For complete disclaimers see part 1.
If youd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am, or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotamil.com
Thanks Mavis for all the information.
Kim Pritekel & Alexa Hoffman
As I walked the halls of the Clinic, my mind raced. I was not good with this sort of thing, thus my going into research as opposed to bedside medicine. I had no idea what to say to this woman, nor really how to say it. Chances were if she was already in critical, there wasnt much I could say to bring her comfort.
I sighed, pushing the button for the elevator, tapping my toe on the tile as I waited. When I had gone to school it had never been a thought which way Id go; practice or research. I didnt have that magic touch that a doctor needed to make her patients feel comfortable or safe. I had the knowledge, knew the ways to diagnose and treat, but had always had that one, fundamental part missing that would make me a great doctor. And that was basic people skills.
I never understood what made me so different from everyone else. I didnt really think about it much, anymore, though it used to drive me crazy and frustrate the crap out of me when my college professors tried and tried to get me to go into practicing medicine. But, I loved my job and all it entailed, and I was very dedicated to it. Dr. Torres and I, and all my previous colleagues, had made some wonderful advances in curing MS, and other diseases. So, when other classmates from college have told me when weve run into each other, how rewarding it is to see their patients face when theyve been told their cancer is gone, or in remission, or the look on a new mothers face when she sees her baby for the first time, I think of the look on my fellow scientists faces when something weve been working on so hard turns out right, or when I wake up in the middle of the night because a theory has woken me up, and it proves true.
A smile spread across my face. That was when it really mattered to me. That was what touched me so deeply.
The elevator dinged open, and I stepped into the car, pressing the button for the floor I wanted. I went over in my head all the things that wed been working on in the lab, trying to prepare myself for any questions she may have. I was also trying to think of all the things I was taught about malpractice and all the dos and donts of talking with a patient- the areas I was supposed to avoid.
"Hello, Dr. Littman," one of the nurses said from behind the nurses station. I had no clue who she was. I smiled and nodded, heading toward room 301. I stopped at the door, and went inside. The room was like any other at the Mayo, narrow bed, pleasing decorations to try and make the patient feel more at ease and at peace. The TV was on, but the sound was turned low. A wheelchair sat against the wall, under the window. I turned to look at the patient and saw she was staring at me. She looked pretty good, short strands of dark hair shiny from a recent wash.
"Hello," I grabbed the womans chart from the end of the bed and looked for her name, "Mrs. Blackwell. How are you?" Blue eyes lit up with her smile.
"Well, Ive had better days, but overall Im doing alright." I heard the water turn on in the small bathroom by the door, and figured she had a visitor. "And please, call me Hannah."
"Alright. Hannah it is. Im Dr. Littman from the research department, and Ive heard you have some questions for us."
"Oh, yes. Im so glad youre here."
"Hannah, heres your water." I turned as I heard the bathroom door squeak open. A figure stepped out, and my eyes widened as recognition filled me. "Oh, I didnt realize we werent alone." She laughed, setting the water pitcher on Hannahs bed table, then walked over to me with an extended hand. "Hi, Im Dr. Corregan." I took the hand, still stunned as I looked into blue eyes. Did my eyes deceive me, or was my past trying to shake my hand? She looked at me with an expectant, polite smile. Did she not remember me?
"Dr. Littman." She looked at me, her eyes narrowing.
"Littman. Any relation to the Winston Littmans?" She cocked her head to the side, eyeing my face. "Andi?" I nodded.
"My goodness." She smiled, stepping back to take me in, her hand on her chest. "This is quite a surprise, I must say."
"Youre telling me. What are you doing here?" She pointed toward the bed.
"I was about to give Hannah her psych eval. And you?"
"Well, I was supposed to answer some questions for her, but seeing as you got here first, Ill come back. It was nice to see you again, though."
"And you. Perhaps we could get together sometime and catch up." I smiled, nodding.
"Perhaps. Well, good day to you both."
With one last glance at a memory, I turned and headed out into the hall. Imagine that. I hadnt seen Haley in so many years, and really barely remembered much of our friendship. As I made my way to the elevators, small bits flashed before my minds eye. I remembered going to some hideous party with her, though I cant tell you who threw it. Something about a Koosh ball, maybe? Maybe that was someone else.
It had been nearly eleven years since Id seen Haley. We had seen each other once when shed come back from school for Christmas break. It had been in the mall, but neither of us had stopped. We had stared, waved, then moved on.
I stuck my hands in the pocket of my lab coat as the elevator smoothly whirred downward, getting me closer to my own little world of the lab.
Where had my memories gone so wrong? I was convinced that I had not had any friends in school, and that those had been lonely years for me. My life had not truly began until college, and I had made the conscious decision to forget most of high school, and anything before that. Yet, there she was, upstairs talking to a sick young woman.
Shrugging, I pushed open the door to my lab, and headed to my office.
* * *
I sighed, already tired as I hung my coat on the back of a chair in the cafeteria. Erin had managed to get here first, saving a table for us. She sat reading a Redbook magazine.
"Are you going to eat?" I asked, reaching into my pocket to get my money. She looked up, shaking her head.
"Nah. Im not hungry."
"You know, you say that now, but as soon as I get back to the table, you know youll be digging into my plate." She fluttered dark lashes at me, an innocent smile on her face.
"Salad or sandwich?"
"Really, Andi, Im fine."
"Salad it is. Ill be right back." The lines had already began to form, reminding me of days back in school. I walked over, and began to look around as I waited. Somewhere I thought I heard my name, but my mind was so far gone, and I was never called Andi here at work.
"Andi?" Eyes narrowing, I looked around until I saw blue eyes staring at me from three people behind me in line. I smiled.
"Hi. Go ahead." I allowed the two doctors behind me to go ahead of me, and I stood in front of Haley. She smiled.
"How are you?"
"Im great. Yourself?"
"Good, good. Just trying to get used to a new job."
"Yes, when did you get here? Im certain I would have remembered you." I smiled, taking a step as the line moved up.
"Well, I actually got here Monday." She smiled.
"Four whole days, huh?" She nodded. "Where did you come from?"
"I had a position at UCLA teaching for the last two years."
"Really? So how did you end up here? I mean, I assume you were acting in some capacity of a psychologist with Hannah Blackwell."
"Yes. Im a psychiatrist, so after all the schooling, Ive actually only been out in the so-called real world for about two years." She ran a hand down the back of her hair, shoulder length now, the sides pulled up to meet in a thin braid that ran down the rest of her hair. "My father got sick about five years ago."
"Oh, Im so sorry."
"Yes, he was diagnosed with MS. He did well for a while, then he just started to go downhill in the last year. Mom cant do it alone, so I came back to help out for a while."
"That must be so hard on your family. I know its not an easy disease." She looked at me, shaking her head.
"No, its not. So, what about you? I certainly didnt think youd stay in Minnesota." She smiled, grabbing a bottled iced tea as we passed the drink cooler.
"Well, I left for a short while, but then came back. Its a long story. I got this job, and the rest is history."
"How long have you been here?" She grabbed her silverware, wrapping it in a napkin as the line moved a bit more.
"Hmm. Let me think. Dr. Wills helped me get an internship here during my last year of undergrad,"
"Yes, Ive heard a great deal about your Dr. Wills. Hes made quite a name for himself."
"I know. Im so proud of him. We still keep in close contact." I smiled.
"Always nice to have contacts."
"This is true. Anyway, so I did my internship here all through school, then after I graduated with my doctorate, they gave me a position here in the lab. So, all told Id say Ive been here about ten years."
"Wow! Good for you." She grabbed a salad that was in a plastic container with a clear lid. I grabbed one for Erin and a turkey sandwich for myself. "Hungry?" I looked at her to see a wide smile that for a moment hit me as so familiar, like Id seen it every day since I was seventeen.
"Well, Im feeding two."
"Ah. I see. So how did you end up going to school here? My mom said you went to some school on the east coast."
"Well, thats a long story to be told another time." I smiled, handing my money to the cashier at the end of the line. "Ill see you later, Haley."
"Yeah. Bye, Andi."
I quickly headed back to the table where Erin waited for me. With a smile, she grabbed the salad from my hands.
"Thanks. Who was that?" She indicated the food line with her plastic fork.
"Oh, an old friend from school."
"Oh, one of those college buddies?" I shook my head, tearing open the packet of mayonnaise to squirt onto my sandwich.
"No. I knew her in Winston."
"Shes attractive," Erin said absently, watching Haley as she walked over to a table, sitting with people I recognized from the psychology department.
"Yup. That she is."
* * *
"You better hurry up and lick that." I smiled, watching Kendall attempt to eat an ice cream cone that was melting faster than her tongue could work. She licked the strawberry from her fingers, and continued eating. "So, whats this I hear about you and Jenna being caught smoking?" She looked at me, her eyes wide with surprise and fear.
"How do you know?"
"Your mom told me, Kendall." Narrow shoulders slumping, she sighed, tossing what was left of her ice cream into a nearby trash can.
"She promised," she mumbled.
"Honey, your mom didnt tell me to betray you, or go back on her word. Shes worried about you." The girl shrugged.
"It only happened once, and it was gross. I wont do it again, Andi." I looked at her, staring into green eyes.
"You know, when I was your age, I once found a bottle of tequila that belonged to my mother."
"Really strong, nasty alcohol."
"Yup. Drunk kind. So, I was curious, and took a huge drink of it. I got so sick." I smiled at her, she smiled back, a hole where her right canine should be. She had been so proud of that hole, telling me she was getting "grown up" teeth.
"Did your mom find out?" I nodded.
"Oh, yeah. She had to take me to the hospital." Her eyes opened wide.
"Uh oh!" I smiled, wrapping my arm around her.
"Yeah, uh oh. I got into so much trouble for that. Kendall, youre only ten years old. I dont want to see anything like that happen to you. Youre smart, beautiful, so talented the way you can already dance and sing. Stay the way you are, okay?" She nodded slowly, exaggerated. "Dont let other kids who act stupid make you act stupid, too. Okay?" We stared at each other, and in that moment I felt a huge wave of pride and love wash through me for this little girl who had added so much to my life.
"Im sorry, Andi. I didnt mean to make you mad." I hugged the little girl to me as we sat on the bench at the Rochester Mall.
"Im not mad at you, honey. Just want to make sure youre happy. Thats my job, okay?" She looked up at me, nodding with a wide grin. I smiled back, hugging her again.
"So I see you have a new shopping buddy." I looked up to see Haley smiling down at us.
"Hey." I smiled at her. "Are you here alone?" I looked around, but saw no one familiar.
"No. Moms in the Wooden Spoon over there." She pointed to the shop across the hall that sold different coffees and things for the kitchen. "I finally managed to get her out of the house today, and out of town."
"Hows your dad?" She shrugged.
"Alright, I guess. Ive hired a nurse to help them out. Mom just really needed a break."
"I imagine so."
"So," She clapped her hands together, smiling at Kendall. "Whos this?"
"Oh, Haley, this is Kendal Torrini, Kendall, Haley Corregan."
"Nice to meet you, maam." Kendall extended a small hand to my old friend. Haley smiled, completely charmed, as most were by Kendall.
"Well, hello, Kendall. And Ill tell you what, you can just call me Haley, okay?" The girl nodded.
"And as far as shopping buddies, Kendall here was craving ice cream, so we stopped to get her some."
"Na unh, you wanted ice cream, Andi." I looked down into narrowed eyes, and heard a bout of laughter. I glared up at Haley.
"Okay, okay. So Im the one with the sweet tooth." Kendall smiled triumphantly.
"Well, I see nothings changed there." Haley grinned.
"Ha ha. So is your mom still teaching?" Haley nodded.
"Yes, but only part time over the past year, so she could be with dad. Her school has been wonderful about it."
"Hows your mom, Andi? I havent seen her in years. Does she still make those wonderful brownies?" Kendall giggled.
"I had some last weekend."
"Well, youre one lucky little girl, then."
"Care to sit?" I patted the bench next to me.
"Anyway, so yes she does, and shes doing great. Shes finally made it to head nurse at the hospital."
"Oh, how wonderful." Haley crossed her legs, setting the package shed been holding down next to her.
"She got married recently."
"Married? Your mom? Wow. To who?"
"To a guy she had been seeing for a while. I dont know if you remember Clive?"
"Of course I do. He was great on the barbeque grill."
"Still is." We both chuckled. "They split up for about five years or so, then ran into each other again, and the rest is history."
"Thats really neat. Your mom is such a wonderful woman. How about your brother?" I was amazed and impressed with how much she remembered of my life and family. So maybe I was the only schmuck who couldnt remember my own name.
"Chris is doing great. He and his wife are expecting any day now." A soft smile spread across Haleys lips, and into her eyes.
"Ah. So sweet. Youll be an aunt. Is this their first?" I nodded.
"He and his friend, Brian opened up a garage a few years back, and I have never had to pay for an oil change since." She threw her head back as laughter came out. I smiled, looking at her. She was such a nice person. I had forgotten that. Just one smile could brighten up the room.
"Does he work on foreign cars, too?" I nodded. "Wow. I may have to try this out." She smiled. "Good for him."
"Yes, were very proud of him. You have a brother, right?"
"I sure do." Score for Andi! "He lives in New York and works as an architect."
"Wow. Knock me over with a feather."
"I know. Holden isnt quite the little heathen I always figured hed be. Actually, he was trying to get picked up by the Minnesota Twins in college, but unfortunately he got picked over. So, off he went. Hes engaged to be married to a wonderful girl named Stacey. Very nice girl, also an architect."
"Very smart girl."
"That she is."
"There you are." We all looked up and saw Mrs. Corregan standing in front of us. Haley stood.
"Mom, do you remember Andi Littman?"
"Of course. How are you, dear?" She smiled warmly at me, and I smiled back. Wow, she had aged. I figured it was probably all that shed been through with her husband. Poor woman.
"Im fine." I stood, placing my hand on her arm briefly. "Im so sorry to hear about your husband. I know that this is not an easy disease to combat."
"Oh, thank you, honey. From what I hear, I know youll come up with some wonderful cure that will take care of Tim." I glanced at Haley to see her smiling proudly at me. I looked down, feeling rather sheepish at the praise.
"Well, Ill certainly do my best."
"So tell me, Andi, are you still an Eddie Bauer nut?" Again, feeling rather sheepish, I reached under the bench and grabbed a plastic shopping bag, holding it up for her to see. She laughed.
"Youre hopeless. Tell me those arent hiking boots." I could see Kendall nodding vigorously out of the corner of my eye. I held the bag tightly around the package inside so she could see the outline of a rectangle box. Haley shook her head. "I knew it." Did this woman forget nothing?
"Well, it helps to be predictable, especially during the holidays." I winked at her, and she grinned.
"Well, mom. You ready?"
"Ready when you are, hon." Both turned to me and Kendall who had also stood by my side.
"It was great chatting with you two." Haley smiled at Kendall. "And it was definitely nice to meet you, Kendall."
"It was nice to meet you, too, Haley." Kendal smiled, puffing her little chest out, proud to feel like one of the adults.
"Take care, Mrs. Corregan."
"Thank you, dear, and how many times do I have to tell you to call me Marsha?" she waggled a finger at me good-naturedly. I smiled, nodding.
I watched the two walk away, chatting amongst themselves, and my eyes drifted to Haley. It seemed bit by bit, day by day more of my time with her came back to me until she filled my thoughts, trying to remember. Wanting to.
"Shes a nice lady." I was ripped from my thoughts by Kendalls words. I nodded as we started down the main hall of the mall.
"Yes, she is."
* * *
I dropped Kendall off at home, and decided to take the extra time to head home to Winston and visit my mom. As I drove through my hometown, I took in the business that lined the streets, all so familiar to me. Places Id hung out at with my family, by myself, and with Haley. I stopped at a traffic light, glanced over to my left. Carloss Pizza Heaven was packed, cars filling the parking lot, and people going in and out.
A smile spread across my face as I remembered Haley and I there. We had almost adopted it as our hang out. Wed spend many hours there, and had lots of good laughs and talks.
The light turned green, and I drove on.
"Hello? Anyone home?" I laid my car keys on the table by the door, dropping my wallet there, too.
"Andrea? Is that you?" I heard yelled from upstairs.
"Yup." I headed up there, glancing into what had once been my room, but what now belonged to Clives youngest, Johnny, now a teenager. Alan, who uses Chriss room when he comes back from school, was at the university. He was nineteen now, and made me feel old. I remember when Clive would bring the boys over, and wed have a movie night, or Chris and I would play Play Station with them.
I looked toward my mom and Clives room, and saw her folding laundry.
"Hey, you." She smiled, walking over to me and gathering me in a huge hug, nearly cutting off my air supply. But, since I didnt visit as often as I should have, I never said anything. "What a wonderful surprise. What are you doing here?" I grabbed a pair of socks and folded them together.
"I just dropped Kendall off, so decided to come by and visit."
"How she doing? And when are you going to bring her by?" I shrugged sheepishly.
"I will, I promise."
"You always say that, young lady." She poked at me with her finger. I grinned, batting her finger away. "Hows work, honey?"
"Its good. Oh, speaking of. Youll never guess who I ran into there." She looked at me expectantly. "Remember my old friend Haley Corregan?"
"Of course. She was such a pretty girl."
"Yeah, well you should see her now. She works at the clinic."
"How long has she been there?"
"I think a few weeks now."
Wow. Thats pretty amazing, hon." She folded a pair of Clives long johns, and set them on a growing pile of clothing. "Is she married or anything? Have a family?" I stopped, thinking. My brows drew.
"I dont know. I guess I didnt ask her that."
"Well, maybe you should." She smiled at me. "Im glad youre here, honey." Another bone-crushing hug. "Are you staying for dinner?" I nodded with a grin.
"I dont get a home-cooked meal very often, you know."
"I know. I thought I taught you better than that, Andrea."
"Come on, you." She put her arm around my shoulders, and we headed downstairs. "Its just you and me tonight, kid." I was glad. I didnt get near enough alone time with my mom anymore.
* * *
The lights of my hometown passed by me as I drove, headed back to Rochester. I thought about what my mom had said about Haley, her questions. She was such a mystery to me now. At one time I knew all there was to know about her. What her dreams had been, her hopes, where she planned to go, and what she wanted to do there.
What about now? Had she achieved all that she had wanted to at this time in her life? She was thirty years old now, would turn thirty-one at the end of the year sometime. Had it really been twelve years since wed seen each other last?
Why do I feel like there is something there, something that I need to remember, to think about?
Clearing my mind of useless thoughts, I noticed a convenience store, and pulled into the parking lot. Once inside, I looked around, feeling the need to surprise Erin tonight. I saw a stand filled with rose bouquets, and grabbed one. They werent the best looking flowers youd ever seen, but on such short notice, it would do.
Bouquet and card in hand, I headed to the counter to pay.
Erin and I had actually been doing pretty good, lately. I still wasnt sure why we were still together. She was ready to settle down, wanted children, a dog, the whole nine yards. Where there was nothing wrong with this picture, it just wasnt in the cards for me. I knew that, and accepted that. I just didnt have it to give, no matter how much I may want to with Erin.
I sighed, a sadness filing me, for not the first time. I wasnt being fair to Erin, but then again, wed talked about this so many times, and she knew where I was coming from. I had given her the out so many times, telling her to go out and find someone who was where she was, and who was interested in joint savings.
She said shed wait.
I smiled as I crossed the city limits of Rochester, suddenly really excited to see her. I felt the need to hold her in my arms, and just bask in the warmth of being loved. Yes, I did love Erin. How could I be with her for three years, and not?
The turnoff to her house was coming up. I followed the road, glancing over at the things Id bought for her, hoping shed like them. Shes complained before that I dont give her surprises, so, here I am.
I pulled up to her house, my headlights reflecting off the garage door of the house. I saw a light on in her bedroom upstairs, so knew she was up. I cut the engine, and grabbed the card, digging a pen out of my coin tray. I clicked the clicker on the end of the pen as I thought of what to write.
An evil grin spread across my lips as I began to write. I stuck the card in the envelope, licked it shut, and headed out, digging the key to Erins house out of my key ring, and quietly unlocked the front door. I wanted to try and surprise her, and hoped I wouldnt scare the crap out of her in the process.
I closed the front door behind me, listening to try and figure out where Erin was, and what she was doing. I could hear the television in her bedroom, and could almost see her there, sitting up in bed, leaning against the headboard, reading glasses on, and a book in her hands. The TV would be unwatched, turned on merely for noise in the background.
I made my way up the stairs, gifts in hand. Stopping in the hallway, I peeked around the open bedroom door. Yup, she was so predictable. I could even see the book title from where I stood. I hadnt realized she read Danielle Steele, but each to her own.
If I wanted to I could probably just walk right over to the bed. When Erin read, she was gone from this world. I decided instead to take the Rambo approach. I jumped in the doorway with a loud cry, and lunged at the bed. I grinned at Erins scream as I landed on top of her.
"Goddamn it, Andi! You sacred the living shit out of me!" She began to beat on my butt as I laughed.
"Well, good. I wouldnt want you to have any dead shit in there."
"Yeah, funny. Whyd you do that?" I pushed myself up onto my arms and looked into her face. I shrugged.
"I wanted to surprise you."
"Well, you certainly did that." She grinned, bringing her hands up, running her fingers through my hair.
"Here." I showed her the flowers, and handed her the card. "Surprise."
"Oh, Andi." Erins face fell, her large brown eyes turning into the epitome of the puppy dog look. That always made me melt. She quickly ripped into the card, chuckling at the picture on the front, and then opening it to read what I had written. She looked at me over the top of it, an eyebrow raised. "You want to do that, huh?" She lowered the card, leaning forward so she was mere inches from me. "Thank you, baby. And I agree." She placed her hands on either side of my face, and leaned in. "I say we try that. What about you?" My eyes wandered down Erins face, resting on her lips.
* * *
I slammed my Jeeps door closed, tugging the strap of my bag higher onto my shoulder. I had just left the Clinic, and was now headed into the dojang that I had belonged to for nearly a decade. Sabum Nim Kyung had decided to retire, and so I had left. This dojang was much closer to my house, anyway. It would have been crazy to drive two towns over for practice every Saturday. And, it was only about fifteen minutes away from Mayo.
It was Wednesday night, and my Sabum Nim now had asked me to take over his class as he was at a championship. I taught the Saturday morning class, but figured tonight would be fun. I needed a break in my week. We had another serious case checked into the hospital yesterday afternoon. A young woman, reminding me a lot of Hannah Blackwell. Unfortunately, for some reason, we were finding that women who spent their younger years in a climate like ours, cold and harsh, were more susceptible to MS. It was a startling find, and certainly didnt hold much hope for our people here.
Hannah Blackwell was twenty-seven, younger than me, and got worse day by day. She had been diagnosed at age twenty-two, and had done well for about three to four years, then it had hit like an explosion. She could no longer walk now, and most days some part of her body was paralyzed all together.
Since I had begun to visit her on a regular basis, I was becoming more aware of what an actual patient went through, and not just a textbook or test tube. It was making my work that much more important to me, seeing what effect it had on real people who suffered daily.
I unlocked the door to the building, flipping on lights as I went. I always tried to get to class anywhere from an hour to a half hour before the students arrived.
Dropping my bag on the desk in the office, I dug out my dobok and ti, headed to the bathroom to change, though at first I just wore the pants and a tank. I preferred to do my warm-ups as comfortable as possible. Back in the office, I closed my eyes, raising my arms up above my head, breathing in deep, feeling my body come to order, my focus shining in on itself as I closed the outside world out.
Slowly I made my way to my knees, raising my face to the ceiling, taking slow, healthy deep breaths, filling my lungs, then slowly emptying them. Over and over I did this, finally getting deeper into the meditation as I sat down fully. I could feel every muscle in my body ready itself, every sense becoming sharper and sharper until they could cut like a knife.
I had kept up with my yoga all these years, too. Sometimes that was the only thing that would relax me after an eighteen hour day in the lab, bent over a microscope or slides all day. In fact, I still had more work to do once I got home. I had a laptop that was connected to our computers at work, and helped me keep an eye on levels and results.
I blew out one last breath, my eyes slowly opening. It was always so strange after I finished; I was always so disoriented and almost confused. I looked around, seeing the office furniture, the ancient computer that Sabum Nim Sasung used to keep track of his students and payment, and of course, a giant poster of our fearless leader when we was younger, looking remarkably like Bruce Lee.
With one final breath, I stood, and headed out to the main part of the studio. Now for my warm-up. I headed to the far wall where a bar was mounted, and began to stretch. I smiled as I remembered one time I had come to class without stretching, just coming from an early morning meeting at work, and didnt have time. I figured Id be fine. What was one time?
I couldnt walk for a week.
Did I ever learn a valuable lesson. Stretching my legs as far as they could go. Slowly going down into the splits, my hands resting neatly on my thighs, I bounced a couple times, then brought myself back up, startled by the feel of fingers on my shoulder.
My immediate response and instinct was to swing. I did, and to my surprise, my strike was stopped and countered. I turned, even more surprised to see Haley standing there, a smug look on her face. My eyes traveled down to see she wore a dobok, a black belt holding it together.
"Thanks. Nice try." I smiled.
"When are you going to learn not to sneak up on a warrior?" She cocked her head to the side.
"What are you doing here?" I continued to stretch, and Haley began to join me.
"Im here for class. I come every Wednesday night. What are you doing here?"
"Im playing teacher tonight."
"Ah, so youre who Sabum Nim got, huh?" I nodded. "I thought you went to a dojang in Winston?"
"I did, for many years. Sabum Nim retired, and I was here in Rochester, so this seemed the practical thing to do. I notice youve been at this for some time." I had seen the three gold bars on her ti. She nodded, smiling proudly.
"Yup. Someone got me hooked when I was still in high school." I grinned.
"When I found out there was a dojang not far from campus in L.A., I started up." I stopped stretching, and turned to her, touched.
"Thats wonderful, Haley. Im so glad you stuck with it. And just maybe someday youll be as good as I am." She looked at me, incredulous. I grinned at her, evil and sly.
"You want a piece of me, Littman?"
"Youre on, Corregan."
Let the sparring begin!
We moved out to the middle of the mats, both keeping a wary eye on the other, waiting for her to make the next move. I sensed the punch coming before I saw it, and turned, effectively blocking with my leg, then trying to knock her down. She saw it coming, and jumped back. We circled each other, neither daring to take their eyes off for even a second. Solid blow to my side, which I reimbursed with a flip. Haley didnt stay on the mat for long. She jumped up and away.
She may have had height on me, but I was quick, and had twenty-three years of experience. Though I had to admit, she had been taught well, and her concentration and focus was wonderful. She must be a true joy to have in class.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I heard the door to the building open as the students began to trickle in, murmurs of excitement as they watched their Sabum Nim, and Sunbae Nim fight. Soon I realized we had a complete circle around us. This, of course, egged us on even more.
We fought hard, both of us sweaty and charged with energy and waiting for the kill.
Finally I saw my opportunity, and knowing we had to bring this to an end, I swept Haley off her feet, pinning her with my elbow to her sternum. The class around us cheered, and I smiled down at her. She smiled back.
"Nice," she said.
"Thanks." Her dark bangs were stuck to her forehead, and I could feel my entire head crawling with little beads of sweat. I stood, helping Haley to her feet. "Lets hear it for Sunbae Nim, Haley." I lifted her arm, turning her in a circle as she was cheered on. I looked at her, she was smiling at me.
"I want a rematch, Littman."
"You got it."
* * *
I made my way to room 301 for the second time this week. When I had been in Monday, Hannah Blackwell had looked great. Shed been up and around, her color had looked good, and she had been very talkative.
Hannah had agreed to be a test subject for me, trying our latest theories, and lots of them had worked nicely thus far, though it was pretty soon to really gauge.
"Good afternoon, Dr. Littman." Nurse Wilson said from the nurses station. I smiled.
"How are you today?" I stopped for a moment, my arm resting along the high counter top. The woman with the smoothest dark skin I had ever seen, nodded her head.
"Cant really complain. Well, I could, but what good would that do?" We both chuckled.
"Hows Hannah doing today?" she shook her head, clicking her tongue.
"Not well, doctor. Youd best get in there."
With a heavy sigh, and even heavier heart, I headed to her room. Hannah lay in her bed, her wheelchair by the bed, and a woman sitting next to the sleeping younger woman. Her head was bent over, and I could hear the soft sobs.
About to turn around, not wanting to interrupt or intrude upon such a personal moment, I headed for the door.
"Excuse me?" I stopped, slowly turning to face the woman, her eyes swollen and red, black streaks from make-up watery from tears running down her cheeks. She quickly grabbed a tissue, and began to wipe her face.
"Are you a doctor here?"
"Well, Im not Hannahs doctor. Im Dr. Littman." The woman smiled, taking a step closer to me.
"Hannahs talked about you. Im Joan, Hannahs mother."
"Its nice to meet you, Joan. How is she doing today?"
"Not good." She turned and looked down at her daughter. I could see the anguish in her face, and the desperation in her eyes as she turned back to me. "Is there anything to be done, Dr. Littman? Havent you guys come up with something in your lab? Anything?"
"Well, unfortunately science can only work so fast, and humans work even slower. Someday I believe there will be a cure for this, but right now isnt that day. Hannah has done well, though."
"Thats what her doctors say. Shes my only baby, so young." She ran a trembling hand over her daughters face, then sat down again.
"Im so sorry," was all I could say, feeling my own throat tighten for how this woman must feel. "I have to get going. I only came by to say hello."
"Thank you, Dr. Littman. I know that your visits have meant a lot to Hannah." I looked at her, stunned. I had no idea.
"Well, Im glad, then. Ill certainly keep coming by." I smiled, then turned and left the room.
As I made my way downstairs to the lunchroom, I thought about that poor girl laying in the bed, today her body useless to her. She was experiencing nearly complete paralysis. It may go away by tomorrow, or may stick around for a week. One never knew with this.
I sighed, and pushed the button on the elevator. How on earth did medical doctors deal with this? How did they separate themselves from the patients they tried to help? What about those who just couldnt be helped?
I know Hannahs doctor, and knew she had the best the hospital had to offer. But chances were good that there wasnt much hope for her.
Knowing that Erin wouldnt be able to come to lunch today, as she was entirely too busy to leave, I sat at a table by myself, not hungry, but needing some time away from the lab. If even fifteen minutes. I ran my hands through my hair, and sighed.
"Hey there. Looks like your dog just died." I looked up to see Haley staring down at me, her lunch in her hand. I smiled.
"May I sit?" I nodded. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah. I was just up to see Hannah Blackwell. God, its so sad to see that poor girl withering away like that."
"I know." Haley sat down, getting herself organized with her bowl of barley soup, and an array of different kinds of crackers. "I was up there this morning. She couldnt even move." I nodded.
"Her mom is up there now. Shes really torn up about this."
"I can understand that." She smiled, but it was so sad. I thought of her father. What was she going through with this? What about her mom, who was there with him all the time?
"Your mom must be one strong woman, Haley." She looked at me for a moment, then began to crush crackers into the soup.
"She is. They put dad on a new medicine yesterday."
"What is it?"
"Thats a good one. I hope his body will respond well to it."
"Yeah, me, too." She looked at me for a moment, taking a bite of the soup that smelled really, really good. "So tell me about yourself, Andi. Are you married? In a relationship?"
"Im in a relationship. What about you? Married?" I had been so curious about this question, wondering what Haley had done with her personal life. She nodded.
"I was. For two years." I was surprised, but not that much.
"When did it end?"
"Oh, jeez, five years ago, I guess? Wow, time goes by fast. We were both still in school. Both were far too young."
"What was his name?"
"Wow. Im trying to picture you heading down that aisle." I smiled, resting my cheek against my fist.
"Well, I never did." She grinned. "We didnt have a whole lot of money, and certainly no time, my folks and Holden flew out, and we did a little Justice of the Peace thing. Then our folks threw us a huge reception. It was nice."
"Did you like being married?" she shrugged.
"It was okay, I guess. I think it would have helped if we had gotten married for the right reasons. Getting married to help pay the rent, and to not have to worry about dating while in school are not those reasons." She smiled, so did I.
"Well, you sound okay with it."
"Oh, yeah. Im fine. We still talk on occasion. Hes way over in Alaska now. Hes the one and only doctor in some tiny little town."
"Dr. Littman, you have a call on 407. Dr. Littman, call on 407." I sighed, stood.
"Well, I better get. Catch you later?" Haley smiled up at me.
"Bet on it."
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