Free to a Good Home, Book 2 of the Heartbeat Series

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27. Name Tags

After being ill all night from the new medication, Maia ate her breakfast while Jimmy was on the phone with Bert and Jonny. She only ate what she could tolerate, and of course, she wasn’t going to pass up pancakes, justifying that maybe the butter and syrup would settle her stomach rather than make her feel like she was going to hurl again as she did in the middle of the night.

“Maia, do you have Joey’s phone number at the hotel? He is not answering his cell phone.”

“Yes,” she said, sitting up quickly to get the phone number from the tablet on the table next to her bed. She felt her belly lurch and Maia dropped the tablet on the floor at the top of her lip began to sweat and tremble. Jimmy walked over to pick it up just as Maia projectile vomited all over her bed, herself and hitting Jimmy’s gown in the process.

“Ohmygod, Maia,” said Jimmy, picking up the Kleenex box and handing her a few as she vomited again before she could cover or wipe her mouth. He ran for the bathroom himself, dry heaving as he soaked a washcloth and grabbed a towel for her.

Just as she vomited for the third time, Joey was at the door, seeing her and grabbed the gloves and mask as his gown was half on. He rushed inside and wiped her crying face with a clean portion of a bedsheet and shushed her.

“It’s okay, Maia, I got you,” he said. “Jimmy, are you here?”

“He doesn’t do puke well,” she said, as Joey collected the sheets and blankets, not separating any of the clean ones from the dirty ones and dumped them in the dirty linens hamper.

Jimmy came out of the bathroom with the washcloth and towel and Joey took them. “Sit down before you pass out. You look piqued.”

“I am, thanks,” he said. “Jesus, Maia. Why didn’t you say you felt sick again?”

“Again? When did this happen before?”

“Last night. The new meds really upset my gut.”

“Okay, kiddo, we will sort this out.”

Joey got her toothbrush, toothpaste, kidney dish and a dixie cup of water to brush her teeth and got Jimmy a glass of water for her before he hit the call button to talk to the nurses at the station.

“Hi Maia,” said the nurse.

“It’s Joey Cravens. Is she still on the video camera?”

“Yes, why?”

“She just projectile vomited three times on her bed and self. I would have expected someone here by now if she was being monitored."

“We will be right there.”

“We need clean linens, gowns, and Lysol.”

“Will do.”

“What was the last time and her vitals were done and what were they?”

“0730. She has a 99.5 temp. Her pulse and blood pressure were fine.”

“What are we treating the fever with?”


“Gotcha. Okay, we should check that temp again. She’s really flushed.”

“On our way.”

Joey grabbed Maia’s wrist and looked at his watch. He set it back down and kissed the top of Maia’s head, then took her toothbrush kit. “You’re okay, sweetheart,” he said, before going into the bathroom to dump it all.

“Thanks, Joey,” said Jimmy standing up. “I got to change, she got me.”

“Go ahead. They will be in a minute.”

Jimmy went out into the hallway and changed gowns and gloves and mask. He stood against the wall for a moment and watched Joey with her. Maia going home with them instead of back to Chicago to live with Jonny and him was more than he could bear, but he knew that there was no other option. It just didn’t make it hurt less.

Joey looked up at the antibiotic bag and saw that it was empty. “When did they bring that in here?”

“Around nine.”

“Do you get sick from that?”

“It burns going in. I get sicker from the breathing treatments. The ampoule is so gross. It’s not like the kind I typically use when I’m in the hospital.”

“Weird,” said Joey. “Any ideas, Jimmy?”

“I saved the packaging. I thought maybe we could tag team respiratory when they finally show up.”

“Who did the breathing treatment?”

“Her nurse. Respiratory is too busy with flu patients.”

“Gaah, they need to hire more, then.”

“I want a shower,” she said.

“Are you dizzy at all?”

“No, I feel much better since I puked.”

“She lost all of her breakfast. How are we going to get her to thrive if she can’t keep food down?” asked Jimmy as a nurse entered with the linens.

“Good question,” she said. She detached the antibiotic bag and pushed saline through the line and capped it again.

“Please don’t dress me again until I’ve had a shower,” begged Maia of the nurse.

“Don’t be in there long. Let me cover the IV line so you don’t get it wetter.”

“We could just take it out and be done with it and give me pills.”

“You will have to bring that up with Dr. Shahere.”

“Fine, she’ll just say no again.”

“Those ampoules smell acrid,” said Jimmy to the nurse. “Like rotten eggs.”

“Eww, I’m sorry to hear that, Maia. I will let them know.”

The MA entered the room again with her vitals stand and did Maia’s temp. “100.5.”

“We need to wait on more Tylenol. She just had it at 9 and it’s only 11.”

“Apparently it's not working or she’s puked it up.”

“Could I have tea and goldfish crackers after my shower?”

“Of course.”

“Just sweet tea with sugar,” she said to them.

Once she was showered and back in a clean bed with fresh linens, Maia sipped her tea and ate her goldfish crackers and tried to rest as the pair chatted about her medical history. Joey had turned down the lights and turned on the classical music station for her which she quickly vetoed and asked him to turn off.

“Why?” asked Joey.

“Handel. Must be that annoying Baroque hour.”

“What’s so annoying about Baroque?” asked Joey.

“I don’t want to hear bouncy music while I am nauseated. I hate harpsicords. They grind on my ears like oboes.”

He laughed at her and tucked her into bed. “Good to know. I will give you the symphony schedule than before choosing what concerts this year.”

“Thank you.”

“Your brother is thrilled that he doesn’t have to go with me now.”

“I’ll go as long as I can wear pants.”

“If you’re not on stage or in Carnegie Hall, that’s fine.”

“Carnegie Hall?” asked Maia.

“You and me, we’ll come down to New York for the Symphony and leave the curmudgeon with Alex.”

He kissed her on the forehead. “You are so warm.”

“I know. I feel terrible.”

“Try to sleep. We have an hour until the next dose.”

“What if can’t keep it down?”

“You know what they will do,” said Jimmy, reminding her of the suppository.

“Oh no…not that.”

Joey laughed and tucked her in and went back to Jimmy. When Jimmy's eyes widened as wide as his mouth dropped open, Joey gave him a strange look.

“Brother in Law?” asked Jimmy. “I thought you said Paul was not out?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Your nametag,” said Jimmy, pointing to the tag on the lanyard.

“What does yours say?”

Jimmy showed it to him. “Father, go figure. I have no idea where they got that from.”

“It wasn’t me or Paulie, that’s for sure.”

“Which of you filled out the pediatrics safe visitors paperwork?”

Joey sighed. “She did.”

“What? Why?”

“Because she knew about the dietary and other things on it. I just let her fill it out without asking.”

“You trusted a kid—”

“Maia,” said Joey, approaching her. He held up his tag and showed it to her. “What is this?”

“A name tag,” she said, rolling over and ignoring him.

“I know that, but what is the meaning of this?” he asked, pointing to Brother-in-Law on the tag.

“Well aren’t you?”

“Between us, yes, but not officially.”

“Jesus Christ, Joey! What do you want from me?” she asked, sitting up suddenly and feeling dizzy. She grabbed the bedrail to steady herself.

“Mine says Father,” said Jimmy.

“Oh my god, you fucking are!” she bellowed.

“Maia, language!” scolded Joey. “What did you put Paul as?”


“And Jonny?” asked Jimmy.

“Daddy, what else?”

“Who else did you put on the list?”

“My godfather.”

“Godfather?” asked Jimmy. “What godfather?”

“They baptized me when they took me off life support,” said Maia.

“What life support?” asked Jimmy. “What are you talking about? Why was Maia on life support and why didn’t you tell me that?”

“See what you started?” she asked Joey as Jimmy turned three shades of red until his face was nearly purple.

“Mt. St. Wilkens is going to erupt in 3 -2 -1—”

“Maia, stop,” said Joey. “You aren’t helping matters—”

“Life support, start there!” demanded Jimmy with his hands on his hip.

“Where’s Paul?” asked Jimmy

“He’s dealing with his sister right now. Trying to get help for their father.”

“Please call him. I need to talk to him very soon—”

“Jimmy, calm down,” said Joey, picking up his phone and speed dialing Paul with a touch of the button.

“No, first of all, she has 2 heart attacks, she’s suffocated by her stepmother and has to be resuscitated, and she is taken off life support? You all thought my baby would die—you had her baptized Roman Catholic on top of it all!” Tears streamed down his face. “She’s going home with me to Chicago. I’ll be damned if I leave her here—”

“Oh snap,” said Maia with a smirk, then hunkered down in her bed and covered her head with the blankets. Jimmy was about to lose it, and it wouldn’t be pretty and she didn’t want to watch it.

Paul answered and Joey told him what’s going on as Jimmy called Bert’s office. Maia reached for the call button remote and waited for them to hang up and start at each other again.

“Paul’s on his way,” said Joey as Jimmy hung up. “Look, Jimmy, it was all out of our control—”

“If that’s the case then why did Paul take the sperm donor to court for guardianship? Go ahead and answer that one for me. I know the answer. The snake wanted her to die. He didn’t want her to be the inconvenience she had been all these years. It would be so easy to shut it off and let her die.”

“That’s why we got guardianship of her. We didn’t want her to die. We already love her.”

“Oh no, don’t you start that. There will be no academy awards handed out here, Joey. That sperm donor and his wife wanted her dead. When he couldn’t do it, she was trying to seal the deal. In the meantime, Paul is too busy making face with his fans—”

“Don’t you bring him into this. He’s bent over backward since the minute he heard of her. We haven’t even spent a night in our own bed since we’ve been home. Last night was the first night he actually spent the night with me since we got back from the tour. I spent every night in the hospital with Maia, Jimmy. I didn’t want anything to happen to her either.”

“Where in the hell were you when her stepmother tried to off her?”

“I was at the nurses’ station checking on her vitals and if there had been any change. I was the first one there and stopped her.”

“what was she doing here in the first place? Obviously, you knew she wasn’t strung right!”

“What was I supposed to do? She’s his mother!”

Maia hit the call button as the two of them continued to argue.

“Maia?” asked Amber, her nurse. “It’s loud in there.”

“Could you get the adults a room to argue in?”

“Sure, I’ll be right there.”

The two of them were yelling at the top of their lungs when Amber entered the room with a mask to her face and pulling on gloves.

“Let’s go!” she exclaimed. “I warned you both! Maia needs rest, not stress. You are both out of here until four o’clock.”

“What?” asked Joey.

“You heard me. Get your things, you both are out of here until four o’clock. Whatever drama you have, take it elsewhere. Maia has been sick since last night and you two are not helping at the moment. She’s hiding under her blankets.”

Jimmy stepped to her and lifted the blankets and saw Maia crying.

“Hey,” he said. “I’m sorry, Maia. I’ll be back tonight.”

“Stop fighting,” she said. “I can’t take it anymore. I just want my Daddy. He wouldn’t put up with any of you!”

She kept crying and Joey left the room first and Jimmy grabbed his bag and followed. Amber escorted them off the ward and told the security guard that they weren’t allowed back until four.

Maia pulled her knees up to her chest and put her head down between them and cried. She tried to catch her breath and felt ill again. Amber returned to the room to check on her.

“How are you doing, Maia?”

Maia shook her head and wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand. “I’m fine, just hungry.”

“How about we stick with some clear liquids and see if you can keep them down first?”

“Okay. Like what?”

“Jello and broth.”

“Only if I can have more goldfish crackers for the broth.”

“Do you want a coke or a sprite?”

“A coke would be great.”

Maia ate and laid on her side and tried to sleep. Amber had hooked up another one of the antibiotic bags to her IV and it burned when it went in at first, so Maia laid on her side so the arm was straight and on her hip. She had put on the classical music station again and was listening to something soft and tranquil but it wasn’t relaxing her as she needed it to. She cleared her throat, knowing she needed to bring up phlegm, wishing she would just wake up and be out of this hospital and able to breathe on her own and without these meds. She just wanted to go home to Chicago and go see Jonny. She wanted to help him out of that wheelchair and make him walk again.

Afraid that she’d lose her lunch if she kept coughing, Maia tried to suppress it only to realize too late it was coming up anyway. She grabbed the basin between her and the bedrail and as she half sat up, she began to lurch and reached for the basin right in time to puke. She hit the call button before she vomited for a second time. At the window was Paul, pulling on his gown and slipped his mask on. He grabbed the gloves and went into the room.

“If you are a pussy about puke, then leave now,” she said.

Paul laughed at her. “I’m a Rockstar, puke does not bother me, little girl,” he said, handing her a paper towel from the stack on the bed table. She took it and wiped her mouth as he took the basin to dump in the toilet.

“You okay?” he asked her.


“What do you need?”

“To rinse out my mouth,” she said, reaching for the kidney dish and the dixie cup of water. She did so and he took it to dump and rinse out with the basin. Paul dried both with paper towels and brought them back to her.


“I heard the meds are ripping up your gut.”

Amber was there next and entered the room.

“How are you doing, Maia?”

“Paul took care of it.”

“Do you need anything right now, Maia?”

“No, I’m okay.”

“I need to steal Paul for a few minutes. Is that okay with you?”

“Sure,” she said. “I’m going back to sleep if I can.”

Amber led Paul out to the conference room to talk with the social worker. They explained what happened this morning between Jimmy and Joey and that they needed to keep the drama out of her room and space.

"She’s distressed and we are awaiting her medical team to decide what to do for her."

"I get that you guys are trying to kill the infection, but destroying her gut is not helping. She's malnourished, and not keeping anything down now. You got to figure this out soon, or I'm moving her to the children's hospital today."

The publicity of Maia Lenci being at Queens Medical had been a boost for the institution's pediatrics department. To leave QMC for Children's would not look good for them.

"I just saw Dr. Shahere enter the ward. I will get her for you."

Paul looked in the window and saw Maia grab the basin and set it in her lap. He grabbed a fresh mask and gloves and just got to her side as she vomited again. He handed her a paper towel and emptied the basin again and washed it out and dried it and she rested back against her pillow, completely depleted of all energy.

He set the bin down and handed her the kidney dish and a dixie cup with water that she refused. Paul returned to the bathroom and took a fresh washcloth and wet it and wrung it out before bringing it back and washing her face. Maia's eyes pleaded with him.

"Are you okay?"

She shook her head.

He returned to the bathroom to wash it out again and turned the tap on cold and ran the cloth under it and wrung it out again, returning to her side as he folded it, and gently put it on her forehead.

"Thank you."

"I heard they had a fight and you started it."

"All I did was lie here."

Paul picked up the nametag and shook it.

Maia rolled her eyes. "Oh, that? Like anyone but security cares."

"Okay, but Brother-in-Law?"

"What should I have put?"

"Private duty nurse."

"Ohmygod--" she said, rolling her eyes at him again.

"Do not roll your eyes at me, young lady. Why did you put Father on Jimmy's?"

"For your information, I put Dad."

"You have a father."

"Who? Yours?" Maia laughed. "He wasn't there to change a diaper or hold me in the shower when I had the croup. He never even held me! Jimmy has always been my dad and Jonny is my Daddy. No offense, but your father is nothing but a sperm donor to me. You may not like it but that's my reality and my truth."

"Maia, he is still your father."

"He is your father. He prefers being the doting grandfather who leaves all the decisions up to you. Neither of you wanted the job. Jonny did since before I was born."

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph--"

"That's what started this whole thing. You baptizing me."

"You were dying. Of course, I was going to have you baptized! If I had to do it myself those words were going to be said and that water would be dripped on your face!"

"Is your God that petty that you need water and words to save someone?"

"My God is not petty. It's what he said should be done so we do it."

"So God said It, you believe it, and that settles it?"

"When it comes to baptism, yes." Paul watched her as she shook her head. "Maia cut the shit."

"What did I do now?"

"Trying to out me. It has serious consequences for me. "

"Look, I didn't know what to put. If he wasn't family, they wouldn't have let him in. I was telling the truth. I was not bearing false witness. Jimmy and Jonny are my dads, you are my brother, and someday, when the assholes who run this country figure out that you can marry whomever you love, I hope Joey will be my brother-in-law."

"He will be. Joey's not going anywhere. We had a commitment ceremony with rings and everything a few years ago."

"That's nice, but how many more years is he going to be okay with being your secret?"

"Jesus, stop--"

"No, I'm not going to stop. Joey's awesome, and clearly, he loves you to put up with all of this shit."

Paul nodded as his phone rang. It was Joey.

"Are your ears burning?" Asked Paul getting up. He left the room for the hall and shut the door behind him.


"Maia...busting my balls again."

When he returned, Paul quietly entered and sat down in the recliner as Maia had drifted to sleep. He put his feet up and closed his eyes. Paul was startled awake by Dr. Shahere, wearing a gown with a mask that matched over her yellow paisley covered hajib.

"Hi Dr. Shahere, she's finally resting."

"I understand there have been issues with nausea."

"She's slack too, " said Paul. Dr. Shahere pinched Maia's skin did not fall back into place quickly.

"This treatment is not working, and I want a second opinion, or she's getting transported to a children's hospital within the hour."

"Mr. Lenci, we have created a team who are working on it as we speak. I'm ordering IV fluids and we are going to get some more fever reducer onboard. Right now, she needs rest and no more drama."

"I get that they were in the wrong to argue here, but assure you that both are passionate about her health. Joey Cravens is a registered nurse, and Jim Wilkins has been through every hospitalization with Maia. We are all tired. We want her well enough to discharge."

"We do likewise, but Maia still needs respiratory and pulmonary care."

"Shes malnourished and can't keep anything down."

Maia stirred and opened her eyes, saying nothing as Paul argued with the doctor, demanding a different medication regiment for her. Shahere rebutted, asserting that Maia's lungs sounded clearer.

"The ampoules are wrong. They are terrible, " said Maia, breaking her silence. "The right ones are in the book."

"What book?" Asked Paul.

"Jimmy's book. It has all my meds in it."

Paul got it for Maia, who immediately turned to the nebulizer section.

"Those won't combat this infection as fast as the ones we are using. We will have to add in another medication if we switch these out."

"She needs to eat."

"I will talk to the team. May I take this with me?"

"Don't lose it, or Jimmy will really have a fit, " said Maia, "and then you will really see Mt. St. Wilkins erupt. It's not a pretty sight."

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