Joel Holland walked into the kitchen and wrapped his arm around his wife’s waist. She had both hands submerged in the soapy water, but she still turned her head and smiled at him. Sometimes it surprised him how easy things were even after more than twenty years of marriage. “Where are the boys?” he asked.
“Jeff had football practice, then he was going over to Greg’s house to sleep over. Jarrett’s in his room. Painting, I think.”
Joel couldn’t quite stop the twist of his mouth at that. He still hadn’t figured out how two of his sons had such an artistic streak. Not that there was necessarily anything wrong with that, he supposed. “Neither Susan or Doren are coming home this weekend?”
Diana shook her head. “Doren’s taking Amy out to dinner tonight after his game. We probably won’t see him until Thanksgiving.”
“That’s not far now.” Pride nearly swelled his chest to bursting for his oldest son. And not just because he’d practically been a star since he walked out on the football field in high school. And even if he didn’t understand why he was pursuing an art major in college.
His wife dried her hands before turning to him. “And Susan said Kendall was planning to go over to the campus to visit her this weekend.”
That had a grin spreading across his face. “Those girls. They always have been inseparable, haven’t they? At least Sue’s going to school closer than Doren.”
“Yeah. Joel, about Sue and Ken.” His eyes narrowed, and he wasn’t sure he liked the worried look in her eyes. But, before she could elaborate, the phone rang from the other end of the counter.
He brushed a kiss over her lips then moved away to answer it. “Hello.”
“Is this Joel Holland?”
Something cold slithered over him, and he didn’t understand it. Just a solicitor. It had to be just a solicitor. “Yeah, that’s me.”
“This is Candace at Lock Haven Hospital. Doren Holland was brought in earlier tonight. He has you as an emergency contact.”
Everything came crashing to a halt. No. No,no, no. That couldn’t be right. “You’re wrong,” he said. “He’s not. My son was taking his girlfriend out tonight. Why would he be there?”
“There was an accident, Mr. Holland. Your son-” But, he wasn’t listening anymore. He looked up at Diana, saw the fear reflected back in her eyes. “Get the boys, Diana. And call Susan. We have to go.”
“What’s going on?” Diana asked.
He hadn’t even waited for the woman on the other end to tell him. Now, he ran a hand through his red hair. The same red hair he’d passed down to his oldest son. “There was an accident,” he finally said. “Doren’s in the hospital.”
“No,” she gasped. “How…how bad?”
“I don’t know.” He didn’t even know if the woman had said. “But, we need to get there.” He could feel it. This was bad. Something that could possibly change their lives forever.
Joel stood outside the parking garage and stared up at the hospital. It was late, and the street was mostly quiet. Still, he couldn’t seem to make his feet move forward to cross it.
“Are we gonna go or not, Dad?”
Jeff. Always with the attitude. Sometimes he didn’t have any idea what to do with him. But, still, he’d seen the fear in Jeff’s eyes when they picked him up from Greg’s and told him Doren was in the hospital. He’d always looked up to his big brother.
“We’re going,” he said, but still his feet didn’t move.
Diana put a hand on his arm. “Come on,” she said. “Maybe it’s not as bad as you’re fearing. We need to go in and see.”
He nodded, but it still felt like his steps were weighed down. When they got inside, Diana did the talking and pulled him along, until they were in a waiting room. At the nurse’s station, they had said a doctor should be by to talk to them. But, that was it. No hint of what the damage was. Of if he was even still alive.
No. He put a stop to that thinking right now.
“Sit down, Joel, please,” Diana said. It was only then he even realized he’d been pacing. He dropped into a chair, but he couldn’t stay still. His foot tapped out a quick beat, his fingers drumming along on the arm of the chair. Even that wasn’t enough. He was just pushing up from the chair again when a doctor stepped into the room.
He looked around the room before his gaze settled on them. “You’re the Hollands?” he asked softly. Gently.
That practically knocked all the air from Joel’s chest. No, no, no. That was the word that had repeated so many times in his head tonight. Diana squeezed his arm and stepped forward. “We are. What’s going on? My son? How’s my son?”
“He’s come through the surgery,” the doctor said.
Joel still couldn’t draw in a full breath, but he forced himself to ask, “Surgery for what?”
The doctor’s eyes narrowed. “They didn’t tell you when you were notified?
“I…I don’t know,” Joel stammered.
The doctor smiled sympathetically as if he understood. Maybe he did, had seen this from patient’s families before. When he had to inform them…No! He’d said Doren came through surgery. That had to mean he was okay. “What happened?” he asked.
“Your son was in a car accident. His right leg was crushed. He had to be cut out of the vehicle.” Joel heard Diana gasp beside him, but he couldn’t move, couldn’t speak. The doctor continued. “There were some other injuries, his seatbelt probably saved his life, but it also inflicted some damage. He has some head contusions as well.”
Joel didn’t even want to know what ‘some damage’ meant. “Can I see him?” It didn’t matter what the doctor said, he had to see Doren for himself.
“He won’t wake yet. His body took a lot of damage.”
“I don’t care. I need to see my son.”
The doctor nodded. “Someone will show you the way.”
Joel squeezed his wife’s hand then released it to hear down the hallway. He hesitated outside the door, suddenly unsure if he could handle seeing this. He knew he couldn’t once he stepped inside and saw his son laying on the hospital bed. His leg was elevated, looking like it was swollen nearly twice its normal size. Which was probably why it wasn’t in a cast. It looked a mess, even though the doctor said they’d repaired it. He hadn’t quite realized what crushed would mean. His face was bruised, and there was an ugly raw mark from the side of his neck down his chest, disappearing under the hospital gown he wore.
Joel dropped into the chair beside the bed and took his son’s hand. He had always fixed things: the front porch steps, Doren’s bike the first time he’d wrecked it, the little fights that cropped up between the children. He didn’t see any way he could fix this, though.
“Oh, God, Doren,” he cried, bending his head over his son’s hand. “God, I’m sorry.” His shoulders shook as he cried over his son’s broken body.
Note: In case anyone is too worried about Doren, he does get his own story about six years after this. Though, the fact Joel can’t fix this breaks something in their relationship for a while. But, it’s something they have to deal with in that story(which I’m hoping to have out either late this year or early next year), especially when his younger brother is in a similar position.