Part Two

 

Chapter Three

Regina checked her watch. It was nine in the morning and she still had some time before her appointment at the follow-up clinic to have her stitches taken out. She returned the book she was reading on emergency medicine to the rack in the medical library, and Regina allowed herself a small smile as she recalled several admissions that she was involved in over the past two weeks. She handled them all fairly well and even managed to get a grumbled Ďnice jobí from her usually taciturn attending. It was a rarity to see Dr. Margulies smile and most of the staff kept their distance from her. Picking up her bag, Regina walked out of the medical library and headed up the back staircase.

Stopping by the emergency department, Regina saw Sandy standing at the desk, busily scrawling notes on one of the flow sheets. "Hi Sandy."

The nurse looked up from her work and smiled. "How are you doing?"

Regina smiled. "Pretty good. No major catastrophes."

Sandy watched as one of the guys from materials management lifted a brown carton of medical supplies off his cart and set it on the ground by the supply closet. Without a look back, he hastily pushed his cart down the hall and disappeared around the corner.

Shaking her head in disgust Sandy looked over at Regina. "He sets it right underneath a sign that says, ĎNo boxes or stretchers in the hallwayí." She walked over to the box and started to lift it.

"Here, let me help you with that," Regina knelt down, took hold of the other side of the box and helped Sandy lift it up onto a chair. They carried the box into the supply closet and set it on one of the shelves to be unpacked later.

"How are you making out working with Dr. Margulies?" Sandy asked, knowing the attendingís quick temper if her residentís were unprepared.

Regina shrugged her shoulders indifferently. "I guess ok. I havenít had my head lopped off yet, so that must be a good thing."

Sandy laughed. "Oh yeah, you donít want to be around when she goes on one of her tirades."

"Hello ladies." Regina froze, feeling her hair prickle on her arms.

Turning around, Regina saw Derrick standing dressed in his police uniform, leaning against the doorframe.

He let his eyes roam over Regina's body and smiled at her. "Can I talk with you, Regina?"

Regina looked over at Sandy and back to Derrick. "Uh, yeah. I have a few minutes, Derrick."

"Good. Let's take a walk then," Derrick replied. Regina squeezed by him and crossed her arms in front of her, walking down the hallway ahead of him.

Derrick placed a hand on her shoulder and turned her around to face him as they reached the end of the hallway. Regina found herself looking up into his smiling face. "I missed you Regina," he said, trying hard to make himself sound apologetic and sincere.

Regina swallowed and looked down at her feet. "Derrick, why did you come here?"

"Well, considering you wouldn't answer any of my messages, I figured this would be the best place to find you. We need to talk, Regina," Derrick lifted her face up with his fingers and studied her.

"Derrick, please don't do this." She backed away from him.

"Regina, listen to me. We could have something really good together. I made a mistake. I said I was sorry, what more do you want?" He moved closer to her, spreading his arms out in a plea.

Regina took a step back shaking her head. "Derrick, there's nothing that we have to say to each other." The young resident pushed the door to the locker room open and walked to her locker. She spun the lock several times and pulled it open, then reached inside and pulled out a black jewelry box. She turned and held it out to him. "Take it."

"No, Regina, Iím not taking it back. We belong together." Derrick took the box from her and set it on the top shelf of her locker and closed the door. "I love you, Regina." Derrick slipped his arm around her waist and pulled her close.

Regina tried to pull away, but he tightened his grip. "Derrick, stop it!" she said, pushing at his arms.

"Keep your voice down, Regina. Nobody else needs to hear our business," he hissed at her.

"Derrick let go, you're hurting me." Regina glared up at him.

Derrick pulled her roughly against him and grabbed hold of her lower jaw between his thumb and index finger. "Regina, stop playing games with me." He put his other arm around her and pulled her close, pushing his mouth against hers and forcing his tongue inside.

She jerked her head away from him, wiping her mouth in disgust. Hot tears rolled from the corners of her eyes. "You bastard. Iím not playing games. Go away, Derrick."

Derrick pulled back. "Youíve had your fun Regina. Itís time you start paying more attention to me than you do to this damn hospital."

"How dare you think you can just order me around. I donít love you, Derrick, and Iím sure as hell not going to marry you."

Angrily, he shoved her away from him. Losing her balance, Regina stumbled back into the sink behind her, crying out as her back slammed into the corner of the porcelain sink. She slumped onto the floor in a heap, holding her back.

Derrick stood over her with his hands on his hips. "When you come to your senses, you let me know, Regina."

As Derrick turned and walked away, she said, "I already have, Derrick."

Regina sat on the floor until the throbbing in her back and neck subsided enough for her to move without gasping for breath.

Moments later Sandy poked her head in the door. "Dr. Kingston? I saw Derrick leave. Are youÖoh my god! What happened?" Sandy ran and knelt down beside Regina.

The resident shook her head and lifted her arm up. Sandy grabbed hold of her hand and pulled her into a hug. "Oh boy, youíre in trouble here kiddo. We need to call security."

"No, please donít. I thought if I told him no, he would leave me alone," Regina sniffed, wiping the tears from her eyes.

"I have to notify security, Dr. Kingston. Itís hospital policy."

"But Derrick's a police officer, Sandy."

"I know, but he can't keep doing this to you." Sandy put her hands on Regina's shoulders, steadying her.

Regina nodded her head. "I've got to go. I'm going to be late for my appointment at the clinic."

Sandy walked Regina down the back hallway. "Go on. I can fill out the forms and then weíll talk to security."

"Sandy - " Regina started to object.

"No arguments," Sandy answered, holding up her hand.

******

Regina sat in the small waiting room of the clinic. The walls were painted a putrid green that was fading and in desperate need of a new paint job. Cold air was blowing out of the overhead vents and she sank down in her chair folding her arms over her chest to warm herself. Regina tilted her head back against the wall, taking shallow breaths; her back hurt where she struck the corner of the sink, when Derrick shoved her.

Listening to the giggles coming from around the corner, Regina picked her head up and saw two boys running around the furniture chasing each other.

"Mason, Thomas - stop running around and come sit by me." A tired-looking, middle-aged woman told them sternly. Both boys slowed and looked over at her, before they gave up their game and crawled up onto the chairs next to her. Studying the woman for a moment, Regina noticed the shunt underneath the skin of her forearm and realized that the woman was suffering from kidney failure and was on dialysis.

Regina looked up as another woman picked up her child and walked toward the desk when the nurse called her name. Closing her eyes, Regina tried to make some sense of the jumble of thoughts whirling in her head.

"Dr. Kingston?"

Regina opened her eyes and looked up. "That's me."

"You can come with me. I'm going to put you in this room." The small blonde clerk looked in the chart as she directed Regina into an exam room. "Let me seeÖ oh, you're getting some stitches removed. Ok, just take your shirt off, and put that gown on."

Regina set her bag down on the plastic chair and unbuttoned her shirt. She winced as she brought her arms behind her back to pull the sleeves from her arms. Slipping the gown on, she sat on the exam table. She was glad the stitches were coming out. They had been itching mercilessly the past three days.

She felt her heart rate accelerate when an image of Derrick towering over her in the locker room flooded her mind. She shook her head in disbelief that this was happening to her. Thankfully, her parents were taking their annual vacation and wouldnít be back for another week. She couldnít bear to have to listen to them tell her how Derrick was a good man and that she should consider settling down with him. If only they knew what he was really like.

Regina picked her head up as she heard movement outside the door. There was a knock and the handle turned, pushing the door open a crack. She heard the woman from the waiting room asking a question, and the door pulled closed slightly.

A voice she recognized as Dr. Margulies' came through the door. "Just make sure you give Jeremy the inhaler treatments two times a day. The humidity will tend to make his asthma worse, so you don't want to miss any treatments." There was a pause and she heard the attending's voice again. "If thereís a problem, just bring him back to the emergency room."

The door pushed open and Regina watched as Dr. Margulies entered the exam room. She was wearing sneakers, blue scrubs and a lab coat.

"So, Dr. Kingston how are you doing today?" Alex walked over to the sink and washed her hands. She looked back over her shoulder at Regina. "Bet you're glad those stitches are coming out."

Regina nodded her head and watched as the doctor pulled out two plastic packages from the drawer next to the sink. She swallowed, feeling her throat go a little dry. She hadnít expected that Dr. Margulies would be covering the clinic. Usually the residents did the follow up visits with the patients.

The doctor pulled some gloves out of the box on the wall and slipped them onto her hands; one ripped and she pulled it off. "No wonder." She opened the cabinet above the sink and pulled out a box of large latex gloves, slipped on a pair and turned around. "So which do you want me to take out first, the ones on the back or the arm?"

Regina shrugged. "It doesn't matter."

"Alright. Let's do your back first. Your arm is going to take a bit longer, and those stitches on your back won't feel very good on that hard table. Go ahead and lie on your stomach," the tall dark-haired doctor directed, as she opened the package and set the tweezers and scissors on the sterile towel that was covering the metal instrument tray.

Regina rolled onto her stomach and turned her head to stare at the wall. She felt the cool air on her skin as Dr. Margulies pulled her gown open. There was a moment of dead silence in the room and Regina turned her head around to look back at the doctor, who was looking down at Regina's back with an odd expression on her face.

The older doctor looked up at Regina and took a breath. "That's a pretty nasty bruise you've got there." She ran a finger around the edges of the purplish discoloration on Regina's skin. When she pressed down gently, she heard a sharp intake of breath as Regina winced in pain.

"You're lucky this wasn't any higher or you might have broken a couple of ribs."

Regina lowered her eyes, unable to meet the doctorís steady gaze. "I fell," she explained. She heard the wheels of the stool squeak as Dr. Margulies sat down and positioned herself next to the exam table.

Regina felt the tape peeled away from her skin as she removed the gauze bandage. "You're going to feel a few tugs as I do this," the attending told her.

Alex snipped away at the knot and gently removed the stitches with the tweezer. When she finished, she dabbed some antiseptic on the site. "Sorry, that was a little cold," she noted, seeing Regina flinch.

"It's ok." Regina's voice was muffled, as she had tucked her head into the crook of her elbow. She closed her eyes when she felt the tugging again as the stitches were removed from her left shoulder blade.

"Ok. Now, the arm is probably going to be a little more uncomfortable; the flesh is more sensitive there." Dr. Margulies set the tweezer and scissor on the tray. "You can roll onto your back and let your arm rest here." Alex pulled out an armrest from the side of the table for Regina to put her arm on.

The resident closed her eyes as Alex started to unwrap the gauze bandage from around her arm. She knew that there would be a fresh bruise from Derrick's hand gripping her there. There would be no mistaking the old yellowish green mark from the cuts that ran down the inside of her elbow from the imprint of his fingers. It was too sore for it not to be. She felt the cool air against her skin as the bandage was removed and heard the doctor shift her weight on the stool.

"Regina," Dr. Marguliesí voice was low and gentle. "What happened today?"

She jerked her head up and looked at Alex startled. "HowÖ" Regina stopped and looked as the doctor just sat there, holding the rolled up gauze in both hands, watching her face.

"Those bruises on your back are fresh. Probably less than two hours old, I would guess."

Regina nodded her head in acknowledgement and looked up at the ceiling, trying not to cry. God, don't be such a baby, she told herself, but the tears started down her cheeks anyway.

Dr. Margulies watched in silence, debating with herself. "Was it him again?"

Regina nodded and wiped her eyes. "Sorry. I didn't mean to get upset. I justÖI told him I didn't want to see him anymore. He showed up today andÖ" She let her voice trail off, suddenly feeling very tired and overwhelmed.

The doctorís eyes widened in shock. "Here?"

Regina nodded her head.

"Thatís it. Iím calling security." Dr. Margulies stood up to walk to the wall phone, but Regina stopped her.

"Sandy already called them. Iím going to file a report after Iím done here."

Dr. Margulies turned around, nodding. "First things first. Let's get these stitches out and then we'll talk."

Talk, Alex snorted to herself mentally. Yeah, what are you going to say that will make a difference?

Alex finished removing the stitches and placed a couple of butterfly strips over the areas that werenít completely closed yet. Looking up Alex held her hand out and helped Regina sit up. "Go ahead and get dressed. When youíre done, my office is down the hall on the left. We can talk there."

Dr. Margulies washed her hands and walked into the small office. Sitting down behind the desk, she finished making some notes in the chart before her. She ticked through some of the options available to Regina in her head, sighed, and looked up as Regina appeared at her door.

"Sit down." Alex pushed her chair back to give Regina some room to sit in the chair next to her desk. She signed the note discharging Regina from her medical care, then looked up at the blonde haired woman sitting before her and considered what to say.

"Have you thought about what you want to do?" she finally asked.

Regina looked down at her shoes and fidgeted in her chair. "I don't know. He's a police officer. He's got a lot of connections at the courthouse."

Dr. Margulies leaned across the desk. "Regina, he doesnít have any right to do what he's done to you, no matter who he is."

Regina looked up and met clear blue eyes looking back at her. "I know."

The tall dark-haired doctor leaned back in her chair, her brow creased in concentration. "Listen, Sandyís right. You should get a restraining order against him."

Regina gripped the armrest of the chair. "Iím afraid itís just going to make him angrier."

"Itís better than nothing. Legally, it will give you some rights," Dr. Margulies said. "At least think about it.

******

Two days passed since Derrick confronted Regina in the locker room. Holding the black jewelry box in her hand now, she stood in front of her locker and pondered how she would give it back to him. She was sure she didnít want the ring. It had been bought for all the wrong reasons and the sooner she gave it back to him, the better. Until then it was just a bitter reminder of his need to control and manipulate her. Setting the box inside, she shut the door and walked down to the security office to file her complaint against Derrick.

Regina met Marcus as she walked out of the security office after completing the report. It took her those two days to get the courage together to do this. It ended up being a rather unsettling experience as the older security officer questioned her extensively. By the time Regina was finished, she felt that she was the one who had done something wrong, not Derrick.

"What were you doing in security?" Marcus asked, sensing that something was wrong, from the distressed look on Reginaís face.

"Uh, I canít find my car keys. I think I dropped them outside somewhere," Regina said.

Marcus took the statement at face value and left it at that.

Walking through the busy hallway by the hospitalís main entrance, they heard a hospital code for a patient emergency, announced over the intercom system for the emergency department. Seconds later their pagers beeped and the ERís stat page was visible on both their displays. Marcus cursed under his breath.

"God, she never leaves us alone," he complained.

Regina cast a wary glance at her colleague. Marcus was growing increasingly more vocal about the fact that he didnít like the emergency medicine rotation and disliked Dr. Margulies even more.

"Marcus, why did you pick this for a specialty rotation if you hate it so much?" Regina asked, as they both ran up the stairs to the first floor.

He didnít get a chance to answer her as they entered the emergency department. Regina squeezed past a patient sitting slouched in a wheelchair. One of the medical students was taking a history and she cringed at the hesitation that she heard in his voice. She looked over at Marcus. "God, were we that bad when we were medical students?"

He looked at her blankly; totally unaware of what she was talking about. "What?"

Regina waved her hand. "Never mind, Marcus."

Sandy practically ran into them as she came out of the supply room, carrying a set of restraints.

"Good, youíre both here. Weíve got a guy in trauma three whose pumped so high on cocaine he already broke one set of restraints," the nurse said, her eyes pleading for help.

"Thatís why you paged us? Isnít that securityís job?" Marcus asked, obviously annoyed that his lunch was postponed for something that he believed was beneath him. Regina and Marcus quickly pulled on their masks, gowns and gloves before they slipped into the room.

Sandy ignored his comment, pushed the door to the trauma room open, and immediately ducked as a tray loaded with instruments sailed across the room crashing against the wall.

Several curses followed and then Regina heard Dr. Marguliesí voice. "Sandy, I hope those restraints youíve got in your hands are leather." She was struggling to pin the wild-eyed manís arm down to the stretcher. One of the other nurses was fighting to keep his other arm pinned down to his side.

"Sorry. I brought a double set to tie him down with." She approached the large, drug- crazed man warily.

"Hear you have a party going on down here, Dr. Margulies." Marcus stepped over the scattered instruments and looked distastefully around the chaotic room. One curtain hung by only a few hooks and the rod holding it to the ceiling swung precariously overhead.

"Are you here to give commentary or to help Dr. Jack?" Alex growled through clenched teeth as she finally pinned the patientís arm to his side.

One of the ER techs kicked the tray and scattered instruments out of the way. "Tommy, forget about that stuff." One of the other nurses in the room told him. "Help me hold is arm down, so I can tie it."

Regina walked up to the end of the stretcher and took a restraint that Sandy handed her. She slipped it around the manís ankle very carefully and then cinched the loop tight, tying a knot around the rail of the stretcher.

"Sandy, come up here and letís try these damn restraints again. Where the hell is security anyway?" Alex ducked as the nurse on the other side of the stretcher lost control of the patientís arm and his fist sailed across, aimed at her head. "Damn it, Thomas, help Maggie hold that arm, before someone gets hurt."

"Theyíre on their way," Sandy said, as she struggled to wrap the restraint around the manís wrist. All the while cursing, as he writhed and bucked against the arms holding him down, causing the side rails of the stretcher to rattle.

Marcus tied the other arm down to the bed and stepped back. "You need a line in him?"

Alex looked up at him. "That would be our usual protocol, Marcus. Make sure that restraint is secure before you stick him."

Regina stepped up beside Marcus. "Can I help with anything?"

"Help Dr. Jack put a line in this guyís arm," Alex said.

"I can get a line in without any help," Marcus snapped, as he opened the package containing the needle for the IV.

"I know you can Dr. Jack, but you need someone to immobilize his arm, unless of course you can do both at once," Dr. Margulies said.

Regina grasped the manís beefy forearm as Marcus jabbed the needle in. The man grimaced and his fist clenched as Marcus searched for the vessel.

"Marcus, wait," Regina said, pulling the strap of the restraint down, trying to tighten the knot that was quickly working its way loose from the manís violent struggling.

The patient on the stretcher grunted and convulsed violently, ripping his arm out of the restraint and striking Marcus. It happened so fast that Regina hardly had time to think. On instinct, she lunged for his flailing arm as Marcus unsuccessfully tried to keep the needle in place.

Regina felt the sharp sting of the needle plunging into her forearm, as Marcus tried to re-insert it. Yelping in surprise, she yanked her arm back.

Everything seemed to slow down around her as Regina stepped back from the table and stared at the needle that was imbedded in her arm and the clear tubing that was filled with blood from the patientís artery. Her heart raced and she backed up to the sink. Around her she could hear shouts and loud noises but they seemed far away now. She pulled the needle out of her arm and looked at the blood welling to the surface of the puncture site.

Marcus looked at her and blinked as he retied the restraint. Regina could see his mouth form the words Ďoh shití, and she knew she was in trouble. Very slowly she turned around to the sink and started washing the small puncture site vigorously. She felt the contact of a warm hand on her shoulder and she looked up to see Dr. Margulies standing next to her, a worried expression on her face. "Let me see."

Regina turned her arm over, felt the strong hands grip her forearm and squeeze hard around the site.

"Youch!" She wrenched her arm away and glared at the dark haired woman.

"You need to make it bleed first," Dr. Margulies explained, staring hard at her.

"You could have warned me," Regina retorted, rubbing the reddened skin on her forearm gingerly.

Dr. Margulies turned away from Regina and held her hand out. "Sandy, give me his chart. Hurry up." She flipped through the record and muttered to herself angrily.

"Whatís wrong?" Regina asked, acutely aware of the sound of her own blood racing through her ears.

Dr. Margulies turned the chart around and pointed to some scribbled notes on the white history form. Regina read the words, comprehension dawning slowly along with a sinking feeling in her gut. The letters HIV+ stared back at her. She swallowed, and then looked up at the doctor standing in front of her. "Oh no." Her mouth was suddenly very dry and a chill ran up her spine.

"Come on, we need to start the post exposure treatment." Alex put a hand behind her back and started to guide her from the room.

"WÖwait." Regina turned around, holding her hands out in front of her. "This is a high risk exposure right?" She tried hard to control her voice.

Dr. Margulies let her hand fall to her side. "Yes - it is." She looked back at Marcus who was standing helplessly by the stretcher. "Dr. Jack, you can finish in here. Make sure his restraints are secure before you try again." Marcusí face turned crimson at the remark. "Sandy, page Dr. Washington and get him up here now. When the IV line is in the patient, give him .5 milligrams of Narcan to sedate him."

Sandy nodded, quickly tying off the last restraint. "Thomas get the leads on him now so we can hook him up to the monitor. Maggie," she said, turning to her colleague. "Get the IV in him, and Marcus, you hold his arm this time."

The remaining team continued doing what they needed to as Dr. Margulies led Regina from the room. Walking down the crowded corridor, Alex held her hand up stopping one of the nurses coming at her with a chart. "Get Dr. Alfonso. He can handle it." Pushing open a door to a darkened exam room she flicked the light on and held the door open, ushering Regina inside. Alex rummaged through one of the file cabinets and pulled out a couple of forms that she handed to Regina. "You need to read this and sign it. Itís the consent form for treatment."

Regina took the papers and stared at them blankly.

"Iíll be right back." Alex left Regina alone in an empty exam room, while she disappeared to procure the supplies that she needed.

Regina sat quietly reading the consent form for treatment. Her mind was racing and it felt like her heart was pounding so hard that she thought it was going to jump out of her chest.

She tried not to think about the blood inside the tubing, or how long the needle had been in her arm, releasing the infected fluid into her body. She knew the virusí unalterable course all to well. There was no grace period if she was infected. Mononucleosis-like symptoms would develop between six days and six weeks after infection and in three weeks the HIV antibodies would be detectable in her blood stream.

Regina shook her head. Of all the stupid things to have happen; a bloody needle stick, she thought. Picking up the pen, she held it in her hand as she read the last few lines. Her hand was trembling and it took all her concentrated effort to sign her name legibly on the line at the bottom of the page.

The door opened and Regina looked up as Dr. Margulies walked in. Alex was carrying several empty vials for blood. Sitting down in front of Regina, she set the vials on the tray next to her. They rolled back and forth making a gentle clatter of glass on metal. Pulling a length of rubber tubing from her lab coat pocket, Alex held it in both hands.

"Weíre going to run a complete blood count with differential, urinalysis, and chemical profile with liver function tests," Alex said, rattling off the list of standard blood tests used for blood exposures.

The door to the room opened and an ER tech walked in, oblivious to Alex and Regina sitting in the back of the room. Alex pivoted in her chair. "Hey, do you always just barge into a room like that?"

The young woman stopped in her tracks and stared at Alex. "IÖI just needed to get a central line kit."

"Next time knock, first," Alex snapped. The woman stood awkwardly unsure of whether she should leave or not. Alex tilted her head. "Hurry up and get what you need and get out, now."

The woman quickly retrieved the kit she was looking for and made a hasty retreat from the room.

Regina held her arm out flinching a little as Alex slipped the rubber tubing around her bicep cinching it tightly. She flexed her hand several times and waited as Alex uncapped the syringe and felt for an artery with skilled fingers. Her eyes flicked up to the doctorís, meeting briefly, and darted back to her arm.

"Not bad for a doctor," Regina said, after the needle penetrated her skin and dark red blood ran freely into the tube.

Alex looked up in surprise. "Did I hurt you?"

"No, no," Regina said, laughing softly, trying to break some of the tension she was feeling inside. "Just an inside joke among the nurses. They all think we do a terrible job of drawing blood."

Regina watched the blood fill the tube then turned her face away as another thought made her catch her breath. "The lab in the hospital is going to run the tests right?"

Alex looked up as she pulled the vial off and replaced it with another one. Undoing the band, she removed it from Reginaís arm. "Yeah - they do." Taking in Reginaís worried look, Alex took a stab at what was bothering her. "If you want, I can run the tests myself, that way no one else has to know."

"Would you?" Regina asked, her eyes brightening. "I mean itís not that I donít trust them itís just that - well - you know how some things donít stay confidential even when theyíre supposed to," she said, and her shoulders hunched slightly as if a weight was settling on her again.

Alex nodded her head, knowing all too well how rumors, false or not, got started and traveled like wildfire through the large medical center. "Iíll take care of it. Donít worry."

"Thanks. That makes me feel a lot better," Regina said.

Alex blinked and scribbled some notes on the form in front of her. She took a breath and set her pen on the table. "Do we need to do a pregnancy test?" Alex asked her quietly. She felt awkward asking the question but it was necessary.

Regina jumped at the question. "Pregnancy? No, no, Iím not pregnant."

Alex nodded and looked away. "The medication has some strong side effects. Just wanted to make sure."

Regina nodded and ran a hand through her hair. "So, what am I going to be taking?" Her voice trembling slightly as her emotions threatened to overwhelm her.

"Zidovudine and Lamivudine. Theyíre more effective if you take them in combination." Alex explained.

"What are the chances -" Reginaís voice trailed off and she didnít finish her question.

"About one in three hundred," Alex said, and then quickly added, "the research says the medicine lowers the risk by eighty percent." Standing up, she walked to the door. "Weíll test your blood in six weeks, then again in three and six months."

Regina looked up and took a shaky breath. "So if I make it to six months Iíll be free and clear?"

Alex looked down at the floor. "Hopefully."

Regina nodded her head slowly, a faint smile lighting her face. "Then Iíll chill a bottle of champagne, just in case."

Alex straightened her shoulders and looked at Regina. "You do that." She managed a small smile and walked out. She headed to the desk that ran the length of the nursing station and reached over the counter, pulling out the labels she needed for the vials of blood. She wrote down the information and looked up, watching as Sandy walked over to her.

"How is she?" The nurse asked.

Alex shrugged her shoulders. "Pretty shaken up." She stared down at her hands. "Damn, I shouldnít have let Marcus put that line in. Heís got such a damn cocky streak in him, thinks he knows everything."

"Alex donít blame yourself. That could have happened to anybody. That guy was out of his mind on drugs. It was a freak accident." Sandy sighed. "I wouldnít be surprised if that kid walks out of here today and doesnít look back."

Alex snapped her head around, a look of shock and worry on her face as she looked at the nurse. "She seems a lot tougher than that Sandy."

"Weíll see. She wouldnít be the first resident who ditched out, lord knows others have run from less than what sheís been dealing with," Sandy said.

Alex realized that Sandy was also referring to Reginaís ongoing problems with her boyfriend. The thought of him hurting Regina again made Alex think of several very painful things that she could do him. "Let that jerk come in here again and Iíll make him wish heíd never met her."

Sandy raised an eyebrow. "Since when do you care so much about your residentsí personal lives?"

"I donít," Alex answered quickly. "Sheís a nice kid and she deserves better that that." Alex picked up the vials of blood and slipped them gently into her lab coat pocket. "If anybodyís looking for me Iíll be in the lab."

Sandy stood at the desk with a thoughtful look on her face as Alex walked away. "You say you donít care, Alex. Weíll see."

******

After she left the emergency room, Regina walked numbly up the back stairwell listening to her footsteps echo on the metal stairs. God, what a wretched day, she thought.

She walked onto the pediatric unit to check on a little boy that they admitted the day before. After reading his chart she just leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes, trying to fight back the tears. Damn, why did this have to happen? It was like some cruel joke was being played on her.

Thinking back, she hadnít realized how much Derrick had been manipulating her all along. That was until he proposed to her. A marriage proposal, of all the stupid things, she shook her head in disgust as she recalled him digging in his pocket for the box. She was glad she was walking away before she got caught in a worse situation. Regina suspected that Derrick was capable of much worse than what he had already done. She never expected him to get so angry, thought that he would give up and walk away, but his male ego prevented such a gesture of defeat.

So, she had six months of waiting, praying to god that she didnít develop the antibodies for HIV. What the hell was she going to do if she did? Would they still let her treat patients? How could she even tell her family? The thought struck Regina as ironic and she stifled a harsh laugh as she pictured herself telling her mother she was HIV positive. Gee mom, you were always so terrified your son would bring home the dreaded disease and disgrace you even more.

"Dr. Kingston?" A voice called out behind her, by the tone of it she could tell she hadnít heard it the first time.

Pushing her morose thoughts aside, she swiveled her chair around, and looked at the nurse. "Yes?"

"The kid you admitted yesterday is in room nine. I canít get him to calm down. Heís been crying and calling for his mother for an hour now." By the tone of the nurseís voice Regina could tell that she was at the end of her rope and looking for someone to bail her out.

Regina frowned. "Have you called his mother to come in?"

The nurse folded her arms and her face darkened. "I would but we donít know where she is. She hasnít been back and her phone is disconnected."

"Oh." Regina stood up and walked toward the nurse. "Let me take a look at him."

"Actually, I wanted to know if we could give him something to calm him down."

Regina looked at her as she stepped around the corner of the desk, carefully avoiding a young girl who was walking down the hallway, dragging an IV pole along behind her.

"Page his primary doctor. I canít change his medication. Iím not on his case anymore, you know that."

"I canít get a hold of him," the nurse said.

Regina walked down the carpeted hallway and into the cramped room, painted in a light blue color with a border of animal caricatures running around the top of the wall. Standing in the metal crib with the rails pulled up around him like he was in jail, was a light skinned, curly toe head with baby blue eyes. Both of his legs were wrapped in bulky bandages from his hips down to his feet. His voice was hoarse and he was wheezing as he sobbed and hopped back and forth on his bandaged legs.

"Momma!" The air whistled through his irritated throat. "Momma!" He wailed and rattled the bars with his chubby hands.

The nurse walked to the crib and looked at him sternly. "Justin, you have to calm down, sweetheart, youíre gonna hurt yourself."

Regina pulled a pair of gloves onto her hands and walked up to the crib. She lowered the rail down and stepped close to the distraught child holding her arms out to him. "Whatís wrong, Justin?" She asked.

He teetered on his feet and then crashed into her, wrapping his arms tightly around her neck. "Momma! I want my momma!" He cried and hiccupped into her shoulder.

Regina felt the heat coming off his fever-wracked body and wrapped her arms around him, cradling him against her chest. "Iím sorry, love." Regina stroked his back, walked over to the rocking chair, and sat down. "Mommaís not here Justin. We have to try and find her for you. Ok?"

The blonde head pulled back, wise blue eyes regarding her for a moment, and Regina felt the odd sensation that she was holding in her arms someone who had been this way before in life. Justin scrunched down against her and tucked his head under her chin. His wailing slowly stopped and his sobbing subsided to muffled whimpering and hiccupping. Regina looked up at the nurse who was staring at her. "Has social work called the DYFS yet?" The nurse nodded her head and slipped quietly from the room, relieved that the kid was no longer screaming.

Regina tilted her head back against the chair and rocked gently. She looked down at the blonde curls resting against her chest and smiled sadly. "Oh Justin, I think I need this as badly as you do." He snuggled closer and stuck his thumb in his mouth, clutching her around her neck with his other hand. Regina lowered her cheek to his head and let the tears roll down her cheeks unchecked.

After Justin cried himself to sleep in her arms, Regina stood up from the rocking chair and carried him back to his crib. She bent over, unwrapping his arms from around her neck and laid him gently onto his back.

"Youíll be ok Justin," she whispered, and pressed her lips against his forehead. Justin squirmed and opened his eyes. His two chubby little hands reached up and held her cheeks.

"Flutterby kiss," he whispered, and Regina watched as he lifted his head and blew a kiss at her. She ran her hand over his curly hair and smiled sadly at him, then slid the side rail back up into place and walked out of the room.

Part 3

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