Five hours later an exhausted group of people sat clustered together in a different waiting room, in the wee hours of the morning. The entire Sheridan family, Dixie, her parents, and Sadie had driven to Jackson where they were waiting to hear the outcome of Bo’s kidney transplant. Kenny had been a match. Bo had been life flighted to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, two hours away.
Dixie found it odd that a young man who had so desperately wanted to belong, and had been met with opposition, would, in a way, have a permanent home among them. Her eyelids were sandpaper against her eyeballs. Sadie was dozing, her head on Dixie’s shoulder, the Sheridan girls were propped together asleep. Richard, Sharon, and Harry Sheridan were talking quietly to the side, while Linda paced around the waiting room.
At about 4:30 in the morning the group was roused by the sound of a doctor in the doorway clearing his throat. Dark shadows rimmed his eyes. “Folks,” he said, “I’m Dr. Shadwell.” Harry stood and stuck out his hand, the doctor dipped his sandy graying head, and shook it firmly. “We had success. He’s in recovery, you should be able to see him soon. He did great, his vitals look strong. I’m pleased with how the transplant went.”
Linda hugged him, wiping tears from her eyes. “Thank you, doctor!” Dr. Shadwell assured them a nurse would come get them when they were able to see Bo.
“Daddy,” Dixie said, as the Sheridans got ready to see Bo, “I’m ready to go home.” She felt spent and was suddenly finished with hospitals.
“Do you want to try to see Bo?” he asked.
“No, I’ll see him tomorrow. I don’t want to take any time from his family and he needs to rest. Now that I know he’s okay I’m just ready to sleep.”
Dixie hugged the girls, and then Linda. “I’m so glad he’s going to be okay,” she told her friend’s mom.
Linda hugged Dixie tightly. “Me too, honey, me too! But I’m so sorry about your friend. Kenny. I never would have wanted something like that to happen to him. I am grateful for the gift he gave to Bo, but I’m so sorry for his death.”
Emotion swam below the surface as Dixie answered. “I know. I wish it hadn’t happened this way too. But I am thankful for Bo.”
They got home as morning was breaking. Dixie retrieved her purse and phone from her truck that Sheriff Walters had brought to the house. She messaged Liz letting her know she wouldn’t make it to school that day. Then she fell into her bed and slept for hours.
By lunchtime Dixie had slept enough to sweep the cobwebs from her mind. She woke up to the sound of Pumpkin purring happily on the pillow beside her. Sunshine peeked in the window. The smell of coffee brewing tempted her nose. Stretching, Dixie tested her sore muscles. There was nothing like sitting in a waiting room for hours to put a crick in your neck. She padded down the stairs to find her dad in the kitchen making breakfast for lunch. He smiled when he saw his girl in the doorway.
“How’d you rest darlin’?”
“Pretty good all things considered.”
She moved to the coffee pot, poured a cup, and sat at the table. Richard turned from his place at the stove where he was scrambling eggs, and eyed his daughter warmly. “Dixie, you know I’m proud of you. Proud of your heart.”
“Thank you, Daddy. Thank you for standing by me.”
He looked at her for a moment. “I’m sorry about Kenny. I’m... just so sorry.” Emotion pricked his eyes. He turned back to the eggs, took two plates out of the cabinet, served them up and set one plate in front of Dixie and the other across from her. Toast and jelly were already on the table. “I know in the beginning I drug my feet. I was nervous about befriending him, supporting your relationship. I was wrong. It’s always wrong to keep people at a distance. I wish I could tell him that. I wish I could tell him I was sorry.”
Dixie sighed from the tips of her toes, a sigh that was bottomless. “Daddy, Kenny didn’t hold it against you. He appreciated the things he learned from you, and being in our home. His expectations weren’t high.” She took a sip of her coffee. “He was satisfied by relatively little. He just wanted to be a part of a community. But I don’t think he ever felt snubbed by you; he genuinely respected you.”
Richard choked back a lump in his throat. “Unless you know of family who wants his body I plan on paying to have him buried in the church cemetery. I’ll perform the funeral when they release his body and Joe gets out of the hospital.”
Dixie couldn’t respond. Tears ran down her face, her chin wobbled. She nodded and smiled her approval.
The two of them ate their eggs and toast in silence for a moment, mulling over the events of the last couple of days, feeling the loss fully. After a few minutes Richard broke the silence. “We haven’t had a chance to talk about the conversation you had with your Mother. I know you’ve had a lot to take in the last few days. Her confession, Bo’s injury, Kenny’s death, Joe’s hospitalization. It’s a lot to process. How are you doing with it all?”
Dixie turned deep, green eyes on her father. She looked at him for a minute. How was she? “We all live with our humanity differently. Some of us have deeper wounds than others, but we all have to face up to it sooner or later.” She thought a moment. “We need each other. I can’t argue with that.”
“Yes, we do. Relationships are God’s gift to us. They reflect his heart.”
“I agree. So I guess I’m okay with what Mom told me. It makes sense, it helps me understand her. She seems different, don’t you think?”
“Something she’s feared for years, you finding out her secret, is over.” Her dad smiled. “And she survived it. I think she’s relieved. And maybe you’ve given her the permission to be human.”
“How?” asked Dixie.
“By showing her how to love people with weaknesses and needs. By accepting her in her weakness. By reminding us how to love.”
Dixie flushed, “Daddy, I didn’t do anything except seek to be honest.”
He reached out and touched her cheek, fingering a red tendril. “Dixie, you’re the most honest person I know. You’ve held a mirror up to us all.” His voice was husky. “You’ve shown us who we are, and who we want to be.”
“I’m glad to know Mom’s story. It makes her seem more real somehow. It makes me want to know her.”
“I’m glad,” said a voice from the doorway. Dixie turned around quickly to see her mom standing behind them. “I was afraid you would feel the opposite,” said her mother quietly. A gentle, self-conscious smile creased her attractive mouth. She was out of practice smiling from the depths of her heart or revealing her true feelings.
Dixie smiled back, a bold, ready smile.
Sharon pulled back a chair next to her daughter and sat with her usual poise. “What are your plans today, dear?” The question was directed at Dixie, who noticed the word “dear” had lost its old acidity.
“I’m going to get cleaned up soon and go visit Joe. If I have time I’ll drive down to Jackson and see Bo if he’s able to have visitors. Are you coming to the hospital?”
“I think your father will drive over with you to see about having Kenny’s body released to us. I’m going to do a little shopping for Linda. I’m sure her refrigerator needs cleaning out and restocking. I’ll go over in a bit to see to that. They won’t be coming home for several days but I can get some things ready for them, and organize a few meals.”
Dixie’s phone beeped. It was a message from Sadie.
Hey Dix. Thinking about you. Hope u r rested. Let me know if you need anything. <3
Dixie was glad she and her friend had patched things up between them before the bottom had fallen out. She didn’t need the pain and stress of fighting with Sadie on top of all this other heartache. She smiled to herself and messaged back. “That was Sadie,” she said to her parents.
“I’m glad you’re back to normal again,” said Sharon. “I know how much your relationship means to the two of you. It would have worried me if you were at odds while facing this loss.”
Dixie kissed her mom on the cheek; she appreciated that her mother cared. Sharon looked pleased, and self-conscious.
Dixie placed her empty cup and plate in the sink. As she passed her dad, she stopped to give him a kiss on the head. “Thanks for breakfast, Daddy. I’m going to get cleaned up and then I’ll be ready to head over to Delta Regional, are you driving or me?”
“I’ll be ready when you are,” answered her dad.
As she headed up the stairs she heard her parents’ soft voices trailing behind her. It was amazing to her that they had been together for so long. She was glad. No doubt the journey had not been an easy one.