Brenda & Ian Ch. 01byTony155©
Friday, March 12
The student cafeteria wasn't crowded that day as Ian took a spot near the front. He piled his backpack and jacket on a chair next to him, stretched his legs, and waited for his cousin. Ian, a veterinary medicine major, had finished his last final of the winter quarter and looked forward to the spring break that awaited him. He had no specific plans for the break, but since his parents were on vacation in Russia, Finland, or God knows where else, he had the house to himself and could do pretty much what he wanted. No, he wasn't going to throw party after party, mainly because most of his friends were going to Florida or Texas to a nice, warm beach. Secondly, he didn't hang around with the big party crowd and wasn't much of a partier anyway. Besides, the neighbors would stand in line to tell his parents once they returned home.
Ian glanced at his watch and frowned. He was getting pretty hungry and thought that Brenda would have been there by now. She almost always beat him there and it was unusual for her to be late for anything. They tried to meet weekly for lunch, but sometimes it would be a couple weeks or a month between meetings because of classes or other scheduling malfunctions. He knew that she had had a final that morning, but thought that she would have been finished by now.
He was just about to give up and get in line when he saw her bound into the cafe full of energy, her short brown hair flying everywhere.
"Sorry I'm late," she said as she dumped her books into the chair with Ian's stuff. "The test was a little harder than I expected, plus the grad asses were late. Anyway, I'm here, so what's on the menu?"
"It's the same as always," Ian said as he got up to go to the chow line. Brenda followed and looked at the choices. Ian already had a slice of pizza on his plate and was reaching for a sub sandwich. Brenda didn't really see anything that appealed to her, so she selected a salad and a coke. Ian paid for the meals, he insisted, and they made their way back to the table.
Once they were settled, Ian asked her the question that led off most of their discussions, "So, you still a virgin?"
Brenda rolled her eyes like she always did when he asked the question first. "Of course I am. Want to check?"
"Sure, you want to do it here or go to my house?"
Brenda shook the table a bit with her hands. "This seems sturdy enough, let's do it here."
"Alrighty then...." Ian slapped his hands on the table as Brenda started to giggle. Ian smiled and leaned back in his chair.
"Well, what about you?" Brenda asked.
"Chaste as a newborn."
"Is there any hope for us?"
"God, I hope so," Ian said laughing, "but this is getting kind of old, you know."
"It sure is," Brenda agreed between bites. "Maybe I'll find someone after I graduate. I sure haven't done very well in my four years here."
"You'll be too busy with your MBA to worry about guys."
"Thanks for helping me with that picture," she replied disgustedly. "You could at least give me some hope for the near future.
"Anything for you, cuz."
The banter continued throughout the meal as they shared their day with each other. They mostly talked about spring break and their plans for it. Brenda had no plans, either, so they decided to hang out together since neither were dating anyone at that time. Truthfully, they preferred each other's company to anyone that they had dated recently, so it made sense to them. They finished their lunches quickly and talked for almost another hour. Finally, as it approached two o'clock, they packed up to go home.
"Well, Ian," Brenda said as she slipped her coat on, "I guess I'll see you next week sometime. Give me a call Sunday and we'll work out some plans."
"Sure," he replied, "but if you don't hear from me by noon, call me and wake up my lazy ass!"
"Okay," laughed Brenda, "I'll do that." She smiled at Ian as her brown eyes sparkled. Ian always loved to look at her eyes because they reminded him of a fawn's eyes. They were easily her best feature. "Well, I'll talk to you later," she said after she gave him a friendly peck on the cheek.
"Okay, see you," he called after her before she disappeared into a crowd. Within seconds, she was gone and Ian picked up his backpack and left.
It was after ten o'clock in the evening and Ian's body was telling him that it was time to go to bed. He was in his dad's study listening to the stereo; his was on the fritz and his dad's was awesome. He turned off the stereo, left the study and started the long climb of stairs to his room. He was but halfway up when the phone began to ring from the room below. He debated on whether or not to answer it, but curiosity got the best of him. Since his mom and dad had been on vacation for the past two weeks, he thought that it might be them checking in, as they liked to do. He reached the phone on the fifth ring and answered it in the most pleasant voice that he could muster, considering how tired he was.
"Hello, Nicks residence, Ian speaking."
A frantic voice answered on the other end, "Oh Ian, thank God you answered!" Brenda cried.
"What's wrong Brenda? What's up?" Ian asked, alarmed by the tone of her voice.
"Mom and dad have been in a terrible accident. We're at the University Hospital. Please come, I'm so scared!"
"Okay, okay," Ian said, suddenly alert, "how bad are they?"
"I don't know!" she sobbed. "No one's told me anything. Please, please come," she pleaded.
"Sure, sure, Brenda. I'll be there as soon as possible," he assured her.
"I don't know what I'd do without you," she said between sobs. "I didn't know who else to call."
Ian said, "I'll be there in a few minutes. Just hang on."
"Okay, I will. Thank you, Ian."
"Anything for you, I'll be there soon."
Ian hung up the phone quickly, turned, and ran up the stairs two at a time to his room. Once there, he grabbed his wallet, keys, and some money and then hurried down the stairs to the kitchen. Before he opened the door to the garage, he turned off most of the lights and set the alarm system.
Once in the garage, Ian pressed the switch to open the garage door. It was raining heavily and knowing his Uncle Harry's driving habits, Ian figured that Harry got careless on the slick pavement and slid off the road. And knowing his driving habits, Ian knew that he would have to be extra careful unless he wanted to end up in a bed next to his aunt and uncle. Ian got into his BMW 325i and started the engine. It turned over quietly and he switched off the stereo so that he could concentrate on his driving. He pulled out of the garage and pressed the button to close the garage door. Normally, it would take only about fifteen minutes to get to the University Hospital, but the hard rain would make it a bit longer. He put the car into gear and left his house behind.
Brenda sat in a chair by the nurses station, waiting for news, any news about her parents. She had been there for about an hour and a half and no one had come to talk to her. She was getting scared, frustrated, and angry because of the lack of information. Brenda had spoken to two nurses who said that they would get back to her, but neither one had returned. No one was at the desk at this time, so she couldn't vent her frustration at anyone. Just when she was about to go through the doors of the emergency room and find out for herself, a nurse called her name from the emergency room door that she had just opened. Brenda picked up her purse and jacket and went to the nurse. She led her past bed after bed until they were at the end and only a small waiting room was left. Two doctors in green scrubs were inside and the nurse opened the door and motioned Brenda to enter.
"Miss Barringer, please be seated, " said the first doctor, a tall, red head with black glasses.
Brenda did as asked and said, "How are they? When can I see them?"
The doctors exchanged glances and the second doctor, an elderly man with a huge nose, said, "I'm afraid we have some bad news for you."
Out on the road, Ian took his time and took no chances. He really wanted to be there for Brenda, who was his only cousin on his mom's side of the family and they were extremely close, unlike his mom and uncle. Even as youths, they never got along and because of a big fight five years prior, had not spoken to each other since. Oddly, they had never tried to keep Ian and Brenda apart. Brenda was twenty-two and in her last year of college, whereas Ian was twenty-one and one class behind. They rarely saw each other on campus because of their differing majors, but their lunch dates were becoming legendary. Ian's father was particularly upset at his choice of major, since he wanted Ian to follow him in the oil business.
"A vet is a waste of time," he kept saying, "at least be an MD and make some decent money." He finally relented when Ian assured him that because of his love of horses, he would specialize in thoroughbreds, noting his dad's weakness for the ponies. Ian lied, of course, but the subject rarely came up after that.
Brenda had had an older brother, Ryan, a troubled youth who grew into an even more troubled adult. Six years her elder, she adored him and tried to help him through his problems. That all came to an end three years ago when the heroin that he shot into his arm was a bit too pure for his heart to handle. Devastated and faulting herself for his death, Brenda spiraled into a deep depression that caused her to drop out of school for half a year. Through grit, determination, and a lot of prodding from Ian, she pulled herself out of her darkness and attacked her studies with a renewed vengeance.
"I finally realized," she confided in Ian later, "that he was going to kill himself no matter what I or anyone did."
Thinking about that time brought tears to Ian's eyes that matched the rain pouring on his windshield. Although the wipers were on high, Ian still found it hard to see.
Even after Ryan's funeral, which Ian's mom refused to attend, their parents never interfered. Ian guessed that they figured that they would see each other at school, so what was the difference? But, Ian also thought that his aunt and uncle were grateful to him for helping Brenda so much during that dark period.
Ian looked forward to their lunches very much. They were lively and they always had stories to share about their continuing love-life saga, or lack thereof. Both dated occasionally, but they never seemed to find the right person to really click with. They seemed to resign themselves to the fact that marriage was not in the immediate future for either of them. Ian always found it hard to believe that Brenda didn't have that much success dating. Although she was not a glamour queen, she was quite pretty and Ian would have dated her in a heartbeat. She was about five feet seven inches tall and around one hundred and forty pounds. Athletically built, she had played volleyball in high school and was honorable mention all-state in her senior year. She played her first year in college, but her playing time was low and after Ryan's death, she lost interest. She still worked out in a gym three times a week with weight training and aerobics and seemed to have the energy of three people. However, it was her eyes that set her apart from most girls. They were big, brown, and doe-like. They could melt you like spring butter or put you in your place with a glare. She had flared them but once at Ian and that was enough for him. He had suggested that she not waste her energy on her addict brother; that she would wear herself out eventually. But, she had other ideas and told Ian where he could put his suggestion. Ian never brought up the subject again and supported her the best that he could, although he detested Ryan for putting his family through so much hell.
Ian pulled into the emergency entrance and he glanced at his watch. It had taken him almost a half hour to get there. The lot was about half full as he looked for a parking space. Seeing Brenda's car, he parked as close to it as possible.
Trying not to get thoroughly soaked, Ian ran to the doors of the emergency entrance and stepped through when they opened. Looking left and right, he didn't see his brown-haired cousin, only strangers. As Ian approached the desk, he saw Brenda come out of a room down the hall to his left. Head down, she slowly sank down to a crouched position, her back still against the wall. Ian excused himself from the nurse who had just arrived to help and he hurried down the corridor. Hearing footsteps coming towards her, Brenda looked up with tears streaming down her face. She quickly straightened up and with her arms outstretched, she ran to Ian. When they met, she threw her arms around him and buried her face in his chest, crying hysterically. Holding her close, trying to comfort her, Ian said nothing as she sobbed, her shoulders convulsing and hugging him as if her life depended on it.
After a few minutes, Brenda composed herself and pushed away from him, her eyes puffy, red, and filled with tears. Before Ian could say anything, she whispered, "Daddy's dead and mom's not going to make it, either." Brenda then threw herself into his arms again, crying, while all Ian could do was hold her.
Minutes later, Ian led her to a nearby waiting room that was unoccupied and sat her down on one of the small sofas. Ian was still holding her and letting her vent her anguish as he tried to think through the events and what was to come. Brenda was now alone, or would be shortly, except for himself and a smattering of relatives scattered about. He wondered what would become of her and whether she would be able to handle such a terrible tragedy so soon after her brother's death.
After a minute or two, Brenda broke the embrace once more. She looked at Ian with tear-welled eyes and then looked down. Ian reached into his pocket and produced a clean handkerchief and handed it to her. Grateful, she took it from him and began to dab her eyes. Even in her anguish and sorrow, she somehow managed a small smile. She tried to give it back to Ian, but he held her hand in both of his and told her to keep it.
"Thank you, you're so sweet," she said, trying to choke back her tears. Ian stared at her blankly as an awkward silence fell between them. There were so many things that Ian wanted to ask or say but couldn't. Brenda looked down at the knotted cloth in her hand as tears started to fall freely once more. Ian released her hand and she held the cloth to her face.
"They let me see him," she continued.
"Yeah. They tried to clean him and make him look better before they let me in." She dabbed her eyes once more. "It was awful. I mean his face was battered and bruised like he'd been in a fight or something." She stopped to blow her nose. "One side was purple and swollen. It was just awful!" Brenda struggled to keep her composure.
"How did it happen?" Ian dared to ask.
"No one seems to know. The police are still there, I suppose."
"What about your mom?"
"Well," Brenda said slowly, trying to remain calm, "she's basically brain-dead and they're running tests before they ask me to give permission to end life support." Brenda looked up and tried to blink some tears away.
"You don't know how sorry I am. If there's anything that I can do for you..."
"You're here," she interrupted, "that's all that matters to me now." She settled her head onto Ian's chest and sighed heavily. "Please hold me and don't let go," she whispered.
"Of course," Ian said softly as he wrapped his arms around her. Ian kissed her on top of her head and tried to push a few strands of hair from her face. An hour later, as Ian was stroking her cheek with the back of his hand, a nurse came into the room.
"Miss Barringer," she said, "it's time."
"Time?" Brenda blinked, not comprehending.
"The doctors want to talk to you," she said softly.
Ian glanced at the clock on the wall and it was almost midnight. He released his hold and stood up slowly. Looking down at his cousin, Ian saw that she was making no effort to leave the sofa.
"Brenda," Ian said quietly. Slowly, she looked up at him, her eyes scared beyond terror.
"I can't," she said helplessly.
"I'll be with you," Ian said, extending his hand to her.
"I...I...can't!" she wailed, tears erupting once again.
"I'll be with you," Ian said again, softly, reassuring.
"I don't think I can do it," she whispered, barely audble.
"I won't let you be alone. I'll be right beside you," he said earnestly.
"Please don't leave me," she begged.
Slowly, she eased herself from the sofa. Brenda took Ian's hand to steady herself and nodded to the nurse to lead the way. Holding hands, they followed the nurse to a conference room not far from where they had been. It was a small room with a round table that seated six. Two doctors rose from their seats as they entered. One was a short, squat, middle aged gentleman and the other was a tall female with unremarkable features. The nurse showed them to their seats and they sat down, as did the doctors. The male doctor spoke first.
"I am Dr. Haynes and this is Dr. Mulcahy," he said as he gestured to the female. "First, I want to convey my heartfelt condolences to you. I know this is a terrible time for you and I'm sorry."
"Thank you," Brenda said softly, looking down at her hand still being held by Ian's.
"We've gotten the results of the test, " he continued, "and I'm sorry, but we see no hope for your mother recovering."
Brenda closed her eyes tightly and wept silently.
"There is no brainwave activity and she's living only because of the life support system. It is my opinion and that of Dr. Mulcahy's that it would be best to turn off the life support and let nature take its course."
Brenda looked up and faced the doctors. "There's no chance at all?" she asked quietly.
"No, dear," Dr. Mulcahy answered, "there's too much head trauma and her kidneys and other organs are beginning to shut down."
"I see." Brenda looked down blankly, eyes fixed on her lap. "What do you want from me?" she asked finally, dreading the answer.
Dr. Haynes said, "We'd like for you to give permission to turn off the life support and end your mother's suffering."
"I see," she said again, but made no further comment. The doctors waited patiently for her to say more. Her shoulders began to shake slightly as the tears began to fall once more. Ian put his hand on her shoulder and squeezed lightly. She looked at him, her eyes pleading for help.
"I don't know what to do!" she cried as she laid her head on his hand.
Ian looked at her and then at the doctors. "Could you excuse us for a few minutes?" he asked.
"Of course," Dr. Haynes replied, "we'll be right outside." The doctors left the room quietly and they were alone.
After the door shut, Brenda pushed back her chair abruptly and walked to the other side of the room with her back to Ian. Not knowing what to say, Ian remained silent. Brenda remained still, her hands clasped in front of her at her waist. Without warning, she slammed her right palm against the wall.
"I can't do it!" she cried as she hit the wall again. "I can't do it! I can't do it!" She fell to her knees, crying hysterically. "I can't do it, I can't do it," she said over and over again.
Ian rushed to her side and tried to hold her, but she shook him off, not wanting to be touched. She rocked back back and forth, hugging herself and sobbing as Ian stood helplessly nearby. A few minutes later, she let Ian hold her as she started to calm down little by little.
"I can't do this," she whispered as she looked at him, "I'd be killing her. I couldn't live with that."
"Sweetheart, she's already dead. You heard what the doctors said. The only reason she's alive is because of a machine. She's not really living."