(Author's note: well, this is the first of a summer challenge I have invented for myself. My goal is to write a short story for as many possible Skillet songs on my iPod as possible – that's 24 songs, but this story does include three of them, so I might just have a shot at accomplishing this. If you're a Skillet fan (which I think everyone should be, by the way!), guess which songs this one is inspired by and tell me if I'm doing them justice! Thanks! ~not Ross)
Dr. Charest had a bad habit of tapping the end of his ballpoint pen on his clipboard when he was anxious. He realized that the incessant clicking irritated his coworkers, but he possessed problems far worse than small grudges against him. He stared at the front door of the hospital, waiting.
A tall, dark-haired woman stumbled through the revolving doors and ran up to the desk in the back of the lobby. Dr. Charest stopped tapping his pen and stood by the open door to his office, still waiting. The nurse directed the woman in his direction. He tried to look busy behind his clipboard, because he most certainly knew this woman and her impatient tendencies. "What happened?" she demanded. "Where is she?"
"Calm down, Meredith."
"Where is she?"
"Down this hallway, to the left, but-" Meredith had no intention of waiting to hear Dr. Charest's warning. She shoved past him and teetered down the sterile, empty hallway, her high heels clicking loudly against the linoleum. Out of context, a woman in a business suit sprinting down a hallway could almost be considered amusing. Dr. Charest rushed after her, though he almost tripped over an old man wheeling innocently in the opposite direction. "Meredith, wait!"
"Which room?" she asked tersely.
"107. Meredith, please, she's in no condition-"
"I want to see her," Meredith snapped. She wrapped her fingers around the doorknob that provided access to room 107. The steady beeping of a heart monitor infiltrated the silent corridor. She gasped and slid to her knees beside the lifeless bed. "My baby! Sweetie, what happened?"
"Meredith, she can't hear you." In all honesty, Dr. Charest found it rather surprising that Meredith would care so much at all for anyone, even her own daughter. He told himself to quit being so rude. Even if it was the truth.
Meredith turned and gave him one of her famous derisive glares. "That's always been your problem, David: you never have any faith in anything. Anyone."
He often sat alone in his apartment at night and wondered why he had ever let Meredith slip out of his grasp like he had. But every now and then, their paths would cross once more, and he immediately remembered. He bit his tongue, refusing to point out that he could say the same for her. "I promise, Meredith, she cannot hear you."
Mom? Mom, is that you? Take me home, Mom. This bed is uncomfortable.
What does he mean, I can't hear you? Of course I can hear you! I'm talking to you!
What happened, Mom? Why weren't you there? You told me you'd pick me up, but you never showed. Did you get stuck in another meeting? Mom? I had to walk home, and then there were these bright lights…
What's that noise? That's your cell phone, isn't it? Go ahead, answer it. I'll wait.
"This will be just a moment," Meredith promised. She whipped out her smart phone and quickly shuffled out into the hallway, kicking the door shut behind her.
Dr. Charest stared at the new chip in the paint on the door, shook his head, and mumbled, "Whatever you say, Meredith. It's always just a moment." He returned to tapping his pen against the clipboard and staring at the even motion of the heart monitor. That poor woman. She would never learn, not even as her own daughter, her only daughter, lay comatose in a hospital under the care of her ex.
Ricky told me you wouldn't come, Mom, but I didn't believe him. He offered me a ride, but I didn't take it, because my cell phone battery's dead and I thought you'd come. Did you try to call? Is it my fault? I'm sorry, Mom. I'm sorry to bother you like this. Just take me home, please, and I won't interrupt you.
Or did you just forget again?
No, you came this time, didn't you? I heard you, even if I can't see you. With your cell phone on, maybe, but you did come. And I'll wait for you.
Finally, Dr. Charest grew weary of waiting. Didn't she realize what a favor he was doing her by devoting so much of his time to her daughter? He was a doctor; he had plenty of other patients to assist. He peered out into the corridor and found Meredith seated in a spare wheelchair yakking as if she planned on staying for quite a while longer. "Meredith, enough," he snapped, snatching the cell phone out of her grip.
"David! That was important!"
"Really? More important than your daughter back in that room? More important than her life?"
"David, if I don't keep this job, she won't have much of a life to brag about, will she? She can either sleep in that room by herself and not even realize I'm not there, or we can live in a soup kitchen somewhere!" Meredith grabbed the phone back from Dr. Charest. "Now I have to drive all the way back to the office and explain to them why the most important conference call of the week was interrupted by my irrational ex-boyfriend! Thank you so much, David, I really appreciate it."
"Meredith-" he began, temporarily swayed by her temper tantrum. But he stopped himself. "Fine. Fine, do whatever you want. I'm giving up, even though I should have done that a very long time ago. I'll stay here and look after your daughter while you run along and save your precious career, alright?"
"I'll come back!" she promised. "As soon as you're off your shift." And she trotted down the hallway, around a corner, and out of sight.
Dr. Charest sighed and muttered to himself, "I'm working all night."
Mom? You've been gone a long time. More than just a phone call, wasn't it? You're not coming back, are you? "Not right now, dear," you'd say. Okay. That's fine. I know I'm ruining your day. I'll just be here. Waiting for you.
If you can hear me, Mom, can you tell them to call Ricky? Ricky only works at McDonald's; he doesn't have conference calls.
Dr. Charest trudged back into room 107. "Oh, Meredith," he mumbled to no one in particular. "Jamie, whatever you do, please don't turn out anything like your mother. You'll rope in a guy like me with your good looks and then break his heart once he realizes there's more." He stared at her.
Maybe there was someone else to call. He pulled the blue sheet back from Jamie's limp figure and reached into the pocket of her jeans, unearthing a cell phone that looked like a hand-me-down from her mother. He tried turning it on, but the battery was dead.
"I'm sorry about this," he told her. Unconsciously, he began banging his pen on his clipboard once more. Four taps per been of the heart monitor. He smiled. "Do you like my percussion? I composed it myself." Who was he kidding? Jamie couldn't hear him, Meredith refused to hear him, and he was growing weary of hearing his own voice saying the same things over and over. He rotated the cell phone in his free hand. "Do you know who has a phone like this?"
Don't I recognize you? Didn't Mom used to have you over for dinner sometimes? Yeah, she did. Did you know that those were some of the best meals she ever made? No TV dinners or Hamburger Helper involved. She's a good cook when she wants to be. She's probably good at a lot of things when she wants to be.
Anyway, can you call Ricky, please?
Hey, where are you going? Come back! I can hear you shutting the door, you know. No wonder Mom liked you.
I'll just wait here.
"Bradley!" Dr. Charest called, rushing into the break room to find his former student filling an insulated Styrofoam cup with the notoriously tasteless hospital coffee.
"Yeah? What? Oh, hi, Dr. Charest."
Dr. Charest produced Jamie's cell phone and held it up for inspection. "Don't you have this kind of cell phone?"
"Yeah, man. I seriously need to get a new one, th-"
"Do you have the charger here?"
"Yeah, man, sure. Why?"
"May I borrow it?"
"Be my guest…" Bradley swished through the combination to the lock that held his locker shut and procured a mundane black wire. Dr. Charest grabbed it quickly and plugged one end into the wall, the other into Jamie's cell phone. Immediately, the screen illuminated. He navigated to her recent calls and selected the name at the top of the list. The phone began to ring.
"Jamie!" a voice crackled from the other end. "I've been trying to call you!"
Dr. Charest coughed. "I'm sorry, this isn't Jamie."
"Woah! Dude, Damien, is that you? I told you, stay away from-"
He grimaced. "No. This is Dr. Charest at Memorial Hospital."
"Hospital? Is Jamie okay?"
"She's here… It looks like she was in some kind of car accident. We're not entirely sure yet."
"But… she's okay, right? I mean, it's just like, getting band-aides, right?"
"She's in a coma?"
A flurry of cursing bombarded Dr. Charest's ear, and he cringed. He had never really approved of such coarse language. Finally, the boy's voice returned to a normal volume. "Hang on, man."
The line went dead.
Dr. Charest unplugged the cell phone and handed the chord back to Bradley. "Thank you."
Bradley just gave him a strange glance, shrugged, and took another sip of coffee. After seeing the expression on the poor young man's face, Dr. Charest promised himself that he would keep up the tradition of not drinking hospital coffee.