A story in three parts.
Darcy sat in the waiting room, elbows on knees, his head between his hands. How had this happened? Just this morning, he had been in Manhattan, happily going about his life – at least semi-happily. Then as he left the office that night, he got a call from his sister. At least it was from her phone. He’d answered with his typical “Hello, my Georgie”, only to hear a business-like voice he didn’t recognize.
“Are you related to Georgiana Darcy?”
“Yes, I’m her brother.”
“I don’t mean to alarm you sir, but your sister has been in an accident. Can you tell me her blood type and whether she has any allergies?”
Darcy immediately shifted into parent mode. “She’s A positive and has no known allergies, we know penicillin is fine. What happened?” He knew it had to be bad, otherwise she would have called him herself.
“Your sister was in a multi-vehicle accident. She was rendered unconscious at the scene. I would advise you to come to the hospital, sir.”
“Vanderbilt University Medical Center.”
Oh God, she was still in Nashville visiting a friend for the summer.
“I’m in New York now. I’ll catch the first flight out. Is she critical?”
“I can’t give that information over the phone, sir.”
“Our parents are dead, I’ve been her legal guardian for the last ten years. Can you give the information now?” His voice was rising as he burst into his apartment and started throwing clothes into a bag.
“I’m sorry to worry you, sir. All I can tell you is that she is being prepped for surgery as we speak. I highly advise you to get here as soon as possible. If you come directly from the airport, the hospital concierge can assist you with accommodations.”
As if he cared about where he would stay! He ended the call and was immediately on the phone to his assistant.
“Maggie, listen, I need a flight booked to Nashville right away. Anything you can get – I need to be there tonight…”
As soon as he landed in the muggy southern air, he grabbed the first cab he could find and practically ran into the hospital. And now here he was, at two o’clock in the morning in a small hospital waiting room reserved for family of patients in surgery.
“Yes, that’s me.” He stood shakily.
“I’m Dr. Marshall. Your sister is doing well so far, but there were internal injuries. We’ve been able to stop the bleeding, and we’re setting her arm now. Someone will be out soon to give you another update.”
“Can you tell me what happened? All I know is there was a car accident.”
“There was a drunk driver. He ran a red light and hit your sister’s car on the driver’s side. She was very lucky to -”
“Dr. Marshall?” A nurse interrupted them and he waved the doctor off, taking a deep breath to calm himself.
He looked around the waiting room for the first time since his arrival an hour ago. There was only one other person, a young woman with dark curly hair, early twenties if he had to guess. She looked worried. Of course, who isn’t worried in a hospital waiting room at two-thirty in the morning? As he looked her way, he saw a young doctor in blue scrubs walk up to her and begin speaking quietly. A plethora of emotions crossed her face. First she was shocked, then angry, then sad and almost… proud? What was that about?
He shook off his silly imaginings and picked up a magazine, only to look back up when the woman said loudly, “Who is drunk at seven-thirty on a Tuesday? The idiot!”
With sudden dread, he realized she must be the family of the drunk driver. She didn’t look old enough to be married; maybe it was her brother? Then again, this was Tennessee – maybe she got married at sixteen and had four kids already. He’d told Georgie he didn’t like the idea of her spending the entire summer in a new city without him. And he’d heard stories about the south – they were country and backward and married their cousins.
Her friend Amanda was from there and was going home for the summer and Georgie had begged to come along. Supposedly they were going to try and book their little band into a few local venues. Wasn’t Nashville the home of country music? Georgie’s band played a mix of folk and jazz, how were they going to get gigs? And he knew that for a band just starting out, it sounded like a competitive place to be. She had begged and begged until he relented, but only after speaking several times with Amanda’s father and arranging a rental car for her for the two months she would be there. And now look what had happened! She was in a hospital with serious injuries after driving in this hick town full of drunks. And he was forced to share the waiting room with the family of the idiot who hit his baby sister – it was intolerable!
After another hour, Darcy couldn’t take it anymore. He stood and began pacing back and forth, one hand on his hip, the other on the back of his neck, chafing his skin till it was nearly raw.
“Don’t worry, I’m sure it’ll be okay. The doctors here are really good.”
He looked to the voice that had spoken to him. It was the dark-haired girl. She looked up at him sweetly, a small smile on her face. In another time, he might have found her pretty, but as it was, he could barely focus on her face. He forced himself to remain calm instead of screaming at her that she should have kept her hillbilly husband away from the bottle, or at least from getting behind the wheel. He turned his back and stalked back to his chair, muttering about familial responsibility under his breath.
“Excuse me, did you just say I ‘shouldn’t have let him out of the house’? Let who out?”
Damn, she had good hearing! He was about to apologize for his manners when he caught the irritation in her voice. What right did she have to be irritated? His sister was the innocent one here, not her too-drunk-to-stop-at-a-red-light husband!
“Your husband! Or boyfriend, or whoever it was that nailed my sister’s car! What kind of person is drunk at seven-thirty on a Tuesday?” He knew he was repeating her own words to her and that he was bordering on shouting, but he didn’t care. All the worry of the last few hours and the lack of sleep were catching up to him. “Couldn’t you have taken away his keys? Or called him a cab for Christ’s sake!”
She looked at him with wide eyes, her mouth open in astonishment. No one must have ever made her face up to her responsibilities before, he thought. She stood and looked like she was about to reply when a young doctor came out and interrupted them.
“Miss Bennett? Can you come with me please?”
She silently gathered her purse and the book she’d been reading and followed the man out of the room. Ten minutes later, Dr. Marshall entered.
“Mr. Darcy, your sister is out of surgery and is stable. We need to keep her for a few days of observation to make sure there is no more bleeding and that we haven’t missed anything. Neuro will check her when she wakes up to make sure there’s no lasting damage from the concussion. She’s going to be in a lot of pain for some time and her arm will be in a cast for the next six weeks at least, but she should pull through.”
“Thank you, doctor. Can I see her?”
“I’ll take you to her now.”
He gathered his overnight bag and followed the tall woman into a long hallway.
“Your sister was very lucky, Mr. Darcy.”
“Yes, I suppose people don’t often survive these accidents.”
“Well, that’s true enough, but that’s not what I meant. When your sister’s car was hit, she wasn’t the only one. There were two others involved besides the drunk driver. One was barely hit just behind the back tire, and spun into a ditch. He’s fine and is the one who called the ambulance. Your sister’s car received the brunt of the impact, but she was pushed into the car in the lane next to her. The car was completely totaled, and the driver of that vehicle has sustained some injuries and is here tonight. She’s one of our own, a third-year pediatric resident. She climbed out of her car and found your sister. Miss Darcy was unconscious and bleeding heavily from a shard of metal in her abdomen. Dr. Bennett wrapped her up to keep her warm and kept pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. She didn’t move until the ambulance arrived and then rode with your sister to the hospital. If it wasn’t for her, Miss Darcy likely would have bled out at the scene.”
He stopped walking in the overly-bright hallway and looked at her with wide eyes. He’d known it was bad, but no one had mentioned any shards of metal before now. He suddenly felt light headed.
“Mr. Darcy, are you alright? Do you need to sit down?” asked the nurse in a concerned voice.
“No, I’m fine. I’m just tired and a little shocked, that’s all. This Dr. Bennett, is she alright?” he asked.
“She’s going to be fine, but she’ll be here for a few days as well,” the nurse answered simply, as if this happened every day.
“I’d like to see her, to thank her, if that’s possible,” he said, his voice strained.
“I can let her know and perhaps she’ll be up for visitors tomorrow. Her room is right over there.”
He looked to his right and saw the dark-haired woman he’d yelled at earlier walking out of the room Dr. Marshall had indicated – Dr. Bennett’s room. He quickly searched his mind and recalled the young doctor calling her Miss Bennett in the waiting room. Shit! She was the sister of the woman who saved his sister’s life. And he’d yelled at her and told her to take the keys away from her drunk husband! He was utterly mortified and stood there another moment, staring at her, willing her to understand he hadn’t meant it, at least not for her ears. She watched him as well until Dr. Marshall called his name and he continued down the hall into the ICU.
She stopped in front of a large square room, the entire outer wall one large window facing the circular nurses’ station. Inside his sister lay in the bed, a grey hospital gown over her shoulders and tubes sticking out all over the place. He took in the IV next to her bed running into her arm, the little blue wire attached to her finger that ran up to a rather ominous looking machine that beeped in time to her heartbeat. She was covered by a blanket, but he knew her midriff would be bandaged and bruised. Her left arm was in a cast below the elbow and her left leg was elevated and bandaged, but didn’t appear to be broken; at least it wasn’t covered in plaster.
He walked to her side slowly and gingerly touched her right hand, which seemed to be the only un-bruised part of her. Her leg was swollen around the bandage and beginning to turn purple, and her face was bruised and puffy, her eyes black from the impact of the airbag. She had tiny cuts and scrapes over every inch of skin he could see and her lower lip was cracked with a large slit in the middle and what appeared to be a stitch in it. God, how bad did you have to be hurt to get a stitch in your lip?
He shuddered and sat down next to her, whispering that everything would be alright and that he was here now. He would take care of her.
When he was little and got hurt or was frightened of something, his mother would hold him and say, “It’s alright, mommy’s here now.” After she died when Georgie was eight, he’d started doing the same with his sister.
When the neighborhood boys chased her down the street on their bikes and she ran into his arms crying, he’d said, “It’s alright, Will’s here now.”
And three years later when their father died, and she had cried and cried for what seemed like weeks, he’d said “It’s alright, Will’s here now.”
And when her loser boyfriend broke-up with her at her senior prom and left her without a ride home, he’d picked her up and held her in his arms, swaying gently and saying, “It’s alright, Will’s here now.”
So now, it seemed the only natural thing to do. He stroked her hand gently and said as softly as he could, “It’s alright, Will’s here now. It’s going to be alright, Georgie.”
He sat with her for almost an hour until a nurse came in and asked him to step out; she needed to check the bandages and change the IV bags. She said his sister would sleep through the night and well into the next day, probably until late afternoon, so he should go home and get some rest.
He went in search of a cup of coffee and sat in yet another waiting room, or waiting café of some sort. There was a cart in the corner that sold some sort of muffins but was closed up for the night and a wall was lined with vending machines. He’d need help getting back. He’d been in such a daze he hadn’t paid attention to where he was going in this maze called a hospital. He felt his eyelids drooping as he stared into the dark brown liquid. He needed to sleep, he knew that, but he didn’t want to leave Georgie.
There was a movement near his leg and he looked up. There was the dark-haired girl again, holding his black leather overnight bag. She looked at him steadily, a little sadness in her eyes.
“Come on. You’re coming with me.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him to his feet.
“Where are you taking me?” He followed behind her, still not fully cognizant of what was happening.
“I’m taking you to get some sleep. And probably something to eat. The cafeteria’s been closed for hours and you haven’t left; you must be starving.”
For the first time he noticed he was hungry – and that she was leading him outside into a parking garage. “You don’t have a hotel yet, do you?”
“A hotel?” He had no idea; his assistant had probably booked something, but he hadn’t checked his messages. “No, not yet,” he mumbled.
“Don’t bother. I’m taking you home with me.” She threw his bag into the trunk of a small-ish silver sedan and motioned for him to get in. He obeyed and leaned his head back against the seat. Who knew car seats could be so comfortable?
The dark-haired girl drove silently for a little over five minutes, or so he thought since he was drifting in and out of sleep the entire time, then pulled into a narrow drive. She quickly got out and retrieved his bag, then opened his door and held out her hand. He took it without thinking and let her lead him into a small wooden cottage surrounded by flowers and a tiny white picket fence. The sun was beginning to rise and he could make out the shape of a small gnome in the garden to his left. Where was he?
He walked into what appeared to be a mudroom of sorts, where she told him to leave his shoes and she slipped off hers. She grabbed his hand again and led him through a dark kitchen, behind a large sofa in some sort of sitting room, and up a narrow staircase. He could see a little better here from a skylight in the ceiling and saw several doors leading off a small landing.
At the top, she pointed straight ahead and said, “Bathroom”. Then she opened a door on her right and led him in, flicking on a small lamp next to a cozy armchair. She set his bag down on the pine floor and went to work turning down the bed.
As she turned to go, she touched his arm and said, “Get some rest, Mr. Darcy.” And she was gone before he could ask her name.