Read While My Sister Sleeps Online

Authors: Barbara Delinsky

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #King; Stephen - Prose & Criticism, #Family, #American Horror Fiction, #Juvenile Fiction, #Running & Jogging, #Family Life, #Sports & Recreation, #General, #Fiction - General, #Myocardial infarction - Patients, #Sagas, #Marathon running, #Sisters, #Siblings, #Myocardial infarction, #Sports, #Domestic fiction, #Women runners, #Love stories

While My Sister Sleeps (6 page)

“Prayers are for all kind of things,” Charlie replied and glanced up as a nurse came in.

“I'd like to do a little work here—bathing, checking tubes,” the woman said. “I shouldn't be long.”

Molly went out to the hall. Her parents had no sooner joined her when her mother said, “See? They wouldn't be bothering with mundane things like bathing if there was no point. I'm using the ladies’ room. I'll be right back.”

She had barely taken two steps, though, when she stopped. A man had approached and was staring at her. Roughly Robin's age, wearing jeans and a shirt and tie, he looked reputable enough to be on the hospital staff, but with haunted eyes and a dark shadow on his jaw, he was clearly upset.

“I'm the one who found her,” he said in a tortured voice.

Molly's heart tripped. When Kathryn didn't reply, she hurried forward. “The one who found Robin on the road?” she asked eagerly. They had so few facts. His coming was a gift.

“I was running and suddenly there she was.”

He seemed bewildered; Molly identified with that. “Was she conscious when you were with her? Did she move at all?
Say
anything?”

“No. Has she regained consciousness yet?”

She was about to answer—truthfully, because his eyes begged for it—when Kathryn came to life. Shrilly, she charged, “You have
some gall
asking that after standing there paralyzed for
how
long before calling for help?”

“Mom,” Molly cautioned, but her mother railed on.

“My daughter is in a
coma
because she was deprived of oxygen for too
long!
Did you not know that every
single second
counted?”


Mom.

“I started CPR as soon as I realized she had no pulse,” he said quietly, “and I kept it up while I called for help.”

“You started CPR,” Kathryn mocked. “Do you even know how to
do
CPR? If you'd done it right, she might
be fine.

Appalled, Molly gripped her mother's arm. “That's unfair,” she protested because, family loyalties aside, she felt a link with this man. Kathryn was blaming him for something he hadn't done, and, boy, could Molly empathize. That he had revived Robin was reason enough for her to connect with him. “Did my sister make
any
sound?” she asked. “A moan, a whimper?” Either would be an argument against brain damage.

His eyes held regret. “No. No sound. While I was compressing her chest, I kept calling her name, but she didn't seem to
hear. I'm sorry,” he said, returning to Kathryn. “I wish I could have done more.”

“So do I,” Kathryn resumed her attack, “but it's too late now, so why are you here? We're trying to deal with something so horrifying you can't
begin
to understand. You shouldn't have come.” She looked around. “Nurse!”


Mom,
” Molly shushed, horrified. She wrapped an arm around Kathryn, but felt far worse for the Good Samaritan. “My mother's upset,” she told him. “I'm sure you did what you could,” but he was already backing up. He had barely turned and set off down the hall when Kathryn turned her wrath on Molly.

“You're
sure
he did all he could? How do you know that? And how did he get up here?”

“He took the elevator,” Charlie said from behind Molly. His voice was soft but commanding. Kathryn quieted instantly. With a single breath, she composed herself and continued on to the restroom.

As soon as she was out of earshot, Molly turned on her father, prepared to condemn Kathryn's outburst, but the sorrow on his face stopped her cold. With Kathryn so involved, it was easy to forget that Robin was Charlie's daughter, too.

Thoughts of the Good Samaritan faded, replaced by the reality of Robin. “What do we do?” Molly asked brokenly.

“Ride it out.”

“About Mom. She's out of control. That guy didn't deserve that. He was only trying to help, like
I
try to help, but I'm almost afraid to speak. Everything I say is wrong.”

“Your mother is upset. That's all.”

Still there was a weight on Molly's chest. “It's more. She blames me.”

“She just blamed that fellow, too. It's an irrational thing.”

“But I blame
myself.
I keep thinking it should be me on that bed, not Robin.”

He drew her close. “No. No. You're wrong.”

“Robin's the good one.”

“No more so than you. This was not your fault, Molly. She'd have had the heart attack whether you'd driven her or not, and no one—
least
of all Robin—would have had you crawling along in your car, keeping her in sight the whole time. At any given point, you might have been fifteen minutes away.”

“Or five,” Molly said, “so the damage would have been less. But if I was the one in a coma, Robin would be able to help Mom. She won't let
me
help. What do I say? How do I act?”

“Just be you.”

“That's the problem. I'm me, not Robin. And if they're right about her brain,” Molly went on, because her father was so much more reasonable than her mother, and the life support issue was preying on her, “this isn't about life and death. It's only about death.” She choked up. “About when it happens.”

“We don't know for sure,” he cautioned quietly. “Miracles have been known to happen.”

Charlie was a deeply religious man, a regular churchgoer, though he usually went alone, and he never complained about that. He accepted that what worked for him didn't necessarily work for his wife and his kids. For the first time in her life, Molly wished otherwise. Charlie believed in miracles. She wanted to believe in them, too.

He pressed her cheek to his chest. His warmth, so familiar, broke her composure. Burying her face in his shirt, she cried for the sister she alternately loved and hated, but who now couldn't breathe on her own.

Murmuring softly, he held her. Molly was barely regaining control when she heard her mother's returning footsteps. Taking a quick breath, she wiped her face with her hands.

Naturally, Kathryn saw the tears. “Please don't cry, Molly. If you do, I will; but I don't want Robin seeing us upset.” She pulled out her ringing cell phone and summarily turned it off. The BlackBerry followed. “I can't talk,” she said with a dismissive wave. “I can't think about anything right now except making Robin better. But I would like to clean up while the nurse is with her. If you cover for me here, Molly, your father will run me home. We'll be right back. Then you can go to Snow Hill.”

Molly wanted to argue, but knew the futility of it. So she glanced at her father. “Someone has to call Chris.”

Charlie's eyes went past her. “No need. Here he comes.”

CHRIS
had tried to work, but his heart wasn't in it. He kept thinking about the mess his life was in, and since he didn't know what to say to Erin, the hospital seemed the place to be. One look at his parents, though, and he had second thoughts. They were grim.

“No change?” he asked when he was close enough.

The silence answered his question.

“The MRI shows brain damage,” Molly told him.

Kathryn shot her an annoyed look. “MRIs don't show everything.”

“They need to do an EEG,” Chris said.

“Mom wants to wait.”

“Please, Molly,” Kathryn said. “You're not helping.”

When Molly opened her mouth to protest, Charlie intervened. “She wasn't being critical, Kathryn.”

“She's rushing things.”

“No. The doctors suggested the EEG. She's just updating Chris.” Reaching for Kathryn's hand, he told Chris, “I'm taking your mother home. We'll be back.”

Watching them leave, Chris saw no evidence that Kathryn was arguing, which made his point. His father didn't have to say much to be effective. Erin had to understand that.

“Nightmare,” Molly murmured.

“Mom or Robin?”

“Both. I agree about the EEG. We need to do it, but Mom's afraid. Chris, the nurse is with Robin. If she leaves, will you go in? I'm going down for coffee. Want any?”

He shook his head. When he was alone, he leaned against the wall. And how not to think about Robin? His earliest memories in life were vague ones of her sitting him in a room and building forts around him, or dressing him up in old costumes. He couldn't have been more than three. More clearly, he remembered tagging along with her on Halloween night. He would have been five or six then. By the time he was ten, she was taking him down black diamond ski slopes. He wasn't anywhere near a good enough skier, but Robin was—and with Robin it was all about the challenge.

“Hey,” came a familiar voice.

He looked up to see Erin and felt instant relief. He wanted his wife with him now—needed her. “Where's Chloe?” he asked.

“With Mrs. Johnson. How's Robin?”

Not good
, he replied with a look. “The MRI shows brain damage.”

“From a
heart
attack? How could she have had a heart attack?”

Chris had passed the disbelief stage and felt a wave of anger.
“She pushed herself. She was always pushing herself. If a challenge was there and someone could do it, she had to be the one. She already holds every local record and half a dozen national ones. So she wanted to win New York, but she went too far. Why did she have to set a world record? Wasn't winning enough?”

Erin put a hand on his arm and gently said, “That doesn't matter right now.”

He took a steadying breath.

“How's your mom handling this?” she asked.

He made a face.
Lousy.

“Is your dad any help?”

That revived Chris. “Yeah. He is. He doesn't have to say a lot, but it works. I just saw that. He says two words, and she quiets down.”

“They've been married more than thirty years.”

He shook his head. “It isn't the time; it's the nature of their relationship.”

“Chris, I'm not your mom. She and I are totally different. Besides, she's out of the house all the time. She was even when you kids were little, and I'm not criticizing that. I'm envious. She started Snow Hill back then, and look what it is now. She's an amazing woman. If I created something like that, I could live with silence at night.”

“She's driven.”

“By what?”

He shrugged. He couldn't figure his
wife
out, and she was less complex than Kathryn. “So,” he asked, needing to know, “are you going home to visit your mom?”

“Omigod, no,” Erin said quickly. “Not with Robin so sick.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “But what's happening between us isn't going away, Chris. We will have to deal sometime.”

WHEN
Molly returned to Snow Hill, the parking lot was filled with customers’ cars. Slipping inside, she took the back stairway to her office and closed the door. She shooed one cat from her chair and another from the keyboard, then sat and folded her hands.

She didn't want to be here, but her father had asked. And besides easing her guilt, Molly wanted to help. She could fight it long and hard, but pleasing Kathryn had always been high on her list.

Right now, Kathryn wanted her to work. So, dutifully, she logged on and pulled up her calendar for the week. Today and tomorrow were for ordering, but Thursday she was supposed to follow up her mother's speech at a women's club in Lebanon with a how-to on making dish gardens. Obviously, they couldn't go. What excuse to give? Same with a pruning demonstration in Plymouth. And Friday's appearance at WMUR in Manchester? Molly hated being on TV, even with Kathryn doing the talking. Television made her eyes look too close, her nose too short, her mouth too wide. She had experimented wearing her hair back versus loose, wearing slacks versus jeans, wearing blue versus purple or green. No matter what, she paled beside Kathryn.

Neither of them would be up to doing TV on Friday so her father could cancel that one.

Her intercom buzzed. “Any news?” Tami asked.

“Not yet,” Molly replied, feeling disingenuous. “We're waiting for more tests.”

“Joaquin was asking. He was worried when he didn't see either of your parents’ cars. They usually get here early after they've been away.”

Joaquin Peña was Snow Hill's facilities man. Not only did he maintain the buildings and grounds, but because he lived on-site, he handled after-hours emergencies.

Joaquin adored Robin.

Tell him she'll be fine
, Molly wanted to say, but the MRI mocked that claim. So she simply said, “Dad'll be here later,” which begged the question of what to tell Joaquin or anyone else who might ask about Robin. But Charlie was good at this. Wasn't he their PR man?

Ending the call, she sorted through the requisition forms she had collected at yesterday's meeting. With fall planting season under way, Snow Hill's tree and shrub man had a list. Their functions person had booked three new weddings and two showers, and the retail store was gearing up for October's opening of the wreath room, all of which required special ordering. And then there was Liz Tocci, the in-house landscape designer and total pain in the butt, who was arguing— yet again—in favor of a supplier who carried certain elite specialty King Protea plants but who, Molly knew from experience, was overpriced and unreliable.

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