Hours later, at the hospital in Lexington, Keisha Wormwood lay in the recovery room, staring at the ceiling in confusion. Where was she? How did she get here? Why was she hurting so much, everywhere? She blinked back tears as she tried to move and found she couldn’t budge without excruciating pain. She felt a gentle hand brushing at her eyes.
‘Welcome back, Sweetie.’ A kindly nurse smiled down at her. ‘How do you feel?’
‘Hurts.’ Keisha choked out as more tears filled her eyes.
‘I know it does, Hon. Here, see this little plunger? All ya’ gotta do is push it and the pain will go away, okay?’ The nurse placed her thumb over the plunger on the morphine pump. ‘Now, push.’
Keisha did so, and soon the pain began to evaporate. Then, the world blurred and went dark again.
Dr. Alexander Bearfighter stepped out of the elevator, scanning the hall as he went. He was looking for someone from the Ranch. He almost relaxed as he saw Edward Hastings standing just outside of the intensive care unit’s waiting room. They made eye contact as Alexander made short work of the distance between them.
‘Alex.’ Edward nodded.
‘Ed. How is Keisha?’ Alexander anxiously stuffed his hands into his pockets.
‘Kie’s holding her own. Doc came out a few minutes ago to say she made it through surgery and was in recovery. He said he’d be back out soon. He had another patient from the church that needed his skills.’ Edward explained.
‘That would be Thomas.’ Alexander frowned, looking to the floor. ‘Such a tragedy.’
‘Yep. How’s Sparrowhawk?’
‘She’s doing okay. Minor concussion. She’s got some cuts and bruises, but she’ll be okay.’ Alexander’s face lost it’s cool expression as he spoke of his wife’s injuries. ‘They’re going to keep her overnight for observation. She’s not too happy about it, but I insisted. I told her that I needed to check on our people and that I’d feel better if she were here.’
Edward nodded silently. ‘We lost one of our own, in case you didn’t know, yet. We lost Tallman.’
‘I heard from the Sheriff.’ Alexander pulled out a wad of tissue and wiped at his nose.
‘The ladies were lucky.’ Edward noted softly.
‘Yes, they were.’ Alexander agreed as they saw the doctor coming towards them through the door’s glass. ‘Maybe he has some news.’
‘Hello, Dr. Bearfighter.’ The Surgeon greeted him. ‘I understand that Ms. Wormwood is one of your clients and that you have power of attorney for her.’
‘Yes. Do you need me to sign papers?’ Alexander nodded.
‘Already taken care of.’ The Surgeon held up his hand.
‘How is Keisha, Doc?’
‘She’s a mighty strong fighter. Her internal injuries were pretty hefty, and she took a hard blow to the back of her head. The head injury is of more concern than her internal injuries. There is swelling in her brain. We won’t know how significant the brain damage is until we get the swelling down.’ The Surgeon remained grim as he spoke. ‘We were able to stop the internal bleeding and Ms. Wormwood is holding her own at the moment. I have her listed Critical but stable. I’ll upgrade that as she improves.’
Alexander breathed a deep sigh of relief as he closed his eyes for a short, silent prayer. Then, he looked back to the surgeon. ‘When can I see her?’
Edward spoke up. ‘I’d like to be there when she wakes up.’
‘Ms. Wormwood won’t be awake until morning, at least. She’s sedated and on a morphine drip at the moment. Why don’t you go down and be with your wife, Doctor. I understand that she was injured as well. And, Mr. Hastings, I suggest you go on back to the Ranch and catch some sleep.’ The Surgeon suggested.
‘My wife’s injuries are mild. She chased me out of the room, so I’ll be going back to the Ranch.’ Alexander shrugged. ‘I’d rather not leave Ms.Wormwood alone, Doc. We have some security concerns in that regards.’
‘Understood. I can ask security to post an officer outside the unit if that works for you?’ The Surgeon offered.
‘We don’t need a security officer. I’ll be staying with her.’ Edward insisted before Alexander could respond.
Edward and Alexander shared a look that spoke silent volumes.
‘I would feel much better if Edward were by her side, Doc. He’s familiar with the situation, and she knows him.’ Alexander suggested.
The Surgeon seemed to consider the two for a moment before speaking. ‘I have no objection as long as Mr. Hastings does not disturb her. Ms. Wormwood is going to need all the rest she can get over the next several weeks. Rest will help her brain and her internal injuries to heal all the sooner.’ The Surgeon eyed Edward’s huge frame cautiously.
‘I won’t say a word unless she does, Doc.’ Edward smiled and tried his best to control his tone.
‘Very well.’ The Surgeon agreed, opening the secured door as he spoke. ‘If you’ll come with me, Mr. Hastings.’
‘I’ll be back in the morning, Ed.’ Alexander squeezed his shoulder.
The doctor showed him to Keisha’s room and it wasn’t long before Edward was sprawled out across the chair with his ankles crossed under the edge of the bed. He tilted his head back against the wall and was soon snoring loudly as well.
Hours later, Keisha’s eyelids fluttered open and closed several times. What was that horrific sound? It sounded like an engine with a few spark plugs missing. Rolling her head to the side, she crushed her eyes closed against the dizziness before squinting at the source of the sound. A man…chair… snoring? What was a man doing here? And, for that matter, where was here?
Her eyes took in the tube that ran down and under bandages on her arm. Then, she took in the bed railing, and beyond that the tile floor. She scrunched her nose at the antiseptic smells, too. Where was she, anyway? A hospital? How did she get here? What if…?
Suddenly terrified, Keisha tried to move, and groaned against the pain.
Edward bolted upright, instantly awake and alert.
‘Keisha?’ He spoke softly as he rose to stand beside her.
‘What…?’ She choked out.
‘What do you remember?’ He gently asked.
‘Choir practice…’ Keisha frowned in confusion, looking down to the bandage on her wrist. ‘How?’
‘The important thing right now is that you’re okay.’ Edward winked at her.
‘Let me call the nurse for you.’ Edward touched the call button on the bed rail. ‘I promised Doc I’d let you rest.’
Keisha frowned as images swam around in her mind. ‘Explosion. There was an explos –…’
‘Hello, there, Ms. Wormwood.’ The nurse interrupted. ‘Are you in pain?’
Keisha blinked from the nurse to Edward. Suddenly, she couldn’t speak. She couldn’t even utter a sound. She just blinked.
Edward smiled as he touched her hand. ‘Just blink once for yes, and twice for no.’
Keisha blinked once.
‘She’s in pain.’ Edward told the nurse.
The nurse smiled as she pointed to the plunger in Keisha’s hand. ‘All you need to do, Ms. Wormwood, is push this and the pain will go away.’
Keisha’s eyes went from one person to the other. The man seemed to know her, but she had no clue wtho he was.
‘I’ll see that she uses it, Ma’am.’ Edward gently put his hand over Keisha’s and pushed the plunger.
Keisha frowned as the world around her blurred into darkness, again.
Edward used the remote to channel surf until he found a football game to watch. He kept the volume very low so he’d hear Keisha if she stirred. The third quarter was just beginning as a gentle knock followed by a slowly opening door brought him to his feet.
The man who stepped in the door smiled. ‘Hello, Mr. Hastings. I’m Reverend John Walford, Ms. Wormwood’s minister at the Community Church.’
Edward frowned until Alexander stepped into the room behind the minister. ‘Good morning, Ed. Pastor John wanted to come by and pray for Keisha.’
‘Yeah, sure… I’ll just -…’
‘I brought food for you, and a change of clothes.’ Alexander took away his excuse to leave.
‘You’re welcome to pray with us if you’d like to.’ Rev. Walford invited Edward to join him.
Edward crossed to the window and sat down on the sill to open the food bag Alexander had brought him. ‘She’s sleeping… morphine.’ He commented as he bit into the cold sandwich.
Alexander stepped up to the bed and reached out for Keisha’s hand. ‘Good morning, Kie. I brought Pastor John with me.’
Keisha’s eyes fluttered before opening.
‘She’s not talking, again. Blinks yes and no.’ Edward spoke from the window.
Alexander smiled at Keisha when she squeezed his hand. ‘It’s good to see you, too. I brought Pastor John with me.’ Alexander repeated as he looked up and over to the minister.
‘Hi, Keisha. It’s good to see you.’ Rev. Walford took her other hand. ‘I thought you might like me to come and pray with you.’
Keisha squeezed his hand as tears began to fall.
‘Everything’s going to be okay, Sweetie.’ Rev. Walford used a tissue to dab the tears away. ‘It’s hard to see right now, but I know God sees our shared sorrows. We have to believe that He has it all in His hands.
Keisha blinked once and squeezed their hands.
‘Why don’t we talk to God and tell him what’s on our hearts? Would you like to do that, Keisha?’ Rev. Walford asked her, waiting for her to blink her answer before proceeding. ‘God, our Father in heaven, we’d like to speak to you, right now. We are in pain, both body and soul. We don’t understand why You’ve let Your children be hurt so much… Our love for You will not be shaken, and our faith in Your divine power will not fail. God, I ask that You reach down and heal Your daughter Keisha… Heal her broken body… strengthen her body, her mind, and her soul for the days ahead. We ask all of this in Your most Holy Name. Amen.’
Edward watched from the window, thinking of how hollow the minister’s prayer had sounded. He met Alexander’s eyes from across the room, but held his tongue. He looked at Keisha and saw the soft smile on her lips as she slept. It was the first smile he’d seen in days.
‘I am so sorry to hear that you lost your son, John.’ Alexander said as they stepped away from the bed.
‘He died doing what he loved the most… praising God.’ Rev. Walford responded. ‘I draw some comfort from that.’
‘Why?’ Edward asked, his own turmoil coming to the surface. ‘Why should you draw any comfort from what happened? People died. Innocent people died. There’s no sense to it! No sense at all.’
Alexander moved to speak, but Pastor John held up a hand.
‘Sometimes, we don’t know the answer’s, Mr. Hastings. God’s ways are often beyond our comprehension. All we can do is trust that He is in control.’
‘What the hell is that supposed to mean? Just another holy roller excuse.’ Edward snarled. ‘You holy rollers pull out that line every time you really don’t want to answer the question.’
‘I’m sorry you feel that way, Mr. Hastings.’ Rev. Walford stepped over to the window. ‘You’re right, in a sense. There are a lot of questions in this world we don’t have the answers for. I’m not going to lie to you and say that we do. We have to continually remind ourselves that there are some things that are so out of our control that we must simply leave them to God. That is where our faith is put both to the test and to the practice.’
Edward felt a deep clenching within his chest and he noted that his hands were shaking. He looked out the window for a moment, but all he saw was rising flood waters and a head going under for the last time.
Pastor John stepped closer to him sensing from experience that Edward’s silence would lead to something. ‘When I was in Korea, I served on the front lines.’
Edward instantly turned to face the Pastor.
‘I saw far too many of my buddies killed. It rocked my faith, too.’ Pastor John shared. ‘The hardest part was trying to understand the incomprehensible waste of life. Then, came what they call the ‘survivor’s guilt’. That was the hardest part. It’s not something you ever get over. The memories will always be there.
‘Yeah.’ Edward nodded.
‘I had to learn to turn those over to God, too.’ Pastor John told him. ‘It’s not easy to do; and sometimes, I still have flashbacks.’
Alexander remained beside Keisha, holding her hand and putting a finger to his lips when he saw her open her eyes.
‘… If you’d ever like to stop by and talk, or pray, my door is always open, Ed. I mean that, too.’ Pastor John offered. ‘Right now, though, we’re going to leave so Keisha can rest.’
‘We’ll come tomorrow, Kie.’ Alexander spoke as he squeezed her hand. ‘Rest easy. Edward is going to stay with you.’
‘If you need anything, you can call me.’ Alexander told her, then looked up to Edward. ‘That goes for you, too, Ed.’
‘Got it.’ Edward nodded.