Fourth and Goal
For disclaimers: See Part 1
Mr. Margolies slowly walked around the day room with the assistance of his walker. He and Bluto had finished early with his therapy, and Bluto advised him to use the walker for the rest of the day. He stopped and chatted with two older men who were playing checkers.
"Hello Anton," one of the older men greeted. "How was your therapy?"
Anton smiled. "It went well."
"Did you hear the commotion that went on in PT 20?" the other older man asked.
"No, Bluto and I were in PT 3. Why do you ask?"
"Attila was here," the quieter of the two older men said softly. "Boy was it bad."
Anton sighed. "I figured as much. I told that boy not to try anything with her."
"Well, he didnt listen because she was all over him."
"Did they take him back to his room?" Anton asked them.
"Nope, they brought him in here," the more talkative of the two said. "You should have seen him. He was a wreck. I thought I saw him wiping tears from his face."
Anton looked around the day room and found Calvin. "Ill see you guys later."
He slowly made his way over to the window where Calvin was sitting. He saw an empty chair and sat down in it. "Are you alright son?"
Calvin stared out the window, holding a few tissues. "No, Im not. Ive never been treated as badly as she treated me in my life."
"Well, I told you not to goof around," Anton said.
"Im gonna call a lawyer and sue her and this fucking center."
"Before you do that, tell me exactly what happened," Anton insisted.
"All I was doing was making some friendly conversation," Calvin said looking as innocent as child.
Anton arched a disbelieving eyebrow and cleared his throat. "What exactly did you say to her?"
Calvin blushed. "Well, I "
"Uh huh, just as I thought. I told you what would happen if you made her mad. If I were you I would rethink this lawsuit business. You know the courts nowadays frown upon sexual harassment."
"I hadnt thought about that," Calvin said softly. He knew full well that he could lose everything he owned if the truth came out. "I think I owe someone an apology."
"Good idea," Anton replied. "Give her a little time to cool off, though. If you made Attila come out, then its best you stay away for a while."
Caitlin was furious when she entered the office that she and Bluto shared. She immediately walked over to the punching bag and started pummeling it. "That son of a bitch," she growled as she hit the bag over and over. "Foul mouthed bastard."
Bluto could hear her expletives as he drew closer to their office. Glad I went out and got these cookies. Sounds like she really needs them. He held the box of chocolate chip cookies in one hand, and a large hazelnut coffee in the other. Entering the office quietly, he sat the treats for his friend on her desk. She tries so hard to do a good job, and she does. Why does she always get stuck with the tough cases? A smile formed on his face. Because shes the best at what she does, and she always gets results.
Caitlin continued to punch the bag, unaware that Bluto had entered. She hit it until she was exhausted. Wrapping her arms around it, she held on while she caught her breath. The rich aroma of the hazelnut coffee and chocolate chip cookies assaulted her olfactory senses. She smiled and turned to Bluto. "How long have you been here?"
"Long enough to see how badly that guy got to you," he said sympathetically. "You gonna be ok?"
Caitlin gave him a soft smile. "I will, as soon as you give me those cookies."
"Here you go, Shorty," he said, handing her the box of cookies. Bluto smiled at the way his friend tore open the box and started devouring the cookies.
"Shorty, I havent seen you this worked up in a long time. You wanna talk about it?"
"He put his hands on my ass," she managed to mumble over a mouthful of cookies.
"WHAT?" Bluto yelled and stood up. "Ill kill him," he growled as his protective streak kicked in. He knew that his friend could go toe to toe with anyone verbally, but because she was so tiny he felt that he had to protect her if things got physical. He felt bad for not being there when she needed him, and vowed that it would never happen again.
Caitlin put the box of cookies down and walked next to her friend. "Its ok. I handled it, Bluto."
He looked into his friends eyes, and didnt see the terror in them like he did that night five years ago. He saw strength and a ferocity that had no equal.
"You cant continue to blame yourself for what happened. I was too trusting and very careless back then. Its over and done with." She paused. "Besides, no one would dare mess with Attila."
They both chuckled, relieved that the somber mood was changing.
Nurse Sampson sat at the nurses station going over her charts when a man in his early fifties approached her. "May I help you?"
"Good morning," the man offered along with a pleasant smile. "Im Dr. Taylor."
Eva returned his smile. "Good morning. Weve been expecting you."
"May I have the Rockwell chart, please?"
"Certainly, doctor." She handed him Rocks chart, and went back to what she was doing.
"Thank you." He took it and opened it to read the diagnosis. Taking the digital x-rays over to the reader, he studied them. A frown formed on his face as he looked back at the chart. "Son of a bitch." He whispered. "Nurse, get me an operating theater stat. Im going in to exam Ms. Rockwell."
"Yes doctor," she said as she dialed scheduling.
Dr. Taylor could hear hearty laughter as he approached Rocks room. I hope this wont be the last time you laugh, Rock. "Good morning," he said as he walked into his patients room. "If you would please excuse us, I need to exam my patient."
Johnnie looked to her friend and saw the urgency on his face that she heard in his voice. "Alright people, you heard what the doctor said. Out with the lot of you." She began hitting the backsides of Rocks teammates with her cane. She walked over to Rocks bed and leaned down. "See you in a bit, Squirt. Cmon Little One and let the Doc do his thing," she said taking her daughters hand.
Once they were outside, Johnnie pulled Nadina off the side. "I dont know whats going on in there, but I dont like it."
"You sensed something was up too?" she asked.
"Yep. Spencer was too business-like. Not one joke about my leg."
"Mama, do you think that he wont be able to help Vali?" she whispered with fear in her voice.
Johnnie wrapped her arm around her daughter. "Its gonna be ok. I promise you."
Nadina felt a sense of relief wash over her. She knew her mother never broke her promises.
"You better hope shell be ok, old woman," Michael growled. "If she isnt it will be all your fault."
Johnnie and Nadina looked at him, startled because he came out of nowhere. They watched him as he went and stood next to the door of Rocks room.
Nadina looked up at her mother and could see the hurt in her eyes. "Mama "
Johnnie interrupted her. "Shh, Little One. Its ok, hes just afraid." She leaned down and kissed her daughters cheek. "Go to him."
"But Mama " A finger pressed against her lips halted her protest.
"Now, Little One."
Nadinas shoulders slumped. "Yes Mama." She walked toward her husband bemoaning the fact that her mother pushed her away yet again. I am so tired of this. It has to stop. She squared her shoulders and increased the speed in her steps toward Michael. She stopped directly in front of him. "This ends right now," she said forcefully.
"What are you talking about, darling?" he asked, totally confused.
"This feud between you and my mother. It ends right now." Nadina declared. "Im tired of my mother pushing me away from her to make sure I stand by you."
He looked over at Johnnie as she sat next to JB. "She does?"
"Michael, you cant possibly be this dense," she said. "Why do you think she spends her holidays alone, or with Uncle Pizos kids instead of me?"
"I thought it was because she hated to travel."
"I cant believe that you can be this blind," she spat. "She pushes me away because she doesnt want me to be in the middle of you two. Well no more. Im done with not spending time with my mother. Shes getting on in years and I missed out on most of them." Tears welled up in her eyes.
Is what she is saying true? Has Johnnie pushed her away just to keep peace in our marriage? How could I have been so selfish and self-absorbed? He looked at Johnnie for the first time with unbiased eyes, taking in her proud, noble features. She placed her daughters happiness before her own. He then looked into Nadinas eyes, seeing a sadness that he hadnt been aware of. "My love, I am so very sorry. I let this blood feud between my family and your mother get in between the two of you." He grasped her upper arms gently. "I know I cant make up for lost time, but I wont deny you your mother anymore. Im not saying that well be the best of friends, but Ill no longer allow my blind hatred to keep you and your mother apart.
"Oh Michael," she whispered as she hugged him.
Any further discussion was halted when Dr. Taylor emerged from Rocks room. He waited for Johnnie before he spoke.
"Ive ordered a new set of digital x-rays to see if there is anymore damage," he informed them. "Right after, well be going into surgery."
"How does it look, Doc?" Johnnie asked.
"Johnnie, I cant really say. It depends on the condition of her spinal cord."
"Shell be ok though, right? Nadina asked.
"Shell survive. Well have to see about her walking again once we get a good look at the cord," he said placing a hand on Nadinas shoulder. "Now if you will excuse me, I need to get prepared."
They watched him as he quickly walked toward the elevators.
Michael cleared his throat. "Johnnie, lets go see our girl before they take her downstairs."
Both Johnnie and Nadina looked at him with their mouths agape.
"Cmon ladies. We dont know how much time well have with her before they take her downstairs."
"Uhm, ok," Johnnie said as she walked through the door that was being held open by her son-in-law.
Nadina kissed Michael on his cheek and mouthed the words thank you.
He beamed at the smile his wife gave him. Well, I gotta start somewhere.
Dr. Taylor was scrubbing up when another doctor stood beside him.
"Excuse me, Dr. Taylor. May I speak with you for a moment?" Dr. Andrews asked.
Not bothering to look up, Dr. Taylor nodded.
"I was wondering if you needed someone to assist you with the Rockwell surgery." He paused. "If so, then I would like to offer my services."
"Well, I could use the help. Whats your name?"
"Doctor Clayton Andrews," he proudly revealed. "Maybe youve heard of my reputation."
The soap immediately slipped from Dr. Taylors hands and fell into the sink. "The Clayton Andrews?"
Andrews chest expanded nearly bursting with pride. I knew he would need my help. "I see that my reputation proceeds me."
"Indeed it does," Dr. Taylor said. "If I were you, I would stay as far away from Ms. Rockwell and her family as humanly possible."
Andrews eyes widened in disbelief at what he was hearing. "What do you mean?"
"You may have put Ms. Rockwells ability to walk in jeopardy."
Andrews became defensive. "I did what I thought was best. I felt "
Dr. Taylor interrupted. "Why wasnt a laminectomy performed? There is so much pressure against her spinal cord now that it may have been severed," he reprimanded. "Then you prescribe a numbing agent to a nerve that has no sensation."
"I didnt think it would be necessary. There wasnt that much pressure," Andrews said as he started turning pale.
"Thats just it. You didnt think," Dr. Taylor growled. "And now a womans quality of life is on shaky ground." He rinsed his hands and shook them off. "Youd better pray that her cord isnt severed, or there will be real trouble when her family finds out. Now get out of my way so I can help this young woman."
Andrews stepped aside, grasping the edge of the sink when his knees started to shake. What am I going to do now? This could finish me. He began to panic. I need to get out of here. He rushed out of the scrub area on wobbly legs.
Dr. Taylor was suited up and waiting for his gloves. He looked at the digital x-ray and shook his head. This is going to be tricky. Brought from his musings by the nurse putting on his gloves, he looked at an unconscious Rock. "Im going to need your help with this, kiddo," he whispered. "Alright people, lets begin." Holding out his hand, he called for the laser scalpel.
Miriam Sloan winced as she gently touched the black and blue bruises on her face. She trembled as she remembered the beating that her husband Mike had given her the previous night. Instead of going to the police, she spirited herself and her sons out of the house when Mike went to sleep.
It wont do if he goes to jail, she thought. I dont want to have a scandal hanging over the boys head. She looked at the sleeping children as they lay in the hotel bed. I know your father would never hurt you, but I have to protect myself. I managed to escape with my life this time, but what if it happened again? I cant take that chance.
Mike Jr. stirred and then sat up. It was late when his mother had awakened him and his brother. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and saw his mother looking at him. The condition of his mothers face made him gasp. "Mom, what happened to you?" he asked as he got up from the bed.
Miriam tried to turn her head, but her son stood in front of her. She wanted to come up with something to tell him, but decided the truth would be best. As she recounted the previous nights events to her nine year old, the tears ran down his cheeks. "Mikey, listen to me," she said quietly as she tried to calm him. "What happened between me and your father has nothing to do with you or Jimmy. He would never do anything to hurt you or your brother," she assured him.
"But Mom, he hurt you."
"I know son, but its between your father and I."
Mikey wiped his tearstained face. "What are we gonna do now, Mom?"
"I think well take a little vacation. Just the three of us."
"Where will we go? Are we going to Nanas house?"
Miriam frowned as she thought of where to go. That will be the first place he looks. Where can we go that he wont think to find us? she thought, pacing back and forth. Suddenly it came to her.
Mike Jr. looked at her expectantly. "Well Mom, where are we going?"
She ruffled his hair. "When these bruises heal, were going to go and see a sick friend of mine." Yes, maybe we can help each other.
JB sat in the waiting room along with Johnnie and Rocks parents. He could see the concern etched on the older womans face. He moved closer to Johnnie. "Gram?"
Johnnie looked up from the medicine bag that she held in her right hand. "What is it, son?"
"Is Rock gonna be ok?" he asked.
She looked up into worried eyes. "Yes, shes going to be fine."
"How can you be so sure?"
"I made an offering to The Great Spirit yesterday before I left Goldsboro," Johnnie revealed.
"But Gram, Rock isnt Cherokee."
"We are all one in Creation, JB. Though Squirt doesnt have any Cherokee blood, she is still one of The Great Spirits children. She stood before the Nation and has been recognized."
"She never told me that," JB said; the surprise unhidden in his tone.
"Did you ever ask?" Johnnie could see the dark man blush. "After this is over, you must get her to tell you about it."
"She told me of your name, and her mothers," he said. "Whats her tribal name?"
"Blackhawk," she revealed.
"It suits her." JB smiled. "How did you know to make the offering? You left that morning, she didnt get hurt until the afternoon."
"I felt that the evil spirits were upon her, so I made my offering."
"Amazing," JB said as he rubbed his beard. "Gram, Im going to get us all some coffee. Would you care for something to eat with that?"
Johnnie patted his hand. "Such a sweet boy. Coffee is fine."
JB looked at his watch. "Gram, its past lunch time. I havent seen you eat anything since Ive been here." He looked at her with loving concern. "Did you take your medicine today?"
"Uhm, no. I havent eaten and Im not hungry. Ill take my pills after I find out how Squirts gonna be," she told him.
We will see about that. "Ok Gram, whatever you say."
"Do you remember how I take my coffee?"
"Yes maam," he told her as he stood up. "A little coffee in your cream and sugar."
Johnnie smiled. "Thats my boy."
JB walked over to Rocks parents. He leaned over to Nadina and whispered something in her ear. Johnnie grimaced when she saw Nadina stand up and walk toward her.
"Mama, why havent you taken your medicine?" Nadina asked as she stood over her mother.
Johnnie leaned over to look at JB who stood with a smirk on his face. "Snitch!" she yelled at him. He laughed and walked for the elevators.
Nadina moved to stand in front of Johnnie. "Never mind him, why havent you taken your meds?"
Johnnie looked up into stormy brown eyes. So much like your Mami, Little One. "You know, we should have named you Alma Jr. because you are so much like her."
"Dont try and change the subject," Nadina said. She loved it when her mother compared her to her Mami so she couldnt keep the smile off her face. "JB is going to get you a sandwich along with your coffee, and then Im going to stand right over you to make sure you take that medicine."
"Yes dear," Johnnie said as she smiled up at her.
Caitlin had calmed down considerably from the incident that happened between her and Calvin. She seemed genuinely grateful when he came and apologized to her, but had no idea that Bluto had a little chat with him. Looking at her watch, she picked up the phone and called her friend that worked at the hospital.
"Carolinas Medical Center, surgical unit," the voice answered.
"Jeannie? Its me, Caitlin."
"Hey there. Whats going on?"
"I was calling to see if Valeria Rockwell was out of surgery yet."
Jeannie looked at the schedule to see if the surgeon had signed out. "No Caitlin, shes still in surgery."
"How long has she been in there?"
"It says here that they went in at 9:30."
Caitlin ran her hand through her hair. "They should be done by now. Jeannie, could you call me and let me know when she gets out?"
Jeannie thought for a moment. She knew that it was against hospital policy, but she figured since Caitlin was a therapist it would be ok. Jeannie knew that she wouldnt divulge any information to the press. "Alright, Ill call you as soon as I hear anything."
"Thanks Jeannie. I owe you one," Caitlin said and then turned the digital phone off. I wonder what could be taking so long. I hope they didnt run into any complications. She stood and walked over to the window to look at the leaves in the afternoon sun. Please Goddess, let her be alright. Caitlin turned from the window and began to pace the floor. Why am I so worried? I dont know her from Adam. She thought back to the moment in the game when their eyes met and she remembered the way Rock had smiled at her. Then she remembered Rock getting hurt. Youre worried because youve never seen anyone get hurt that viciously. Satisfied she had justified her concern, she went back to her desk and began to finish up her paperwork. The ringing phone startled her. "PT, OHara speaking."
"Hey Caitlin, its Jeannie. I just got word that Ms.
Rockwell is out of surgery."
Mike Sloan finally stirred from his drunken stupor. He grimaced when he noticed the taste of stale cigars and dirty socks in this mouth. "Damn, I have got to stop drinking so much." He sat up and scratched his crotch. The house is too quiet. I wonder where everyone is. He looked around the room. The previous night was a blur to him, but he did remember arguing with Miriam. Guess Im gonna have to go and buy her something to smooth things over. Mike looked down at his hands and saw the bruises and dried blood. Oh hell, not again. He glanced over at the open closet door and saw that some of Miriams things were missing. "Shit!" He stood up and ran out of the room. "Miriam!" he called as he walked down the hall.
He continued to call out for her as he got closer to the boys room. "Mikey? Jimmy?" Mike was greeted with silence. He ran down the stairs in a panic. Where the hell could she be? Maybe she went shopping. His steps halted when he entered the kitchen. Looking at the broken glasses and dishes on the floor along with the kids pictures no longer on the refrigerator a memory flashed. He jumped when the phone rang. "Miriam?"
"No," the other voice said. "Its your mother."
"Oh hi Mom," he said after taking a deep breath. "How are you?"
"Im fine," she answered. "I was calling to see if Miriam wanted to have lunch with me, but I can assume by the way you answered the phone that she isnt at home."
"Uh, no Mom," he stammered, "shes not here."
"I see." She paused. "Mike, are you ok? You sound strange."
Mike ran his fingers through his hair. "Im fine, Mom. Im just under a lot of stress right now."
"Have you heard anything from the league?" she asked.
He sighed. "No Mom, I havent."
"Well, I think its a shame that they have to investigate this incident. Football is so dangerous. Women have no business in the league with men."
"Youre right mom," he impatiently replied. "I have to go now. Ill talk to you later."
"Alright. I hope that you, Miriam and the boys will still be joining us for dinner tomorrow night."
Oh fuck, just what I need. "Ill check with Miriam to be sure and Ill get her to call you back." After saying that, he hung up. Where the fuck are you, Miriam?
Johnnie paced back and forth in the surgical waiting room. What is taking you so long, Spencer? You should have been finished hours ago.
"Mama, why dont you sit down? Youre going to work yourself up with all that pacing," Nadina said.
Johnnie smirked. "Ill be just fine. You made sure that I took all of my pills, Nurse Ratchett."
Rich laughter erupted from Nadina. "Oh Mama, youre so funny. I only did what I had to do to get you to take your medication."
"Standing over me like your Mami used to do, like I was a child is not funny."
Michael laughed. "The funny part was when she made you open your mouth and then looked under your tongue."
"Ha ha, very funny," Johnnie said as she continued to pace. She stopped when she heard the door open to the waiting room and an exhausted Spencer walked in. "How is she?"
Michael, Nadina and JB stood and walked over to them. "Doctor how is my baby?" Nadina asked.
"It was a difficult surgery," he told them. "Valerias spinal cord was severed."
"Oh my God," Nadina gasped. She leaned on her husband for support.
"What happened, Doc?" Michael asked.
"From the x-rays the cord looked to be pinched, but once we got in there we could see that it was severed."
Johnnie sat on the arm of one of the chairs. "Great Spirit, please help her."
Spencer placed his hand on her shoulder. "We were able to take good tissue and regenerate it, and then we fused it together. Thats what took so long. I would have called but time was of the essence."
"Thank God!" Nadina turned to her husband and wept in his arms. He breathed a sigh of relief.
"Will she be able to walk again?" Johnnie asked.
"Well Johnnie, I cant say that Im one hundred percent certain she will. With therapy and a will to recover I give her a very good chance at recovery."
JB wiped the tears from his eyes and cleared his throat. "I know this may sound insensitive, but will she play football again?"
Johnnie took his hand into hers. "Its not insensitive, son. Knowing Squirt that will be the first thing she asks about." She looked back to Spencer. "Well?"
"Like I said, it will be up to her. With intensive therapy, she should regain the use of her legs. How much farther she goes will be up to her."
"Thank you, Doctor," Michael said as he shook his hand.
"Im gonna go and give the coach a call," JB said. "I know that hes worried."
Johnnie smiled at him. She knew that he needed to be alone so he could let his emotions go. "Ok, you do that."
"When can we see her?" Nadina asked.
"Shes on her way to recovery. When they take her to her room you can see her," he told them. "Now I have to get showered and write up her orders. Ill see you all later."
"Thank you, Spencer," Johnnie said as she watched him walk away. She stood up and turned to her daughter. "Ill be back in a few minutes, Little One."
Nadina nodded in understanding.
Once Johnnie was out of the waiting room, Michael turned Nadina to face him. "Where is she going?"
"Shes going to give thanks to The Great Spirit for making it possible for Vali to walk again."
"How is she going to do that?" he asked.
"She will most likely go up to the roof. Shell give thanks and make offerings to the four winds."
"You remember that stuff?"
Nadina sighed. "Some things I remember. I have strayed from the old ways."
"Maybe your mother will be able to help you remember," he told her. Michael looked on his wifes face and could see the remorse that was there. If only I hadnt been so selfish and pigheaded, you and your mother would be close.
"Yes, I believe she will," Nadina kissed him on the cheek.
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