A Mother’s Love Ch. 01

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Amateur

Note: Thanks to all the readers who provided feedback on the Crash-n-Burn series. There was some good, constructive criticism there, and I have been listening. I probably should say that I’m sorry for the way it ended, with so many loose threads (but, to be honest, I’m not really). Some of them will be picked up in the future, but that story was about Cole and Estelle getting together. As in life, sometimes the end of a chapter isn’t tidy and clean.

I expect that this will be a slightly shorter series, but I’m not sure how many chapters it will end up being. I find that my writing sometimes takes me places I never expected — and this first chapter of Masie’s is no exception. Cole’s story was mostly written when the first chapter was published. This is his mother’s story, and I’ll be publishing as each chapter is finished. I apologize ahead of time if that makes some of you crazy with anticipation, but those complaints are some of the best compliments a writer can receive. I hope, as Maisie tells her story, some of Cole’s tale makes a bit more sense. Some of the details will vary, because this is how she remembers it.

ESTELLE

What a day! It started out great, as we prepared to head out for our annual summer camping trip. But, those plans had been changed by circumstances beyond my control. We had just come home from a shopping trip with when I got a call that would change my life. And Cole’s.

“Hello, Maisie,” man’s voice said. “It’s Brian. I’m sorry to burden you, but I really need your help with Estelle.”

Brian Mooney almost never called, and he sounded upset.

“What’s happened, Brian? You know I’ll do anything I can to help.”

“She ran away a few months back, just after Mom died. They were very close, and she really took the loss hard. Your sister was more like her aunt than grandmother — well, step-grandmother. Anyway, she’s been arrested in Niagara.”

“Niagara Falls? Why was she arrested?”

“They were doing a prostitution sweep and she was found with some marijuana. She’s currently in Juvie, but Children’s Aid has insisted that she be released to a responsible family member. Something happened before Mom died, and she won’t come home; I’ve already talked to her about that, but can’t say any more. I can’t even get time off to come down and deal with the mess. My CO said I can’t be spared during the summer, which is total B.S., but there’s nothing I can do about it. If I wasn’t in the army, I’d be entitled to emergency leave. As it is, I’m SOL. Amy’s eyesight is getting even worse, and she lost her license early last year. She’s having a lot of difficulty adapting.”

“Did you need me to pick her up?”

“I, uh, need a bit more than that, Maisie. Estelle’s been convicted on the possession charge, but the judge has given her a discharge. She needs somewhere stable for the next year. If she gets another criminal charge before then, she would have this conviction on her record and would have to serve a six-month sentence. As long as she stays clean, the file will be sealed after the year is up and she’ll have a clear record. In the meantime, it’s protected and can only be accessed in relation to a criminal investigation.” He paused. “She needs a place to live, Maisie. Could you let her stay with you for the next year?”

“She barely knows us, Brian. Isn’t there any other family she could stay with?”

“The twins are in Pickering, but they’ve only got a two-bedroom apartment, and CAS requires a separate bedroom unless she’s with her sister. The Crown has insisted we follow the letter of the law on this. Jonathan’s wife is due in October, and I can’t ask them to take her.”

And I knew then that I really had no choice. Brian was my older sister’s step-son. Mary had three children with Colm, Brian’s father. The youngest was just two years older than Brian’s son. Estelle and her twin were a year and a half younger than Thomas.

“I understand, Brian. I guess we don’t have much choice. How do I contact her?” He gave me the information and thanked me profusely. “We’re family. I promise to do everything I can to keep her out of trouble.”

“You really are a life saver, Maisie. Please give Estelle a big hug for me.”

“I will. I’ll call you once I’ve contacted CAS.”

I hung up and dropped to my chair with a groan. Cole was tapping his pencil on the table, obviously having picked up that there was a problem.

“That was Brian Mooney?” he asked. I nodded. “So, what did Margaret do?”

“Not Marg; Estelle. She got caught with some drugs in Niagara Falls. Brian asked me to give her a hand.”

“Estelle? She’s always been the good one. Marg’s the trouble-maker.”

I understood his confusion. Estelle had never been known to start trouble — though she would happily go along with her twin sister’s crazy escapades.

“Mary’s death was very hard on her and she ran away. She refuses to go back to Angus.”

“How much help does she need, and is it going to delay our trip?”

“Sorry, Cole. We’re going to have to cancel bets10 this summer. It’s going to take some time to sort this out. I’ll need to get her enrolled in school, go through the whole CAS process and I don’t know what else.”

“We’ve had the campsite reserved for a year,” he complained.

“I know, but she’s family and needs our help. Mary’s kids aren’t able to; we are.”

“No, she isn’t family!” he yelled, ripping up the check sheet we had been going through. “She’s only a step-cousin. It’s not fair!”

He jumped up and started out of the room

“Cole David King, sit your ass down this instant!”

He was back in his chair in under a second. That was the closest I had ever come to losing my temper in front of my son. I almost never raised my voice at him, and never swore. I’m not sure if he was more shocked or I was.

“Cole, you will never say that in front of me ever again. And you will never even think about saying it in front of Estelle. Do you understand?”

“But…”

“Never!” I poked at his chest with my finger. “Do…you…understand?”

He deflated in front of me, giving in. “Yes, Mother.”

“I know that she’s not a blood relation,” I said, softening my voice. “But she’s still family. And, she needs our help. Please don’t ask her about what happened. Let her tell you when she’s ready. I need you to make her feel welcome, as much as you can.”

“I’ll try,” he said in a quiet voice.

“That’s all I can ask. I know this won’t be easy, Cole. But we’ll make it work.”

***

EMERGENCY

It took a couple days to make the arrangements, then I had to drive to Niagara to pick up Estelle. She was dressed in an oversized fleece pullover that was more than a little tattered. She had the hood pulled up, and never dropped it all the way back to Hamilton. I tried to talk a couple times, but she only gave single-word answers, when she deigned to reply at all.

I called to Cole when we got home, but I just caught a glimpse of him heading out the back door. I heard Estelle begin to sob as he slammed the door.

“I should have just stayed in Juvie,” she mumbled past her tears.

I pulled her into a hug, drawing down the hood of her sweatshirt to kiss her blonde hair. “No, you belong here now, Estelle. Don’t worry about Cole, he’s just blowing off some steam. We had to change our plans a bit. It’s the first time we’ve missed our summer camping trip in years.”

“And it’s all my fault.”

“You made a mistake. I’ve made a few pretty big ones in my time. But you’ve also been given a second chance. You just have to keep on the straight and narrow for one year, then your record goes away. I promised your father that I’d help you.”

I lifted her chin to make her look at me. She may not really be related, but you wouldn’t know to look at her. Estelle’s eyes were not far from the blue of my own, and our hair was nearly the same shade of blonde. She was four inches shorter than me, standing only five-three, and had a very petite frame. I called my body ‘classically beautiful’. I wasn’t out of shape, but I had a lot of very nice curves. Cole’s father had really loved my body, and knew quite well how to show it. But we’d had some disagreements about our son, and he’d left years ago.

“I need you to promise me a couple things, Estelle. No drugs, no getting drunk, and no sleeping around. Can you do that?”

“Sometimes a joint really helps me relax. Weed’s not really a drug like cocaine or heroin.”

“Darling, you were arrested because of weed. You have to promise me that you won’t do any drugs at all for the next year. I’m trying to help you, and it’s absolutely essential that you agree to these conditions. You’ll be eighteen soon, and any new charges you get will be as an adult.”

She sighed. “All right, Aunt Maisie. No doing drugs and no drinking.” She paused. “You’re firm on the sex thing, too?”

“Yes. You’ve lost a whole semester of school, and CAS demanded that I enroll you immediately. I don’t want you to be distracted boy boys — or a pregnancy. You need to graduate, Estelle.”

“Lots of people don’t.”

“You are not lots of people. You’re my niece, and I insist that you get every opportunity for a good, happy life.” I picked up her bag and took her hand. “Let me show you your room.”

I had a three-bedroom house. My bedroom was at the back, on the south side. The semi-ensuite bath sat between the master bedroom and Estelle’s room. She was on the east side, and would get the morning sun. Cole had asked to have the front bedroom years ago, as he didn’t want the sun waking him during summer holidays. Estelle placed her bag in the dresser, but didn’t start unpacking. She looked at me with sad eyes. There was something else there, but I had no idea what.

“Aunt Maisie, could you hold me for a bit? Nana used to do that when I was sad.”

Nana was what she had called my sister. I barely managed to keep myself from crying as I made my way to the bed.

“Come on, I’ll cuddle bets10 giriş you for a while. Any time you need a hug, Estelle, just ask.”

She pulled off the sweatshirt and slipped into my arms, head on my chest. She was wearing a thin tank top underneath, and I noticed that she didn’t have much of a tan at all. Her pale arms were thankfully clear of any needle marks, calming my mind a bit. She began crying again, and I just held her as she blubbered.

***

I must have fallen asleep, because I was woken by the phone ringing. I slipped out from under Estelle and went to my room, picking up the extension there.

“Hello? King residence.”

“Is this Maisie King?”

“Yes, could I ask who’s calling?”

“Hamilton-Wentworth Police. Ma’am, your son Cole has been involved in an auto collision. He is currently at McMaster Medical Centre.”

My guts instantly turned into ice. “What? Is he all right?”

“He is currently being prepared for surgery. I recommend that you make your way to the hospital. The staff will be able to answer your questions.”

“Yes, of course. I’m on my way.”

My hand was shaking as I hung up the phone, fear threatening to overtake all rational thought. I forced myself to take a deep breath. He was at the hospital, so he was still alive. He might be hurt, but he was at one of the best medical centres in the country. He’d be fine. I was sure. Of course, he’d be fine. I repeated my little mantra a few times and almost believed it.

“Estelle,” I yelled as I headed for the stairs. “Get up. We need to go.”

I was already collecting my purse and checking that I had my keys when she appeared in the upstairs hall.

“What’s wrong?”

“Cole has been hurt. We need to go to the hospital immediately.”

Her face was shocked and concerned. She ran down the stairs, barely touching them. “What happened?”

I led her outside, reminding myself to lock the door behind me. “I don’t know. He must have taken his bike out. The police said there was an accident.”

“No! Is he all right? Fuck, this is all my fault. He wouldn’t have gone out if it wasn’t for me.”

I unlocked the van and we got in. “Don’t blame yourself. He bikes all the time, and he always rides too fast. It’s his fault if he cut someone off and got hit, not yours. Don’t worry, he’ll be fine. At least, until I get a hold of him.”

Of course, inside I was freaking out, but I couldn’t let her know that. I had to be strong right now. I couldn’t stand women who collapsed at the first sign of a problem. There was no way that I’d let myself be one of them. I would make myself to do what needed to be done. Just like I had for the nearly eighteen years I had been Cole’s mother. I took another deep breath, then forced myself to check for traffic before pulling out. I’d be at the hospital in a few minutes and we’d find out that Cole wasn’t hurt that bad. Everything would be fine.

***

POST-OP

My heart must have been beating a hundred and twenty times a minute as I drove to McMaster Medical Center. I was tempted to just floor the accelerator, but forced myself to stick to the speed of traffic. We made it, parked and headed inside. It took about twenty minutes to find out where he was — still in surgery. After handling a bunch of paperwork, I was forced to sit in the waiting room for what felt like hours. That was a difficult time for me, all of my fears running around my head, unhindered. The worst-case scenario kept popping up, and I repeatedly had to force those thoughts from my mind. I was maintaining a cool exterior, but the thin veneer was getting pretty fragile as time dragged on. Finally, a tall man in surgical scrubs stepped into the room.

“Mrs. King?”

“Here,” I said, standing. I forced myself to breathe. “How’s Cole?”

He smiled. “Seems that he’s mostly out of the woods. Would you come with me?”

Estelle followed without being told, and we went into a smaller room. He closed the door behind us and sat on the arm of a chair. We took seats on the comfortable couch facing him.

“I am Doctor Jones. I’m the orthopedic surgeon that was working on your son. He had several arm and leg fractures, but we can go into the details later. The important thing is that I believe he will regain full mobility. He’s in great physical condition, and that will definitely help with his recovery. None of the fractures were in a joint, but we did need to use some supportive hardware to secure the bones in position. His healing will take some time, but he will recover. As far as his mobility is concerned, none of those injuries will affect him, long-term.” He paused. “You will need to talk with Doctor Liu, the neurosurgeon. Cole also suffered a head injury, and she will be able to speak about that.”

“When can I see him?” My voice sounded somewhere between over-eager and hysterical, but I was not sure which extreme I was closer to.

“Not just yet. He’s in observation right now. A nurse will let you see him as soon as possible. bets10 güvenilir mi He won’t be conscious for some time, though. Doctor Liu and I agreed that he needed to remain sedated for a bit longer to allow the worst of the injuries to heal a bit.”

“I understand, Doctor,” I heard myself say.

Actually, I really didn’t understand why he would be kept sedated. That was usually for severe injuries. A broken arm or leg didn’t require keeping the patient completely immobile. Just how serious was that head injury?

“Doctor,” I heard Estelle say. “Is the head injury really bad?”

“Well, miss, all head injuries have serious risks. Doctor Liu is one of the best in the business, and she’s our head of neurosurgery. She personally worked with me on Cole, and she knows what she’s doing. I can’t answer exactly what she saw or did, as I was a bit preoccupied with his arms and legs. When you see her, she’ll be able to answer your questions.” He stood. “Why don’t you get a drink or a bite to eat? Just let the ICU nurse know that you’re stepping out, and check in when you get back. They’ll make sure you can see him as soon as possible.”

I nodded. “Thank you, Doctor Jones.”

We grabbed some dinner in the cafeteria, bringing most of our food back to the waiting room. We had to wait another hour before we could see Cole. When I did, it took my breath away for a few seconds. His head was wrapped in several layers of dressing and bandages. There was a ventilator in his mouth and a feeding tube in his nose. Several wires led from the head bandages, with machines softly beeping to either side of him. There was a cast on his right forearm and right ankle, and his left leg was bandaged almost from hip to ankle. His left arm was bandaged above the elbow, and the forearm was strapped across his abdomen to immobilize it. There were several IVs in place, including one in his neck.

Estelle took hold of my hand, squeezing it tightly. As we stood looking at him, a short Asian woman in a white coat entered.

“I am Doctor Liu. You are Mrs. King?”

“Yes.”

She nodded. “Your son sustained a serious head injury. There was a depressed skull fracture with a haematoma, as well as some damage to the cerebral arteries. There is still the risk of further injury, so we need to keep him sedated for several days. He will then be weaned off the drugs, but it may take some time for him to wake.”

“What’s with all the IVs?” Estelle asked.

“They serve multiple purposes. The different lines are used for blood sampling and pressure monitoring, as well as administration of drugs and nutrients. The jugular line will be removed tonight. His arm veins were not fully available during surgery, and that was the most convenient alternative. I understand that you have spoken with Doctor Jones.”

“Yes,” I said.

“You must realize that brain injuries are not like bones. Once set, a fracture will heal, often stronger than it was before. It is easy to see the precise nature and extent of a fracture on an X-ray, making diagnosis and treatment straightforward. The brain is more complex. We do not fully understand it even now. I can see symptoms, but I cannot always tell you exactly what is happening, nor what the final outcome will be.” She paused. “I can tell you that your son was fortunate to be brought here very quickly. The intracranial bleeding would have caused much more damage if it had been allowed to continue even twenty or thirty minutes longer. I detected critical intracranial pressure when I began the surgery, but was able to manage it. We currently have a monitor in place to warn if the ICP rises again. I do not believe that the pressure caused significant injury, but we will need to wait until Cole has regained consciousness to perform a full assessment. I am optimistic that he will have minimal permanent effects from the injury.”

Everything but her last sentence had been pumping up my stress level. “But, you don’t know yet, do you?”

“No, Mrs. King. I could give an expected prognosis based on my observations and past experience, an educated guess, but every brain injury is different. Each individual will react to trauma differently. At this time, I do not have any expectation that Cole will suffer any serious permanent disability. I will know more when he wakes.”

“I understand, Doctor. Thank you.”

After she had left, Estelle pressed against my side and I put an arm around her shoulders.

“I’m scared, Maisie.”

“I know, Estelle.” I was too, not that I allowed myself to show it. “But, we just need to have a bit of faith. Doctor Jones said the bones will be fine, and Doctor Liu believes there will be minimal brain injury.”

Se moved forward, reaching out to touch Cole’s face. “I’m glad he didn’t mess up his face. He always was the cutest of my cousins.” She smiled as her hand moved across his shoulder and down his right arm. “Wow. Nice muscles.”

“Well, he did work out a lot. You should see his legs. He was going to try for Cycle Canada’s Olympic team this summer. I’ve never seen anyone ride a bike so fast. And he was nearly fearless on two wheels.”

She squatted next to the bed, her head next to his shoulder. “I want to help. It’s my fault he’s like this. Anything you need, Aunt Maisie. Anything at all.”

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