Why did they make hospital emergency rooms so unpleasant?
Faded white walls, cold grey tiles, and uncomfortable slabs of plastic nailed to metal legs to sit your ass on for hours.
Maybe they wanted to discourage people from coming.
I glanced around the packed room. Some people were standing. Some braved the dirty floor. I was grateful my pregnant belly garnered me some compassion. A young guy actually let me have his chair. He checked out my tits while he was doing it. But what man wouldn’t? They were spectacular.
The nauseating stench of hospital cleaner, mixed with coffee and stale cigarette smoke, was getting to me. It seemed like every person who came through the sliding glass door just put out a smoke, the disgusting odour clinging to their jackets.
My tolerance level was still pretty low. It didn’t take much to trigger a return of my morning sickness. I needed some water. But if I went to the vending machine, I’d probably lose my seat.
I pulled out my phone, glancing at the time. We’d been at the hospital for almost an hour. What was taking so long? And where the heck were Daisy and Silas? I called them the second I arrived.
After Paddy got stabbed, I was in shock. I couldn’t remember much about those first few moments. Someone called 911. I held Paddy in my arms while he drifted in and out of consciousness.
A bouncer from the bar was a nursing student. He knew what to do, putting pressure on Paddy’s wound while he kept us both calm.
When the cops and the paramedics arrived, I fished Paddy’s keys from his pocket and drove his car to the hospital. I have no memory of the drive over, and no idea where I parked.
My phone dinged with a text from Hannah.
Any word on Paddy?
No. They won’t tell me anything, because I’m not family. I’m just the woman carrying his baby.
Where are his parents?
Okay. Let me know as soon as you hear something.
“Alexis!” Daisy cried, running across the crowded waiting room. “Is Paddy okay?”
“I don’t know. They won’t tell me anything.”
“I’ll go find out,” Silas said.
“What happened?” Daisy asked. “What were you guys doing in that part of town?”
“It’s all my fault, Daisy,” I sobbed.
“Take a deep breath, honey,” she said, rubbing my shoulder. “Don’t get yourself all upset. It’s not good for the baby.”
“What if Paddy dies?”
“That’s not going to happen.”
“You don’t know that, Daisy! He was stabbed. Because I asked him to come pick me up. Why did I go out with my friends? I should’ve known better.”
“You were out at a bar?”
“Yes. My friends have been bugging me to hang out with them. I agreed to go shopping and for dinner. Then they decided they wanted to go clubbing. I had no way to get home, so I had to tag along. It’s not much fun going to a bar when you can’t drink or dance or do anything.”
“Why couldn’t you dance?”
“It was way too crowded. I was afraid of getting elbowed in the stomach, or knocked down. My friends ditched me because, why wouldn’t they? I’m no fun. And then guys started hitting on me. That’s when I decided I needed to get out of there. Paddy told me to wait inside the doors near a bouncer until he got there. But there was a fight, and all the bouncers left. This guy I dated a couple of times started harassing me. He followed me outside and had words with Paddy. Then he just went up behind Paddy and stabbed him in the shoulder.”
“That’s not your fault, Alexis.”
“It’s my fault I went to a bad part of town.”
“It sounds like your friends didn’t leave you much choice.”
Silas returned from the desk. “The doctor will speak with us now,” he said quietly, wrapping his arm around Daisy’s waist.
“Can I come?” I asked.
“Of course, you can,” he replied.
I followed Daisy and Silas to a large room with several beds separated by curtains. Most of the curtains were pulled. I didn’t see Paddy anywhere.
A hot piece of doctor meat greeted us with a friendly smile, his sparkling blue eyes taking in my belly. “I’m Dr. Schlong,” he announced.
Do not laugh.
Do not crack a grin.
And whatever you do, do not look at Daisy.
Laughing out loud right now would be highly inappropriate.
Fear clutched my throat, the brief second of humour disappearing as I waited to hear if Paddy was gonna make it.
“I’m Silas, and this is my wife, Daisy. We’re Paddy’s parents. And this is my son’s friend, Alexis. She was with him when he was attacked.”
“Paddy was very lucky,” he informed us. “The knife didn’t hit any major blood vessels.”
“Oh, thank goodness,” Daisy whispered, hugging Silas.
“But he did lose a lot of blood,” the doctor continued. “We’re giving him a unit of blood right now, and I’m going to keep him overnight for observation.”
“When can we see him?” Daisy asked.
“He’s sleeping. We gave him something strong for the pain. But you can see him now if you like.”
Paddy looked so pale, his damp curls pasted to his forehead, his bare chest rising and falling while he slept. I stared at the large bandage on his shoulder, tears springing to my eyes as I relived that terrifying moment when I watched him get stabbed.
It happened so fast, I didn’t have a chance to warn him. One minute I was buckling my seatbelt, the next, Jordan was running up behind him with a switchblade.
Why did Jordan do that? He wasn’t a bad guy. I knew him from my old neighbourhood. But when he was drinking, he was a different man. Violent and angry. And he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Even after I told him I was pregnant.
“We’re here, baby boy,” Daisy whispered, brushing Paddy’s hair back from his forehead.
Paddy’s eyelids fluttered open. He blinked, his eyes darting around the room before landing on me. His voice was hoarse and weak as he struggled to speak. “What happened?”
“It’s okay, Paddy,” Silas said, going to the other side of his bed.
I stayed at the end, unsure what to do.
“I’m really tired,” he mumbled before his eyes slipped closed again. “Is my baby okay?”
“He’s fine,” Daisy said. “Don’t you worry.”
“Why don’t you take Alexis back to our house,” Silas suggested to Daisy. “She needs her rest.”
“You’re going to stay here all night?” she asked.
“I can’t leave,” I said. “I have to give a statement to the police.”
Silas frowned. “You haven’t done that yet?”
“No. They haven’t shown up. But they told me they would come to the hospital later.”
“They can talk to you tomorrow.”
“How did you get here, Alexis?” Daisy inquired.
“I drove Paddy’s car.” I reached into my purse and dug out the keys. “Here.”
“I’m going to make some calls,” Silas said.
“I need to use the restroom,” Daisy whispered when we returned to the waiting area.
I headed to the vending machine to get a bottle of water, glancing to my right when a woman rose from her seat and approached me.
“Excuse me?” she said politely.
She looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place where I knew her from.
“Are you Alexis?”
“Yes,” I replied slowly. “Do I know you?”
“I’m Heather. Paddy’s friend from university. We met the night you were treated in my emergency room for smoke inhalation.”
“Oh, right. Do you work here, too?”
“No. I went to the funeral home to return Paddy’s jacket, and they told me what happened. Is he okay?”
“He’s going to be fine. He was lucky.” I stared at Paddy’s jacket, folded neatly over her arm while she stroked the fabric with her long red fingernails. “Why do you have Paddy’s coat?”
She smiled smugly. “We were out on a dinner date when you called him. He was in such a hurry to leave, he forgot it at the restaurant.”
“Paddy was on a date with you?” I asked skeptically.
“If he went to dinner with you, I can assure you it wasn’t a date.”
“Paddy and I used to hook up when we lived in the dorm,” she said with a phony smile of sympathy.
“No, you didn’t,” I chuckled. “I know that for a fact.”
“Paddy needs a mother for his baby. I can give him that. I want to be a mother.”
“Well, if you want to be a mother, go find your own guy to knock you up. Stay away from my man and my baby.”
“Is everything okay, Alexis?” Daisy asked as she walked toward us.
“Are you Paddy’s mother?” Heather gushed when Daisy stood next to me, wrapping her arm around my shoulder.
“Yes,” Daisy replied curtly.
“I stopped by to check in on Paddy and return his jacket. We were at dinner earlier, but he had to leave to pick up Alexis. He forgot it at the restaurant. I went to the funeral home to return it, and the staff told me he’d been assaulted and taken to the hospital.”
“Paddy is going to make a full recovery,” Daisy informed her, reaching for the coat. “I’ll take that.”
“Can I see him?” Heather asked, refusing to let go of the coat. “I drove all this way. And Paddy and I are getting reacquainted. I think he would like to know I’m here.”
“No,” Daisy snapped, her forced smile firmly in place when she took possession of the jacket. “You may not see him. My son isn’t interested in you. He loves Alexis. He’s always loved her. And she’s having his baby. So you need to leave. Now.”
“I’m very sorry, Mrs. Wallingford. The last thing I wanted to do was upset Paddy’s family tonight. I care about Paddy. I was so frightened when I heard what happened.”
“He’s going to be fine,” Daisy reiterated. “Thank you for coming. I’ll be sure to tell Paddy you were here.”
“I’d really appreciate that.”
“Do you really think Paddy went on a date with her?” I asked Daisy after the bitch left.
“Not a chance, Alexis.” She turned to me, smiling as she gazed at my growing belly. “You’re beautiful, honey. Absolutely glowing. Pregnancy looks good on you.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Have you ever known me to say something I didn’t mean, Alexis?”
“No. You must need glasses though, because I’m a hot mess.”
“Why do you feel that way?”
“You’re not fat. You’re pregnant.”
“My face is puffy. My hair is really thick and unmanageable. No matter how much expensive conditioner I use, I can’t get the silky shine back. I have acne. I never had it when I was a teenager. It’s gross.”
“Your body goes through a lot when you’re pregnant.”
“No kidding,” I grumbled. “And I didn’t realize how bad I looked, until my friends came to see me. They were horrified.”
“Did they tell you that?”
“Not in so many words. But I could tell by the looks on their faces.”
“I think you need some new friends,” she suggested gently.
“That’s what Hannah said, too.”
“Hannah’s a wise woman.”
“I don’t know about that,” I snorted. “I think it has more to do with the fact that she’s married to a celebrity, and she’s got her nose up in the air. She doesn’t bother with anyone from our old neighbourhood, or any of the girls she used to work with.”
“The paparazzi are fixated on your sister. I feel sorry for her. She can’t fart in the grocery store without the tabloids reporting on it.”
“Hannah doesn’t do her own shopping,” I laughed.
“You’re missing my point.”
“I know what you’re saying. And I get it. Hannah can’t go anywhere without a bodyguard, and she certainly can’t hang out in Gastown. That’s the downside of being married to a rock star. She had to give up her freedom to be with Miles.”
“Marriage is all about sacrifices, Alexis.”
“We’re not talking about Hannah anymore, are we?”
“No,” she said, smiling kindly while she tucked a piece of my gross, starchy hair behind my ear. “Playtime is over, Alexis. When you decide to bring a child into the world, sacrifices have to be made. You’re responsible for another human being. His safety and well-being takes priority over everything else.”
“I didn’t decide to get pregnant,” I protested, feeling like a reprimanded child.
“Did you have sex?”
“Well, yeah. But I was on the pill.”
“Nothing is completely foolproof.”
“I’m not trying to give you a hard time, sweetheart,” she said softly. “You’re like a daughter to me, Alexis. But I have a son and a grandson, too. And I have to look out for them.”
“I’m sorry,” I whispered, my voice quivering.
I had a tremendous amount of respect and gratitude for the woman in front of me. Daisy Wallingford saved me in so many ways. And she gave me Paddy. She’d always been on my side, giving me the unconditional love of a parent.
She pulled me into her arms, rubbing my back while I sobbed on her shoulder. “Shh,” she whispered. “Everything is going to be fine, my child. Trust me. You made a mistake. Nobody is perfect. The important thing is that you learned from it. And you’ll make better choices going forward.”
I blinked, momentarily disoriented as my eyes darted around the waiting room.
The cops questioned me for an hour. I wasn’t the one who stabbed somebody. They seemed more interested in why I was in a bar on Dunlevy Street. Jordan was arrested. They found him hiding in an alley a couple blocks away. Apparently, he told the cops I was a prostitute, and Paddy was my pimp. He claimed he stabbed Paddy to stop him from forcing me into his car.
“Paddy is awake,” Silas said. “Do you want to see him?”
“Yes.” I pulled myself out of the chair, straightening the stupid mini skirt I let my friends talk me into wearing. “Where’s Daisy?”
“She’s sitting with him.”
I followed Silas back to the big room with all the curtained-off beds. Paddy was sitting up, sipping water through a straw. For the first time in the eighteen years I’d known him, Paddy did not look happy to see me.
“What is she still doing here?” he barked, his voice surprisingly strong, considering he was stabbed a few hours before, and he was supposed to be doped up on painkillers.
“Paddy,” Daisy said gently. “Calm down.”
“I’m fine, Mother,” he said. “But I asked you to send her home.”
“I’m so sorry, Paddy!” I cried.
“Can you please go home, so I don’t have to worry about my baby tonight?” He glanced up at Silas. “Dad, can you take Alexis back to your house? That way, I’ll know she isn’t trolling the streets of downtown, trying to get my baby killed.”
“Paddy, please,” I begged. “I’m sorry. I made a mistake.”
“Go home, Alexis,” he said. “I don’t want to talk to you anymore tonight. I’m tired and in pain. Please. Just go.”