“Cora!” Steve’s voice yelled through the heavy door as his fist pounded on it, startling me awake.
“Yeah, come in!” I yelled back, sitting up and rubbing the sleep out of my eyes as the door pushed open and the fluorescent light flooded in from the hallway, blinding me momentarily.
“There’s a peds case rolling in and they need you in the bay. Four-year-old female, febrile, tachycardic, tachypneic, and seizing. No medical history. ETA eight minutes,” he reported off as I shoved my blankets back and climbed out of the small cot, searching for my shoes.
“Where’s Doc Roberts?” I asked, swiping my foot under the old metal frame and kicking out the mate to the clog I had spotted on the floor.
“Steph’s trying to track him down and Tracy’s already paging him. Miller’s already in the bay.”
“Wonderful,” I mumbled to myself. As if it wasn’t bad enough to have an incredibly sick kid in the middle of nowhere without the necessary resources, I had to deal with some shit travel doc that didn’t know his head from his ass.
I grabbed my hair tie from the small table next to the cot and Steve held the door open for me before we both quickly started down the hallway. We bypassed the elevators in favor of the stairs, jogging up the single flight to the ground floor and entering in through the back of our small emergency department. I pulled my hair back loosely as we approached the ambulance bay, and I had to bite my tongue to keep myself from saying anything to our dear Dr. Miller. He was gowned up with a full-face shield and a lead apron like he was getting ready to go into a gunshot victim. For a brief second, I wondered if it would still hurt him enough to make it worth it if I kicked him in the nads with all that gear on.
Julie, our freshly graduated nurse joined us in the bay as we put on our surgical masks and gloves and went to stand by the door as we waited to receive the young girl from the paramedics. As we saw the ambulance turn the corner into the parking lot entrance, lights flashing brightly as the early summer sun was starting to set, that all too familiar ball of anxiety tightened in my chest. I clasped my hands together and said a silent prayer for the little girl that was coming into us. When the driver backed up and then jumped out, literally running to open the back door, I knew it was bad.
Steve, Julie, and I jogged outside, gathering around the gurney as the senior medic started reporting off what had happened, and what meds and treatments were given en route. I looked down at the girl who had a head full of dark-golden curls, her eyes clenched shut as tears streamed down from the sides of her eyes. Her loud cries were piercing, it was the type of cry that said she didn’t know how else to explain her pain and her fear. I tucked my mask down under my chin and reached over, using the blanket that was draped over her to wipe the tears from her cheeks.
“Mia, sweetie. I’m nurse Cora, and these are my friends Steve and Julie. We’re going to take good care of you, okay?” I explained in a friendly voice.
“I want Daddy!” She cried, choking out another sob.
“I’m sure he’ll be here any second, honey,” I ran my fingers through her hair, offering her a smile.
As we got her inside and moved her from the gurney over to our litter, a tall man with a heavy dark scruff on his face and a strong body that was signature of a physically demanding job came running in through the double doors. He removed his cowboy hat as he looked around, sheer panic written across his face. As soon as his eyes fell onto her, he started charging towards us in desperation, his boots hitting the floor loudly with each step. I noticed that Mia had stopped crying and glanced down, recognizing the blank look on her face that I had seen so many times before. I nudged Steve with my elbow, and he looked up at me. I nodded towards the man who was clearly Mia’s father and Steve took one look at him before leaving Mia in mine and Julie’s hands.
“Where’s he going?” Julie questioned, looking at me with wide eyes.
“He’s going to talk her dad through this while you and I calmly get her through it,” I explained as I grabbed the crash cart and broke the lock.
I didn’t even have the chance to answer her question before Mia’s back arched off the bed and she went into a full-blown seizure. I reached up and turned the oxygen on, attaching the tubing and holding the mask by her face as her tiny body continued to spasm. I kept glancing up at the clock, keeping track of the seconds that continued to pass that Mia’s body wasn’t allowing her to breathe properly, and I instructed Julie to find the Ativan. Dr. Miller strolled over closer to us, crossing his arms over his chest as he stood there and let us do all of the work.
“Give her two milligrams of Ativan IV to bring her out of it,” he instructed.
“Wait,” I told Julie, pulling my mask back up over my face so the douchebag couldn’t read my lips. “Only push 0.5,” I coached her firmly. “If you push the full two it will stop the seizures, but it will put her into respiratory arrest, and we’ll end up intubating. Two is an adult dose, not a pediatric dose. Just push slowly, and he’ll never know. Roberts will be up here any minute and he’s going to sign off on the chart anyway.”
“Got it,” she replied softly before doing exactly as I said.
Finally, after nearly a full minute Mia’s body relaxed. I watched her small chest, waiting for it to start rising and falling, reaching for the resuscitation equipment from the cart. I peeked up at the heart monitor, relieved to see that her rhythm was still regular but fast because of the seizure. I switched the oxygen tubing over to the resuscitation bag and placed it over Mia’s mouth, tilting her head back as I held it down to seal it tightly while giving her artificial breaths.
“Get me a tray, we’re intubating,” Dr. Miller directed at Julie.
“Not yet. She’s post-ictal, she just needs a minute to recover,” I countered, still watching the monitors.
“Excuse me, Nurse?” He spat. I could feel his eyes boring into me.
“All due respect, Doctor,” I started as I looked up at him and made eye contact. “My patient is oxygenating just fine with being bagged. She just seized and her brain needs a minute to regain control of her body. I’m not going to let you perform an unnecessary procedure on a little girl who is already going through enough.” I looked down at Mia again who was starting to move her arms and legs again before going back to watching the monitor.
“How dare you!” He raised his voice. “I will have you escorted from this hospital, and then I’ll have you stripped of your license!”
“I’d like to see you try,” I scoffed with a laugh, just before Mia started pushing the mask away.
“Is there a problem here?” Dr. Roberts questioned as he approached us from behind Dr. Miller.
“This nurse is disrespectful and out of line! She needs to be dismissed!” Miller nearly shouted.
“Cora, I thought I asked you to play nice with the new guys,” Dr. Roberts smirked as Mia let out a loud scream, clearly now able to breathe on her own again.
“Ask the agency to stop sending incompetent chauvinistic pigs and I’ll try to be a bit nicer,” I flashed him the biggest fake smile I could. He let out a deep sigh.
“Dr. Miller, you’re excused. I’ll take over this case,” he advised him as he grabbed his stethoscope from around his neck and smiled down at Mia with a small wave.
“But I-” He started, just to be cut off.
“You have rounds to make on the floor,” Dr. Roberts added, not even bothering to look at him again as he put his stethoscope earpieces in and leaned down to listen to Mia’s lungs.
As Dr. Roberts continued to assess Mia, rattling off orders for medications and tests, I stayed with her and tried to keep her calm. Once he was finished examining her and her father had calmed down a bit, Steve brought him over to see her. She immediately reached for him, attempting to stand up on the thin mattress as he set his hat down at the bottom. He wrapped his tanned arms around her, lifting her and balancing her on his hip as she buried her face into his chest. He closed his eyes and rested his cheek against the top of her head. I grabbed the IV pole, moving it closer so that she wouldn’t pull her IV out as she reached up and grasped her small hands into his plaid shirt as she continued to cry hysterically.
“Shh, it’s alright, princess,” the deep, rugged voice soothed. “Daddy’s got you,” he reassured her, pressing kisses to the top of her head as he ran his hand over her curls.
“I don’t feel good,” she cried, clenching her hands again.
“I know, baby. I know,” he whispered. His southern drawl really starting to come out as he relaxed a bit now that he had her in his arms.
“Do you need us to call anyone for you?” I asked him softly. “Do you need us to notify her mother or anything?” I added, taking notice of the lack of wedding ring on his finger.
“Thanks,” he bit out coldly before his hazel eyes shot open and glared into mine, “but it’s just us.”
“Oh, okay. Sorry,” I apologized, thrown off by his demeanor. He inhaled sharply, pressing his lips to Mia’s forehead again before he turned to look at me.
“No, I’m sorry,” he offered, his tone a bit more gentle. “We lost her mother a few months after Mia was born. I’m doing the best I can, but when stuff like this happens, I’m not sure how to handle it,” he admitted. I could see right through his tough outer shell and past his strong jawline, recognizing that he was still flat-out terrified.
Strong jawline? Pull your shit together, Cora. Not the time or place, and you have Alex, remember? I silently scolded myself.
“Let us help,” I offered him a genuine smile, placing my hand on his upper arm affectionately.
“Thank you...” he paused, looking for my badge. I looked down and flipped it so that it was facing the right direction.
“Cora. Cora Abbot,” I blushed. What is wrong with me? “I promise you, Mr. Worley, Mia is in good hands.”
“Jace. My dad is Mr. Worley, just call me Jace,” he gave a small nod before looking back down at Mia who was finally starting to settle.
I flashed him another small smile before bringing him a chair and then going to sit at the desk and chart while we waited for some of Mia’s test results to come back. As soon as I saw some of her labs start resulting, I knew it was even worse than what we had originally thought. Her white blood cells that indicated infection were through the roof, other levels that monitored for inflammation in the body were extremely elevated, and her kidneys were showing signs of being affected. I intermittently checked her temperature, and despite the Tylenol and Motrin that she had on board, her fever hadn’t gone down at all. Thankfully, she hadn’t yet seized again, but she was still at risk due to the high fevers and whatever infection it was that she had going on.
Before we even had all of the results back, Dr. Roberts had made the call and gotten her accepted to the Children’s Hospital in Dallas. She was much to ill to be handled in our small hospital, and she needed pediatric specialists to manage her care. Moving her via ambulance meant a nearly four-hour drive with no physician and limited supplies, so the specialist who had accepted her in Dallas requested air transport just to be safe. Julie called for the chopper and gave them report, putting them on hold and looking back at Dr. Roberts who was sitting a computer behind us.
“Doctor, they’re saying they won’t have a nurse for another two hours, but they can send a helicopter with medics now if we can give them a nurse,” she relayed to him.
“Tell them we’ll send Cora,” he answered without looking away from his screen.
I rolled my eyes and looked over at Julie with a smirk when she glanced over at me curiously. I mouthed to her that it was fine before finishing up what I was charting and signing out of my computer. I made a quick trip to the bathroom and to gather my things, and when I returned Dr. Roberts was explaining to Jace what the plan was and why it was so urgent to get Mia to Dallas. Mia was currently sleeping on the bed, curled up on her side as Jace’s large hand carefully held hers in a safe cocoon. He looked up at me when the doctor stepped away, the panic filling his eyes once more.
“She’s going to lose her mind when she wakes up and realizes I can’t go with her,” he scoffed.
“It will be harder on you than it will be on her,” I sighed. “Things are going to happen quickly, but there’s going to be a lot going on. Kids are very perceptive and curious. Luckily, they’re also pretty resilient,” I explained as she started to stir awake, immediately searching for her dad.
“I’m still here. It’s alright, baby. Don’t cry,” he reached over and started stroking her cheek.
“This is going to sound crazy, but do you have an extra shirt in your car or something that she can take with her? Something to comfort her?”
“I can give her this one. I have a t-shirt on under it, and another one in the car that I can put on when I go outside. This one’s probably cleaner anyway,” he added with a ghost of a smile on his face. I looked down at his worn but fitted jeans, curious as to what exactly it is that he does for a living.
Less than thirty minutes later the chopper was landing out in the field next to the hospital. Jace had just slipped his plaid shirt off and I had unhooked Mia’s IV for a moment while he pulled it on over her shoulders, and then rolled up sleeves before I reconnected it. As predicted, hysterics had broken out when she realized that she had to go somewhere without her daddy. Jace was trying to talk her down as I maneuvered around the thrashing four-year-old to switch her over to the portable monitor. He tried to lay her down on the gurney that the flight crew had rolled in and she wrapped her arms and legs around him, clinging on for dear life.
“Jace, I know you barely know me, but I’m going to do something, and I need you to just trust me, okay?” I looked up at him, knowing that every minute we spent struggling was another minute that something could go seriously wrong.
“What are you going to do?” He countered, his tough attitude coming back with a vengeance.
“The only way we can get in that chopper is if she’s secured. If we try to lay her down and strap her in, she’s going to turn into a child Hulk and panic even more, hurting herself or one of us. We try to avoid sedation with small children because we walk a fine line between keeping them calm and impairing their ability to breathe. So, I’m going to get on the litter, and we’ll wrap her up in a blanket, they’ll strap both of us in, and they’ll make sure I can see the monitors. Your job is to talk her through this, pass her off to me, and stay with her until we’re ready to leave.”
“What about when you get to Dallas?” He questioned, his eyes becoming even darker.
“I’m going to stay with her until you can get there,” I promised, placing my hand over his that was resting on her back.
As soon as I touched him, I felt the warm static charge run through me. His eyes met mine, softening as they searched for something. I let my hand fall, chewing on my lip as I gave him a reassuring nod and then stepping away to grab a blanket from the warmer. I focused back on the task at hand as I carried the blanket over to the gurney and adjusted the back into a seated position, climbing up and getting comfortable before looking back up at Jace. I nodded again for him to bring Mia over, still unsure of what the unspoken exchange had been that had passed between us. I wasn’t one to get flustered easily, especially when I was taking care of critical patients, let alone pediatric patients.
He reluctantly lowered his little girl into my arms, trying to reassure her that everything was going to be okay. I wrapped her tightly in the warm blanket and the medics clicked the safety belts into place around us as Jace leaned in and pressed kisses to her cheek and tried to whisper calming words to his daughter. He was so close that his intoxicating smell of sweat, dirt, and faded aftershave floated up to my nose. I forced myself to focus on my patient, instead of her father, whom my senses seemed so much more curious about.
I was pulled from my momentary brain fog as the medic propped the monitor on the gurney next to my legs and asked me if I could see it. I told him that I could before they made sure they had all of the paperwork in order and got ready to go. They unlocked the wheels on the gurney, and Jace leaned in again to say his goodbyes to Mia, promising her that he would see her in a few hours. He turned to walk away, then spun back and took my hand in his, sending that warm, fuzzy feeling through me all over again.
“Take care of my little girl, Cora,” he instructed, swallowing back his emotion.
“I promise,” I managed to get out softly, clearing my throat as if it would somehow clear my brain. “We’ll see you in a few hours, okay?”
Jace didn’t answer me. Instead he just gave me a curt nod before picking up his hat, placing it on his head, and strolling out the door. Another wave of sobs came as Mia saw him walk away, and I ran my fingers through her thick curls and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. I took a deep breath, trying to relax as I did my best to coach her through what was about to happen.
It was about one in the morning by the time we had gotten to the Children’s Hospital, they got Mia into her room, switched her over to their equipment, and got her settled in her bed. She had been dozing on and off, and one of the times that she had started to slip into unconsciousness I stepped out into the hall to check my cell phone. I saw that I had about five text messages and just as many missed calls from Alex, and a text from my best friend Becky. I scrolled to Alex’s name and hit send, leaning back against the wall with a sigh as I waited for him to pick up.
“Where are you, Cora? I’ve been trying to reach you for hours,” he whined more than scolded.
“I know, I’m sorry,” I sighed, looking down at my feet. “I had to fly into Dallas with a little one, she’s pretty sick and if I didn’t jump on, it would have been a few hours before they could get her here.”
“You couldn’t have picked up the phone to tell me?” He spat. “So, I guess this means our date night is off for tomorrow? Or, rather tonight?”
“I don’t know,” I shrugged, almost wondering if I could use this as an excuse to get out of it. “I’m going to try to catch a ride back with a transport crew in the morning, it depends on what time they end up leaving.”
“I haven’t seen you in days,” he breathed in exasperation. “I feel like I’m dating someone who’s not even there.”
“I’m sorry, Alex,” I choked on a sarcastic laugh. “You know how I work. Seventy-two hours at the hospital a week, sleeping in the basement in case something comes in. It’s three days a week that I’m not immediately available to you.”
“Then another day before you’re functional again,” he scoffed. “And forget about the sex, I mean, when it even happens, it’s nothing to write home about.”
“You can’t put that all on me,” I snapped. “The last few times I made a solid effort to spice things up, you either rolled over and went to sleep or it didn’t change a damn thing!” I got out in a hushed voice.
“Whatever, it’s the middle of the night. I’m not fighting with you about it right now,” he groaned.
“You’re the one who fucking started it,” I shook my head in disbelief. “You know what, maybe Becky’s right. Maybe it is time for me to move on,” I mumbled.
“Then fucking go,” Alex growled. “If I make you so unhappy, then why stay?”
“Do you want me to go?” I questioned angrily.
“Fuck!” He shouted, letting out a frustrated sigh. “No, Cora. I told you before, I want to be with you, but you just don’t make it that easy,” he said softly.
“Well, it’s hard to put the work in when you’re not sure if it’s worth it,” I admitted, closing my eyes as I rubbed my temple. He stayed silent, not responding for a minute.
“I’m going to bed, Cora. I’ll be here when you figure out what the fuck you want,” he finally spoke, before hanging up the phone. I rubbed my hands over my face then pushed away from the wall and went back into the room as I heard the small voice.
“Nurse Cora,” Mia looked up at me with big worried eyes.
“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” I dropped my phone in my bag that I had brought with me and started towards her.
Approximately 0.2 seconds passed before we reenacted the scene from the exorcist, minus the part where the girl’s head does the 360-degree turn.
The nurses on the unit got Mia cleaned up and changed her bed, getting me a clean pair of scrubs from their stock and allowing me to use their locker room to shower. When I got back into the room, she was lying on her side crying softly. The nurse that was sitting with her assured me that they had given her plenty of anti-nausea medication, and that she hadn’t gotten sick any more since the first episode. Mia reached for me as soon as she saw me, and I leaned down and gave her a hug before climbing into the bed with her and pulling the blanket up over us. I wiped her tears away as she blinked and more continued to fall.
“Where’s my dad?” She asked with a shaky breath.
“He’ll be here in a couple more hours. He had to drive, and it takes a lot longer to drive than it does to fly,” I rubbed my hand up and down her arm to warm her. “He seems like a pretty great dad, you must be one lucky girl,” I smiled.
“He’s the best,” she nodded, a weak smile playing on her lips for the first time that night. I couldn’t help but smile back. “His favorite ice cream is rocky road,” she shared.
“Oh, yeah?” I laughed. “What’s your favorite?”
“Double chocolate with chocolate sprinkles.”
“No way! Mine too,” I grinned. She looked up at me curiously. “Us girls gotta have our chocolate, right?” I asked her, and she nodded with a yawn. “Why don’t you close your eyes and try to go to sleep? You look so tired,” I brushed her hair out of her face.
“Can you tell me a story?” She asked.
“Uh,” I paused, never once telling a bedtime story in my life. “Sure, of course.”
“Okay,” she agreed, cuddling up to me unexpectedly.
“Once upon a time, there was a princess named Mia,” I started, and she smiled. “Mia lived in a magical castle, and she had a unicorn named.....Captain Jack,” I stated off of the top of my head.
“No, she lived on a farm, and Captain Jack is a pony!” She informed me.
“Oh, right,” I laughed. “One day, Princess Mia was on a ride with Captain Jack and they came across a white rabbit. The white rabbit told Mia that she could have three wishes, but they would only come true if the wishes weren’t selfish and they would benefit those around her. So, that night Princess Mia went home and thought long and hard about her three wishes, that way she would be ready when she went to see the white rabbit again the next day.”
“What’s the rabbit’s name?” Mia questioned sleepily.
“Roger,” I told her. “Roger Rabbit,” I reiterated, and she gave a small nod. “The next morning, Mia found Roger Rabbit in the same place as before. He asked her if she had made her decision about her three wishes, and she said that she did. Her first wish was...” I looked down at Mia, and she smiled up at me.
“She wished for every kid to have a pony, so they knew how much fun it was,” she grinned.
“Good wish,” I nodded with a wink. “So, Roger Rabbit granted her wish and all of a sudden thousands of ponies started running out of the woods and going off to the kids they were supposed to make happy.
“Roger Rabbit asked the Princess what her second wish was, and she said...”
“No bedtimes, ever,” Mia replied quickly. I couldn’t help but laugh.
“And then, Roger Rabbit hereby declared that there will be no more bedtimes, ever.”
“I already know the third wish too, it’s for Daddy.”
“Oh? And what’s your, I mean, Princess Mia’s third wish?” I brushed my hand over her hair.
“I wished for Daddy to not be so sad,” she yawned.
“Aww, what do you mean, sweetie? I think you make your daddy very happy,” I reasoned, stroking the backs of my fingers over her cheek.
“Nana and Poppop always talk about how he needs to find a good woman to cheer him up. They say he needs to quit fartin’ around and start looking for his soul mate,” she explained as though she had heard the story a hundred times before.
“Maybe all he needs is you,” I tried to rationalize, knowing damn well that attempting to rationalize with a preschooler was pretty much a dead end.
“I think he needs someone else, too. I think he gets lonely at night. He’s awake a lot and he watches too much TV if he can’t sleep,” she sighed.
I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to the information she had shared. I hadn’t expected a simple made-up bedtime story to derail into an intense discussion about her father’s love life. Her seriously attractive, albeit possibly incredibly rude and asshole worthy father’s love life. Although, to be fair, he was scared for his daughter, and he’s apparently doing this alone. I can’t blame him for being so worried. It sounded like his family was at least there to support him by the way Mia had talked about her Nana and Poppop.
“You’re such a sweet girl, Mia. Your daddy is just as lucky to have you as you are to have him,” I whispered, pressing my lips to her forehead as she gave a tiny nod before slowly drifting off into her dreamland.
Mia woke up a couple more times before finally settling into a deep sleep. I stirred awake the next morning as the sun started to shine through the window, carefully stretching so I wouldn’t wake the sleeping child that was sprawled out and softly snoring next to me. I glanced out the window that overlooked the city, freezing as I spotted the hand sticking out from the heap of blankets on the window bench. How had I not heard him come in last night?
I slipped out from under the blankets and tiptoed over to the chair where my bag was sitting, digging through it and pulling out my sweatshirt. I turned around to get my shoes and kicked the foot of the IV pole stubbing my toe. I cursed under my breath as my toe throbbed and I waited for a second to see if my sock was going to start filling with blood. Serves me right for not putting my shoes on as soon as I got out of bed. Considering I was in a hospital filled with germs, my nurse brain was going to kick in and by the end of the day I would probably have myself convinced that a broken toenail was going to result in gangrene and I’d have to have my foot amputated.
“You alright?” The deep, rugged voice from the night before asked me softly, causing me to startle.
“I think so,” I nodded, finally slipping my shoes on and grabbing my bag before heading out into the hallway. Jace was right behind me.
“Cora,” he called quietly, pulling the door shut behind him so we wouldn’t wake Mia. I turned to face him. “I’m sorry if I seemed a bit harsh last night. I really appreciate everything you’ve done for us.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to not be on edge,” I offered a smile. “I’m sure seeing her in that state last night was terrifying,” I acknowledged.
“Thank you for staying with her. She seems to have taken to you and knowing that you were here with her at least gave me a little peace of mind,” he rubbed the back of his neck nervously.
“Of course,” I smiled more genuinely. “She seems like a great kid, loves you to pieces,” I added with a small laugh.
“She has it pretty good in life,” he smirked. “Pretty spoiled, actually. She probably loves the ponies more than she loves me,” he joked.
“Ponies?” I questioned, and he nodded with a smile. “That explains a bedtime story that totally derailed,” I shared thoughtfully, both of us unable to contain our laughter.
We settled down and he cracked the door open to check on Mia, holding up a hand and telling me to wait for him for a minute before disappearing inside. He popped back out a few seconds later, and we exchanged smiles again as our eyes met. His presence was all-consuming, and I could have just stood there and stared for days. The man was solid, attractive, rugged, and the way he looked at me demanded my attention. It was like I couldn’t look away.
“She’s down for the count,” he nodded towards the door. “I don’t know about you, but I haven’t eaten since yesterday, and I sure could use a cup of coffee right about now.”
“Um,” I swallowed, looking up at him with uncertainty. “I don’t know if that’s...”
“Please, just as a thank you for your help,” he cut me off. I looked back at the door as I thought about the little girl. “I hear they make a terrible cup of coffee in the cafeteria, so what do you say?” He smirked. I chewed on my lip again, rolling it over in my head for a moment.
“I mean, you make it impossible for me to turn you down,” I rolled my eyes.
“Great, lead the way,” he gestured.
We turned and headed for the elevators, and I pressed the button to go down. As the elevator arrived at our floor and the doors opened, he placed his hand on the small of my back to escort me inside. A tingling sensation ran up my spine and straight to my nether regions, causing me to almost trip as we stepped in. His strong hands steadied me, one at my back and one on my arm, and my breasts swelled with excitement. There was something about this man that was dangerous to me. Never in my life had I had this type of physical response to a man who simply looked at me, or touched me in an innocent way.
We needed to hurry up and get this day over with, because the sooner Jace Worley was out of my life, the better off I would be.