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 (9 page)

BOOK: All We Know of Heaven
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“Maureen, it’s Daddy,” Bill said.

Maureen tried to smile at the guy, but it hurt her mouth. She made the signal to the nurse that she needed pain stuff. The signal was wrinkling up her nose. And then she clucked her tongue twice.

Dady-dad? He looked like a niceman, bigman. Scary hands. She had seen these scary hands. They were so big they could hurt. Did they hurt.

“Hi?” she asked. “Where?” “It’s Daddy, Maury,” Bill said.

Maureen clucked her tongue again. It seemed to be what her tongue wanted to do.

“She’s calling Rag Mop,” said the chunky man, the old guy Maureen had never seen before. She had never seen the younger guy in the black coat either. “She’s calling our dog.”

“Mop, come,” said Maureen. Jeannie took her hand. Maureen pulled the hand closer to her nose. She sniffed at it. Mom’s cologne. Flowers of the Valley. She could think it right away.

“Hi, Mom,” said Maureen.

Jeannie put her head down on Maureen’s leg and cried so violently that her tears soaked through two blankets.

In Neely’s office, Dr. Collins thought it would be necessary to administer some kind of sedation to Kitt Flannery. He didn’t blame her.
Bastard situation
, he thought.
Incompre hensible
. He squirmed with guilt and pity.

Mike sat in the straight chair like the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Washington, D.C., his face utterly immobile ex cept for the occasional blink.

Kitt literally tried to crawl the walls.

Steve Collins had never seen a physical demonstration of the phrase before. If only Kathy Fahey would come. Not once in fifteen years of practice had he felt so totally inadequate.

“It’s my fault! I was afraid she wouldn’t be perfect!” Kitt

screamed. “I was afraid she’d be like those kids up there, all in diapers and drooling and wailing and groaning. I asked God to take her if she was going to be like that. God took her. It was my fault!”

“No,” Neely said. “No! Nothing you thought about Bridget had anything to do with this, Mrs. Flannery. Kitt. Nothing! This is not your fault or anyone’s fault. It was normal to think that. Any mom who had a beautiful, smart daughter would think that.”

“I want to die!” Kitt screamed. “I had a beautiful daugh ter! Had!”

“Sit down, Kitt, please. Just for a moment. Let’s have a drink of water,” Neely said.

Dr. Collins thought
, This woman needs help
. He would ask the dad for the name of Kitt’s primary physician.
Oh hell. Foolish to wait.
He said, “Let’s find Dr. Sasuko. Is she out there? Five milligrams of Valium IM stat . . .”

“We should talk to our lawyer?” Mike finally asked. The emphasis on each word was the same as on the previous word.

“You can do that,” Dr. Collins said gently. Kathy Fahey knocked and then slipped into the room.

“Lawyer? For what? To sue? Sue for what, Mike?” Kitt screamed.

“We were led to believe that this was our daughter. That our little girl was alive. I don’t know,” Mike said. His hands fell uselessly at his sides. “I don’t know.”

“We all want someone to blame when something like

this happens. But no one intentionally misled you,” said Dr. Fahey. “There was no bad practice. We fought to save both girls equally.”

“I . . . know,” said Mike. The room was outlined, for him, in its every element, in black marker, sharp as sunlight be hind trees in the fall. He would never, never step entirely outside this moment. It played over and over in his mind already, like a song on constant repeat.
His mind screamed.

But Bridget lay out under a walnut tree in Forest Home Cemetery, marked by a brand-new headstone that read



He watched as Kitt drooped slowly into a chair as the Va lium took effect. It was like seeing a woman go into hypno sis. Finally, blessedly, she began to cry. She dropped onto her knees and laid her head in Mike’s lap.

The doctors left, Dr. Fahey to return to surgery and Dr. Collins to send someone with a swab to take Mr. Flannery’s DNA.

“Please stay as long as you need to,” Neely told them. “I have to check on one patient, but I’ll come right back and will be here to answer any questions you have after the swab is done. There are some phone numbers I want to write down for you. Some parents who can talk to you when you’re ready, and for your daughters there’s a group for kids who have experienced the loss of a sibling that meets at the Y in Henderson Falls, just a few minutes north of you. And some online resources, too. You won’t want these now, but

you will someday.”

“We’ll go in just a minute,” said Mike Flannery. He had left the car running in front of the building.

“I think it’s best that we have someone come and drive you home,” Neely said. “Who should I call?”

“I don’t know. My brother lives in Wisconsin. Kitt’s sis ters do, too. I guess Father Genovese.”

Oh no,
Neely thought. “It’s better if it’s immediate fam ily, really.”

“Okay. Uh. My brother in Madison, then.”

A technician appeared and collected the skin cells from inside Mike’s mouth. “That has to be done stat,” Neely said.

“No kidding,” said the lab tech.

“Mr. Flannery,” Neely said then. “I will drive you. Let me call the chaplain to watch out for my territory for a while.” This was unprecedented, but all of this was unprec


“Thank you,” said Mike. He was a big man, at least six- three or six-four, and as trustful as a little boy. He got up and rummaged in his pockets for his keys. “Oh,” he said. “I lost them.”

“It’s okay,” Neely said, taking her coat off the hook and pulling on her gloves. The ED sounded as loud and rau cous as a train station when she opened the door; but as each person saw the Flannerys, he or she fell silent, in the middle of a sentence, a laugh, a bite of food.

“I won’t be back. Tell them,” Neely whispered when she

passed Amber Kresky, who nodded. Amber’s phone rang— the ring tone was a giggle. Kitt looked sharply at Amber.

“My sister,” she said.

“Don’t tell her now,” Neely said firmly.

“Uh, okay,” Amber replied, a blush spreading up from her throat.

, Neely thought,
Amber has already told her sister!
Why was Amber even on staff today? She worked PMs. Was she just hanging around for the drama? Well.

Neely had contacted Sarah and Eliza Flannery’s schools and asked that the girls be brought to the office. The prin cipals were told that their parents would be coming for them. Sarah had asked if Bridget was in a coma again.
Oh God,
Neely thought,
those kids are never going to get past this.

The Flannerys’ sleek, glass green BMW looked comical in the circular drive, running, with both doors open.

“Oh, help me. Please help me die,” said Kitt as she crawled into the backseat and lay down. Mike got in the passenger side in front.

Neely wanted her to fasten her seat belt, but Kitt would not move. Neely started the car and drove.

Danny Carmody was sitting in his truck in the parking lot after the first real workout he’d had in weeks, feeling every muscle and delighting in the pain in some perverse way; and it was only chance that made him flip on the ra dio.

He could have driven off and not paused to turn on any

tunes until he was on the road; he often did. But because his dad had used the truck to pick up a computer desk the night before, it was set to one of Dave Carmody’s wallpaper news stations. BORU-FM, Bridget called them. And so he sat with the motor running as people called out to him and waved good-bye and listened to the report: “. . . of mis taken identity involving two sixteen-year-old girls who grew up together in Bigelow, just north of the twin cities of Minneapolis–Saint Paul, and were involved in a head- on collision with a semi just before Christmas. When she awoke from her coma, the girl presumed dead, for whom services were held three days after the accident, turned out in fact to be her look-alike best friend. While DNA tests are needed to determine for certain that the deceased girl and the living girl were somehow mistaken for each other, Grady Carmichael, a spokesman for Anne Morrow Lind bergh Children’s Hospital and Clinics, said that the re grettable and entirely inadvertent error was made because of the extent of the trauma injuries to both girls as well as their striking physical similarity. It was only when the surviving girl began to come out of a coma that suspicions were aroused that she was not who she was believed to be. Carmichael said, ‘I would plead with the press and others to understand that both of these families are in a state of extreme crisis right now, and we would ask that you give them their privacy at this time.’ DNA testing had as yet not revealed . . .”

Danny’s phone trilled “Good Vibrations.”

He stared at it. Lee-Lee.

He didn’t answer. It rang again. Home. He didn’t an swer. It rang again. Evan. Mom. Finally, after his mother’s sixth attempt, Danny picked up but said nothing.


“I’m here. What?” “Do you know?” “Yeah.”

“There’s a LAK13 news truck in front of the house,” said Mom. “What do I tell them?”

“Whatever you want.”

“Danny, you should come home.”

“No. They’ll take a picture of me or . . .”

“Now there’s another truck. ABC from Minneapolis.

Danny! And a car from the
. . .”

“I’m going to David’s,” he said. “I’ll stay at David’s to night.” His brother, a junior executive at a bank, lived in Hamilton, about ten miles from Bigelow.

“What about your toothbrush and things?” his mother asked.

“I’ll pick some up at the Walgreens, Mom. For Christ’s sake.”

“Are you okay, Danny?” “Not so much.”

“But honey, you know she would never have been all right in the head, Danny. She might have to wear diapers or be fed all her life.”

“So I’m better off. That’s what you’re saying.”

“No, but . . .”

“Just screw that, Mom! Screw it!” “Danny!”

“Just don’t bring it up with me now! Don’t!”

“You’re my son, and I have to think of you, too. It’s all been about them. . . .”

“Because it is all about them.”

“You’ve done enough,” his mother said wearily. “That’s all I’m saying. Dad and I have talked about this. Bridget . . . well, now we know it wasn’t Bridget. But Dad has done a lot of internet research on brain damage and that much damage . . .”

“So you thought I would just leave her because she was hurt?”

“No, but, Danny. You couldn’t expect a girl with severe brain damage. Work. College. Even motherhood. All that. You’re only sixteen, Danny. You have your whole life ahead of you.”

“And you didn’t say this until now because . . .” He stared at the phone and snapped it closed. It must have gone off twenty times before he pulled into the driveway of David’s two-flat, where he lived with his beautilicious girlfriend, Dee Dee Stetser, a pharmacy student.

Danny didn’t wake until four
the following day.

His brother had left about ten newspapers on the kitch en table, along with a shaver and a toothbrush and some

B.O. juice.

As a goof, Bridget and Maureen had had best-friend pic

tures taken at Thanksgiving. The two of them had posed in short black slip dresses and men’s black top hats they got online. That was the picture the Minneapolis paper used. It took up half the front page.

It was just a joke. They had wanted to look, Bridget said, like sexpots from Paris. But they looked like hookers or something, not kids fooling around.

Who gave the newspaper that picture? Even Mrs. O. didn’t have one. Danny did. Bridget had left one in his locker as a joke gift. Who else had one except Maury and Bridget?

The other newspapers showed the two of them sitting on the shoulders of one of the big fullbacks last year, when the football team went to state in Division Three. The night they’d won the game.

They could have been sisters. They were sisters.

Danny wondered if it were mentally possible to climb out of your own skin. He thought he would like to get in the truck and drive until he ran out of gas and not call home until he was a sophomore in college. But instead he took a shower, slipped into the clean sweats David or Dee had laundered for him while he was asleep and went home. He left a note: “Thanks, David and Double-D,” in answer to theirs: “Hang in there, Danno.”

Jeannie tried to do first things first.

She helped Bill calm himself when it became clear that Maury didn’t recognize him.

And an hour later, when the boys came, Maury seemed to know Tom and his wife, Mary—she smiled at them—but not the twins or Patrick. Dr. Park had told them there was an outside possibility that Maureen would have to reac quaint herself with her own family, though it also was pos sible that, as time passed, memories would be triggered by smells, music, photos of them together, and particularly, in her experience, family videos.

“Why is that?” Bill asked, anguished. “My girl came back from the dead. She might never know I’m her dad!”

“No, no. That’s not true. It’s just that the realization might take a long time to come. We don’t know what triggers it.”

“Why pictures?”

“We don’t know,” said Dr. Park, calm and kind. “And, of course, the people who do know the most, the ones who suffer the worst damage, can never really tell us what they experience. We know more about the deepest hole in the ocean than the engine every one of us has that powers our every breath and our every dream.”

Jeannie comforted Pat, who couldn’t understand how it was possible that his little sister could come back from the dead and not remember the brother she loved best.

Each of her brothers thought that Maureen loved him best. That was Maury’s gift.

Could Jeannie have borne it if Maury didn’t know her? She thought that, now, with her girl back, she could bear anything.

. . .

On the morning after they’d learned about the mistake, after they had received the DNA test results that showed a likeli hood of less than one half of one percent that Bill was not the biological father of the girl lying in the bed, Jeannie found her way to the hospital’s tiny reflection room, which was what they called a hospital chapel these days; and when she was sure no one could see, she dropped to her knees on the carpeted concrete and prayed for Mike and Kitt Flannery.

BOOK: All We Know of Heaven
5.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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