“No, Jaime, don’t go. Stay,” Steve sniveled in his fitful sleep, his head tossing and turning, his face twisting in pain. “No, no, don’t leave me.” Steve sprung up in his bed and shot his eyes open. He took a few seconds to regulate his breathing rate before sinking his head back into his pillow. He ran a hand across his brow to wipe the beads of perspiration and heaved a sorrow-fraught sigh.
Jaime was no longer a part of his life. She had chosen to follow her doctor boyfriend, notwithstanding the fact that she had experienced some deep feelings for him during her amnesia. He had nurtured high hopes that their trip to Ojai would spark her memory of their romance, choosing to stay a while longer to give their friendship a chance to blossom into something more meaningful.
He hauled himself out of bed and went to the bathroom to get ready for his next mission briefing.
At the OSI , Callahan had been called in as morning replacement for Oscar’s secretary who had called in sick. She was told that Mr. Goldman had been highly impressed with her work and had personally recommended that she’d be hired back on a more permanent basis. She was particularly happy to learn that Colonel Austin had heartily seconded the motion. Callahan had longed to gaze into his twinkling blues and bask in his engaging smile. Once she’d resigned to the fact that his heart belonged to Jaime Sommers, she was able to open hers to Timothy Hurst, a well-established lawyer who had embarked her on a smooth sailing journey through as sea of passion, until their ship ran aground. Once again, she was left alone to swim her way back to shore.
She was still reeling over her breakup, doodling tiny broken bleeding hearts on a sheet of paper when Steve walked in. As she lifted her eyes from her drawings, she broke into a broad beaming smile. “Hi Steve!”
“Callahan?!” Steve exclaimed with surprise. “I didn’t expect to see you until next week.”
“I’m just filling in for Joyce who’s a bit under the weather. She asked me if I’d be willing to take her place for the morning.”
“Ah! It’s always a great pleasure to see you.”
“Thank you,” she answered shyly, slightly lowering her eyes she feared would betray her emotions.
“Are you free for lunch?”
“How about you and me grab a bite to eat and catch up on the past weeks?”
“I’d like that very much,” she quavered, her voice broken by a nervous gulp down her throat.
“Is noon okay?”
Steve threw her a friendly wink before crossing to Oscar’s office. As she watched him entering the office, the image of Jaime’s face popped back into the picture. ‘Peggy, get your mind off him. He’s off limits. The sooner you face up to reality, the better you’ll feel’ she reasoned with herself.
Time glided by ever so slowly for Callahan who kept glancing at her desk clock, willing it to strike noon. She wished for a busy morning, mainly to keep her mind occupied, but as luck would have it, it had been as silent as a crypt.
When the time came, Steve took his coquettish lady companion to a fancy restaurant where he tipped the Maitre D’ handsomely to show them to their finnest table in a secluded corner. Steve gallantly pulled her chair before seating himself across from her. They ordered drinks and started shooting the breeze with small talk while waiting for their cocktails to arrive before veering their conversation round the topic of their respective love lives.
“I though he was the one, Steve,” Callahan confided with a woeful smile, alluring to her last beau. She exhaled a shivering breath and took a sip of her drink. “Then two days ago I found out that he was sneaking around my back with his assistant. When I confronted him, you know what he said?”
Steve shook his head.
“Why Peggy! We never said we were going steady. I can date other women just like you can other men,” she mimicked with a scornful curl of her lip. “Can you believe this? It’s not like we’d been going together for a week. We had been an item for over two months, but he never considered it a serious relationship.” She exhaled the last speck of her anger. “I’m sorry, Steve. I’m just so angry.”
“Don’t apologize. That guy didn’t deserve you,” he assured her, reaching for her hand across the table and giving it a gentle squeeze.
She looked down at his hand, whose thumb was delicately rubbing her knuckles. The mere touch sent shivers down her spine. She was lifted to 7th Heaven until he pulled back his hand, which made her crash down to earth.
“So, what’s up with you and Jaime?”
Steve looked downcast. A ominous silence feel between them as she tried to read his eyes staring down at his glass. “Steve? Something wrong?”
He inhaled deeply to pluck up the courage to confess a truth he had chosen to avoid. “Jaime’s gone,” he exhaled in a single breath before quaffing his drink.
Callahan’s lips formed a silent ‘o’ as she stared bewildered at a brokenhearted Steve. “I’m sorry.”
He strained a lopsided smile at her. “It’s okay. I was deluding myself by expecting her to remember me.”
“Life is cruel. You and Jaime shared a lifetime of memories.”
“I just want to forget. Start anew.”
“I’ll certainly give it a good try. How about you?”
“I guess if you’re willing, so can I.”
“That’s the spirit! Hey, why don’t we make an afternoon of it?”
“Why not. Do you have plans?”
“Then what do you say? We’ll do something crazy.”
“You want to go skydiving?”
“Okay, okay. We’ll go horseback riding instead.”
They locked stares and burst out laughing.
They spent the entire afternoon partaking in fun activities and dined at a dimlit intimate restaurant, after which they tripped the light fantastic on a nightclub dance floor and indulged in a drunken orgy to drown the last remnants of Jaime Somers and Timothy Hurst.
Both drunk as lords, they took a taxi to her apartment. She fumbled with the doorknob, giggling like a teenager, while Steve was leaning ungainly against the wall to avoid falling to his knees. She finally got her fingers to work around the knob and pushed her way inside. Feeling woozy, she lost her balance and fell into Steve’s arms.
“I thing am libble bit drunk,” she slurred, her head slumping backwards.
Steve tweaked her nose and steadied her while he closed the door and put the keys on the table.
“Don’t thing that cavvy like us.”
“No wonder. I nearly threw up in the back seat of his cab,” Steve tittered.
They both broke into a giddy laugh as they clung to each other for physical support.
“Come on, little lady. Let’s get ya to bed.”
“Ah, ah, ah…you come with me,” she purred seductively, steering him into her bedroom by pulling on his tie.
They both wobbled across the living room to the bedroom with wicked grins hanging on the ears. Callahan slumped backwards on the bed, pulling Steve on top of her. She flung her arms sluggishly around his neck and buried her face in his chest, taking a whiff of his intoxicating body scent. “Hummmmmmmmmmm you smell good, “ she drooled out.
“Thanks.” Steve fumbled with her arms to pry them apart and staggered to his feet. He started pulling at her shoe.
“What you doing?” she slurred as she tried to focus on the figure tugging at her foot.
“Getting your shoes off.”
“Don’t want to sleep with shoes on, do ya?” Steve plucked at her shoe once more and flumped down on the floor as it came off her foot. He heaved himself back up. “This is a heavy task,” he laughed.
He managed to get the other shoes off without falling down. “Where is your night gown?”
“That for you know and me find out.”
Steve reached underneath her pillow. “Found it!” he unfurled the pink-flowered white gown and admired it. “Hummmmm, nice.”
“Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Like pink flowers,” she drawled.
“Got to get you undressed.”
“No can do. You see me naked.”
“I close my eyes, promise,” he drooled, slapping both hands over his eyes.
Callahan outstretched her arms and let them dropped heavily onto the bed. “I am all lours.”
He carefully leaned over her and fumbled with the buttons of her blouse while she imitated his moves with his shirt. Once open, she slid her lecherous arms around his torso and pulled him closer to her, raking her fingernails into his back.
He raised his head up, using his hands as leverage. They locked stares.
“Kiss me,” she invited sultrily.
He lowered his chest down and gently brushed his lips against hers before parting them completely to savor the alcohol-drenched taste of her mouth. Their heartbeat increased and their breathing grew heavier as he began leaving a trail of feathery kisses down her neck.
“Jaime is fool to pass up on that,” Callahan confessed in a whisper as she felt her body dissolving into his, her skin prickling all over as he began nibbling on her earlobe.
He looked at her with a drunken smile. “Jaime who?” he breathed out before plunging his mouth into hers.
A few streaks of cloud in an otherwise blue sky welcomed the dawn of a new day. The first rays filtered through the windowpane of Callahan’s bedroom, shining fiercely upon a slumbering Steve’s face. He crinkled his nose and let out a few stifled moans before prying his eyelids apart.
He wrinkled his brow as he scanned the unfamiliar surroundings. ‘This is not my bedroom,’ he thought to himself. His inquisitive eyes traveled down to the form sleeping to his right. He stared wild-eyed at the woman he recognized as Callahan, recoiling in shock at his suspicion that she was wearing her birthday suit. Even more staggering was the discovery that he was missing his trousers.
He sank deeper into his pillow and clamped his eyes shut, Grabbing his head in despair, he cudgeled his brains into recalling the events of the night before, but drew a blank after the nightclub.
He winced as Callahan stirred and rolled onto her left side, flinging her arm around his torso. At the risk of rousing her and having her finding them in this compromising position, he laid still, barely breathing.
‘No, no, no, no…Steve think’ he chastised himself inwardly. ‘Nothing happened, I’m sure of it. Come on! Be serious!’ he hazarded a sidelong glance at the sleeping beauty with a glowing smile tugging at her lips. With the tip of his fingers, he gingerly peeled her arm off his chest and rested it gently on the bed beside him. Then he quietly slithered out of bed, taking a few second to breathe away a dizzy spell brought on by the throbbing headache, before slipping on his trousers. He froze when the jingle of his belt buckle disturbed Callahan’s peaceful sleep. She shifted in bed but did not wake, much to his relief. He grabbed his shirt, socks and shoes and padded out of the bedroom to finish getting dressed in the living room.
Without a moment’s hesitation, he flew out the door and hailed a taxi to his house.
In early afternoon, Callahan was in the kitchen fixing herself her tenth cup of coffee when the phone rang. Each ring hammered a thousand nails into her pounding head. She tried her best to steady herself, walk in a straight line up to the phone. She seated herself on the sofa and picked up the receiver. “Hello.”
“Callahan? It’s Steve. How’s the head?” he asked teasingly.
“I’ll tell you once I find it. I think it’s still screwed onto my shoulders but I’m not sure.
Steve tittered, which sent an equal amount of nails in his own throbbing head. “Same here.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I had a wonderful time last night, the parts I remember anyway.”
“I won’t disturb you long. Just wanted to check on you before I embark on my assignment.”
“You’re leaving today?”
“Yeah. If everything goes according to plan, I should wrap this up in a week or two. Then we can go for an encore.”
“I’d love to. Only next time, let’s lose the booze.”
“Deal. Take care of yourself. I’ll see when I get back.”
“I’ll call you.”
“I’d like that.”
“Bye.” She hung up the phone and broke into a blissful smile, believing that her winsome prince was finally noticing her.
Three weeks wore on and Steve remained on location in California. He had kept in touch with her regularly during the first two weeks, but lost all contact afterwards. Oscar assured her that Steve had to follow another lead in a remote area, hence the reason why he was compelled to break off all communications.
One morning, she came to work feeling queasy. When Oscar buzzed her into his office to take dictation, she was overcome by a fainting spell. Luckily Oscar was standing nearby to grab a hold of her before she hit the floor. He assisted her to the sofa and went to the bar to pour a glass of water. He squatted before her and handed her the glass.
“Are you feeling better?” he asked with great concern.
She nodded, dabbing her mouth dry with her fingers. “Yes. I’m sorry. It’s just lack of sleep. I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately.” She handed the glass back to Oscar that he set on the table.
“Perhaps it’ll be a good idea to let Dr. Wells check you out.”
“No need. I’m fine. I told you, I’m just a bit tired, that’s all.”
“Yes. Thanks for worrying anyway.”
He stood up and helped her rise to her feet.
“I’m ready to take down that letter.”
“Forget it. It can wait. I want you to go back to your apartment and get some rest.”
”Mr. Goldman, I’m fine,” she whined.
“Don’t argue with your boss. You go right now and come back tomorrow. Don’t worry, you’ll be paid.”
She sighed resignedly to her fate. “Okay. Thank you,” she smiled her gratitude at his solicitous boss before crossing to the door.
Her step faltered as another fainting spell washing over her and fell senseless into Oscar’s arms. He laid her on the sofa and got on the phone to Rudy.
An hour later, Callahan awoke on an examination table in Rudy’s lab. She focused on the blurred smock-clad figure leaning over her. “Callahan? Can you hear me?” Rudy asked.
“Dr. Wells?” she mumbled.
“What am I doing here? What happened?”
“You lost consciousness. Oscar brought you in.”
She bolted into a sitting position, triggering another painful dizzy spell. Rudy gently pushed her back down on the table. “Easy there. Not so fast. Take a deep breath first.”
She inhaled deeply and exhaled before Rudy helped her sit on the edge of the table. “Better?”
“Oscar tells me you have been suffering from insomnia?”
“Yes. I haven’t been feeling well in the last couple of nights. I wake up nauseous. I think I should change my dietary plan.”
“That’s what you think is wrong?”
“What else is there?”
“You’re pregnant,” she informed with a smile.
She gaped pop-eyed at Rudy whose smile quickly faded into a frown. “I see that news was not expected.”
“There…there has to be some mistake,” she stuttered nervously.
“No mistake. I double checked your tests. You are definitely three weeks pregnant.”
“Three weeks?” she exclaimed in utter shock. “That’s…that’s impossible! I know how babies are made and I haven’t,” she flashed an embarrassing smile, “ done that in a long time.”
“What about a recent boyfriend?”
“That would be Tim but he and I never consummated our relationship. Sure we broke off three weeks ago, but we never…”
She shook her head.
“Then I don’t know what to tell you. You are definitely with child.”
She hopped down the table. “This can’t be!” she said with a heavy sigh.
“I would like you to come and see me tomorrow.”
“Yeah, okay,” she replied absently as she scuffed out of the lab.
She wandered down to the office, completely obvious of the hustle and bustle happening around her as her mind roved back to the events that occurred on that particular week. Her eyes widened in horror as she retrieved the missing link. She recalled the night before and waking up naked in her bed the morning after. She leaned against a wall and buried her head in her hands.
“Oh my God, no! That can’t be!”
“Miss, are you alright?” asked a man passing by.
“Yes, I’m fine. Thank you,” she assured unconvincingly with a strained smile.
Although the agent willingly freed her from his grasp, he keep his eyes fastened on her uneven gait as she walked to the elevators.
Once inside, she was stricken by powerful twinges of conscience that drove her to tears. She agonized over the decision whether to tell Steve about her unplanned pregnancy.
“God, I can’t tell him! He’ll hate me! Oh no!” she cried, her body racked with sobs. She looked heavenwards and evoked God’s guidance. “What should I do?”
Callahan returned to the office, wearing the woe of the world on her shoulders. She carried the cudgels for something she believed was entirely her doing. An icy clutch of guilt seized her as the vision of her seducing Steve to her bed played on her mind. If that were the scene, why didn’t he just step off stage? Why did he agree to play her leading man?
Her train of thoughts was interrupted by the temporary secretary who was on the phone with Steve.
“No, I don’t know when she’ll be back,” she noticed Callahan pushing her way in, eyes downcast. “ Oh wait Colonel, could you hold on a second?” She put her hand on the mouthpiece. “Peggy, Colonel Austin wishes to speak with you.”
“Thank you.” She took the receiver.
“Are you okay?” Jane asked, concerned by Callahan’s puffy red eyes.
“Yes, I’m fine. Thank you for holding the fort for me.”
Callahan waited for her to be out the door before clearing her throat and answering the phone. “Hi Steve!”
“Hey you! Miss Johnson tells me you were down at Rudy’s lab. Anything wrong?”
She shut her eyes and heaved a silent heavy-laden sigh. “When are you coming back?”
“That’s why I called. The mission’s over and I’m taking the first flight out of Los Angeles. I should be in Washington by early evening,” he happily informed with a hint of anticipation.
“I desperately need to talk to you.” She spoke with a disarmingly solemn voice that threw a scare into Steve.
“Is there something wrong?” His brows knitted with worry. “Callahan, what is it?”
“Can you answer me a question?”
“If I can.”
“That afternoon we spent together. After we went dancing, do you remember anything that happened afterwards?
“No. All I remember is…”
“I woke up in your bedroom the next morning.”
“What?” she exclaimed in shock, taken unawares by Steve’s revelation. “Why didn’t you tell me?” she chided with a voice thick with insinuation.
“You were sleeping so soundly that I didn’t want to rouse you. Besides, you had no recollection of that night, therefore I didn’t want to upset you.”
“Oh Steve!” she wailed, nearly breaking into tears. “Something happened between us.” She paused briefly to muster up her courage. “I’m pregnant.”
The news struck him like a bolt of lighting appearing out of the blue. He collapsed into an armchair, completely dumbfounded.
“Steve? Steve are you there?”
“Yeah…yeah. I’m…I’m…still here,” he managed to stammer.
“What am I going to do? Please Steve, tell me what to do?” the distraught woman pleaded frantically.
“First, you’re going to calm down. There’s no sense in panicking. Second, I don’t want you to do anything until I get to Washington. I’ll drop by your house tonight and we’ll discuss it together, okay?”
“Okay,” She said, sniffling back her tears.
“Are you sure it’s mine?”
“Okay. We’ll deal with this together. Don’t worry. You trust me?”
“Of course I do.”
“That’s a rather stupid question after what happened.”
“It takes two to tango, you know.”
He smiled at the sense of humor she retained despite her predicament. “Alright, wait for me. I should be there around seven.”
“I’ll be waiting for sure.”
No sooner had he hung up that he leapt to his feet and dashed to the closet to grab the suitcase that he tossed onto the bed. As he packed his clothes, his mind swirled with thousands of images, none of which painted a clear picture of what had happened on that fateful night.
Steve sank into a slough of despond. Although the turbulent weather was jerking the plane violently, filling some passengers with a sense of impending doom, his vacant expression remained undisturbed.
He inwardly berated himself for giving free rein to unbridled passion, which was alien to his behavior. It was uncharacteristic for him to make such a mistake, even in an inebriated state. What possessed him to yank his muzzle off and sink his fangs into this innocent lady? Could it be that in his fantasy, he was making love to Jaime instead of Callahan? That perverse thought gave him the chills.
An hour glided by and the plane made its final approach at Dulles airport. The pilots encountered a problem with the hydraulic pressure damaged during their journey through electromagnetic storm, which unable them to lower the nose landing gear. Considering the situation, they circled the airport ground to burn fuel before making their final descend on the runway with the passengers seated in a crash position.
No sooner had the plane touched down that the nose dove into the runway, sending sparks flying until a tile came loose, causing the aircraft to spun around and somersault twice before halting its horrifying course in the field.
It was six minutes to five o’clock when Callahan began gathering up the last of the folders to set in a neat pile in order to file first thing in the morning. Her heart throbbed in anticipation of seeing Steve tonight. She no longer despaired at her fate, confident that Steve held the answer.
She picked up her purse, slung the strap around her shoulder and pushed the chair underneath the desk. As she walked over to the glass doors, Oscar came rushing out of his office.
“Callahan, you’re leaving?”
“Yes sir. It’s five o’clock. Something wrong?”
“Yes. I just received a call from airport security. Steve’s plane went down.
Her heart leapt to her throat at the devastating news. “Oh my God!” She put a hand over her mouth. “Is he?”
“He’s alive…barely. They’re bringing him to the hospital. I’m on my way over there.”
“I’m coming with you.”
Oscar drove at full throttle to the hospital and arrived as Steve was being wheeled down to emergency surgery.
“Rudy, how is he?” Oscar asked as he strained his neck to peered at his friend on the gurney.
“At first glance, it doesn’t look good,” Rudy informed ruefully, his eyes swiveling from one ashen face to the other. He placed a hand on both Oscar’s and Callahan’s shoulder. “I’ll do my best.”
Five hours later, Oscar returned to the waiting room with his tenth cup of coffee. He flumped down in an armchair across from Callahan stretched out on the couch, resting. He smiled, put his cup down and reached for the blanket slung over the back of his chair. As he mantled her curled up form with it, she stirred and opened her eyes.
“Hello little lady.”
She sat up and scanned her boss’s eyes for the slightest hint that the surgery was a success.
“He’s still in surgery.”
“What time is it?”
“He’s been in there for over five hours.”
“I know. You want a cup of coffee?”
“No. No coffee. Thank you.” She started rubbing her stomach distractedly.
“What?” she looked down at her belly and quickly removed her hand for fear to provide Oscar with an inkling on her condition. “No.”
“What did Rudy say about your dizzy spells?” he queried as he took a sip of coffee.
“It’s nothing. Just tired, that’s all.”
She bolted upright after catching a glimpse of an exhausted Rudy rounding a corner. With ponderous steps, he walked over to the careworn individuals and sighed heavily.
“What’s the word?” Oscar asked, breaking the deathly silence.
With a wave of the hand, Rudy bade them sit. Perching himself on the arm of the sofa, a few inches above the two pair of eyes staring expectantly at him, he hung his stethoscope around his neck and inhaled deeply to prick up his courage.
“There was massive internal hemorrhage in the abdominal cavity that we thankfully managed to staunch and bring under control. Hopefully we mended all ruptured vessels. His legs took a severe blow, but they’re not beyond repair. He won’t feel any pain since I’ve deactivated the neurolink. I will mend them as soon as he’s strong enough to withstand a second operation. He has five fractured ribs, one of which nearly punctured his right lung. It did scratch the surface of the parietal pleural, which is the reason why his breathing’s still labored. There’s fluid collecting in the frontal lobe of the brain from the blow he sustained to the head and blood in the spinal fluid. All we can do now is watch him and wait.”
“Can I see him?” Callahan asked imploringly.
“They’re settling him in ICU. You may go in for just a few minutes.” Rudy stood up and reached out to grasp Callahan’s hand. “Come with me.” He turned to Oscar who was prostrated with grief. “Oscar, I’ll be back.”
Rudy ushered Callahan into the dimlit room and both padded up to the bed where the patient laid unconscious; his left arm and head swathed in bandages, electrodes plastered over his bare chest and an oxygen line in his nostrils.
“He looks so peaceful,” Callahan observed, drawing great comfort in the serene look on Steve’s face.
“Maybe he is,” Rudy whispered back. “I know he’s fighting. He has an iron will to live.”
“He’d better not give up for his baby’s sake,” she accidentally blurted out.
She sighed and looked up at Rudy. “The father?”
She pursed her lips and nodded. “It was an accident, but…”
“You don’t need to explain,” Rudy interjected. “This is between you and Steve.”
“I hope so. I need his guidance because I don’t know what to do,” she sobbed.
Rudy folded his arm around her shivering shoulders and gently tugged at her arm.
Three days later, Rudy was checking Steve’s vitals and studying his medical chart when the monitor indicated a slight rise in the heartbeat, evidence that the patient was slowly emerging from beneath the surface.
“Steve? Steve, can you hear me?”
Steve moaned his reply, blinking heavily twice.
Rudy bent forward and felt Steve’s forehead. “How you feeling? Any pain?”
Steve raised his chin to swallow hard before giving a feeble shake of the head. His lips moved to form the word ‘what’ but no sound followed.
“What happened?” Rudy deciphered.
Steve closed his eyes and gave a tiny nod of the head.
“Plane crash. You’re among the sixteen lucky souls who escaped with their lives.”
Steve painfully cleared his throat and lifted his chin to swallow dryly once more before taking a deep breath to utter, “Am…am I go...going to…”
“Going to die?” Rudy finished with an amused smile. “Don’t have that luck, pal,” he teased. “You’re going to be just fine as long as you remember to keep in bed until your good doctor says it’s okay for you to start dancing.”
Spasms suddenly crossed Steve’s face when he attempted to wiggle his toes. “L…legs?”
“Don’t try to move them. They were damaged in the crash. Soon as you gain enough strength I’ll fix them as good a new.”
“She’ll be here in about an hour.”
Steve let out a cough and drew in a deep breath.
“Easy Steve. Don’t try to talk anymore.”
Steve became restless as he tried to voice his thoughts that needed to be heard. “Rud…Rudy. Ask Os…Os…Oscar to gather his…his legal t…team,” Steve stuttered in a whisper
“Need…need to change will.”
Rudy stood upright. “Steve, no. I told you, you’re going to be just fine.”
“Rudy pl…please. Need to provide fo...for her.”
Steve gasped in a breath and nodded. “Her and…”
Steve stared quizzically at Rudy. “You know?”
“She told me. Alright I’ll call Oscar and we’ll take care of this tomorrow. But Steve, I don’t think you…”
“No,” Steve quickly interjected, gulping in a breath. “Now. Don…Don’t wanna wa….” his voice tailed off as his strength rapidly waned.
“Okay,” Rudy mollified with a reassuring hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I’ll call him right away and we’ll take care of it this afternoon.” Rudy waited for Steve to acknowledge before continuing, “Now get some rest before your sweet little lady comes by to visit you.”
Steve smiled faintly at the thought before letting his drooping eyelids fall.
On her lunch break, Callahan drove to the hospital to visit with Steve. She tiptoed into the darkened room and approached the bed to gaze at the slumbering patient. She placed her hand on his forehead, her feathery touch gently tugging him out of sleep. He blinked open his eyes to the brightest beaming smile that filled him up with a sense of security.
”Hi,” he whispered feverishly.
“Hi yourself. Rudy tells me you’re going to be fine.” She continued to softly stroke his forehead, tracing his eyebrow with her thumb. She quickly retrieved her hand after it suddenly dawned on her that her gesture might be considered too bold between friends.
“Why did you stop? I liked it. Very soothing,” Steve said in a soft voice, inviting her hand back on his brow.
“You like that.”
“Uhn mmmmm,” he moaned with pleasure with his eyes closed to savor the moment. “Good for killer headaches.”
“Does it hurt much?”
“Rudy gave me some medication. The throbbing has dwindled a bit.” He opened his eyes and quested her hand. “Callahan, we need to talk.”
She clasped his hand.” Now?”
“This can’t wait in case something,” he inhaled deeply after his breath failed, “something happens.”
“Steve, don’t talk that way. Rudy said you were going to be okay.”
“Please, let me finish.”
She nodded and perched herself on the edge of the bed. She frowned at his earnest expression.
“I’m truly sorry for what happened.”
“Steve, I told you…”
He squeezed her hand to stop her in mid sentence. “Please.”
“I know it happened out of the blue, but let me say that I could never have made love to you had I not nurtured some feelings for you.” He sighed and took a deep breath. “They say things happened for a reason. Maybe this is some sort of an eye opener telling us that we’ve been endlessly searching for something that was right here under our noses.”
“A blessing in disguise?”
“I’d like to think so.”
She bowed her head in shame at her next question. “Did you ever think that perhaps you were making love to Jaime instead…” she lifted her eyes to gauge his reaction, “of me?”
“I’ll be honest, that thought crossed my mind. But that afternoon, I had a rip-roaring time with Peggy Callahan, not Jaime Sommers.” He tugged at her hand, pulling her closer. “When I’m all mended, how about you and me getting married?”
She gaped pop-eyed at him, mute with stupefaction.
“You don’t need to give me an answer right now. Whatever you decide, know that I’ll always be there for you, no matter what. I don’t want that child to go grow up thinking he was an accident. There’s no doubt in mind that he was conceived in love.”
Her delicate frame started trembling at his comforting words. “Steve, I don’t need to think about it. Yes! Yes, I’ll marry you. I do so love you. I have for a very long time,” she sobbed.
In a bold move, she leaned forward and firmly pressed her lips against his. An errant tear pearled down the corner of her eye and dribbled onto Steve’s cheek.
“Mmmmmmmmmmm, I’d better heal real fast,” he said sultrily.
She coughed out a nervous giggle as she softly dried the tear with her thumb.
In the evening, Callahan grabbed a quick dinner at her apartment before leaving for the hospital. She was floating on cloud nine, her heart set aflutter by Steve’s marriage proposal. She put her hand on her stomach and smiled blissfully. “Oh, little baby, your mommy is so happy. She’s marrying her winsome prince. You are truly a blessing.”
With a bouncing step, she entered Steve’s room. She froze, anchored to the spot as she saw the bed empty. Her heart skipped a beat at the grim thought that crossed her mind. She dashed out of the room and ran into Rudy.
“Rudy, where’s Steve? Where is he?” she asked hysterically, clawing at his arm.
With a forlorn expression, Rudy peeled her hand off his arm and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Callahan, Steve threw a blood clot. We had to operate. He’s in a coma,” he explained solemnly.
She gasped furiously with her mouth open. “Oh my God, no!” she cried, tear rushing to her eyes. “You said he was going to be alright,” she shrieked, pummeling his chest. “You said he was goi…” her voice drowned in a torrent of tears and she buried her face in his smock.
He held her quivering body in a tight clench for a good minute, and when he felt her tears subside, he pulled her back gently. “Listen to me. There is still brain activity. He’s not hopeless. We have to pull together and prayed that he emerges from this coma. I’m not giving up on him and don’t you either.”
“I’m not,” she whimpered between sobs.
He wrapped her arm around her shoulders. “Come on. Let’s go see him.”
Her heart quailed and her step faltered at first sight of Steve’s hooked on a ventilator.
“Talk to him. He needs to hear familiar voices. Don’t let him sink deeper,” Rudy emboldened her with a tug on her shoulder. “He’ll listen to you.” He shifted a cushiony armchair over to the bed and helped her sit. He bent down and whispered in her ears. “Steve asked me to tell you that he loves you.”
“Oh my God,” she wept, her body convulsing with tears. “He knew. He knew.”
“Somehow he must have sensed it because before this happened, he and Oscar made changes in his will to make sure you and the baby were well provided for.”
“I don’t want that baby to grow up without a father,” she said angrily.
“Then tell him. Vent your anger on him. Urge him to take his responsibility. Don’t let him give up,” he commanded her, stirring the odd mixture of fire and water simmering within her.
He left her alone with the comatose patient to perform her magic.
Days wore into weeks as Steve hovered between life and death. With each passing days, he felt himself drifting further away on a waveless sea, the peaceful blue ocean cajoling him to sever the long rope keeping him moored to the dock of life.
After three weeks, Steve’s parents returned to Ojai with Callahan’s promise to call everyday with news of their son and the baby.
On the ninth month of her pregnancy, Callahan gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. Steve’s coma cast a gloom over her ecstasy of joy, having failed to will him back into the land of the living in time to witness the birth of his son.
When she regained some of her strength, she asked Rudy to wheel her into Steve’s room where the good doctor assisted her to her feet and helped her sit on the bed. There, she cradled the newborn in the crook of his father’s arm, hoping to elicit some response.
”Steve, you’re a father.” She took his left hand and placed it delicately on the baby. “Please Steve. You promised you wouldn’t leave me alone with this child,” she beseeched, appealing to his inner soul that she knew hung on her every word.
She laid her hand on top of his and, leaning her head on his chest, she wept. As she felt the life drain out of her, a tiny moan breathed a renewed hope into her. She shot up straight and scrutinized Steve’s face for the tinniest flinch that would indicate that the lone-wolf sailor was finally rowing back to shore.
A second muffled moan prompted her to needle him out of his coma with light nudges and constant coaxing. Her efforts were rewarded when Steve slowly opened his eyes. He stared at her beaming smile with a vacant expression, before a tiny squall caught his attention. He tilted his head to the left to see the small bundle snuggled up in a warm blanket.
“That’s your son.”
His dull mind struggled to process the meaning of the words as the baby grabbed a firm hold of his finger.
“Steve, look at me.”
Steve lazily lifted his eyes from his son to fasten them on Callahan’s.
“Do you know who I am?”
Steve’s mind took a few seconds to retrieve the file associated with the face. When the information was fed through his memory, he smiled faintly and whispered, “You…you’re the angel I’m…I’m marrying.”
She broke into tears. “Don’t you ever, ever scare me like that again,” she chastised.
“What…name?” he whispered feebly.
“What else? Steven Austin junior.”
Three weeks later, Callahan and the baby dropped by the hospital to pick up Steve whose condition was deemed satisfactory enough to be granted a discharge. He was tucking the edges of his shirt in his trousers when his son and future wife walked in.
“Hi!” she greeted with a warm smile.
“Hi!” he reciprocated with a kiss. “And how’s my son, today?” He reached for the baby whom he cradled in his arms as he moved over to the bed to sit.
“He can’t wait to have you home, his mommy included,” she said smilingly as she ran a soft hand up and down Steve’s back.
The baby squeaked with delight at every bounce his father was giving him on his knee. “That’s my boy, yeah! My big boy!” he cooed.
“Ready to go, big boy?” Rudy joked as he wheeled in Steve’s chair.
“Yeah! More than ready.” Steve cradled his son tightly in one arm before Rudy and Callahan assisted him into the wheelchair.
“Okay. Here we go.” Rudy swung the chair round and wheeled the patient out of the room and down the corridor. “Remember Steve, you are to take it easy for the next several days.”
“Don’t worry about me, Rudy. You can bet this little guy, here, will keep me well anchored at home,” he assured as he gave the baby a small kiss on the cheek.
“Good!” Rudy winked at Callahan. “See that junior does his job well.”
“Looks like he’s already got the hang of it,” she said, motioning to the father and son playful interaction.
“Stop smooching your son, Steve. At this rate you’re liable to wear out his skin,” Rudy chaffed.
“Sorry. Can’t do, Rudy.”
In the hospital parking lot, Stave handed junior over to Callahan, then settled into the passenger seat of the car. She opened the rear door and secured her son in his baby seat before she sat in the driver seat. She leaned over to exchange a quick kiss with Steve, then put on the ignition.
“Have a safe trip home. And remember Steve, no straining.”
“I won’t cheat, doc. I’ve got two people who depend on me now.”