I squeezed her hand, and then a white envelope in the middle of the dining table caught my eye. I pulled Zoe along with me, afraid to let her out of my sight for a second, and then picked up the envelope. It read “Nathan” on the front, in Aubrey’s girly yet sloppy script.
“Are you serious?” I said, ripping open the envelope.
By the time you get this I’ll be hours away. Your probably going to think I’m the most selfish person in the world, but being afraid of you thinking bad of me isn’t enough for me to stay. I’m unhappy and I’ve been unhappy for a long time.
I love Zoe, but I’m not a mother. You are the one that wanted to be a father. I knew you would be a good daddy, and I thought that you being a good daddy would make me a good mother, but it didn’t. I can’t do this anymore. There are so many things I want to do with my life and being a housewife isn’t one of them.
I’m sorry if you hate me, but I’ve finally decided I can live with that. I’m sorry you have to explain this to Zoe. I’ll call tomorrow when I’m settled and try to help her understand.
I let the folded paper fall to the table. She could never spell you’re correctly. That was just one of a hundred things about Aubrey that bothered me but I never mentioned.
Zoe was looking up at me, waiting for me to explain or react, but I could do neither. Aubrey had left us. I came back for her lazy, cranky, miserable ass, and she f**king left us.
A scream outside startled Zoe enough for her to grip my leg, and reality hit about the same time that bullets came crashing through the kitchen windows. I ducked, and signaled Zoe to duck with me.
There would be no calling Aubrey’s friends and relatives to find out where she was so I could beg her to come back. I had to get my daughter to safety. Aubrey might have picked a horrible first day for independence, but it was what she wanted, and I had a little girl to protect.
More screams. Car horns honking. Gunfire. Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. It was here.
I opened the hallway closet and grabbed my baseball bat, and then walked over to my daughter, kneeling in front of her to meet her tear-glazed eyes. “Zoe, we’re going to have to get back to the car. I need you to hold my hand, and no matter what you see or hear, don’t let go of my hand, do you understand?”
Zoe’s eyes filled with more tears, but she nodded quickly.
“Good girl,” I said, kissing her on the forehead.
“Bit off?” the nurse, Joanne, asked, carefully prepping the patient’s hand. “By a dog?”
“I don’t know,” Ally said, her voice muffled behind her mask. She was a new hire for the scrub tech team, just out of school. She was twenty, but the way her big eyes were staring at the patient’s hand made her look all of twelve. “Some kind of animal.”
“Her son,” I said, waiting with my X-ray equipment for the surgeon to arrive. Joanne and Ally looked at the meaty, exposed knuckle. “I took the X-rays,” I added. “She was pretty shaken, but she said her son bit off her thumb.”
The petite circulating nurse, Angie, walked through the door with tiny steps. Her scrub pants made a swishing sound as she busily finished different tasks around the room.
“Are you sure she said her son?” Ally asked, staring at the site of the missing digit with renewed interest.
“He’s in the ER,” Angie said. “I heard he’s exhibiting signs of rabies. Several people are.”
“You don’t think this has anything to do with what’s been on the news, do you?” Ally asked, nervous. “Could it have made it here already from Germany? Could it spread that fast?”
The room grew quiet then.
The anesthesiologist had been nervous from the beginning about putting Margaret Sisney under. Instead of playing on his cell phone like usual, he stood over her, focused on every rise of her chest. He looked away every few seconds to focus on the numbers on the monitor, and then returned his attention to Margaret. It was hard to tell with the rest of her under blue surgical sheets, but her face and neck were visibly bluish in color. “She’s cyanotic,” he explained. He adjusted several knobs, and then prepared a syringe.
“Dr. Ingram,” the nurse said to the anesthesiologist. “The patient’s fingernails.”
Even through the orange-brown tint of the iodine scrub, Margaret’s nails were blackening.
“Shit,” Dr. Ingram said. His eyes bounced back and forth between the patient and the monitor. “This was a mistake. A big damn mistake!”
Margaret’s thumb was on ice across the room, waiting to be reattached. It was cyanotic as well, and Dr. Ferber’s call to take her to surgery when she wasn’t quite stable in the ER was questionable even to a newly graduated X-ray tech like me. I watched as her stats deteriorated, and moved my equipment to the far wall, knowing a code blue was imminent.
My pager vibrated against my skin, and I reached under my top to grab it from the waistline of my scrubs. “Shit. Angie, I’ve got to set up in OR Four, and then I’m off. I’ll send David up here. He’ll have the pager.”
“It’s probably going to be a while, anyway, if we do it at all,” Angie said, opening packages and buzzing around the room.
I rushed to the end of the hall, pushing and pulling heavy X-ray equipment in front of and behind me. The moment I finished setting up for the next patient, the call came over the intercom system.
“Code Blue. OR Seven. Code Blue. OR Seven,” a woman’s voice droned, sounding calm and apathetic.
I picked up the phone that hung on the wall by the door, and called down to the department. “Hey, it’s Scarlet. I set up OR four, but looks like seven’s going to be a while, if at all. Tell David to meet me at the south elevator on one. He needs to work this code, and I need to give him the pager.”
As I walked down the hall, nurses, doctors, and anesthesiologists rushed past me, making their way to Margaret Sisney. I pushed the button for the elevator, and yanked the surgical mask off my face. When the doors opened, I sighed at the sight of the crowd inside.
“We’ve got room, Scarlet,” Lana from accounting said.
“I’ll uh . . . I’ll take the stairs,” I said, pointing with a small gesture to my right.
I turned on my heels, pushed through the double doors of the OR, and then used my shoulder to help offset the weight of the heavy door that led to the stairwell.