Thursday, May 23, 2013

Chapter Twenty-Three, Part 2

Here you go.  Just to prove I'm up and rolling is a new part to the chapter. :)

Part Two

Ah, the familiar smell of mashed potatoes mixed with medicine. Always, the Hospital smelled like a mixture of medicine and mashed potatoes- depended on how close one stood to the cafeteria, she guessed, but the aroma often overcame the scent of bleach as her father cleaned throughout the building.
Even now, it followed her.
Flanked by meal and medical carts, the floor tiles reflected the overhead lights.  Bekah stepped carefully into each square, fearing that one misstep meant bad luck for Allie.  Sort of like "step on a crack, break your mama's back."  Maybe a bit illogical, but perhaps the Shields family needed all the luck they could get.
Ryan swallowed her hand inside of his, pulling her to a stop.  She hadn't expected their journey to Allie's room to end so quickly and found herself gazing at the doorway a few feet diagonal from where she and Ryan stood.  Loud, husky whispers drifted into the hallway, then quite clearly came the words, "She doesn't need you here!"
"I'll be the judge of that, Daniel," came a gruffer voice.
Bekah's stomach sank and Ryan's face paled as a group of clip-board-toting hospital staff glided past them.  Intermittent beeping sounds heightened the state of alarm she found in Ryan's eyes, just as the growing sent of mashed potatoes heightened Bekah's nausea.  As a child, that smell had always urged her toward the cafeteria.
"Ryan, what's going on?" she whispered. He'd been quiet and dazed during the entire drive here and now...apparently an unwelcomed guest had intruded on Allie's...whatever.  "Does she have another infection?  What is it?  Please tell me before-"
A black-suited man exited Allie's room.  Neatly combed, white hair gleamed under the lights- white hair which suggested this man had reached Senior Citizen status, yet barely a wrinkle etched his clear-complected face.  Only the gentle creases at the corners of his eyes lent to the appearance of an older man.
He reminded her of someone but she couldn't place him.
Cupping his hands behind his back, he blinked at Bekah before smoldering Ryan with deep brown eyes.  The younger man snapped to attention, mimicking General White Hair's stance with his hands behind his back.
"None of this would have happened, Ryan, if you'd answered your mother's calls."
Calls? What calls?
"Dad-" Ryan released Bekah's hand.
"Don't go on about it here." He waved his thick hand and nodded down the hall.  "Cafeteria, Son." He glanced at Bekah.  "Alone. " 
Bekah stammered, remembering the commander-in-chief image that Ryan had painted of Oliver in the past.  Always barking orders, rarely heeding the opinions of anyone below his status.  Everything went Oliver Shields' way or no one would get away.  Somehow his children had managed to escape- at least, they'd thought so.  But here he stood, the infamous, greedy old troll whom Bekah had never hoped to meet. 
Standing opposite Brian at her kitchen window seemed much more inviting than facing this power-monger.
"No offense, young lady." Oliver granted Bekah one more glance.
She felt the words, "None taken," on the tip of her tongue but that would have been a lie.  Besides, being Ryan's girlfriend made no difference.  Being cordial with Oliver was almost akin to having tea with Freddy Kruger.  They both habitually shredded others' lives for their own thrills.
"Rebekah..." Only a slight tremor could be heard in Ryan's voice. "This is my father....Oliver Shields.  In case you didn't notice, Dad, this is my girlfriend.  Whatever you have to say-"
"Must be said in private.  I'm here to deal with my children and Allie's interest is my main concern. You brother, as usual, is stubborn as hell."
"He should be." The tension in Ryan's voice seemed to be held on a chain like a growling dog.  The veins bulging at his temples suggested a rise in blood pressure.  "This isn't our fault, Dad.  You're the one who-"
"Not here," Oliver's voice raised just enough to draw a few stares and send a shiver down Bekah's spine.
The sound of Ryan's breath competed with the squeal of metallic wheels and the beeping of various machines.
A few stomach rolls later, Bekah found herself standing alone in the hall, hugging herself and rubbing her arms as she watched her boyfriend stroll away with a man equal in height but broader like Dan.
Ryan hadn't left without rubbing her back and whispering in her ear, "Relax.  This won't take long."  What wouldn't take long?  What did he plan to do and what exactly had happened to Allie?
She tilted backwards and dared a peek into the young woman's room.  There, covered by long, white sheets and blankets, Allie lay hooked to a myriad of tubes and wires, an oxygen mask over her face and her brother's thick fingers weaving gently through her straw-like hair.
Dan bent over her, one hand pressed against his forehead and tears raining onto his sister's pillow.
Bekah's arms dropped to her sides. 
Dan had undoubtedly leapt tall buildings to protect his sister from their controlling father. He'd spent hours nursing her and encouraging her and searching the internet for anything that might help the ailing woman.
Bekah mostly knew these things because of what Ryan had told her, but she'd also witnessed first hand Dan's care and concern for Allie.
And there he was- hunched over as though he'd reached the end of his line, quiet words pouring from his lips.  "Please God," came the loudest of his pleas.  After a moment of grieving into his fist, he dried his eyes and stared at the wall opposite him.   Completely unaware of Bekah's presence.
She took a step but halted.  Running to him might not have been the brightest idea and besides, what would she say to him?  The typical mumbo-jumbo about how he'd done everything he could and there was no sense beating himself?  Should she tell him everything would work out fine?
Morbid laughter rolled through her soul. Life was known for its lack of fairness and no amount of money or prayer could change that.  Her English teacher, no matter how religious, must have been keenly aware of this fact.  Or there wouldn't have been any tears.
Had she ever witnessed him crying?  Seeing him so broken was like watching a fallen hero and Allie was completely unaware of his brokenness over her condition.
How had this happened so quickly, though?  She'd seen Allie just a couple of weeks ago, during one of her rare visits to the Shields house (Ryan had stopped taking her there so frequently and she suspected it was Dan's request. But who knew?).  Allie had looked OK- maybe a little tired.  A little pale.  But the hair- the hair was now an absolute mess and her jaws were sunken so badly that she resembled the living dead.
Poor Allie.
Slowly, she became aware of Teacher frowning in her direction. She stammered.  Her lips parted at the same time as his but the lump in her throat forbade even the slightest comment.
He wants to be alone. This isn't your business.

Yeah, but- I'm...I'm....someone important in their lives, aren't I?  To some degree?
She backed up a little more.  Dan watched.  And then she turned and began clip-clopping down the hall in Alice's boots.  Why would Dan want to see her? He'd enough on his plate.  How could Bekah possibly offer him any comfort, the girl who'd brought him nothing but confusion and drama? The girl who'd been too forward and snotty at times to deserve even a speck of his concern.
As she slowly made her way down the hall, she glanced over her shoulder.
No one followed. 
Dan must have continued to sit alone, emotionally exhausted in Allie's room, while Ryan sat lonely with his overbearing father.
And Bekah?  Well, lonely was the least of her worries.  She'd felt it for so long that it seemed fitting.

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