Heaven and Earth - the Trade
Phyllis and her sister Bonnie just always wander down to the Park. There was not much there, a small stone path, an old swing and what was left of an pile of sand, now mostly dirt. Both were pretty girls, blond hair, blue eyes and, even if they had a few extra pounds on their tummies, it would soon go away once they got older.
The Park was not too far away, you could see most of it from the front of the house. What part was not visible was the section where the path ran into the nearby forest. This always worried Nancy. She told herself she was being foolish. An overprotective mother perhaps, but nevertheless it always bothered her.
Phil was the oldest, near 6 now. She was to always watch her sister. Bonnie was just 3. They would stay at that speck of land for hours. Schooldays were like a prison for Bonnie. The landlord did not like anything in the yard, and the other tenants in the apartment did not have children her age. Nancy had been looking for fulltime work ever since she had become a single Mom. Ken had gone off on assignment for 3 or 4 weeks. That was the last time she saw him. His boss called telling her how sorry he was. There had been a 'training' accident and Ken had been killed, his body could not be retrieved, the water was too deep there. Someone would be contacting her, there was an insurance policy for these kind of things.
What good was money, the $100,000 would not even pay for the kids' College. At the rate of inflation there would be nothing left even if they could go to college. Bonnie could not speak. The prospect of finding a new husband, let alone even a man, raising 2 kids, paying the medical and therapy bills and finding a decent job often made her 'give up hope'. She remembered that Hope was all she really had. She looked away to dry her eyes, then looked to the Park. Neither girl was there. Not caring that even her shoes had fallen off, she raced to the Park. Kneeling down were the shaped of two little girls. She relaxed a bit until she saw the man just behind them. He was touching Bonnie's leg, stroking it now, more even. She had never run that quickly before in her life.
She was ready to throw herself in a berserker rage, her Norse god would accept her life for her daughters, she had no doubt the man would be dead when they pried her hands from his throat. It was a small price to pay. Phyllis saw Nancy and raced to her, wrapping her arms around her Mother.
"Mommy, Oh Mommy it was terrible. I was so afraid. This nice man came up and chased the dog away and is trying to help. When Bonnie tried to get away from the dog she fell and hurt herself.'
Still holding the leg and flexing the knee the Man said. "Are you her sister or does she live nearby?"
"I'm her Mother, Thank You!" she said with a scowl.
"Opps, you just don't look old enough to be her Mother. My name is Jim and I was just walking by when I saw the dog. I think she will be fine. She was not bitten, no wounds or broken skin, but if you have an ice pack or something in the freezer to put on her knee it will prevent any swelling, just in case. I've been gently keeping it moving and nothing seems broken My guess is our little lady was just scared and will probably be ready for some ice crème soon..."
"Thank You Dr. Kildare, but I'd rather get a professional diagnoses."
No, Rhodes, Dr. James Rhodes. I'll carry her home for you, you can take her somewhere but I can assure you she is fine. She never said a word and if all my patients were as well behaved as her and the other little girl I wouldn't have such a difficult time getting nurses."
That brought huge smiles to the two girls faces. Nancy had that look all women get when realize that what they thought they saw was not what really was happening. When Jim picked Bonnie up she was about to scream at him to put her down until two arms went around his neck and Bonnie rested her head on his chest. Her eyes closed and she looked like she was dreaming. Nancy became part of this world when she felt her other daughter pulling her towards the house, smiling and skipping.
"She's not quiet Doctor. She can't talk!" A mothers tears were something that can't be hidden. Jim nodded his head and said to himself, 'Yet'. They continued to the house.
"Phil, get something cold from the freezer if you can reach, or Mom, you get it. One of you bring me a cloth, a glass of plain water and a wet rag."
Without much thought those orders were quickly followed. He took the glass of water, held it for Bonnie to sip. When she was done, he drank the rest of the water and handed the empty glass back. He began to clean off her leg, put the bag of frozen corn inside the cloth and applied it to her knee. The blank stares he was getting made for the perfect opportunity. "What?" Jim said, We were both thirsty. Saving lives is a thirsty business you know? Right Kitten?"
Bonnie's eyes looked at him, she nodded, and Nancy started sobbing. Bonnie had not even been willing to be near a man since Ken had never come back. Now she was bonding with this stranger. She looked at Phyllis and she too was looking wide eyed at this man.
Nancy was well educated. She got her composure back and calmly told him, "If you think I'm paying for a house call, and your fee, Buster, think again? What is your fee!"
"Mmmm, Let's see, saving a little angel and her sister from a vicious, terrible monster, on the scene medical treatment, transport home and professional emergency after care is pretty expensive. You have to let me take you all out for that desert, at the very least and a hug from the patient and her sister. One from her distraught mom might help too. I dare not ask for a kiss, my medical license might be in jeopardy for over charging?"
It had been a long time that Nancy had anything to smile about. Her two daughters though had taken to this complete stranger as though they had known him all their life.
They say a child, a pet or an dying person can see things others may not. It is like another sense. Nancy took a closer look at Dr. Jim and saw a man, a man who was smiling at her. Looking in her eyes, not at her 38 D's. At her.
Ken had been gone a long time. Dr. Jim was the first man she could look at who did not leer at her, was rude to her children and seemed to have a personality other than that of a dead fish. Should she 'Lighten' up a little around him? From the look on her daughters faces, she might have too. It seems that both had 'caught' a new Daddy and that he was a 'keeper'. Looking again at him, she saw the same potential in him that they did.
"Thank you so much! Won't you wife be worried. You can use our phone to call her!" The words came out and Nancy just wanted to die. It was so obvious!
"I only wish I had a wife, and that she was a beautiful as you! Alas, we poor Doctors don't have much of a social life for a few years. I am new in town. I was looking for a place hear the Hospital then saw the Park and came by. You sort of know the rest. I would like to call someplace and get a room, if you could tell me where the nearest hotel or even motel is, my car is just down the block. I'll not find anything tonight!"
Bong, Bong, Bing, Bam! Stars were forming overhead, the sky was opening up and all of a sudden she needed to change clothes. The words coming out of her mouth seemed to come from someone else.
"I have an extra bedroom, and you are welcome to use it until you find a place! I'll even fix dinner before we go for any Ice Crème!" She wanted to turn invisible.
"Great. This way I can make certain our little lady is OK. You sure you don't mind?'
Mind, Mind she thought. Was this wet dream, a young single Doctor, who seemed to be idolized by two, no, make it three women now serious. "No, since my husband was killed, we just turned the room into another bedroom. I'm sure the girls wont mind sharing the bathroom. They may have to pick up a few things if a man will be around though!"
She should not have said that. What would he think. Hell, she was breathing hard now, almost panting. She almost fainted when he took her hand and shook it.
"You have a deal then. Dinner and desert on me, as long as my ladies all approve.'
Having him for desert sounded fine to her. She was hungry. The killer lioness defending her cubs was changing to one selecting a mate.
"We can discuss what might be done to help her speak. We can do that tonight."
She became ashamed of herself. The feeling she was having now were anything but a discussion about her daughter's handicap. She wanted to cry. When Jim put Bonnie into her arms she woke up from her day dream.
"I'll get my car. Is it Ok to park in the drive, we can use it to go out?"
She nodded her head. It was all she could do. She had not heard the words 'go out' for nearly three years. Bonnie was just a baby when Ken was killed, going out was not even a thought. When she learned her daughter might never speak, she was devastated but went on.
They say when one door closes a window opens. The window that opened today had a light shining in it, a bright light.
There was a knock at the front door. She opened it, there stood Jim holding two carry alls. He had a strange look on his face. She motioned him then asked. "What is wrong?"
"Nothing really, Just. Well, I met one of your neighbors. She called me Ken and said she heard I was 'Dead.' or something"
Nancy wanted to die.
"I just smiled and told her that rumors of my demise were exaggerated."
Jim had been dead, the powers that keep the scales of life and the scales of death were in a generous mood that day. Ken had not died, merely did not want a family which would interfere with his many girlfriends, The company was more than willing to 'own' someone for future missions and $100 Grand was nothing. Jim was on his way to perform surgery on ailing child. The driver of the truck that hit him was high, had several DUI's and awaiting trial. He had no license. Life may not have been fair, but when Ken really was killed, this time, Jim was given a chance to save another child, something he had given his life for at another time and place, Fate thought it a fair trade.
"If she calls me Ken again don't say anything. Tell the girls. They can jump up and give me a big kiss, and say, "Daddy, your Home! Err, you can too you know! Where can I dump these before we go out?"
It took a while for that to sink in. Nancy ended up with another smile on her face as she inspected the girls. It was now setting a record, 2 smiles in one day, and the night was still young, She wondered if she might even try for number three later? Damn, where was he three years ago? she thought.
The Mercedes 500 S was in the drive. The screams and shouts from the now little hellions could break windows. For three years now they had scrimped and try to save every penny. The insurance money was nearly gone, much of it on medical and therapy for Bonnie. This car must have cost as much as she had spent since Ken was killed.
She heard a couple of remarks from passer bys. "Nice Car Dude! and, Wow, Want to Trade?"
She got that third smile on her face, just not the one she had been thinking about. Jim was opening and closing the back doors for the girls. One problem he saw, no car seat. The sister of the 3 year old said, 'she's a big, chubby, girl now, we don't need a car seat for her." There was a laugh, maybe.
Jim came around and opened the door for Nancy. "Do I need to get something for you to sit on little girl?"
That fourth smile was getting closer. "I'm not sure Daddy, we'll have to see if anything comes up, later."
Somehow this was headed in the wrong direction. Fate told him he would be able to 'save' a child, She would speak. It never promised him any life of his own; nor hinted that he would fall in love. It was not just the girl he loved, it was the entire family, Nancy especially. It was not fair he thought. Then remembered that no one ever said life was fair. He was only there to save the girl.
They had an exquisite meal. IHOP's finest. Rudy, Tooty something or other. It was followed by the sundaes. They all shared, Peach, Chocolate, Strawberry and Caramel.
The night ended with, "Home James, before the stroke of midnight or the dream will end!"
Everyone felt that it must be a dream. Never in their lives had something like a pancake and sundaes ever turned out to mean so much, to everyone. Bonnie could not speak, but when she gave Jim a soft kiss when he strapped her in, she represented everyone's feelings. No one wanted to go to bed. When they got in, Nancy pointed to the bedroom, said march, and two angels came back in wearing gossamer wings, nightgowns really.
They took Jim by the hand and made it perfectly clear he would give them a huge hug, two kisses and tuck them in. Phil gave the instructions twice. The quiet last thing said was, "Mommy needs to get tucked in too!"
Romance was the last thing on Jim's mind when he saw Nancy face down and sobbing at the kitchen table. His response was automatic. He took her in his arms and just held her close, telling her everything would be all right. It took nearly 2 hours for the sobbing to stop.
"How? How will it be all right? When you leave just kill us, How can any of us live without you now?"
Without a thought, a hesitation or even a doubt what the future would be, Jim said. " I'll never leave you!" There was no L or M word, no pledge of undying love or hysterical emotions. The two just clung closer together there at the table as two other pairs of eyes watched. They slept all night. It was the call of nature that awoke first Jim, then Nancy. They both saw the sleeping girls on the floor, and looked at each other, still fully dressed.
"Was it good for you too Darling?' Nancy asked.
"Well I liked the Peach, but I thought the Caramel one was a little too sweet; let's ask the girls?" Remembering one little thing had not been fixed yet, he added. "We'll each call out a flavour and see if it gets a thumbs up or down vote."
To think up a way to include Bonnie and make a game out of it left no doubt in her mind that this was no accident. She would never say anything, but deep down, she knew that she was being given a gift. Even the hope that her daughter might utter even sound was more than she ever thought possible.
When surgery on Bonnie was discussed the response came immediately. Bonnie cast the deciding vote with a 'thumbs up' followed by a whispered "I hear ice crème is almost like medicine for healing up a throat!" from Phil.
The little girl had four operations. Each addressed a different defect which needed correction. The bills came in, Jim just wrote checks, they cleared and Nancy just cried. Almost a year and over 1 million dollars later a question came, although not real clear. it was heard in the kitchen one morning. "Hey, You guys need a flower girl for the wedding?" The phrase, 'Do you believe in Miracles?' took on a whole new meaning for Nancy.
The look on Jim's face though, told it all. Nancy sat on his lap, kissed him and said. "Time to go, huh?"
He nodded. Both were crying now. The phone rang. Phil answered.
She handed the phone to her almost new Dad.
Jim handed it back to her to hang up when the call was finished. "It was the hospital. Apparently they got a huge new grant. They are starting a Pediatric Surgical Unit and want me to head it. They say a lot of kids can benefit from it."
"I'll need a really good Administrator, you know? Wonder who might be looking for a job? Do we still need a flower girl, I thought we already had two imps picked out?"