a broken home for abrasive fiction
By Sheila M. Good
They invited her into the room because of her expertise in the field, the family, and the doctor’s soft spot of guilt for bungling her case years ago. She stood stoic at the foot of the bed, as the code team applied paddles for the eighth time. Every time they got him back another run of ventricular tachycardia would start and his heart would stop.
Rigid with interest, she didn’t want to miss a second. His body convulsed with each shock as her eyes darted back and forth from the monitor to the bed.
“Got him,” the nurse said.
She flinched. The paddles had worked for the moment. The team stepped back satisfied. A less dangerous heart rhythm danced across the screen and the steadier, stronger beeping sound of his heart rate were like ice picks to her soul.
The doctor handed the chart back to the nurse and walked over to her.
“Are you okay? “
She cut her eyes at him and waited for him to continue.
“We’ll transfer him as soon as he’s stable,” he said. “Right now, it’s just too precarious.”
She nodded feigning interest. The reality? She couldn’t have cared less.
He glanced at his buzzing pager then back at her. “He seems stable, for now. I need to check on other patients, but stay as long as you like, or if you prefer we can call you if anything happens.”
She crossed her arms, and leaned against the counter. “I’ll stay.”
He smiled, nodded his head in understanding, and gave her arm a consoling pat. “Don’t worry. I’ll check-in on him after rounds. I’m confident he’s safe with you. ”
The doctor left, and she let go, closing her eyes against the onslaught of memories. Alone in the room, she gripped her elbows as the years of hatred roared through her for the man who had stolen her childhood and robbed her of having a family.
She watched the monitor and prayed for the return dance of the V-tach across the screen. V-tach gave her hope.
“You’re here to watch me die,” he said.
At the sound of his scratchy, tired voice, she turned to face him for the first time in years. Her eyes were cold and hard. The beep-beep of his heart rate soared as their eyes met.
She stared at him, refusing to take the bait.
“I know that’s why you’re here. You hate me.”
The effort of talking and the stress of his sins were taking its toll. Short of breath, he fumbled with the oxygen mask, as beads of sweat popped out on his pasty brow, and she heard the stumble of the beeping as his heartbeat began its dance.
She pushed away from the counter and walked silently to the door, glanced out, nudging it closed before returning to the bed. His eyes followed her, uncertain.
Calmness, settled over her as she leaned in close to him, face-to-face. She smelled the fear on his breath and for the first time in a lifetime, felt free.
“You’re damn right,” she said.
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