Tapping my fingers on my desk, I waited for Shawna to answer. Poor thing was under so much stress from taking care of her rude and hateful father. I worried about her mental state. Tried to convince her numerous times to hire a caregiver to come in and help, but so far, she'd stood firm. Kept repeating how it was her duty as his daughter. The old bastard had no idea, or simply didn't care, how much she'd given up to be there for him.
On the sixth ring, she answered. I cringed at the fake happiness in her voice.
“Hey Mandy. Still on for our shoppin’ trip today? I need some new shoes.”
I smiled, knowing my best friend and her ravenous affinity for shoes. “Of course. I’ll be there around 4, after my shift is over, okay?”
“Sounds good to me. I need some retail therapy for sure.”
In the background, I could hear her father yell, “You best hurry up, boy. I’m tired of waitin’ on your slow ass. And where is that no-good sister of yours with my breakfast? I need to eat ’fore I take my pills.”
I heard Shawna sigh. The voice of Shawna and Sam’s dad, Will, sounded just as mean and cantankerous as I remembered from our childhood. “Sounds like your dad is raring to go. Can’t believe he’s going hunting.”
“Oh, you know how he is—feisty as ever. He said this morning that he ain’t missed a season yet, and Momma’s death or his heart attack ain't gonna stop him.”
Shawna tried to keep her voice peppy, but I could hear a hint of sadness. “Sounds like I better let you go and get him his breakfast. Besides, I need to start my rounds anyway. Don’t let his growling’s get you down. Just remember, you are a saint.”
“Ha! I’m no such thing.”
“Yes you are. I mean, ever since your mom passed and he had his heart attack, you have been right there taking care of him. And Sam, too! Plus, we both know your dad hasn’t always been the kindest soul. You and Sam deserve a medal. A big, shiny gold one!”
Shawna laughed. “Kindest soul? That, my friend, is the understatement of the century. Why do you think I need some new shoes? The ones I’ve been wearin’ are plum worn out from waitin’ on him hand and foot.”
“I said hurry up! And where’s my bag? Did you pack everythin’? Oh, of course you didn’t. You’re as dumb as a hammer, boy. I don’t know why I keep you around since I have to do everythin’ myself.”
Shawna groaned. “Hmm, sounds like Sam needs some new shoes, too. Gotta go, sweetie. See you at 4.”
Before I could say goodbye, the line went dead. My heart ached for my best friend. I knew her home life, and Sam’s, had been rough growing up. Their dad was a mean sonofabitch if ever there was one. He used his tongue like a sharp sword, cutting down everyone and everything in his path. Though I suspected (and so did my parents) that their dad was also physically abusive, Shawna nor Sam never had any marks on them or spoke about it. When I was a kid, their father scared the daylights out of me when I would go over to play with Shawna. Thankfully, most of our play dates happened at my house. No wonder—his gruff voice was enough to send chills through a Marine Corps drill instructor.
I picked up my stethoscope and made my way down the hall to the patient rooms, marveling at the wonderful people Sam and Shawna turned out to be—despite their father’s best efforts to turn them into something else.