Thomas parked in the dedicated lot for Emergency, in front of a Gothic building, astonishing with its pitched roofs and huge chimneys, sitting beside the contemporary hospital.
"What is that? Part of the hospital?"
"No, that's the Converse Building. It's a residence for students at UV."
"Haunted, so they say."
They hurried to the emergency room entrance. A few patients and relatives sat on chairs near the information desk where the smiling volunteer directed them to the correct wing. The ER team had admitted her to the Medical ICU and they followed the signs to that building. Anne sat in the light-filled waiting room, expansive with two-story windows and a mezzanine that floated at one end. It was so similar to the hospital in Culver's Mills that she wondered if the same firm had designed them. She stretched her legs to rest them on an ottoman covered in some indestructible orange leather-like material. What if Thomas's mother died? What would that mean for her own relationship with him and with his daughters? Would they blame her for bringing stress into the house?
Across the room, Thomas negotiated with the guardian of access to the ICU, and in a few minutes, the door swung open for him and he disappeared. At the same moment, Claire and Cecilia walked out of the elevator. Cecilia came to her and asked where her father was.
"Inside. The lady at the desk will help you."
"Have you been in?"
"Only family in ICUs."
Cecilia marched over to the desk and spoke to the person there. Claire followed and then trudged back, her jaw, so like Thomas's, set, and said, "Only two at once. What's that about?"
The girls, identical to each other, echoed their father and their grandmother in the planes of their faces that revealed strength and stubbornness both. Somehow, Claire's was softer than Cecilia's.
"Congestion in the ICU, noise, work load. They have lots of reasons. They won't stay long, and you'll be able to go in."
"Cecilia thought everything took too long. She thought they should scoop Grandmama and be out the door."
"They had to stabilize before transport so she could endure the flight."
"I know but Cecilia..."
And they sat, Claire with her eyes on her mobile phone and Anne reading on her Kindle.
"When?" Claire asked.
"It's only been fifteen minutes. Do you want to ask me anything general about stroke?"
"No. I read about it and what this hospital has to offer."
"It's the only level 3 in the state, I think, so it should be state-of-the-art."
"Do you think they will treat her with clot-busting drugs?"
"I think she arrived in time, but the neurologists or the neurosurgeons make that decision. Or the intensivists."
"What are intensivists?"
The elevator doors and Daniel crossed the room to them. He hugged his sister and shook Anne's hand. They kept greeting each other, like characters in a play, Anne thought.
The group of three waited a few more minutes and then Daniel went to the desk and asked the receptionist to call his father out for a few minutes.
"Dad, what's going on?"
"They're taking her down for an MRI before they give her the drug."
"Can I see her?"
"I'll bring Cecilia out, and then you and Claire can go in."
Cecilia emerged in front of her father, her face flushed and that jaw set. Identical twins take getting used to, Anne thought. A sense of deja vu.
"Dad said he'd ask if you could go in. I'd rather you didn't."
"It can only confuse my grandmother."
"Please let it go. I have no intention of going in. It would serve no purpose except to support your father and he would come out if he needed me," Anne said.
"We are supporting our father."
Claire put a hand on her sister's arm.
"Claire, I don't like strangers around when there is family trouble."
Claire sighed and confronted Cecilia.
"Anne is hardly a stranger. After all, she shares Dad's bed when we're not around."
Cecilia drew a breath but held whatever she had to say when Thomas pushed open the door from the ICU.
Anne stood up and walked towards him.
"I think I should go back. I'll rent something—"
"No, you won't. Daniel's going back as soon as she goes for the MRI. You can go with him if you must."
"Yes. I know. We'll talk later."
Twenty minutes later, she leaned back in the seat in Daniel's SUV.
"I'm sorry, Anne."
"Your family keeps apologizing for Cecilia, but does anyone ever confront her?"
"All the time. She's so stubborn."
"Yes, she is."
"I hope you'll stay on. Dad needs you."
What did she mean, perhaps? Perhaps she would stay on? Perhaps Thomas needed her? Perhaps she would flee to her home in the north? Her life had been simple before her first visit to Culver's Mills. Would she want to lose all she had gained—the friends, the experiences, good and bad, the excitement, Thomas, to go back to her old life? Perhaps not, but what to do?
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