“Sounds serious.”

“It is serious. There’s a blood vessel—the middle meningeal artery—under the skull that lies alongside the brain. When you were hit, the artery was torn and you started to bleed. The bleeding put pressure on the brain. That’s why you lost consciousness.”


“But I came out of it. At least I think I did.” My memory was still a little foggy on the subject.

“That’s not unusual. The initial trauma—the blow itself—knocked you unconscious the first time. You came back. You did what you had to do.”

I liked the way she put that.

“Meanwhile, the lacerated blood vessel was bleeding. When enough blood built up, the pressure forced you into unconsciousness for a second time. We did a CAT scan immediately after you were brought to us. The CAT revealed the hematoma. So we drilled two burr holes smaller than a dime into your skull to drain the fluid and alleviate the pressure.”

“You drilled into my skull?” The thought of it shocked me. My hands went to my head. There were two patches where my hair had been shaved that were covered by bandages.

“It took forever, too. You have a very thick skull, McKenzie.”

“What about the artery?” I asked.

“The meningeal should repair itself. We’ll do another CAT scan later today to make sure there’s no additional bleeding.”

“I’m all right, then?”

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“You’re off the ventilator, oxygenating well, your BP and heart are much stronger than you have a right to expect, you’re going to be fine.”

“What’s the good news?”

“That’s the good news. We’ll keep you here for a while, observe your functions, your kidneys, make sure everything is working the way it’s supposed to. I’ll send up an OT and PT …”

“Occupational therapist and physical therapist.”

“You remember from last time, good. They’ll do an assessment. If you pass, you should be out of here in two, three days.”

I expected it to be worse and told her so.

“It could’ve been, cowboy. If you hadn’t been brought to us immediately, if surgery hadn’t been in time, you could have suffered brain damage. Or worse. As it is, we don’t expect any deficits.”

I heard everything she said, but the words “brain damage or worse” seemed much louder than the others.

“We don’t expect any brain damage,” Lilly told me, as if the thought had leaked out of the holes drilled in my head.

She patted my cheek. The thing about Lillian Linder, MD—despite her brusque manner, you knew you were in good hands.

“I need to go and see some sick people now,” she told me gently.

“Thanks, Lilly.”

“McKenzie, we have to stop meeting like this.”

“The doctor says you’re going to be all right,” Merci Cole assured me.

“What does she know?”

Merci was holding my hand against her smooth cheek. Tears collected in her eyes, but none fell.

“Thank you for saving my life.”

“You’re welcome.”

She tried to smile but couldn’t. There was a sadness in her that I had not seen before.

“I’m going home,” she said.

“To Grand Rapids?”

She nodded.

“Good for you.”

“We already took the tests. The doctors say I’m a perfect match. B-negative blood, all that. Stacy should be fine after we do the transplant.”

“That’s great. Just great.”

“My father and I—we had a long talk. Several, actually. With Molly. Molly’s like the arbitrator. She wants me to stay with them and Richard says okay. Me and Jamie’s son. I think they were so delighted at getting their grandson that taking me in, too, seemed like a small price to pay. I probably won’t stay long, though. Just until I decide what to do next. I was thinking of going back to school, see what the Vo-Tech or Community College has to offer.”

“Good luck.” I didn’t know what else to say.

“Richard wants me to tell you he expects to see a bill for all your time and expenses, hospital expenses, too, if you’re not insured. He hasn’t changed much. All he cares about is money.”

“He cares about much more than that,” I told her.

“We’ll see.”

Merci smiled ever so slightly. In the end she was just like the rest of us. She needed to be loved. Eventually, it’s what life comes down to, a few people loving us and us loving them. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to impress that upon us.

“Don’t be too hard on him,” I told her. “I admire a man who pays his own way.”

Merci held on to my hand for a while longer.

“Will you come visit me?”

“Sure. I have property near Grand Rapids.”

“Better hurry. If things don’t work out, I might take off again.”

“If you do, don’t let me find you.”

Bobby Dunston entered my hospital room carrying a bouquet of flowers. “These are from Shelby,” he announced so I wouldn’t think he’d give another man flowers. “I tried to smuggle you a six-pack, but the nurses stopped me.”

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