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Authors: Dolores Durando

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BOOK: And Yesterday Is Gone
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“It's bedtime for me, too. I've had a long day and that surgery is scheduled the first thing. Sammy sleeps in his own bed tonight so I can sleep in mine. He snores.”

The ruby on Sara's finger shone a thousand lights when it reflected the crystal chandelier as her hand slid along the banister. They walked together up the stairway to their world.

CHAPTER 12

T
he grass was still wet with dew when Sara parked. Hurriedly, she deposited her paint box on the curb as Sammy barked and scratched at the window.

I'll have to come back for the rest. It's only a few blocks and maybe the extra walk will tire Sammy so he will lead like a good boy,
Sara thought.

Holding the indignant, struggling little terrier, she snapped on his leash and, to his intense delight, Sammy found himself on the ground where he could lift his leg on anything that stood upright.

What a beautiful, quiet morning; the soft hum of traffic sounded very far away to Sara.

When they entered the park, the whir of wings arose as startled birds awoke and searched for breakfast; an occasional raucous call of a seagull echoed.

Picking up her paint box and holding the leash tightly to contain the terrier, which pulled and strained to be free, she walked farther into the park. Soon she could plainly see the vibrant pink and white rhodies that stood in thick clusters and seemed to present a barrier between reality and fantasy.

With a sigh of satisfaction, she paused for a moment to enjoy the beauty and relaxed her hold on the rowdy little dog. He jerked free and was off like a shot, trailing his leash, deaf to her calls.

His sensitive ears picked up the sound of some commotion behind the flowering bushes and, pushing through, he rushed furiously at a big dog.

Sara heard the outraged, vicious growls of the big dog, then the terrier's agonized yelps as she ran screaming, “Sammy, Sammy.” But Sammy never heard her as the bloody jaws ripped and tore. The mastiff shook him again and again, then flung him lifeless to the ground.

As she broke through the bushes and knelt beside the motionless body of her Sammy, her hysterical screams surprised the kneeling man who stood quickly, threw a shoe aside, and cursed, “Shit, let's get out of here.” But he spoke to empty air—the other man and the dog were already only a fading movement in the distance. He turned to run, then turned back to kick Juan with a steel-toed boot. “Damned wetback.”

The frantic entreaties of a woman's voice screaming, “Sammy, Sammy,” broke through the fog of Juan's consciousness. He groaned as he attempted to rise. He seemed unaware of the blood that spurted from the deep gash from forehead to cheekbone, but it was the stabbing pain with each breath that kept him down.

Suddenly aware of the man who lay groaning on the ground behind her, Sara turned and sobbed, “Help me, please. Help me.”

Waves of pain flooded over him as he swayed, dazed and bloodied, to his feet, fighting to maintain consciousness.

Sara kneeling, holding Sammy in her arms, looked up. “Will you help me? Can you walk?” Taking his silence for consent, she said, “Follow me. I'll get the car and meet you.”

She stood to place the little dog in the arms that Juan instinctively held out. Her eyes never left Sammy as she said, “Be very careful of him—he's badly hurt.”

She ran until she begged for breath, her steps slowed by blinding tears, praying, “Please, God, please don't let him die,” then ran again. She fumbled to unlock the car. Her trembling fingers found success after several attempts to open the door.

She drove over the curb, sped across the pristine lawn, the tires leaving deep tracks in the soft grass. As she neared the rhododendron glen, she was surprised to see the man had only gone a few steps.

The car jerked to a stop. Tenderly, she took Sammy's limp body and crooned, “You'll be all right. Teddy will fix you. You'll be your old self, my Sammy.”

She motioned for the man to get in and, for the first time, realized he was badly hurt. He stood as if undecided, dazed. She opened the door and he struggled in. She lay Sammy across his lap and, with one hand, Juan cradled the little body.

Sara drove wildly through traffic. With each turn and bump Juan groaned in agony as he drifted in and out of consciousness. She parked at the rear entrance of the professional building. Carrying Sammy, she burst through the door marked “Private.” Dr. Teddy was horrified to find Sara almost incoherent, disheveled, her clothing bloodied by the torn little animal in her arms.

One glance told Dr. Teddy that Sammy was beyond help.

“Teddy, Teddy, he's just unconscious. He's lost a lot of blood. I know you can save him. Stitch him up, Teddy, and he will be okay; won't he, Teddy? Hurry, I know you will bring him around. Hurry, hurry, do something,” she begged.

Dr. Teddy took the lifeless little body and lay him gently on the table, then turned to put her arms around Sara. “My dear, you must know that Sammy is dead.”

“No, no, no. Don't say it. I can't bear it,” she cried before collapsing in Teddy's arms, sobbing uncontrollably.

Teddy held her. Slowly, Sara's sobs subsided, but the tears never ceased. A damp cloth wiped her face; the hair was pulled back and fastened with a rubber band. Sammy was wrapped in a towel and placed in Sara's arms.

“We'll go home, my dear. I'll tell Mrs. Burney to reschedule my appointments.”

As they approached the car, Teddy saw the figure of a man slumped sideways; blood seemed everywhere. Alarmed, she hesitated, “Sara, who is in your car?”

Sara looked up from the bundle in her arms, bewildered.

“Oh, how could I have forgotten him? He was on the ground and bleeding when I got there. I don't know who he is, but he helped me with Sammy.” Then she spoke the obvious, “He's hurt, too.”

Teddy opened the door to hear Juan's agonized groans with each labored breath. As she took his pulse, she was sickened when she looked up to see the deep gaping wound in his head and the determined trickle of blood.

She helped Sara into the backseat, then sped to the emergency room at Saint Joseph's Hospital.

Sara waited, smoothing the only part of Sammy that showed above the towel—his whiskered little face, the soft pointy ears. Gently, she closed his eyes and her tears dampened his covering.

•  •  •

It was a quiet that seemed like a damp, cold fog that lay heavy and dark, and that permeated the occupants of the study, despite the cheerful fire.

Sara, her face blotched, her eyes puffed shut, lay in a sedated half-sleep on the sofa, her head resting on her hands, an afghan tucked about her feet.

Sammy, nearby, bathed, wrapped in an old paint smock that he had loved to drag and shake, lay curled around a favorite toy as though asleep. Tomorrow he would own a tiny piece of the tremendously expensive property that boasted the best views in San Francisco.

Teddy, indifferently thumbing through a medical magazine, stood. “I'm going over to the hospital for a little while, Sara. I want to know how that man is doing and if those X-rays show what I suspect. I won't be long.”

Sara slept and dreamed that Sammy was chasing butterflies in a field of yellow daisies.

•  •  •

For days, Sara's mood never lightened. Dry-eyed, she wandered about wordlessly, picking up Sammy's toys.

Teddy handed her a well-chewed glove retrieved from between the cushions of the sofa and coaxed, “My dear, come and sit with me.”

When Sara sat down, Teddy's arm encircled the unhappy woman and pulled her close.

“Sara, my love, you must get past this and know that Sammy is in a better place—probably wearing St. Peter's robe or stealing his sandals. You know he was never in awe of anything or anybody.”

She lifted Sara's tear-stained face, kissed her gently, and said, “I think I need to remind you, opening night at the gallery is only three months away and you've promised them another painting. How much time will you need to finish this one that's giving you so much trouble?”

Wiping her eyes, Sara sat up. “Awhile. I don't care if I ever finish it. The light in my studio is impossible and I'll never go to the park again. Besides, I lost all my best brushes that day and there must be tubes of paint everywhere in the grass.”

“Well, that's easy enough to remedy. But I didn't realize the lighting was so poor,” Teddy said, then added, “Mrs. Mackey has fixed your favorite foods three days in a row—even a chocolate torte, and you've hardly eaten a bite. She's disappointed, and Mr. Mackey is concerned about the transplants in the greenhouse. The old man worries that he is overwatering. I suspect that he thinks the grounds are all he can handle. You know he's getting old and his bad knee bothers him a lot.

“I'm going to the hospital again tonight. Won't you come with me? The nurse on the night shift is Hispanic and has learned that the young man is seventeen years old and that his name is Juan Miguel. Apparently, he's asked about you and Sammy.

“I had an excellent surgeon stitch up that nasty wound and I doubt if it will even leave a scar. The two broken ribs are another matter. One very nearly punctured a lung. He's heavily sedated; the pain is severe. He'll probably be in the hospital another week.”

Sara spoke reluctantly. “Yes, I suppose the least I can do is thank him, although perhaps it should be the other way around—you've probably saved his life. I'll get a jacket—the nights are so chilly.”

They walked down the long corridor in the old wing of the huge, sprawling hospital. Sara felt the years slip off her shoulders and, once again, she was a twenty-one-year-old, fun-loving nurse, trim in her white uniform, her long blonde hair tucked under the stiff white cap she had worked so hard for, her green eyes slanting as she smiled.

Juan seemed asleep as they approached his bed. The nurse was adjusting the blankets that could not conceal the heavily bandaged torso; his face was partly hidden by the fabric taped over his cheekbone and forehead.

Sara stared down wide-eyed with a look of surprise.

“Teddy, he's so young. He can't be seventeen. He looks so innocent, so vulnerable, like a little boy.”

Her eyes filled with tears. She stretched to touch the thick strand of blue-black hair that lay straight and stark against the pristine white of the pillow.

“His hair is as soft as a girl's,” she murmured.

Juan's hand reached up and grasped Sara's fingers. His eyes opened to look for a long moment directly into hers. He spoke brokenly, pleadingly,
“Por favor, señora, no me deje aqui. Lléveme con usted.”

Startled, Sara looked inquiringly at the Hispanic nurse. “What did he say?”

“He said, ‘Please don't leave me here. Take me with you.' ”

His pleading words flashed back instantly to the moment she had uttered the same desperate entreaty. Frightened, she jerked her hand away and almost ran from the room.

Teddy followed quickly. “My dear, I'm so sorry. I had no idea this visit would upset you so,” she said as they hastened down the long hallway.

“We'll go home, have a glass of wine and go to bed early. You'll feel better tomorrow.”

Sara didn't respond.

•  •  •

She lay awake, tossing and turning. The begging words echoing her own pleading triggered a scene so many years long buried in the deep recess of her subconscious, but as vivid tonight as though it were yesterday. She curled against the warmth of Teddy's back and fought the memory.

Eventually she slept to dream of the ragged, dirty little girl who sucked her thumb and sat alone with both eyes closed. The dream was so real that she heard the knock, the slurred voice of her uncle say, “It's open,” and in her mind she could see his awkward attempts to open a can of beer with one hand and quiet the new baby on his other arm.

The woman who had been her savior stepped through the door and surveyed the squalor of the room: the crying toddler with the obviously soiled diaper, the rampaging, squalling older siblings, unmade beds, dirty dishes—the stench of filth.

“Well, well, well, Miss High-and-Mighty. What brings you to my humble abode? Slumming?”

“You could say that,” she spoke over the screaming toddler. “Not that you're interested, but I have just come from the morgue where I identified Emily's body.”

Of the harsh, embittered words, the child understood little, but she felt the undisguised anger and despair that floated just beneath the surface.

“Yeah? Please excuse the mess. The missus is at work and I'm stuck here with these damn kids. You'd think she'd never heard of birth control. Every time I hang my pants on the end of the bed, she gets knocked up. Maybe she can't resist a handsome devil like me.” He grinned, his rotted teeth bared.

The woman ignored his feeble attempts at humor.

“Where is her child?”

He pointed toward the bureau. “Over there in the corner suckin' her thumb,” adding, “I don't s'pose Emmie left us anything for takin' care of her kid. We've had her since before she could walk—goin' on five years.”

“What care? She's skin and bones and filthy. Why is she rocking back and forth like that with her eyes closed? Is she blind?”

“Nah. She's a walleyed wonder—and her good eye is green. No wonder Emmie left her. We're tired of feeding an extra kid. Hell, we got six of our own. Why don't you take her? You nurses make good money. Sara,” he bellowed, “come over here and see your Aunt Fiona.”

Terrified, I crept around the big kids to stand with my eyes closed in front of this strange lady.

The woman stood speechless.

“I never said this walleyed kid was pretty,” he blurted defensively.

I felt her hand tremble as she lay it on my shoulder and guided me to her. An indescribable feeling of hope, of belonging, made me tremble, too, as I grasped her fingers with my dirty little hand with one clean, wet thumb. With a voice barely audible above a whisper, I begged, “Please don't leave me. Take me with you. Please, please.”

BOOK: And Yesterday Is Gone
10.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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