“I’ll be in touch,” he promised before he ended the call.
The hospital was out of his way, and it took him thirty minutes in traffic in what would usually take about twenty. All during the drive he berated himself, unsure why he was going. He was no Florence Nightingale. Normally he avoided hospitals, and other than this situation with Beth, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d voluntarily set foot in one.
He didn’t want to get involved or lead her into thinking he cared. Bottom line, he decided, he felt responsible for her. That was hard to explain, because there was no logical reason he should feel that way. He wasn’t the one who’d hit her. Just because he happened to be at the scene of the accident, he felt obliged to look after her. Didn’t make much sense, but it was what it was.
He found decent parking and made his way into the hospital. When he arrived on her floor, her door was closed. He stood outside, wondering what to do, and then decided to knock.
“Come in,” Beth called. Her voice sounded stronger than it had the day before, which was a good sign.
He opened the door and took a couple steps into the room, stopping abruptly. A woman stood on the other side of Beth’s bed. She looked like a poster child for Haight-Ashbury in the late 1960s with her tie-dyed skirt and her long, straight, salt-and-pepper hair.
When she saw him, the woman’s face lit up into a huge smile.
“Sam,” Beth breathed, clearly surprised.
“This is Sam?” the other woman asked.
Before he could acknowledge either woman, the older one hurried around the bed and enveloped him in a bear hug. “I am so happy to meet you,” she squealed, as though this was one of the greatest honors of her life. She gave him another squeeze before she released him enough to where he could breathe again. She leaned back, keeping hold of his upper arms. “I don’t know what Beth would have done without you,” she said, sounding close to tears. “She’s told me everything.”
Sam’s gaze shot to Beth, wondering what she could have possibly said to warrant this over-the-top greeting.
“How precious of you to come see her,” the woman gushed.
“Sam,” Beth said, gesturing toward the other woman, “this is my aunt, Sunshine.”
“Sam,” he said unnecessarily. “Carney,” he added.
Gripping hold of his hand, she kissed the back of it. “Thank you. A thousand times thank you.”
“Ah … sure.” He fully intended to drill Beth and learn what all the gratitude was about.
“So you’ve come to see Beth. I was just leaving.” She turned back to her niece, kissed her forehead, and then swept out of the room, taking a dramatic exit, blowing them both kisses on her way out.
“That,” Beth said, “was my crazy, wonderful aunt Sunshine.”
“Wow, she fills up an entire room, doesn’t she?”
“Exactly what did you tell her about me?”
“Only that you helped me at the scene.” She swallowed. “Don’t get your nose out of joint.”
He widened his eyes. “My nose out of joint.”
She attempted a smile. “That’s something my dad says.”
He felt he should explain why he’d stopped by a second day in a row. He tucked his hands in his back pockets and remained where he was just inside the door. “Nichole sends greetings. She wasn’t able to get away. Matthew’s got an ear infection and she spent the day at the doctor’s office.”
“Poor Matthew. I had those as a kid, too.”
He felt awkward, the way he had when he’d first arrived the day before, bringing her the rose. That had been a last-minute decision. When he came into the hospital he saw someone carrying flowers. Thinking it might be expected, he felt bad knowing Beth probably didn’t have anyone to bring her flowers. A minute later, he saw the flower display in the window of the gift shop and bought the rose on impulse.
“I told Nichole I’d check in and see how your day went and report back,” he said, as a means of explaining his visit.
She shifted and grimaced. “It’s been a long day, but last night was the worst.”
“It’s so dark and quiet. The pain seems to be more cutting then. I slept in fits and starts most of the night. I don’t think I slept more than an hour at a time.”
“Hasn’t the doctor prescribed pain meds?”
“Oh yes, but I’m only allowed to take them every four hours and they hold me to the minute.” She grimaced for the second time.
“Are you in pain now?”
She moistened her lips and nodded.
“How long before you’re due for another pill?”
Her eyes went to the clock on the wall. “An hour.”
Sixty minutes can feel like an eternity when in pain. “Is there anything I can do?”
She met his gaze as if determining how serious he was. “Yes.”
“Name it.” Whatever it was he’d find a way to help her.
“My aunt brought me my Bible. Would you read to me from the Psalms?”
The request shocked him and he raised both hands as if she’d pointed a rifle at him. “You want me to read to you from the Bible?” What had he gotten himself in for? “Sorry, babe, I don’t think so. I open that book and fire and brimstone will rain down from the heavens.”
Her face fell with disappointment. “You’re joking.”
He waved his hands. “Afraid not.”
She exhaled and he could tell she was utterly miserable. Closing her eyes, she gave him a sad smile. “Okay, I understand.”
Sam felt her frustration as if it were his own. He couldn’t believe he was actually considering this. Feeling guilty, he reached for the Bible, which was on the stand next to her bed. “Where do I look for the book of Psalms?” he asked, completely unfamiliar with the Bible.
She opened her eyes, which widened with surprise when she saw he’d taken the seat next to her bed.
“Open the book to the middle and you should be in Psalms.”
He did as she suggested, and sure enough he landed in Psalms. “Any particular one you want me to read?”
“Just start reading where you are.”
“Okay.” Sam drew in a breath and relaxed against the chair. “Psalm five. Give heed to my words, O Lord. Consider my groaning.” He continued to read, finishing that Psalm and then going on to another. “A guy wrote these?” he asked, and noticed Beth was asleep.
He continued reading silently and found the answer to his question. At the top of the Psalm it read A Psalm of David. Sam didn’t know a lot of Bible stories but distinctly remembered hearing about David and Goliath. He wondered if this was the same David who’d written these Psalms. He started flipping pages and eventually happened upon the passage with a little help from the footnotes. He turned to First Samuel and silently read of when David defeated the giant, losing himself in the story.
When next he looked up, he found that Beth was awake and studying him, her look curious.
“My reading put you to sleep,” he said, a little embarrassed to have her finding him still reading her Bible. He’d found several places where she’d written notes in the margins. He didn’t know people did that sort of thing. It was like he’d flipped open the pages of her diary.
“Your reading relaxed me. Thank you.”
The nurse came in with her pain meds. Beth swallowed them down with a glass of water and let out a deep sigh.
“I happened upon the story about David and Goliath,” he said. “There were a lot of details there that I didn’t know.”
Sam grinned. “Like King Saul wanting David to wear his battle armor. I could just picture David trying to walk in all that cumbersome gear. It sort of cracked me up. He was young, too.”
“Brave of him, but then he was promised the daughter of the king if he succeeded.”
“Good incentive, don’t you think?” she teased.
“Depends on the daughter,” Sam returned.