A horrible, cruel nightmare.
Luke slouched into the hard plastic chair beside Savannah’s hospital bassinet. He dropped his head into his hands, blocking out the sight of the faded blue-green divider curtain that surrounded his daughters exam room and the extensive collection of monitors and machines huddled around her bed. It all felt so real. Too real. If only he could just wake up.
Savannah’s whimper instantly snapped Luke back to reality. The flimsy curtain did little to drown out the constant commotion from vortex of the emergency center. Every deliberate footfall of rubber soled shoes, every ring of the phone lines at the nurses’ desk, every beep of every monitor, every tick of the institution style clock mounted on the wall, even the occasional flicker from the fluorescent glare of the tube lights seemed to mock Luke’s pain. The world around him continued to function while Luke was frozen, grasping for the yesterdays just out of reach.
Luke forced himself out of the chair and bent over his fussing daughter cocooned in a tangle of tubes and wires in the clear plastic bassinet. Her delicate flesh, covered only by a diaper, was battered and bruised, but she was alive.
Luke reached to stroke one small arm, careful to avoid the IV tube.
“I’m here, Baby. Daddy’s here.”
Savannah instantly calmed. She turned her face toward Luke and tried to open her eyes, but they squeezed shut against the brutal glare of the heating lamp. Her little body squirmed and her bottom lip protruded in her pre-cry pout.
“Shhh, I know it’s bright.” Luke bowed low over the bassinet and shielded her eyes with his hand. Savannah blinked a few times then focused on Luke’s face. Her big brown eyes locked with his and she stared at him. She flinched as a chart toting nurse snapped the curtain back.
“How’s she doing?”
Luke straightened, swallowing hard at the boulder that seemed permanently lodged in his throat. He shrugged.
Genuine concern softened her features. “We are going to take excellent care of your daughter. Imaging is ready for her.” She offered a smile, but the compassion in her eyes remained.
He almost wished they wouldn’t be so nice. It was easier to hold back the overwhelming waves of anguish that posed a continuous threat to his composure when he was annoyed with them. He bit his lower lip to keep it from trembling. Unable to speak, he nodded and stepped back from Savannah’s bed.
The nurse unwrapped the miniature blood pressure cuff from Savannah’s arm, unclipped the oxygen monitor that pinched the baby’s toe and disconnected several sensors from the machines.
“I’ll bring her back as soon as they finish her MRI. It will be maybe 20 minutes or so.” The nurse unlocked the wheels under the cart that housed Savannah’s bassinet and steered the bed through the open curtain, dragging the IV pole behind her with the other hand.
“There’s a fresh pot of coffee brewing in the waiting room. I’ll page you if she’s done before you get back.”
Luke watched her go, tension knotting between his shoulder blades.
When the nurse rounded the corner and disappeared from sight, Luke turned back to the empty exam room. He stared blankly and the cluster of machines in the corner. The heavy odor of antiseptic dehydrated his already parched throat. The beeping of the monitors seemed to echo through the emptiness.
Twenty minutes would feel like an eternity if he didn’t keep himself busy. He grabbed his wallet off the counter and shoved it into the pocket of his trousers.
He dodged busy doctors and orderlies on his way across the speckled vinyl floor of the emergency room. When he pushed through the swinging double doors that separated the emergency ward from the waiting room, the inviting aroma of brewing coffee flooded his senses. Like an old friend, the fragrance beckoned. He could already taste the rich flavor. The hot liquid would thaw his icy fingers and seep into the glacial cavern the day’s events had hollowed out of his torso.
Luke prepared a foam cup and savored a few indulgent sips of the familiarity he craved.