To See It Through (1-6)
The shine of mahogany wore tiny footprints across the small room as sunlight shot beams through the particles of dust. With eyes wide, scanning the dingy walls that were draped in pink floral hope, the sweet suckling noise squeaked softly and paused for breath in the stillness. Morning rose slow and the horizon was hazy in the distant sky as the filtered light painted the room brighter.
Her infantile waddle pulled her out of the bed and drew her toward her curiosity. Soft curls bounced light with movements and free fell across apple-cheeks that gripped the edges of thick rosy lips. At two years and two months, baby-plump thighs galloped through the door and into the hallway. Her tracks smudged the ones already laid on the polished floor. And on the wall, tragedy hung in a mirror reflecting the fading image of teddy bears and toddler limbs toppling down a spiral staircase amongst thumping and whimpers, and a final dull thud.
The crumpled image lay motionless and morning had no mercy, nor hesitation. As the corridors filled with warmth and sunlight, stillness stirred with daybreak and low drones of sleepy chatter echoed like whispers through the cracks of doors.
The silence grew concern and panic compelled a frantic clatter! Scrambling legs thrust her down the stairs two at a time, yelling, "Abigail! Abigail! No! Dillion, come quick!" And the wails from her soul pierced even the air outside.
He lifted his shoulders and straightened his back. So much commotion and yet, the old woman was staring at him. He quickly processed what he must look like sitting here in the emergency room with what he was sure by now was a black eye and bruises around his neck. Flashes of despondency kept drawing him back to the scene. That horrible scene! Her fingers wrapped around his neck and choking the life out of him. Damn Kara could be strong when she wanted to be. But, no amount of bodily harm could hurt him more than seeing his baby crumpled on the floor like that. Kara really beat him up!
The old lady was trying to act like she wasn't looking, but she couldn't keep her eyes off of him. Her gaze was a cross between curiously sympathetic and pointedly judgemental. He wanted to say something. To tell her to quit staring. But, he didn't. The throbbing numbness in his lip told him that it must be busted too. He actually forgot about the head butt to the face. It was like he wanted it. Anything to take away that deeper hurt. The one that he didn't want to think about right now. The agony wearing a hole in his belly.
"Mr. Bartley!" The nurse stood at the door holding it open as he got up and walked in. "This is Karen Townsend, Social worker, Officer Hamley with the police department and Drake Evans our Hospital Chaplain. "Dr. Riley, the Pediatrician that examined your daughter will be here in just a moment. Please have a seat." The nurse directed him to a small sofa against the wall. She paused at the door as she walked out and pointed at a serving table to her left. "There's coffee if anyone would like. Help yourself!" And as she walked out, the doctor walked in.
Dillion stood and asked, "Where's Kara? Is she okay? I need to see her! She needs to see me." A tear fell without permission and he quickly wiped it away with the back of his hand and a hard swallow.
"Your wife is being detained in the other room. We need to question you alone." Officer Hamley said as he pulled a chair up in front of him. Dillion sat back and closed his hands over his eyes in disbelief as the others gathered chairs around him.
The walls were pressing in and Dillion was getting antsy. He had answered every question they had and twice. "Look, I know this is just standard procedure, and I appreciate the fact that somebody," his voice broke, "that there are people like you here that can do this kind of thing. But, am I being charged with anything?" The tears in his weary eyes shimmered in the light. "'Cause, if not, I'd like to go be with my wife now. She needs me. Our little girl is...," Dillion couldn't bring himself to say it.
"I think we are through for now. Doc, why don't we take him to his wife and daughter." Officer Hamley nodded at the doctor.
When Dillion got to the room where his daughter was he was not prepared for what he saw. His wife quickly rose and fell into his arms. "They want her organs!" She whispered through muffled sobs. "I told them yes, but I don't know if I can let them do it!" She was crying so hard, Dillion felt if he weren't holding her, she might fall to the ground.
"I can't process this! It's too fast!" She pulled away and Dillion saw her body stiffen as if to brace herself to stand on her own. She walked back over to the bedside and he walked to the other side. His daughter's tiny hand was cold and lifeless and he squeezed it into the palm of his hand and leaned down across the tubes and the wires and rested his teary cheek against hers. The vibration from the ventilator jarred his queasy stomach and he swallowed his tears and stood up and walked around the bed to his wife. She wasn't crying as much anymore. The resolve on her face was stony and vacant. And for a moment their eyes searched each other's. Finding no life left in either, they looked away and neither realized it was the last time they would ever look at each other the same.
Kara tried to feel something. She wanted to be sorry for the black eye. She wanted to regret the thumbprints on his neck that were now a deep purple. But, she couldn't. All she saw when she looked in his eyes was the person that kept her from saving her baby! If only! In those eyes, all she saw was the dark haunting vacancy that left her for dead 3 years ago when she overdosed on pain medication. They'd had a fight and both had been drinking. Kara, drinking on top of the medication she had been abusing for years, just to deal. Gees, her life had been such a mess. But, it all changed after that night. She remembered waking up in the hospital and Dillion being there. Swearing that he would never touch another drink and making her swear to leave the pills and alcohol alone. After all, they were gonna have a baby. They just told them. Suddenly the cheating and job losses didn't matter. The verbal abuse. All that mattered was this little baby inside of her.
And as she gazed into his eyes, she felt the surge of anger that she'd had at the house. She just wanted to hurt him. Someone! Anyone! Dammit, why! If she'd never reconciled with him, she would not have been sleeping in the next room. Abigail would have been in bed with her! Damn him. She had to turn away and stop thinking before she hit him again. As she stared at her lifeless little girl, with all those monstrous tubes and gadgets hooked to her, she felt as if she could just fall right then. But, she knew if she did, Dillion would catch her. And she was not about to let that happen. Never again.
Kara and Dillion stood at the bedside of their toddler, both brushing tears from their face from time to time, but neither speaking or even looking at each other. When the door opened they barely noticed. But Kara knew she would have to turn her head to look soon enough. It was Tracy, the Organ Donation Coordinator. Kara could feel her without even looking at her. She closed her eyes and squeezed the last of her tears out in hopes that there would be no more and then she introduced Dillion to Tracy. And somehow the next few hours seemed to fly by. Tracy explaining the procedure to Dillion and answering questions they both had. And when they were through talking, Tracy stood up and walked out to leave the two to discuss things between each other.
Dillion and Kara almost instinctively walked over to the bed that their daughter lay in, knowing that these were their last moments. Those bouncing curls would never jiggle from side to side as she skipped around the house again. "Lulu" the brown teddy bear with the big pink ribbon would never be forced to drink another bottle again or have food shoved in its mouth to eat like Abigail the big girl ate! No more afternoon strolls, watching Abigail push her "Lulu" in a stroller down the sidewalk. The tears were streaming down each of their faces and Kara took a deep shaky breath and spoke softly. "It's almost time. When they come, we won't see her anymore. They will take her to the operating room and then to the funeral home." She reached across the bed and laid her hand on top of Dillion's. "I'm sorry I hit you! I'm sorry I hurt you! I'm sorry!" The grieving was deep and bottomless and weighed heavy on her breath. She looked at his bruised face and was ashamed of her anger. She was ashamed that she'd wanted to hurt him so bad. And for the moment, this grief, this pain was all that she would allow herself to feel, because the thoughts of the pain that was soon coming was too much to bear. So she focused on her husband's tear-filled eyes and his bruised neck. And she moved close to him and as the tears fell, she softly kissed the bruises that she had caused. And she kissed his tears as he wept like only a broken man can weep. And for a moment, maybe hours, maybe seconds, they both drown in tears that really didn't belong to the moment. And they let themselves slip into a pain that they both knew they could handle, that had nothing to do with their daughter, and that would for the moment, compensate for the many days and years of hollow empty grief that was sure to follow them.
The empty bed was like a magnet, pulling her, drawing her to its emptiness. She could hear Dillion walking up the stairs. Her stomach turned. The only thing that seemed more lonely than the empty bed was the thought of Dillion crawling in bed beside her. It wasn't the same. Abigail drew all of their love to the grave with her. Buried and covered, there was nothing left for themselves. Her nausea pulled her down into a fetal position and she pulled the blanket over her head and made the world go away.
Dillon stopped outside the bedroom door and as he reached for the doorknob Kara's screams echoed in his head. "Dillion, come quick!" It was as if it were happening all over again. He stepped back and looked up at the ceiling. Trying to block out the memories was impossible. He turned and with every step he took, the panic and the cries returned. The shock of her hands grabbing him and shoving him against the wall. Her fist flailing and beating him. The pitiful way she slouched over as if she were going to collapse from exhaustion and the bite of the head butt when she rared up against him as he tried to support her and hold her up. God, why couldn't he feel that pain again! He wanted to physically feel it, so he could block what he was feeling right then. He found himself at the front door grabbing the handle, and then without warning his knees flexed and his gut retracted and the despair of the moment hit him harder than she ever did. His empty world began to devour him and he would meet Kara in the gut of this thing that swallowed them both up into this pit of hell and grief. And together, they would see it through.