Don’t do this to me… Please… How could you? I kept him. It cost me everything. Totally derailed my life. But I did it. I kept him because you made me believe it was the right thing to do. And now you want to take him away from me? After I’ve let him become my whole world. You’re supposed to be good. If you do this to me I’ll lose it.
There’s no way to be certain whether her silent begging counts as a prayer. But it’s all she has right now. She’s still sleep deprived, hungry, and emotionally drained, and yet she’s here again, outside the operating room, watching her heart bleed out on the table for a second time.
She pounds her hand against the glass. Just once. Not hard. She doesn’t want to risk distracting them from their work. He’s a good boy. You know he is. It wasn’t even his fault. A stray bullet from a gang fight rips through a playground and my angel lands in a bloody sprawl on the concrete. How could you? People scramble around her boy behind the glass. There is panic on their faces. The tears blur her vision. She blinks them away, ignoring the sting. It’s too painful to watch, but its all she has left.
“HOW COULD YOU?” she cries out at the ceiling, spinning away from the window and collapsing onto the floor. Tears splatter against her jeans as she sobs. She wants to scream, but does her best to choke out the sounds that try to escape her throat. The rosary snaps between her fingers, the beads tumble around the hall, pinging on the tiles like the ticking red second hand of a white-faced clock she remembers from years ago. She doesn’t hear the nurse as she approaches to comfort her.
“C’mon kid,” he cleans the wound as fresh blood begins to flood in. The hemorrhage has aggravated the artery he previously closed. As soon as he has enough visibility to see what he’s doing more blood rushes the table. The nurse keeps the suction close. He knows where he needs to get to fix the hemorrhage. A fragment of the bullet lodged in the wall of the artery. Small miracle. If the fragment had made it’s way to the kid’s heart, there’d be no saving him. But he’s been bleeding internally ever since.
A sound comes from behind the glass. Faint, but deliberate. Caroline. She pounds the glass before sliding down to the floor. He flashes a glance before refocusing on his work. She doesn’t know how lucky she is, all she sees is her son on the table again. Dying. He can’t know what she’s feeling. Doesn’t need to. All he needs to do is stop the blood and get that fragment out.
The minutes roll by as he works. Patient. Methodical. He doesn’t see the kid anymore. Just another body. Meat, bone, and blood. That’s how he has to see it. It’s what keeps his hands from shaking. He’s not saving a life, just cleaning up a mess. He can spend hours overthinking it long after he’s done. But he has to be fast. If the kid goes critical again, they might not get him back. Body’s been through too much trauma without enough time to recuperate.
“Blood pressure fifty-eight over thirty,” the nurse calls out.
What has she thinking? She knew better than to think anyone would help her. She made a mistake coming back home. She should’ve went through with it. Should have stayed in that cheap motel with her boyfriend and went to the clinic. Then this would all be over. Things would be back to normal. Now she’s still going to have to do it, and this time her boyfriend’s parents probably won’t even pay for it.
They drive back home in silence, after her dad rants for a few minutes. “Hypocrites,” he says through his teeth. “Million dollar building and they say they can’t help anyone.” She pretends she doesn’t hear him, curled up around her half-caff coffee, taking the lid off so she can breathe the steam from the paper cup.
“Caroline,” her father says after shutting the car off in the driveway. “I can’t understand how difficult this is for you. You have to be scared and probably all kinds of messed up right now. But I want you to hear me. Your mother and I love you so much. Nothing’s changed. I know we don’t have much, but we’ll help you any way we can. You still did the right thing by coming home.”
She can’t keep from crying. The words come out broken. “What can you do, dad?…You and, and mom? What are we supposed to do with a baby? What am I supposed to do?” She sniffs, wiping her nose on her sleeve and looking out the window at the rotted tire swing in the front yard.
“Can we pray about it, Caroline. Right now.”
“What’s that gonna do, Dad?” She looks back at him, eyes bloodshot, cheeks streamed with tears. She can see he’s crying too.
“Please,” he says, eyes begging her to take his hand.
She puts her hand in his without saying anything. He starts praying. Talking to God. A stranger on a cloud in the sky. She doesn’t hear what he says. Her own thoughts are deafening. I’m all alone. I can’t ask my parents to do this with me. Can’t ask my dad to sit by and listen to the whole town say the worst things about his baby girl. I can’t put him through this. Either of them. If there is a God, then why did he let this happen? Why me?
Her heart aches as more tears come. No one knows what she’s going through. How hard this is for her. It’s not like she doesn’t want to have a baby some day. Just right now, it’s impossible. It would cost her everything. Her whole life, her reputation. All of it just for a clump of cells in her belly. It’s not worth it. It just isn’t.
No one will help her. Not even the church. She’s alone in this and she doesn’t have a choice. No matter what her dad says. She can’t do this. I can’t do this.
She listens to her dad whisper his prayers beneath the torrent of thoughts that flood her mind and fill her eyes with more tears. Suddenly, and out of nowhere, she thinks she hears something. Maybe it’s her dad’s voice, or maybe she’s imagining it. But something, in a tone both affectionate and soothing whispers gently to her mind. More accurately, to her heart.
“I see you. I’ve always seen you. I am with you.”
Is that you God? She thinks, but gets no answer, other than the peace that begins to overwhelm her heart. She smiles, and cries, and knows she’s not alone. She can’t explain it, but knows she doesn’t have to. Please. Help me. I’ll trust you, just let me know it’ll be ok.
She cries until her head hurts, but the feeling of peace never leaves. Only swells and grows till it feels as if the windows of the car are about to bust out. She squeezes her father’s hand and he squeezes back. She listens to him pray and she prays silently too. Whispers the desires of her heart to a God who knows her. Who somehow, has always known her. And slowly the fear in her heart is replaced with love. Love for a child she has never met. Love for a father that she is only beginning to discover. And a hope and confidence that everything is going to be ok. Somehow, as unbelievable as it sounds, everything is going to be ok.