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Chapter 2-Part 3-The Road Less Traveled

It is 8:45 am and I hear Brian pull up in the driveway. I am ready to go. I have no idea where we are going, but due to the fact he asked me if I liked pets right before he asked what I was doing today, I am thinking it has something to do with animals. I love that he is not only on time, but early. I hear a knock at the door, and he just walks in right after knocking. He must feel pretty damn comfortable with me. What if I was naked or something? I looked at him strangely and he apologized for just walking in, but I have to admit, it didn’t bother me much. I don’t know anyone here, and that is probably why I am attaching to Brian so easily, but it is working for me right now, and making me feel like I have known him much longer.

He grabs my hand and says “C’mon, let’s go!!” and we jog out the door. I barely am able to grab my bag on the way out the door. He seems pretty excited for this to be a pet store run. I ask where we are going and he says it is a surprise.

After a terrifying ride in his car with his young, brave soul behind the wheel, we pull up to a restaurant on the beach. It is a beautiful seaside bistro and we are having breakfast. They have a beautiful spread for a buffet with all the things you could possibly imagine eating for breakfast. Bacon. I see bacon. Enough said.

After we are seated, we order our drinks and go straight to the buffet. I am still enamored at the fact that Brian knows of such a cool place, but growing up on the beach, I guess he knows most places out here. We sit down and start to eat. All of a sudden I feel light headed, nauseous, and my head starts to pound. This is not normal. I have been feeling weird lately and getting a lot of headaches, but this is different. I don’t have insurance, so I am hoping it is nothing serious. Suddenly, I pass out, fall on the floor, and urinate all over my self. Thank God I am unconscious or I would have been hoping I was with all that embarrassment.

Next thing you know, I am in an ambulance being rushed to the hospital. I ask the paramedic what happened, and they told me. They also said Brian was right behind us in his car and would meet me at the hospital. Oh my God. I totally forgot about him. I feel awful now. He had something special planned and I ruined it. Wow. Great impression. My heart rate starts to go up when I think of this, and then I feel sick again. I felt my dress was wet, and figured I had an accident when I passed out. The paramedic left that part out trying to save me the shame, I guess. Next thing you know, my pulse drops and I pass out again.

I wake up in the hospital this time. I am hooked up to all kinds of monitors and machines. Nurses and a Dr. are all around me, and I see Brian behind them. We are in the ER and I am nervous now. I start to get scared, and when I say scared, I mean more terrified than I have ever been about my health. The Dr. tells me they are running all kinds of tests, and asked me a few questions. I was so nervous that I couldn’t really answer him. I fall asleep even with all the commotion. I just couldn’t keep my eyelids open.

I wake up to Brian sitting next to my bed, but this time I am in a room. They admitted me, and I feel awful. He smiles and looks at me with concern, but trying not to let me see it. I can read people’s eyes pretty good. I am usually right when I figure out how they are feeling. “I am so sorry” I say to him. He quickly replies telling me I have nothing to be sorry for, and that we will do what he planned when I am out of the hospital. Just then a Dr. walks in.

“Is it o.k. with you that Brian hears what is going on with you?” the Dr. asks. I think about it, but I have no idea what he is going to tell me. Brian figured this out, and excuses himself so that I don’t have to feel bad for asking him to leave. Awesome. “We got your blood tests results, and we think you may have cancer.” The Dr. said it so coldly. I mean, he didn’t even introduce himself. He is not the same one from the ER. He just strolls in here, plops down on a swivel stool, and says, basically, you are going to die. At least that is what anyone hears when they hear they have cancer, initially. In disbelief, I started to tear up, and it took all I had to get out the words “are you sure?” before he says they are pretty sure it is Hodgkins Lymphoma. I knew someone with this cancer before, and it is treatable, so that was a relief. I have no idea what stage I am in yet, and neither do they. He goes on to tell me there are several more tests to run, and scans to do before they come up with a chemo mixture for treatment. If necessary, radiation.

This morning I was having breakfast with a sexy 25 year old, and then within hours I am in the hospital preparing for the toughest road of my life. The Dr. says I am going to be there for a few days while they get what they need, and start treatment, and then I will be able to go home and just go to individual treatments after that. He asked if I had any questions, and I had millions, but wasn’t prepared to ask them yet. He gets up, leaves, and Brian knocks immediately on the door to come back in. He comes in, and can see it is not good news I just received. He didn’t ask any questions, and I didn’t reveal anything to him, but he knew enough that I needed someone, anyone, to hold me. He sat on the edge of my bed, grabbed, and pulled me to his chest. I started to bawl like a baby, and let me do that for minutes that seemed like hours. He never said a word. Finally, I gain my composure, look up at him and tell him I have cancer, and start to cry again.

Chapter 2-Part 2-A1A Beachfront Ave.

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It’s a beautiful morning. I woke to the sunshine flowing through my window warming up my face. There is a cool breeze coming through also. I left the windows open last night because, even though it was 2am, the temperature was still up around 65 degrees. That is Florida for you. I get out of bed, brush my teeth, light up a smoke, and go to make coffee. Thank goodness there is coffee. I don’t seem to function too well without it. While the coffee is brewing I go grab Brian’s phone number. I really need the wi-fi password. Or maybe I just want a reason to call him. I find his number, grab my cell phone, and dial the number. It goes directly to voicemail. It is kind of early. I imagine him up early, at the beach before sunrise, waiting for that perfect wave. I hope it came in. I leave a message for him to call me back.

Well, now that is off my plate for now, I think of my journey today. I hear Vanilla Ice in my head singing “A1A Beachfront Ave. Girls were hot wearing less than bikinis, rockin’ lovers drivin’ Lamborghinis…”. Lame, I know, but who doesn’t know the reference? My coffee is done brewing. I pour a cup and grab my route information. I have a semi-long trip ahead of me, but not too bad. It will take me through a couple different towns and I will get a quick view of a lot of different sites. I’m not wearing a bikini, or anything less for that matter, but I will wear my bathing suit under my clothes. I am hoping to find work out by the beach, if I can, so I can’t exactly dress like your typical beach bum. I decide I am going to wear a business casual dress, with decorative flip flops. Still “beachy” but not too relaxed. I like it. I will also bring a set of clothes in my bag to change into in case my dress becomes a nuisance. Ok, time to get dressed, and ready to go.

Checklist: Bag with extra clothes? Check. Wallet? Check. Book for down time? Check. Bottles of water for the trip? Check. Cell phone? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Sunblock? Check. Bus information? Check. Keys? Check. Alright, I’m ready for the quarter mile walk to the nearest stop. My bus arrives in an hour. I’m pretty sure I can get there in time.

I step outside and it is humid. I heard from people before it isn’t as bad by the water, so I am even more anxious to get there. It is 9am and already 74 degrees. This weather will be my demise in this state, if nothing else. There is a slight breeze which is everyone’s saving grace here. I froze a couple bottles of water last night so that they were still cold when I needed them today. They feel good through my bag against my body. It’s helping more than you know.

I can see the stop ahead. I am always leery walking up to a new stop. I have no idea who I will run into. I don’t know anyone here, so that is good. No drowning conversation that I have to pretend to enjoy. There are two ladies sitting on an uncovered bench who seem to be  approximately in their 50’s. They are chatting away. Dressed in their golf clothes with their bright pink visors, they look like the stereotypical retiree here in Florida. I see a man leaning on the light pole smoking a cigarette. That will be where I will go since I want to try to keep the smoke in one place.  The man doesn’t look threatening at all. He looks to be about 35 and well kept. Just looking at him, you wouldn’t think he was a smoker. He has shades on so no one can tell where he is looking. It seems he is looking down towards the ground, and he is frowning. He must have something serious on his mind. On the opposite end of the bench is a kid with his bicycle. He looks to be about 13 but not in any danger. He looks like he knows what he’s doing. He has been here before. OK, I have scoped out the stop, and I feel like this will be painless.

I walk up to the pole and stand on the opposite side of the man. I light up a smoke, and if you know anything about waiting for a bus, you know that if you want it to come sooner, just light up a smoke. Sure enough, he is barely two hits into his, and I just lit mine, and coming around the corner is our bus. We both rush to put them out and put them back in our packs. Everyone grabs their things, and lines up. The ladies go on first, then the kid tries to get his bike up the steps. The buses here have a bike storage area up front near the driver where riders can strap in their bicycles. The kid is having trouble, so the man helps him out. As the boy hops up the steps, drops his money in, and turns around to grab the bike, the man pushes the back end up and the boy lifts it into the storage rack. The man puts his money in, and I follow him in doing the same. The bus is empty except for those of us that were at my stop. It’s great. It isn’t flooded with degenerates, and neglected people. I take a seat near the middle of the bus by the window so I have a panoramic view of the city as we drive through  to Daytona.

I don’t know what happened, but I missed most of my ride. I fell asleep. I don’t know if it was the drone of the semi-empty bus, or what, but I just couldn’t seem to keep my eyes open. I have been super tired lately. I have chumped it up to all the excitement and changes in my life recently. I woke up just in time for me to see us passing the Daytona Nascar track. What a neat view of the track from the street. It looks massive, and intimidating. I would love to go there. There is a pedestrian bridge that crosses over the road and across it spells “Welcome to Daytona”. I am so excited. I can almost feel the sand between my toes. We drive down a few miles more, and I can see the ocean. We pull up to A1A and turn onto the main strip. What a site. There are massive groups of people everywhere. Some in bathing suits, some in less, some on motorcycles with leathers, and some on motorcycles with barely enough to cover their feet, much less anything else on their bodies. I see signs that tell me there is a motorcycle event in town. This place is crazy. Thank God there are signs for the boardwalk and I know there is a way to get to the beach without having to go through this mess. How scary. Everyone seems pretty drunk and disorderly. Not my style. The disorderly part anyway.

The bus stops at the entrance to the boardwalk. I get off and pray to God I don’t get attacked or run over by anyone. I have lived in LA County most of my life, but this is crazier, I think.  I walk over to the steps that take me down to the boardwalk. I walk along the storefronts as I feel the salty air on my skin. It is magical. The water is a different color, and the people are way more sexy here. I feel a little out of place, but I seem to fit into the scene just fine. I take off my shoes and walk onto the sand. It is early enough still that the sand is moist and cool on the bottom of my feet. This will give my feet a good scrub. Walking towards the water, I start to think of why I am here. How I made the decision to come here. I thought of the future I saw when I was dreaming of how my move would turn out. I thought about how I was alone, and wishing I was holding someone’s hand right now. I have dated, and been married once. None of which turned out to be my soul mate. Most of my situations, or relationships as most people call them, were results of my survival needs. Since my divorce I really haven’t felt the need for a man. I just got tired of someone else holding my destiny in their hands. They just didn’t care enough to make sure my life was their priority. Once I realized I was the only one that controlled my present, and my future, I was able to rely on my self and not have the need for a man to live. Now I realize, I need someone for companionship, and unconditional love. I need to feel that excitement when I see this person after being gone from them all day. I need to be loved.

I have walked down to the water. I am holding up my dress so I can feel the cool, crisp water on my feet. The beaches are beautiful here. It is still hot near the water, and the humidity is still obvious, but the cool breeze coming off the water makes it all a little more tolerable. I find a spot on the beach, and sit down to enjoy the scenery. The spot I am in doesn’t have too many people near it yet, but I can see there really isn’t any place on the beach that won’t fill up by noon. I think about making sure my phone is one in case Brian calls me back. I really need to be able to get online when I am home or I will go nuts. It’s only lonely when I don’t have anything to do to occupy my mind. I apply sunblock to all the skin that is showing and relax.

Following the same pattern lately, I fall asleep. I start to feel the heat on my face after a couple hours and that wakes me up. The beach is busier now, and there are more people near where I was sitting. I just can’t seem to stay awake, but I feel so good. Refreshed from my nap, and free of concern for just a little bit. The beach does that for me.

I decide to get up and see if there are any places I can apply for a job. I start to walk back to the boardwalk as I am dodging volleyballs, and cars driving up and down the beach. I make it back to the boardwalk safely and start my job search. Most of the shops are closed down, and there is a lot of rental space available. The main stores that seem to survive out here are surf shops, and restaurants. Even then, it is slim pickin’s. I may have to wait to look for work when the motorcycle event is out of town. I need to hit the strip. It is getting pretty busy here in town, and I have released my demons to the ocean, so I decide I am going to head back home. I wish I had more energy, but my anxiety is getting the best of me, and I feel all alone in someone else’s world all of a sudden. I just want to go back to my safety zone, and be alone.

I know, first I complain about being alone, and the next thing you know, that is all I want. This is my dilemma. I just don’t know what I want. I know what I need, but it doesn’t suit my life. I am just too into me right now, I guess. I find my stop, and pray that my bus arrives soon. I pull out the schedule and thank the Lord above that the bus is pulling up just as I do. I really don’t want to be left out here alone with all this chaos.

I sleep most of the way home, of course, and get off at the Elm stop, which is the one closest to my house. I get off the bus, walk home, slip my shoes off, drop my bag on the table and walk over to my couch. I lay down and wish I had heard from Brian. I would really like to get online. My eyes shut, and I sleep a couple more hours. I wake to a knock at the door. Who could this be? I don’t know anyone, and Brian hasn’t called me back yet. I am a little nervous but my house is hidden behind the main house, so I don’t feel too threatened. I walk over as I brush back my hair with my hands, and look through the peephole. It’s Brian. I thought he would call first. I open the door and invite him in. He said he was there to help me get online. I told him he didn’t have to come over, but he said he didn’t mind and was checking in on the main house anyway. His mother isn’t due back until tomorrow. I grab my laptop and he gets me hooked up in no time. He tells me he is finished, and I thank him. There is an awkward silence, and then he pops up out of the chair and asks me if I like pets. I told him I have had pets in the past, but not recently, but that I wasn’t opposed to the idea. He asked what I was doing tomorrow. I didn’t know why he was asking, but I felt like I was blushing regardless. I told him I didn’t have any plans, and he says “Good, I want to take you somewhere.” Now I know I’m blushing, and ask him where. He said it was a surprise, and said to be ready at 9am. I accept and he leaves. I feel like a little school girl. After he leaves the driveway, I dance around with a pillow in my arms, and think about how he is not my type in any way, but a little attention wouldn’t hurt.

My alarm goes off at 7am. I jump up and head into the shower to get ready for Brain to pick me up. I can’t wait to find out where we are going.
 

Chapter 2 – Part 1 – Taking a Detour

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Since the shooting at my apartment I decided I need a change. So I am moving to another state.  Away from everything that seems to be following me around  in California. I am moving to Florida. I have family there and I would love to see what it’s like. I have often wanted to see those beaches. My peace comes from salty air and sand in my toes while hearing the waves crash my worries away. I have already shipped my things ahead of time, and I am almost there. I don’t mind flying. In fact, I love it. It is so quiet when you fly early in the morning. It’s also a lot cheaper this way, too.

The plane pulls up the runway to Orlando International Airport. I have a place to stay and a job lined up. I have a couple weeks to find an apartment of my own, but for now, I am staying in the Mother In Law suite at a friend of the family’s house. I have a ride booked for a shuttle to take me home. Now I just need to find where to get my luggage, and go. I am so excited I can barely stand it, but I’m nervous too.

I find the luggage claim and I have tied a massive red ribbon on the handles of my suitcases so I can identify them easily when they come around. I don’t know who they think we are, but as fast as this luggage belt goes around, it’s near impossible to grab your suitcase without some public scene of embarrassment unless you see it coming early. Especially the way I pack. My suitcases are not light. My pieces arrive, I grab them swiftly, without a fumble, and start moving to the doors.

As soon as the doors opened, I felt an immense amount of humidity. My silk blouse just became a sponge and I look like I have ran a marathon through the airport because of the amount of sweat beading up on my face. It is 90 degrees and wet. Miserable weather, but I assume I will adjust. All I care about is finding my shuttle, getting home and starting my new life. I see a luggage checker and ask where to find my ride. He points to a counter to check in. I check in at that counter and load into the van. Thank God for air conditioning.

We come to a quaint neighborhood after dropping all the other passengers off. I was told no one would be home in the main house, but my key would be in a planter right outside my door. There is a driveway that goes all the way back to my place. I get my luggage, tip the driver, and arrive at my front door. I see the planter, I find the key, and unlock the door. It is designed like a small cottage. Very modest, and adorable. Pastels give it cheer, and a lot of windows allow the light in to reflect on the leaves of the many house plants. I love having the plants. They were a nice touch. I go find my bedroom and see all of my clothes, and personal things have been put away for me. Julia, the owner of the main house, and friend of my grandma, took it upon herself to unpack all my boxes for me. She left one box of my personal papers and things, but for the most part, everything is unpacked. This was more than what I expected. What a sweet thing for her to do. I thought it a little strange though, just taking it upon herself to go through my stuff. I mean, I would never unpack anyone else’s things. I guess it is just a touch of “southern hospitality”.

My cell phone rings. It is my old landlord. She called to inform me that I had some mail there. I gave her my forwarding address to send it to, and told her it should all be forwarding automatically by tomorrow. She said it was no problem, we said our lingering goodbyes and hung up.

All I want to do now is go to the beach, but I don’t have a car. I look on my phone to see how far I am from the beach, and to find a bus schedule online. I will now plan out the next day of the rest of my life. Daytona Beach, here I come!

I have now planned out my entire day tomorrow using only the bus system. I have a few transfers and it will take awhile to get to Daytona, but at least I can see some things along the way and start to get familiar. I plan on spending a lot of time at the beach. I am going to look for work while I am out there also. I have a job lined up, but it doesn’t start for another month. I need a job immediately so I can take care of my expenses and find a place to live. I don’t want to overstay my welcome at “the cottage”.

Now that I am ready to start my life, I go to unpack my suitcases. Just as I start, I hear someone pull up in the driveway. I go to the window and a young man steps out of his dark blue Camaro. He is tall, tan, handsome and is missing his shirt. Nice body, nice eyes, and he’s walking up to my door. Great. I push back my hair to try to neaten it up quickly, and check my make up in the mirror. I hear a knock and go to answer the door. I ask who it is and he replies “Brian, Julia’s son.” I answer the door. He said he was there to check on me and make sure everything worked and that I didn’t need a ride somewhere. I was taken back by his beachy bleach-blonde appearance, and told him everything was fine. He said Julia would be gone for the rest of the week, so he gave me his phone number. He talks like your typical surfer, and since he can’t be a day over twenty five, it fits.  Brian only lives about a mile away, so he would be able to be here quickly should  I need him. I told him thank you, and he left.

He was dreamy, but not my type, however if he is the mold for most men out here, that would be fine with me.  I like eye candy, but I haven’t had a boyfriend in so long. I don’t know where to start with finding one. I guess it just hasn’t been my priority. Right now I am tired. My head is pounding, my legs are weak, my arms are even weaker, and my eyelids are heavier than pianos. I need a nap. My body just shuts down when it wants to without warning. The bed is so inviting in my bedroom. I shut the blinds, lay down, and close my eyes. Tomorrow is going to be great.

Oh no!! I didn’t ask Brian about the password for the router for wi-fi. Looks like I will need to call him sooner than later…

Chapter 1 – Part 3-Destination Unknown-18 yrs old, and she feels suicide is her only option…

It was all a blur. In the ambulance, I was terrified. They hooked her up to the heart rate monitor, and there was barely a pulse. They were pushing and prodding, probing, and tubing. It was one of the most intense situations I have ever been in. I may see someone die in my presence. Do I pray? I haven’t prayed in years.

We enter the ER drive-up for the ambulance, and I jump out. The EMT’s are racing against time to get her to a surgeon. They are almost positive there is internal bleeding, and she is not doing good at all. I am scared for the girl. We have no way of knowing who she is. Not yet anyway. They cut off her clothes and asked me to check her pockets in the ambulance. There was a gas receipt, $3.53 in money, a post-it with a phone number, and a bar tab receipt. She did wreak of alcohol, but I failed to notice among the chaos.

Nurses are asking me all kinds of questions I don’t know the answers to. I don’t even know why I’m here. I don’t know her, I did my civil duty, yet I can’t leave until I hear an update. I feel like her destiny is either going to reward my good deed, or make me feel like I didn’t do enough. Either way, I need to know.

The Dr. came out and said “She isn’t out of the woods yet. She had no internal bleeding, so she should be ok. She is stabilized and her leg was dislocated at the hip and the knee.” I wasn’t sure how to feel. I felt awful that this girl went through something so tragic, and we don’t even know her name. At least if someone knows your name, you have a better chance of being remembered. Devastating. My stomach is churning. I told the Dr. “thank you”, and he walked away.

I just sat there. In the waiting room. Waiting.She is in ICU and since I am not family I can’t go see my Jane Doe.

I fell asleep in the waiting room. Later I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was a nurse waking me up to tell me “she is asking for the person who saved her life. You are the only one here”. I jumped up and asked for a restroom. I needed to wash my face real quick, as to not make her any more uncomfortable than she already is. The nurse leads me down the hallway, passing all of the rooms of existing patients. I hate that part of being in a hospital. I really shouldn’t be privy to the most private thing about people; their health. Or lack there of.

I’m ready to face her. I feel nervous, but I’m not sure why. The nurse leads me to her room and opens the door. She is hooked up on every available piece of skin, with every available piece of machinery. I’m not sure if her blood is really pumping by itself, or what. She’s injured, and bruised, but beautiful. In the most devastating way. She looks hopeless. Her eyes lack expression, and her face cannot show true emotion due to the morphine. I walk in and say “Well, hello there. You sure clean up nice.” She barely smiles, and reaches for my hand. I grab her hand and she grips it with all her strength. She doesn’t say a word, she just lets the tears run down her face silently without any other emotions. Broke my heart. I cried too.

Her leg is in a sling hanging above her bed. They realigned it but it just needs to heal. Almost every tendon is ripped and rebuilding is in the process. Her scapula was broken, and her dreams shattered. She hasn’t spoken a word, she is still holding my hand, so I ask her “what is your name?” She mutters something but I can barely understand her, much less hear her. She is drugged up so much trying to fight off the anesthesia and the morphine at once.

Her hair is red, not naturally, but pretty. She has green eyes. Part of her face is bandaged so I can’t really figure out the rest of her features. She is still gripping my hand. Almost as if she knew me. She falls asleep. Peacefully this time.

A nurse came in to check on her so I asked her if they were able to get her name yet. She said yes, and looked at her chart. Her name is Abby. She had no I.D. on her at the time, so they didn’t know until she told them. Funny, to me, she doesn’t look like an “Abby” from what I can see.

I sit in the chair they have placed next to her bed for me. I am exhausted. I just wanted to sit for a minute, then go home, but I fell asleep as soon as my muscles relaxed. I woke the next morning when the nurse brought in Abby’s breakfast. She is sitting slightly upright, her leg is out of the sling, while she is awake, and she seems to be awake, aware, and hungry. This is a good sign.

She speaks immediately saying “Good morning.” I replied with the same, and then there was a pause like we were waiting for each other to go first. She stated “Thank you for saving my life. It seems to be a trend with you.” I was puzzled by this. I asked “What do you mean?” She replied “You saved my life before. I know I look different, because I dyed my hair, and I am a little thinner than before. I told the hospital my name is Abby because I was scared. I didn’t want anyone to know who I was. I told the Dr. this morning my real name. It’s me, Rachel.” I squinted my eyes and dropped my head like I was trying to focus on something a mile away. I was so shocked. I couldn’t believe she was in my life….again. Someone or something beyond us definitely has a hand in this.

A little thinner was putting it mildly. She was half the size of when I saw her that night. Her face was sunk in, and her skin, almost translucent. As I was struggling with my disbelief of who she was, she continued to tell me “I have had two children. One boy and one girl. I’m a meth addict now, though, and I asked my family for help, but I didn’t get any. I am going to school, but I’m not getting anywhere. I am failing now, because every night I go, I always stop a friends and get drunk on the way home  before going home to my kids. By the time I get to my grandmas, she watches them for me while I’m in school, they are in bed. I haven’t even gone to the last few classes. I just told my grandma I was going so  I could go drink. I get drunk every other night while getting hyped up on meth when I get my hands on it. My life is in a downward spiral. This was no accident. It was my failed attempt at suicide. I don’t know what to do. I mean, look at my life right now. I almost died in a car wreck, and you, of all people, are the only one here. Where is my family? They have been called. They know I’m here.”

Poor, poor girl. From the moment she came into my life, to now, has been nothing but a battle for her. She doesn’t even have the will to live. How can someone pull out of that with no support. I’m at a loss. I don’t know what to say. Thankfully, or not, her grandmother finally arrives. She walks into the room, and looks at me, then at Rachel. She walks over to Rachel and said “Well I hope you learned your lesson.” I wanted to slap her. No hug. No words of love, or concern. “The Dr.’s say she will be fine. Glad you are here for her”, I said. The woman was ruthless. “If I had any questions about her health, I would ask her. Thank you for the update” she scowled. I wanted to hit her. I was thinking she should have asked her about her health years ago. Mental and physical. She asked for a few minutes alone with Rachel. I hesitated, but I had no right to say no.

When I saw her leave I went back in the room. Rachel was crying. Her grandmother really laid into her making her feel bad. I asked Rachel if she knew about her suicide attempt. Rachel said no. She was afraid to tell her.

A Dr. entered her room and picked up her chart and asked “How are you feeling?” She replied tired, and in some pain. He ordered more pain meds and put her leg back up in the sling for the rest of the day. Right before he left, he said she should be able to go home in a couple days. “Do I have to go home that soon? Can I stay a little longer? I don’t want to hurt my leg any worse than it already is” she begged. I knew it wasn’t because of her leg. She just didn’t want to go home. The Dr. replied “We’ll see how it goes.” He left.

The nurse has already given Rachel more pain meds and she is starting to doze off. I told her I was leaving and would come back tomorrow to visit. She said ok and went to sleep. I waited until I knew she was asleep and left my number by the phone with a note to call me if she needed to before I came back.

Well, I missed my appointment, again.  I better call them, but not now. I would usually take the bus home, but I’m tired and just not in the mood to deal with other people right now. I call a cab. It takes about 15 minutes for the cab to get there. My head is pounding and I’m feeling pain in my legs. Must be from all the excitement and trying to get Rachel out of the car. My stomach is feeling queasy and all I want to do is lay down. I get in the cab, tell him my address, and we pull off. He asked “Rough night?” I replied with “To say the least.” My apartment is not that far from the hospital. I don’t know if the cab driver thought I was the sick one, or what, but for some reason he didn’t charge me for the ride. I tried to give him money, but he refused and said “This one’s on me. Pay it forward.” He smiled, and pulled away as I waved and thanked him.

As I walk up to my apartment, I hear a whimper in the bushes right out front. I look in the bushes and see a kitten. Her eyes are swollen, and she is covered in fleas. I used to have a cat, but she got hit by a car. I hesitate to do anything other than call animal control. I am just so fatigued at this point. I try to walk away and think I will call them from inside. Just as I opened the door, I hear the whimper again, and can’t resist trying to help. After all, I am supposed to pay it forward, right?

I pick her up. Her fur is matted, and she is frail. She purrs as I pick her up, but she is definitely injured. She is no more than 2 or 3 months old. She can’t walk, and she is shaking. I use my sweater to wrap her up in, and take her inside. I still have all my toys, food, and meds for my cat that died. I giver her a flea bath, feed her some food, and give her some water. I will take her to the pound tomorrow. After she eats, her and I fall asleep soundly on the couch.

I don’t wake until later that evening. I have completely messed up my sleeping schedule now, but I feel much better than earlier. I check my cell phone, and there are no missed calls. I hope this means Rachel was able to rest too. I wish I could help her. This girl has haunted my heart ever since I met her. I didn’t even get to tell her I met her mother. I wanted to find out how all of that panned out. I will ask her next time I see her.

Suddenly, I hear screaming coming from the upstairs apartment. I hear a man and his wife or girlfriend fighting. He is yelling at her telling her she is a stupid whore, and that she is worthless. She just cries. Next thing I know, I hear shattered glass, slamming doors, running, her screaming, and then BANG! A gunshot. I hear more running, and then nothing. I call the police.

The Beginning-An Appointment in the City

 It’s 5am and my appointment is at 8am. Bus 9 is right before bus 22, which is the one I need. It is always running late. It’s been raining all night, and the streets are now nothing but reflections of the day’s chaos. The wind is atrocious at times. I have a stall to wait in, but it only blocks so much. My heavy rain coat with the wool lining is performing wonderfully under pressure as the temperature has only come up to 40 degrees so far. My coffee is keeping my hands from turning into icicles, and my boots are insulating my walkers.  I am not comfortable but I am not unfortunate either. I would usually read right about now, but it is too damp and the pages would soak. I look around as the rain lightens up a bit to a mild drizzle. Across the way under a sheltering tree is a young girl. I can’t see her face, but if she were to look up I would never know she was crying. She has blonde hair that doesn’t seem to be brushed. Her blouse is thin and wet, barely covering her shivering torso. She has pulled her knees up and is holding them close to her body, letting me in on her shame. Not a day older than 16, she has just  fought the battle even an older woman couldn’t walk away from unscathed. I grab my umbrella out of my satchel and decided to find out her name. I walk over to her and lightly rest my hand on her shoulder. She flinches abruptly and shouts out for help. I wasn’t sure how to react, but she quickly settled that issue when she stood up and said “please help me…I’ve been raped”. “My name is Natalie” I reply, and I took her over to the bus stop shelter…..