Read All We Know of Heaven Online

Authors: Jacquelyn Mitchard

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Social Issues, #Death & Dying, #General, #Emotions & Feelings

All We Know of Heaven (4 page)

BOOK: All We Know of Heaven
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Like, not a fairy tale.

She needed to get her mind off it. Get to work.

The parents of Bigelow would be commandeering car keys at the first snowflake for weeks at least, and maybe all winter long.

She hoped so.

If it were up to Amber, her sister Britney would never drive a car again.

She started cleaning the room where Coach’s little girl had been. She had coded twice, but they brought her back and sent her up to surgery.

Amber had to catch herself. Not “Coach’s little girl.” Maureen was sixteen.

Although she
little, only a hair over five feet tall, just exactly the same as Bridget Flannery. The Dyno Mites, everybody called them.

Almost everyone in ED had stood hushed in a silent homage as they passed—running, first with Bridget, then with Maureen—for the elevator, headed up to surgery.
As if the doctors and nurses might salute,
Amber thought.

She sighed and set to work.

The bay looked like a battlefield. It always did. Amber drew the curtains.

With a nurse’s aide, Maria Alvarez, beside her, she stripped away the blood-soaked sheets and pillowcases and began to bag the packages that held tubing and gauze, rippedopenandthrowntothefloorinthebreakneckhaste. There was a bloody spatter on the portable X-ray, though not so much as in the other room. Bridget’s room.

They had gone in to start her heart again. The medics came thundering through the doors, IV bags aloft, one holding the mask over her mouth while another com pressed the bag as they ran, snot and tears frozen on Carl Otterstad’s face. Carl had been chief of the volunteer medics for as long as anyone knew. He lived just across the street from the Flannerys and two doors north of the O’Malleys. Carl would have known the worst the second he saw Bridget . . . but they had worked like madmen on her all the way from the north side of Bigelow anyway.

Carl still sat outside in the waiting room, crying. He had waited to say a word to the Flannerys and the O’Malleys after Dr. Collins spoke to them and they went upstairs, but he had missed them. Up there it could be hours. The social worker, Neely Cavendish, walked past and spoke to Carl, laying a hand on his shoulder, before heading for the elevators. Someone else would finish Carl’s shift. It was late anyhow. Amber glanced out through the meshed glass at Carl’s back, his big hands splayed and covering his face like a hockey helmet as he sobbed. After a little while Chief Colette showed up, too. Amber felt better knowing some one was there with Carl.

When the mops and sterile solutions had arrived for washing down the equipment and the bed, Amber moved over to the other bay.

How could it be just an hour ago that Bridget had been here? The mess was so much worse, actually, because Bridget was better off than Maureen. Bridget had been ac tively bleeding.

“One, two, three . . .” and lift; Bridget was so tiny that she felt like nothing and so broken that she looked like some thing built on the set of a horror movie, blood pouring from her nose and her mouth, one leg rag-doll crooked. A bro ken shoulder and greenstick fracture of the radius were the least of her problems. Marie Kimmer had the IV in her poor groin, with the sucs and pentobarbital that would calm and immobilize Bridget, making it easier for her body to rest

and respond. The charting nurse took her place at the por table desk. Tom Katz, the senior resident (who was cute, and who took a lot of teasing from the nurses because of his name) took his place at the foot of the table and called out, “GS three,” meaning that Bridget was low on the Glasgow Coma Scale, which was bad. He glanced at his students: the tall, bone-skinny guy who was new and blond Amy Daater, a first-year resident. Joe Deever, the anesthesiologist, did the ABC—airway, breathing, and circulation. Katz’s boss, Dr. Collins, the chief, roved around, taking it all in, gently pointing out the tiny details anyone but a twenty-year guy would miss.

Amber stood at Bridget’s right shoulder, closest to the monitor, efficiently starting a fresh IV in on the first stick— not that Bridget would have noticed—and then beginning to sponge away surface blood. Dr. Katz looked doubtful about asking the first-year resident, but this was a teach ing hospital and so he said quickly, “That blood. Look at the picture. Are we looking at lacerations and some teeth knocked out?”

“It’s not really squirting, so I think, yes, she has a bro ken nose and . . . ,” Dr. Daater said. “These teeth will have to be replaced with a bridge if we get that far.”

“But we can’t rule out . . .”

“A hemothorax . . . Blood in there, so we need an X-ray.” A tech had already trundled in the portable X-ray ma chine.

“And would either of you . . . No, I’m going to place this

subclavian line . . . to . . .”

“Monitor blood pressure,” said Dr. Daater, and then felt the idiot. A premed would have said such a thing.

“Right. Now we can see bone here at the side of her head. And I want to say there’s a good chance we have a big subdural hematoma. If we have to put in a drain, well, that’s another thing for the plastic surgeons. . . . We have to assume, doctors, that her neck is broken until we know otherwise. So even when we move her tongue, we want this C spine stable, ” Katz said, and silently slid in the line, just below Bridget’s collarbone. They all checked the monitors. Dr. Katz laid his hand on her wrist: Bridget’s pulse was rac ing. “She’s in pain, and that could be the reason for this pulse being up there; but at least it’s nice and full now, not thready.” Her pressure wasn’t bad either, and her nail beds were pale but pink. They were going to need to order blood in any event, for fixing her cheek and arm and, if neces sary, whatever else they could not see.

What they could not see was usually worse than what they could. And when the X-rays came back, even Doctor Katz cussed.

She made her mouth move. On her own.

She decided to make it happen, instead of just feeling it happen. She thought (it was like climbing the rope in second grade when she was fat and weak) about it for a long time.

Then she tried to make the “tick tick” sound that she used to call Rag Mop, her Yorkie.

She could do it.

Why could she move her mouth? If she was dead?

She moved her mouth wide open.

Whoa! Suddenly her head hurt. Hurt like a clock exploding inside. Exploding with wires and shards of glass and little clocker knocker chimes. Hurt? Her head hurt like a punching bag. Her chest hurt. Her leg was on fire! And her thigh muscle . . . but she had pulled it, at the last practice. Practice! She wasn’t in heaven, or even in purgatory, where the souls just moped around praying and hoping for the best. She was somewhere else. The smells, metal and alcohol andsomekindofreeky sweet stuff thatmadeher want to hurl. This was bad, all very, very bad.

what child is this?

In the following days, the hospital staff tried to limit the number of people who came to see Bridget in the pediatric intensive care unit. It was useless in the end. Somebody always took pity on someone who was family, but not im mediate family, or on one of the kids from school.

And Danny. He always got in. He was so grateful.

His parents and his brothers, and even his best friend, Evan Brock, were honestly scared for him the first night— as if he would ever kill himself. He was no pussy. And he knew that if Bridget woke up, it would be for him. With all they’d been through in four years, she would come back for him.

He knew it; the Flannerys knew it, too.

Even Coach O’Malley knew it. Coach, suffering the way he was, still came back to work after two weeks. Danny was the first one he came up to.

“You were always Maury’s good friend,” he said. “I want to thank you for that, son. You keep Bridget going for all of us. As long as she’s alive, Danny, a little part of my girl is, too.”

Danny almost started bawling right there in the weight room.

Maureen’s funeral was the saddest thing he had ever seen in his life.

Over a thousand people came. Some stood outside the church in a tent with speakers and space heaters.

Grandma’s funeral was sad, because seventy-six wasn’t really that old; and she was in the peak of health before she got sick with flu last year. But it was nothing like Maury’s.

It was a terrible moment at the funeral when all the cheerleaders came in their uniforms. They lined up be side the coffin and did the Bulldog Salute—putting one stiff arm out to the side and one overhead, then quickly slapping their arms down to their sides. Taylor Cuddahy, the captain, placed the trophy they had won at the Lud ding competition the morning after the accident on top of Maury’s coffin. She then sang this old song about having your friends winter, spring, summer, and fall. Coach Ed dington, who was always jumping around in white shorts and a white polo with her whistle, was wearing some navy

blue suit that made her look like a flight attendant who hadn’t slept in six months. She began to cry loud enough for everyone to hear when she placed a brand-new varsity sweater on the coffin. Maureen was being buried in her cheering outfit, but no one could see that.

Danny hated leaving Bridget long enough even to go to Maury’s funeral, but he had to say good-bye to his friend, too.

He got down on the kneeler and leaned on the pew in front of him with his head on his arms.

Evan Brock, who was sitting next to him with Danny’s parents on the other side, said, “It’s okay, man,” and put his arm around Danny for a second. Danny rubbed his lips and nodded. He looked up, but then he could see the cof fin . . . and all the pictures. It was like a freaking museum project.

The O’Malleys (Mom said they were on autopilot) had set up all these boards with pictures of Maury and her brothers and Maury-and-Bridget, Maury-and-Bridget, Maury-and-Bridget. They had pinned Maury’s soccer rib bons up there, her letter jacket and about fifty letters from girls all covered with pink heart stickers and crap that said they would never, ever forget her. When his mom talked to Jeannie O’Malley, she said Jeannie staggered and slurred her words because the doctor had given her a downer of some kind. The Flannerys sat right next to Coach and Mrs. O’Malley and their four boys.

Mom saw Danny staring at the boards and said, “They’re

never going to be able to give her a wedding or a gradua tion. They need to do something.”

Danny nodded, and then Father Genovese got up. He smoothed back his hair, something Danny had never seen him do. It was like he didn’t want to go through with this either. The guy was a nervous wreck.

“We cannot begin to accept or ever hope to under stand why this blithe spirit was taken from us,” said Father Genovese, after the traditional “The Lord is with you and also with you too” stuff. Maury’s great-uncle, Father Jim O’Malley, was there, too, assisting; and he kept reaching over to pat the quilt on top of the coffin—Mrs. O’Malley had made it for Maureen’s sixteenth birthday out of all her baby dresses.

“Maureen came to this world as an unexpected gift, a child her parents never thought they would have. I bap tized this sunlight child. She gave us so much light in her short time on Earth. She sang to us like an angel, like the angels among whom she may sing now. She was as light as a leaf, dancing in her ballerina outfits as a little girl and later on the cheerleading squad she loved. Maureen showered affection on her dog, her brothers, her circle of friends, her school . . . and she loved her best friend, Bridget Flannery. As we pray for the repose of Maureen’s unstained soul, let us take a moment to pray for Bridg et’s recovery. . . .” Danny felt his face heat up then. He didn’t want to blubber. Maureen was a flower, like Father Genovese said. If you turned her toward the sun, she was

happy. If you just gave her a smile . . . She was a girl you could really talk to.

He would sit on the sled hill behind the O’Malleys’ house and tell Maury things he would never tell Bridget—about one of his brother David’s friends who’d tried to grab him coming out of the shower when he was little and about his hope to work for the FBI someday because he loved the idea of going after real bad guys. He even sang her the country song he wrote that began, “You said I’d walk away from you

. . . that I’d get bored or I’d get blue. / I’d be the one to say we’re through. . . .”

Bridge would have laughed at him, but Maury looked at him as if he were some kind of genius.

She couldn’t understand the guitar. Pianos had keys: They were straightforward. But how did he know how to make a particular note from a combination of six strings, she would ask? Maureen could tell you all the republics in the former Soviet Union but had never even seen Chicago. She’d never been on a plane. She’d never smoked a ciga rette except when she and Bridget were little. And though she tried to slam Jell-O shots like the rest of them, she just couldn’t.

“. . . The last time I saw Maureen, I reprimanded her for doing the Communion sneak. . . .” There was a ripple of subdued laughter at the reference to what kids who still went to church—all six of them—did after Communion at Saturday night Mass. They would walk right out the back door after they took Communion and not wait until the

service officially ended. “And she told me that she was sor ry and she wouldn’t do it anymore but that she always felt that God was in her pocket. . . . She said she felt safe wher ever she went, because her parents and God were looking out for her. She told me she didn’t know what it would be like to grow up and have to do that for herself. But she will never have to know that pleasure and, yes, that pain, be cause God has taken her straight from her parents’ arms and holds her close and safe now. . . . She never needs to be afraid.”

Damn it! Danny heard Mrs. O’Malley make a noise be tween a scream and a sob. “My baby!”

Mrs. Flannery grabbed her, shushing her as if Mrs. O. were a baby or a puppy.

He thought of that one night when Bridget was away in the Bahamas with her parents on spring break.

He was bored out of his gourd. His parents were putting in a hot tub and so the family didn’t go skiing like they usu ally did at spring break. His buddies were all somewhere else, either on trips or at their grandmothers’ houses or something; and it was right after his grandma died.

BOOK: All We Know of Heaven
10.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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