Friday, December 16, 2011
Rita grinned at Sara, holding up a blue-tipped stick. “These test kits don’t do too many false positives.”
Sara swung herself off the exam table and danced a little jig around it, not caring that her pants were still on the floor. “We did it! We did it! I can’t wait to tell Tim!” She suddenly stopped and hopped back onto the table, looking a little embarrassed. “How long, do you think?”
“Since you conceived? Three weeks? It’s kind of hard to tell, and it’s not really all that important. But I’d guess you conceived on — or pretty close to — your wedding night. So call it… oh, September first of next year for a due date. And congratulations, Sara. I know you wanted this. How will Tim take it?”
“He knows I wanted this, and I think he did too. At worst, it might take him a little while to get used to the idea, but he’ll be happy. I guess we won’t know if it’s a boy or a girl for a while.”
“Maybe not until it’s born. Even if we had an ultrasound here, and power to run it, I never operated one myself. Only assisted.”
“Oh. What kind of nursing work did you do before?”
“I was working at a clinic in Chamblee when the trucks came. But before that, I did some ER work at Grady. That’s the experience I keep thinking we’ll need most — but I hope I never do. Oh, you can get dressed. I think we’re done with the exam for now.”
“You’ve done a little emergency work already, I guess.”
“I had to put seven stitches in Graham’s forehead when his axe handle broke that time, and there’s been a few flu cases. Setting Stefan’s broken leg was the closest thing to a real trauma we’ve had so far. But all in all, I much prefer giving good news to expectant mothers.” Rita smiled. “This is the best part of my work. That, and teaching the children. One or more of them will have to take over from me some day.”
“I never thought of that.”
“I think about it all the time. It can be a burden, being the only one with such a necessary skill.”
“At least you can do something about it.” Sara pulled her pants on. “Maybe that’s what it was like for Cody at first. That boy was about the only one of us here who could deal with all this when it happened. Johnny and some of the others have stepped up, so he’s not having to carry it all anymore. But he was our anchor when it was just five of us.” She smiled. “Speaking of Johnny, how are you two doing?”
Rita returned the smile. “Well enough. Perhaps we’ll have our own news sooner or later.” They laughed together. “That day — when we met — I woke up thinking it would be the day I went to find my own place. Then came the dogs, and Johnny and you and the others rescued me — and so I did find my own place. Here, with all of you.” Her eyes grew bright for a moment. “Every day I pray to God, thanking Him for putting me in your path.”
“You know everyone here is grateful for you being here too,” Sara said, hugging the nurse. “I remember one day, we were all talking about things we needed, and one thing was medical expertise. And here you are!”
“I’m here, Rita — oh. Sorry, I didn’t know you were busy. Hi, Sara.” Ashley stood in the doorway, looking only a little uncertain.
“It’s okay, Ashley,” said Sara. “We’re pretty much done. Are you helping Rita today?”
“Yeah.” Ashley smiled. “It’s my turn today. The other kids got school. But I’ll have school Monday, and Sheldon will be here. It all works out, I guess.”
The women laughed. “Ashley, why don’t you double-check the schedule and see if we have any appointments? I think Stef is coming in to have his leg checked out after lunch. If anyone walks in, just tell them to have a seat and I’ll be ready in a few minutes.”
“Okay.” Ashley ducked back into the front office.
“Looks like you have your successor lined up already,” Sara grinned.
“Perhaps. Ashley is…”
“Not much bothers my foster girl, does it? She took to Tim right away, thank God. She’ll make a wonderful big sister.”
“And she could grow up to become a wonderful medic, if she wants. She isn’t squeamish about blood at all, and she was a big help when I had to stitch up Graham. You don’t find too many children like that. Or adults, for that matter.” Rita smiled. “But still, I try to teach the other children as much as they’re ready for — after all, it might be Ashley who needs help one day. Or me.”
Later that afternoon, Stefan boosted himself onto the exam table, propping his crutches on one side. “Six weeks…” he pointed at the crutches. “I hope it’s ready to walk on.”
“Maybe,” Rita said, poking at the cast. “Have you been staying off it?”
“Hardest damn’ thing I ever had to do… but yup. Okay, I forgot once or twice, but it reminded me quick!”
Rita nodded. “How’s it feeling? You taking pain pills for it?”
“Not even one a day.” Stefan looked proud of himself.
“Yeah,” Palmer said. “But what did you put Tim on? He’s walking around with such a goofy grin! You got any more of that stuff?”
“Sorry,” Rita laughed. “Can’t help you with that — Tim got a big dose of Impending Fatherhood this morning!”
“Oh, how wonderful!” Stefan said, and Palmer nodded. “A baby will be nice! Now if that Sondra upstairs would follow suit…” They laughed; Cody and Sondra could be noisy. Palmer and Stefan cheered them on some nights.
“Looks good, Stef,” Rita said. “You can start putting weight on it ‘as tolerated.’ That means if it hurts too much, stop. I don’t want you upping your pain meds, because I don’t want to have to deal with an addiction, okay? You also need to start doing some exercises to rebuild your leg muscles — you’re gonna hate it, but you’ll suck less when you get back on a bike.” Stefan gave her a sour look. “I’m sure you won’t like the next thing I have to say either: you’ll have a cast for six to eight more weeks.”
“That long?” Both Stefan and Palmer looked horrified.
“That’s the minimum,” Rita said, “but I don’t expect it to be much longer since you were in such good shape when you broke it. We’ll figure out how to do an X-ray at the end of January to see what’s going on in there, but I think you’ll be okay for light riding just in time for things to start warming up. If everything’s good after a couple weeks, we’ll try a walking cast and you can start using the exercise cycles, with resistance as tolerated. You let me know if you have any trouble, right? Palmer, you’ve been a big help with his recovery, by the way.”
“No, thank you. If more people cared about their life partners as much as you two do, I wouldn’t have had so many health issues to deal with back before the trucks came. Which reminds me: why did you guys never ask the reverend to marry you?”
Palmer laughed. “It doesn’t matter anymore. Back before, we were advocating for equality and we’d have done it to make a statement. But now? Any couple — at least the ones here — are all equal. We don’t need a ceremony to prove it anymore.”