45 Days

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Chapter 21- One Door Shuts, Another Opens

Heather waits for her release papers. She weighs over all the options of why this happened in her mind, “Maybe I wasn’t healthy enough? Maybe I did something wrong or didn’t take enough prenatal vitamins? Maybe I overworked myself? Oh God, why, why did this have to happen to me?”

Laying there wondering, she gently rubs the back of Dakota’s head since he’s stretched out from the chair, passed out using his arms as a makeshift pillow.

I’ve let him down, and I bet he hates me. I can’t say that I’d blame him. Right now, I hate me too.” She continues growing more annoyed and angrier with every passing minute.

Her free hand rests over her stomach. Heather leans her head back more to make sense of it all.

As it gets near noon, the guys in the waiting room feel stiff and exhausted from the hospital chairs.

“Ugh, I ain’t getting out of bed until next week.” Rey groans, rubbing his neck.

“I second the notion for sure. What a way to spend the weekend. From having fun watching you idiots get wasted at a bachelor party to Dakota’s life unraveling at the seams.” Aiden says, feeling the effects of little rest.

“Yeah, my bed is calling my name, and it never sounded so damn good,” Eddie says in the fight to keep his eyes open.

Rubbing the right side of his face, Aiden gets to his feet and stretches.

“Hey, who all drove what last night?” Aiden wonders out loud, beginning to pace around the patient room.

“I rode with Addie, so my SUV is back downtown near the Import Room,” Rey reveals, patting his pocket for his keys.

“I rode with you and then came here with Dakota. So my cars at the house.” Eddie recalls scratching his head.

“And I drove here myself, which means we should be good. Rey, I’ll give you a lift to your car when we leave.” Aiden offers, still stretching his lower back, creating a loud popping noise.

“Cool, thanks.”

After an uncomfortable slumber in the hospital room, Dakota is awakened when a knock comes from the door.

“Hey y’all, finally got some discharge papers here. Which means you are all good to go home.” A nurse announces softly, walking in with a clipboard.

“Any news what caused this to happen?” Dakota asks with blurred vision.

“Blood tests came back normal, hormones were good, and as far as we can tell, it was a rare anomaly. You have my sympathy and apology for not having an answer. Sometimes the body is a difficult thing to comprehend.” She explains the unwelcomed news.

“I just need you to sign here. I’ll return with a wheelchair, and you’ll be on your way home.”

She gives Heather the release forms and quickly signs them.

“Alright, feel free to get dressed and take it easy for a few days. You should begin to feel like your old self again. If you have any other complications, return here as soon as possible.”

Heather tosses the blanket off her body and twists to get up off the bed, “I just wanna go home.” She says with tears in her eyes again.

“We will honey, I’ll take you home and have one of the guys follow me to get your car.”

Dakota gives her a hand for balance. Heather makes her way over to the chair, where she slips out of the hospital gown and is forced to dress in hospital scrub bottoms since her jeans and panties are stained in blood.

“Just get me home. I wanna sleep.” She says, shoving her stained clothes into a bag.

Helping her to the wheelchair by the door, the nurse and Dakota head out. Aiden, Eddie, and Rey see the doors open and watch as Dakota and Heather go by them.

“Hey, you okay?” Rey walks up, resting his hand on Dakota’s shoulder.

“Not right now, but we will be,” Dakota replies.

“Go home boys, thank you all for staying here but go home.” Heather orders sniffling to put on a brave face.

“We will, but we had to make sure you were alright sis,” Eddie states, walking behind Aiden and Rey.

“You’re all sweet, thank you.” She says and waits for Dakota to pull up to go home.

Rey and Aiden help Heather from the wheelchair as Eddie gets the car door for her.

“Such gentlemen, you’re all too sweet and kind,” Heather tells them with her hands shaking.

“Go home and rest. You need anything, any of us are just a phone call away.” Eddie reminds her and softly shuts the car door.

Lightly smacking the roof of the Mazda, Dakota pulls away slowly as they’re heading home.

“Time to get our stuff and head home ourselves,” Aiden suggests taking out his phone to search for the bar manager’s name.

“Ah, there you are, Vickie.” He lets out, highlighting her name and clicking the call button.

“Hello?” A tired voice answers stirred from their sleep.

“Hey, sorry to bug ya so early, but it’s Aiden from the bar, remember me?”

“Oh yeah, hey there, cutie, yeah, gimme a few minutes to wake up. I’ll meet you at the club.”

“Sounds good, see ya there,” Aiden tells her just before he ends the call, “Alright, let’s find your SUV and get our stuff.”

The three of them walk out to the Mustang and get in.

“She sounds cute,” Eddie teases from the backseat.

“Believe me, she is, even if she is a redhead,” Aiden admits in a shocking twist.

Driving to downtown, they find the Nissan with ease, and Rey hops out with Eddie behind him to enjoy the extra legroom compared to the Mustang.

Parked in front of the Import Room, they check the door. They see it’s still locked and return to their vehicles and wait nearly twenty minutes.

“About time,” Eddie mentions to Rey as his eyes begin to drupe.

“Yeah, really, and hey, if you want, you can crash at my place if you don’t leave with Aiden.” Rey offers, knowing his house is closer.

“Thanks, but I probably need to get back to the house and crash there. I appreciate it, though.” Eddie slurs in the battle to keep his eyes open.

After they walk in behind Aiden, and quickly get packed up and load up the Armada.

“Thank you for letting us leave our equipment here,” Rey says, closing the hatch.

“Hey, the owner loves you guys and the crowd that digs it. I’m new to this place. I gotta say it was a kick-ass show.”

Snickering, Aiden stands there blushing at the compliments from the thin, redheaded beauty whose height stops at his nose.

He meets her blue eyes but tries not to stare.

“Hey, I need a hand with a couple of cases that are too high for me to reach. Care to be a gentleman and help since I might as well stock the coolers while I’m here.”

“I think I have enough left in the tank to help with that,” Aiden answers, thinking it’s a subtle hint.

“Good deal, it’ll take just a minute.” She tells him as they walk inside.

Back in the stock room, Vickie giggles a little knowing Aiden is checking her out, “If you thought I brought you in here to make-out or hit on you, then you’d be partially right. I mean, you are hot, but I do need a hand for a minute.”

Aiden snickers as his eyes are fixed on her bubble butt.

Pushing the heavy metal door open, Vickie points to the first case of Bud Light and then a case of Miller Lite.

“If you want it carried out, then it’ll cost you.” Aiden teases, refusing to release the case.

“What’s the terms?”

Aiden tilts his head slightly to the right. He winks as he says, “A date and a kiss.”

Taking her hand off the side of the case, she slowly presses the case of beer down.

Vickie pulls herself up, what she intends as a quick peck instantly develops into a prolonged kiss as they enjoy the sensation. Aiden nearly drops the case, but it’s enough to break the first kiss.

“Wow,” Vickie admits staring into Aiden’s eyes.

“Yeah, really, so how about that date?”

Her mind wraps around the moment; Vickie quickly regains her train of thought.

“Sure, when?”

Aiden can’t wait to reply, “Are you free Tuesday evening? Gimme time to recover today and tomorrow and call you later for details?”

“I can respect that and can’t wait, cutie.” Vickie leans for one more kiss to-go as they carry out the cases.

Aiden leaves while she restocks.

Back inside the Mustang, Eddie is out cold in the passenger seat.

Wow, what a kiss and what a girl!” Aiden thinks and smiles as he fires up the car.

Although things seemed on edge at the hospital, they’re blowing up by the time Dakota and Heather get home.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Dakota asks repeatedly.

“Ah damn it, for the thousandth time, yes, yes, yes, I am fine. I am sore, but other than that. I will be fine. Can we drop it, please?”

Parked by the garage door, Dakota sits there staring at the windshield, “I don’t blame you for this, even if you blame yourself. I love you, and I just want to make sure you’re going to be fine.”

“I appreciate it, baby. I really do, but somehow it has to be my fault. I just don’t get why this happened. I wasn’t smoking or drinking, I wasn’t lifting anything at work, and everyone knew I was pregnant. You’ve kept my stress down, and we were doing so good with everything. Now, I have to look into a nearly completed nursery knowing there’s no longer a baby to sleep in there.”

Dakota struggles to get out of his seatbelt and punches the steering wheel. He fidgets around, more furious with every breath.

“Fucking thing, let me go!” He screams, pulling on it with every ounce of strength from his frustration and pain.

Startled by witnessing him fly off the handle, Heather sits there, unable to speak or move.

“DAMN IT!” He screams and finally breaks free, getting out of the car. Dakota walks up to the garage door to punch it several times, with every bit of pain delivered with each blow.

Bouncing his head off the garage door once, Dakota turns his attention to the house. Still unable to gather her composure, Heather sits in the car, frightened over the drastic change in Dakota.

She finally works up the courage to pull her sore, achy body from the sports car. She listens to the crashing and banging noises coming from inside the house. She tries to hurry, but she can’t process what Dakota does by the time she reaches the baby’s room.

In the doorway, she watches as he takes the crib and smashes it against the wall until it splinters apart, “No!” She cries down on her knees, forcing more tears to fall as she holds her stomach in disgust.

“Stop! Please, Dakota, don’t destroy anything else. We can try again later on, please, calm down!” She reaches out, hoping he’d comfort her.

Instead, Dakota stands there in the middle of the room, writhing in torment that he’s never known before.

“This ain’t how it was supposed to be for us. We were meant to be happy and begin something special in our lives. The first of my friends to be a father, and now it was taken away from me. To hell with reason or listening. If I want to ruin this room, I have every right. This is still MY house.” He states with a cold dark stare in his eyes.

Breathing heavily, Heather can’t control herself as she sits in horror as Dakota resumes in the destruction of the baby’s bedroom. He carries on for nearly a half-hour before he falls to his knees.

“AAAHHH…” He lets out screaming at the ceiling, his eyes clenched tightly.

“Baby boy, come here, please. Hold me and keep me tight.” Heather pleads, reaching for him.

Able to scoot on his knees over to her, Dakota pulls her in, and she places her ear to his chest, listening to his heart beating harder than normal.

“We’ll make it through this somehow. Just need to talk it out, that’s all.” Heather tells him, holding on with a death grip.

“Right now, I don’t care. I just wanna bust the hell out of everything and get this out of my system.” Dakota tells her, breathing heavy and deep.

“Please don’t. You’ll regret it later.”

He pushes her away gently. Dakota gets up and goes downstairs.

“Where are you going?” She calls out, pulling herself to her feet using the railing.

“I might want to get drunk, and maybe I can numb myself out of this.”

It feels like a wooden stake driven through her midsection. Heather struggles to make her way to the bed, where she curls up under the covers shaking from the pain.

“Oh God, make it stop… Please make it stop...” Heather calls out.

Dakota shuts off his phone as the events replay again and again. He sits at the kitchen table drinking until he begins to feel the effects of the alcohol kick in, “Oh yeah, that’s it, Heineken, kill those heartstrings. Kill ’em good and permanent.”

He sucks down a six-pack before he realizes it and staggers over to the couch, flopping face-first into the cushion where he passes out. In contrast, Dakota ignores how Heather feels; she remains up in the bedroom the rest of the day tossing and turning.

“Ugh, I can’t handle anything else. I wanna go home. I wanna go back to it being even more simple.” She sulks in bed, where she eventually passes out as the sun dips from the sky.

Dakota wakes up around four in the morning and begins getting ready for work. His temper has subsided, and he walks up to check on Heather.

He leans in, kissing her on the cheek, “Love you, sweetheart,” he whispers in her ear.

Jumping into the shower, Dakota rushes to get ready for work.

He arrives at the Department of Transportation office and heads inside to clock-in into work, and picks up his keys to head out on patrol along his interstate sections.

“It’s gonna be a long day.” He says keeping the music volume low to listen to his CB Radio.

When his day finally comes to an end, he speeds home. Dakota slides inches from the garage door and goes inside to call for Heather.

“Babe, hey babe, I’m home. How are ya feeling today?”

Walking into the kitchen, he doesn’t hear anything from upstairs, “Heather… Are you home?” He calls out a little louder.

Nervous, he heads up the steps and pushes open the bedroom door, “Heather…” Entering the bedroom, he finds a note on his pillow with his name written on it.

Dakota, hey, I called Cindy, and she came down and took me to get my car. I’ve packed some of my things. I went home to recover. I want to come back if you’re not too pissed. I feel like we need some space because you scared me yesterday, which ain’t easy to say, but I never thought you would hurt me over losing the baby. I love you and if you want me to come home in time, then text me when you calm down, and we’ll talk later. I love you. Heather

Crumbled up the note, Dakota sits on the bed to wrap his brain around his actions.

“I messed up big time yesterday. This sucks, but I’ll give Heather some space and hope I can get her to come back home.”

In the meantime, he tries to make things better. He tries to repair what he can in the baby’s room. Dakota tries to piece everything together since his memory blacked out at times after they arrived home from the hospital.

Dakota can’t believe how much damage he caused, and his guilt takes control, but he works on things gathering his composure.

Dakota continues working throughout the evening until he goes back to crash on the couch, contemplating how to fix everything with Heather.

The next morning, he calls into work to take a personal day. He recalls that Heather is from the Ravenswood area. Dakota takes off following the signs on the interstate heading north until he reaches the exit.

Pulling over to the first gas station, he takes out his phone.

“Hey, you called earlier than I expected.” She says, picking up the phone.

“I miss you, and I am so sorry I don’t remember much. I feel like such an ass. Anyway, I am here in Ravenswood. I wanna come to get you so we can go home.”

Blown away from his gesture, she remains silent for a moment.

“So, will you come home, and we work on things?” Dakota asks.

Flattered, she suggests something different, “Well, tell you what, I’ll come to meet you, and you come to meet my family finally. I need to be here for now. When I’m ready, I’ll come home.”

Not expecting to hear that, he reluctantly agrees, “Yeah, I’d love to meet your family and spend the day here with you. I can’t wait for you to come home, but I can see your point. I’m at the BP station by the interstate.”

Within a few minutes, Heather pulls up and honks for Dakota to follow. He follows her out to a hollow, where he spends the day bonding with her family as they get to know each other better.

“Now, Heather dear, he seems like a fine ripe young feller.” Her father compliments Dakota as they sit and chat for various topics ranging from classic cars to sports.

“Thank you, sir, that means a lot,” Dakota replies, holding a glass of iced tea that begins to sweat.

Slapping his hand off his knee, the level of excitement rises in his voice, “Ah, hell son, call me Bill, or Pa. Hell, if you’re going to be part of this here family one day ya best get used to it.”

Dakota smiles with an uneasy sensation that gurgles inside his gut.

“Daddy, be nice. He did come up here from Huntington, you know. Yeah, things got a little rough, but I came home to heal.” Heather explains, coming out the door from the kitchen with a tray in hand.

“Alright, alright, alright, I’ll tone it down, darlin’. Dakota does seem like a good kid, though, and when you’re ready, I’ll get ya back down there to him.” He tells her when she kisses him on his grey beard along his cheek.

“Thank you, daddy.”

They sit together and enjoy a hot dinner as the sun casts a long shadow over them. When the time comes, Dakota doesn’t say anything but gives Heather a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

“I’ll call you soon, I promise; this just feels like the place I need to be; I need to heal and get better for us.” She reveals with her hand placed softly on his cheek.

Dakota nods his head and gets into his car to drive home. Although she made a promise to him, his instincts kick-in, screaming it might be a promise she might not keep.

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