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Chapter 7

By valjean

The sound of footsteps in the corridor made Catherine turn her head in that direction, still clutching Vincent’s hand, still sobbing, though trying to regain her composure. It was Father and Mary entering the hospital chamber, and Peter was with them.

Peter!” Catherine called out, beginning to feel relieved, “I’m so glad . . .”

At that moment, all attention was snapped back to Vincent, who had gone rigid on the bed. His great golden head was thrown back, a frightening, strangled sound escaping from between clenched jaws as his breath was forcefully expelled from his lungs. His beautiful face contorted in a terrible grimace. Within seconds, his limbs began to shake violently, so that his hand was ripped from Catherine’s grasp.

“He’s seizing!” cried Mary, as Father sprang to catch the glass IV bottle before it could crash to the floor, and Peter frantically pulled the bed covers away from Vincent’s face. The intravenous needle was yanked out of Vincent’s arm, and blood ran over the bed as he convulsed. Mary grabbed a clean towel to press over the site as Catherine stood by helpless, horrified, feeling the life drain out of her.

The dreadful event was over in a matter of seconds, but to Catherine, it seemed forever. “Let’s turn him!” said Father. Working as an efficient medical team, Father, Peter and Mary placed Vincent in a recovery position. Catherine watched numbly, frozen with despair. How could Vincent suffer so much, seem to be well, and then, suffer yet again?! It was too much for Catherine, and she sank to the floor, covering her face with her hands. Peter knelt beside her.

Putting his arms around her, Peter offered his handkerchief. “Here, honey, wipe your face,” he said gently. “I know it’s awful to witness, but the seizure didn’t hurt Vincent.”

Mary drew the covers over Vincent’s shoulders and smoothed his hair in a motherly gesture. “I’ll get him cleaned up, then I’ll restart the IV,” she offered. She picked up a porcelain pitcher and left to obtain bath water. Father began listening to Vincent’s chest with his stethoscope.

Father came over to where Peter was helping Catherine into a chair. “Peter . . . a word . . .” he said softly, motioning for his colleague to step away.

“I want to know, Father; please include me,” Catherine pleaded.

“Yes, Jacob,” Peter agreed, moving two other chairs to form a circle, “This concerns all of us.”

Father took a seat and looked from Peter to Catherine to Vincent lying motionless now on the bed as Mary worked on the IV. “He’s in a state of exhaustion,” Father explained to Catherine, who sat without speaking, looking and feeling lost.

“He’ll likely sleep a while,” said Peter kindly, taking Catherine’s hand. “He may be . . . confused . . . when he wakes up. He may not . . . remember . . . everything.”

Catherine felt her hope slipping away. What was the meaning of hope anyway? Anticipation without guarantee, she thought to herself grimly. Have faith, she told herself. And what was faith? Belief without proof! was her intrapersonal response. Anger and depression warred within her as her energy ebbed to its lowest point.

“I estimate his fluid loss at about 10 percent,” said Father gravely, looking at Peter.

“Yes,” Peter replied, “he’s not out of danger . . .”

“What’s to be done now?” Catherine implored the two doctors, not sure she wanted to know the answer.

“We wait and watch,” answered Mary, joining them after completing Vincent’s care. She took Catherine’s hands. “Come to my chamber, my dear. You can freshen up and rest a while; maybe lie down.”

Catherine made to protest, but the others encouraged her, and she was too weak to resist further. She went to the bedside and just looked down at Vincent. She wanted a prayer to come to her, but none did. She allowed Mary to lead her away.

Mary fussed over Catherine, finding her another set of clothes, making tea, brushing her hair. It was only last night since Catherine first felt Vincent’s predicament through their bond. Over the past hours – which felt like years - she had experienced a rollercoaster of emotion, hopes dashed and revived, over and over. A snapshot of their entire relationship . . .

With a soft pat on the cheek, Mary tucked a comforter around Catherine and left her to rest. Alone with her thoughts, Catherine realized she did not know at all what had happened to Vincent. She had never learned the facts of the case. The case – oh, that’s right, Joe had told her it was dismissed. And Melissa . . . Melissa! Oh, poor Melissa. She had left that phone message that she needed to talk. And Catherine had never called her back.

I’m failing at everything I try to do, thought Catherine morosely, as she fell into a fitful sleep.

Hours later, Catherine woke to Mary’s gentle voice calling, “Catherine . . . Catherine . . . wake up, dear.”

Catherine opened her eyes, confused. “What time is it?” she asked.

“Why, it’s supper time. William has made the most wonderful . . .”

“Vincent!” cried Catherine, fully awake now and fearing the worst. She clutched the older woman’s vest, gasping, “How is he?!”

“Settle yourself, my dear,” said Mary, soothingly, “He’s resting, no change, no worse.”

“Did he have any more . . . of those . . . ?”

“Seizures? No, no, none at all. I think that has passed now.”

“I must go to him!” Catherine sat up on the side of the bed and reached down for her shoes. Just then, Father entered the chamber.

“I have some report,” he said. “Vincent’s condition has stabilized. His vital signs are good, and he’s responding to us, though minimally.”

“That’s wonderful news!” exclaimed Mary. Catherine felt more reserve, however, seeing that Father had more to say.

Sure enough, Father continued, “He was confused – as we expected – and he has required continual reorienting. He doesn’t remember everything. He didn’t recognize Peter . . . or me, for that matter . . .” The women saw plainly from Father’s shrug and averted glance that Vincent’s lack of recognition had hurt, though Father was trying to take it in scientific stride.

Catherine stood up abruptly, pulling her jacket on. “I need to see him,” she asserted.

“Of course,” Father replied, and the three set off to the hospital chamber, where they saw Rebecca sitting next to Vincent’s bed.

Catherine looked past Rebecca to see Vincent propped slightly on two pillows, squinting in their direction, as if his vision was not clear. “Who’s there?” he called in a voice so weak it brought tears to Catherine’s eyes. She shrank back against the tunnel wall, uncertain whether or not to enter.

Just then, tapping on the pipes announced Cullen and Kipper, who appeared in the passageway with Chester in tow. After hugs and handshakes all around, the group stepped across the chamber threshold. Everyone held back, unsure as to how to approach Vincent. Catherine stepped further back, behind the others.

Taking the lead, Father strode over to the bedside, clasping Vincent’s hands. “It’s Father, my son. I’m happy to see you sitting up!” he stated with as much cheer as he could muster.

“Oh, yes, it’s you again . . .” Vincent replied, looking gratefully at the old doctor. “Thank you for everything you have done for me. I don’t know how I can repay you.”

The collective heart of the group was breaking at Vincent’s vulnerability and his obvious loss of connection to his family. Rebecca stood up to give Father her chair.

“Well, no need to worry about that now,” said Father, touching Vincent’s shoulder. “You have visitors. Perhaps these friends will help you remember . . .” He turned to wave for Chester to come closer. The old firefighter took Vincent’s hand and regarded him warmly. “We’ve got some catching up to do!” he said, smiling broadly.

As the others gathered tentatively around the bed, Catherine stepped a little further into the corridor. She felt at such a loss. It seemed that Chester, Cullen and Kipper would be able to help Vincent more than she could at the moment. After all, she didn’t know anything about what had happened. Vincent seemed to be in good hands for now.

Catherine turned and walked along the passageway toward Mary’s chamber. She felt wooden, without feeling, hopeless. Slowly, Melissa came into her mind. Catherine was filled with regret at abandoning her friend. Perhaps . . . here was someone she could help. Making her decision, she hurried to retrieve her belongings and return Above.

Entering her apartment, Catherine grabbed for the telephone and hastily dialed Melissa’s number. The call rang seven times and Catherine was wondering why the answering machine was not picking up when Melissa’s voice came on the line.

“S’lo? Who izzit?”

Was Melissa drunk? Injured? “Melissa!” Catherine shouted into the handset, “what is wrong with you? Are you OK? It’s Cathy Chandler!”

“Ohhh, hey there, Cath-ee . . .” Melissa’s voice slurred over the phone. “ha, ha . . . betcha thought you’d never hear from me again . . .”

“Melissa, I’m coming over there right now!” Catherine said, ready to hang up and leave for Melissa’s apartment.

“Ohhh, doan bother . . . I’m woan be home! I’m leaving right now. Cath-ee, you’re all too late . . .”

“Tell me where you are going!” Catherine demanded.

“Well . . . I’m checking into the Lucerne Hotel . . .”

“On West 79th?”

“Thaz th’ one! Yeah, c’mon over, girl! Eleventh floor! We’ll have one . . . last . . . party . . .”

Catherine dashed out of her apartment, taking the stairs to the street where she hailed a cab and paid extra to rush to West 79th at Amsterdam. The doorman revealed the suite number for $20, and Catherine was pounding on the door within minutes.

Melissa opened the door and Catherine was shocked at her friend’s appearance. Melissa was barely draped in a red silk robe, hair in a loose top-knot, champagne glass ready to drop from her hand. The lights were off in the suite, and candles were burning all around the periphery of the rooms; candles burned on every window sill and all along the baseboards. Normally, candlelight warmed an area, but this seemed sinister and eerie. Catherine’s gaze scanned the suite and noticed the telephones were missing.

“Melissa, what have you done? Let me help you!” Catherine implored.

“It’s past all that, Cath-ee. There’s no hope left . . . A few pills, some drinks, iz alllllll . . . ooooooover . . .” with that, Melissa fell against the drapes, knocking over the candles, champagne spilling across the carpet.

“Melissa!” Catherine screamed, lunging for her friend as the candle flames ignited the heavy brocade drapery, then the lampshades, then the wallpaper, then the entire ceiling, until the room was completely ablaze.


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