“Thank you, Dr. Gavin. You don't know how happy this'll make my husband.” Alice had just heard the news that she was in fact pregnant. Five and a half weeks along and both were healthy.
Dr. Gavin smiled at the anxious woman in front of him. “I'm glad to hear, but please wait until you get home to tell him. No phone calls in the car. Okay?”
Alice nodded. “Of course. No calls in the car. I promise.” Alice started gathering her belongings. As she moved toward the door, she looked at the doctor. “Please, don't say anything to my dad. I'd like to be the one to tell him.”
“I'll be seeing him later on the golf course, but I'll be sure to keep my mouth shut. Just don't wait too long, okay?”
“Of course. Thank you again, Dr. Gavin.” Alice stumbled out the door as she tripped on the strap to her purse.
Dr. Gavin grabbed her elbow just in time to prevent her from hitting the floor. “Careful. You've got to worry about two people now.”
“Yes. Yes. Clumsy me.”
“Take care, Alice.”
“You too, Dr. Gavin. Thank you, again.”
Alice was oblivious to the world for the entire walk to her car. She didn't even realize how much she was smiling, until her cheeks started to hurt. She just couldn't help it. Pulling the keys from her purse as soon as she was off the elevator, Alice's heels clicked on the macadam until finally she stopped in front of her car. Unlocking the door, she tossed her purse and coat across to the passenger seat. Alice forced herself to concentrate on the road ahead of her. She didn't want to be in a daze when she was driving. Worry for two people now.
She was halfway home when her phone rang. Dr. Gavin had told her not to call Paddy, but he didn't say anything about not answering a phone call from Paddy. Alice accepted the call while she waited for the red light to turn green.
That was not her husband's voice. “Who is this? And why do you have my husband's phone?”
“Ma'am, this is Officer Bertram. Are you able to talk?”
“Yes.” Alice glanced and the light hadn't changed yet. She hated being stuck at that particular light. It always seemed like forever before it changed. “You haven't answered my question yet.”
“This number was listed as the emergency contact number in this phone.” Officer Bertram's voice was short, like he was trying to hide something.
“Yes. This is my husband's phone. Where's my husband? I want to talk to him right now.”
“Ma'am, I need you-”
“Stop calling me ma'am, and put my husband on the phone.” Alice's voice was just as short at the officer's and laced with a bit of her mother's venom.
The light finally turned green and Alice started to pull out of the intersection.
“I'm sorry, but I can't do that, ma'am. Your husband-”
“Why can't you put him on the phone?”
“Ma'am, I'm sorry-”
“I said, stop calling me ma'am!” Alice's voice trembled and her lip quivered. “Tell me why you can't put him on the phone.” She didn't really want to hear the answer; could already guess at the words she would hear.
“I'm sorry, your husband was involved in an accident.”
Her breath caught and her heart skipped a beat. She choked back the tears. “And? What is his condition?”
“Ma'---Miss, is there anyway you can meet me at the station?”
“Officer Bertram,” Alice couldn't believe how steady her voice sounded. She was crumbling internally, but her voice stayed steady. It stayed strong. “What is my husband condition?”
There was a long pause as Officer Bertram contemplated whether or not to answer her question. “Your husband didn't survive. He was pronounced dead when the paramedics arrived.”
The phone dropped from Alice's hand as the tears poured from her eyes. Her fingers laced into her hair as her body shuddered.
The car swerved and the next thing Alice remembered was waking up in the hospital ward with an IV in her arm and bandages on her face.
“Alice? You're awake.”
She'd recognize that voice anywhere. “Daddy?”
“Alice. I'm right here.” He wrapped his large, warm hand around her smaller one. “How do you feel?” It was an odd question. She was in a hospital bed and not sure how she got there.
Alice thought for a moment. She hurt. That's how she felt. She quickly recognized it wasn't physical pain. It was inside. “Paddy?”
“Shh. Quiet child.” His voice had always been soothing to her, but not in that moment. It was anything but comforting.
Alice blinked her eyes a couple times to get used to the light in the room and gather her bearings. She needed to remain strong, like she had on the phone with Officer Bertram. The white walls and poor décor of the hospital room wouldn't soothe the ache inside. “No. I remember. I remember talking to an officer on the phone.”
“Yes, Officer Bertram. He was here when you were admitted; even insisting on staying after we arrived.”
“He told me--”
“What he told you doesn't matter right now. What matters is you getting better.” Evasion. She knew that tactic. She used it many times on him.
Alice wanted to push the topic and not allow his subject change, but didn't have the opportunity to respond as the door to her room opened. “Mother.”
“Alice? Sweetheart, you're awake.”
“We covered that.” Alice motioned between herself and her father.
“I'll go get the doctor.” Her mother started to leave the room to flag down the doctor.
“How about I go get the doctor?”Alice's father spoke up and shuffled toward the door while pushing his wife to their daughter's bed.
Alice looked in disbelief at her father. “Daddy?”
“I'll be right back with the doctor.” He winked at her and then looked sternly at his wife.
“Alice.” Her mother's hand wasn't as large as her father's, and not nearly as warm. “I know.” She stopped. Alice kept quiet, waiting for her mother to continue. “I know we haven't always seen eye-to-eye on many things, but I never wanted something like this to happen. We...I loved Paddy like a son, even if I wasn't always there to show it.”
Fresh tears sprung to Alice's eyes. She couldn't tell if her mother was being honest o fjust trying to comfort her with lies. Either way, she didn't like it. She wanted her daddy back.
The door opened and Alice's father walked in with the doctor. “Well, Mrs. McGinley, it's nice to see you're awake,” the doctor greeted. He was a little older but not as old as her dad. His white lab coat watched the dull walls. Alice wanted, no needed to get out of the hospital as quickly as possible before she clawed her eyes out.
Ignoring the doctor, Alice looked at her father. “Daddy, I want to go home.”
“Sweetie, you need to talk to the doctor first.” Her father gestured to the doctor and pleaded with his eyes for her to follow along.
Looking at the doctor's face, she could see the sadness in his eyes. There was more bad news. What else could she take? What else could be taken from her?
Realization crossed Alice's face, “Daddy, I want to leave now.” Her tone left no place for argument.
“Alice--” Her father tried to talk sense into her.
“No. I'm leaving now.” She reached to her arm and yanked the IV out without a second thought.
Pushing herself up in the bed, the doctor quickly put a hand on her shoulder. “You need to rest. We need to talk.”
If looks could kill, the doctor would have been struck down the glare Alice leveled at him. “I don't need to hear anything that I already know come out of your mouth.” She spat the words at the doctor. All the love she'd once held in her heart drained from her, knowing that not only had she lost her husband, but also her unborn child. “I'm leaving and it's happening now; whether you like it or not.” Alice pushed his hand off her shoulder and swung her feet to the ground. “Is someone going to give me my coat, or do I have to do everything myself?”
Her father nodded his head at the doctor and grabbed her coat. “Here you go, sweetheart. We'll get the papers signed for your release.” Alice nodded at her father. At least someone was on her side.
“Alice, are you sure you want to go home, darling?” Her mother twisted around in the front seat to look at her.
“Yes. I just need to get a few things.” Alice was staring out the window at the city while it passed by.
“And then what?” Her father asked from the driver seat of the car.
Alice shrugged, still staring out the window. She couldn't stay at home. Paddy would be everywhere. “I guess I was hoping I could go to the lake house for a little. Stay at the cottage.”
Alice watched as her mother looked at her father and he looked back. A silent conversation that only couples married as long as her parents should be able to have. But Alice had that with Paddy. Had always been able to communicate with him without saying a word. “I'll drive you up.”
“Daddy, I'll be fine to drive. I could make the trek in my sleep.”
“I'd feel better if you let me drive you.” She knew he was concerned since this whole thing started with a car accident. But she knew she could hold it together for the drive.
“How 'bout I call you as soon as I get there?”
He took a moment to think. “Fine. But you call as soon as you walk in the front door.”