Chapter Thirteen

And a good night's rest was exactly what we got. We got to my place a little after six. We had picked up her over night necessities along the way, not overlooking the coffee maker and plenty of ammunition for it when I shocked her by stating that I owned neither. I think I barely passed the ensuing onslaught of questions involving my domesticity and she decided she could probably get by without also packing the rest of her pantry along with the coffee. I made popcorn, one of the items which she had quizzed me about in the car, and along with the milk, the Double-Cream Oreo cookies, the coffee, and the giant slices of cold pepperoni and cheese, we watched a couple of Steve Martin movies to take our minds off things.

Walking into the kitchen upon our arrival, she noticed I still had my gloves on. "You don't need to leave those on on my account," she said, nodding at my hands.

"I suppose," I said, looking down at my hands. "But I would just as soon not have any numbers pressing their way forward for now."

"I'll close my eyes if I think I am going to touch you," she said. "Go ahead. Take 'em off. Make yourself at home."

"But this is my home."

"All the more reason," she had replied with her back to me, randomly opening up cupboard doors as though it were as much her home as it was mine. "Now whereís all this popcorn you lured me here with."

It took a few wisecracks from Steve before Katelynn was able to find her laugh again. It started with a guilty sounding, slightly restrained chuckle as he went prancing around the gas stationĎs lot with the phonebook in his hands, screaming, "IĎm somebody! IĎm somebody!" The chuckle grew stronger with each release until she could openly laugh again by the time his rags had gone to riches to rags and back to riches.

The second Martin flick, something about a highway weather sign that could read the future and give advise, had a more romantic spin on it. Half way through it, with the popcorn gone, the last pepperoni slices looking sweaty and plastic, the coffee pushed forward on the coffee table, Katelynn moved the empty popcorn bowl from the couch between us and slid over next to me. While Steve was asking the highway weather sign for a sign telling him what to do next to win the heart of a woman, Katelynn curled up next to me. I raised my left arm and once she had settled in, I brought it down over her protectively.

When the movie had finished and Steve Martin and his new ladyfriend had thanked the alien weather sign for its caring concern and help while it played the bag pipes in their honor, Katelynn was asleep. I could hear the rhythm of her steady breathing and felt the beating of her strong heart against my ribs. I realized I was holding my breath and let it out slowly so as not to disturb her while I carefully reached for the remote control with my right hand. I hit the power button and the screen immediately shriveled to a white dot that hung for a moment in the center of the screen before disappearing with a small "pop." The room got darker, the only light now filtering in from the kitchen. Katelynn stirred.

"Is it over?" she asked, groggily lifting herself upright in her seat and rubbing an eye.

"Yes, it is. I still need to get your bed made up." I said, and stood to do so.

"No. Donít." She said, stopping me, yawning, stretching, looking prettier than anyone dying in twenty-five days has a right to. "Letís just go to bed. I donít even want to open my eyes. Just lead me to your bed, lay me down, cover me up in the sheet and then curl up next to me and hold me tonight. Can you do that?" she asked. Her arms were held out blindly, her eyes were still held shut.

I said nothing. I took her hand, felt nothing but her warm hand, thought of nothing but her warm hand. I lifted her from the couch, lead her into my bedroom and tucked her snuggly between the sheets as she had requested. Still fully clothed, sans shoes, I slipped beneath the covers myself, wrapped my arms around her as she rolled her head onto my chest, and proceeded to sleep for nine wonderful dreamless hours.

* * * * *

Katelynn was already up when I awoke. The light in her eyes had found its way home again sometime during the night. That was good, I thought. It meant she hadn't given up completely. At least that was what I was hoping it meant, because I knew one thing for damn sure, I certainly wasn't giving up.

Feeling the rhythm of her strong heart sing me to sleep that night only made me more sure that there could be no reason for this kind, loving, beautiful, young mother to be facing a premature death. I was sure that Dr. James was already trying to work a complete physical for her into his schedule. At least if he wasn't, that was going to be the first suggestion I made when he called us back into his office. That would be sometime tomorrow. Unfortunately, Mr. Crawley was not going to allow us any more time than that.

Katelynn was pouring herself a cup of coffee from her coffee maker, into her customary tall morning mug that she had also brought along. Her hair was still wet and hanging out over a white towel draped over the shoulders of her white cotton robe which flowed out as she turned for just a moment enough for me to notice the white silk gown underneath. You'd think she'd get enough of white at work, but I had to admit, she did look good in white. Some people like blue. Iím partial to green. You like yellow? She must like white.

"I take it you found everything you needed," I asked, making my way to the fridge.

"Yes, thank you," she said, with a smile I thought I could get used to should the opportunity miraculously ever arise. "I love your shower. It has that massage option in the nozzle. I've always wanted one of those."

"Did you sleep okay last night?" I asked.

"Yes," she said, with a soft smile. "You were just what the doctor ordered. Thank you." She turned towards the kitchen table and took a seat. When I pulled my head out of the refrigerator with some strawberries and milk, she was silently watching as she sipped her coffee. I moved across the kitchen to the pantry and pulled out a box of Honey Combs. I turned. She was still watching.

"Was there something else on your mind?" I asked. I wasn't used to being stared at while getting my breakfast ready and it was making me and my reclusive nature feel a bit uneasy and crowded.

"Sorry," she said, but I could still feel her eyes on me as I pulled a bowl from the cupboard and filled it to the rim with cereal. She was still watching as I sliced my strawberries up and dropped them into the bowl on top of the honey combs. Finally, when I had moved towards the table with my bowl in one hand and a gallon of milk and a spoon in the other, she looked back into her coffee cup for the answers to the questions she had been silently asking.

"What's on your mind?" I rephrased as I sat down.

"I don't know. Nothing. Everything." She looked back up at me. Anger was back in her eye. Not dominate. Not fiery and boiling over pissed. But it was in there mixing with a whirlwind of other emotions and I was happy to see it. "I was thinking about how hard this must be on you," she continued, "to know when everyone you meet is going to die. How lonely and helpless you must feel."

"I'm sure between the two of us, I have the easier role in all this," I said, trying to concentrate on the transporting of the sugar from the sugar bowl to the cereal bowl without leaving a trail on the table for ants to discover later. At least that was how I was trying to appear. Had I truly been concentrating on that task, I would have simply moved the sugar bowl closer to the cereal bowl. The transport mission was successful anyway. "Don't worry about me," I said.

"And others are going to die today, having it even worse than we do. But once they die, once I die, it is over. I can move on. I will be in the company of God and gain understanding and contentment. You will have to live through it again. And then again. And again. For you the death never stops." She looked away again, back into the black abyss warming her hands. "I'm not sure which is worse," she said softly, before taking a slow, long sip.

* * * * *

In spite of our difference in opinion about who had the worst end of the bargain here, we came to a couple of conclusions during breakfast. The first of which was, we agreed that it would be a good idea that she spend some time with her daughter out at her parents' farm. She wasn't sick. She didn't need treatment to prevent whatever her fate was to be on the 29th day of her 29th year. Then I had added, "But I think it would be a good idea if you had reserved yourself a room at the hospital beginning the eve of September 17th, the 28th day of your 29th year." This is where we had another difference of opinion.

"I am going to stay there, John. Like I told you and Dr. James yesterday, if this is God's plan for me and my daughter, then so be it." Again, stated with the bowed head. I wondered who she was trying to convince. Her eyes were no where near as empty as they had been when returning to Dr. James office yesterday afternoon, but I didn't like the acceptance that had moved in and over powered the anger as she repeated the shortened version of the confession. "I want to be with the ones I love in a place where I am comfortable when it happens, if it happens, John."

Well at least she added the 'if.' At least there was still a little bit of room to work with, a handhold of hope at the bottom of the rope where sanity dangled treacherously loose above the unknown and insane world that seemed to be unfolding itself a little at a time. I had to think of some way to change her thinking. She was giving up, but she didn't see it that way. She was falling back on God. That was fine with her, but not with me. As far as I was concerned, though I would never have been so inconsiderate to say so to her face, if you remember my stated views on such subjects at the open of this story, her faith in God was no different than every child's faith in Santa Clause's ability to know just the right toy to bring you for Christmas. We are told of a number of creature's that no one has ever actually met, that creep around through the night and meddle in our lives, especially the lives of the children. The Easter Bunny hides his eggs. Santa Brings his gifts. The Tooth Fairy even enters into your room as you sleep and is allowed to mess around beneath your pillow. And of course there is God, who is allowed into our hearts and our souls.

One by one, as we grow older, we begin to discover that all these "Superheroes" our trusted, wise and certainly honest parents told us were real, are in fact not. One by one---except one. God. No one has ever actually met him, at least in the most common sense of the word. No one even knows for sure what He looks like, where He lives, what He eats for breakfast or who His favorite girl-band is. He is but a myth. A desperate wish. He is an adult version of the Santa Clause no one wants to believe could possibly not be real because He delivers to us all (at least all of us who worship His existence and abide by His laws) the ultimate gift, the most precious present of all---a life after death. No. God must be real. Even if Olí St. Nick and Peter Cottontail and Tinkerbell and The Train That Thought He Could all have to turn out to be the candy coating for an otherwise bitter tasting world, surely God is true.

Anyway, she saw it as putting her faith in God. I saw it as giving up. I was desperate for something to say. How do you go up against God himself? I mean, I am just your garden variety mortal human being with no special belief, no roots to grab onto, no Holy Book to prove my faith, no 3000 year old history to empower my words of loyalty to the belief in my heart. How can I compete?

Steve Martinís comic voice, probably only because I had just listened to it trying to make me forget and to laugh for almost four hours the previous night, suddenly said inside my head, "If you canít beat Ďem, join Ďem."

So I did...sort of. I dropped a heaping spoonful of Honey Combs capped with a strawberry slice back into my bowl uneaten and locked eyes with my debate opponent, at least thatís how I viewed her at that moment on this particular subject. I hesitated, telling her in my silence that what I was about to say was important.

Holding her gaze, I started slowly, "Okay. Think about this a minute." Pause. My eyes said, Donít look away. Listen. Pay attention. I consciously held back the small smile that sat at the corners of my lips. It was only to be a small battle won. The war was no where near over. I remained stern, I still needed her attention to win this battle.

"I come into your life after miraculously surviving what by all rights should have been a fatal meeting of the metals with a semi truck and inform you that you are going to die. And you believe me. I want to try to save you, maybe try to prevent this tragic and seemingly needless event from occurring. And then you tell me that if this is what God wants, for you to give your life for some unknown cause, then it is a good thing and you will do as He wills. Does that sound like an accurate summary to you?"

She nodded, only slightly, hesitantly, unsure of where I was going with this, but enough to ensure me that she was listening. I paused again.

"Okay," Now I allowed myself to smile, just a little, to let her know what I was about to say was a good thing. I knew I was trying to do exactly what I had not wanted to do the day before, to give hope where none lay. I still didnít have a clue what, if anything, could be done to prevent the scientifically proven phenomenon from continuing its unbeaten streak. True, that was a streak of only one at that point in time, but I was sure that it would be two by the next day. Three not long after that. With the punch line I was so anxious to deliver here, I would also be trying to deliver hope, in a place where I still didnít know if it could exist. Once stated, I knew there was no turning back. If I am to convince this woman, whom I only met in the past few weeks, to have faith in me over the God that she has been faithful to her whole life, then I must come through for her. After winning her trust with the help of Steve Martin and my next carefully crafted made-up version of truth, as I knew I was about to do, it would be hard to live with myself if I failed. To steal someoneís afterlife from them during the final days or their life as we know it, well, if there is a penalty more severe than capital punishment, I might have just applied for it if I let her down now. The small smile I had allowed to surface at the corners of my mouth as I spoke was not genuine, it was part of the sales pitch.

"So if it is Godís will for you to die, why send me to warn you?" I asked her, going in for the kill. "If He has good reason for your death, why send me here to make you miserable during your final days. You know I donít believe in God," I said cautiously. I donít think she did know that until just then by the look on her face when I said that. But again, I had her attention. Good. I continued before she had time to hold the last fact against me.

"Okay, maybe you didnít know that yet. But thatís not the point. Letís say you are right. He exists. He is good. Why would He send me? So I ask you...are you sure...how do you know that God didnít send me here Himself. How do you know that He didnít send me this ability so that I could warn you about it? I doubt He sent me here to tease you with it. So you canít be at your folksí house in twenty-five days. You need to be here, checked into the hospital, with a crew of capable doctors a moments notice away and me by your side. And logic dictates that you need to do this because this is what I want you to do. And you must do what I want you to do because it is only logical that if your God does exist, and he is indeed good, then He sent me here to warn and to protect, not to harm and destroy. I need you to believe in me, Katelynn. I need you to trust me. And I need you to believe in yourself. You have reason to exist, to go on. No God would take that all away from you. There can be no good reason for this. He sent me, Katelynn. Trust me. Help me help you."

I already knew I had won her over as I asked for her help. Once again, I had been responsible for the tiny liquid droplets silently trekking down the curve of her smooth cheek and a pang of guilt settled somewhere in my heart as the victory bell sounded in my head. Now I was surely damned to Hell if I was wrong about everything, including the existence of Hell.

* * * * *

Chapter Fourteen


Michael

Front Desk

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The Master Plan

Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Seventeen
Chapter Eighteen
Chapter Nineteen
Chapter Twenty
Chapter Twenty-One
Chapter Twenty-Two
Chapter Twenty-Three
Chapter Tweny-Four
Chapter Twenty-Five
Chapter Twenty-Six
Chapter Twenty-Seven
Chapter Twenty-Eight
Chapter Twenty-Nine
Chapter Thirty
Chapter Thirty-One
Chapter Thirty-Two
Chapter Thirty-Three
Chapter Thirty-Four
Chapter Thirty-Five
Chapter Thirty-Six
Chapter Thirty-Seven
Chapter Thirty-Eight
Chapter Thirty-Nine
Epilogue