Saturday, June 27, 2020

Chapter 16

Nick and Katie returned from the CT scan about thirty minutes later. A text on Nick’s phone let Katie know that Shawn and the other guys were in the treatment area waiting for them. The orderly secured the gurney, before going out of the treatment to inform Matthew and Becca that Nick had returned, and that they could see him. Nick looked at Katie with a peaked look as if he was green at the gills. Katie thought he was in pain. He started to groan and wince, and Katie jumped to his side. 
“What’s the matter, is it your head?
“No, I’m going to be sick, I'm going to..., " he said as he gagged those first obnoxious gags before the vomit projected from his mouth and nose.   
“I’m outta here!” 
Katie ran out to the nurse’s station. Matthew, Shawn, Jerry, Mike, Jeff, and Becca were all talking and about to head in there, when Katie came running toward them.  
“Becca, he’s gonna puke, you need to go in there and catch it,” she said. 
“Oh, okay. I need an emesis basin, where are they?” She asked at the nurse’s station. Another nurse joined her in her rush to tend to Nick, while Katie covered her ears. Matthew looked over at her and chuckled as the sound of Nick’s vomiting penetrated the emergency room area. . 
“You still can’t handle it, can you?” Matthew asked, taking one of her hands down and laughing at her. Shawn looked puzzled as Katie kept her hands over her ears and winced. Matthew just kept laughing. 
“Nope, I think I’m going to be sick. I gotta go to the ladies’ room.” Katie covered her mouth and ran for the bathroom, while Matthew and the other guys laughed at her. The four men went into the treatment room to greet their friend after Becca signaled he was done. Matthew followed in close behind. They all greeted their friend after he was composed. Shawn was the first to approach his best friend, Nicolas Paul. 
“Hey, bro. You know, you look like shit,” Shawn said as he extended his hand for a friendly buddy handshake.
“Shawn, thank you for coming. I don’t deserve it, but I appreciate it.” 
Jerry was next to walk over to his friend. “Truth be told, dude, you’ve never looked better,” Jerry said as he likewise shook Nick’s hand in the same manner. Nick chuckled and gave him an appreciative smile.
“Thanks Jer.’ Thanks for turning your vehicle around and coming back. Thanks for even wanting to come back.”
“Who said we wanted to?” Mike said as he approached. “Shawn was about to jump out of our moving vehicle right there on the highway and thumb a ride back. It was either we all come back, or we’d be picking up pieces of Shawn splattered all across I 65,” he added, as he walked over to Nick to give him a handshake. Nick cackled and looked at Shawn, again sending warm thank you’s in his half-smile. 
“It was Katie,” Shawn said. “She compelled us, telling us you could have died. She’s the one who deserves the credit for remaining by your side all this time,” he added. “Considering what you did to her and said, she’s the saint, here.” They all nodded. 
Jeff shoved Mike out of the way to get closer in proximity to his boss and friend.  “I slept through the whole damn thing. I was clueless until Shawn called. I always miss out on all the best stuff,” Jeff said while he moved toward Nick for a handshake. 
“So, my Teach has left, now, I assume. She said she would as soon as you arrived. She is so mad and hurt. She hates me. I’m not sure if I’ll ever recover from that, or what I’ve done to her.”  
“If she hated you, do you think that she would have held your bloody head in her lap?” Jerry asked.  
“I agree, if she hated you, she wouldn’t be in this emergency room, crying and scared half out of her mind that she was going to lose you to a severe head injury,” Matthew said. “She wouldn’t still be here now that you’re awake,” he added. 
“She did that?” Nick asked. Matthew and Becca nodded. “Where is she?”
“Oh, and she’s, umm, hiding, from the only thing she fears more than your power to crush her, again, 
“What’s that?” Nick asked. 
“Puke,” Becca answered with a short laugh. The guys all laughed, all but Nick. 
“So are you feeling better? Mr. Thomas, now that you’ve expunged two weeks’ worth of alcohol?” Matthew asked. Nick shook his head.  
“Matthew, I’ll never feel better, til’ she feels better. Please call me Nick, or Nicolas Paul. So, exactly where is she?” Becca and Matthew chuckled at Katie’s weakness. 
“She just couldn’t be here during your hour of need. You see, Mr. Thomas, our Katie has a cast iron stomach as she brags. She could be in the room during an autopsy, which would drop most medical students,” Becca said with a chuckle. “But not our Katie, she’d be the one with her eyes wide opened, jumping up and down trying to see over the heads of the taller students in front, like a little kid watching someone play a brand new video game.” All the men started to laugh. “But when it comes to anyone vomiting, she heads for the hills.” 
“She’s in the bathroom now having the dry heaves, just thinking about it.” Matthew said with a chortle. “She put her hand over her ears, but it wasn’t enough, just the mental picture sent her running for the ladies' room. She doesn’t even have anything in her stomach,” Matthew said with concern.
“Yeah, she’s so thin. I noticed that a while back, but she looks even thinner. Even my Cath’ is concerned,” Shawn said.  
“Yeah, what the hell happened? I hardly recognized her, and I never forget a face,” Jeff asked. Matthew and Becca’s faces showed deep concern and some fear at Katie’s tenuous state of welfare. 
“She has an eating disorder and she won’t seek treatment.” 
A very aggravated Katie interrupted Becca as she came around the curtain. “Becca, if I hear that term one more time, I’ll go to the medical board, admit to it, then file charges against you for violation of HIPPA laws.” Katie threw her hands on her hips. She was angry and not kidding. There was absolute silence in the room. 
Matthew then stepped up toward her. “You will do no such thing, missy,” Matthew said getting in her face. 
“Oh really, Mr. Fire-hose? Try me.” Katie said raising one eyebrow and crossing her hands across her chest. 
“You know dear sister, I’m not going to sink to your level, because you’ve had a bad night, but if you think you are so much more righteous than this man over there, you got another thing coming. Now, I suggest you get off your high horse, stop thinking of yourself as better than him, just because he’s had a bad year. Grow up, rather grow a heart. Stop being so uppity and unforgiving toward Nick. You would never have treated anyone else that way.”  
Nick’s eyes widened. Katie threw her head back, and even Becca sucked in a deep breath, waiting for Katie’s response to Matthew’s reprimand. She looked at Matthew, then Becca, then to Nick and the guys. She took in deep breaths, trying to contain her anger, but lost that battle. 
“You’re a shit, Matthew,” she said as she stormed out of the room. Matthew and Becca gasped at that. Katie had never said anything so awful to her brother-in-law, and the first man she ever truly loved besides her grandfather. Matthew stood there with his mouth open, and Becca put her hand on his shoulder.
“Go after her, Shawn. Don’t let her go outside.” Nick said.
“She didn’t mean it, honey,” Becca said. Matthew just kept his head down at his hurt and hers.  
Shawn took off looking for the wake she left behind, and he saw her heading for the ambulance bay. 
“Katie, don’t go out there. You’ll get mobbed.” 
She stopped short and took an about face to leave the ER, slamming open the double doors that led to a long corridor. She didn’t know which feeling would be the end of her, as anger, hurt, love, concern, and now regret all fought for control. Shawn caught up to her and grabbed her arm. 
“Shawn, I don’t know what I’m going to do about either one of those men. I am just so— errghhh!” She said waving her fists in the air and stomping her feet.
“Hey, slow down. Can we just talk somewhere? C’mon, let’s find a quiet spot.” Shawn’s calming voice and his soothing face and eyes let Katie know that he was a good person to talk to about her loss of control over her emotions. She buried her head into his chest and wept. He bent down his 5’11 stature and whispered in her ear while he held her for a good several minutes. “I’ll bet that’s the first real cry, since you’ve seen him tonight. I’ll even bet you refused to let yourself cry this past year isn’t it?” Katie nodded. 
“I would cry at night when no one could see or hear, and then the tears froze into anger and indifference.” The two started walking, until they found two chairs in an alcove. They sat down and faced each other. Shawn took Katie’s hands into his. 
“Katie, I have to apologize. I knew who you were several months ago. I should have contacted you. I didn’t tell Nick, because he was being such a jerk. He was drunk all the time. I just let him go on and self-destruct to this level and hurt you even more. I regret that. Do you remember telling me to kick him upside the head if he got out of control?” She nodded. “Katie, we used a steel baseball bat, all of us. Even my Cathy, who could always reach him, could not even crack him. He just kept on like a steam engine headed for a fatalistic derailment. It didn’t help having thousands of people worshiping him, telling him he could do no wrong. I didn’t even know him anymore.”
“Shawn, I never considered how difficult this must have been on you. I had to watch him disintegrate from afar, but you had a front row seat. It must have been heartbreaking for you and the guys.” 
“Katie, I knew if anyone could get to him, it would be you. I was right. I think you just obliterated the obnoxious superstar. Even the intonation of his voice is back to Nicolas Paul. There was an evil that lived and ruled in him for a while, but thanks to you, God has rescued my best friend and brought him back to us. He loves you more than music. I never thought I’d say that. But he’d give up ever hearing music again, if it meant getting you back.” 
“I think that’s a bit drastic, don’t you think?” Shawn shook his head. 
“No. He loves you so. I think not having you in his life could have been part of him getting lost in it all. He kept hoping for you to come back. Each disappointing day pushed him closer to the bottle, and then it just spiraled out of control to the depravity of his hatefulness. 
“So this is my fault?”
“No, of course not. It is just that when he got drunk, he was a mean drunk.” Katie nodded. 
“Yeah, I guess for some, abusing alcohol becomes so toxic, and a poison to people like him and his Dad. He told me all about him.” 
“I think winning you back will be his motivation to quit all that.” Katie shook her head.  
“I’m not going back. I’m not going dancing on that cliff again. The rocks are not stable and when they give way, the fall is brutal, damaging me beyond repair. I can’t do it, again, Shawn.”
“But, Katie, he needs you, he loves you, and you were both so looking forward to being together. You were so good together, don’t you remember?” 
“Shawn, he became the face of hope for me, but, as usual, hope always leads to despair. I can’t deal with him and this whole viral book. My life has spun out of control. I didn’t want this life. The fight with him has been eating me up, literally, according to Becca. Nick is like a roller-coaster, and Scotty is like a carousel, not very exciting, but you don’t feel like you’re going to be thrown off from a high place. I’ve had the shiver before, and it sucks. I much prefer the security factor.”  
Shawn grabbed her by the shoulders. 
“Listen to me. You are the only thing that can bring back our Nicolas Paul and leave him above the surface. If you don’t even consider taking him back into your heart, he will either die, or kill someone like his Dad did. He needs some hope.” 
“Oh, that’s great. They say that I carry the burdens of the world like a trooper. Now I have to save and restore Nicolas Paul, because everyone is counting on me. I’m supposed to do this after all he said and did to me? Well, I’m done, do you hear?” 
“Katie, he didn’t know that was you. He never would have said and done all the things he did to you. He pined over you for so long, and then I think he just felt like giving up. I think he assumed you married that deputy. I think he wanted to come looking for you, but he had no clue how to find you, because he only knew you as a Petersen. He never put Katie Lynn Moore with Katherine Lynn Petersen.” Katie dropped her head, knowing she was partly to blame for his not recognizing her and for her not returning to him as she promised.
“I couldn’t give him my real name, back then. I was afraid he’d do that very thing, and if he found me, I wouldn’t have been able to turn him away. Then when he became a jerk, then it became easier every day. Even if he didn’t know me, he was that hateful, and the twit girlfriend, along with all the other women he flaunted and fooled around with, people talk, you know.” She stood up to walk back to the ER. Shawn followed close behind. “I gotta go; Scotty will have been looking for me. I can’t take all of this, I don’t want to. I have enough on my plate, so to speak. I couldn’t believe a man so hateful lived in my Nicolas Paul’s body, but not only did he live in there, he took over.” 
“Don’t we all have someone like that deep within us? Like you said, we fight the enemy that lives within, and we choose which team to be on, then we tap into that source for strength.” 
“Oh, shut-up, Shawn. Don’t be throwing my words back in my face.”
“Katie, let me ask you. Why aren’t you tapping into that source for strength, instead of letting the world and that man zap you of all your love and strength?” She looked at him with a puzzled look. “Look at you, Katie; you look like you’re going to fall over any day now. Everyone is so worried about you.” 
“Oh, are we going back to that eating disorder thing? Isn’t that what got me out in this hallway to begin with?’
“Katie, you’re dying. Not only are you depriving yourself of a love that could light your world, you’re depriving yourself of food that will keep you alive.” 

“I’m not dying, for goodness sake. I’m just not all that hungry. Stress kills my appetite. Why are you all being so damn dramatic? Yeah, I’ve lost a few pounds, big deal.” 
When they entered a portion of the corridor that was all window, from the pitch black of the night, the window made an excellent mirror to show her silhouette. Shawn turned Katie’s body to face the reflection. 
“Look Katie.” He stood behind her with his hands on her bony shoulders. He rubbed her concaved cheeks with the back of his fingers from behind. “That’s not even the same rosy-cheeked face that had me cracking up two years ago with your wit. You are going to die. My Cath’ has been through something similar to this when she was in high school. She was worried about you. She’s seen pictures and she recognized the waif like face. 
Katie got closer to the windows and put her hands on her face. She had a tired, drawn look. The formerly rounded shape of her eyes were now almost half-moons of sadness. Shawn held up her left hand and her bony bare arms. Then he put his hands on her tiny concaved waist. 
“I’ll bet you don’t weigh a hundred pounds, do you? He stood next to her in the reflection. She was a measly twig to his tree trunk. 
“I just can’t eat when I’m stressed, and I’m on the road a lot. If I’m not dodging people’s tragic stories that everyone needs to tell me, then I’m dodging pictures or any mentions of Nick Thomas. I trained myself to not love him. I was winning that battle until the stupid jerk got a brick wall thrown at him and he almost died.” 
“Okay, so think about that. You learned to hate that man, yet, all that love came rushing back when you thought he might die. I heard such panic in your voice on the phone.” Katie nodded. “Imagine how he feels now, seeing you killing yourself, one meal at a time. Look, living with that man with you out there alive somewhere, not knowing where you were has been hell enough. If you die, well then, no one will be able to pick him up. He will die too. What about your family? Hasn’t you’re brother-in-law lost enough? You wrote about all the losses in his life. Do you think he could bear to lose you too? Please, if not for yourself, live for them.” 
“Yes, and if Nick dies on me like Michael did, or dumps me, or cheats? I won’t survive that, again. I can’t go down that black hole, again.” Katie’s eyes started to tear, and her voice started to quiver. Then she stiffened up her stance, shaking off the burst of tears. 
“Not every relationship ends in sadness. Look at his Gran and Gramps. That’s the kind of man Nicolas Paul is. He’d give up his career in a heartbeat, if it meant you feeling secure, just like his Gramps did. He wants you back in his life more than anything, even music.”
“Been there, done that, not going back to that,” she said. 
“As far as the dying part, I don’t think God would have you go through that again, you may go before him. Better yet, I loved what you said. Let’s see if I can get it right,  ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and if God thinks I can’t, then look up and celebrate, because we’re about to be raptured.” 
“Why must you people continue to throw my own words from that stupid book in my face? Can’t you people come up with your own stuff?” She chuckled a sad laugh.
Shawn laughed and put his arm around her pulling her bony body close to his. His giant hand overwhelmed her thin bony upper arm. They turned and started walking back, at a snail’s pace, again. 
“Do you know how much your book has changed and helped my family? My Cath’ had a miscarriage, several months back. She was devastated.” Katie stopped walking and her hands went to her mouth.
“Oh, I’m so sorry.” 
“Your book got her through it and gave her hope for another baby. That’s how I recognized you. I saw the picture on the back cover. When I saw you wrote it, I read it, twice.”
Katie chuckled. “That good huh? She said with sarcasm. 
“Yes, as a matter of fact, it was. It got me and her going back to church and taking our kids. We used to many, many years ago, but we stopped.
Now, we’re pretty regular and our marriage is better for it. Katie the repercussions of your book will last into eternity. God used you in such a mighty way. Now, let Him bless you with that fairy tale life for being that obedient Job’s Princess, as you said.” 
“That was when I had hope in Nicolas Paul. He fed that crap to me.” She stopped and put her head down, before they reached for the door to the ER.
“It’s not crap and you know it.” Katie wrapped her arms around Shawn’s middle and squeezed him close. “Shawn, I liked you the minute I saw you two years ago. You are a way better friend to him than he deserves.” 
“I’m going to agree with you on that, but I’m not going to give up on my friend, Nicolas Paul, now that he’s back. You brought him back to us. I know Nicolas Paul, and he’ll move heaven and earth to scrape himself up from the bottom of the barrel now, just to win you back. If he thinks there is no chance, well then, I don’t know what will happen to him. Even when he nearly gave up, I think he still had the tiniest bit of hope. If you turn him away, he’ll have no reason to come back.” 
“Shawn, I’ll think about it, but know this, even if I decide to give him another chance, I’m going to make him suffer first, big time. I’ll throw in a dash of hope; just enough to pick him up, then I’ll slap him down, again. I’ll enjoy every minute of it, also.” Shawn laughed, and she giggled. 
“You go for it. He deserves it for every suffering moment we’ve all been through with him. This is going to be great fun. Girl, do it for all of us, take out on him Katie’s Wrath, but sprinkle in some of God’s grace.” 
“Stop using my own words, damn it.” Shawn winked at her and then opened the doors to the ER area. “Hey, I got an idea, you give him the hope, and I’ll slap it out of his hands. That worked really well with Michael.” Katie chortled.
“You’re on, partner.” Shawn put out his hand for them to shake on the partnership.  
“Two years ago, I kept that man’s cocky assurance at bay, taking him down a few inches at a time. What he’s going to get now, will make that time make me seem like an idol-worshiping young Barbie swooning him.”
“Oh boy. I better get my shovel ready to pick him up each time you flatten him, because I remember that meet and greet, the best one of his life. You dropped him several times. I’ve never seen him so tongue-tied. It was so funny.”
“Yep, and that was a matter of a few minutes to a few hours, can you just imagine what the rest of his life would be?” Shawn and Katie re-entered the emergency room area. Shawn went into the room, while Katie stayed out to talk to Becca who was at the nurse’s station.  
“Where’s Matthew?” 
“The chapel,” Becca answered.
“Okay, I’ll be right back,” Katie retorted.

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