Molly Tipton and her husband are looking forward to retirement but Molly’s life suddenly spirals out of control when her oldest daughter is involved in a terrible accident. An icy road and a sharp turn leave one woman dead, another clinging to life.
While two families grieve, details emerge that reveal Molly’s daughter was driving under the influence. As she prepares her daughter for the prospect of a vehicular homicide lawsuit, Molly discovers her oldest child is not the only one injured and under attack for past mistakes. If it is true time heals all wounds, what are we to do with our scars?
Molly Tipton followed her husband through the wide glass doors of the emergency room to the nurse’s station. A male nurse, on the telephone at a desk at the back of the cubicle, didn’t look up. Molly’s heart pounded. She brought her hand down hard on the bell in front of her.
“We were told our daughter Laney was in an accident and brought here.” Travis’s voice sounded steady, but Molly saw his lower lip twitch. “Laney Tipton.”
“Camden. Alana Camden,” Molly corrected. Laney and Rob had been married for over ten years, but Laney would always be Travis’s little girl. At least to him.
“That’s right. Camden.” Travis rubbed his forehead as he turned to Molly. “How often have I done that?”
The nurse, whose nametag read “Howard,” typed the information into the computer. “That’s Camden with a ‘C’? Here we go.” Howard looked up. “Her husband is with her. If you’ll take a seat, I’ll check on her status.” Nurse Howard motioned to the plastic chairs lining the waiting room walls. He sounded calm. Maybe Laney was okay. Rob was with her. Travis guided her to the seating area as Howard disappeared through a security door leading to the examination rooms.
Molly reached into her purse for her cell phone. “Should I call Lissa?”
“Let’s wait. It’s almost two in the morning. There’s nothing she can do and we don’t even know exactly what happened.” Travis the practical. Travis the analytical. Travis the wise. Molly put her phone away. A moment later the security door opened and Rob emerged, weary and bent. Molly and Travis leaped to their feet to meet him.
“How is she?”
Rob pulled his mouth tight. “They’re taking her to surgery right now.”
“Surgery? What kind of surgery?”
“They have to stop some internal bleeding.” Rob’s eyes began to tear up. “She doesn’t look good.”
Molly’s heart quickened. She forced herself to breathe. “Where are the kids?”
“At home in bed. My sister came over.”
“What happened, Rob?” Travis put his hand on the younger man’s back.
“You know Old Creek Road? Where the hill comes down and you have to make that sharp left turn? I guess she didn’t make the turn and slid off the road.” It was a dangerous road. Only last fall, a truck carrying milk from the local dairy farms had flipped over at the turn, killing the driver.
“I bet it was icy,” Travis said.
“What was she doing on Old Creek Road?” Molly asked. “That’s clear on the other side of town.”
“I don’t know. Laney called around eleven and said they were leaving River Rats. She was driving Tori back to where she was staying and said I should go on to bed.” Rob drew in a deep breath. “The next thing I knew, the police were pounding on my door.”
Tori! Laney said she was meeting friends after work. Molly had picked up the children after school and kept them for the two hours before Rob came home. But she didn’t know the plans had included Tori Johnson. She hadn’t even known Laney’s college friend was in town.
Tori was like of a female version of Eddie Haskell from Leave it to Beaver. “Oh, yes, Mrs. Tipton, I believe that our primary concern our first year of college should be to focus on our studies.”
The first time she’d picked up Laney for a long weekend home, Laney hefted a full laundry bag into the back seat, most of which proved to be the large shaggy rug from her room. “What happened to your rug?” she had asked.
“Tori Johnson happened. She threw up all over it.”
“I hope she’s not contagious.”
“She didn’t have the flu, Mom. She was drunk. She just walked into our room and puked all over my rug. She’s gross.”
Over the course of their freshman year, Laney’s attitude toward Tori had changed. Molly attributed it to Andrea, Laney’s roommate. Tori was like the Pied Piper, pulling Andrea and Laney to do her bidding.
“I think she just needed that first year to grow up,” Laney said.
Grow up indeed! It was just like Tori to talk Laney into driving her out to wherever she was staying without consideration for how far out of the way it would be. Or that Laney had a loving husband and two beautiful children waiting for her at home. Or that Laney would have to navigate unfamiliar country roads late at night with snow and ice everywhere. No, Tori hadn’t grown up at all. She was still the same selfish girl she had been in college. This was all Tori’s fault. Tori was the reason Molly’s precious daughter was lying on some cold surgical table having who knows what done to her. A shiver went up Molly’s spine. She hugged her arms around herself just as Howard reentered the room.
“Mr. Camden? You and your family can come with me upstairs. There’s a private waiting room outside the surgical suite.”
Molly and Travis followed Rob and Nurse Howard to the fourth floor. The room was small but more comfortably appointed with two soft brown chairs and a loveseat. A crucifix hung on the wall opposite the door, reminding Molly they were in a Catholic hospital. It also reminded her of what her friend Marianne called the power of prayer. Molly sat down on one of the brown chairs and shoved her face into her hands.
“You okay?” Travis asked.
“Just praying,” Molly whispered.
For the first twenty minutes, Travis flipped through a magazine. Then, he investigated the coffee pot in the corner.
“This stuff is like mud. I’m going to find us some fresh coffee, Molly. Rob, can I get you anything?
Rob shook his head.
Molly got up to check out the pot. The liquid in the pot was dark, old, and burnt, evidence of a vigil held in this very room just hours earlier. She dumped the remains in the small stainless sink and began rinsing the glass carafe.
“Rob,” Molly asked tentatively as she searched the cabinet for a paper towel, “if they went out to eat, what were they doing at River Rats? I mean, isn’t that a bar?”
“They were going clubbing. You know, dancing and stuff.”
That didn’t bother you? Molly bit her lip to keep from asking, but Rob seemed to read her mind.
“Tori was in town for some meeting so Laney and Andrea met up with her. It was a girl thing. I didn’t want to go.”
Molly finished cleaning the pot and turned it over on a paper towel to dry. There were no filters and not enough ground coffee in the tin for more than a cup. Thankfully, Travis was successful in his quest.
Ten cups of coffee later, Molly was still awake. She had leafed through every magazine in the room. “What time is it?” she asked of no one in particular.
“A little after five,” said Rob, without looking at his watch. “I wish someone would tell us what’s going on.”
When the door opened half an hour later, the doctor stepped into the small room. Molly stood up, set her jaw, and put her hands together, ready for the worst.
“She’s stable. We were able to stop the bleeding. We had to remove her spleen.”
“Then she’s going to be okay?” asked Rob.
“We’re not out of the woods yet.” The doctor motioned the three to sit down. Molly and Travis moved to the loveseat. Rob and the doctor sat on the chairs facing them. “Mrs. Camden suffered damage to her right leg. She has several broken bones in her right arm and rib cage as well. We’ve called in Dr. Toma, the premier orthopedic surgeon around here. We won’t know the full extent of her injuries for a few days. There’s possible damage to the spinal cord. We will just have to take it one day at a time.”
“Can we see her?” Molly asked.
“She is in recovery right now. We’ll move her to intensive care shortly. I can let you see her through the glass for a few minutes once she’s there, but you can’t go in yet.”
Peering through the glass, Molly could barely stand the ache in her chest. She drew her hand over her heart, watching as her daughter lay on the ICU bed. Laney’s face was swollen. A large tube was in her mouth. Smaller tubes ran in and out her left arm and hand. Wires connected the young woman to an array of machines lining the wall behind the bed.
Rob stood at the glass partition, his hand touching the glass in a futile attempt to touch his wife. His mouth pulled tight as he fought back tears.
Molly looked to her own husband. Tears were flowing freely down his cheeks.
“She is breathing on her own,” the nurse on duty said. “That’s a good sign.”
Slowly the tubes will come out and she’ll open her eyes. It’s a process. Molly tried to comfort herself.
“Make yourselves comfortable,” the nurse suggested as she led the three to a new, larger waiting area down the corridor from the ICU. “If you need anything just touch the help desk button on the phone. To make an outside call, dial seven first.”
So much information, when all Molly wanted to hear was that Laney would be okay. She bit her cheek to keep from crying as she took in their new surroundings. This room was fitted with at least ten of the comfortable brown chairs. Mounted in the corner of the room was a television. A remote rested on a table. Would there be news of the accident on the local morning news? Would she have the strength to watch it if it were?
A uniformed deputy sheriff came through the door before anyone had a chance to sit. He introduced himself as Hank Steadman and shook hands with Travis and Rob. “How’s your wife, Mr. Camden?”
“She’s in the surgical ICU. They stopped the internal bleeding, but the doctor said she’s not out of the woods yet.”
“They’re a good bunch of doctors here,” he assured them.
“Officer, was it ice on the road?” Travis asked.
“I’m still investigating.” Deputy Steadman turned to Rob. “It was the middle of the night, Mr. Camden. Did you know where your wife was at that hour?”
Molly’s head jerked up. What was this man insinuating? Trouble between Rob and Laney?
“She went out with some friends for dinner and then called me from River Rats to say she was on her way home,” Rob stated without reservation.
Deputy Steadman made a notation in his book. “I should have my initial findings filed today, but you probably won’t be able to pick up a copy of the typed report until Monday at the station.”
Travis stepped closer to the officer. “But it was the ice, right?”
“We should be able to finish the full investigation next week.” The man continued to address Rob. “The final report will be filed once we have all the details. You can pick up personal items at the station.”
The officer shifted. “Look, I hate to ask, but, did you know the other woman in the car with Mrs. Camden?”
“The other woman?” asked Rob.
Deputy Steadman looked at his notes. “A Victoria Johnson.”
“Tori was in the car?” Molly asked. Laney wasn’t alone. She hadn’t dropped Tori off at some unknown destination before the accident.
“Yes, ma’am. We have an Illinois driver’s license for her, but so far we haven’t been able to contact anyone at her residence.”
“I’m pretty sure she lives alone,” said Rob.
“Her parents live in the St. Louis area,” offered Molly. Tori’s parents were quiet, unassuming, and likable. It was largely because of the Johnsons, Molly and Travis had decided to let Laney move off campus and into the house with her friends their junior year.
“Nancy and Paul. Their names are Nancy and Paul Johnson.”
“Thank you. That should help.”
“How is Tori?” asked Travis.
Officer Steadman studied the three faces before him. “I’m afraid she didn’t make it. She was pronounced dead on the scene.”
Molly’s stomach clenched as the room spun. The brown chairs took on odd shapes and moved in circles before her eyes. “I need to sit down,” she whispered, even as Travis grasped her arm and lowered her into one of the chairs. She had blamed all of her daughter’s pain and suffering on Tori.
What was it the nurse had said about Laney? She’s breathing on her own. Laney lying in the bed connected to all of the machines and paraphernalia in the room didn’t seem so bad. She was breathing on her own. A good sign.
Tori wasn’t breathing at all.
About the Author
Rebecca Waters left her position as a professor of teacher education in December 2012 to actively pursue her writing career. She shares her writing journey in her weekly blog, A Novel Creation. Rebecca has published several freelance articles including two submissions in the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Standard Publishing’s Lookout Magazine, The Christian Communicator, Church Libraries, and Home Health Aide Digest. Rebecca’s debut novel, Breathing on Her Own, was released on March 24, 2014 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. To learn more about Rebecca or to read A Novel Creation, visit her website.