Dr. Wells kept a disconcerted eye on Oscar during their afternoon meeting to discuss the doctor’s ongoing projects. He seemed overly distracted especially when Rudy began discussing his advances in his bionic research.
Rudy broke from the topic at hand, “Oscar, are you feeling alright?”
He looked up from the manila folder in his hand at the unexpected question, “Yes, why do you ask?”
“You just seem very distracted and it looks like you’ve gotten even less sleep than usual.”
The tall man sat back in his leather chair with a disheartening sigh feeling drained after his flight back to Washington this morning. He was preoccupied and carrying guilt for his actions these past few weeks. He silently debated whether or not to share his thoughts with Rudy.
“Rudy you are correct.” He gave the physician a weak smile. “I’m afraid I have been ordered to complete a task that goes against my principles and I guess I’m having difficulty living with my ongoing actions.”
“Do you want to share the details?” Rudy offered.
Goldman sat forward, leaning his elbows on the desk, “It can’t leave this office Rudy.” The curious doctor nodded his understanding waiting for his boss to continue. “I received a call from the Secretary about a month ago. It seems he has heard rumors that our Colonel Austin may be seriously involved with Kayce Myers.”
“What business is it to the Secretary?”
“He is concerned that Steve and Kayce may be on the road to marriage and he finds that to be a little unsettling.”
Rudy’s brow furled in confusion, “A lot of people think Steve and Kayce might marry. Why does the Secretary find that unsettling?”
Oscar sighed knowing Rudy would be angry at his next statement, “He doesn’t want Steve to marry Kayce…or anyone for that matter.”
“Why not?” His blood pressure was rising quickly. He knew the higher ups occasionally looked at Steve as government property, which usually sent Steve into a rage. He was shocked that the Secretary actually thought he could control Steve’s life by manipulating him and those around him.
“Because then there would be a wife and possibly children later on causing Steve to have major distractions. The secretary does not want his special operative to have any ties to anyone. He thinks Steve may jump ship if he marries. You see he doesn’t mind Steve’s reputation as a lady’s man as long as he remains unattached.” Rudy stared silently at Oscar dumbfounded. “He ordered me to keep them apart as much as possible and against my better judgment I have. I don’t think they’ve been in the same city for more than a few hours since returning from Mexico.”
Rudy was nodding his head. This was beyond abuse of power as far as the doctor was concerned. “When Steve gets wind of this he’s going to take the Secretary apart piece by piece, you know that. He may even go through you before he moves on to him.” Oscar agreeably nodded knowing he would deserve it.
“What if the secretary’s plan doesn’t work and Steve gets married anyway, whether to Kayce or someone else?”
Oscar exhaled slowly, “I don’t know. All I know is I haven’t slept well for four weeks. I don’t know how to rectify the situation.”
It was Rudy’s turn to exhale slowly knowing Steve had a right to know that his life was being manipulated. “I don’t have the answer Oscar. I think your conscience is telling you what the right thing is to do and I’m not sure I want to be there if you plan on telling Steve in person.” Oscar sat back and got lost in his thoughts while Rudy made his exit.
Standing at the bathroom mirror Steve methodically began removing the shaving cream and five o’clock shadow from his face with a razor. His mind mulling over the unsettling phone call he received from Kayce late this morning. She sounded very unhappy and maybe he was over-reacting but to him almost frightened.
He finished and rinsed the remaining white foam from his suntanned face and neck then quickly dried his face. As he dressed for the evening he couldn’t help but recall the first night they spent together. It had been a month since he and Kayce consummated their relationship after getting stranded in the Appalachian Mountains when their plane made an emergency landing. He was grateful that the experience was so intense and memorable since it had to carry them through the last four weeks of being apart.
He couldn’t understand how, since returning from Mexico, their schedules became so incongruent. They only had a few hours a week to spend with one another and frequently they were never alone. It almost seemed to Steve that Oscar was deliberately trying to keep them apart.
Steve began tying his tie and stared into the mirror, his mind unexpectedly back on his phone conversation with Kayce. She wouldn’t tell him what the problem was over the phone insisting they meet and discuss it over dinner. In fact she strongly urged him to cancel any plans or work assignments he may have in order to meet with her. ‘What could be that urgent’ he wondered. Surely it wasn’t her ex-husband, he had already moved on to someone else after Kayce told him she would not reconcile with him. He smiled looking forward to seeing her this evening for dinner because he too had something very important to discuss with her. Checking the straightness of his tie one more time in the mirror realization abruptly slapped him in the face causing it to instantly lose all its color, his gut twisting, suddenly aware of what Kayce may have to tell him. He quickly grabbed his keys and ran out the door.
Steve held the car door open as the pretty young woman, wearing a simple, yet elegant, black slip dress, gave him a quick kiss on the lips before sliding gracefully onto the leather passenger seat. She didn’t say much during the drive to their favorite French restaurant. The tension was palpable in the car, which was making Steve even more anxious. They ordered drinks and Steve told her tersely that he did not want to order dinner until she at least gave him an idea of what was upsetting her. She agreed knowing her appetite would be non-existent until the topic was discussed to its conclusion.
She shifted nervously in her chair and cleared her throat politely. Steve stared at her face holding his breath waiting for the news. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, “Steve I found out something today that took me by surprise….”
Steve unconsciously leaned forward as if it would bring on her explanation faster, his heart rate was rising. “Go on.”
“Steve this morning I was flying Oscar Goldman back to Washington and I…God this is hard.” The few seconds of silence were killing Steve.
“You what?” He asked nervously urging her on.
“I overheard him on his private line. I would normally ignore other people’s conversation but when I heard your name I just couldn’t help myself. The cockpit door was half open and I don’t think Mr. Goldman even knew I was still there because he was speaking openly.”
Steve was relieved the news wasn’t what he had expected, doubting he was ready to become a father. On the other hand he wondered if Kayce found out about his special construction. “Go on.” He said not realized he was holding his breath again.
“Well from what I could hear it seems the Secretary was on the other line. They were discussing…us…. our relationship. Doesn’t that seem a bit strange to you?”
Steve nodded allowing Kayce to continue; “If I’m not mistaken Oscar is being asked to keep us apart so we don’t …don’t…”
”Don’t get married.” She felt very uncomfortable saying the words since she and Steve had yet to discuss where their relationship was heading. She was never the type of woman to push the issue of commitment with any man.
Steve relaxed back into his chair and slowly digested the information, staring at the elegant place setting in front of him. He knew the OSI wasn’t above trying tactics such as this to keep him unattached. He didn’t hear Kayce’s next question until she called his name, “Steve?”
His eyes came up to meet hers, “Can they do that? I mean get involved in their employee’s lives to that extent?”
“I think this would be considered a special circumstance. Don’t let it concern you. They won’t keep us apart I can almost guarantee it.” Steve said plainly but his anger began to rise. He took a deep cleansing breath filing the information in the back of his mind as he changed the subject.
Steve reached across the table and held her delicate hand in his. “Let’s not talk about it I want to enjoy every minute with you tonight.” She gave him a dazzling smile, “I agree.” They reviewed the menu and ordered.
While waiting for their entrees Kayce excused herself to the ladies room to freshen up. Steve politely stood as she walked away before asking the wine steward for two glasses of champagne. The staff member complied and quickly had the two glasses of bubbly at the table when Kayce returned. She giggled as he pulled out her chair for her, “Well I know we haven’t seen each other for awhile but I really don’t think the occasion warrants champagne.” Steve smiled at her as he offered a generic toast. “Here’s to us and to our future.” She gracefully lifted her crystal glass to his and stared into his expressive eyes. She wasn’t sure which got her attention first his heartfelt words or the large diamond ring she suddenly saw at the bottom of her glass. Her eyes were as big as saucers and she couldn’t speak as he continued his toast, “Kayce will you marry me?”
She stared at the handsome man across the table never knowing anyone more honest or caring, “Yes Steve I would love nothing more than to be married to you.” They drank their champagne quickly. He stood and walked to her side. After removing the ring from the glass he wiped it clean with a cloth napkin before sliding it onto her slender manicured finger. She stood and they shared a short passionate kiss before she leaned over and whispered a few words in his ear. He quickly tossed money onto the table and led her quickly out the door by the hand.
Within minutes of leaving the restaurant they were at Steve’s house clumsily tripping their way upstairs to his bedroom, still sharing passionate kisses between giggles. Falling unceremoniously onto the large bed they did their best to make up for the long separation over the past weeks. After half an hour of intimate play they lay in each other’s arms enjoying the physical and emotional closeness.
The following morning Steve awoke early and lay there staring at the familiar painted ceiling above his bed. Kayce was snuggled up close, her hand resting on his bare chest. Steve allowed his mind to review the information Kayce had shared with him last night. He knew he would normally want to tear Oscar and the Secretary to pieces but last night’s activities had mellowed his emotions quite a bit. He smirked thinking it would be much more fun to just annoy the hell out of them. Either way he was sure they would never get what they wanted.
The beautiful woman at his side stirred and after a heavy sigh she rolled onto her back. Steve took the opportunity to slide his body out of the bed and head for the shower. He stood with his forehead resting against the wall under the showerhead allowing the hot water to cascade down his neck and back, loosening their tightness. His eyes were closed but his ears heard the distinct click of the shower door opening and closing. He immediately felt her toned arms encircle his waist from behind, sliding forward until her hands moved up to rest on his well-defined chest. She kissed the back of his left shoulder before resting her cheek in the space between his shoulder blades and held him tight.
Taking her hands in his he turned to face her slowly. The pair moved in a circle until Kayce stood under the showerhead. He smiled as he watched her feminine form, enjoying her spontaneity immensely. With her eyes closed she leaned her head back slowly allowing the deluge of water to turn her long sandy hair to a dark brown, clinging to her long neck and back. Steve watched intently as the flow of water divided into several small streams, making separate paths down her ample chest and over her flat stomach before moving downward to her feet. She opened her eyes to find him watching her every move. Kayce never considered herself pretty but she was well versed in the body language that could get a man’s attention quickly. She locked eyes with him, water dripping down his face from his wet hair, and he stepped forward unable to suppress the urgency building inside him. Strong, masculine arms enveloped her as he took her body and soul. An involuntary gasp escaped her lips at the welcomed intrusion.
The preoccupied couple did not hear the sound of the ringing telephone breaking the quietness of the master bedroom just a few feet away. The incessant ringing implied the caller was unwilling to break the connection. After 15 rings it finally fell silent just seconds before Kayce’s voice cried out Steve’s name.
Rudy arrived early for the morning meeting and watched an irate Oscar slam the receiver down on the cradle.
“Something wrong Oscar?” Rudy asked concerned over the crimson shade of the director’s face.
“Steve left this message around midnight last night.” He handed the small slip of paper over to the doctor. Rudy hid his grin behind a strained serious voice. “He’s not going to show is he?”
“Apparently not and now I have to reschedule this high level meeting with the deputy director of the NSB, the director of the CIA and three high level military brass…then I’m going to kill him.”
It was apparent to Rudy that Oscar, in his anger, didn’t read between the lines of the message. It was obvious by the wording used that Steve was probably aware of what the Secretary and Oscar were trying to do. His stomach twisted anticipating what Steve reaction would be when he and Oscar came face to face.
Oscar grabbed his coat and was followed to his car by the nervous doctor. Rudy decided his presence might be needed either to defuse Steve or patch Oscar up after what was sure to be a messy altercation.
Steve exited the shower dripping wet and slightly short of breath giving Kayce time to shower. After quickly drying off he dressed casually in jeans and a polo shirt before sauntering downstairs to fix breakfast, suddenly famished from this morning’s activity.
Having just poured the pancake batter on the pan Steve allowed his lopsided grin to fall as the doorbell rang; his guest had arrived just as he had expected. The wet headed operative opened the door with a look of mock surprise on his face.
“Rudy, Oscar what are you doing here?”
Oscar brushed by him and into the house. Rudy just stepped in and kept his distance. He was apprehensive at Steve’s obvious lack of anger. Something was going on but he wasn’t sure what. The doctor stood off to the side allowing the scene to play out.
“Something wrong Oscar?” Steve said innocently as he headed to the kitchen to finish preparing breakfast followed by his friends.
“Yes there’s something wrong! Why weren’t you able to attend the meeting this morning? Do you realize I had to reschedule some very important people?”
Steve had his back to his boss, flipping the pancakes over, and let another smile grace his face. Rudy caught the grin from his position against the wall. The doctor couldn’t figure out why Steve was playing this game instead of flying off the handle. Steve took a long time to answer the questions angrily directed at him knowing it would make it all the more frustrating for his boss.
Carefully placing the fluffy pancakes on a plate with sausage he turned and offered his friends breakfast which they declined. “Well Oscar I had something else to attend to this morning.” He walked to retrieve some juice from the refrigerator, pouring two glasses.
“DAMMIT STEVE! WHAT COULD HAVE POSSIBLY BEEN MORE IMPORTANT THAN THAT MEETING?” Oscar forced out through his tense jaw, his face crimson red and his blood pressure was no doubt through the roof.
As if on cue Kayce wandered into the kitchen dressed in jeans and one of Steve’s USAF sweatshirts, her hair still wet from her shower. “Good morning everyone.” She greeted cautiously, her natural beauty evident without makeup, as she confidently sat down at the table. Steve had mentioned to her in the shower that he had called Oscar’s office last night prior to going to sleep. The two guests suddenly realized what was so important that prevented Steve from getting out of bed to go to work this morning. While the situation was amusing to the doctor it was infuriating to Oscar.
“Hungry?” Steve asked as he placed a full plate in front of her, followed by a steaming cup of coffee, acting as if Oscar wasn’t even in the room.
“Starving.Thank you.” He bent and kissed her lips. While standing next to her he folded his arms across his chest and addressed his boss.
“Well since you came over here it will save me a trip to your office. It has come to my attention that there has been some, shall we say, bizarre covert activity going on at the OSI. I want to get one thing very clear Oscar,” Steve’s tone of voice lowered and his eyes turned a steely blue, Rudy was suddenly less relaxed than a few minutes ago, “It will end right here and now.” His voice was cold and challenging. He placed a gentle hand on Kayce’s shoulder. She had stopped eating and stared at Oscar hoping she’d still have a job tomorrow. She couldn’t believe Steve had the audacity to challenge their high-powered boss.
“Steve I know I made a mistake but I had no choice. You understand pal. I follow orders just like you do.” Oscar offered apologetically.
“I don’t turn on my friends Oscar. There is nothing you; the Secretary or the OSI can do to stop us from getting married. You can try but I guarantee it will get messy…very, very messy.” Rudy looked at Kayce warily sipping her coffee, suddenly noticing the large sparkling diamond ring on her left hand.
The young couple went about their shared life with unbridled enthusiasm. It was amazing how in the following weeks their schedules were much more manageable. Oscar conceded to have Steve on his terms then not at all, as Steve had explained directly to the Secretary. Kayce still had her job but maintained a healthy distrust of her powerful boss and the organization he represented.
Steve continued to toy with his boss’ patience. He frequently and deliberately left vague contact information with Oscar’s office when not working. One week Steve reported to the office that he and Kayce would be vacationing on the big island of Hawaii. Upon landing they caught a smaller plane, under different names, to take them to one of the tiny islands; Steve conveniently dropped their beepers in the ocean during the short flight with a sly grin on his face.
Rudy wasn’t surprised at the amount of energy Oscar was expending trying to keep tabs on his agent and pilot, especially when they would returned to work a little later than expected. Just as the director was ready to send out a posse Steve showed up with a sly smile planted firmly on his face. Oscar knew he was going to pay for his grievous error in judgment for a while.
When the two young lovers were not together they made sure to talk on the phone whenever possible. Recently Steve was sent on assignment somewhere in the Far East. Kayce was flying Oscar and his staff to Colorado for three-day stay. She opened her hotel room door surprised to find a dozen long stemmed roses and box of Godiva chocolates with a note from Steve that was even sweeter than the candy. She was shocked that he was able to pull off the stunt in his absence and she was beginning to love his surprises. As she sat eating the luscious treats she immersed her tired body in a hot bubble bath, her thoughts on the man she adored.
She smiled remembering her last flight from California to Washington when his familiar voice unexpectedly came over the plane’s radio. He hoped to fly back with her but didn’t make it to the airbase before she took off. He missed the flight by 10 minutes. Jumping into a T-38 Talon jet he easily caught up to her. She couldn’t believe it when she looked out the port side and saw his jet trailing behind her, wagging its wings. After landing at Andrews AFB they grabbed a quick lunch before Oscar sent him off again on another covert assignment.
Sighing heavily she sunk deeper into the scented bubbles. She missed him but knew someday soon they would be married and their future together would be perfect. She had worked so hard to get to this contented place in her life and she was more than ready to enjoy it.
After Steve completed an unusually easy assignment that landed him near California he decided to take a day off. After a quick call to his boss he chose to spend a relaxing day with his parents. Over a scrumptious home cooked meal their son told them all about the unique woman who had stolen his heart and they couldn’t have been happier, desperately wanting to meet her. He made plans to bring her out to California over their next weekend off.
The next morning after a hearty breakfast Steve said his goodbyes and drove to the airbase to catch his flight back to D.C.
Steve greeted Rudy as the doctor entered the building adjacent to the tarmac. The younger man handed his sleepy-eyed friend a strong black coffee in a large Styrofoam cup and Rudy verbalized his gratitude for the thoughtful gesture. As they waited for the arrival of their transportation back to Washington the doctor noticed how anxious Steve was for the appearance of the OSI jet, or more accurately the pilot of the OSI jet, watching him walk back and forth in front of the large window that faced the runway.
“Has Kayce been gone a long time?”
“No, but anytime she’s gone is a long time. You know what I mean?” Steve gave his friend a broad grin.
The doctor nodded with a knowing smile. Steve’s relaxed nature since getting engaged to the lovely young pilot was obvious to all those around him. To those closest to him he seemed much more centered. “Does Oscar have you scheduled to go out when we get back to Washington?”
“No, not to my knowledge but I’m sure he’ll find something to keep me busy.” Steve chuckled and Rudy just nodded silently, sipping his coffee.
“How are your parents doing?” He asked knowing Steve had spent the previous day with them in Ojai.
Standing with his hands in his back pockets, Steve replied absently as his telephoto lens picked up the familiar Cessna entering the traffic pattern on final approach, “Fine. They said to tell you ‘hello’ and my dad wants you to join him on a fishing trip next month. Well time to go.” He turned with a grin and headed out the door. Rudy caught up with him on the macadam ramp where he stopped to admire the landing of the beautifully sleek machine.
Kayce was busy bringing the large aircraft out of the sky but something didn’t feel right to her. She asked Mike Jacobs, her longtime co-pilot to double check a few items but nothing out of the ordinary could be found. Her gut was telling her they might have missed something. Erring on the side of caution she called the tower for a missed approach and second trip around the pattern hoping it would give her enough time to identify the unseen problem causing the jet’s engines to wane at unexpected intervals.
Oscar Goldman was seated in the passenger cabin with his assistant Russ across the aisle. The OSI director called his crew on the intercom to inquire about the sudden delay in landing. Kayce notified him it was just a precaution and that he and Russ should remain belted in for the subsequent landing. Russ heard the verbal exchange and just shrugged at his impatient boss.
Steve wasn’t too concerned about the go-around; many things could cause a pilot to request another approach. His eyes just remained glued on the aircraft as it headed around again. “Are they having problems?” he doctor asked concerned.
“I don’t know.” Steve replied simply keeping his eyes skyward.
On final approach the nose was pointed perfectly down the centerline, the left wing slightly lower than the right to compensate for the crosswind. Kayce extended the wing flaps another increment to slow the plane to its landing speed as the aircraft crossed over the runway threshold.
Suddenly the plane shuddered violently, pitching the nose downward. Kayce reacted instantly to address the inappropriate attitude but without sufficient altitude or speed the plane struck the hard concrete runway in seconds.
Steve thought he was having a nightmare as he watched the plane impact the ground and leap twenty feet back into the air. Unable to take the angled forces the landing gear crumpled making the fast moving mass uncontrollable for the crew. Steve knew the only thing that could be done now was for all those on board to ride it out and hope for the best.
His heart was in his throat watching the incident in slow motion. The body of the plane returned to earth on its right side with a sickening bang snapping off the starboard wing. It then rolled once onto its left side; tearing off the port wing, before skidding down half the length of the 3,000 foot runway, sparks flying up from the friction between the metal and black macadam. It finally came to rest on its left side like a giant bird of prey, unmoving.
Rudy’s eyes were as wide as Steve’s, his mouth falling open at the unexpected event. He dropped his coffee and ran after Steve who was already heading for the wreckage praying his friends and fiancé were still alive. Emergency sirens screeched through the quiet morning but Steve never noticed.
The two men arrived as the fire crews began dousing the pile of twisted metal with foam.
Steve brushed past two emergency personnel attempting to keep him from the wreck. He swallowed hard as his eyes took in the sight of what was left of the plane.
The passenger cabin was destroyed on the right side from the second impact, as was the right side of the cockpit. The left side, which was now on the ground, was badly crumpled and scarred by the slide down the runway.
Rudy suddenly saw Oscar Goldman stagger out of the broken passenger cabin holding his left arm, which hung at an unusual angle, his face covered in blood. There was no doubt the survivor was in shock. The doctor immediately intercepted him and guided him to the waiting ambulance. Rudy heard him repeating over and over, “Russ is dead. Russ is dead.” The physician handed him off to a paramedic after noticing Steve standing stunned near the remains of the cockpit.
Looking through the broken windshield Steve blinked back tears as he saw the woman he loved lying motionless, still belted to her seat. With the plane on its side he had easy access to the roof. Not caring about exposing his bionics to the rescue crew he slowly pulled at the metal where the cracked windshield attached to the body of the plane peeling back the sheet metal like a sardine can, popping rivets as it went.
He first saw the co-pilot at his eye level, strapped securely in his seat, and the sight caused his stomach to lurch. The young man was obviously dead. His head, covered in blood, sat at a sickening angle on his shoulders, his eyes still open but lifeless.
Steve slowly lowered himself onto one knee by his unmoving fiancé and carefully brushed back the blood soaked hair covering her battered face. She was lying on her left side. The instrument panel compressed onto her legs from the initial impact.
Rudy dropped down beside Steve and visually assessed the situation as he reached for her neck feeling a weak and rapid pulse. “She’s still alive.” He whispered to his distraught friend.
The paramedics, holding a backboard and cervical collar, were behind the doctor waiting for orders on how to extricate the gravely injured pilot. Rudy looked at a paled-faced Steve who kept his eyes on Kayce, “You’ll need to lift the instrument panel off her legs as we pull her out.” Steve just silently nodded eyeing the blood pooling under her left shoulder.
Steve positioned himself the best he could in the small space while Rudy applied the cervical collar. As Steve lifted the mangled metal off Kayce’s legs the other three men began gingerly turning and sliding Kayce’s limp form onto the wooden board. An involuntary gasp escaped Steve’s lips seeing his fiancé was positioned on the board but her left arm was missing, severed just below the shoulder. Rudy was quickly tying a tourniquet to the small stump that remained, knowing it probably occurred when a piece of thin metal broke loose as the plane was sliding down the runway. The doctor just hoped she was unconscious from the initial impact and wasn’t aware of it happening.
Her lower extremities were also in need of immediate attention. Her lower left leg was very badly broken and the right showed a deep gash that traveled from her ankle to her mid-thigh. Steve was numb as he stared at the puddle of blood near her seat. He wondered if she would even survive the trip to the medical center.
The team shuffled their seriously injured patient swiftly to the ambulance. Steve headed to his car to follow. A Rescue crewmember called out to stop him. Now aware of his relationship to the injured pilot the young man, without out saying a word, held out his fist palm down. Steve raised an eyebrow at the unusual gesture. It seemed he had something for him so Steve held out his hand palm up and the man gently laid Kayce’s engagement ring in it before turning away. Steve allowed the tears to silently fall as he followed the ambulance to the medical center hoping he would get to hold her again.
The surgery to repair Kayce’s battered body lasted 10 hours and for 10 hours Steve never left the waiting room. He asked Rudy to oversee her care knowing he was one of the best trauma surgeons in the country. Finally Rudy appeared and the pair discussed the situation over two very strong black coffees. Steve listened intently as the doctor spoke. In addition to losing her left arm Kayce also had her lower left leg amputated at the knee from the crushing injury she sustained. Steve swallowed hard as his friend continued. Aside from the expected cuts and bruises she also had a head injury, broken ribs and a punctured left lung.
Steve finally asked about the serious wound on her right leg. Rudy explained he had an excellent vascular surgeon assist him in the operating room and they were able to repair the damage. All in all it looked as if Kayce’s prognosis was good.
Kayce slowly became aware of the muffled noises floating around her. She tried to open her weighted eyelids but the struggle was too great. Her body felt heavy and she was unable to move any part of it. With the pervasive darkness she wondered if somehow she had been buried alive, even her chest felt compressed, making it difficult to take air into her lungs.
An observant nurse saw the young woman struggling to awaken. She immediately paged Dr. Wells as he had requested. The doctor was instantly at her right bedside while Steve, struggling with the scene before him, took a little longer to position himself at her left side. His heart ached as his gaze began at her badly bruised face before falling upon the flattened blankets where her left arm and left lower leg should have been.
“Kayce can you hear me?” She heard the soft familiar voice calling her and felt a gentle hand on the left side of her face, a thumb lightly caressing her un-bruised right cheek as her head was slowly rolled towards him. Rudy watched as her eyelids fluttered open half way. He greeted her glassy blue eyes with a comforting smile.
A wall of pain waiting at the edge of consciousness gradually greeted Kayce. Unwilling to cross the threshold she allowed her eyes to close but the firm voice called her back, “Kayce please wake up.” Rudy was still unsure of the extent of her head injury. There was a strong possibility that her ability to speak and understand language may have been affected by the hard blow to the left side of her head. She slowly opened her eyes again and saw his familiar face. She moaned as the pain wracked her body causing Steve to grip the bedrail tighter. She tried but found it almost impossible to take a deep breath. She was unaware that the nasal cannula under her nose was providing enough pure oxygen to sustain her without the need for deep breaths for the time being.
Rudy looked over his shoulder and quickly ordered the nurse to bring him more pain medication before he returned his full attention back to his patient. Her voice came out as a raspy whisper, “Where am I?”
“You’re at the OSI medical center in California. Don’t try to breathe too deeply.” He stroked her cheek and gave her time to digest the information, waiting for the next obvious question.
“You were in a plane crash.” He said simply. Kayce allowed her eyelids to fall and Rudy thought she had lost consciousness but her voice returned after a few seconds of silence with another weak question, “Was anyone hurt?”
Not ready to discuss the matter in detail he urged her to rest and they would talk later. He was satisfied and relieved that she was at least able to understand him and express herself verbally. She nodded and dozed off. As Rudy injected the pain medication into the I.V. line Steve lovingly stoked Kayce’s forehead in an attempt to take some of her pain away. The two men exited the room together and the doctor reassured Steve his fiancé would recover.
The following day an exhausted Kayce opened her eyes to find a familiar handsome face at her right bedside holding her hand. Steve smiled when he saw her tired half-opened eyes. “Hi there beautiful.” He greeted in a soft voice. Kayce tried to move into a more comfortable position but found her body would not obey. She winced at the effort and in a weary whisper said, “I had a dream that Rudy told me I was in a plane crash.”
Steve calmly confirmed it as he moved closer into her line of sight, “You were. Do you remember any of it?” He asked cautiously. Her brow furled as she closed her eyes but her mind wouldn’t release the information. “It’s okay Kayce we can talk about it later.”
Her eyes remained closed as she commented, “It must have been bad, my whole body hurts, especially my lower legs.” Steve swallowed hard not surprised at her words. Before his bionic legs were attached he struggled with constant phantom pain for days. He quickly sidestepped the issue, “Yeah, it was.”
“Was anyone else hurt?” She asked in a drowsy voice. Steve knew as a pilot she would not take the news well. A pilot always feels an immense responsibility for the passengers and fellow crewmembers. He then saw she was staring at him with a serious look in her half-opened eyes waiting for his answer.
“I’m afraid Mike and Russ were killed instantly.” She continued to stare at him, the news gradually filtering through her drug induced haze.
“What about Oscar?” She couldn’t remember the accident but the odds were he was on the plane too.
“He only has minor injuries.”
Her sleepy eyes closed as she tried to recall the events. Steve could tell she was struggling to remember, “Kayce don’t worry Rudy said you have a serious concussion and it will take time for your memory to return.” She sighed heavily as the tears slowly cascaded down her cheeks. Steve just sat quietly holding her hand and stroking her forehead until sleep finally pulled her away.
Steve shared with Rudy his discussion with Kayce. Both men were dreading having to explain the extent of her injuries but knew it would have to be done soon, probably that afternoon since she was becoming more and more alert.
Rudy tried to convince an exhausted Steve to go home and rest. After a several minute debate Steve conceded and left. After only a two-hour nap, a shower and change of clothes, Steve immediately returned to the hospital. He headed directly to his fiancé’s room only to be intercepted by the charge nurse. Dr. Well had left strict instructions that he not be disturbed while in Kayce’s room. Rudy was grateful that the timing of Steve leaving the center and Kayce regaining consciousness worked out so well, wanting to take some of the burden from his longtime friend.
Steve nodded knowingly at the nurse and took a seat in the hallway near Kayce’s door. His mind thought back on how Rudy had told him of his lost limbs. He trusted Rudy would be able to soften the blow when telling Kayce. The sound of the door opening brought Steve instantly to his feet, the doctor looking weary. Steve requested to see her but Rudy explained she didn’t want to see him or anyone for that matter but assured his friend her feelings would change after she had time to come to terms with the situation. Steve just nodded and walked off needing to get some air.
The following days the young woman’s mind was muddled from the pain medication that Rudy ordered but she was grateful to have it since between each dose injected into her IV line the pain in her right leg was excruciating. Rudy explained the need for her to keep all weight off that leg until the delicate surgical repair was healed. She followed his instructions to the letter not wanting to lose that leg as well. So her days were spent mostly lying in bed staring at the tiled ceiling. Steve would visit regularly but she wouldn’t even acknowledge his presence. That never dissuaded him. He felt he was at least offering his silent support should she need it. What did tear him apart was the fact he knew exactly what she was going through but he couldn’t tell her.
Rudy reviewed Kayce’s OSI file to learn her background then took the time to talk with Steve over lunch and try to gain a better understanding of Kayce’s personality. Steve explained what he knew of her upbringing, which was normal until the death of her parents in a house fire when she was 12 years old. He told the doctor that she was sent to live with an older brother until she put herself through college, sometimes working 3 different jobs to pay the bills. She spent nine years as a psychologist before changing careers to become a commercial pilot. He also shared what he knew about her short marriage that ended in divorce.
The doctor then asked Steve about his description of her personality traits. After a few seconds to find the right words to define the woman he loved he replied, “Let’s see, she is mentally tough, honest, physically strong, adventurous, intelligent, streetwise, resourceful, clever, funny, self-sufficient, very independent and loyal.” Steve let his admiration show in his face as he described her as the most resilient woman he had ever met.
“Have you ever seen her lose her temper?”
Steve thought back over their many months together, “Yeah, I’ve seen her show her temper once or twice. Once she got so riled up she threw a plate against the wall.
“That’s it, only twice?” Steve nodded affirmatively.
Rudy, after digesting the information, was still at a loss as to why she had completely shut down. He explained to Steve that the psychological research described how men and women react to distressing information differently. Steve smiled as he remembered his normal male reaction to his injuries, he was sullen and quiet at first then by the third day became very angry. He recalled a few times shouting obscenities at the nurses and Rudy. Then he was able to face the situation head on and move forward.
“That’s just it Steve women usually cry or yell, then have a need to talk through the situation several times in order to comprehend it or solve the problem. She hasn’t done anything. She just stares at the ceiling. I even tried to set her off but it didn’t have any affect whatsoever.”
Steve allowed a small smile to grace his tired face, “Rudy all I can tell you is she isn’t anything like the average woman. Since I’ve known her she has never fit into the stereotypical mold for the average female. That’s what makes her special, that’s what makes her Kayce.” Steve thought a moment longer, “I think your best bet is to interact with her like you do me. She responds very well when people are direct and straightforward with her. She definitely doesn’t like to play mind games or be coddled.”
Rudy nodded thinking Steve’s suggestion wouldn’t be too hard to follow. “Steve we need to get her to talk or something to release some of those pent up emotions before…. before she does something stupid.” Steve met his gaze knowing exactly what Rudy was referring to.