The feature picture has nothing to do with the story. I just wanted to share. I live in Las Vegas, so I won’t get snow for Christmas unless I’m willing to travel to Mt. Charleston for it… which I’m not. So, Falala thought I should have my snow for Christmas and she sent me these. They are the most intricate snowflakes I’ve ever seen—cut from one piece of paper! One was a little damaged when I received it and they are all so fragile and I didn’t want them to be damaged further. So I straightened it out as much as I could, then I laminated them all to preserve them from further damage, but I can’t for the life of me see how someone could get a pair of scissors to do something so intricate! Look at the butterflies and the ladies! These are exquisite! Thank you, Falala! And Merry Christmas, everyone!
This is a work or creativity. As such, you may see words, concepts, scenes, actions, behaviors, pictures, implements, and people that may or may not be socially acceptable and/or offensive. If you are sensitive to adverse and alternative subject matter of any kind, please do not proceed, because I guarantee you’ll find here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.
I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…
Chapter 28—Dr. Grace
“What can possibly be taking so long?”
My father is pacing the circle around the tables in the ER waiting room. We’ve been here for an hour with no update on my mother and right now, I don’t know how to feel. We were all planning to ambush… talk to her tomorrow about her behavior and how it’s affecting everyone and now this. I don’t know how to process this information.
According to Mia, Mom cut her arm… but not her arm, closer to her wrist… in the kitchen, cooking. Mom cooks sometimes… on very special occasions. This was Mia’s shower, but if I know my mother, she had staff to handle that. Why was she in the kitchen cooking?
I scan the waiting room, most of the faces people I don’t know. In the far corner, Mia sits with her arms wrapped around herself like she’s cold. She has cried until her mascara and make-up have run all over her face and onto the collar of her blouse. Ethan has his arm around her, guarding her like an eagle, watching her closely as if he expects her to crumble at any second.
Elliot is sitting across from me, staring blankly in front of him as if he’s expecting the answer to some cosmic question to fall from the sky and wipe the bewildered look off his face. Valerie is holding his hand, gently tracing circles in his skin.
Uncle Herman and Luma are both sitting next to Dad’s empty chair. They’re whispering to each other about God only knows, but both wearing the same concerned look. They’re probably thinking the same thing I am as I sit in this chair.
What’s going to happen if Mom doesn’t make it?
I need some answers right now. We’ve been sitting here forever, and no one can give us anything? Absolutely nothing? This is ridiculous. I stand from my seat and head back to the nurse’s station and just as I’m about to unleash CEO hell on the poor recipient behind the desk, the doors leading to the trauma center open and my wife walks out. She looks like 110 pounds of fresh hell… and she’s wearing scrubs. Why the hell is she wearing scrubs? Before I can catch myself, I run to her and grasp her arms. I need answers. We all need answers.
“Why… why are you…?” She puts her hands on my chest and I’m immediately silenced.
“Because I was covered in your mother’s blood,” she says softly. I swallow hard. Covered in my mother’s blood. I won’t lose it.
“What’s going on?” I ask. “What’s happening?” She looks past me and over my shoulder. I see Dad heading towards us, nearly tripping over his feet. She walks past me, but doesn’t get two feet before Dad grabs her the same way I did.
“Gracie,” he says breathily. “Tell me about Gracie. What’s happening?”
Butterfly takes a deep breath to steady herself, and I watch as the family slowly begins to descend upon her, only allowing Dad to talk.
“She’s… in the OR now,” she says, her voice unable to hide the tremor. “She lost… a lot of blood and they’re stitching her up.”
“The OR?” Dad asks horrified. “Why is she in the OR? I thought this was just a cut.”
“It was a very deep cut… with a very sharp knife…” I know my wife. There’s something she’s not saying. I want to shake her and make her tell us what she’s leaving out, but she already looks pretty shaken and stirred, so I know that won’t help any.
“And?” Dad presses. “What’s the bottom line? Is she going to be alright?” Butterfly sighs.
“That’s all they’ve told me, Carrick,” she says, quietly. “We have to wait for the doctor…” Butterfly’s words trail off as her eyes have now focused on something over my father’s shoulder. I try to see what she’s looking at, but all I see is random people in the waiting room. My wife fixes a deep frown on her face, breaks free of my father’s earnest grasp and questioning gaze, and marches determinedly into the waiting room. It’s about two seconds too late when I realize that she’s about to face off with an overly giddy woman pointing her iPhone at us.
“Wait until I post it on Facebook!” I hear the woman say just as Butterfly approaches. She’s so busy bragging to her friend about capturing our tragedy for posterity with the intent of plastering this horrifying moment on social media that she doesn’t even notice Judgement Day staring her down in the form of one angry ass Butterfly.
“Are you entertained?” my wife says, getting right in the woman’s face. The woman is clearly horrified, but doesn’t have the conviction to stop recording on her video phone. “People are dying in here and you’re hoping for something that’ll get you a hundred likes on social media? You want something to post on Facebook? Post this!”
Butterfly snatches the phone from the woman’s hand and hurls it to the floor until it shatters into several pieces. Chuck immediately goes about the business of gathering the pieces while Jason, Ben, and Chance appear to be scanning the room.
“You broke my phone!” the woman exclaims.
“Fucking sue me!” Butterfly yells. “What are you hoping to catch? A dead body? A fainting spell? A crying fit? What? Why are you here? Did you break a nail? Your hair won’t start?” The woman glares at Butterfly.
“My son is very sick!” she says indignantly.
“And yet, you still found time to sit out here and record someone else’s tragedy,” Butterfly snaps. “Where’s your son? Were you going to show him that video so that he could how you passed the time while he’s lying wherever he is suffering from whatever he’s suffering from? How would you feel if, for some unknown reason, they told you that your son was knocking on death’s door and someone shoved a camera in your face right at that crucial moment?” Her voice is sobering, and the woman’s expression softens a bit at the thought.
“Do you see that man?” Butterfly points to Dad, who looks like he’s been through all seven of Dante’s circles. “He’s waiting to hear about the fate of his wife. Do you think he wants your fucking camera in his face when he finds out, whatever it may be? Would you?”
A small but powerful voice pulls the attention of everyone in earshot—except Butterfly. She’s still glaring at the Facebook photographer. A woman tinier than my wife—if that’s even possible—weaves through the crowd of Greys and walks over to Butterfly, placing her hand on my wife’s arm.
“Dr. Ana, we have a private waiting room for you and your family,” she says softly to my wife. Butterfly closes her eyes to compose herself, but looks no calmer when she opens them and focuses them on the small woman.
“Thank you, Quinn,” she says in a voice that I don’t recognize at all. I swear, something from the Exorcist has possessed my wife and she’s fighting to keep her head from doing that Linda Blair spinning thing. The small woman grasps her wrist.
“Follow me,” she says, her voice soft, nodding like she’s coaxing a wild animal—which she is… a tiger, to be exact. Butterfly breathes deeply again and falls in step behind Quinn.
“Somebody pay her for her fucking phone,” she says as she walks back into the Trauma doors she had exited a few moments ago. Dad falls in line behind her with the rest of my family following him. I nod at Jason to follow Butterfly’s orders and clean up the mess while I bring up the rear.
We’re led to a private waiting room on the OR floor—quiet, more secluded. Butterfly was busy while she was back here with Mom.
“Any news?” she asks Quinn when we get to the room.
“None yet,” Quinn says morosely. “But this is good…”
Good? Good fucking how?
“You saw,” she continues, trying not to talk too loudly. “You know how bad it was. If there was bad news, we would have heard by now.” Butterfly nods.
“Her family,” she says. “I can’t keep them in the dark.”
“Tell them what you must. Tell them what you know. A doctor will be here soon. Remember, we love Dr. Grace…”
“What the hell is going on?” Elliot snaps. “You’re doing all this whispering and we don’t know shit!” Butterfly rolls her eyes and nods, sending Quinn out of the waiting room. She sighs and turns to face the family.
“They’re still working on Grace,” she says. “The last I know, they were stitching her up and giving her blood. She lost a lot of blood…”
“Stop being fucking PC and tell us what’s going on with my mother!” Elliot barks.
“I am!” Butterfly snaps back at him. “I got to her in the kitchen and I rode with her in the ambulance. I was able to keep the bleeding down, but I couldn’t stop it! She lost a lot of blood… a lot of blood! Most of it all over me!”
“So glad you had an opportunity to freshen up and change while the rest of us were waiting in hell for news about Mom!” Elliot hisses. Butterfly immediately goes into fight mode.
“Elliot!” Valerie exclaims, trying to calm her husband, but it’s too late.
“Well, maybe you would have been satisfied had I foregone the wardrobe change and blood removal and strolled into the waiting room covered in Grace’s blood like the gym scene from Carrie! Would that have satisfied you, Sir Elliot?”
“Don’t be so dramatic, Dr. Grey. It’s not a good look on you!” Elliot retorts.
“Elliot, that’s enough!” I hiss. I understand his stress, but he’s lashing out at the wrong person.
“I’ll just bet it is!” Elliot retorts, turning around on me. “Heaven forbid anything disrupts your clean little orderly life. You’ve been sitting like a damn statue and why? Because Mom wanted to invite somebody to the wedding and you didn’t want to play in the sandbox with ‘em!” Now, he’s just being vicious, but he’s on a roll. “Dad gets up and walks out on her. You stop talking to her because you’re acting like that same bruised little boy who can’t get over his abandonment issues…”
God, my brother has never been so wrong in his life. Abandonment is the very least, if it ever was any, of my issues.
“And Mrs. Perfect here refuses to go to the shower if Mom’s present, so Mia cuts her out of the wedding planning!”
“Wha…?” Mia doesn’t even get the entire word out of her mouth.
“Oh, I know the whole story. I knew that Val wasn’t going if Ana wasn’t going and Ana wasn’t going because she was pissed! You didn’t want anything to ruin your little shower, so Mom got cut out of the plans! Her Highness indeed! It’s no wonder she tried to kill herself!” I look over at Butterfly and the angry, horrified look on her face lets me know that Elliot is way off the mark and no doubt, way out of line.
… Although, he verbalized what we were all thinking. Did Mom try to kill herself?
“You’ve got some fucking nerve, Elliot Grey!” Mia barks. “Mom’s running around doing God only knows what God only know why and the only reason I found out is because I took the reins for my own wedding. And while we’re trying to figure out what the hell is going on, she’s lying to Christian, ignoring Dad, lashing out at Ana, and ordering belly dancers for my goddamn reception!”
“Belly dancers?” Ethan mumbles. His eyes communicate that he wants nothing to do with that particular event.
“Meanwhile,” Mia continues unfazed, “you get to sit comfortably in Switzerland because you’re not interacting with her except to tell her that you love her, and you’re not getting involved.” She says the last part of the sentence with childlike disdain. Elliot is silenced for a moment. “So, don’t you dare sit there in judgment of those of us who have had to deal with whatever is going on with Mom while all you’ve done is sit on the sidelines and listen to the play-by-play while offering an occasional commentary. This is not a spectator sport! We’ve been down in the mud and the grass dealing with this shit with Mom and we’ve got the bruises to prove it! You don’t get to stand on your observation pedestal and broadcast judgement when you won’t even get in the game! You won’t even bother to get your hands dirty, so you don’t have that right—big brother!”
“Did Gracie really try to kill herself?”
Nobody hears the question except me. I look over and see my father looking blankly in front of him, the words still hanging from his lips. More words of anger are flying from Elliot’s mouth and I think from Mia’s mouth. Val and Ethan have gotten involved trying to calm their significant others. Luma and Herman are saying something, too, though not as animatedly as everyone else. My vision has focused on my father, who seems to have transported to another plane of some kind.
The thought had crossed my mind, but I didn’t entertain it long with my mother being a doctor and all. A cut on the arm could be quite detrimental, but even I know it’s not fatal. A cut on the wrist—if done the exact right way—could be fatal, but it’s rarely ever done the right way. Mom’s a doctor; she would know this. So, I just keep thinking accident, but being the husband of a doctor, I now can’t shake the voice in my head that’s screaming that this could have been a call for help.
“This! Is not! Helping!” Butterfly screams. The room suddenly falls silent and we all turn to her, heaving heavily with her fists clenched standing in the middle of the room. Her face is as red as a fresh tomato and she looks like a tiny, pink, angry care bear. I want to go hug her, but I’m afraid she’ll bite me.
“I won’t try to explain the dynamics of this situation right now because none of you will be able to see it. All I’ll say is we need to pull our shit together and figure out what needs to be done for Grace and then, you can have your ‘Who-shot-John’ party later!”
As if ice water doused the entire room, cooler heads immediately begin to prevail and the explosive tempers prevalent in the Grey family—biological and adopted—are tamed immediate by a tiny, angry care bear.
“Ana?” Dad says. He doesn’t say anything else, and I’m certain that everyone is only more than willing at this moment to lean to my wife’s expertise. She takes in a deep breath and releases it.
“Eliminate anything medical as quickly as possible,” she says. “CAT scan, MRIs, EEG. You’re her husband and next of kin. You can order these things immediately. They adore her here, so if you impress upon them the importance of rushing these results, they’ll rush them.” Dad nods.
“Then what?” he asks. She puts her hand on his arm.
“One thing at a time, Carrick,” she says. “The sooner we can get these results, the sooner we can decide on a next course of action.” He nods again and falls into a seat nearby.
“I don’t think… I can’t…” His breathing is becoming labored. “Gracie has never been sick… not really. It’s always been…” He drops his head in his hands. I walk over and put my hand on his shoulder.
“We’re here, Dad,” I tell him. “We’ll get through this. We’ll have some bumps, but we’ll get through this.” I can see his shoulders shaking and I know that he’s crying. Mia comes over and kneels between Dad’s legs, coiling herself around his body. Although her face is badly tearstained, she allows my father to wrap himself around her, his face disappearing in the crook of her neck as he weeps bitterly. Elliot tries to rise out of his seat, but all the fight has left him, and his eternal soft heart becomes evident once more. Unable to find the strength to rise, he tries to sink back into his chair, but misses the seat entirely, falling to the floor in a useless mound of tears. Valerie covers his body with hers like a mother duck protecting her young, and he succumbs to his sobs as well.
I can only think of the angel—the angel that came to the hospital and rescued me when I didn’t want anyone to touch me; the angel who took me away from the squalor and abuse and brought me to the big house with the echoes and the piano. I was afraid that I was losing my angel. Now, I could lose my angel for good.
A strange voice causes us to turn to the door. A distinguished-looking man in gray scrubs is standing there with a chart in his hand. It must be the doctor.
“Yes?” Dad stands. We all know which Mr. Grey he’s referring to.
“Grace is out of surgery,” he begins. “She lost a lot of blood and went into shock. Once we were able to get the bleeding under control, we sutured her cut, which was very deep and replaced her blood volume. Our biggest concern during surgery was that her blood pressure kept dropping, but luckily, she’s not on any aspirin regimen. So, her blood was thinned…”
He’s going on and on about arteries and the dangers of blah blah wah wah wah and I don’t know if Dad is even following him, but my eyes are glazing over and I have to stop him.
“How is my mother?” I ask impatiently. Get to the damn point. Explain all this other shit later.
“She’s fine… but she’s resting. She may not wake for several hours. She’s had quite the ordeal.”
“But she will wake,” Mia asks, or states, I should say. It’s not a question.
“Yes,” the doctor replies. “She will wake.”
The room breathes a collective sigh.
“Mr. Grey?” the doctor says. “A word?” Dad nods and turns to my wife.
“Ana?” I don’t think he’s going to do anything without my wife’s counsel. I don’t think he has the strength. The doctor eyes her curiously.
“Do you work here?” he asks.
“I’m a doctor, but no, I don’t. One of your staff was kind enough to lend these to me since my own clothes are… terribly soiled with blood.” She spits the last part out as if the words burn her throat, and the disdain doesn’t get past me, but I still don’t look at my brother. In socked feet, my wife follows my Dad and the doctor out of the waiting room.
Mom’s going to be okay. Our family is falling the fuck apart, but Mom is going to be okay.
I look back at the room. Val is taking care of Elliot and Ethan has his arms firmly around Mia. Luma and Uncle Herman has settled into quiet conversation. I guess I should go see what became of the skirmish in the waiting room before we came back to Trauma. I leave the private waiting room to see my Dad down the hall, leaning on the wall and my wife with her arms folded as the distinguished doctor talks to them both, his hands on his hips.
“Excuse me,” I say to the nurse at the nurses’ station.
“Yes, Mr. Grey?” she replies, her smile wide. Oh, great, another one.
“I need to go and check in with my security in the main waiting room. How will I get back in without a hassle?”
“Just have the front desk nurse buzz you in. If she gives you any hassle, tell her who you are and that you’re in Waiting Room C with your family. She can call the Trauma Station to verify.” I return the smile.
“Thank you.” I walk out to the main waiting room, which has significantly less people than before. Jason rises when he sees me.
“Sir,” he says.
“She’s fine,” I tell him. “Sleeping. Our little problem?”
“Not a problem anymore,” he says.
“I convinced her to let the whole thing go,” he replies.
“How, Jason?” I press. He pulls me away from prying eyes and ears.
“I made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.” I love when he says that. There’s always a story attached. “I told her that she had one recourse, and that was to sue Her Highness. If she took the recourse, you and Her Highness have about a hundred recourses that you could take. By the time her one recourse was even heard, she would be unemployed, unemployable, and homeless and before she was ever paid, you would most likely appeal the decision until her grandchildren had grandchildren. So, it would be to her advantage to take the money I offered her and shut the hell up rather than piss off a man whose arms can reach to places that God can’t.” I roll my eyes.
“That last part was a bit much, don’t you think?” I say. He shrugs.
“It worked. I got her name and address, even her son’s name.”
“How much did you give her?” He shrugs.
“Couple thousand, I think,” he says. “Whatever was in my wallet—more than a G, but less than three.” I twist my lip.
“That was a cheap payoff,” I say, reaching for my wallet. He puts his hand up.
“Not here, sir,” he says. “People have seen enough money fly around and there’s still no guarantee that nobody’ll talk to the press.” I nod.
“I don’t know how long we’ll be here,” I say.
“The ladies don’t look really comfortable. I sent Chuck to get them a change of clothes—plus he had the parts to Polly Polaroid’s phone, so I sent him away so she couldn’t ask for it back. We’ve got her whole damn life on her sim card.”
“That was smart,” I tell him. I give him a few more instructions, including information to give to Mac in case our cover is mysteriously blown and someone blabs that they Greys are in the hospital again. After a longer-than-expected debrief, the nurse buzzes me back in without incident.
The hallway where Dad and Butterfly were standing is empty now, so I go back to the waiting room and peek inside. Val is the only one who acknowledges me. I mouth to her, “Where’s Dad?” She shrugs. I back out of the room since neither of them are there and head back to the nurse’s desk with the simpering nurse.
“Excuse me,” I say, garnering her attention.
“Yes, Mr. Grey?” she says, a little too sweetly once again. I try not to act irritated.
“My father was standing over there talking to a doctor a moment ago. My wife was standing with them. Did you see where they went?” Her face falls a bit.
“I saw a man standing there with Dr. Schultz and an intern,” she begins.
“Pink scrubs?” I ask. She nods.
“Yes,” she says uncertainly.
“That wasn’t an intern. That was my wife. Which way did they go?” Her firm stiffens.
“The man and Dr. Schultz when down that hallway,” she points further down the hallway where Dad and Butterfly was previously standing. I look back to her, waiting for the rest of the story. “I didn’t see which way the intern went.” Her voice is very snotty, and I don’t bother correcting her. She’s really not worth my time right now. I turn around and just as I’m about to ask someone else for help, I see a familiar face in a small package.
“Excuse me,” I call out to the little woman in pink. “Quinn, right?”
“Yes, sir?” she says, her eyes wide.
“Have you seen my wife?” I ask. She looks from left to right.
“She was here just a minute ago…” She walks over to the nurse’s station and the same nurse that I was just speaking to. “Jazz, did you see where Dr. Ana went?”
“Dr. who?” Jazz replies, raising her eyes to Quinn in a condescending manner.
“Dr. Ana. She was just standing over there with Mr. Grey and Dr. Schultz.”
“I only saw Dr. Schultz and an intern,” she says, her voice is now this whiney valley-girl sound like we’re taking up her time, and if she’s calls my wife an intern one more time…
“That wasn’t an intern,” Quinn corrects her. “That was Dr. Ana—Anastasia Grey? Dr. Grace’s daughter-in-law? How could you not know that?” Jazz shrugs non-committal and Quinn rolls her eyes. “Which way did they go?”
“Dr. Schultz took Mr. Grey that way. The intern went that way.” There it was.
“She doesn’t hear very well, does she?” I ask Quinn. Jazz raises her eyes to me.
“I hear just fine,” she snaps, “and I see even better.” I have no idea why she added that last part.
“Jeez, Jazz, what bug crawled up your butt?” Quinn asks, confused.
“Well, either she has a hearing problem, or the problem is with my wife, because I’ve lost count of how many times she’s been told that my wife is not an intern. Yet, she insists to referring to her as such.” I’m staring at Jazz like she’s some kind of exotic animal. She glares right back at me. Gone is the simpering little nurse from moments ago. “My wife has told me before about women who have been jealous of her without even meeting her. This is my first time seeing it for myself.”
“I’m not jealous of your wife!” Jazz hisses.
“You coulda fooled me,” I reply.
“That makes two of us,” Quinn replies, glaring at Jazz. “Come on, Mr. Grey. We’ll find her.”
I follow Quinn down the hall and she tells me that Dr. Schultz has most likely taken Dad to see Mom. Since Mom’s not awake yet, he’ll be the only one allowed to see her right now. We check the intern sleeping rooms, but there’s no sign of Butterfly. We check the lounges and even the locker rooms and it’s like she’s disappeared without a trace.
“There’s one other place,” she says, and she leads me down a back staircase and outside to a large balcony. There’s a lot of other staff out there, smoking or just taking a break. At the end is my wife, looking out over the city and the night sky. Her hair is in a long braid down her back and various strands of it are whipping around her face. I hadn’t even noticed that it was night yet, and my wife is standing out here in hospital socks and no coat.
“You’re going to freeze to death,” I say, coming up behind her. She doesn’t flinch. I take my coat off and drape it over her shoulders. She looks like a teenager with my oversized leather bomber jacket hanging off her shoulders. “Besides the obvious, what’s wrong?”
“I don’t feel like being the scapegoat again,” she says. “I’m just tired of being the fucking bad guy! Even when I haven’t done anything to deserve it—especially when I haven’t done anything to deserve it!” She wraps her arms around her like I saw Mia’s wrapped earlier. It’s a defense mechanism—protection from the world. “Do people think that because I understand the human mind and human emotions so well that I don’t have any feelings of my own?” she says aloud. “I’m fucking tired of being required to understand other people’s feelings, but they don’t give a shit about mine.” Her small hands pop up from under my jacket and wipe her face.
“I was terrified that Grace was going to die,” she says, her tears flowing freely. “There was blood everywhere… everywhere! If I didn’t think some psycho would fish them out of the trash, I would have thrown those clothes away by now, including the shoes. I’ll never wear any of that shit again.”
She wipes her face again and I can now see that she’s crying. At least I now know why she’s walking around in socked feet.
“I can say this now that I know she’ll be okay, but I didn’t know how bad the cut was or where the blood was coming from. She’s a doctor and she was running it under cold water, like a cut on your finger.” She laughs tragically. “I still don’t know what the fuck was going on. We had eaten so much at that damn shower and were well on our way to champagne-drunk. There was no way we were eating anything else, so why in the hell was she chopping melons?” I’d like an answer to that one myself.
“What did she say?”
“We never got an answer for why she was chopping melons. She only said that she was distracted when Kate walked by and that’s when she cut herself…”
“Kate?” I stop her. “As in Katherine Kavanaugh?” She nods. “Mia invited Katherine fucking Kavanaugh knowing that Valerie was going to be at the shower? Has she lost her fucking mind?”
“No, no, she didn’t invite Kate. Kate crashed the shower and we threw her out. Right after she left, Mrs. Johnson came running out to the garden to tell us what was going on with Grace. She said that she was caught off guard by seeing Kate and that’s when she cut herself.” I shake my head.
“Shit, if she was distracted by Kate, she probably gave her arm a good fucking whack. Mom hates that woman. It’s a wonder she didn’t amputate her damn hand.”
“I hadn’t even thought of that. I was… distracted by the blood.” She covers her face again. “There was so much of it. I mean, I know the cut has to be like way deep and bilateral in terms of the veins that need to be cut in order to cause death, but there was so… much… blood…” She’s choking on her words. “I’m wondering if she did cut deep enough to hit both veins, now.”
“Well, we don’t have to worry about it now,” I say, trying to change the subject.
“No, you don’t get it,” she interrupts. “There was a lot of blood… a lot of blood. It was all over the kitchen, all over the ambulance, all over the trauma-room cot and floor, all over me…” She trails off and covers her face again. “It was everywhere and all I could think was, ‘God, please don’t let her die. How could anyone live after losing this much blood?’ I was running through my med school classes trying to calculate how much blood is in the human body and Grace’s height and body weight while estimating how much blood was lost… the entire time, I’m applying pressure to the wound and the brachial artery to slow the blood flow, but it just keeps coming and coming…” Her voice cracks as she recalls the moments that she was trying to save my mother.
“I took a shower in the staff locker room after they kicked me out of the trauma room. Grace had lost consciousness and finally let go of my hand…” She looks down at her hands as if they’re still covered in blood. Her next words tell me that in her mind, they are.
“I rinsed and rinsed and rinsed and the blood just wouldn’t stop. The water was red running off of me and it just wouldn’t go clear. It was even in my hair.” She reaches back for her braid as if she could see the blood in the dark. “I don’t know how it got in my hair, but it was in my hair. I really was Carrie at the prom.” She covers her face and weeps quietly. I embrace her from behind and hold her in my arms as she cries.
“You’re going to need to talk to Ace about this soon,” I tell her. She nods with no rebuttal, and I know it’s serious. I cuddle her close to me and lean my mouth on her head, kissing her hair.
There, there, now, baby, I’m here.
She cries for a little while longer and I reach in my pocket and give her my handkerchief. She cleans her face and assures me that she’ll be okay, taking several deep breaths to compose herself. You’ll forgive me if I keep an eye on you nonetheless.
“Excuse me.” We both turn to the sound of the female voice coming from our right. There are about five people standing with the young woman, male and female, different races and ages.
“Yes?” I ask cautiously.
“I’m sorry to intrude, but we know who you are, and we just want you to know… We all love Dr. Grace so much and we promise to take really, really good care of her.”
The others stand around her looking, as if she’s the designated spokesperson. A few more people join the conversation, asking about Dr. Grace and if she’s okay. The “spokesperson” simply says that she’s been admitted and that they should check in on her when they get a chance. Butterfly sighs and drops her head and I address the growing crowd.
“Thank you all so much,” I tell her. “It means a lot to me and my family, and I know it’ll mean the world to my mom.” She smiles and nods while various others give a gesture of acknowledgement. As they move away, I hear one ask, “That’s Dr. Grace’s son?” Wow, someone in Seattle who doesn’t know who I am. It’s sort of refreshing.
“Let’s go inside, baby,” I say to Butterfly. “I don’t want you to catch cold out here in your socks.” She nods and I put my arm around her and allows me to guide her back inside.
When we get to the door of Waiting Room C, I see Jazz still sitting at the main nurse’s station with her gaze down.
“Come with me for a moment,” I say, guiding my wife to the nurse’s desk. Jazz doesn’t raise her head at first, but then acknowledges our presence with a stoic expression.
“Dr. Steele-Grey, this is Jazz… at least that’s what Quinn called her,” I say to my wife.
“Hello,” she says, her tone as uncertain as her gaze.
“Hello,” Jazz replies coolly.
“Doctor,” I repeat. “Not intern.” Butterfly’s uncertain gaze turns to me.
“I think they might wear the same scrubs, dear,” she says, her brow furrowed.
“That’s an honest mistake,” I admit, “except Quinn and I told her about four times that you were not an intern. Yet, she insisted that on referring to you as such. So, I just thought I’d let her meet you in person and refer to you as such in your face to see how that goes over.” I look from Butterfly to the nurse and back. Butterfly, in turn, looks from me to the nurse and back to me before the penny drops. She scoffs and dismisses the situation by fiercely waving off the nurse with both hands and walking back to the private waiting room. I turn back to Jazz.
“You know, I thought for a moment that we would get away with not having to deal with anything like this from any member of the staff during this visit, since we’re here for Dr. Grace and all, but thanks for making sure we got the full treatment once again.” I smile and wink at her before going into the waiting room.
I walk in to see my wife sitting with her legs crossed lotus-style in the chair, my jacket swallowing her small frame, her head down. She looks small—not just small like I know she’s a bite-sized morsel, but small in spirit, like she would disappear right now if she could. She doesn’t seem to notice that she’s the center of attention—that all three couples in the room are staring at her like she might grow another head or self-destruct or something. I want to light into my brother for his colorful remarks about her earlier, but as I’m moving further into the room, my progress is halted by Jason and Chuck cautiously entering the waiting room.
“Sorry to intrude,” Jason apologizes. “We thought the ladies might want to change into something more comfortable.”
Valerie and Mia perk a bit at the thought of shedding the afternoon party dresses, but Butterfly doesn’t respond. While Jason hands bags of what I assume are clothing and personals to Mia and Valerie, Butterfly sits statue still in her seat with her legs crossed and her head down. Chuck walks over to the front of her and has to call her name twice to get her attention. When she raises her head and eyes to him, she looks tired.
“A change of clothes,” he says, handing her one of the duffle bags he’s carrying. She looks up at him and turns her attention to the bag. She’s digging through it like she’s looking for buried treasure. When she finds a pair of sneakers, she digs them out and begins to put them on.
“I’ll just take the shoes,” she says, her voice flat.
“Baby, I know you’d rather not walk around in those scrubs,” I say.
“I’m fine,” she says, her voice still flat. “I’ve had a shower, remember?” She examines the clothes he brought her. “They’re leggings. See if Mia or Val wants them.”
“We brought clothes for them, too,” Chuck informs her.
“Good. Fine,” she says, lacing her shoe. I throw a glare at Elliot, who is looking remorsefully at my wife.
“I’m sorry, Montana,” he says. She doesn’t react. She turns her attention to lacing her second shoe. “Montana, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…”
“I heard you Elliot can we just let it go.” She says it all in one breath with no emotion. She briefly observes the other duffle bag Chuck is carrying. “Is that my breast pump?”
“Yeah…” Before the word is out of his mouth, she relieves him of the bag and quickly shuffles out of the waiting room with my jacket still over her shoulders. I’m trying to contain my anger, but I can’t anymore. I turn around to face my brother.
“Ethan, can you please take my sister and Valerie out of here? Uncle Herman, you might want to take Luma away, too. I need to paint a very vivid picture for my dear brother,” I say between my teeth.
“If the picture you’re painting has to do with Mom, we’ve seen the worst of it. We were there,” Mia says, her voice sharp. I get the feeling that she just doesn’t want to miss me tearing into Elliot. Luma and Uncle Herman don’t move either, and Valerie’s expression makes it clear that she’s not leaving Elliot’s side.
Fine, have it your way.
“If you’re about to tear into me, Bro, I don’t want to hear it,” Elliot warns.
“Oh, but you’re going to. See, I had to listen to you spout shit about me and my wife and neither of us had a rebuttal, but I have something to say to you now.”
“He said he was sorry, Christian,” Valerie interjects. I turn a softened gaze to her.
“Valerie, I love you. I do, but this is between me and my brother.” Valerie swallows hard, but nods once. Elliot rises from his seat.
“I’m not going to sit here and listen to this shit,” he says.
“Well, at least you got a fucking warning. You just threw your opinions at us and we had to sit still for that shit! And now, so will you! Now, sit your ass back down in that chair before I sit you in it!” Elliot closes the space between us.
“Oh, you will, huh?” he taunts. “That kickboxing shit go to your head, little brother? You feelin’ lucky?” I don’t have time for this face-off bravado shit right now.
“I don’t know, Elliot,” I say, my voice sober, “but if you don’t sit your arrogant ass back down in that seat right now, one of us is going to end up in the hospital with Mom, and I guess we’ll just have to see which one.”
I focus determined gray eyes to my brother’s piercing blues. He stands off with me for a moment, but then he takes his seat again. I don’t believe for one second that he sat down because he’s afraid. I believe that he could see in my eyes that one of us was definitely going down. He didn’t want it to be him, and he didn’t want to have to explain to Dad if it was me.
“Our sister and our wives were enjoying a lovely afternoon of food and festivities among whom I already know was a bunch of catty women. Yet, as my wife explains it, they were still having a good time when lo and behold, the party is crashed by your wannabe-baby-momma Katherine Kavanaugh.”
Elliot’s face pales and he turns his attention to Valerie. Before she has a chance to respond, I interject again.
“Don’t worry, it is again my understanding that she didn’t get the opportunity to accost your wife. Am I correct?” I address the last part to Valerie. She nods.
“Yes, you’re right. She didn’t say anything to me,” Valerie confirms.
“Because, as I also understand it, my wife assisted in getting her the fuck out of the party. Did I misunderstand that?” I ask. Mia shakes her head and Chuck interjects.
“She had a short altercation with Katherine Kavanaugh as she was ordering me to escort her off the premises,” he says. “If she refused to leave, I was to carry her out.” His voice is sharp and professional.
“Thank you for confirming that, Chuck,” I say, turning back to my brother. “My security escorted Kavanaugh off the premises…” I turn back to Chuck for confirmation and he nods. “Very shortly after You-Are-Not-The-Father Kate’s exit, the cook came running outside and grabbed my wife—why my wife, I’m not really sure…”
“She was the closest,” Ethan adds. “We were both still standing close to the house when Mrs. Johnson ran out… I crashed the shower shortly after Kate did, totally unplanned.” I nod.
“So, whatever the circumstances, my wife comes in and sees our mother bleeding in the sink. She’s got precious little time to ascertain what’s going on because Mom’s arm is bleeding and she’s holding it under running water. So, my wife is watching what she thinks is my mother bleed out down the sink, her blood mixed with water.”
Valerie gasps quietly and put her fingertips over her lips. Hey, I told you to leave.
“In just a few moments, she’s asking Mom what happened while trying to calculate total-body blood content in relation to Mom’s weight—which she’s also trying to guess—all while attempting to stop the massive blood flow so our mother doesn’t bleed out on the kitchen floor! She’s standing outside in socks tearfully trying to explain to me in medical jargon that goes over my head how she’s trying to pressure a main artery with one hand, grasping Mom’s arm to plug a gaping wound with the other while Mom tells her that she damn near amputated a limb because she lost concentration on what she was doing when she saw Kate running through her house!”
My brother’s mouth is gaping as he gets the first real play-by-play of what happened at our parents’ house. Mia’s right. He’s never present for any fucking thing. He only gets the play-by-play when it’s over. Then he goes spouting off his mouth like he knows what the fuck he’s talking about.
“The EMTs show up and the entire time they’re trying to work on our mother, she won’t release Ana’s hand! You know—Mrs. Perfect?”
Elliot shifts in his seat and suddenly looks very uncomfortable. Valerie’s body language looks a little distant, indicating to me that my brother is on his fucking own in this one.
“Our mother continues to bleed all over my wife—you know, the cute little thing who likes to wear the designer clothes? Yeah, she’s covered in blood now, from head to toe, hair included, when they reach the trauma room. That’s when our mother releases my wife’s arm, but only because she lost consciousness from the blood loss. Even then, they have to put my wife out of the room because she refuses to leave… still covered in blood.”
Elliot remains speechless for the explanation.
“I tried to get her to stop talking about it, telling her that it was all over now, but her explanation was, ‘You don’t get it. There was a lot of blood, all over the kitchen, the ambulance, the trauma-room bed and floor, and all over me and all I could think was, “God, please don’t let her die. How could anyone live after losing this much blood?’ All she wanted was to stop the bleeding, but her words were that it just kept ‘coming and coming.’”
Elliot is still silent, so I keep going.
“So, once they put her out of the trauma room, one of the nurses takes her to the showers so that she can wash off the blood and she talks about standing there forever trying to get the shit out of her goddamn hair and how the water is eternally red and won’t go clear.” I then begin to look for her clothes because I know that she said she didn’t pitch them yet. I see a white plastic hospital bag under the seat along with a small personal items pouch. I know that must be her things, so I snatch the plastic bag from its hiding place.
“She’s standing in the shower trying to wash our mother’s blood off her, trying to prepare herself to come out and talk to us about what happened—and when she did, the first thing she had to do was smash some bitch’s fucking phone for trying to post this shit on Facebook. And your response to this was to slam her for, as you say, freshening up?”
I pause for a moment and allow the silence to wrap around the room.
“My wife is traumatized to the point where she’s quite possibly making extra appointments with her therapist as we speak, and you gave her shit because she took a shower and changed clothes so that she didn’t present herself to you looking like this!”
I reach into the bag and snatch my wife’s once-white dress out, now covered and crinkled with our mother’s dried blood. Mia wasn’t as strong as she thought. She releases a small screech and starts to cry again. Valerie looks like she’s going to hurl, and I think Luma does, but I’m not sure because she’s out of the waiting room in seconds. I continue to stare at Elliot, who’s now looking a little green himself.
“This used to be a really sexy number, Lelliot, and she looked really good in it. Now, it’s shit. Why? Because she wore this through the trauma in the kitchen, through the ambulance ride, into the trauma room until our mother finally released her hand and lost consciousness, and they still had to put my wife out of the room. So, I’m sure you can probably see why ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t mean do-diddily-shit right now!” I glare at him for a few more moments before I put the dress back in the bag and hand it to Chuck.
“Make sure none of her personal effects are in there—jewelry, valuables, anything like that—and then get the fuck rid of that bag. Not on these premises, but get the fuck rid of that bag.” He nods and takes the bag from me. “Where’s her purse? I haven’t seen it since she’s been here.”
“She left it at your mother’s house,” he says. “I picked it up when we went to get clothes for Mia. It’s in that duffle bag with her clean clothes.
“Good man,” I say. I don’t look back at my brother. There’s quite enough animosity and drama flying around right now. I just leave the damn room again and go in search of my wife, the same question swimming over and over in my head.
Will this situation destroy my family?
Quinn showed me to one of the intern sleeping rooms and I sequestered myself so that I could pump my milk. Once my breasts were light, my head became heavy, and I fell into a coma-like sleep.
I feel someone gently rousing me from sleep. I slept like the dead and now it’s morning. The sleep didn’t help, though. My head still feels like lead.
“Hey,” my husband says softly. “It’s a good thing I saw Quinn before she left at the end of her shift or I may have never found you.”
I try to sit up, but my head is banging like thunder. My last meal was champagne… and tears. Either I’m hung over, waterlogged from the seemingly endless crying, or both. My head is killing me.
“I need… water… and ibuprofen,” I squeak. My throat is so dry that it feels like needles are poking the inside of it. I don’t bother trying to swallow or clear my throat.
“Water I can do,” he says, presenting a bottle of water from the floor. “Ibuprofen, we may have to find.” I empty the bottle completely, hoping that the cool elixir will give my throat and head a little relief. I slept in a bed all night. I never rolled over once. I have no idea of Grace’s condition. The Greys most likely spent the night in chairs, on sofas, and if they were lucky, on cots. Elliot probably thinks I’m Satan right now.
“Dad’s looking for you,” Christian says. “He needs a little guidance.”
“Where is he?” I ask.
“In the waiting room,” he replies. I roll my eyes. I don’t want to seem insensitive, but do I have to go back in there? I sigh deeply and sit up, fishing around on the floor for my shoes. Christian kneels down and locates my shoes, putting each one on my feet and tying them for me.
“Do you want to stop and get some coffee?” he asks, concerned. At first, I want to decline. I want to tell him that the very last thing I need is watered-down, disgusting hospital coffee, but I know that he needs to take care of me in any way that he can—whether it’s because I look vulnerable or because of how I took care of Grace.
“Yes, please,” I say, weakly, “that would be nice.”
He wraps me in his jacket and we take the elevator down to the hospital cafeteria. I am delighted beyond measure to discover that there’s a Starbucks inside the cafeteria. Pike Place Roast black and a blueberry/honey muffin—I have to sit down and eat this, and my husband insists. I drink my coffee happily, allowing the hot brew to nearly scorch my tongue and soothe my soul as it flows through my chest and rejuvenates my body. The “fuzzy” slowly begins to leave my head as my husband goes off to retrieve some painkillers for my headache.
Carrick needs guidance. What’s happened? I won’t be the bad guy this time. I’ll help him make whatever decision he needs to make, then I’ll have Chuck just take me home if I have to. I’ll be the bad guy from my bed with my favorite flannel nightshirt and an afternoon marathon of Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, The Mirror Has Two Faces, and Eat Pray Love. I gently thrust my hands in my hair and attempt to massage the ache from yesterday away—along with the utter disdain I saw on Elliot’s face and heard in his voice. Some things you just can’t shake, you know? And “I’m sorry” doesn’t go very far when I’m still fighting images of my beautiful white dress crimson red and completely ruined… and why.
God, there was so much blood…
“I was told that you might need these.”
I look up and Carrick is standing in front of me carrying a single dosage pack of ibuprofen. I take the pack, open it and swallow both pills with a mouthful of coffee.
“Thank you,” I say, my voice still a little scratchy.
“May I?” he asks, gesturing to the seat in front of me. He looks as if he’s showered and changed clothes, but not like he’s gotten any rest.
“Please,” I croak. He takes a seat and looks me over.
“You look like hell, Ana,” he says.
“Thanks,” I reply dryly.
“You know what I mean,” he says, sounding like a chastising father. I shrug.
“Such is life,” I reply. He’s not falling apart, so I know Grace isn’t dead. But…
“They’re keeping her for a 72-hour hold,” he says without looking at me. I cock my head at him.
“A suicide watch?” I ask incredulously. “What brought you to that conclusion?”
“Can you tell me, 100%, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my wife didn’t try to commit suicide yesterday?” I look down at my muffin and pick at the paper.
“No,” I admit. “No, I can’t.” He nods.
“Then I made the right decision,” he says firmly, sitting back in his seat. “Grace has completely come undone in the last several weeks and I’m beyond the point where I can say that this is just wedding syndrome. She had full reign with Mia’s wedding and she knew it. She could make it as spectacular as she wanted, and she didn’t need to go all out with fire-eaters, water-walkers, and boy bands—but she did! Largess, we expected. She went completely, unreasonably insane. Then, there’s the fact that she was systematically alienating everyone around her and we have no idea why. I don’t know how she managed to remain so loved here at the hospital.”
“Well, you’ve made this decision, so I guess there’s no reason for us to stick around the hospital now, is there?” He shakes his head.
“Everybody’s still here, but they’ll most likely leave by lunch. I think they’re all trying to absorb the situation. Elliot’s not speaking to me now.” He brushes his hand over his face.
“Oh, dear Lord, you’re kidding,” I lament.
“I don’t know what’s going through that kid’s head right now, and quite frankly, I don’t care. He’s got all his faculties about him and he didn’t try to cut his arm off yesterday. So, right now, his little hurt feelings have to take a back seat.” Carrick runs his hand through his hair.
“May I ask if you discussed this with your children before you made the decision?” I ask cautiously.
“I did,” he confirms. “Elliot was outnumbered. Mia wants what’s best for Gracie and if that means having her stay in the hospital where the staff adore her for three days while they run intensive tests to see what’s wrong with her, then Mia’s all for it. Christian, as you know, is the highly logical one. He’s of the belief that if we can’t pinpoint what’s wrong with his mother, then she should stay where she would at least be safe and monitored for the next three days and be able to talk to an impartial third party about what’s going on. All Elliot can see is that his mother in the psyche ward.” I roll my eyes.
“It’s not like that,” I tell him. “It’s not like you see in the movies—the picture that he’s probably painting. She’s not up there with people walking around talking to themselves and having violent episodes and walking imaginary cats on leashes. She’s in the area with others who may be on observation; people who may be lightly medicated or being prepared to be released.”
“I know this, and so does Gracie.” My eyebrows rise.
“You discussed this with her?” I ask. He nods.
“I don’t believe my wife is crazy,” he says, “but something’s wrong and we have to find out what it is. Gracie contends that she didn’t try to kill herself, but agreed to the 72-hour hold if it will help us get to the bottom of what’s going on. Elliot didn’t like that explanation because I’m the only one who got to talk to her and he thinks I coerced her.” I shake my head.
“Doesn’t he know you better?” I ask softly. “Does he really think you’ll do something like that?”
“He’ll get over it,” Carrick says firmly. “I’ve never tolerated him acting like an entitled little brat and I’m not going to start condoning it now. Grace may be his mother, but she’s my wife! I love her, and I need to know what’s going on with her. When Valerie was ill, nobody could get within ten feet of her without his permission. He, of all people, should understand how I’m feeling right now.
“Does he think I’m doing this for kicks? To punish her or something? She could have died! I know what everybody’s saying—she didn’t cut deep enough; she didn’t cut in the right place, but I saw your dress…”
“You saw my dress?” I ask horrified.
“We all saw your dress,” he says dismissively. “If your dress looked like that and she bled from the time she cut herself until the time she passed out here in the hospital, there’s nothing that any of you can say to me to convince me that she couldn’t have bled to death.”
I don’t try to convince him otherwise. Even with my medical training, I was calculating blood volume while trying to stop her bleeding. He’s fighting so hard to be strong. He doesn’t have time to coddle Elliot and hold himself together, too.
“So,” he says after a long sigh, “I need to know what they should be looking for—if I should suggest anything. I don’t want this time to be wasted. When she comes out of here, I want us to have answers… or at least be closer to an answer… and not just more questions.” I nod.
“They’re going to talk to her,” I tell him, “a lot. They’re going to delve into anything and everything that’s happened as far back as they can go in the time that they have. As loved as she is in this place, they may get all the way back to her childhood.” I mean it as a joke, but everyone that has seen us so far has made sure that we know how much they love her. “When it comes down to the physical, tell them to leave no stone unturned. Blood tests, tumors, chemical imbalances, anything. They may even want to look for early onset Alzheimer’s and dementia, anything that might explain the sudden change in mood and personality.” Carrick nods.
“I’ll tell her doctor,” he says, popping his neck. “I’m going to tell Christian to take you home, now.” I sit up straight.
“I don’t have to leave,” I protest. “I can stay as long as you need me…”
“You’ve had the longest twenty-four hours of all of us, dear girl,” Carrick says. “It’s time you went home, saw your babies, and got some real rest. I’m going to shoo everyone else out of here, too. There’s nothing more we can do here right now. We might as well go home and regroup. It’ll do us all some good, including my son who seems to think this entire thing is about him.” I twist my lips.
I hope we pull through this okay. This is one of the closest-knit families I’ve ever known. Seeing them fall apart is causing me more pain than I can express.
A/N: Switzerland is neutral territory. So, Mia’s telling Elliot that while he’s comfortably staying out of everything and passing judgment, everybody else is in the thick of things with Grace either at the receiving end of her irrational behavior or watching in horrified awed and wondering what the hell is going on.
I may have referenced Carrie before, but it’s a 1976 movie about a bullied, telepathic teen with a psychopathic mother who was asked to the prom by someone with good intentions. It ended up in a cruel scheme to get her on stage as prom queen and dump a bucket of pig’s blood all over her.
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