Do Miracles Happen? Ch. 03byRabbitrunner91©
She brushed out her clothes, straightened her hair and tried to put on a pleasant face.
"Want me to come?" I asked.
She looked around and caught sight of the other two, tugging on some toy by the closet. Then looked at Andrew in my arms, cooing loudly. "I don't know what you can do." She stifled a cry.
She stood tall, and walked towards the door and outside, I followed behind with Andrew.
The officer was waiting and standing beside the suburban. We walked over and he introduced himself, Officer Mitchell of the Modesto PD.
"Ma'am, are you Claire Hanson from Kansas City?"
"Yes, I am."
"Do you have any identification?"
"Just a minute, let me get my purse." She returned to the house.
I felt awkward and I introduced myself. "I'm Robert Woodward. I'm from Denver and traveled here with Mrs. Hanson. It's a vacation; her kids wanted to see the ocean."
"Is this her car?"
"Yes, sir, it is. Mine is over there on the street."
He turned to look but didn't say anything. Claire had returned with her purse and extracted her driver's license.
"Ma'am, there's a bulletin out on this car." He points to her suburban. "I've been instructed, to identify you and give you this?" He'd reached into his folder and removed an envelope, sealed and with her name on the front.
Clair's face is tense and her breathing is rapid and short, her skin is pale. She takes it from his extended hand.
"Your car was identified this morning and reported to our office. I was asked to wait and identify the owner and then give you the envelope."
Claire takes a breath, I see the deep emotional turmoil. Nothing's been said as to the nature of the envelope's contents, but to her mind, she knows it's about the children. Inserting a finger under the flap, she rips it open and extracts two pieces of folded paper.
From my vantage, I couldn't read but they looked like faxes. Claire slowly begins, her expression doesn't change, but her knees give out and she crumples to the ground.
Sara must have been watching from the house, for she is running out the door towards us. I handed her Andrew and hoist Claire into my arms. Officer Mitchell had retrieved the papers and Sara asked me to take her into the house.
Gene had quickly moved things off the couch, giving room to lay her down. I propped her head up with pillows, removed her shoes and loosened her sweater and belt. Her eyes fluttered open, and she started crying, deep heart racking sobs. This woman was hurting. Officer Mitchell had followed inside, reading the papers.
"May I?" I asked, reaching for the documents.
He handed them over, I quickly browsed them. Most of the verbiage was official police language, but the jist indicated Barry Hanson had been shot and killed by a jealous husband. The second document was asking Claire to contact Kansas City PD to claim his personal effects.
Giving the papers to Sara, my attention returned to Claire. She clung to me, wrapped her arms around my neck and buried her face in my shirt. It didn't take long for it to become wet. The children were standing in the hallway, watching. "Gene?" I asked. "The children?" I indicated with a nod of my head.
He took the hint, walking them to the back yard.
Sara had read the papers and could only utter, "Oh My God. Oh My Lord." She sat on the other side of Claire, holding Andrew and trying to comfort her at the same time.
Claire's sobbing has not lessened, and become more erratic. Periods of deep crying from her chest, then quiet outbursts, and having problem breathing. She's profoundly wounded.
My arms encircle her drawing, close and seeking to offer comfort. Time passes and her sobs become more intermittent, then slow down … , eventually ceasing. She's exhausted herself, all her energy has been drained.
I'd been kneeling beside the couch; I moved to sit and placed her in my lap. She comes easily, no resistance, wanting to be held.
"Ma'am," Officer Mitchell speaks, "I'm sorry. This isn't how our department handles these issues. I'm truly sorry for your loss." He shows himself out and I see him muttering something as he walks across the yard towards his cruiser.
"Sara, fetch my red medical kit from my room. Would you please?" Then I add, "And a glass of water."
She is gone for a couple minutes, and returns with my case and the water. "Claire, I'm giving you a sedative. It'll help you relax." The tablet is removed from the kit and she swallows it with the water and then leans her head against my shoulder.
The house is quiet as I carry her to the bedroom. I hear the kids in the back yard, playing. I put a light blanket over her and sit on the edge of the bed. Emotionally she's bleeding, she needs to rest. A sob escapes from her lips, her eyes are red, her arms feel tense and her hands are clasped together.
"Claire, rest, relax. We'll take care of the kids. They'll be fine."
Softly I hum a song and observer the medication taking effect. In a few minutes, she's asleep. I sit with her a while longer, then close the door as I leave the room.
I find Sara outside with Gene, she's holding the two babies, and I take Andrew from her arms. "She'll sleep through the night. The rest will do her good."
"What are your plans?" Gene asks.
"To stay through tomorrow and leave the following morning, New Years Day."
"You're welcome to stay longer if you need. She didn't need this kind of a Christmas present."
"You know, I've seen a lot of misery through the hospital, but this woman, this family, have suffered so much. When will it end?"
"She needs a miracle."
"And I'm fresh out.
We're sitting there quietly, Aaron comes running and stops in front of me. "Bob, why was Momma crying?"
A quick glance at Gene, lets me know I won't receive any help from him. "She got some bad news, Aaron, and it made her cry."
"Will she be alright?"
"She wants to rest for now. So when we go in the house, we need to be extra quiet. Can you do that?"
He shakes his head and hurries off to play again. I'm thinking, 'These kids have lost their father, and don't even know it yet.'
I put Andrew on my shoulders, hang on to his hands and start prancing around the yard. He is squealing with delight, having a blast. This goes on for a minute and Gene puts his girl on his shoulders, joining us as we prance around.
Coming close, he asks, "What are your plans once you get back to Denver?"
"What do you mean?"
"Claire and the kids are going with you. What happens to them when you get there?"
"I don't know, I hadn't thought about it."
"You better think about it." Sara chimes in.
"I'd told her I'd help with Andrew and his heart condition. That's my plan."
"Well, where's she going to stay? Does she have a job? What about the older ones?" Gene mentioned
"I don't know. I suppose I'd help her find an apartment and a job some place. Have to look around, pull some string, maybe."
"You may not know it, but you've already taken on their responsibility. You won't dump them, that's not like you, Bob." Sara added
She was right, that wasn't like me. And they were right; I had taken on their responsibility. I hadn't thought it out, and that 'really', wasn't like me.
Amy ran up to me, seeing Andrew on my shoulders. "Put me up. Put me up."
Sara walked over and lifted Andrew from my hands and I sat Amy in his place.
I stepped closer to Sara, leaned down and put Amy's face in hers. Sara gave her a kiss. Then it was off around the yard and Amy yelling encouragement to go faster, go faster. Aaron and Chris were playing with sticks in the corner. It looked like a fort, or something like that.
The sun was going down and a chill was in the air. We herded everyone inside and Sara prepared a 'finger' supper of Peanut Butter and Jelly, and in a short time, their faces were smeared and crumbs on the floor. What was amazing to me, these two families, the children, having been together for two days, were having fun. They had new friends to play with.
As Sara picked up the table, I used a wash cloth to wipe their hands. Checking Andrew's fingers, they were looking blue. This wasn't good, his blood need more oxygen.
"Something wrong?" Gene asked. He'd seen me examining the fingers.
"I'm afraid, he's turning blue. He needs more oxygen."
"Need any help?"
"Could you get the other two ready for bed. I'm going to get him ready and put the tubes on him. May have to sit up with him to keep them from coming off."
I gave him a quick bath, put a clean diaper on, pajamas and then in the crib next to Claire. The tubes were attached and adjusted them, but he wanted to play. Rolling him on his stomach, I rubbed his back to relax him then started a rhythmic patting of his bottom. He relaxed quickly and within 20 minutes was sleeping soundly.
Claire stirred and I checked on her. She was relaxed and sleeping peacefully. Her face was calm, I was glad for that. A tiny head peaked in the door. Aaron had his pajamas on and wanted to give me a good-night hug. I picked him up, hugging him and he gave me a kiss on the cheek. Amy came in wanting the same attention, so she received one too.
Sara appeared at the door. "Come on you two, climb into your beds." They scampered down the hallway and I heard them giggle with the other children.
"Do you have a stuffed chair we could pull in here? I want to keep a close eye on them."
"I think we can arrange that."
In a few minutes, Gene was sliding one of their chairs, from the living room, into the bedroom. "Want anything else?"
"Do you have an extra blanket?"
Sara had already thought of this, the blanket and pillow was in her hands as I turned around. "If you need anything, we're down the hall." She surprised me with a motherly hug. "They'll be fine. Try to get some sleep if you can."
The hallway light was left on and the door open a crack. Enough light shown in, I could see them both. Their breathing was deep and regular. I slipped into the chair, adjusted the blanket and pillow, relaxing.
The house was quiet and I dozed. Later I heard Andrew make some noises, but he was sleeping well. Claire had turned on her side, facing me. I watched her; the last two days she'd relaxed, except for the incident this afternoon. Her mothering abilities amazed me, she was always looking out for her three, finding ways to teach them new things, to ensure the best for them.
Sleep fell over me again and when I next woke, the moon was shining in the window, casting a pattern across the floor. Getting up, I checked the oxygen regulator for Andrew, adjusted it a bit and then pulled the covers around Claire. She had moved and they'd slipped. She stirred but didn't wake. My watch read 4:30.
I took the time to pray for them, asking the Lord to protect them and give them peace and contentment. They needed a miracle.
Sunlight was pouring through the window the next time I opened my eyes. Andrew was awake, Claire was smiling up at me. "You okay? You sleep well?"
"Yeah," she said. "I'm fine. How's Andrew?"
I checked on him, he was messy and I wrinkled my nose, Claire laughed. His color had returned to normal so I removed the tubes and disconnected the tank. Finding the diapers, I changed him before setting him on the floor. Holding on to the crib he walked around and stopped close to Claire. She reached out and took his hand and he finished moving towards her.
"He looks like you. Amy does too."
She had sat up in bed and pulled Andrew into her lap. I sat beside her. "Will you be okay after yesterday? You gave us a scare."
For a minute she played with Andrew's hands, the smile had left her face. "I don't miss him at all, not one little bit, but the kids will. When he came home, he'd play with them, if only for a minute. He was always chasing after other women, I couldn't please him. He beat me twice, because I asked where he'd been and what he'd been doing. I never asked him after that, and he never loved me either."
My hand reached up and pulled her hair away from her face, and back over her ear. "You were the best thing in his life and he never knew it."
She looked at me for a moment. I continued, "You'll have to tell them."
"What do I say?"
"Just say there was an accident and their father died. They won't need any more explanation than that."
Activity was heard in the hallway and Sara poked her head in the door. "You guys awake? There are two children wanting to come see their Mom."
The door was pushed open and Aaron and Amy rushed into the room and began to crawl up on Claire's lap. It was full. I attempted to stand up but she pulled me back.
Addressing them, "Aaron, Amy, I have to tell you something."
They paused and were looking into their Mother's face. "Your daddy's been in an accident."
"Was he hurt?" Aaron asked.
She paused, and pulled the two of them closer to her. "He's died. He won't be coming home any more."
Amy was wiggly and crawled around on Claire's lap. Aaron stood with his hands on her knees. This was hard, but they deserved to know. What he said next, caught us both off guard.
"Can Bob be our new Daddy?"
She choked, I coughed and we both looked at each other for a second. "Aaron, Bob's a friend and I'm sure he'll play with you when you want."
I picked him up, put him in my lap and ruffled his hair. "Hey, Champ, you're a pretty good boy. What do you want to play?"
"I want to play trains."
"Okay, today we play with your trains. Can Chris play with us too?"
He shook his head emphatically.
Amy wasn't about to be left out. "Can you play dolls with me and Becky?"
Putting my hand on her head, "We can do that too. You and Aaron go see if breakfast is ready. We can play afterwards, okay?"
Without a sound, they both jumped off our laps and scurried to the kitchen.
"Thanks," she said. "They both like you."
"I like them too. They also have a neat Mom. Come on, let me take Andrew, I want you to stand up. Doctor's orders."
Holding the baby, I extended my hand and she rose to her feet. The medication hadn't worn off; she was wobbly and latched on to my arm. "Easy does it. Put your arm around me. I'll walk you to the kitchen."
Slowly we moved in that direction where she gingerly placed her hands on the table before sitting. I handed her Andrew and reached for a jar of baby cereal, fetched a spoon and bib.
Sara was at the stove, flipping eggs and Gene came in carrying the baby and following the older children. There was a mad rush as they pushed and pulled at the chairs to sit up to the table. Gene scooted the chairs in, once they were situated. "How'd you sleep?" he asked Claire.
"Okay, I guess. Still a bit groggy."
Looking over her shoulder, Sara asked, "What are your plans for today?"
"Stay around here and play with the kids. I made 'em a promise."
Gene shared a 'knowing' look with Sara, but I didn't see it; too busy helping Amy and Becky get situated at the table.
Breakfast had the usual clatter of sounds and voices. The four older children needed encouragement to eat, they had great plans to play trains and dolls with me, and they were excited.
The living room floor was cleared and the kids brought their toys. All morning I was on my hands and knees, building track, pushing trains, holding dolls, and having imaginary tea parties. All six were playing and I was the referee for a couple squabbles.
Gene took time to do some yard work, Claire and Sara were never far apart. Occasionally they watched us play, other times they were in the kitchen or cleaning one of the bedrooms. The day passed quickly and in the evening we were in the living room. The toys had been picked up, furniture put back in place, supper over. Gene had rented a video and the children were watching the cartoon figures drift across the screen. At its conclusion, we scurried them off to bed, tucking them under the covers, and kissing them good night.
The four of us sat talking in the family room, TV was off and the children were quiet.
Gene broached the subject that was on his mind. "Bob, how long have you and Claire known each other?"
"Bout a week, I guess."
"You were having fun with her kids today. They could be your own."
I didn't see Claire's look towards him when I answered. "They're good kids, they really are. Yours are well behaved and all six get along well."
Claire spoke. "Hold on you two, where's this conversation going?"
I must have been dense, I thought it was an innocent comment, but Claire spotted something I'd missed.
"You two should get married." Sara said, getting the topic out in the open.
I was sitting with my mouth open and about to make some stupid remark when Gene jumped to Sara's rescue. "The way I see it, the two of you will eventually end up getting married in a year or so anyway. The problem, your kids." Speaking towards Claire, "You are an excellent mother, from what we've seen, and you've no way to support them. Andrew needs surgery and they all need a father. You have a soft spot in your heart for Bob, that's obvious. Now the kicker, you both agree it was God's timing to bring you together. To what end? We've already voiced our opinion and think you should hurry the process."
Without missing a beat, Sara looks at me, "Bob, you love those kids. You love them like they were your own and you're a natural father. In addition, they love you to pieces. When you get back to Denver, do you plan on leaving her and the children at the mercy of the government? I don't think so, that's not like you. You'll end up supporting them out of your own pocket…."
"Now wait…" Claire broke in.
"No, you wait," Sara refused to be stopped. Looking directly at me, "Yesterday, you treated Claire with tenderness. You didn't have to stay up with them all night, but you did. It was more than doctor - patient; you were concerned and wanted to spend the night."
Speaking for the first time, "It wouldn't be fair to them, I work long hours."
"Then find another job. They're more important anyway." Gene chimed in.
I didn't like the way this conversation was going. We were being boxed in, and looking at Claire, she was uncomfortable. Gene and Sara had said their speech, and the room was quiet, except for the clock ticking from the wall. Claire glanced at me and our eyes locked for a moment before we looked away.
On cue, Gene and Sara stood, "We've said our piece, now you two can talk. We're going to our room."
They were gone and Claire and I were left in an awkward silence, which stretched, then became 'damned' awkward. The first one to speak would 'put their foot into it' and I didn't want it to be me, but figure it would; or so I thought.
"I'm sorry, Bob. We certainly didn't mean to cause you trouble. I should have said 'No' when you asked to caravan together."
"I'm glad you said 'Yes'. These last few days have been some of the most relaxing, and it's with some of the most wonder people."
Quiet settles over us, neither one of us looking at the other.
"Claire, everything they said, is true. There's no way on God's green earth I'd allow you and the kids to be left to the mercy of government services."
"And then?" she asks.
"Events are moving in the direction where we get together; trouble is, we haven't taken time to develop a close relationship."
"You'd like to?"
"Yes, if you're willing?"
"I'm willing." She smiled.
Leaning over, I place my hand on her arm and kiss her. It was to be a quick kiss, but I linger; her arms go around my neck and pull us tighter. What started to be something short, developed into a passionate embrace; we both were hungry for it.
"Thanks." She said, pulling apart. "I needed that."
Standing I pull her to her feet. "You need to get your beauty sleep. Tomorrow is a new day, new month and a new year. We'll be traveling and have to pack."