Regina fell asleep in bed still wearing her clothes. It had been a restless night filled with strange dreams and she woke up finding herself tangled in the bed covers. After several minutes of kicking and wrestling with them, she rolled out of bed, quickly showered, dressed, and ate a quick breakfast of cereal and juice. It was still raining out so she opted to drive the short distance to the hospital, parking in the lot reserved for medical staff.
She practically ran into Marcus and Dr. Washington in her haste to get into the emergency department.
"I guess you already know about last night?" she asked, looking warily at the two of them. Marcus nodded his head but remained silent. Ever since the day that the incident with the needle-stick occurred, Marcus had tried to keep his distance from Regina, succeeding more lately than in the beginning.
"Yeah, we heard," Dr. Washington said, looking grim. He looked around the department and grabbed the residentís arm, pulling her into the staff lounge. "Listen, Regina, everyone knows that you and Dr. Margulies did the right thing. Jameson is using this as an opportunity to discredit her."
"I know," Regina said, her eyes glistening with tears.
"You have to talk to Alex before she leaves. I donít know what he said to her but sheís giving up her privileges and resigning. I saw her earlier this morning."
Reginaís heart skipped a beat. "You mean sheís quitting? Just like that? I donít understand. Why?"
He shrugged. "I donít know Regina. Maybe sheíll talk to you." Dr. Washington smiled sadly. "You both did a great job last night." He patted her on the shoulder. "The woman was asking for you and Alex when she came out of recovery. You should go see her," he said, before he left the room.
Regina walked aimlessly through the corridors of the hospital. Everyone she asked told her they had not seen Alex and she was getting worried that she had missed her altogether. She had to find out why Alex was just giving something up that she knew she loved. Regina displayed her id badge to the security guard as she walked onto the wing of the hospital that was reserved for the newborns and their mothers. The unit clerk at the nurseís station directed her to the room where Laura was staying.
Regina knocked on the door and a quiet voice told her to come in. Peeking around the multi-colored curtain, Regina saw the woman whose baby she had delivered, lying in the bed. She was hooked up to an IV; her face was still pale and her brown eyes looked sunken and hollow. She smiled weakly when she saw Regina.
"Come here." She held out her hand to her.
Regina walked to the edge of the bed and squeezed her hand gently. Her eyes traveled down the length of the covers and her gut clenched when she noticed the blanket as it dipped down to the mattress just below Lauraís left knee. Regina lifted her eyes and saw Lauraís husband lying in the chair on the other side of the bed dozing. His arm from elbow to fingers was encased in a fiberglass cast, which hung at his chest in a sling.
"Iím so sorry, Laura," Regina said, looking at the heavily bandaged leg.
Laura nodded her head. "You saved my baby. Wait until you see him."
A slight rattling then broke the silence that of the clear bassinetís wheels across the linoleum floor as the nurse rolled the newborn into his motherís room. "Here he is Mrs. Martin." The nurse said, as she pushed the bassinet up to the edge of Lauraís bed.
Laura struggled to sit up, losing her balance momentarily as she overcompensated for the loss of her lower leg. Regina steadied her and leaned over her shoulder as Laura cuddled the infant to her chest. A light, downy fuzz covered the crown of his head and tiny blue eyes peeked out between the puffy eyelids.
"Heís beautiful, Laura," Regina whispered. Laura beamed at Regina and squeezed her hand. "Whatís his name?" Regina asked, running a hand gently over the babyís head, staring in wonder at the little boy she had brought into the world last night.
Laura looked over at her husband who had woken up and was leaning forward in the chair. He nodded his head and went back to marveling at the bundle lying in his wifeís arms. "Alex Reginald Martin. He wouldnít be here if it werenít for you two."
Regina was flabbergasted and stared at Laura in disbelief. Her jaw worked several times before she could find any words to say. "IÖwellÖthank you," she finally managed to get out. After hugging both of them, she left and wondered as she walked down the hallway if Alex had come up here to see them. She had forgotten to ask before she left their room.
Regina walked into the emergency department and headed to the nurse managerís office. The door was unlocked so she let herself in and walked over to the shelf that held the policy and procedure manuals. She wrinkled her nose as she read the titles that were printed on the spine of the large three ring binders.
"Ah, administrative policies. It should be in there." Pulling the thick manual down, she opened it up and sat down behind the desk. It took her several minutes of flipping through the index to find the policy she was looking for. Regina pulled it out and read it over, deciding to make a copy. Next, she picked up the phone and dialed the number for the police department.
Regina closed the office door quietly behind her and walked out into the department. Dr. Jameson spotted her immediately as she stepped around the corner. "I have the VP of medical affairs in the conference room down the hall. We both want to speak to you, now, Dr. Kingston."
Regina took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. "I need to get something off the fax machine." Regina walked away from the director praying the report would be there.
"Now, Dr. Kingston." She could hear the edge of barely contained anger in his voice.
Regina ignored him and tapped her fingers nervously as the machine beeped and a fax started coming through. She saw the heading on the top of the page and breathed a sigh of relief as she retrieved the document, folding it and sliding it into her bag.
Walking slowly towards the door, her anxiety built inside as she remembered her conversation with Jeffrey earlier in the morning. She wished he were here to help her now.
She entered the carpeted room with its mahogany tables and chairs lined up around the perimeter. Dr. Jameson walked to the head of the table and sat down, resting his hands in front of him on the table. A sharply dressed woman sat to his left. She was wearing a black pantsuit with a red silk shirt on underneath. Her short blonde hair accented her strong features and she nodded her head at Regina in acknowledgment.
"Sit down, Dr. Kingston." The medical director pointed to a chair across from the other woman. "This is Dr. Mitchard, our vice president of medical affairs. She already heard Dr. Marguliesí story and I suppose yours is much the same, so letís not waste her time, shall we?"
Regina watched the woman as her eyes narrowed subtly and her jaw muscles worked as the director spoke.
"Since Dr. Margulies is your supervisor, legally she bears the responsibility for your actions. You both rendered emergency medical care outside of the hospital and caused irreparable damage to a patient." Dr. Jameson opened a folder in front of him. "We have no choice but to suspend you without pay until the medical review committee can meet and determine the appropriate course of action." He slid a triplicate document over the table and rolled the pen in her direction. Sitting back in his chair, he crossed his legs and folded his hands over one knee, looking very self confident and smug. "This is a copy of the report. I need you to sign it."
Regina could hear the blood rushing in her head as she listened to him. Jesus, this couldnít be happening, could it? She pulled the paper toward her, read it over twice. "No, no. This isnít correct," she said, sitting up straighter and pushing her hair behind her ear.
"What do you mean?" The VP leaned forward, suddenly taking an interest in the woman sitting before her for the first time since the meeting began.
"This says the vehicle that Mrs. Martin was in was off the hospital property. It wasnít. It was on the front lawn of the hospital." Regina pushed the paper away from her. "Iím not signing this."
"That doesnít mean a damn thing. Sign the paper." Jameson leaned forward in his seat, letting the front legs of his chair bang heavily onto the carpet.
"Like hell I will!" Regina raised her voice.
"You have no proof that the car was on hospital property." He stood up, putting his hands on the table and leaning over her.
"I have the police report." Regina stared back at him, her eyes challenging and defiant. Thank you Jeffrey. I owe you one.
Dr. Jameson paled and the vice president leaned forward, touching Reginaís arm. "Dr. Kingston, may I see the police report?"
She cast a warning glance at the medical director. Regina dug inside her backpack and pulled out the report. Unfolding it, she slid it across the glass-topped table.
"But the policyÖ" Dr. Jameson argued.
Dr. Mitchard cut him off with a motion of her hand. She studied the report and pushed it over to the medical director. "Jim, stop splitting hairs. Yes, they took a risk and the hospital will probably be liable for the womanís injuries, but it could have been much worse."
She turned her attention to the resident sitting across from her. "Well, this certainly sheds a different light on the situation since the car was on hospital property. It would look very damaging for the medical center to take the stance that we will not offer medical care to an injured or sick person because theyíre not inside the building. Iím afraid the suspension will stand until the committee meets."
Regina breathed a sigh of relief. "What about Dr. Margulies?"
"Obviously youíre not aware that Dr. Margulies resigned this morning due to personal reasons," Dr. Jameson said.
A cold numbness settled over Regina as she watched residents and nurses hustling in and out of various rooms taking care of patients. For the first time in her career, she felt oddly distanced and unsettled as she watched as an observer, looking in at what had become her life over the past couple of months.
Sandy walked up behind Regina and tapped her on the shoulder. "Hey."
Startled from her daze, Regina turned around. "Why did she leave, Sandy?" trying to fight the lump forming in the base of her throat.
Sandy lowered her head and shrugged her shoulders. "Maybe she got tired of fighting Jameson at every turn."
"I donít understand it, Sandy. She could fight this." Her voice was ragged and tears started rolling down her cheeks again. "Do you know where she is?" Regina wiped the tears from her face.
"No. She didnít tell me where she was going." The nurse took pity on the young woman standing before her. "Here, I have her cell phone number." She wrote it down on a piece of paper and handed it to Regina. Give her a call. I think she still has it."
Regina took the paper from Sandy and headed home. There was nothing left for her to do here. The hospital would contact her when the committee was ready to meet.
Fighting the quiet depression in her heart, Regina made the three-hour drive up to her parentís house. She had only talked to them on the phone twice since she had broken up with Derrick and could only imagine the reception she was going to get.
Turning into the dirt driveway, she slowed the car, the gravel crunching beneath her tires as she drove up to the old farmhouse. A familiar wash of memories flooded her as she stepped out of the car and shut the door.
Her father walked out of the barn carrying a shovel and a pail. He stopped and watched as she stepped out of her car and shut the door. "Hello, Regina."
"Hi dad." She walked up to him and kissed him on the cheek. Looking at her father, she decided he had more gray hair and the lines on his face seemed deeper than the last time she saw him.
His dark eyes regarded her carefully. "So, I guess youíve made up your mind about Derrick then." He set the bucket down on the ground and leaned on the handle of the shovel regarding his only daughter carefully.
Regina nodded her head. "Itís the right thing for me to do."
Her father closed his eyes and shook his head. "I donít understand your generation Regina. You have a good man whoís willing to take care of you. Why do you always want to be so independent?"
"Dad, please, I really donít want to get into this. Is mom inside?" Regina asked. Might as well get this over with, she thought morosely.
"Yeah," he sighed. "Sheís pretty upset."
Regina nodded her head and walked up to the wooden steps. Of course, she would be upset. She pushed opened the screen door and stepped inside, holding her hand out behind her so it wouldnít bang when it closed. "Mom?"
She listened and heard the creak of the floorboards over head. She was in the sewing room. Where else would she be? It was Friday and her mother always ironed clothes on Friday.
"Up here, Regina."
Regina climbed slowly up the steep staircase, letting her eyes look over the family pictures that hung on the wall. There were empty spaces where Jeffreyís pictures had been taken down. Regina had never been able to understand how her mother had shut him out of her life so completely; it was like he had never existed in this house.
Stepping onto the small landing, Regina watched as her mother poked her head out of the room. She was wearing a faded denim skirt and a brightly colored shirt.
"Hi." Regina stood in the hallway awkwardly. Part of her wanted to reach out and hug her mother, needing the re-assurance that everything was ok, but she didnít. Physical displays of affection were not commonplace in her home and her motherís piercing green eyes held her at bay.
"You look thin, Regina. Arenít you eating enough?" Alice walked back into the sewing room, picked up the iron, and started pressing the creases into her husbandís shirt.
"Iím fine mother," Regina said, pointedly avoiding any questions about her health. Regina could see her motherís jaw working as she clenched and unclenched the muscles, and she felt the butterflies start in her stomach. Quietly, she stepped into the small room and leaned her hip against the wooden desk.
Her mother lifted the shirt off the ironing board and hung it on a wire hanger. She turned and set the hanger over the door and glanced at her daughter.
"Derrick was heart-broken, Regina." It was a simple statement but it spoke volumes.
It had always been about how other people perceived the family. Appearances are important Regina. Youíll understand that one-day. Her motherís voice echoed in her ears.
"I donít love him mother. Canít you understand that?" Regina looked down at her hands. Oh, this was going to be a joyful weekend, she thought.
Her mother pulled another shirt from the pile and laid it on the ironing board. She sprayed the fabric with starch and picked up the iron, pressing the button and causing steam to belch out as she ironed the shirt. "Regina you hardly gave him a chance. Love doesnít just happen, it takes time."
Regina tilted her head up against the wall and closed her eyes. "Mom, has dad ever laid a hand on you?"
"What kind of a question is that young lady? How dare you." Her motherís face reddened with rage.
"I didnít think so."
Her motherís eyes narrowed. "Just what are you saying?"
"Derrick threw a vase at me mom or did you conveniently forget that?" She yanked the sleeve of her shirt up and shoved her arm out so her mother could see the red and puckered scar running up the inside of her arm. Her mother turned away. "I needed close to twenty stitches by the time it was all over."
Her mother pursed her lips. "Well, youíve always had the capacity to infuriate people with your stubbornness. He shouldnít have done that though."
Regina chewed her bottom lip. "Mom, I canít love someone like that."
"Regina." Her mother turned around to face her. "Youíre going to end up being old and alone. Is that what you want for yourself?"
Coming to the decision that talking about this was a useless proposition, Regina walked to the door. "Iím going to bring my bags in." She walked down the stairs, fighting back the sting of the tears welling up in her eyes.
Dinner was a quiet affair. Regina picked at her food and excused herself after enduring the idle conversation her mother made about people that she hardly knew anymore. Most of them she had lost contact with after she got accepted to medical school.
Regina brought her plate into the kitchen and set it down in the sink. She could hear the hushed voice of her mother talking in the other room as she washed the plates and the pots. It was obvious her breakup with Derrick was the topic of conversation. She stacked everything in the dish rack and walked back to the living room.
"Iím going to take a walk," she announced, as she walked back through to the front hall.
Her parents looked up at her and her father motioned her over. "Take my flashlight and donít get lost in the woods. Its in the hall closet."
"Dad I think I know my way around. I grew up here," Regina said testily. It was like she had never grown up and left home. Some things just never changed. Iíve been here half a day and not once has either of them asked about my work. The only thing theyíre concerned with is Derrick.
Regina grabbed the flashlight and her jacket from the hall closet. She stepped out onto the deck and cringed when the screen door banged loudly against the frame. "Sorry," she called out.
Wrapping her purple and green fleece jacket around her, Regina stepped down off the porch and walked over the gravel driveway. She headed up the hill, listening to the sounds of the night animals around her. In the distance, she heard the haunting sound of the barn owl calling out in the darkness.
Her feet carried her over the broken ground, down a small hill and toward the stand of pine trees she had played in as a child. This place had always been the one she had come to when she was confused or hurting. No one ever looked for her this far from the house, never thinking she would wander this far from home. Inhaling the fresh scent of the pines, Regina squeezed between their tightly woven branches. Ahead of her, she could begin to hear the sound of the water running through the narrow creek on the other side of the pines.
She walked quietly along the pine needle-covered trail. A shadow loomed ahead of her and she made out the dark shape of the ageless glacial boulder that sat proudly above the running water. She stepped up onto its base and felt for the familiar handholds; she lifted herself up and crawled onto her favorite spot.
Overhead, the moon was rising and the stars were twinkling brightly in the sky. Regina leaned back against the rock, pulling her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around her legs and gazed up at the stars.
Her eyes scanned the darkness above and she took a breath as she saw the hazy arc of the Milky Way, the light of millions of stars reflecting back to earth from light years away.
The stars had always fascinated the young woman. They hung up in the sky like sentinels looking down over the world, connecting and binding the strands of time and space together. The same stars that people had looked upon when they gazed up at the sky thousands of years ago. She felt a profound sadness flow through her now as she sat alone in the darkness.
She had forgotten how awkward it was for her to go home. Her old friends acted weird around her after they had found out she was going to medical school. Sheíd finally decided they were just jealous that she had left the small town she grew up in and moved onto better things. Her mother, well, that was another story altogether.
She had always resented the fact that Regina had defended Jeffreyís lifestyle to her, considered it a personal affront that her only daughter hadnít sided with her. Her father and her younger brother Michael, although they didnít approve of it, tried to keep in touch with him after he first left home. Gradually they gave up, as the weekly battles had taken their toll on all of them. Finally, her mother had resorted to ridding the house of anything that reminded her of Jeffrey.
Regina had secretly written to him and kept in touch, knowing how hard it was for him to follow his heart even though it had destroyed his relationship with his family. When Regina had taken the MCAPS and gotten into the University of Massachusetts, her motherís reaction had been subdued at best. For Regina it was an escape and to her mother it was a betrayal. Her only daughter wasnít supposed to leave home before she was married.
She wasnít sure how long she sat on the rock, only knew that her seat was sore and she was starting to fall asleep. Carefully, she slipped down off the rock and made her way back to the house.
Regina noticed the light was on in the study as she walked through the front door and closed it quietly behind her. She could hear her motherís voice talking but heard no one elseís.
Deciding she was talking on the phone Regina headed for the stairs. As she started to walk up the steps, she overheard her motherís voice and stopped. The hairs stood up on the back of her neck.
"You have to come up and talk to her."
"Yes, I know its all been a terrible misunderstanding Derrick. Iím sure you two can work it out."
"Itís all right. Good, then weíll see you tomorrow morning. Excellent."
Regina walked quietly to the door of the study and waited for her mother to hang up the phone and turn around. Her motherís eyes widened slightly and then her mouth set in a thin line when she saw her daughter standing there.
"How dare you," Regina growled, barely able to contain the anger she felt. "I canít believe you would go behind my back and ask Derrick to come up here. You know damn well I donít want to see him!"
"Regina, Iím just looking out for your best interests. You obviously arenít capable of doing that," her mother insisted. "Who is this doctor that youíve been working with in the emergency department?"
Oh shit. "Sheís my supervisor." Regina crossed her arms. Warning bells went off in her head.
"After what Derrick just told me, it doesnít sound like she should still be practicing medicine at all."
"Mom, you have no idea what went on. Derrick doesnít like her because she ran him out of the ER the night he attacked me."
Her motherís eyes searched her face. "Sheís -" she stopped and put a hand up to her mouth.
"Sheís what mom?" Regina asked, feeling her heart begin to race. Oh god, not now. I donít need this.
"A lesbian," her mother spat the word out like she had just tasted something rancid.
"You should find another hospital to work at."
Regina laughed at her. "Donít be ridiculous mother. There are gay people everywhere."
"Sheís going to try and corrupt you."
Regina rolled her eyes. "Mother, that is so -" she threw her arms up. "Either youíre gay or youíre not. What does it matter who you fall in love with as long as they love you back?"
Her motherís eyes narrowed. "What are you saying?"
Reginaís heart skipped a beat, as she realized the question for what it was. She was tired of the half-truths and she wasnít going to keep living a lie. She took a breath letting it out slowly. "Iím gay."
"You are not!" Her mother stepped up closer and pointed a finger in her face. "Donít you dare say that to me."
Regina backed up. "Come on mom, you knew three years ago. Why do you think you asked me about Sarah?" She stuck her hands in her pockets and looked down at the floor. "The problem was I was too scared to admit it to myself at the time." She looked back up.
"No! You are not a lesbian!" Her mother sat down in a chair. "Oh god, I think Iím going to be sick."
"You know what mom?" Regina jammed her hands down deeper in her pockets, feeling completely alienated for the second time in a day. "I think maybe Jeff was the lucky one when he left home."
Her mother stepped up to her and slapped her hard across the face. "You bitch. I donít know who you are anymore, Regina. Youíve changed since you left home and I donít like the person youíre turning into."
Regina restrained herself from showing how much the slap hurt. "I think its called growing up, mom, and finding your own way." Regina kept her emotions in check as she stood face to face with her mother. Slowly she turned and walked up the stairs away from her mother, retreating into her old bedroom.
"We are not finished discussing this," her mother called after her. "You are not - like your brother."
Closing the door behind her, Regina leaned against it. Her heart pounded in her chest and her mind was racing. She couldnít stay here. Derrick would be here by morning and he was the last person she wanted to see. Regina brought her hands up to her face and shook her head as the reality of what she had just done hit her. Good grief, I just came out to my mother. Oh, this is not good. What the hell were you thinking? I must be going crazy.
Pacing across the room, Regina looked at her unpacked suitcase. Part of her wanted to grab it, run down the stairs and drive away now, but she could barely keep her eyes open and if she got into the car now she was sure she would end up in a ditch or worse. Before she climbed into the bed she looked at her watch and set her alarm for midnight. At least she could get a couple hours of sleep before she left.
Two hours later, the gentle beeping woke her from a sound sleep. Blinking her eyes open, Regina reluctantly sat up from underneath the warm covers and ran a hand through her hair unsure of where she was for a second. Oh, just a little more time. I feel like I just fell asleep. It would have been so easy to lie back down and close her eyes, except her mind quickly reminded her that Derrick was on his way and that he had been the person who had disabled her car just a few nights ago. That and the thought of another confrontation with her mother was the only reminder Regina needed to get moving.
She felt catapulted back to her high school days as she snuck from her bedroom, carrying her bags and slipped down the stairs. Jeffrey and her would frequently wait until their parents went to sleep to sneak out of the house and go sit on their special rock by the creek. They had talked for hours, forming a bond between them that most siblings their age didnít share.
Regina felt a pang of cowardice and guilt as she wrote a quick note to her parents. She would call them in a few days, but she couldnít stay. She hoped they would understand in time. Regina locked the door behind her and got into her car. Starting the engine, she left the lights off as she pulled out of the driveway, turning them on as she headed down the road toward the Massachusetts Turnpike.
The interstate was deserted at this hour of the night as Regina traveled east toward Boston. She hadnít really thought about where she was going, only that she wanted to get away from her home. Ironic that I still considered it home. It certainly isnít anymore. Who was it that said that home is where the heart is anyway?
The young doctor just let her body go on autopilot, like it knew exactly where she needed to go even if she didnít know why. In less than an hour, Regina turned off the turnpike and headed north onto route 93. Then it was a right turn into Sumner Tunnel and a toll to pay. After negotiating through the confusing directions at Logan Airport she left her car in long- term parking and walked toward the entrance for departing flights.
Inside she stood staring at the monitors wondering why she had ended up here of all places and why did she still have that awful sense of dread building inside of her? Digging in her pocket, she pulled out a wrinkled piece of paper and headed toward a bank of phones.
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