I have another Sophie chapter for you to read!!! But before I get to that, a quick, personal, note:
I became a single mom when my son was 2 years old. I remained a single mom until he was 15. It wasn’t an easy journey. Rewarding and often incredibly wonderful, but never easy. But this last year, his senior year of high school, he made it look easy. He got on the varsity cross country team. He volunteered weekly at the La Brea Tar Pits, educating visitors on the nature of the fossilized animals. He scored the lead in the high school musical. He was on the Robotics Team which competed against teams all over the country. He has a fantastic girlfriend and incredible friends. And this last Friday he gave a humble, beautiful and emotional speech at his graduation. I’m so proud of him it takes my breath away.
Just as I know he was proud of me when I published my first Sophie book when he was 5. He told every teacher, every friend, every stranger that I was a writer. Even at that early age he understood what a big milestone it was to have my words published. He even used to give me paper for Mother’s Day so I could write more. As he got older he would stand by my side at book signings. Sophie has been a big part of both our lives. So I suppose it’s appropriate that I’m writing another Sophie book in the last few months before he moves away for college. Sophie should be a part of this milestone.
So, without further ado…oh wait, take it back, I’ve got a little further ado: For those of you who missed my release of the first two chapters you can find all three chapters in order here
Okay, now without further ado, heeeeer’s Sophie!:
“When I said I’d just go with the flow I didn’t realize the flow was created by the flushing of a toilet.”
—Dying To Laugh
It was complete madness. The paramedics arrived as I was attempting to administer CPR. They were quick to load London into the ambulance and while they found his car keys and wallet in his pants pocket, presumably with his ID and insurance info, they had somehow left me holding his coat, phone and that stupid payment notice. I drove to the hospital as quickly as possible. I dictated a text to Dena to tell her I had to cancel lunch and would explain why later. Anatoly called but I had accidently turned my Bluetooth off and couldn’t deal with my phone at the same time as I was racing to the hospital. Besides, I wouldn’t know what to say to him. I had no clue what was going on. Maybe I’d get to the hospital and discover that London did have asthma and they had fixed everything in the ambulance. Or maybe he had cancer or some other disease that he hadn’t told us about.
Or maybe he had been poisoned by a person who was following him around in a Zipcar.
As soon as I got to the hospital, before I even got out of my parked Audi, I tried calling the number the Confusion text had come from. I was greeted by an automated message telling me it wasn’t a valid number. I dialed again, carefully entering each digit as it appeared on London’s screen. But I got the same automated message. I tried calling from London’s phone. It made no difference.
But you can’t send a text from an invalid number, can you?
It was a question that kept running through my mind as I walked through the hospital entrance, clutching London’s cell and jacket. The lobby was populated with people carrying Get-Well-Soon bouquets in their hands and brave smiles on their faces. The four women behind the sprawling reception desk seemed relaxed though, completely accustom to being surrounded by the earth shattering events of human life.
“Hi,” I said to the grey haired, sixty-something women sitting behind one of the desk’s computers. “I’m here about Aaron London? He was just brought in through the emergency room.”
The woman gave me a quick, sympathetic look as her fingers flew over her keyboard. “Relation?”
I blinked. I had no relation to London. I couldn’t even truthfully call myself a friend. “I’m his girlfriend.”
As soon as the lie left my mouth I wanted to take it back. Girlfriend is not a relation. There was no value in girlfriend.
Besides, it made me look bad. If I had said wife it could have been assumed that we initially hooked up when he was still hot…or at least presentable. Now the doctors would think London was the best I could do.
Why am I this shallow?
“You can wait for him in the emergency room reception area,” she said, gesturing to the left. “Go down that hallway and take a left at the very end of it. Sign in at the reception area there. If they move him to surgery they’ll have someone let you know Miss…?”
“Katz, Sophie Katz,” I said, although why I was suddenly channeling the speaking patterns of James Bond was a mystery. She gave me a visitor’s pass to stick on my shirt and I followed her directions.
The emergency room waiting area was like all emergency room waiting areas: awful. Regardless of how well cleaned, they always stunk of sickness and distress. It was hard not to be envious of the ward’s receptionists behind the glass, physically separated from the upheaval in their sterilized little bubble.
After signing in I found two empty chairs a little ways away from anyone else, one for me and one for London’s things.
Why didn’t a guy as paranoid as London have his phone password protected? I would have thought he’d have one of those fingerprint things on it or maybe even new facial recognition technology. And aren’t iPhones supposed to be harder to hack than Droids? What good was paranoia if it didn’t at least make you security savvy?
I looked around the room as if I expected any of the people in there with me to have answers. The black man in the corner with the neatly clipped, short hair and downward turned mouth, frantically texting some presumably bad news, or the redhead chewing on her nails as she watched the doors that led to the exam rooms as if the strength of her will was enough to get a doctor to burst through with better news. Nothing here was reassuring.
I picked up London’s jacket again and started searching the pockets one more time, as if something meaningful might have magically appeared in there since the last time I searched. But of course the pockets were now empty. Except…
I reached deeper into the inside pocket, something was there, halfway through a hole in the silk lining, making it easy to miss.
I pulled out two copper colored keys. House keys? Office keys? I shrugged and zipped them into the small pocket of my purse so I wouldn’t lose them. Next I started skimming through the phone.
But there was nothing on it. Like, nothing-nothing. Not a single photo, the Facebook app had not been activated and if he had ever gotten a text from anyone else it had been erased. But maybe there would be something telling in his emails…
“Miss Katz?” I looked up to see the grey haired woman from the front desk. Her hands were clasped together in a worried fashion. Next to her was another woman in her early-forties, a blonde wind-blown bob hung around her long face as her cowl necked sweater drew attention to a small strand of pearls that lay slightly askew across her collarbone. Hanging back behind them stood a curvy teenage girl. Her thick mane of blonde hair fell all the way down her back, adding a hefty dose of femininity to her grey-stripped hoodie and jeans ensemble.
The woman with the bob pointed a slender finger toward the chair next to mine. “I believe that’s my husband’s coat.”
Husband? But this woman looked so…normal!
Well, maybe they hooked up while he was still hot. I stared at the coat and then the phone in my hand. “Maybe I should explain.”
But the woman clearly had no interest in explanations. She crossed over and grabbed his jacket and then held out her hand toward me expectantly. “His phone?”
My own phone started ringing in my bag but I didn’t reach for it. “I’m not his girlfriend,” I croaked. “I was with him when he collapsed and–”
“I just want his phone.” Her voice was restrained although I thought I detected a slight tremor. “I know that case, don’t try to tell me it’s not his. And I don’t want or need an explanation.”
I hesitated a moment and then carefully placed it in her palm. “He got a text–”
“Stop talking!” Her voice had lowered to a whispered yell. I shrank back, unnerved.
We all turned at the name. A doctor in a lab coat was standing by the doors.
“Anita,” she said with a sigh. “Call me Anita.” She glanced down at me one more time and then nodded at the teenage girl who approached the doctor with her. The three of them formed a small huddle, excluding everyone else in the room from the conversation. The woman from the front desk was now glaring at me and when I tried to meet her eyes she just gave a quick shake of her head, turned and left. Fantastic. If I ever had a medical emergency I’d have to tell the paramedics to take me to a different hospital.
I stood up and looked over at Anita as she put her arm gently around the teenager’s shoulders, protectively pulling her close. She gave the doctor a curt nod and he turned to leave as she went to the window where the receptionists and administrators were. She quietly accepted a clipboard full of forms before crossing to the nearest chair to start filling them out. Tentatively, I approached, stopping several feet in front of them. They both ignored me, and I watched as she checked off the “Ms.” Box and wrote her name, Anita J. London.
“I was just the person who happened to be standing with him when he collapsed,” I tried again. “I gave him CPR but…I’m not really trained in it. I don’t know if it helped.”
Mrs. London refused to look up. But the teenager did. She observed me through bloodshot eyes. “He has fluid around his heart and lungs,” she explained. “A lot of it.”
“You don’t need to talk to her,” Anita said, crisply.
“My father has to have emergency surgery.” She looked over at the double doors where they kept the patients. “It’s dangerous. They don’t know how it will go.”
Anita finally looked up although she gave her entire focus to the girl. “Catherine Jane London, you do not share family business with strangers!”
“It isn’t family business, mom!” Catherine said, her voice rising. “It’s life or death!”
“Don’t be ridiculous, people don’t die of pneumonia.”
“We don’t know that’s what it is and they do if it’s left untreated! You heard what the doctor said!” Catherine looked up at me again. “Why didn’t you tell him to go to the doctor sooner? Why did you wait until he collapsed? Are you stupid? Or are you just crazy like he is?”
“I…” but my mind wasn’t working fast enough to come up with an appropriate response.
“Life and death is a family matter,” Anita growled, more to me than to her daughter. “He’s our family. You are not. You should leave.”
“He got a weird text,” I blurted out. Anita London was going to get this information whether she wanted it or not. “Confusion hath now made his masterpiece.”
A rueful smile played on Anita’s lips. “Now I see why he liked you, you’re crazy too.”
“I’m not his girlfriend,” I said again. “I just met your husband today!”
“I don’t care.” Suddenly, she was on her feet again. “I don’t care who you are. The father of my child is about to get emergency surgery. His pulse is…well I can’t remember the numbers, but it’s not what it should be. Not even in the vicinity! So I don’t care if you met my husband today or if you’ve been fucking him for years. What I care about is filling out this paperwork so they can stick a scalpel in him and save his life. Will you let me do that now?”
“Sure, yes, of course.” I backed up and then slowly sat down in the row of chairs across from her. My phone started to go off again and I began to reach for it but Anita’s voice stopped me.
“Leave!” she yelled and this time everyone in the waiting room, including those administrators behind their protective little window, were staring at us openly. Anita, Catherine and I were the train wreck and I was the one who had taken us off the rails.
I swallowed, hard, and adjusted the strap of my handbag on my shoulder. “I’m sorry you’re going through all this,” I said, quietly. I reached into my bag and pulled out a pen and a crumpled receipt I didn’t need. On the back I wrote my name and number. “When you’re ready, I really think we should talk.”
Anita started filling out the forms again, pointedly ignoring the paper still in my hand. Quietly I put it on the seat next to her daughter. “When you’re ready,” I said again.
And then I left. Because there was nothing else to do.