Authors: Ana Corman
Catherine nodded. “It does. It’s a Celtic four-pointed knot. It signifies eternity. It has no beginning and no end. It represents eternal beauty and conveys a message of love everlasting.”
Laura put her hand on Catherine’s shoulder. “I’ve prayed every day that you would find someone special to share your life. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see that prayer being answered. You deserve the best, Catherine. I think you’ve finally found the woman who deserves you. But don’t you dare tell her I said that.”
Catherine squeezed Laura’s hand. “Why do I still feel confused?”
“It wouldn’t be love if it weren’t confusing. Now, I better get back to work. Give that big mean doctor of yours a call and tell her your puzzle’s complete.”
“I will. But first I need a little time for things to sink in.”
“I’m guessing that Olivia will be patient.” Laura smiled as she headed out of the office.
Catherine placed the final piece into the green silk pouch Olivia had given her with the first pieces. She laid it on the puzzle before rising from her seat.
It had been three and a half weeks since she’d first set eyes on Olivia, that tumultuous day at the hospital, and now she was close to offering her her heart. Was it even possible to know in such a short time if love might be forever? How could Olivia have been so certain about her feelings two weeks ago, when she’d handed the first puzzle pieces to Catherine? How could she have been so confident that Catherine would feel the same way, once the puzzle was complete?
Catherine’s cell phone rang as she was deep in her thoughts. She looked at the unfamiliar number on the small screen. “Hello.”
“Hello, I’m trying to reach Catherine O’Grady.”
“This is Catherine. To whom am I speaking?”
“I’m a nurse in the emergency department at Children’s Hospital. Do you know Kayla Blair?”
Catherine thought her chest would implode as she gripped her cell phone. “Yes, I do. What happened? Is she all right?”
“She will be. Her class was on a field trip to the Wild Animal Park when their school bus went off the road and hit a tree. Kayla has a pretty big bump on her head but she should be just fine. We need to keep her overnight for observation. The school’s trying to reach her mother. Kayla asked me to call you.”
Catherine clutched at her chest. “Please tell Kayla that I love her and I’m on my way.”
“Okay Catherine, I will.”
Catherine looked at the antique clock on her desk. She hit a preset button on her cell phone and paced frantically.
“Hello, my Irish girl. How are you?”
“Olivia, I’m scared. I just got a phone call from a nurse in the emergency department at Children’s Hospital. Kayla’s class was on a field trip and there was a bus accident. She has a bad bump on her head and she asked the nurse to call me. I’m heading right over.”
Olivia didn’t hesitate. “Would you like me to meet you there?”
“I’d really like that.”
“Will you be okay to drive down by yourself?”
“Talking to you has calmed me. I’m just really shaken that Kayla’s hurt and that she asked them to call me.”
“I completely understand. Stay as calm as you can. Kayla needs you to be calm. Go to her. I’ll be there soon.”
THERINE RUSHED THROUGH
the double automatic sliding glass doors. She stopped breathlessly at the information desk. “I’m Catherine O’Grady. I’m looking for Kayla Blair.”
The young Hispanic girl behind the desk reached for her phone. “Are you family?”
Catherine hesitated. “No, I’m not. Kayla asked her nurse to contact me. I came as quickly as I could.”
“Let me talk to her nurse. It’ll just be a minute.”
Catherine struggled to catch her breath as she looked around the busy waiting room. The chairs were half filled with parents trying desperately to entertain their restless children. Two large metal doors beside the security desk slid open and a nurse walked through.
“Are you Catherine O’Grady?”
“I’m glad you’re here. Kayla’s doing well. She’s a delightful little girl. Let’s go back and see her. She’s really excited you were able to come.”
Catherine followed the nurse through the green and yellow areas to the back of the orange area. The nurse held back a curtain as Catherine stepped around.
Kayla removed the ice bag from her forehead and bolted upright on the stretcher. Catherine engulfed her in her arms. They hugged and cried as the nurse closed the curtain around them.
Catherine brushed the hair from Kayla’s damp eyes. “You’ve certainly grown even more beautiful over the past two years.”
“I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you more than you know, precious. You remembered my cell-phone number.”
“I’ve never forgotten it. I always kept the business card you gave me to put in my school bag. I’ve kept it in every school bag I’ve had. You told me to call you anytime. I thought this would be a good time.”
“It’s a perfect time.” Catherine touched the large purple-blue bump over Kayla’s right eye. “What happened, Kayla?”
“We were on our way back from the Wild Animal Park. One of the kids at the front said watch out for the raccoon. The next thing I knew we were skidding off the road and we all started screaming. I don’t remember anything till a fireman put an oxygen mask over my face and kept asking me what my name was.”
“How awful. You must have been so scared.”
“I was. But the fireman and the paramedics were so nice. They kept telling me that I was okay and they were going to get me to the hospital.”
Catherine lifted a loose strand of caramel-colored hair away from the bump. “That looks really sore. Does it hurt?”
“A little. My nurse told me to hold an ice bag over it to bring down the swelling.” Kayla reached beside her and held a chubby brown teddy bear to her chest. “My doctor gave me this teddy bear. He said I’ve been so good.”
The nurse appeared around the curtain and handed Catherine a box of tissues.
Catherine smiled, taking a tissue to dab her eyes. “Thank you. Kayla, have you heard from your mom yet? They said the school had been trying to reach her.”
“She said she was going to be in family meetings all afternoon. You know she never answers her cell phone during those meetings.”
Catherine turned to the nurse. “Alexis is a social worker at Mercy Hospital. Do you think we should call the hospital and have her overhead paged?”
“Absolutely. I’ll take care of it.”
The nurse disappeared around the curtain.
“Catherine, are you mad at me for having them call you?”
Catherine reached for the small hands gripping tightly to the teddy bear. “No, sweetheart. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you had them call me. I was scared to death when they said you were hurt. I’m thrilled to see that you’re okay, besides that nasty bruise on your forehead.”
“Do you think my mom’ll be mad?”
“I think she’ll be surprised to see us here together. What do you think?”
“She’ll be really surprised, but I think she’ll be glad to see you, too. I think she misses you. She talks about you sometimes. We lived with a woman named Barbara for a while but then she moved out. Mom’s brought a few women home for dinner since then, but none of them have been like you.”
Catherine didn’t know what to think. For the past two years, she’d imagined Alexis living with Barbara. She couldn’t understand why she felt so shaken to learn it was no longer true. “That’s very sweet of you to say that. Why don’t you lean back and I’ll hold the ice over your bump. Do you have a headache?”
Kayla hugged the bear to her chest and leaned back in the stretcher. “No. My head just feels a little fuzzy.”
Catherine placed the ice bag gently on Kayla’s forehead.
“I thought you didn’t love me anymore,” Kayla said, “and that’s why you moved out. Mom said her feelings for you changed and if anyone was to blame for what happened it was her. I was mad at her for a long time because I still love you and miss you.”
Catherine touched the girl’s bruised cheek. “Kayla, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about you. I loved you like a daughter. I still love you. Grown-ups have to do what’s best for them in a relationship, but unfortunately the children of those broken relationships suffer as well. I’m sorry we both put you through that. I’m sorry this has been so difficult for you. Your mom and I couldn’t see each other when our relationship ended and that meant I couldn’t see you. It wasn’t because I didn’t love you, sweetheart. You’ve always had a very special place in my heart.”
Kayla sat up in the stretcher and leaned into Catherine’s arms. “I love you so much.”
The nurse pulled the curtain back and Kayla and Catherine looked up.
“Olivia!” Catherine stood and stepped into Olivia’s arms. “Thank you so much for coming.”
She turned to the stretcher. “Kayla, I’d like you to meet Olivia. She’s a doctor. She takes care of women, not children, but she wanted to make sure you were okay.”
Kayla looked from Catherine’s face to Olivia’s then sunk deeper under the sheets and stared at her teddy bear. “Hi.”
Olivia leaned closer. “Hello, Kayla. I’m sorry to hear about your bus accident. That’s one nasty bruise on your forehead. Does it hurt really bad?”
“Not too bad.”
“Well, I think you’re really brave. If I had that bump on my head you’d sure hear me complaining and crying.”
Kayla folded her arms across her teddy bear. “I’m not a crybaby.”
Catherine stopped herself from telling Kayla to watch her manners. She wasn’t the girl’s mother; it wasn’t her place.
Olivia raised her eyebrows slightly. “That’s good to know. And it looks like you have a good friend there to make you feel better.”
Kayla hugged her bear tighter and nodded reluctantly but didn’t look up. Olivia glanced at Catherine.
Catherine squeezed Kayla’s shoulder. “We’ll be back in just a minute, sweetie.”
The two women walked through the bustling emergency ward, out of Kayla’s earshot.
Catherine took Olivia’s arm. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize. That little girl hopes you’ll come back into her life.”
“I didn’t fully understand how much I missed her until I saw her again. Especially with that terrible bump.” She took a deep breath, distressed.
“What is it?” Olivia said gently. “There’s something else.”
Catherine had sworn she’d be honest with Olivia. That she’d never let communication break down between them. “Alexis and Barbara are no longer together. Kayla thinks her mom misses me.”
Olivia was silent for a moment. “And how does that make you feel?”
“It makes me feel furious. Alexis broke my heart. She hurt Kayla, too.” Catherine angrily brushed away a tear. She wished that fury were the only thing she felt.
“Is Alexis on her way to the hospital?”
Catherine nodded, searching Olivia’s eyes. “I suppose I could leave before she gets here. But I may not see Kayla again for a long time…”
“Of course you should stay. Talk to Alexis. This is a perfect opportunity for you both to keep an eye on Kayla and talk about the things that have been troubling you for two years. Make sure Kayla knows you never intended to abandon her.”
“Are you worried about me spending time with Alexis?”
Olivia took a breath. “I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t worried, Catherine. You shared a commitment with her that you’re not even sure you want with me. But I’d never stop you from doing something you need to do.” She paused. “Did you finish the puzzle?”
Catherine fought back her confusion. It would be so easy to say that the pieces had arrived but she hadn’t had time to fit them into place. “I did. It’s a beautiful puzzle, Olivia. I just…”
Olivia nodded. Catherine could see the uncertainty in her eyes, beneath the strength. And she was responsible for putting it there, for denying Olivia a token of reassurance.
“Go back to Kayla, Catherine. You need to deal with your past before you can decide on your future.”
YLA SEEMED BOTH PLEASED AND ASHAMED
when Catherine came back alone. They talked for a while, and then Kayla dozed off. Catherine watched her as she slept, filled with confusion and tenderness. She couldn’t help imagining what it would be like to tuck this little girl into bed every night, as she had for three years. To watch her grow. She’d already missed two years of Kayla’s growing up.
She stood up and paced, fighting back tears. Her heart belonged to Olivia. She felt that more strongly today than ever before. But her head was raging, telling her this was one of the reasons Olivia wasn’t right for her. That Olivia didn’t understand how much she longed to be a mother.
The curtain pulled back. “Oh, sweetie,” Alexis cried, rushing to her daughter’s side.
Catherine slowly backed away as Alexis hugged her daughter tight. Kayla’s small arms went sleepily around her mother’s neck. Alexis had let her dark hair grow longer, adding to her Mediterranean beauty. Catherine could feel the anxiety tighten her chest. Seeing mother and daughter together was so painful, flooding her with memories she’d once cherished. She tried to remind herself to stay calm and focused.