Editor’s Note: This month’s Fictional Friday Challenge is a continuation from last week’s story entitled Her Billy. For those that missed Part I, I highly recommend reading it prior to Part II as the characters and situation will not make sense without that background. I’ve had a blast taking a stab at this form of writing. It’s been fun to hide behind fiction the last few weeks. I hope you enjoy!
The red light blinked above the Emergency Room door. While the blaring siren accompanied in perfect, synchronized rhythm. The ER room door flew open. The gurney wheels squeaked. The paramedics’ breath was heavy, winded. The blue hospital gown flew behind her like a superhero cape.
“Here we go,” Leila thought. She felt a knot in her throat. As a doctor, she diagnosed herself with non-threatening “globus hystericus” caused by the throat muscles contracting due to anxiety or stress.
It was prom night in the ER.
Paramedics gave her the vital stats and run down: suspected teenage drug overdose. The girl faded in and out of consciousness. Flashing the light in her dilated pupils, she noticed the black makeup caked under her young eyes like a raccoon. She also observed bruising on the inside of her thighs.
Noting the thigh bruises, faded images of her short-lived days as an exotic dancer flashed. How times have changed. She worried about this girl now.
Stabilizing the teenager in intensive care, she had the duty of informing the parents. Adrenalin pumping, she made her way to the critical care waiting room. She repeated in her head: “This is your job. You were meant to do this. Be there for them.” The parents jumped up from the stale brown lobby chairs, the mother clinging to a tissue as the father’s keys jingled in his jean pocket. Her lips moved slowly.
It was the once a week shift in the ER as part of the final months of her medical residency. The other four shifts she worked in the pediatric neuro-oncology unit treating those children with cancer and other serious illnesses.
There her heart broke. There her heart grew.
Of course, she had plenty of room left in heart for her Billy.
Her healthy, sensitive, bright little boy had grown into a strong, confident young man in high school. He loved hockey and singing. Oh, did he love singing. Singing everywhere. He had an incredible singing voice.
Almost six-feet tall with light brown, wavy hair sweeping across his forehead, the angelic voice flowed from his mouth did not match the body. She wasn’t quite sure where Billy got that voice. One day while he practiced his vocal warm up, she blurted: “Your voice must come from your father’s side.”
He stopped in mid note and turned. An uncomfortable silence hung in the air. That was one of the first times she had referenced “him.”
She thinks of him often. Wonders where he is and what he’s doing, but after the letter came from her brother Mikie, she couldn’t risk exposing her Billy to any more pain from another male, father figure.
It’s been almost seven years to the day the letter came about Mikie. The moment will be indelibly chiseled in her mind forever. She had just finished taking the entrance exam at Yale Medical School. Her cell phone rang. It was her roommate with news a letter had arrived via a military messenger. He was waiting.
She dropped the phone. The road blurred ahead. She later learned that while manning a security check point, a terrorist had taken her Mikie at the age of 26.
Her father called every few years, claiming sobriety. Still with his chain-smoking-piece-of-work wife Darla, now turned, evangelical Christian, she doubted their proclamations of health and wellness. She could hear her Dad’s voice cracking on the phone. “He’s gone, Leila. Gone.”
She fell to the ground.
She attended a small military funeral service with Billy. Sitting in the front row next to her father and Darla, she felt numb. Billy gripped her hand tightly. She had to be strong for her Billy.
Following the ceremony, she felt a tap on her shoulder, “Are you Leila?” the voice asked from behind.
“Uh, yes.” she said, turning to a young man dressed in full military uniform. He couldn’t have been older than 21 with a southern twang.
He explained how Mike was his captain for two tours in Afghanistan. He tried to maintain his composure, but she could see his eyes change from solid deep blue to a pale watery color.
“He was like a big brother to me, mam,” he said. Before shaking hands, he handed her a letter from Mikie.
Naturally, she always feels sad around the anniversary of her brother’s death. With the letter unopened, unread, she felt strong enough now to read it.
As she read the letter while Billy slept that night, she could smell the scent of his favorite Ralph Lauren Polo cologne on the paper. She would send the green bottle of cologne to him for his birthday every year.
The letter began with “Dear Dr. Andersen .” Mikie was always the one person who had unwavering faith in her dreams of being a doctor.
She could hear the words in his voice as if he were sitting next to her reading the letter.
He poured his heart out with gratefulness to her as a sister, friend and now a mother. He blamed himself for the pain their Dad caused and regretted not being able to stop him.
At the close of the letter, he wrote a poem. To Leila, it was no surprise that he included a poem – as creative writing had always been an outlet for Mikie…
Missing in action is what I am
Running from pain as fast as I can
Wishing I had a Dad who would toss and catch
Hug and Hold
Don’t keep these precious moments from Our Billy
Give him the chance to feel the love of a Dad
Give him the chance I never had
As she closed the letter, a small piece of paper slipped out. Her mouth gaped open. It was the name and phone number of Billy’s father.
The words of her brother weighed on her heart and mind for months. Paralyzed by fear, Leila never called.
Never even tried.
What she had done, though, is witness her son perform his first vocal solo with a standing ovation. She had also completed her final medical residency evaluation. The hospital held a welcome celebration as a permanent staff member.
When she arrived home, her neighbors had decorated the outside of her condo with a “Congrats Doc Andersen!” banner.
As they walked towards the condo, she noticed a man approaching. The tall, built figure grew closer his brown hair swept to one side. Oddly, it looked like Billy, but he was just behind her. How could that be?
She felt butterflies in her stomach. It was him – Billy’s father, her first love.
She had so many questions, but not a lot of answers. It was as if she was in a dream. The words of her brother echoed… Give him the chance to feel the love of a Dad.
With an outstretched hand, he said, “Hi Leila. It’s been so long.” She stood speechless, motionless. Billy, feeling the uneasy tension politely extended his hand to the stranger, who clearly knew his mother.
Father and son shook hands for the first time. Leila invited him in for a cup of tea. They talked for hours. Leila had introduced him as an old dear friend, but the resemblance of the two was uncanny.
She learned he had switched college majors multiple times. Finally, settling on a degree in music and vocal performance. Living the bachelor life in San Francisco, he was now the director of a music conservatory.
Billy’s ears perked. “I sing too,” he chimed. He smiled lovingly at his son. “Nice, buddy,” he said
Noticing the congratulatory banner, he praised Leila for such an amazing accomplishment. “You always did love kids and helping people. Looks like you are a great mom too,” he said.
When Billy was out of ear shot range, he asked Leila why she had not told him about his son. “I didn’t want to ruin your life too,” she responded.
“I had the right to know, Leila. He’s not just your Billy. He’s our Billy,” he said.
“You’re right, Keith. He is Our Billy.”
Writing prompt: Years later, the character’s first love shows up on his or her doorstep again. Both your character and his/her first love are surprised at how the other person has changed (How?) This encounter causes a disruption in your character’s life (How? What does your character do about it?) Write the story.
Thoughts my lovely, loyal readers of fictional piece #2 (a continuation from fictional #1)?
I was blown away by the amazing fictional work written last week, so please do check out these bloggers who are bravely participating: