“Seriously, Stacey, if you don’t leave now you’re going to miss the train.”
“I’m not leaving you alone.” Her friend took her hand and squeezed it tight.
They were in the waiting room of St. Agatha’s hospital, surrounded by pitiful Christmas decorations that failed to warm her heart, while the air around them carried the non-stop announcements and doctors’ names in this floor.
Miley and Stacey sat next to each other, Miley’s eyes stinging from tiredness while her body wanted her to just shut down and sleep for a while. But she didn’t want to. Doctor Balding had come out an hour before to say the surgery was still going on, that there hadn’t been any complications so far.
According to him, her mother would be out of the operating room in a couple of hours more. Yes, her mother was not in Florida enjoying the warm weather. Since the beginning of the month, Miley’s mom had been complaining of feeling tired and weak. And then, two weeks ago, she’d fainted in the middle of their living room. After some stress tests and heart tests, the doctor had ruled that Miley’s mother needed a pacemaker to help her heart’s rate go back up to normal.
And even though she didn’t want to wait alone, she knew Stacey didn’t get to see her parents much, and she didn’t want her friend to spend Christmas Eve stuck in a hospital with her.
“I want you to go. I’ll be fine, you heard the doctor. She’ll be out in a couple of hours. Please, Stacey, your parents are looking forward to seeing you.”
Stacey glanced back to where the doctor had disappeared an hour ago and then back at her friend. Finally, she sighed and stood up, gathering her coat and purse, a look of dubiousness across her face.
“Are you sure?”
“I am. Go, you can still make the six o’clock train home.”
“Okay, okay. But you call me if you need anything. I don’t care if I have to make the train conductor bring me back.”
Miley stood up as well and gave her friend a heartfelt hug.
“Merry Christmas, Miley.”
She watched as her friend walked down the corridor and disappeared around the corner toward the elevators.
Her stomach grumbled just then, but she didn’t want to move away from this spot. Instead of going down to the cafeteria, she tried one of the vending machines for some chocolate cookies. Only the machine swallowed her change. She glared at it but was too exhausted to do more than shake it feebly before going back to her seat and continue to wait, while she stared off into space, her worries finally surfacing now that Stacey was gone.
The sound of her name roused her from her troubled musings. At first, she thought she had fallen asleep and she was having a dream about him. When his face materialized in front of her as he crouched before her, she shook her head and batted her eyelashes up and down several times before her brain registered the fact that Rick was kneeling in front of her.
“Rick?”She said his name, clearly expecting him to be a figment of her imagination and vanish. The truth was she had wanted to call him. She felt so lonely, not because she didn’t appreciate the time Stacey had been here with her, but Miley had needed him to hold her close and make her worries go away.
“I heard about your mother. How is she?”
She swallowed the bitter memory of their last meeting, and replied, grateful he was here at all. “Doctor Balding said she’d be out in a couple of hours. But she’s been there so long and…….” And he did what she’d been longing for him to do, he stood up, sat next to her and pulled her to him in a soothing embrace. She buried her face in his jacket and breathed in his scent, taking comfort in his warmth.
“Adam is the best cardiologist in the city. She’s in good hands.”
“Adam Balding or Doctor Balding. He’s a friend.”
Miley shifted in her seat and pulled away from Rick.
“How did you know where to find me, Rick?”
Of course. Jonathan had been at the store when she had gotten the call from the hospital.
“Oh….but what about China?”
“It’ll still be there tomorrow, Miley.”
“Good to know.” And she went back into his arms and before she knew it, she was fast asleep.
Miley heard a man’s voice say Rick’s name and her entire system went on alert, as she sat up from where she’d been lying on his lap. Her hair was all tousled and her eyes felt heavy with tiredness. Nevertheless, she felt better, less anxious, less…..alone.
“What time is it?”
“It’s past midnight.” Doctor Balding informed her. “Your mom is in her room. She is still a little bit disoriented but I figured you wanted to see her.” Doctor Balding pointed to the hallway to where the hospital rooms where located.
Miley rubbed her face with her hands then she was up and heading to her mom’s room in a flash while Dr. Balding joined Rick in the waiting room.
“Is she going to be okay?” Rick asked.
“She will. It is still a long recovery but I’m sure Miley will make sure her mother follows all of our recommendations. That is one amazing woman.”
Rick heard Adam’s tired sigh and turned to look at his friend. His face looked slightly ashen, his jaw still tense and his eyes blinking away the exhaustion.
“What is it Adam? What aren’t you telling me?”
“I talked to the board this morning. They refused to give Miley more time to come up with the money to cover all of the hospital’s expenses.”
“You mean they are kicking them out?” Rick said in outrage.
“More like transferring her to a place that they can afford. Miley’s mom came to us after she fainted in their apartment and I was on call that day. I knew that there was something wrong with her heart and decided to treat her. Miley was very clear from the start about their monetary condition. She has insurance and her mother does as well but it isn’t enough to cover for the surgery.”
Adam paused, waved at some colleagues that strolled by on the hallway and continued.
“This surgery was supposed to take place after the holidays, after Miley and myself examined another option and transferred her there. I was still going to oversee the procedure but you know St. Agatha’s isn’t exactly a place for everyone. And I don’t mean that in a snobbish way, it’s just the way it is. However, her condition was starting to worry me so I moved the surgery for today. I called her yesterday and she said she would figure something out.”
The harsh words Rick had lashed out at her yesterday came back to hit him in the gut. Of course she had found a way, and she had wanted to explain it to him but he had accused her of only being with him out of interest, because of his money, without knowing Miley had given up that dress which he knew she had loved in order to help her mother.
“And did she?” Rick’s voice came out hoarse.
“Somehow she came up with some money and I was able to convince the board to at least let me do the surgery before they transferred her out of here. I know she’ll be devastated but I have to tell her today. So, if you’ll excuse me….”
Dr. Blading made to leave in the direction Miley had gone to, when Rick grabbed his shoulder and said. “Wait.”