That’s all that I remember.”

Death of a Ballerina -Part 12*-

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

Ben Sanders felt ridiculous standing at the Miller’s front door. The flowers that he had picked up for Rose were starting to wilt on top of the hot boxes of pizza. The two liter bottle of Coke was starting to slip from his hand right. Two DVD’s were balancing between the flowers and the pizza boxes. He considered ringing the doorbell a second time, but decided that it would be rude. As he shifted the soft drink to his other hand under the boxes of pizza, he heard the sound of footsteps approaching the door.

Megan threw the door open and smiled at him. “You got me flowers? Oh how sweet Benny Boo!” In one fluid motion she had the flowers in her hands and her nose buried in them. With an impish grin, she then turned to hold the door wide for him. “Come into the kitchen and I’ll put them in some water.”

Ben hesitated, his eyes on the flowers. Megan looked up at him with wide eyes. “Is something wrong?”
He gritted his teeth and shook his head, before pushing past her into the kitchen. His fingers were burning under the hot pizza. When he entered the kitchen, Rose was finishing up a load of dishes. She looked up as he set the pizza down and her smile melted the irritation out of his face. He grinned back at her feeling every bit of seventeen himself.

As Megan searched the kitchen for a vase, Ben and Rose set the table together. A few minutes later, Megan bounded upstairs with the flowers so that she could put them in her room.

“Don’t mind her.” Rose sat down at the table. “She and I both know that the flowers were meant for me.” She tilted her head and sent a teasing grin towards Ben who was pouring a glass of soda.

“Probably should have bought two bouquets. But I didn’t think about it,” muttered Ben.

“Nonsense. They’re perfect. And she’s just testing you.” Rose reached for a slice of pizza. “Of all the kids, she had the hardest time when her dad and I split up.” Rose picked at an uneven piece of the pizza crust. “When he died a month later, she was hysterical. Her older sister was a senior in high school at the time and …” Rose paused to listen for Megan’s footsteps but heard nothing. She lowered her voice to a whisper.

“Evelyn and I kept a constant watch on her. For a long time we were afraid she would try to hurt herself. I don’t know how I would have made it through that year without Evie.”

Ben wasn’t sure if she was referring to her sister Evelyn or the daughter who shared her name. He was about to ask her to clarify when the stairs began to creak as Megan came bounding back down. Ben swallowed the questions that had been building over the last few months. Rose had only divulged little snippets of her life, never going into great detail about her history. She would change the subject whenever she felt vulnerable. Now, as Megan reappeared in the kitchen, Rose began to read aloud from the DVD jackets. Both movies were new releases and she wanted Megan to choose which one they would watch.

——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——-

Ben and Rose were sitting on the couch holding hands, while Megan stretched out on the smaller sofa. She had chosen a horror movie, which surprised Rose. Megan was usually drawn to romantic comedies. For the first thirty minutes of the movie, Ben and Rose had made faces behind Megan’s back. While she had been utterly engrossed, the older couple had rolled their eyes. Rose feigned terror a few times. Eventually, however, all of them were glued to the T.V.

As the suspense mounted, Megan felt compelled to shout warnings to the heroine. “Watch out! He’s right behind you!” She leaned forward clasping her hands together. Rose and Ben leaned forward too. “He’s going to kill her! He’s really going to kill her! I can’t watch!” Rose covered her face with her hands but she peeked through her fingers.

A blood-curdling scream rose from the back of the house. Megan and Rose turned to stare at each other. “Grandma.” Megan had barely mouthed the word when the lights flickered off. The house went dark and eerily silent.

Death of a Ballerina – Part 11 –

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

The employee lounge behind the nurses’ desk had been painted a dusky rose over a decade ago. The faded floral wallpaper that had been added beneath the chair rail did little to give the room any cheer. Everything else in the room seemed to be gray. Clary sank into a stiff plastic chair near the coffee pot. Above her a newscaster was wrapping up the evening program. He seemed to be summarizing the two major stories from the day.

A freak hail storm had ruined several Labor Day parades in the county earlier in the morning. Images of demolished floats flashed across the screen. Clary vaguely remembered hail stones bouncing off of her umbrella when she arrived to work. It seemed like it had happened a month ago.

The newscaster leaned forward with urgency as he moved to his final topic for the broadcast. Clary recognized the sequence of the images on the screen. The same scenes had been flashing overhead while Mrs. Armitage lay convulsing in her hospital bed only an hour earlier.  She sighed and rubbed her eyes.

——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——-

Rose set the phone down and beamed at her daughter. “How does pizza sound for dinner?”

Megan was shoveling cookies into various containers with a metal spatula. She raised her eyebrows and smirked at her mom. “I don’t know. Is your boyfriend going to deliver it?”

Rose moved to the sink and started scrubbing some of the plates stacked to the side. It bothered her that Megan referred to Ben as her boyfriend. She knew that her daughter got pleasure from annoying her with the term so she let it go. She lifted a dripping plate towards the dishwasher and said, “Yes. He picked up a movie and some pizza and he’ll be here in twenty minutes.”

——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——-

Tanjia stood in the doorway watching Clary. The young doctor exuded exhaustion. Her hair looked frazzled and her face had paled throughout the day’s events. Out of habit, Tanjia took a pull of hand sanitizing foam from the canister on the wall. The scent of rubbing alcohol followed her as she moved to sit at the tiny gray table next to Clary.

“So, how’d it go after I left this morning?” Tanjia only needed to look at Clary to see that the day had been difficult. She’d heard bits and pieces of the daily gossip from other nurses as they left for the day.  Still, she sat back in the chair and waited expectantly for the full report.

Clary lifted her eyes to meet Tanjia’s. “Well, how much do you want to know?” She lifted her feet into a nearby chair and groaned in happiness.

Tanjia lifted one corner of her mouth in a half grin. “Tell me everything. Starting with that handsome detective you were talking to when I left. How did I get stuck with the greasy old bald guy?”

“Well for starters, he’s my brother. We haven’t really talked much since he eloped in March. I haven’t even met his wife.” She paused and Tanjia raised her eyebrows. Her mouth puckered but she said nothing. “He stuck around investigating the scene until around lunch time. That’s when the police officer showed up to take the Armitage’s missing person report. Their daughter had disappeared in the night after attending a dance recital.” Clary stopped to watch as the nurse made the connection. “Mrs. Armitage had been admitted for pre-eclampsia and all the stress caused her blood pressure to soar. We induced her, but she didn’t respond very quickly. Around five, Donna came charging down the hall. We didn’t know it at the time, but apparently Honey and Ronnie had been watching the five o’clock news. They saw the reporters that were camped out in front of the hospital because,” Clary made quotation marks in the air, “’a local teenager’ had been found murdered here. I guess Ronnie jumped up and ran downstairs to find them. Honey stared at the screen for a minute or two, I guess, before she started seizing. When Donna found her she was completely unresponsive. “ Clary stared above at the dry erase board hanging on the wall. Her eyes moved to the clock. Her shift had ended two hours earlier, but the Armitage case had kept her too busy to leave. “Dr. Johnson arrived in record time. We performed the c-section and it was messy. Everyone was tense. Ronnie came back upstairs and panicked when he found his wife’s room empty. The nurses on the floor almost had to page another doctor to sedate him. It was a nightmare.” Clary wiped her forehead.

Tanjia said, “I heard that the little boy’s Apgar scores were high and that he’s breathing on his own. How are the parents doing now?”

Clary shrugged her shoulders. “Honey is in the recovery room. I think Dr. Johnson intends to keep her sedated through the night. She’s been through a lot. Ronnie calmed down and seems to be handling things better now.”

Tanjia nodded thoughtfully. “I suppose he will stay up tonight with the baby.”

Clary stood and rubbed the back of her neck. “Probably. He followed the nurse down to the NICU but I don’t think that the baby will stay there for longer than one night.” She took a step towards the door. “I better finish my notes. Feels like I’ve been here forever.”

Death of a Ballerina – Part 10-

For more installments see the novel index. All posts and pages on this blog are the exclusive property of Citystreams; Copyright 2006-2008; All rights reserved.

The silent TV cast an eerie glow over the room, and sent strange shadows up the walls. Honey Armitage lay convulsing on the bed. The muscles in her back constricted suddenly causing her large belly to raise four inches. Both arms jerked on either side of her body. Her hands clenched and unclenched involuntarily. Suddenly, her abdomen fell back to the bed and jerked to the side.

Clary’s mind barely had time to process her observations before she moved to act on them.  She started barking orders to Dora. “I need four grams of magnesium sulfate. Bring it fast. Then go back for Valium just in case.” Dora disappeared and another part of Clary’s brain took over for the time being. She moved to the bedside with her penlight. The small fluorescent light cast a blue light on Honey’s face as Clary pulled one eye open. The eyes had rolled back, which did not surprise Dr. Anderson. She shoved the penlight back in her pocket and pulled a tongue depressor out of her pocket. She ripped the paper sheath off and pried Honey’s mouth open. Blood oozed from the tip of her tongue, and Clary forced the piece of wood in place to protect her from further damage.

Dora materialized with the loading dose of magnesium in a syringe. She glanced up at Clary, received a quick nod, and inserted the needle into the patient’s IV port with ease. The clock above the bed ticked in agony for ten seconds, and Honey continued to convulse. Without a word, Dora moved grimly towards the door to head back to the medicine room. She reached the doorway before she realized that she didn’t know what dosage the doctor wanted. She turned back and observed that the Valium would not be necessary. Honey’s body was smoothing out on top of the bed. Her hands unclenched and remained still. The nurse exhaled. Clary lifted a hand to pull the sweaty tendrils back from the patient’s forehead. Sensing Dora behind her, Clary quietly said, “We’ll need to prep the OR immediately. I’ll call Dr. Johnson and page the anesthesiologist. She’s going to need a c-section.”

Without a word, Dora slipped out of the room, breathing a prayer of thanks on behalf of her patient. She feared that worst was not over yet, but she methodically carried out the doctor’s order. She rounded up a few other nurses to prep the OR for surgery.

Clary stayed in the room a moment longer, remembering her earlier conversation with Honey. She wondered if the patient would wake up before the surgery, or if she would need to get Ronnie’s consent instead. Her eyes widened as she looked up in surprise. Where was Ronnie? She glanced around the room looking for any sign of him. Her surprise turned to anxiety.  A cold knot of worry settled in her stomach. She moved hastily to call security first, and then Dr. Johnson.

——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——- ——-

Regina glanced at the clock over the stove and pulled the stir-fry to the back burner.  She picked her glass of water up from the counter before moving to the kitchen table. She had spent the afternoon grading papers and her kitchen table was covered in neat stacks of paper. She grabbed the nearest pile and sorted through her folder of answer keys. Then after glancing at the clock one more time, she continued her tedious chore.

Greg walked in the door thirty minutes later.  “Sorry I’m late. Right after I called you, Maine found a clip of the victim on the security tape. This case is going to have me working night and day for who knows how long. This murderer must be really smart …” He paused to study Regina’s face while he removed his jacket. She was rigid with worry.

“Aww, I’m fine. Don’t give me that look.” He opened the first two buttons on his dress shirt to reveal the thick black material underneath. “I’m still wearing my bullet proof vest. Just like I promised.  So what’s for dinner?”

Regina smirked at her husband. “Your favorite. Soggy stir fry with cold rice.”

Greg grimaced. “Maybe we should just order take-out instead.”