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Authors: Sarah M. Cradit

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BOOK: The Storm and the Darkness
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Alex’s fists were balled at his side and his face was on fire. There was nothing he hated more than being made to feel like he wasn’t useful. He dreamed of a day when the sheriff would need to turn to him and Alex could, with a proud satisfaction, turn him away. Alex’s face erupted in a slow grin at the thought.

Unfortunately, there were more people on the island that thought like Sheriff Horn than those that didn’t, and so Alex was used to people who did not see his value and did not appreciate his helpfulness. But there were a few that did...and for every hundred Sheriff Horns there was at least one Ana, who needed him, and wanted his help. Alex Whitman could handle, and would even permit, the snide comments from the sheriff and other townies, because he could almost feel sorry for them and their meaningless lives. His pity for them meant that they were entitled to their opinions all they wanted, but Alex drew the line at interference.

He would not tolerate anyone coming between him and his purpose.

Chapter Seven: Jonathan

Jonathan St. Andrews awoke at 6:50 in the morning when his alarm sounded. He hit snooze once, and promptly got out of bed without complaint at seven.

He slipped his legs off the right side of his bed, and his feet found the slippers he had methodically laid out the night before, as he always did. Slippers on, he turned and made the bed, making extra sure the pillowcases were turned so that the open end faced inward and that the sheets were even on both sides.

Jon went to his dresser, opening the second drawer down, where he kept two neat rows of white t-shirts and black shorts. He chose one of each, careful not to disturb the folds of the others, and went downstairs, to the small room near the back porch where his treadmill was. He set the timer for 30 minutes, at a pace of 8 MPH, and set his music while the treadmill slowly ramped up. He never started his music before the treadmill started moving, and he always stopped it a minute before the timer ran out.

After a quick shower–where he first washed his hair, then cleaned his body–Jon went back downstairs to have coffee and breakfast, but not before a quick scan around the room to ensure nothing was out of place, and that all doors were closed.

The coffee was already made, as Finn had already been up and gone about an hour before. Although still warm, Jon microwaved his cup for thirty-seconds before adding two precise teaspoons of milk. He heated up a muffin–40 seconds–and placed it on the table first, before the coffee, but did not sit down until he had pushed in another chair that had been only pushed in halfway. “Finn,” he muttered.

It was not important what day this was, because this was the same thing Jon did every day, even on weekends. But, in the past three weeks, Jon had added one more item to his daily ritual: checking to see if the lights were on at the neighbor’s house. He harbored an irrational fear of an unexpected knock on the door, and while it might be unavoidable, he did not like being caught unaware. Ever.

At eight, Jon unlocked the doors to his small office in town, which was located next to the City Hall on one side, and an empty building on the other. His office didn’t open until nine, but Jon liked to spend the first hour checking in on any overnight patients and reading up on his files.

You could have been a fine doctor
. His father’s words, once so hurtful, now rang hollow. He knew what he had given up, and it had been his choice; it was never one he regretted.

Sometimes he still opened the door to his father’s old office: that large, dark room that had started as a converted den, and later Jon had helped expand by tearing down the walls into the family room. The equipment–both that which his father was approved to use in his home and that which he was most certainly not–remained untouched, buried under sheets and dusty plastic. In his father’s final years, patients extended beyond the island to some of the surrounding islands and even the mainland. Dr. St. Andrews not did only the procedures willingly, but he was also able to do them at a fraction of the cost that the larger hospitals would charge. He never turned away a patient who was unable to pay.

Jon sometimes wondered how his father had been allowed to get away with it for so long: the intravenous equipment, the gurneys, the scalpels and operating instruments. Jon’s hands burned hotly as he recalled the first time his father had handed him a scalpel.

“You want me to hold on to it?” Jon had asked.

“I want you to cut.” His father’s face had been so even, impossible to read as ever.

Jon had been surprised, but he had also been ready. He had watched his father doing this for years and, at sixteen, he had seen the procedure many times now. Removing a gall bladder was something he could have described with his eyes closed. His father always taught him by asking questions–
Why am I doing this, Jon?
–rather than simply telling Jon what to do.
Why am I holding the clamp here, instead of further up? Why is this area more prone to bleeding? Why do we use less sedative with this procedure?

Jon always knew the answers, and like his father, he was exceptionally calm under pressure. Jon had not hesitated, or questioned, or balked when his father handed him that scalpel. Drawing in a deep breath, he steadied his hand, and made the cut.

But never had he been tested more than when it had been Finn on their table, bleeding and near death.

It was the summer Jon turned sixteen, only weeks after his first surgery with his father. Finn was just thirteen, and was in his reckless, wild phase. Jon had known what Finn was going to do before Finn even did it.

Several years before, their father began teaching Finn how to navigate the old fishing skiff, a project boat that was never quite finished. This act of mentoring was a begrudging one, as Dr. St. Andrews was still deeply disappointed by Finn’s lack of potential, but he saw it as the one way he still might forge a connection with his younger son. By the time Finn was twelve, he was already captaining the boat, though their father never let him go out alone.

“Never trust the ocean,” he would say. “The day you think you have her figured out is the day she will get you.”

But Finn was young, and adventurous, and made up his mind to captain the boat by himself on his thirteenth birthday. Jon figured it out in time to find him, but was unable to stop him.

“You’re either coming or you’re staying, but this boat is going out to sea today,” Finn had said, chest puffed out, hand on the mast, proud.

Jon knew it would end badly, but he wouldn’t let his brother go out alone so he joined him. Jon’s fears came true a half-mile out to sea when the propeller became entangled in an abandoned trawl. Finn panicked and leaned over the side of the boat when a fin broke off and sliced across his chest, knocking him unconscious. The fin then ricocheted and gashed Jon in the chest. It was a blow that should have knocked him out as well, but the adrenaline was coursing through his veins. Jon radioed ahead to his father, who calmly walked him through how to get them home. With his brother dying in his arms, the ride home was perilously long and Jon was trembling so hard that he could hardly hold the radio.

His father had been waiting on the dock, and picked up Finn as if he weighed nothing at all. He sprinted back to the house, with Jon in tow.

“What does your brother need Jon?” His father asked as he cut what was left of Finn’s shirt off.

“You’re asking me that now? NOW?”

“Calm down and tell me what your brother needs,” his father said evenly. His hands were pushing down on Finn’s chest, but the towel continued to blossom red more and more so that the original white could no longer be seen.

Jon’s breaths were coming short and forced and his whole body was hot, his pulse throbbing so hard he thought his heart might burst right through his chest. This was Finn on the table, not just some patient. Finn...his little brother. His only brother.

Jon gripped the table and forced himself to breathe in, slowly; out slowly. “We need to close his wound and dress it. He needs something to stave off infection, and…he needs something for the pain.”

“What else does Finn need?” Andrew St. Andrews asked as he replaced the towel with another, never letting the pressure off.

“He needs blood,” Jon said finally. “He’s lost too much.”

His father looked at him squarely, and then Jon understood. They would stabilize Finn together, and then Jon would need to give his own blood to save his brother.

The next couple of hours were endless to Jon, and, despite his father’s cool demeanor, he saw the wideness of his father’s pupils and the sweat beading around his face and neck. His dad was scared too.

Jon had laid down on a gurney next to his brother then, and let his father take Jon’s own crucial life force and transfer some of it to his brother. Jon was overcome with exhaustion, but before he nodded off, he felt his father pull off the gauze, stitching his wound. In all the commotion, Jon only vaguely recalled his father putting the gauze on to begin with.

“Superficial, but you’ll have a scar to remember it,” was the last thing Jon heard before he drifted off to sleep. Years later, a thin white line, from chest to navel, was the least of Jon’s reminders of the incident.

He never understood how Finn could return so easily to the boat after that. He couldn’t wait to go back out and was on the sea a week later, to their mother’s dismay and their father’s annoyance. “He’s on his own,” his father had said with a dismissive wave of the hand. But Jon never relaxed when he knew his brother was out to sea, even though
was twice the boat that old skiff had ever been. Even now, Jon’s fear was still very real.

As the day wore on, the rain turned to hail and the sky took on a dark, ominous aspect. It crackled with thunder and the air felt still and electric. Jon hoped Finn had the good sense to end early, as he could see more dark clouds rolling in on the horizon. Finn had been saying that the first big storm was coming in about a week, which was a couple of weeks before the weathermen were predicting it. Jon, though a man of science, trusted his brother more.

It had been slow day at the office, but that was to be expected. As that Deschanel girl had rudely pointed out a week earlier, business wasn’t exactly booming on an island of two hundred people. But Jon had earned the respect of veterinarians on the mainland during his residency. Several of them made sincere, ongoing attempts to entice him to practice in a larger office with better equipment, though Jon would not be swayed into leaving Summer Island. They settled for his consultation services, and this is what he did on days when there was little else to do. He liked knowing what was on his schedule for the day. Jonathan was no fan of surprises.

It was not just ritual he craved though, it was quiet. Seclusion. The avoidance of the inevitable awkwardness of small talk or getting to know someone. Uncomfortable silences.

When Jonathan met someone new, he was unable to find within himself the desire to learn about them, talk to them, and absorb them in the same way. Because once he did, he could not let go and move on and forget. He never forgot. Was it any surprise, really, that he had become a veterinarian instead of a doctor? He was a man more comfortable with bonding with animals than people. Had his father really not seen it?

Jon relied on the comfort of how quiet, secluded, and consistent their neighbors were. He had known them all his life, and most accepted that Jon was the way he was, and never forced the awkwardness on him. All except the house that had stood empty on the property just to their east. Every season his anxiety would build as he waited to see if the Deschanel family would fill it for the summer, and bring the unwelcome expectations on him, as the eldest of the St. Andrews household, to entertain and welcome them. But thirty years passed since it was purchased, and no Deschanel had ever visited that home. The only movement in the house came from the weekly visit of the overseer Alex Whitman.

He should have known, when the house never went on the market, that someone would eventually show up.

Jon was in his back office reading about treatment options for a Yorkshire terrier with a pancreatic tumor when he heard the familiar jingling of the bell above the main door, startling him out of his concentration. He set his pen down to the left of the folder, and walked out and down the short hallway, to the reception area.

Ana Deschanel was standing in front of him, drenched and shivering. Water pooled near the door entrance and several rogue balls of hail rolled around near her feet. Jon’s eyes moved from the floor to Ana and back, and then rested on what was in her arms.

She was holding the limp, bleeding body of a brown cat and as Jon moved toward her, her eyes widened with relief. He moved to take the injured, possibly dying, cat from her arms. Ana was crying, and he felt her trembling.

“I...I tried...I couldn’t fix her...I tried,” she sobbed.
Of course you couldn’t fix her, you ridiculous girl.

Jon gently lifted the cat into his own arms, and, without making eye contact, he turned and walked back to his procedure room.

As he closed the door behind him, he could hear the soft, muffled sobs from the front. He ignored them and went to work.

Chapter Eight: Ana

By her fourth week on the island, Ana started questioning whether she was really getting anything out of the change of scenery. New Orleans was really no different than this small island. The people who had put down their roots all knew each other; their histories, their secrets. Different accents, same problems.

As a Deschanel, she was different from most people, but it went beyond her family. She was quiet, but not shy. Withdrawn, but intelligent. But she knew–had always known–that she was unlike the girls she went to the Sacred Heart with, and even more unlike those she graduated Tulane with. There was something quiet, and dark, and...
about her. She had not come to Maine to find herself. She
who she was. She had come to squash it, privately, away from the eyes of the people who thought they knew who she was already. She was thirty now, and the thoughts were screaming at her to fix it now, before it was too late.

BOOK: The Storm and the Darkness
2.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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