Hard Blue Plastic Chair
The glow of the monitor displays outlined Rebecca Hargreaves’ grief stricken profile. Her shoulders slumped under the weight of her guilt. She scooted the hard blue plastic chair closer to her daughter Alex’s bed in the Intensive Care Unit of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Denver Colorado.
As if in a trance, Rebecca watched the lights bounce up and down on the screens. These unintelligible machines were the only thing that stood between her vibrant daughter and death.
Always a beautiful woman, a Senator’s wife, Rebecca’s face reflected the strain of last twelve hours. Her large hazel eyes were red and swollen from weeping into her husband’s tight embrace. Under a mask of make-up perfection, she looked pale and tired. Her pert Cupid’s bow lips, usually turned in a bright smile, held a tight line as if guarding against a scream that lingered just behind Rebecca’s teeth.
She closed her eyes to say a silent prayer of gratitude for the guards outside the curtain. While protecting her daughter’s safety, they also ensured that Rebecca’s distraught photo would not appear on page six of the New York Post.
Turning her head away from her daughter, and the awful machines, Rebecca crossed her arms over her chest. This time, she remembered to dress for the iceberg ICU by wearing a soft hand knit sweater. Her perfectly manicured hands moved along her arms, caressing the wool, in a desperate attempt to create comfort in this frigid, sterile environment.
She turned her eyes to the bed where her daughter lay under blue hospital blankets, white sheets, and a mile of gauze. Short, brown stubble peeked from a turban of bandages that encompassed Alex’s head. Her taut body was a horror show of tubes, drains, and shunts. The clear plastic pipe jammed into her throat forced Alex to take one breath, and then another. Her right hand, its cuticles ragged and skin calloused, lay just inches from Rebecca’s face where Alex’s husband had placed it before walking from her bedside.
Watching her daughter’s hand, Rebecca wondered if she would feel better if she held it close to her heart, as Alex’s husband had done. Caught between action and inaction, Rebecca could only stare. Her heart longed for the chance to connect but her mind saw only decades of estrangement and mistrust.
Rebecca scooted the hard blue plastic chair closer to the bed. Making an effort to ignore the chewed fingernails, small scabs, and calluses, Rebecca reached for the hand. Her hands stopped for a moment, as if to say “Do I have to?”, before they wrapped around Alex’s hand.
Rebecca flushed with the immediate warmth, love and acceptance that radiated from Alex. Alex loved Rebecca. Her precious daughter loved her. Caught in the moment, Rebecca lost track of the bouncing lights. Only this hand, and her love for her child, mattered now.
“Mom,” Rebecca’s youngest daughter stood in the doorway, “It’s time.”
Once attained, she wasn’t sure how to let go of her daughter’s hand. Holding the hand softly between her own, she stood from the hard blue plastic chair. She kissed the rough hand, leaving a red imprint from her lipstick, then placed it carefully on the bed.
Rebecca walked past her youngest daughter and out of the ICU.
Rebecca and Alex Hargreaves are part of a women’s thriller series called “The Fey.”
claudia hall christian is a novelist. claudia is currently working on a serial fiction (DenverCereal.com) set in Denver as well as the Fey thriller series. claudia’s stories can be found at: StoriesbyClaudia.com.