Read His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage Online

Authors: Patricia Davids

Tags: #Fiction, #Religious, #Romance, #General

His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage (17 page)

BOOK: His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage
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“But no apnea?”

“No, and she won’t eat. Maybe there’s something wrong with my milk again.”

Caitlin watched anxiously as Mick laid the baby in his lap and checked her over. Laying two fingers on the inside of Beth’s elbow, he checked her pulse as Caitlin had learned to do.

“Did you give her any caffeine this morning?”

“No, not for the past two days. Her pulse was too high. I count it every time just like they showed me at the hospital.”

“She doesn’t feel warm, I don’t think she has a fever, but her pulse is way too fast.”

“What should I do?”

“I think we had better get her in to see a doctor.”

“You think she’s sick? I thought she was just having colic.” Guilt and remorse rose like bile in her throat. She should have taken her to the doctor last night. Instead, she had let her baby suffer for hours.

“I’ll take you to the E.R. Bring her medicine, they’ll want to know what she’s on.”

Trying desperately to stave off a wave of panic, Caitlin gathered Beth’s things and followed Mick down to his car. He fastened the baby’s car seat into the center of the rear seat, and Caitlin got in beside her daughter. Beth continued to cry as Mick drove. It broke Caitlin’s heart not to be able to pick her up. Suddenly, the baby’s crying became a choking gurgle. She stiffened and arched as her face twisted into a grimace.

“Mick, she’s having a seizure.”

“Is she breathing?”

“Yes. What do I do?”
Please God, help her.

“Just make sure she’s breathing,” Mick said.

After nearly a minute, Beth stopped arching and went limp. The color of her face paled and slowly took on a blue tinge. Leaning her cheek close to the baby’s nose confirmed Caitlin’s worst fears. She fumbled with the straps of the car seat. “She’s not breathing now.”

“We’re almost there.”

“I’m starting CPR. God, please help me do this!” Pulling Beth to her lap, Caitlin bent and covered her daughter’s mouth and nose with her own mouth and delivered two small puffs of air. Beth’s chest rose and fell and Caitlin knew she had done it right. She continued to deliver puffs of air until Beth suddenly drew in a breath of her own and let out a cry.

“Thank You, Lord.” Mick’s voice wavered with emotion.

Seconds later, the car skidded to a stop in front of the hospital’s E.R. He jumped out and jerked open Caitlin’s door. “I’ll take her.”

Caitlin handed Beth to him and followed close behind as he hurried through the hospital doors. His tense explanation to the clerk on duty got them ushered quickly into a room. A nurse took Beth and laid her in the center of a large cot.

Caitlin pressed a hand to her trembling lips. Beth looked so small and helpless. A doctor entered the room and began to examine Beth. He asked question after question. Mick stood silently behind Caitlin with his hands on her shoulders. She was so thankful that he was there.

When the doctor was done with his examination, he gave the nurse instructions for lab work and then suggested to Caitlin that she might like to step out while they drew blood.

“No, I’ve seen her stuck before. I want to stay.”

“I’ll stay as well,” Mick said.

Together they helped to hold Beth still while a man from the lab stuck her arm. When it was all over, Caitlin picked up her sobbing baby and held her close.

The nurse indicated a chair. “You might as well be seated. It’ll be a while before the test results come back.”

Nodding, Caitlin sat down and Mick took a seat beside her. The nurse held out a clipboard. “We’ll need some paperwork filled out.”

Mick reached for Beth. “I’ll hold her while you do it.”

“No, she needs me right now.” Caitlin glared at the nurse. “Can’t that wait? Can’t you see how upset she is?”

With an apologetic look to the nurse, Mick took the clipboard from her. “I’ll fill it out.”

“All right, just be sure and have Mom sign it.”

The nurse left the room and Caitlin avoided Mick’s gaze as she concentrated on calming Beth. After a few minutes of silence, she said, “Good ol’ Mick to the rescue, again. Do you have some kind of radar that lets you know when I’m in trouble?”

“I only stopped by to give Beth a homecoming present and to see how you were doing.”

“We were doing fine until last night.” She knew she sounded defensive, but once again he had proven that he knew Beth better than she did. It irked her that she had needed his help, even as she admitted to herself that she had never been happier to see anyone when she had opened her door.

“Thanks for bringing us to the hospital. You don’t have to stay if you’re busy.”

“I’m not busy.” He finished filling out the form, then leaning forward, he clasped his hands together and waited in silence.

Thirty minutes later, the doctor walked in. He was frowning as he stared at the papers in his hand. “I understand that Beth was sent home on phenobarbital and also on caffeine, is that right?”

“That’s right,” Caitlin answered. Something was wrong, she knew it by the way he wouldn’t meet her gaze.

He looked at Mick. “You’re listed as the father, but I see you have a different address.”

“Caitlin and I don’t live together.”

The doctor stared hard at Caitlin. “Do you have Beth’s medication with you?”

Caitlin fought down the need to take Beth and run. She had done everything just as the nurses in the NICU had told her to. She hadn’t done anything wrong. She pulled them from her bag and held them out.

“I’ve been giving them just like I was taught.” Caitlin drew a quick, deep breath. She was suffocating in the small room. The walls pressed in closer and closer. Mick and the doctor were staring at her intently.

The doctor walked to the cart in the corner of the room. After a moment, he turned around and held out both bottles and two syringes. “Show me how you’ve been giving them. Let’s let Dad hold Beth for a minute.”

Caitlin licked her dry lips. “I can hold her.”

Mick rose and took Beth from her arms. “Show the doctor how you’ve been giving Beth her medicine.”

The doctor knew. Caitlin didn’t know how, but she was sure of it. Was it possible she had mixed up the medicines? She had been so careful to keep them apart. She took the bottles from him with hands that trembled. Looking down, she saw neither one had a rubber band on it.

“Draw up the phenobarbital first,” the doctor suggested.

Which was which? What should she do? She looked from the doctor to Mick. Now he would see how stupid she was.

“I can’t,” she admitted in anguish.

“Why not?” the doctor asked gently.

“I had it marked. You took the rubber band off. I know it was the right one. It was, wasn’t it? The rubber band was on her seizure medicine. It was two cc’s every night in a little bit of milk so she’d take it all before I fed her, and the apnea medicine was one cc in the morning. I had it right. I know I did. Only, maybe—maybe the cabdriver mixed them up.” Panic choked her. What had she done?

“Let me see.” Mick took the bottles from her limp hand. “This one is phenobarbital and this one is caffeine. What do you mean the cabdriver mixed them up?”

A strange calm settled over Caitlin. The life she had dreamed of with her daughter disappeared before her the way the winds scattered the morning mist that rose from the lake. She had nothing left to lose.

“I pretended to leave one in his cab and when he asked if it was mine, I had him read the label. He had the caffeine in his hand so I knew I had her seizure medicine. I put it down on the counter. He must have switched them. I thought it was such a good plan.”

“I don’t understand,” Mick looked more confused than ever.

“I—I can’t read. But I would never hurt, Beth. Never.”

“You wouldn’t hurt her? You’ve been giving her the wrong doses of medicine. This is phenobarbital! You could have killed her!”

The anger and loathing in his eyes was painful to see. Beth whimpered and Caitlin reached for her, but Mick turned away and hushed the baby, murmuring words of comfort as he held her close. Caitlin stared at his back. She didn’t blame him. Mick would never let anything hurt Beth.

She’d been crazy to think that she could raise Beth. She was no better than her own mother. Dotty had her drugs to blame. Caitlin couldn’t blame anyone or anything but herself. Beth would be better off with Mick. He would never hurt her.

The door opened beside Caitlin as the nurse came in, and in a moment of agony unlike anything she had ever faced, Caitlin knew what she had to do. She had to give up her baby. She had to go where she could never, ever hurt Beth or Mick again.

One last glimpse of Beth’s face was all she wanted. Only Mick held her close and Caitlin couldn’t see her. Tears blurred her vision and tightened her throat.

God, please forgive me.

Quietly, she turned away and slipped out of the room.

Chapter Sixteen

T
he doctor scrawled on Beth’s chart then handed it to the nurse. “I’m going to admit the child for observation overnight. It’s a simple matter to get her phenobarbital level back up, but the caffeine will have to wear off on its own. She’ll need to be on a monitor until her heart rate is more normal.”

The nurse left the room and the doctor spoke to Mick. “You’ll be able to stay with her tonight.”

Mick nodded, too angry and upset to speak. How could Caitlin have taken such a chance with Beth’s health? He glanced around, but Caitlin had left the room.

The doctor laid a hand on Mick’s arm. “I take it you didn’t know she couldn’t read?”

He shook his head. “I had no idea. How did you know?”

“I didn’t. The nurse suspected something when the baby’s mother became belligerent about filling out the paperwork. We see it more than you’d think. When your daughter’s lab reports came back, I knew either the pharmacy had filled the prescriptions incorrectly, or it had been given incorrectly. That’s why I asked to see the bottles. She had a rubber band around one. I was pretty sure then. When I took that off, she couldn’t tell the bottles apart. Somehow, she must have marked the wrong one.”

Beth whimpered and Mick gently bounced her until she quieted. “Caitlin loves Beth. She’d never knowingly hurt her. I don’t understand why she didn’t tell me.”

“Fear, I imagine.”

“Of what?”

“Fear of ridicule, shame, the reasons are often deep-seated and difficult for the illiterate person to define. Many of them become incredibly skillful at hiding the truth even from family members.”

The door opened and the nurse looked in. “The peds floor has a bed ready now. I’ll take you upstairs.”

“Did you tell her mother that Beth is being admitted?” Mick asked.

“I looked for her, but I couldn’t find her.”

He shouldn’t have yelled at her. Of course, she hadn’t meant to hurt Beth. “Did anyone see where she went?”

“No, but I’ve sent someone to look for her. Beth needs to be on a monitor. We shouldn’t delay.”

Reluctantly, Mick agreed. In the room where Beth would spend the night, he impatiently answered the staff’s questions and glanced frequently toward the door, but Caitlin never appeared. Where was she?

When Beth fell asleep at last, he went searching for Caitlin himself. What did she think she was going to accomplish by ducking out like this? Maybe he had reacted badly, but surely she knew he didn’t believe she would intentionally hurt Beth.

It didn’t matter how independent Caitlin wanted to be, she would have to accept the fact that he was going to be a part of their lives from now on—a big part of it.

Why on earth hadn’t she told him the truth? Why hadn’t she asked for his help? He would have given it gladly. She had no right to jeopardize Beth’s health for nothing more than her pride. When she did show up, he intended to give her a piece of his mind. Making a mistake was one thing, but this juvenile behavior of running away from her problems had to stop.

So she couldn’t read—big deal. All she had to do was to say so. But no, she was too pigheaded for that. Now that he knew, he could remember a dozen times in the past when he should have suspected something. Maybe he could understand that her pride had prevented her from telling others, but why hadn’t she trusted him? He loved her.

He dropped his gaze to stare at the floor. He loved her, but he had never told her that—he had kept his secrets, too.

As the hours dragged by and she didn’t come in, he began to worry. A cold fear started to uncoil inside him.

She had looked so scared in the E.R. Like a jerk, he had yelled at her, and her face had gone white. Something in her beautiful eyes changed, and she had looked so remote. Wrapped up in his own concerns for Beth, he hadn’t recognized what he saw until now. It had been hopelessness.

* * *

Tears blurred Caitlin’s vision as she ran down the sidewalk. It didn’t matter where she went. She only wanted to get away—away from the look on Mick’s face—away from the knowledge that she had almost killed Beth. She ran until pain clenched her side in a tight grip and her breath came in short ragged gasps.

Anguish, guilt and regret choked her. She had abandoned her baby. Love for her daughter almost made her turn around, but then she remembered Beth’s face twisted in pain as spasms jerked her little body. She had done that to her baby. Her ignorance had done that.

Desperately, she wished that she had trusted Mick enough to tell him the truth. Instead, she saw his angry face and heard his voice as he shouted, “You could have killed her.”

The pain in her side made her slow down, but she kept moving. If she stopped putting one foot in front of the other, she would sink into a heap of despair.

This is for the best. I can’t take care of her.

She would only end up hurting Beth again. She saw that now. Leaving Beth with Mick was the right thing to do. Beth would be safe with him.

The gray world around her gradually turned into darkness as night fell and still Caitlin walked, turning this way and that, down streets whose names she couldn’t read, past stores whose signs she didn’t understand.

Beth would be okay. Mick would look after her. He could give her a life of security and love.

Cars streaked past Caitlin as she plodded on, but she barely noticed. Slowly, towering buildings replaced the houses along the streets. There were people around her now, laughing, calling out for cabs, hurrying past with cell phones pressed to their ears or shopping bags clutched tightly in their hands. No one noticed her. Funny how easily she had slipped back into being another invisible street person.

That thought made her pause. She had spent years rarely making eye contact with anyone, surviving on the fringes of society and sometimes wondering if she really existed at all. Going back to that kind of life would be unbearable after Mick and after Beth. Never seeing Beth again, never holding her close, that would be unbearable, too.

Ahead of Caitlin rose the white, ornate pylons of the Michigan Avenue Bridge. Across the bridge, the lights of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile stretched like a glittering chasm of glass and steel, a world in which she had no part. Below her, curving along the edge of the river lay Wacker Drive and farther on, Lower Wacker Drive. In her early days on the streets, she had lived by staying warm, huddled in a cardboard box on the grates on Lower Wacker with dozens of other street people. They had taught her how to survive. Only now, surviving wasn’t enough. Mick had made her believe that.

Fog drifted in ghostly curtains across the bridge as if drawn along by the flow of the water beneath it. Caitlin kept to the walkway until she reached the center of the bridge. There she leaned on the rail and stared at the dark, churning water below her. A lifetime without her baby—without Mick—what was it worth?

Down there was an end to her pain and grief. She wouldn’t have to face a lifetime of missing Beth and missing Mick, of knowing how badly she had failed both of them. Her hands tightened on the rail. It would be so easy to close her eyes and take a simple step over the side into nothingness.

Caitlin raised her face to the night sky. Suddenly filled with anger, she shouted, “Is this Your great plan, God? Well, it stinks! Do You hear me? It stinks!”

She sank to her knees by the rail. Tears streamed unheeded down her cheeks. Everything she loved was lost.

With her face pressed against the cold railing, Caitlin watched the inky water swirl below the bridge. One easy step and it would all be over. She closed her eyes and pictured her baby cradled in Mick’s gentle arms.

“Beth, I never meant to hurt you,” she whispered. “Mick will keep you safe. He’s so strong. Only—I don’t want you to grow up thinking that I never loved you, because I love you with all my heart.”

Who will tell her that if you kill yourself?

The thought came from deep within her heart. From the place Mick had once told her she could find God. Caitlin rubbed the tears from her eyes to clear her vision. Slumped against the railing, she drew her knees up and wrapped her arms around them to ward off the chill of the night.

Is this what You wanted, God? For me to give up Beth so she’d be safe and loved? If that’s so, then I guess this is okay because that’s all I want, too. Honest. Only how can I live without her? I give up, Lord. Please, help me. I can’t do this alone.

Slowly, a sense of calm and peace grew inside her, pushing away the chill with a feeling of warmth. Whatever He wanted, it wasn’t for her to end her life here.

Pulling herself to her feet, Caitlin walked off the bridge with unsteady steps, but she kept walking.

Hours later, on the verge of exhaustion, she sank into a corner of an alley a few streets back from West Madison. Wrapping her arms around her drawn-up knees, she rested her head on them and tried to sleep, but she couldn’t. Her grief and pain were impossible to ignore.

Please, Lord. Give me the strength to go on.

Beth would grow up happy and loved with Mick as her father, but wouldn’t she always wonder why her mother had abandoned her? Caitlin couldn’t add that burden to her child’s life. Someday, when Beth was old enough, someone needed to explain it to her. Besides Mick, there was only one person Caitlin thought might understand.

What Beth might someday think about her was more important than what anyone had ever thought of her in the past. She wanted to be someone Beth would be proud of. To do that, she had to become something better than what she was. And she couldn’t do it alone.
Help me, God. Show me the way.

When the sun rose at last, Caitlin tilted her head back to stare at the strip of blue sky overhead and a new sense of determination filled her. She had lost everything that was important, but she wouldn’t be ashamed anymore. God had shown her that.

She rose stiffly to her feet. Although she had been to the area only once before, she knew she could find the way. When she judged it to be late enough, she made her way to the apartment building on the corner. She passed a group of boys playing stickball in the street and wondered if Mick had ever played ball like that. Maybe he would teach Beth how, someday.

Caitlin realized she would never watch her daughter at play, never see her take her first steps, never hear her first words. Sadness, sharp as a knife, cut through her, but she walked on. She couldn’t go another hour without knowing how Beth was.

Inside the lobby, tastefully decorated in shades of gray and muted blues, she gathered her newfound courage close and pressed the elevator button.

On the fifth floor, she made her way to apartment 516. Overwhelmed by the temptation to turn and run away, she knocked quickly before she could change her mind. The door opened before she was ready. Elizabeth O’Callaghan’s face took on a look of absolute shock.

“Caitlin, what on earth are you doing here? My dear, everyone was so worried about you. Mick is simply frantic. Are you all right?”

“How’s Beth?” Her words came out in a husky whisper because she couldn’t talk around the lump in her throat.

“She’s fine. She went home from the hospital this morning.”

It was the news she needed to hear. Nothing else mattered. Relief left her weak and shaking.

Elizabeth grasped Caitlin’s elbow. “Come inside and sit down. You look as pale as a sheet.”

Caitlin shook her head. “I won’t impose on you. I just had to know she was all right. I came here because I want you to tell Beth when she’s old enough to understand that...”

Words failed her as she struggled to hold back her tears. “Tell her that I loved her with all my heart, but I couldn’t take care of her. Tell her I left
because
I loved her. And tell Mick...tell him...”

“Tell him yourself.” His voice came from behind her, and she froze.

BOOK: His Bundle of Love / the Color of Courage
5.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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