“Hey man I’m so sorry” Malcolm coming into the break room “I just head. I’m so sorry.”
Jeremy sniffed shaking his head. He’d heard the same words before. Said the same words. They didn’t mean a thing until you were the one the words are directed to. Meaningless stupid words meant to make the person saying them feel better.
“You’ll get through this” Malcolm assured him gripping the other man’s shoulder. “Think of your son. Tristen needs you.”
An unreasonable rage flared like a supernova inside him. Jumping to his feet fast enough to knock the chair behind over. “This is all your fault. Come to Isla Paradiso. The best place to practice medicine and raise a family.”
“Whoa” raising his hands as if to defend himself. “This isn’t my fault. I didn’t make you come here. I didn’t force your daughter to take drugs.”
Jeremy’s face contorted sinking to his knees. “My sweet little girl” he sobbed “I couldn’t protect her. Couldn’t save her. I wasn’t there when she needed me.”
“For goodness sake man pull yourself together” Malcolm said coldly. “You’re a grown man who deals with life and death everyday.”
Several nurses shot him glares like death rays. “Who the hell do you think you are? The man just lost his daughter. Have some compassion.”
“My daughter has the good sense not to mix pharmaceuticals with alcohol.” He peered down his nose at the woman who dared speak to him in such a manner.
“Want to bet” the woman glared at him.
“You couldn’t afford to lose” he waved a hand in dismissal. Glancing at the clock he turned his attention to his sniveling coworker. “Pull yourself together at least long enough to finish your shift.” He ignored the gasps of disapproval from the nurses gathered in the room.
Jeremy stood up rubbing his swollen eyes “I quit.”
“You can’t just quit” he objected.
“I think he just did” the nurse who had confronted him before said with a smirk.
“Don’t be ridiculous” he scoffed “you can’t just quit.”
Walking towards the door Jeremy “as you pointed out, I have a son who needs me. I let you talk me into a different kind of lifestyle that cost me my daughter. I won’t lose him too. He and I are going home.”
“You were barely scraping by” he reminded him.
“True but we were happy. My daughter was alive.” Running a trembling hand through his hair “that’s the life I want for my son. It doesn’t matter the money or prestige.”
Watching the door slowly close behind him the nurse said “I guess you’ll be needing a replacement.”
“I guess I will” he grunted. He was about to follow Jeremy from the room when an officer stuck his head inside. “Can I help you?”
“Excuse me, I’m looking for Doctor Malcolm Schmidt” the officer said stopping him.
“I’m he” he grumbled irritation making his voice gruff.
“Are you the father of Olivia Schmidt” he asked
“I am” he spoke in a terse clipped tone aware of the curious interest of the nurses behind him. “Shall we talk somewhere more private” he extended an arm inviting the officer to follow.
“Sir” the officer nodded allowing him to lead the way. “Were you aware your daughter was named as one of the organizers of this evening’s disastrous teen party?”
“That’s ridiculous” he postured “my daughter would never do that. “She wouldn’t even be at such a party.”
The officer stared back at him letting his words hang in the air. He opened his notebook reading what looked like chicken scratches. “Several kids named her as one of the organizers. We’ve dispatched a squad car to your home to pick her up for questioning.”
“You have no right” he growled.
“I believe three dead teenagers and a dozen others in the hospital is all the rights I need” he retorted.
“She’s a minor” he blustered “you can’t question her without parental presence.”
“That’s why I’m here,” the officer informed him “I’m your escort to the police station.”
Jerking his arm away from the man’s touch Malcolm glared at him. “I can’t leave. I’ve lost on ER doctor due to this travesty. I cannot leave the ER unattended.”
“I have my orders sir,” the officer said politely with a hard edge.
“I have responsibilities. Patients,” his voice rose. Curious onlookers stared at them.
The sound of someone clearing their throat made both men turn to look. “Doctor Olson” he gasped. Looking around at the bystanders his eyes fell upon the nurse from earlier “you called the director.”
“Of course” she shrugged “someone had to do something.”
“You’re relieved from duty” Doctor Olson said with a note of finality in his voice
Without further argument Malcolm found himself sitting beside his daughter in an interrogation room. “Daddy” Olivia cried “make them listen to me. I keep telling them they made a mistake. Tell them I wouldn’t do what they are accusing me of.” Her large eyes wide and innocent seeming despite her too tight clothing and short barely there mini skirt. Her face was caked with makeup making her look years older than her 16 years.
“Don’t say another word” he snapped “we’re not saying anything until our lawyer arrives.”
Teasha held the door open for Phoenix to enter before her. There was no way she would ever be prepared to see her little girl in a hospital bed. Her eyes misted as her stomach churned as she took in the dark charcoal smudges around her mouth, bloodshot eyes and swollen lids.
“I’m sorry daddy” London sobbed holding her hands out to him.
Phoenix took them in his but it was Teasha who spoke first. “How long” fear making her voice gruff as anger gnawed at her insides.
Biting her bottom lip she stared at her feet sticking up from the thin hospital blanket. “I don’t know” she mumbled.
“You don’t know” Teasha repeated wanting nothing more than to take her daughter by the shoulders and shake her until her answers made sense. “That’s not good enough” her voice rose in the small room.
London inhaled sharply eyes darting to her father. “I never took anything before. I really wish I hadn’t today either.”
Phoenix patted her hands “why baby? Why did you?”
“I don’t know” she mumbled shaking her head as tears threatened to break down the damn she had around her feelings.
“Don’t lie” Phoenix gazed intently back at her.
Teasha sat on the edge of the bed, shoulders shaking as her anger dissipated. “I’m sorry for yelling baby. I was so scared. The thought of losing you.” Lifting her face, tears glistened on her cheek “you’re my baby. I love you.”
“I know mom” she sniffed “I just wanted to be accepted.”
“Accepted by whom” Phoenix asked “none of your friends were at this party.”
“Not them” she sighed “at least not the friends you know.”
Stroking her daughter’s long dark hair “did you have a falling out with Temperance and the others? Is that why you’re hanging out with kids we don’t know?”
Tucking her hair behind her ear, shaking her head. “It’s not that. I just wanted to friends who didn’t know …” Her eyes slid towards her father. Covering her face with her hands “I’m a horrible person. I’m the worst daughter ever.”
Reaching over Phoenix tenderly dried her eyes. He gave his wife a look of understanding and he could see it in her eyes that he was right. “I’m sorry sweetie but you have to tell us what you’re feeling. It’s the only way we’ll be able to help you.”
“ I wanted to be normal” she cried. It was as if the damn was broken and she couldn’t stop talking. “I was tired of being the responsible one. Never being able to do anything but work and school.” Taking a deep breath she met her father’s sincere eyes and knew how much she’d hurt him. “I didn’t want to be the girl who had to come home every day and check on you.”
Teasha’s sharp in take of breath and Phoenix’s bleak expression confirmed she was a terrible person. “I know it wouldn’t change anything. Not really. I am still that girl but for that moment I was someone else. Someone without any cares in the world.” She looked away unable to see their devastated faces anymore. She wanted nothing more than to be the little girl they thought she was. “I know saying I’m sorry isn’t worth much but it’s all I’ve got.”
Quenten threw the door open leading into his son’s room. “What the hell’s wrong with you” he demanded before his brain had the chance to notice the machines in the room. His son was lying on his back eyes closed connected to several beeping machines.
Slowing as his brain caught up with his mouth he dragged himself forward. Despite what his eyes were seeing his brain insisted it had to be a mistake. A horrible joke of some kind. “Micah” his voice cracked as he reached for his son’s cold limp hand. Nothing the doctor’s had told him had prepared him for this. Nothing. He’d been told but he hadn’t believed.
He felt someone take his hand. Her words meant little to him. “Quenten” she tugged on his hand “the doctor wants to talk to us.”
Dragging his eyes from his son he tried to focus on the tired older man’s face “how is my son?”
Glancing at the boy he shook his head. “I wish I could say he’ll be alright. At this stage we were lucky to stabilize him. He’s still in critical condition. His organs are shutting down.”
“Isn’t there anything you can do” Quenten asked hands curling into fists.
“We’ve done all we can do” he rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I suggest you prepare yourselves for the worst.”
Gulping Quenten stumbled forward almost falling to his knees.
Moving fast Cassidy put an arm around him holding him close. “He’s strong. He’s going to get through this.”
Moving like a man lost in a fog he stared at his son. He dropped to his knees hands steepled in prayer. It was something he hadn’t done in years. His lips moved begging to whoever was listening for their help.
Cassidy followed his example kneeling beside him. Dante stood back watching. One thought running through his head. What if he had told his dad sooner. Maybe this could have avoided? This was his fault. He could have saved his brother if he’d only acted sooner.