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   Chapter 57 No.57

My Sister's Keeper By Bill Benners Characters: 11140

Updated: 2018-05-28 11:27


SYDNEY AND I were taken by ambulance to Cape Fear Medical Center where we were x-rayed, probed, stitched up, smeared with ointment, and admitted for observation. They told me I had a broken ankle and sealed my left foot in a cast. The D.A. stopped by to tell me that all charges against me were being dropped. I also learned from him that Sam had been transported by helicopter to Duke University Medical Center and that David had been found alive, bound and gagged in another room of the barn, and had been rescued before the fire, but that Ashleigh didn't make it. They found her body in the other tank that had been sunk in the canal. He also said that although Scott had been severely wounded in the shootout, he was expected to live to stand trial.

After two days in the hospital, Sydney and I were released, but refused to go anywhere without each other. After getting a change of clothes and a bite to eat, we returned to the hospital around 4 p.m. that afternoon to spend some time with Martha. It was still touch and go for her, but the nurses said the doctors were encouraged by her most recent signs.

They told us that Dad didn't have long and Sydney stayed with Martha while I went in to see him. From the door, I could see that his skin had turned sallow. He was loosing weight and his eyes appeared to have sunk deeper into his head. He sensed that I was there and when he opened his eyes, I was amazed to see a light actually coming from within them. They were glowing from the inside. It's something I'd never seen before nor seen anything like it since.

He raised his hand. "That you, Martha?"

"No, Dad. It's Richard."

I stepped in and let the door close behind me.

"I heard you were shot, " he mumbled, his mouth tight and toothless.

"I'm fine."

"They called you a hero."

"They weren't there."

"You did good, son."

"Thanks, Dad."

His shriveled hand tightened into a fist that seemed so much smaller than I remembered. I laid my hand on it. It was cold like the sunfish Martha and I used to catch on worms that we dug up in the back yard when we were kids. His skin felt dry and rubbery—not at all real—like our relationship. I traced the veins on the back of his hand. Touch is important. A son needs a father's touch. I imagined what could have been, what should have been, what our lives might have been if things had gone differently that tragic night some thirty odd years ago when Uncle Charlie's brakes failed. Would Dad have thought more of me as my Uncle Gus? How much disappointment and pain had he endured? I squeezed his hand. It was hard and boney like the rest of him—no tenderness inside.

Shortly after 5 a.m., he opened his eyes and I saw that the light in them had gone out. He moved his hand away from mine, drew a deep breath, and as it slowly exhaled, the beep on the monitor changed to a solid tone.

And that was it. It was over.

AT HIS FUNERAL I stared at the casket and wished I could have gotten to know him better. Wished we'd had more time at the end. Wished I'd known the truth earlier. At the wake afterward, I smiled and nodded as friends and family politely recited their rehearsed phrases. "He did good by your mother, " many said as if they'd called a meeting and prepared an official family response. I left the house before the plates were passed

s. I laughed about some of it and cried on occasion. I told her how much Dad had loved her, how she was his favorite, and that I was ashamed to admit I felt relief when he died.

I talked to her about her accident, what had been going on with the investigation, what she'd discovered about Scott McGillikin in her files, and what had happened at the farm across the river. I had grown stiff in my chair and run out of things to talk about by the time the sun came up. My foot itched down inside the cast and my shoulder ached.

I hobbled to the window, opened the blinds, and let the glorious golden-orange light fill the room. "Look, Babe, " I said looking out at the mist lingering over the waking city. "It's going to be a beautiful day. A fabulous day for the beach. Remember the beach? You always loved the beach, Martha. You even had a house down there for a while. Remember?" I stretched my back twisting left and right and noticed that her eyes had opened and were following me. I smiled, "Good morning."

"Good morning, " she repeated.

The cast on my foot thumped when I took a step. "Guess who's been asking about you, " I asked lowering myself back into the chair. "You remember Winston, Babe?" The great white gauze ball on her head moved and I took it as a nod. "He was burned in a fire." I wiggled my toes trying to relieve the itching under the cast. "We used to go out to his farm with Mom and chase the chickens and the baby goats. You remember that, Babe?" Her eyes studied my face. "Now that Dad's gone, I hope Mom spends more time with Winston. He brings something out in her that I've never seen with anyone else. A kind of shy silliness that makes her seem younger somehow. Mom's going to be fifty soon. She deserves to have a little silliness in her life for once. Don't you think?"

"Richard?"

I sat forward and laid a hand on hers. "Yes, Babe. What?" All I could see of her was her eyes and they looked frightened. "Did you sleep well? Are you waking up now?"

She coughed and rolled her head to the side. "Where am I?"

"Oh, Babe, you're in the hospital."

She moaned. "What happened to me?"

I squeezed her hand. "You were hit by a bus."

And so began my sister's recovery.

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