This is a long story. Maybe it would qualify as a "novelette", but it's just a story. I posted it on another site but this is a modified version and more polished, I think. Don't comment if you are too cowardly to post your user name.
I had never known until that night what people meant when they talk about having their "heart in their throat". My neighbor's little pickup took the hospital exit off the freeway faster than I knew was possible. Fortunately there was little traffic in general, and no cars at all on the exit ramp. It was not my neighbor's driving that had my throat constricting so that I felt my pulse there, however. That began when I got the phone call from the state patrol.
"Mr. Fredricksen?" The impartial voice came through the line. After confirming I was myself, I heard words that are among the most dreaded to hear over the phone - or any other way, for that matter. "I'm afraid there's been an accident..." My wife, Claire, and my stepdaughter, Charlie, had wrecked the car. They had been taken to the hospital by the paramedics. That was all he could tell me on the phone. I ran next door to draft Jimmy for a ride. My own pickup was in my garage, but I felt I couldn't trust my driving right then.
Our car had been totaled and both the women in my life were now in the emergency room. That was all the voice on the phone could tell me. The truck's tires squealed as Jimmy twisted the wheel to bring the vehicle under the canopy outside the emergency entrance. We'd hardly stopped moving when I bailed out. I ran inside while he went to park. The attendant at the desk told me that my wife was in surgery.
"What about Charlie?" I demanded. The nurse frowned.
"I understood it was a young girl..." she scanned the clipboard.
"Yes! Charlie... Charlene! Our daughter! How is she?" I knew I was nearly shouting, but I was scared.
"She'll be fine..." the nurse didn't get the chance to continue.
Just as my consciousness registered Jimmy's arrival at my side, a female voice behind me said, "Mr. Fredricksen?" I spun around and found myself facing an impossibly young woman in a white doctor's smock. She had the requisite stethoscope draped over her neck. She took the clipboard from the nurse and penned some entries on it. Handing it back, she turned to me with a hand on my shoulder and we walked away from the admission desk.
"As the nurse was about to tell you, your daughter is fine. She fractured her right forearm and there are some pretty severe lacerations to her hands. You can go see her in just a moment. She is as anxious to see you as you are her. Your wife suffered more serious injuries, I'm afraid." Her voice had a calming effect on me. My heart still clenched at her words. She was so calm though, it couldn't be that bad, but she hadn't told me yet. I tried to control of my imagination.
"Why is she in surgery?" I asked.
"Relax. It's serious, but not critical. Her right femur -- thigh bone -- has a compound fracture, but the x-rays showed that there was also extensive damage to her tibia, the shinbone of the same leg. So much that it necessitated placing some 'hardware' in to repair it. The doctors should be finishing up in another couple of hours." The doctor told me that my wife was under a general anesthetic. Whenever they used a general, the patient had to remain in the hospital at least overnight. Since Claire's surgery entailed insertion of steel pins, she would be in there for at least a few days to monitor her for infection or rejection.
Jimmy waited in Emergency while the doctor took me to the second floor recovery room where Charlie was resting. She handed me over to another doctor who repeated the information I already knew about her condition. I almost cried when I saw our beautiful eighteen year old girl. Both eyes were black and her right arm was in a cast. Her hands were wrapped in thick bandages and another length of gauze bandage was wrapped around her forehead like a headband. I thought she was asleep, but our voices caused her to raise her head and turn toward the door. She croaked out a pitiful, "Daddy..." that broke my heart. She'd called me "Dad" from the time she was about fifteen. Hearing it now hit me hard. I rushed across the room and stood beside her. I wanted to wrap my arms around her, but I stopped myself. Realizing I couldn't even take her injured hand in mine, I settled for a hand on her gowned shoulder. Her cheek was undamaged and I bent to kiss it. Then she rasped, "Water?"
I held the plastic straw to her lips and she sipped gratefully. The doctor checked her over briefly and told her that her mother was going to be fine. I saw the relief on Charlie's face. The doctor told us both then that Charlie could leave as soon as the paperwork was ready. "Or, if you don't feel quite up to it, you can stay a while longer," he told her. Charlie said she wanted to rest a little bit longer.
"What about my wife?" I asked the doctor.
"If you want to wait either here or in the waiting room, we'll let you know as soon as she is out of the O.R. As I said, she'll be unconscious until late tonight. She won't be able to talk to you, but you can see her before you go."
Charlie tried to sit up, but she was woozy from the anesthetic and flopped back. "Mom had to have surgery? I thought she just had a broken leg?" I let the doctor explain. Then he added that we could stay as long as we needed. They would have the discharge papers left at the desk for us. He turned and his squeaking footsteps faded down the hallway.
I turned back to my daughter. She had become so dear to me in the nine years she had been in my life. I had married her mom only seven years before, about the time Charlie turned eleven. It was kind of a rocky start for Charlie and me. She didn't like the idea of a new man in her mother's life after the divorce. But my sense of humor -- and (more likely) my cooking -- charmed her. Now we were real buddies. We lived the father / daughter roles, but our relationship was more complicated than that. We loved each other as a father and daughter would, but there was an element of friendship that rarely exists between a blood parent and child.
I had acknowledged to myself when Charlie started to develop that I had some sexual feelings toward her, though I knew they had to live and die inside my head only. I didn't want to risk losing either my wife's or Charlie's love and trust by doing something stupid. Even those times when Charlie was obviously flirting with me, I chalked up to hormones and feeling her way around the new world of puberty. Now I looked down at her with her black eyes.
"Uh... Honey?" I said.
"I hate to tell you this, but... you look..." I cleared my throat for effect. "Well, you look kind of..." I watched the anticipation build as I dragged it out. "... well, kind of like a... raccoon." Charlie had just taken another sip of water. She sprayed it into the air (and on me) and jerked up as I laughed.
"Ow-ow-ow," she groaned, holding her plastered arm and hurting her bandaged hand. Then she relaxed again. "My head and stomach hurt, Daddy!" Then she made a face and added in a mock whisper, "Asshole!" I chuckled again.
"But you're a pretty little raccoon, Honey," I said. She just stuck her tongue out and lay back on her pillow.
Claire had been bringing our daughter home from her second semester of college. As Charlie told it, a car had swerved over the center line on a blind curve and knocked our car into a shallow ditch. Charlie had been knocked unconscious but Claire had the presence of mind to call 911 before she, too had passed out. Charlie woke up in the ambulance lying next to her still unconscious mother.
By eleven that night we received word that Claire was in recovery. Everything had gone according to the book. After looking in on her, we decided we might as well go on home. She was still out from the anesthetic, so I left her a note and we left. Charlie was ready to go, since she was so worn out. The orderly wheeled her down to the waiting room. I got the papers from the desk and asked Jimmy to bring the truck around.
Charlie leaned her head on my chest all the way home. Jimmy said goodnight and I thanked him as we went into the house. I helped Charlie to the living room couch and got her set up there with pillows and a blanket. She asked for ice cream so I brought a dish for her from the kitchen. Between the spoonfuls I fed her, she told me she had been driving, so it was her mom who took the brunt of the crash instead of her when the car went into the ditch. She said she thought at first the other guy had been drunk, but the police had told her he was just on his cell phone. Chalk up another one to modern technological stupidity, I thought.
We sat and watched TV for a while, despite the late hour. Around midnight I saw her nodding. "Do you want me to help you up to bed, Honey? Or would you rather sleep here on the couch?" I asked. Her legs were sore and bruised, but not really injured. She could handle the stairs, but Claire and I sleep downstairs. If she needed anything in the night, it would be easier to wake me if she was down there.
"I think I'll stay here, but..." She hesitated uncomfortably; looking at her softball sized bandaged hands. I waited. "But I have to pee!" she sounded so pitiful again. For a second I didn't understand. Then it came in a flash: I had to help her. I would have to tend her; not only to pee, but for everything she would normally do with her hands. I know it makes me sound like some kind of pervert, but it gave me a little jolt knowing that I'd have to wipe her and wash her for at least the next few days. The nature of our relationship dictated my response. I laughed. She looked furious for a second, and then she cracked up, finding as much humor in the situation as I did.
"You'd better be very nice to me, young lady. I can make you very uncomfortable if you aren't," I made myself sound as much in charge as I could.
"If you make me pee my pants, you'll be the one who has to clean it all up!" she countered. I saw her blush as the import of her own words sank into her mind. I ignored her pink cheeks and helped her off the couch and followed her into the bathroom. I stood behind her as I unbuttoned her jeans and pulled them down. Her panties followed and I discreetly made a point of trying not to think about her nudity as I helped her to sit. I left while she peed. When she called me back in, I saw that her face had gone from pink to beet red. I was very businesslike as I rolled a small wad of toilet tissue up and helped her to half stand. She spread her legs and I wiped her. That was when I realized she had copied her mother's practice and started shaving her pubic hair. "Oh, God!" she groaned in embarrassment as my hand patted her smooth slit dry.
"No big deal," I lied as I pulled up her panties (she didn't want to sleep in her jeans, so I pulled them from her ankles and dropped them into the hamper) and walked her back to the couch. She got comfortable and I bent to tuck the blanket around her and to kiss her good night. She put her good arm around my neck and hugged me tight. "I'm so glad you and your mom are going to be okay," I told her. "If you need anything, just holler," I said. Then I went to bed. As I lay there in the dark I tried not to think too hard about my nursing job for the next little while.
The next morning I woke up early but groggy from staying up so late and the adrenalin hangover. I walked through the living room to the kitchen. Charlie was still sleeping. I heard her call me as I turned the coffee on. She had to pee again. We repeated the routine from the previous night and she didn't seem quite as uncomfortable. I looked at her crotch as I wiped it. That morning I didn't make any effort not to look. It was so beautiful and soft. Charlie's wrist on my shoulder pressed down a little bit harder as I again patted her dry. I glanced at her. Her eyes were closed. I wondered what effect our forced intimacy was really having on her.
Back in the living room we sat and drank coffee (Every few minutes I would lift her cup to her lips and she'd slurp it in.) with the morning news. There was a short blip about the accident. The other driver, too, was still in a different hospital. "Good!" Charlie said. "He deserves it for being such an asshole! Goddamn cell phones!" We had never been the kind of parents who censor their children's language, except to explain about discretion in public. At home they could talk the way they wanted. Both Charlie and her older sister swore as much as I do -- and their mother, too, for that matter. Kim, the older daughter was married and in England with her husband. I made a mental note to call her and let her know about the accident.
I surfed through the channels but I watched Charlie. She hadn't covered up again when she sat down. I looked at her long smooth legs and her tiny green panties. The tee-shirt stopped at her navel. She had cut her blonde hair short just a month before and it was definitely 'bed head' that morning. I saw that it was almost seven o'clock. I wanted to get to the hospital to see my wife. It was a puzzle what Charlie should do, though. I could hardly help her in a public ladies room. I asked her what she thought.
"I'll call Jenny. Today is her day off. She was going to come and see me anyway. She can stay with me." Jenny was her best friend in high school. Jenny had stayed home to work a year or so, while Charlie went off to college in the eastern part of the state.
"Okay, but it's too early for that, isn't it?"
"Well, if I need help before I call her, I'll try Marge." Marge is Jimmy's wife next door. I was sure she would be happy to help. Jimmy left for work early so I knew Marge would be up. I'd clear it with her before I left.
I spent the morning with Claire. I'd brought a deck of cards, magazines, the book she was currently reading, as well as clothes for her to wear when she got released. After I confirmed what the doctors had told her about Charlie's condition, she showed me the device they'd placed on her leg. It was a new development that maintained the proper stress on the bones in lieu of her having to be in traction. All morning she drifted off in mid-sentence from the lingering effects of the anesthetic.
When they started wheeling the lunch cart down the hall, she kicked me out, telling me to go home and take care of Charlie. I was grateful for that. I dislike being in hospitals -- even when I'm just visiting. I just get bored, no matter how much I care for the patient. The few times I've been in a hospital bed I'd just as soon nobody hung around too.
When I got home, Charlie and Jenny were on the couch. The stereo was on loud. When I walked in I turned it down. I was rewarded with twin raspberries from the girls. I asked Jenny how long she could stay, since I had some work to do in my office. She said she had to be at the dentist at 3:00, but she could stay until about twenty to 3. It was just 12:30 so that would work out okay for me. I thanked her and went into my office.
A while later, I needed some papers from my briefcase, which I'd left in my bedroom. I had to pass through the living room on the way. I was in my socks and the thick carpeting made my progress silent. The girls were still on the couch which put their backs were toward the hallway. They obviously didn't realize I was there. They suddenly giggled. Charlie whispered, "You should have seen his face when he saw I didn't have any pubes!" They giggled again and I just stopped to listen.
Jenny asked if it made her wet when I wiped her. Charlie just groaned! I suddenly felt exposed so I slipped back into the dim hallway, just out of sight. I couldn't believe what I'd heard. Was Charlie sexually active? My wife and already suspected she was, but I didn't know how much. That's probably why she'd started shaving. I shook my head, and then strained my ears to hear them.
"You know," Jenny's whisper was raspy. "You're gonna have to shit and take a bath sooner or later. Gary will have to do the duties." I had already had the same thought. My face got hot then.
"I know!" Charlie said. "I can't wait! His strong hands will be all over me then."
"God!" Jenny replied, fidgeting on the couch. "I'm so jealous! Gary is such a hunk, even if he is so old." I reared back at that. I'm only forty two. Then I smirked at myself. Of course to anybody under thirty I'd seem ancient. Still, I thought, I have heard many women wax romantic over Sean Connery. He's in his seventies or something. That was one of the few things Charlie and Claire agreed upon. Sean was a hunk to all womankind, apparently.
I didn't want to eavesdrop any more. I silently retreated down the hall, then coughed and made some noise as I came out. The girls turned innocent looking expressions to me as I crossed the room. Briefcase in hand, I returned to the office and closed the door. About an hour later Jenny said goodbye and left for her dentist's.
"Daddy?" Charlie's voice came from the open door of the office. She stood in the hall outside. From the way she fidgeted, I knew she had to go again. I smiled and we went down to the bathroom. "Um... I think you'll want to go out for a while," she said once she was seated. Her face had taken on the deep red she'd worn the first time I had helped her. Then I realized she had to take a dump.
"Oh! Yeah, you're right about that! I've smelled your stink before." She stuck her tongue out, but I knew it was what she needed. I had to make things seem as normal as possible to ease her embarrassment. I pulled the door almost closed and went into the living room.
A few minutes later, I heard the toilet flush and Charlie called me back. We went through the supremely embarrassing routine of me wiping her pretty little ass. Then she said, "Can I have a bath, Daddy?" I don't think she noticed my brief hesitation.
"Of course you can, Honey. Just let me finish one thing in the office." I went back into the hall. I didn't have anything to do in the office; I just needed a second to prepare myself. Though I'd frequently seen her in her panties, I had only seen her naked once before, back just after Claire and I married. Being a new stepfather, I had just burst into the bathroom one night just as Charlie had stepped out of the shower. She screeched and covered herself with a towel. I apologized profusely and the incident was forgotten. That was before she had sprouted her little titties, though. I didn't really see anything either, except bare wet skin. Now I was going to have to give her a bath. I gulped and returned to the bathroom. Charlie was trying to struggle out of her tee-shirt. She had it partially off her head.
While she was blinded by the shirt, I looked at her bra covered breasts. They looked larger than I had thought them to be, but still small. I laughed and she snorted. "Here, Honey, let me help." I got the shirt off and started the water filling the tub. She sat in her underwear and waited while the tub filled. On an impulse, I dumped some bubble bath into the flow. Suds soon began to billow up. We talked about her injuries. She said they didn't really hurt much. I left the room and retrieved some plastic bags from the kitchen. Using the ever present duct tape, I taped them over her cast and bandages as insurance.
When the tub was full of water and suds, I stood up. I smiled at her and she reddened again. She stood up and turned her back to me. I unhooked her bra. She shrugged it off her arms and let it drop. Then I knelt to slide her panties down. Her round butt was inches from my face. To lighten the mood, I gave her a swat (when what I really wanted to do was give it a kiss). She squealed and swung her hand back toward me, missing because she couldn't see where she was aiming. She stepped one foot into the tub. When she tried to put her other foot in, she slipped. I grabbed her, my arm going around her middle. My other hand ended up on her hip, just below her waist, and half on her ass. "Be careful, Honey!" I said.