Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Coastal Drive (2/8)

Upon consciousness Maryanne found herself lying in a hospital bed with bandages on her head, arms and left leg, an oxygen tube up her nose, and an IV stuck to her arm.  She could barely make out her sister’s voice just outside the door.  She eyed the place, trying to make sense of what had happened to her.  Judging from the blue tile floor, she figured she was probably at the county medical center where she had completed her nurse practicum years ago—but she couldn’t be sure.

Jenny and her husband, Maryanne’s brother-in-law Gavin, entered the room.  “Thank you so much,” Jenny said to a nurse brandishing a clipboard and walking out the door toward the hallway.

As the couple approached the bed, they did their best to disguise their worried faces with warm smiles.  “Annie?”  Only Jenny and their mom called Maryanne by this name.  “How are you?  You okay?”

Maryanne didn't respond right away, for she was still taking everything in, coming to terms with what happened, what she did or at least try to do.  Though she was a bit hazy from medication and injuries, she had no doubt why or how she had come to this state of affairs.  And of course she wasn’t about to volunteer this information, not even to her sister Jenny.

“We’re here for you, hon.”

“What happened?”  Even as Maryanne asked the question, things came into focus.  She remembered hitting a van parked at the vista point.

“You had a terrible accident, honey.”

“You don’t remember what happened?” asked Gavin.

“We wanted to see you earlier, but the doctor said…”

“That’s okay,” Maryanne interrupted Jenny.  “You drove up here from San Jose?”

“We flew in, but don’t worry about that…”

“Is Kirsten and Scott okay?”

“Kirsten is on her way, Annie.  And Scott?  Well, we’re still trying to contact him.  But he’s okay.  He wasn’t involved in your accident, if that’s what you mean.  Thank God you’re alive.  The police said that you hit a truck or something, huh?  If that truck hadn’t been there…”

“A van.”


“I hit a white van.  I remember now.”

“What happened?” asked Jenny.  “Can you talk about it?”

“I…How long have I been here?”

“Almost twenty-four hours,” responded Gavin.  “They brought you here yesterday afternoon, around 5pm.”

"We got here this morning, Annie," said Jenny.

Maryanne was intent, at least for the moment, on answering her sister's question about the accident.  “I was reaching for some papers from work on the passenger seat," she lied.  “I guess I wasn’t paying attention and lost control of the wheel.”

Gavin wore an incredulous face.  “Maryanne,” he started in a gentle tone, “the doctor said that you had some drugs in your system?”

“Gavin!” Jenny scolded her husband.

“I’m just asking?” he responded sheepishly.

Gavin’s comment reminded Maryanne of a penchant for insensitivity, a trait that did not endear the software designer to her—as well as his red hair—when Jenny started dating him. Only about two years into her sister’s marriage did she warm to Gavin; what she perceived as arrogance was really just an awkward outer shell that hid a kind and sincere person. Gavin, she came to realize, served as a steady anchor in Jenny’s life.

“Yes, I’ve been taking some meds for my headaches…”

At this moment Kirsten and Scott, Maryanne’s children, entered the room.

“Annie, look who’s here,” Jenny said, smiling and motioning toward her niece and nephew.

“Hi mom,” said Kirsten.  “I love you.”  Scott said nothing.

“I love you too, both of you.  I’m sorry this happened.”

“Mom, don’t be dumb.  It’s not your fault.”

“I wasn’t paying attention to the road…”

“It doesn’t matter, mom.”

“Yeah, it doesn’t matter,” Scott chimed in.  He was trying to maintain a cool exterior, as eighteen-year-old boys sometimes do.

“You’re going to be okay, mom,” reassured Kirsten.  “Carla wanted me to tell you that she's praying for you...the Brentons too.”  Maryanne's daughter was referring to good friends, whom you'll meet soon enough.

Maryanne had never seen her daughter in this “nurturing” role, and indeed found solace in her words.  Suddenly, the problems that they had in the past couple of years–the pregnancy, the boyfriend, going out every nightseemed petty and a waste of precious time.

Jenny proceeded to explain to her sister that she would probably be able to leave tomorrow morning, but that she or Gavin would stay with her, if not in the room then at least downstairs.  If she needed anything, anything at all...

“Oh, I almost forgot, mom,” Kirsten interrupted.  “There’s someone in the waiting area.”

“What?  Who?”

“A man…”

“John?”  Maryanne paradoxically had a mingling of hope and resignation in her voice.

“No, not John, mom.”

“Cal?”  As a side note, Cal is my name, and I’m touched she thought of me, for I am just a friend from work.  I wish I could have been there for her, but I was with my mother in Minnesota at the time.  I’ll tell you something about myself later.

“No.  I don’t know his name.  I think he’s the guy that you hit—his car I mean.  He’s okay, it seems.”

Gavin spoke up.  “A baseball cap, right?  Seattle Seahawk hat?”

Kirsten and Scott nodded.

“Yeah, his name is, um, Mark, the guy who pulled you out of the car.”

“Oh.”  Maryanne seemed to drift away, startling her daughter.

“Mom?”  Maryanne didn’t respond to her daughter.

Jenny stuck her head out into the hallway.  “Nurse?  Anyone?”

“I’m okay…”  Maryanne came back to consciousness.

The doctor and a nurse rushed into the room and checked her vitals.  “What happened?”

“I’m okay, really,” responded Maryanne in a faint voice.

“She seemed to lose consciousness for a moment,” explained Jenny.

“I was just tired.  I’m really okay,” insisted Maryanne.

“Still, you should be getting some rest,” said the doctor, a 40ish Chinese-American woman with a thick accent.

“She’s right,” said Gavin.  “She’ll be fine.”

Jenny whispered to Gavin that they should leave her sister to have a few moments with her children.  She knew that the presence of Kirsten and Scott together with their mother was a rare occurrence these days and figured that some good could come out of Maryanne’s accident.  Gavin nodded in agreement.  She took the doctor aside and requested a bit more time for mom to be with her kids.  She agreed.

As Jenny and Gavin made their way to the waiting room, they saw a lone figure wearing a Seattle Seahawk visor.  He was in his late forties, of a medium build and height, and had a full head of sandy blond hair greying at the edges. 

“Mark, right?” called out Gavin.

“Hello again!”

“Oh I’m sorry. Are you wanting to speak to my sister? You’ve been waiting here a while, haven’t you?”

“I want to make sure she’s okay.”

“We can’t thank you enough for pulling Maryanne out and staying with her until the EMTs arrived,” said Gavin. He had met Mark earlier, after the police informed him and Jenny of Mark’s efforts in saving her life. “I shudder to think if her car went over the edge. I’m sure that crossed your mind, no?”

“Yes, well, I assure you that I’m not here because I need recognition. I just…”

“Oh, I know that,” responded Jenny, perceiving that Mark felt slighted by such a suggestion. “But I’m sure my sister wants to talk to you. She’s with her kids right now and needs her rest, but tomorrow perhaps.”

“I’m sure the insurance will take care of the damages…” started Gavin.

“I’m not worried about that. It’s a company van.”

“I think Maryanne would love to see you tomorrow,” continued Jenny. “Late morning, say?”

“That’s fine. I can get the morning off.”

“You okay, Mark?” asked Gavin. “What was your last name?”


“After what you’ve been through, poor guy, I’m surprised you can go back to work.”

“Well, I still gotta pay the bills,” Mark said with a wry face. “Besides,” he added in a quieter voice, “I’ve been through worse.”

I've been through worse.  Gavin and Jenny only briefly registered this odd response.

The two men exchanged numbers and walked to their cars.

Mark Denison knew something about Maryanne’s accident, something that haunted him.