A look of fear and guilt pushed Paul’s eyes to maximum width. A deed of pure selfishness and utter wrong resurfaced in his mind. If it were other circumstances, he may have charmed his way out of the girl’s certain confrontation. But he could do nothing but lay there in captive submission to whatever she surely was about to unleash on him.
Ramona was so stunned no words came. An awkward awareness of the situation crept up into her brain along with the flush on her face. Paul, or at least that guy; the guy she had spent that evening with in the roadhouse and then . . . and then, well the awful hours and days that followed.
“Paul?” She whispered. “What . . . what happened to you?” She realized the immediate circumstances obviously dominated the initial conversation.
“I . . . I was going to call you.” He stammered out in a weak, muffled voice. “I . . . I’m sorry I . . . ”
“Mister, Paul, or whoever you are, don’t even.” Ramona said in a measured but strong, quiet voice. “I asked you what happened, that’s all. Can you at least give me enough respect to answer me with a little straight truth?” She was gaining confidence with every syllable.
“I’m sorry: yes, I can.” He started to really grasp the vulnerability of his position in this unexpected encounter. There was no way to run even if he wanted to.
“Well, I was walking across the street in an unlighted crosswalk and got hit by some idiot’s truck.”
“Hmmmm.” Ramona breathed. Her mind went to all sorts of responses she could have spat out, like, “Yeah, I did too,” or, “I think the idiot was in the crosswalk,” but to her surprise, she restrained herself.
“Is anything broken?” She kept it practical.
“Well, my chest hurts, my head is wrapped as you can see, and my left leg is in some sort of a cast, I think.”
Mr. Beckett called softly from the next bed. “Ramona, could you step over here for a minute?”
Ramona moved around the curtain again to face her father.
“Dad, that is the guy,” she whispered. “The guy I met before . . . I mean, he’s the guy who attacked me. What do I do?”
“Serious? You mean he’s the baby’s father?” Beckett whispered too.
“Yes,” she whispered back. “I know it’s him. What should I do?”
“Well,” he started, “well he’s not going anyplace soon, that’s for sure. We have time to figure it out.”
That was one thing about her father she really respected. He was wise about things. She knew he could analyze and process things very well and he always seemed to come to good decisions about hard situations. Well, except for that irrational outburst in the mercantile store. That was really so unlike his regular demeanor. Church stuff made him act irrational too, though. She had to say that.
“Ramona?” Now the other bed was calling. “Ramona, I . . . I really am sorry. I hope we can have a conversation when I get better. I want to, I mean I’ve been thinking, I mean before this accident, that I need some help. I have been messed up and something has to change. Would you . . . be willing to talk to me, I mean in spite of what I did to you?”
“Mister, I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it. But you aren’t going anywhere soon and I know where you are and I intend to have a short conversation with you, along with somebody like Officer Riley.”
“Really? You would really do that? I know I deserve it. Never mind; just never mind. I mean, please, can’t we just talk first?
“Well, mister, the last time we talked you charmed my pants right off me and that will never happen again!” She spat this out with a venomous edge to her voice now.
“I know, and the drug was totally wrong, too. But that’s what I want to talk about. I . . . well, I need you to know that I wish I could do that night differently. You are such a great girl and I so took advantage of you, I’m . . . I’m such a toad.”
This last sentence seemed to take a great effort to get out of Paul. He looked drained. The whole shock of seeing Ramona in this context and him in such a vulnerable position weakened him physically and emotionally.
Ramona looked at him with a truck load of skepticism. “I will be back. You can be sure of that,” and moved back to the other side. Her father had drifted off to sleep again so she sat down in the worn, plastic overstuffed chair to think. It was 8:25 pm.
Becky had quickly closed the coffee bar. The whole bizarre narrative that Ramona had reeled off earlier has occupied her mind all evening. Fact is, she had to remake a few drinks because she didn’t seem to be able to focus.
What a story! The whole part about the Edith angel, though a strange tale, was entirely in the realm of God activity. After all, hadn’t she and Jeremy prayed for an intervention no matter what or how?
Locking up, she hurried down the street toward the hospital. It was possible Ramona was still visiting her father and she wanted to be there for her.
And what about that guy in the next bed? She wanted to tell Ramona about him, too; that she thought she had encountered him in her coffee store.
The hospital elevator was so slow! But after an eternity and a stop on the second floor to let on an entire entourage of family from the second floor maternity ward, the elevator groaned to a stop on the third.
Confusion from the family about having gotten on the “Up” elevator when it should have been the “Down” caused the doors to open and shut several times before she could wriggle out through the crowd.
“Excuse me, I need to get out. Thank you.” Finally free, she hurried down the corridor to 314.
“Ramona? Oh, good, you’re still here.”
“Hey Becky, guess what? I have to tell you something!”
“Well, I have to tell you something,” Becky insisted.
“The guy in the next bed . . . ,” they both said at once.