Once there was a Sioux maiden whose father had given her as wife to a cruel medicine man, one who practiced witchcraft and allied himself with the evil spirits. The husband constantly found fault with his young wife and beat her. Unable to remain with her husband for fear his next beating would kill her, she grabbed a small bundle of food and ran away from her home. The tribe searched for her for many days, but when they could find no sign of her, they eventually accepted that she was dead.
But the woman wasn’t dead. She wandered the prairie for many days and nights until, exhausted, without food or water, she sat and prayed for the Great Spirit to come for her. Knowing what an evil man her husband was, the Great Spirit took pity on her and sent a man to rescue her, but he was not really a man. He was the chief of the wolves, a shapeshifter, whose rare red coloring distinguished him from the other wolves. The chief fell in love with her and took her back to his village where she was amazed to find what she was sure were all the wolves and coyotes of the world.
For a year, she stayed with him in his village, falling more and more deeply in love with him, until she refused to consider ever leaving him. In exchange for her love, the chief of the wolves gifted her with the ability to talk to the wolves and other animals. The wolves treated her well, fetching whatever she needed to survive from the camp of men—flint for fire, a pot to boil her buffalo meat, a knife to cut it, and skins to make her clothes.
One night, her lover came to her tepee and he was greatly distressed. Her people were on the move, going on a great buffalo hunt, and they were headed this way. Unless she faced them and told them who she was, her people would kill all the wolves who’d cared for her, and because of an evil enchantment, he was powerless to protect the wolves whom he loved as much as he did her. He had to leave to find the source of the evil spell to protect those entrusted to him, but he would return for her as soon as he could.
The woman was sad, but knew she carried a secret within her—twins, powerful in good magic, who would be their father’s legacy. The next day, she saw the long line of people coming toward the wolf camp and went out to greet them as her lover had told her to, surrounded by the wolves who’d refused to leave her. Leading her people were her husband and her father who recognized her. Agreeing to go back to her village, she refused to go back as her husband’s wife and insisted they build her a tepee of her own where she lived with the wolves until the time came and she gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, both with their father’s unusual coloring and eyes as green as the prairie grass.
When the medicine man saw the children, he was enraged and cursed his wife and her lover, vowing neither one would ever be happy. Using his evil magic, he slew the wolf guardians and stole the twins away, selling them to the tribe’s enemies as slaves—the girl to one, the boy to another. In his jealousy, he sold his soul to wakhášica, an evil spirit, who trapped the chief of the wolves in his wolf form.
Unable to defend himself, the chief of the wolves fell prey to the evil medicine man’s spear. The medicine man skinned the wolf and presented the pelt to his wife’s father as a trophy, asking the man to intercede to force his wife to come back to him.
Believing her wolf lover would return to her and help her find her lost children, the woman refused her father’s pleas to go back to her husband. Day and night, she prayed to the Great Spirit and begged her lover to come back for her as he’d promised, but he didn’t come. In her grief and loneliness, she went to see her father. When she entered his tepee, the first thing she saw was her lover’s pelt. Distraught, she fled the tribe, wailing and lamenting the loss of her lover and her children, and wandered the prairie in search of his spirit.
Pitying her, the Great Spirit turned her into a wolf and reunited her with the pack she’d lived with, and there she stayed for the rest of her days, mourning with them.
Often at night, especially when the full moon silvers the land, the wind carries the lonely howls of the lovers searching for one another, still separated by the medicine man’s evil curse.
Charley, aka Charlotte Winters, stood looking out the front window at the clear, blue sky and rubbed her lower back with her left hand. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she’d had a sense of impending doom ever since she’d crawled out of bed an hour ago. Raising her coffee cup to her lips, the only one she’d have today, she drank deeply, hoping for the calming effect the brew always had on her, but the heebie-jeebies wouldn’t go away. The last time she remembered feeling like this had been seven years ago, the day the police had come to her door…
Stop it. No negative thoughts.
Mike came into the room.
“The boys and I should be back after supper. Don’t bother making anything for me. We’ll probably grab something from the mess before we go our separate ways,” Mike said coming to stand behind her and putting his arms around her, rubbing her slightly rounded abdomen. “You didn’t sleep well last night.”
“With the way you were sawing wood, how would you know?” she asked and chuckled. The man could certainly snore, but that hadn’t kept her awake. The ear plugs took care of that problem.
“When it comes to anything that involves you, I’m psychic, remember?”
“Sure you are,” she answered, her voice laced with sarcasm and humor. “Having a First Nations great-great-great-great-grandmother who might’ve been a shaman, doesn’t give you any special powers, and considering your coloring, those genes are buried really deeply.”
He hooted, the sound of it erupting from deep inside him. She loved his laughter. Like everything else about her husband, it was genuine and honest.
“Oh ye of little faith. My Scottish genes may be strong, but my sixth sense keeps me out of trouble, and you know it.”
“Michael Winters, you are so full of it. If I were going to give you one of those First Nation names, it would be ‘Gets Into Trouble.’ Look at what happened when we went for a walk last month. You could’ve been killed. Dealing with wild animals is incredibly dangerous and you know it.”
“But I wasn’t,” he said with decisiveness. “That wolf pup is alive because I rescued it.”
She couldn’t argue with that. While Mike might not have a lick of sense when it came to his own personal safety, something that had terrified her while he’d been deployed, he was innately attuned to animals. She hadn’t even heard the pup’s cries. Any longer in that hole away from the she-wolf and food, and the pup would have died for sure. Mike had gone straight to the spot where the animal had fallen into the sink hole and dug until he could set the pup free. The little female had been very appreciative, licking his face like an exuberant puppy would.
“Only because Mama Wolf didn’t attack. It was eerie the way she and the rest of the litter sat and watched you, almost as if they understood what you were doing, and then, when the pup joined her, it was almost as it they’d all bowed to you, like you were some kind of savior.”
He winked. “I told you, it’s my granny’s power.”
She shook her head. Sometimes he was worse than a kid, but she loved him to distraction.
“You are so full of it. Fine, ‘Rescues Wolf Pup and Gets into Trouble,’ you win. I’ll try to nap this afternoon so you can tell me all about the ride when you get back. I don’t know why I couldn’t settle last night. Must be those out-of-whack hormones everyone talks about. I wish I were coming with you, but I get it—men only. Have penis, will travel.” She chuckled and leaned back into him. “You’re sure the bike’s working well? The throttle was a little sticky when we were on it the other day. I had a look at it…”
“And you took that valve apart and cleaned it. Everything was working perfectly, ‘Stands with a Wrench’ when I gassed it up last night—the advantage of being married to the most beautiful mechanic in the world,” he answered and laughed, nuzzling her neck as he always did.
“Stands with a Wrench? Really?” She chuckled. “I wish you weren’t going,” she said, unable to hide her distress any longer. “I just feel like something’s off.”
Mike straightened, all signs of playfulness gone. “The baby?” he asked, his forehead crinkled in concern.
She shook her head. “I don’t think so, but the little imp must’ve been doing handsprings on my spine last night. My back is sore this morning. I hope it isn’t the mattress.”
“If it is, we’ll just have to deal with it. I can sleep on anything, but you, princess, are like that girl in the fairytale who could feel a pea under a stack of mattresses.”
She giggled. “How do you know those things?”
“One of the guys in my unit used to read children’s books into the computer, and his wife would replay them at night for his four-year-old daughter. I’m an expert on princesses, but I like the Dr. Seuss books the best. I can probably recite Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb. It was her favorite.”
“You never cease to amaze me. You’re going to be an awesome dad.”
“That’s only so I can keep up with you, supermom. Is the ultrasound still scheduled for Wednesday? No matter what you say, I know it’s a boy. I feel it in here.” He pressed his hand to his chest, his deep green eyes twinkling.
“Not this Wednesday, next week. I waited the full four months so they could be sure, but you’re wrong, Mr. Know-it-all. This baby is a girl, and despite that hidden heritage you claim, she’ll have your gorgeous red hair and your incredible eyes. You’re going to fall so completely in love with this angel that you won’t let her out of your sight.”
“That I can believe, especially if she’s as beautiful as her mother. I’d better pick up a stack of princess books, but maybe I should throw in a Bob the Builder book just to be on the safe side. She might be a tomboy, like you.”
He kissed her neck, warming the tender point just below her ear, sending need cascading through her.
“When do you have to leave?” she asked, wondering if she could drag him back to bed for a quickie. Making love was always the best way to start the day and would probably settle her nerves as well.
“In about ten minutes, and don’t look at me like that. I know what’s on your mind, sexy lady, but it’ll have to wait until I get back. Can you imagine the ribbing I’d get if Phil and the boys catch me with my pants down? They should be here shortly, and we have to be in Pembroke by eight to meet up with the rest of the seventy bikers involved. This is one of the largest Ride to Conquer Cancer events in the province. We’ve even got a police escort, but, it’ll be our last ride together this year, so you can stop worrying about me hitting black ice or whatever other disaster you can imagine. Jim has his surgery on Tuesday, and he’ll be out of commission, so we’ve agreed to park the bikes until he can ride with us again. Sort of like showing solidarity for what he’s going through. We might even shave our heads … we’ll see. Some of the new chemotherapy treatments don’t result in hair loss—not that he has a lot to begin with.”
“Wow. When did you decide that?” she asked surprised and strangely relieved, wishing this ride were canceled, too. He and that bike had been inseparable since she’d given it to him when he’d return from his deployment six months ago, and while she knew he was safer here than he’d been in the Afghan desert, she couldn’t stop worrying. Her dad thought he’d been safe, too.
“At the pre-ride meeting on Thursday. I meant to tell you when I got home, but you had other things on your mind than talking.” He wiggled his eyebrows.
Reaching up, he caressed her breasts, slightly larger and more tender now that she was expecting.
“I figure it’ll give you lots of time to get the bike into storage before the bad weather hits.”
“Bad weather? It’s only the beginning of October,” she said, lightheartedly. “Let’s hope it holds out until Mid-November at least.”
“Amen. If we decide to keep your car, it’s going to need new tires, and we can’t fit that into the budget until I get my back pay at the end of the month. That money’s going to have to stretch a long way. What are you going to do today?”
She relaxed against him, enjoying the feel of his hands on her body.
“The usual Saturday stuff. Groceries, laundry, and whether we decide to trade her in or not, Matilda needs an oil change. I talked to Steve at the motor pool, and he’s letting me use one of the bays this afternoon. I want to go have a look at the washer-dryer the Willis’s have for sale, too. I don’t mind taking our clothes to the laundromat, but once the baby gets here, it’ll be a different story.”
“I know, and I hope we’ll have enough at the end of the month to cover that, too. I don’t want you carrying hampers full of laundry in the snow, and while I’ll try to be around to help…”
“I know, when duty calls, it hollers, Sergeant. I’ll be fine. I don’t know why I’m so moody.”
Whatever was bothering her would go away this afternoon when she worked on her car. It always did. Dad had given her Matilda, a fire-engine-red hatchback, as a graduation present, just three days before he’d been killed. No one expected to die standing on the sidewalk, but a man had had a syncope, a fainting spell, and had lost control of his SUV, careening into another vehicle. The small pickup truck had struck her father and pinned him underneath. He’d died a few hours later with her by his side. Neither driver had been seriously injured, but what a hell of a thing to have on your conscience for the rest of your life.
“So what route did they finally agree on?”
“We’re meeting in Pembroke, and then going up Highway 17 to North Bay. From there we go south on 11 to Huntsville for a fundraising barbecue, and when that’s over we follow Highway 60 back to Petawawa. Roughly seven hours of riding. I’ll be back before eight. I promise.”
“I wish it wasn’t all twisty, two-lane highway. Some of those smaller roads have some really bad curves.”
“Hey, they skirt Algonquin Park. What do you expect?”
She shrugged, not sure how to answer that. Wanting him to stay home wasn’t logical. It was selfish of her, and completely out of character. Normally, she was the cool, calm, and collected one. Algonquin Park was a provincial park with the landscape inherent to the Canadian Shield. Of course the roads around it were curvy to preserve the area. The less blasting they had to do, the better.
The sound of motorcycle engines drew her gaze to the window again. Four Harleys pulled up in front of the house. The riders, all soldiers from the same unit who’d served together in Afghanistan, were close friends.
Phil’s wife, Hayley, worked for Dr. Edwards, Charley’s obstetrician in Pembroke. Jim, the oldest of them all, was a cook. He’d been diagnosed with prostate cancer only six weeks ago—the reason the five men had decided to join the ride and raise money for research. Jim’s wife, Grace, had been devastated, but she was putting up a brave front for their three kids—the oldest was only fourteen. The last two, Leon and Alex, were the young guns in the outfit. Leon was getting married on Valentine’s Day, when his fiancée returned from her stint at the combat hospital in Kandahar. Mike would be best man. She’d probably be the size of a house, but she wouldn’t miss the wedding for anything.
“The Four Amigos are here,” she said needlessly, turning to face him after setting her coffee mug down. She encircled his neck with her arms, pulled herself as close to him as his leathers would allow. “Promise me you’ll be careful.”
“Always. I have far too much to lose to do anything stupid. Now, it’s your turn to promise me you’ll take it easy today.”
She raised her mouth to his, and he kissed her, the feel of his lips on hers as magical this time as it had been the first time they’d kissed. She opened to him, inviting him in, and drank deeply from him, almost as if she thought she’d never feed from him this way again. His ardor matched hers, but he pulled away too quickly.
“Talk about getting my motor running,” he said, leaning his forehead against hers. Slowly releasing her, he reached for his leather jacket and his old helmet. “Keep my place.” He winked. “I’ll pick up where I left off tonight.”
“I love you,” she said, surprised by the depth of emotion in her voice.
What the hell’s wrong with me today? I’ve never been clingy and maudlin like this.
“Ditto, babe,” His eyes conveyed his concern. “I don’t know what’s bothering you, but we’ll talk tonight, okay? Take it easy today.”
He opened the door and left, closing it behind him.
Charley shuddered with that “someone’s walked over my grave” feeling and turned back to the window. Mike came around the side of the house on his Harley and waved to her as he joined the guys on the road. She swallowed awkwardly, waved back, and swiped at the unexpected tears.
For God’s sake. He survived sixteen months in Afghanistan. He’ll manage one day on the road with his friends. Stupid hormones.
Closing the curtains, she picked up her mug and brought it into the kitchen. She’d shower and get going. The sooner she got to work on Matilda, the better she’d feel.
* * * *
Five hours later, groceries done and laundry neatly folded in the rattan basket on the back seat of the car, Charley grabbed a sandwich and headed to the motor pool. She’d change the oil before heading home. Keeping a styrofoam cooler in the trunk had been Mike’s idea, and it allowed her to run a number of errands without having to worry about the milk, meat, or ice cream she’d bought. The outside temperature was in the low sixties, even though the sun shone, ensuring all the fruits and veggies as well as the chocolate bars she’d bought wouldn’t melt or go bad.
“Hey, Steve,” she said through the open window as she pulled to a stop in front of the base garage. “I’m early.”
“Not a problem, Charley. Pull into bay six, and I’ll help you with the hoist.”
“While you’re here, I wonder if you could listen to the captain’s car. He brought it in this morning, claims there’s a noise, but I’ll be damned if I can find it.”
Charley laughed. “Sure, no problem.”
“My ears aren’t as fine-tuned as they used to be. Opening the bay doors now.”
When Steve started the captain’s car, she didn’t hear a noise either, so she took it for a spin. The problem turned out to be a stone in the rear left hubcap. The thing would get lodged and only move on left turns. Steve had fixed it in a matter of minutes and now, she was alone in the garage while Steve returned the car to his boss, doing what she liked best—working on her baby, soon to take second place to the real one she held inside her.
Standing under the car, she watched Matilda’s oil drip into the container. It wasn’t as dirty as she thought it would be, but since she was already here, and the car was up on the hoist, she might as well flush the rad, check out the brake pads, and take care of anything else that might need to be fixed before winter. Mike was right about one thing. She definitely needed four new tires. Maybe they should think more about trading Matilda in for a van. She’d hate to lose the old girl, but she wasn’t exactly a family car.
When Mike mustered out next year, they’d invest their savings into a small garage in a little town about fifty miles south east of here. She’d continue substitute teaching until the garage started making money, and then she’d quit teaching and join Mike, doing the work they both loved.
As always when she worked on Matilda, she carried on a one-sided conversation, talking to her dad as if he stood beside her, the way he had all those years ago when he’d taught her everything she knew about engines. It always felt as if he were still there with her, coaching and guiding her through each repair, and today was no different. Steve was used to her strange behavior and didn’t even notice anymore.
While she worked, she discussed the students she’d taught on the six-week occasional contract she’d picked up that had ended yesterday, the strange cravings she was having with the pregnancy, their decision to trade in Matilda and get a newer minivan, and her concern about Mike and the motorcycle run today, but unlike other times, there was no relief, no feeling of love and calm to soothe her.
“I wish I knew why I’m so creeped out, Dad. It isn’t as if this is the first time he’s taken the bike out, and I know that Harley is as mechanically fit as it can be. God, I wasn’t this upset when I found out he was doing foot patrols in Kandahar. And what’s with the sore back? The last thing we can afford right now is a new bed.”
“You can’t protect him from Fate, Charley. You can’t protect any of them. You need to be strong, baby girl, for him, for them.” Her dad’s voice resonated in the empty bay.
Stunned, Charley dropped her wrench, stepped out from under the car, and looked around.
“Dad?” she asked aloud, spooked as she’d never been before. She might talk to her father, had done so for years, but he never answered.
“Is anyone there?”
The garage was silent, the drip of the oil the only sound she could hear. She huffed out a nervous breath. Her and her vivid imagination. This was all Mike’s fault, him and his crazy talk this morning about psychic abilities. She was just tired. Once she got a few hours of quality sleep, she wouldn’t be hearing things. It was possible she might be coming down with a cold or the flu and that accounted for the unsettled way she’d felt all day.
Since she’d already started winterizing the vehicle, she finished what needed to be done while the car was above her and lowered Matilda. Half hour later, oil change completed, rad filled with anti-freeze, the windshield washer fluid now the winter version, and all the other fluids topped up, Charley washed her hands, paid Steve for the liquids she’d used, and headed home.
Half an hour later, she’d just finished putting away the last of the cleaned and cut up vegetables, when a sharp pain in her chest took her to her knees.
Mike! He’d screamed her name, his voice filled with deep sadness and regret. In the distance, the howl of wolves erupted as if they too were suffering. Nausea filled her, and she barely made it to the bathroom before she returned her lunch and whatever else was still lingering in her stomach. Leaning against the cold, porcelain toilet bowl, she took a deep breath. Why would she have morning sickness now? Had she eaten something tainted? But that wouldn’t explain the pain and the imaginary scream and howls.
The doorbell rang, startling her.
“Just a minute,” she yelled, knowing whoever was on the stoop would hear her through the paper-thin walls of the base house. Quickly washing her face and rinsing her mouth, she hurried to the door, ill-prepared for the two men who stood on the cement step. Her blood ran cold. She’d shielded herself for this visit every day that Mike was overseas, but not now—not today. The look on Captain Harrison’s face told her what she didn’t want to hear, and she gripped the door frame.
“Oh, God,” Charley whispered. “What happened?”
“Mrs. Winters, there’s been an accident,” he said solemnly.
“Where? How badly injured is he?” she asked fighting to keep the panic out of her voice.
“Just outside of Bancroft on Highway 60. I’m sorry. He was killed instantly.”
Hot knives tore through her abdomen as a gush of hot liquid escaped between her legs. The room began to spin.
“You’ve got to go back, babe,” Mike says releasing her. “It’s time.”
“But I don’t want to. Why can’t I stay here with you?” Charley asks, trying to move back into his arms, afraid to let him go, knowing that if she does, she’ll never see him again.
“Because you can’t, just like they can’t come with either of us.”
He smiles at her, his green eyes overflowing with love and sadness.
“I wish things were different. This isn’t the way I thought it would be. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. Don’t be afraid. Embrace it. I’m destined for something else, but part of me will always be there with you.” He steps away from her and the clouds begin to swallow him.
“Don’t go. Don’t leave me, Mike,” she cries, her heart breaking as he slowly fades away, howls echoing in the vast emptiness.
Gradually, the cotton batten world dissolved and the animal cries were replaced by mechanical bleeps and low voices penetrating her mind, pulling her into a dimly lit room, away from the peace and comfort of Mike’s arms.
“She’s coming to,” an unfamiliar woman’s voice spoke softly.
“Thank God. I was afraid we’d lose her after all. Charley, can you hear me?”
She recognized Dr. Edwards’s voice piercing the white fog and dragging her back, farther and farther away from Mike.
She mumbled something unintelligible, just before the horrible memories returned, and her eyes flew open.
“The baby,” she cried, noting the IV pole beside her and the bags of blood and clear liquids hanging there, their tentacles leading to her arm. She was in the hospital. “How’s my baby?
“How do you feel, Charley?” the doctor asked, his voice filled with compassion, but he didn’t answer her question. “This is a hell of a situation...”
“How’s my baby?” she interrupted, ignoring his commiserations.
The doctor hung his head, his eyes conveying the bad news before his words did, the same way she’d known what Captain Harrison had been about to tell her before he had. Mike was dead and so was her baby. Emptiness, so profound she thought she’d die from it, filled her, leaving her cold.
“There was nothing we could do.” Her obstetrician, the one all the base personnel and their wives used, reached for her hand. “Sometimes these things just happen. There’s no warning—nothing to let you know something’s gone wrong. This wasn’t your fault. You’ve suffered a miscarriage caused by an incompetent cervix. You hemorrhaged badly. We had to do a D & C to remove the rest of the placenta and seal the walls of the uterus to stop the bleeding. You can still have children, but there’ll be special precautions to take next time.”
He cleared his throat as if he realized as well as she did that there’d never be a next time.
Tears filled her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. Her body had failed her, failed their child, but the worst of it was, she was the one who’d put Mike on that motorcycle, and now she was destined to spend the rest of her life alone, atoning for her mistake. She’d known something bad was going to happen, this morning, but this? Losing them both?
Why didn’t I die, too?
“What was it?’ she asked barely able to speak through the pain ripping her heart apart.
“Twins, one of each.”
“We were both right,” she whispered, before great sobs racked her body and banshee-like wails rose from her. She barely noticed the prick of a needle in her arm, before the whiteness enfolded her.
* * * *
Several hours later, numb inside and out—no doubt the effect of whatever drug they’d given her, Charley listened half-heartedly as Dr. Edwards tried in vain to explain what had happened. It didn’t matter how things had gone wrong. They had. Mike was dead, the babies were gone, and she was still here when what she wanted was to be with all those she’d loved and lost, including her mother, her father, and her grandmother.
“There was absolutely no way to save them,” Dr. Edwards said, sympathy branded on his face. How many times had he delivered this kind of bad news over the years? “It was too early. They were too small.”
Nineteen weeks. So little—too little. According to her baby book, had there been one child, the baby would’ve weighed half-a-pound and measured six inches from head to foot. Its arms and legs would have grown proportional to its body, and wisps of hair would’ve sprouted on its head—but twins would’ve been even tinier. Her angel babies hadn’t existed legally, but to her, they had. They’d moved, they’d kicked, and their tiny little hearts had beaten even if she’d only thought of them as one. Her darlings didn’t even have names.
One lone tear crept down the side of her face to the pillow.
“What will happen to them?” she asked, watching the nurse take her blood pressure, wishing again that they’d let her die, too.
“I’ve already sent the remains to the funeral home that took care of Mike’s arrangements. Phil thought you’d like that.”
“Mike’s body’s back? I want to see him.” She struggled to sit, too weak to do so, and collapsed back onto the pillow.
“Take it easy. It’s going to take a few days for you to get your strength back. You’ve been in and out of it for more than a week. At one point we thought we’d lose you, too.”
“A week? If I came that close, why didn’t you let me die?”
“Now, Charley, you know we couldn’t do that. I know it feels like the end of the world right now, but you’re young…”
“I want to see him. I need to see them,” she said, cutting him off. Tears seeped from the corner of her eyes.
“I’m afraid that’s not possible. There was too much damage from the accident … Hayley wanted to wait, but Phil was adamant. Apparently, you guys decided this before Mike was deployed. The will was very specific, and they didn’t know how long it would be before you could function again. Everything’s been taken care of and the bodies cremated. They’re holding the ashes for you, and the funeral can take place after you’re released.”
She swallowed this latest news, another crippling blow to her broken heart. Phil was the executor of Mike’s will. He’d have done what was best—what they’d both agreed on. If Mike had been killed in Afghanistan, she wouldn’t have seen his corpse either. It had made sense at the time, but now, somehow it was wrong. Things were unfinished. How could he possibly be dead? He’d come home … and her babies—two of them—It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair.
“Do you know what happened?” she asked, the hollowness inside her swallowing her emotions, leaving her raw. Tears dried on her cheeks.
“Not completely. They were riding at the front of the group. Some guy lost control of his vehicle and veered into the pack. Four men were killed—Mike, Jim Stone, and two from Arnprior, one of them a police officer. Leon’s in intensive care. His back is broken in three places, the spinal cord severed. He’ll never walk again. The police are still investigating…”
“Phil and Alex?”
“Neither of them were injured, they were riding at the end of the pack. I’m sorry. I know it doesn’t seem fair after coming home safe, but—”
“When can I leave here? I want to be with them.”
With the children I’ll never hold and the man I’ll never kiss again.
“In a few days, once we’ve stabilized you, and we’re sure the bleeding won’t start again. In the meantime, is there a family member we can call?”
“Mike was the only family I had. I have no one else.” She turned her head to face the doctor, a second unbidden tear slowly trickling down her cheek, tickling the edge of her mouth, and she licked its saltiness. “I’m all alone now.”
The enormity of the situation slowly registered. She was an orphan, a widow, a childless woman. Where would she go? She wouldn’t be able to stay on the base.
“There must be someone we can call … a close friend? Maybe someone from Mike’s family? I’m sure Hayley would be happy to stay with you for a few days, at least until after the funeral.