This story has characters in it that previously appeared in other stories on this site. It may be helpful to read those stories first, as a few references are made to them, but it’s not an absolute necessity. The other stories are in the Amanda series on the Stories Page.
By Audrey W.
Johnny grinned as he climbed into the squad after coming out of the emergency doors at Rampart. Roy looked over from the driver’s side and shook his head.
“So I take it she said yes?”
“That’s right!” Johnny said, still grinning. “I finally got a date with Shelly. And, it’s on February 14th . . . Valentine’s Day.” He gave a satisfied sigh.
“You ever gonna give up on nurses? It doesn’t seem like it ever works out.”
“Oh it will . . .I just gotta find the right one, Roy,” the younger paramedic explained as he turned in his seat to face his partner. “If I gave up and quit trying, I’d never meet her.”
Roy turned the key in the ignition, turned on the headlights and pulled away from the emergency entrance.
“Well, now you’ve got a date with one on a very special day. . .I hope you’ve got a nice place in mind to take her to.”
“Oh, I do, Roy. I do.” He looked out the window at the buildings lit up in the dark sky. “I’m going all out for this chick. Nothing but the best.”
Roy nodded as he started thinking about his own Valentine’s Day plans. He still needed to see if Joanne had gotten a babysitter for that day so that they could go out for the evening.
As they neared the final turn towards the station, the tones came across on the radio.
“Station 51, Engine 110, motor vehicle accident, 2100 Calloway Street, two one zero zero Calloway Street, cross street Alamosa Avenue, time out 20:32.”
Johnny picked up the mic. “LA, Squad 51 10-4.”
Roy pulled off in an empty parking lot and turned around. Flipping on the lights and siren, they headed off to the scene.
Johnny’s mouth fell open at the sight before them. Staring through the windshield he couldn’t believe what he saw. A station wagon’s front was pushed into and partially under the rear end of a full-sized pickup truck, and the back seat and beyond was actually squashed under a tour bus.
“I hope no one was in the back,” Roy said as he opened the door of the squad. He and Johnny hurried to the equipment bays. Johnny looked again at the tangled mess as he grabbed the trauma box and biophone.
One of the men from Engine 110 ran towards them. “Are we glad to see you guys!”
“What’ve we got?” Roy asked.
“A case of whiplash in the truck, no serious injuries in the bus . . .we just finished getting everyone out.” The man looked over at the crumpled car. “But we have a woman trapped in the station wagon. She’s been unconscious . . .looks to be hurt pretty bad.”
“You guys must’ve gotten here quick.”
The man nodded at Roy. “We weren’t very far away when the call came in.”
“How’d this happen?” Johnny wondered as they trotted beside the fireman.
“The driver of the bus fell asleep. So the bus forced the car into the truck and ran over part of it to boot.”
Roy and Johnny both shook their heads. So many times it seemed the ones not at fault got the worst of the deal.
The siren from Engine 51 could be heard in the distance as the paramedics made their way around to the driver’s side of the car. The door had already been forced open, so Johnny leaned down to assess the situation with the woman inside.
As soon as he saw the victim, Johnny felt himself go numb. A feeling of dread washed over him.
Oh my God.
“Bonnie?” Johnny said quietly. He couldn’t believe it. The victim was Bonnie Freeman, his little admirer Amanda’s mother. He carefully touched the woman’s bloodied face, feeling for a carotid pulse with the other hand. It was weak, but there. He swallowed hard.
“Uh . . . she’s alive, Roy.” He quickly surveyed the front interior, noting that Bonnie’s legs were pinned underneath the dashboard. He reached under as far as he could. It felt like her left foot could be stuck under the brake pedal.
Johnny glanced around the inside of the car he could readily see. The roof had been flattened where the back seat would be, but there was an area where it sloped, leaving a tiny crack behind the front seat.
I hope Amanda is with her dad.
The dark-haired paramedic stood up and placed his hands on his hips. He hadn’t realized till now they were shaking slightly.
“Her legs are pinned in there pretty tight from the dash. Once we’re able to move her we’re gonna need a c-collar, backboard and splints. She’s also got a lot of contusions to her face.” He paused. It was going to be hard to get the next words to come out. “Roy, it’s Bonnie Freeman . . .Amanda’s mother.”
Roy had noticed a change in his partner’s tone of voice. This explained it all.
“You want me to stay with her while you check out the other victims?”
Johnny shook his head. “No . . . no, it’s okay.”
Roy left to examine the victims with the whiplash injuries, and to send someone over to Johnny with the needed equipment.
Johnny checked Bonnie’s pulse and respirations. A low moan made him look up at the woman’s face.
She slowly opened her eyes, squinting at the man near her.
“Wha. . . ?” Another groan.
“It’s okay, Bonnie. It’s me, John Gage,” he said, smiling and trying to sound reassuring. “You’ve been in an accident, but we’re going to get you out of here soon.”
“An . . .acci. . .” the woman tried to move her head to look around, but Johnny quickly stopped her.
“Don’t move, okay? You might have a neck or spine injury. I need you to hold still.”
Chet came over with a yellow blanket. “Here, Cap says to put this over the two of you. They’re gonna move the truck off the car now, then we’ll pull the dash up.”
Johnny nodded as he took the blanket.
Chet leaned over and looked in the car. “How’s she doin’?”
“Okay, but the sooner we get her out of here, the better.”
“You got it, pal.” He trotted away to inform the captain they were ready to move.
Turning his attention back to Bonnie, Johnny knew he had no choice but to ask the question he was afraid to know the answer to.
“Bonnie, was . . .was anyone else in the car with you?”
The expression on the mother’s face sent a shiver down Johnny’s spine.
“Was. . .? Oh . . .no. . .” Her eyes teared.
Johnny kept his tone of voice soothing as he asked again.
“Do you remember? Was there anyone else riding in the car?”
“Whe. . .where’s . . .Amanda?”
The paramedic felt like he had just been punched in the stomach. Nausea and dizziness almost overwhelmed him. The professional in him taking over, Johnny tried to remain calm for the sake of his charge.
“Was she in the back seat?”
Thank God you can’t see behind you right now, Johnny thought.
“Ye. . .yes. Oh God . . . oh . . .” The woman broke into sobs. “Amanda! Amanda!” She screamed, trying to move in any direction she could.
“Calm down, it’ll be okay.”
“No . . I got. . .gotta find her! Amanda!”
“Bonnie, it’s okay,” Johnny soothed, holding the woman in place with both hands. “We’ll get her. Don’t worry.” He looked at the damage to the back end again. If Amanda was in there and stayed on the seat, she probably hadn’t stood a chance. If she fell off the seat during impact, there was a slim chance she would be alive. The car did have seatbelts, but this was one time he hoped they weren’t in use in the back. He had to wonder . . .even if Amanda fell off the seat, how bad would she be hurt? And what would he say to Bonnie if he was wrong about everything turning out okay?
Marco came over, the biophone, drug and trauma boxes in hand. As he set them down, Johnny turned and reached for the biophone and set it up. He then contacted Rampart and gave a basic run down of the obvious injuries to the victim, adding that the victim had yet to be extricated. Since it was possible to do an IV in the current location, Doctor Early had the paramedic start one on Bonnie.
As he set up the IV, Johnny glanced at Marco. “Tell Cap there’s another victim in the car,” he whispered. “A little girl was in the back seat.”
Marco nodded and surveyed the smashed backend again, then looked at the distraught woman in the car. He knew he couldn’t ask too much or it would devastate Johnny’s patient.
“Johnny, you think. . .?”
Johnny looked directly at Marco and it was then the fireman could see the anguish in his eyes. His question was answered without any more words. No, Johnny wasn’t sure the person in back would be alive.
When he heard a yell for the truck to be moved, Johnny covered himself and Bonnie up with the blanket. Soothing her repeatedly by telling her that everything was going to be okay, he listened at the screeching sound of metal. Next he waited for the sound of the windshield being broken out. Once that was done, Johnny lowered the blanket and watched as the dash was pulled up off the victim’s legs.
“Where’s Amanda?” The woman cried, tears streaming down her face. “John . . .Johnny, if she’s okay, why isn’t she crying for me?”
He wondered the same thing, as he fought to keep his own emotions in check. How could he be reassuring anymore when he was having doubts about her well being himself?
“I know you’re worried, but it’ll be okay. As soon as you’re out of here, we’ll get her out. Can we get a hold of your husband to let him know what’s happened?”
The woman’s eyes teared more. “No. We. . .we just. . .saw him off. . . at the airport.”
Bonnie’s whole body trembled.
“LAX. He’s gone to Miami. On business. We were on our way home.” Bonnie broke down in sobs again.
Johnny nodded an acknowledgement. He glanced up at the bus still sitting on the car. If he were to see the driver right now, he wasn’t sure what he would say.
Once he had the victims from the truck on their way to Rampart, Roy joined his partner at the mangled car.
“How’s she doing?” Roy asked, leaning down and peering in at Bonnie.
When Johnny looked up at him, Roy could see the concern etched in his face that wasn’t there before. Johnny stood up and pulled Roy aside.
“Amanda’s in the back,” Johnny whispered, emotion in his voice.
Roy looked over at the crushed back end of the car. He could just imagine what the mother must be going through. His own kids came to mind and he knew if it were him, his kids’ safety would be everything. Roy brought his attention back to Johnny.
“Does her mom know how bad the damage is?”
“Okay, good. Let’s keep it that way. You okay?” Roy asked, knowing full well Johnny had gotten attached to Amanda more than he had admitted in the past.
“Yeah,” he lied.
The men went to work on getting their first victim out of the car.
The paramedics worked together to apply the c-collar and slip the backboard in behind Bonnie. Roy carefully wrapped gauze, securing the woman’s head to the backboard, while Johnny eased her foot out from under the brake pedal. With the help of Chet and Marco, they slowly lifted Bonnie out of the car. Next the two men applied a splint to her left leg, all the while being in contact with Rampart on the biophone updating the situation.
The two captains on the scene had been assessing the situation with the bus on the back of the car. The men from Station 110 had been calling out Amanda’s name and, using flashlights, trying to look in through the crack behind the driver’s seat while the paramedics and others took care of Bonnie Freeman. So far they hadn’t heard or seen a sign of the girl. Once Stanley had been informed another victim was in the car, a crane had been called to lift the bus off. Now it was a matter of waiting for the equipment to arrive.
When Bonnie was ready for transport, they loaded her into the ambulance. As Roy climbed inside, Johnny walked over to Captain Stanley.
“Cap, I know this is gonna be against procedure, but I need Chet to drive the squad in behind Roy.”
“I. . .uh . . . I know the little girl who’s trapped in the car. I need to be here.”
Stanley shook his head. “No way, pal. Another squad is on the way to handle it.”
“But . . .”
Marco walked over to the two men, shaking his head.
“Cap, Roy says to tell you the lady refuses to go to Rampart. Says she’s not going anywhere without her daughter.”
Johnny glanced at the ambulance. “She has to go. She’s got serious injuries.”
“She told Roy no way would she go anywhere. She doesn’t care about herself.”
“I’ll talk to her,” Gage said, as he turned to leave.
How can I convince her to go?
The other squad arrived on the scene as Johnny jumped out of the ambulance and made his way over to his captain.
“She says she’ll go if I stay here and look out for Amanda.”
“Why do I get the feeling you two developed a plan in there?” Captain Stanley remarked sarcastically.
Johnny shrugged. “I had to say something to get her to go.”
“What about her husband? If we get a hold of him, he can authorize she go now.”
“He’s on a plane on his way to Miami.”
Stanley sighed. “Okay, I’ll send Kelly in behind Roy. But. . . I’m not sure this is a good idea. You said you know the kid, right?”
“How are you gonna deal with it if she’s a fatality?”
The reality of Hank’s words nearly knocked the paramedic over. He quickly hid his emotions, in hopes they wouldn’t be noticeable. Johnny knew that if Captain Stanley were aware of just how involved he was right now, he would send him to Rampart regardless of what Bonnie requested.
Johnny forced himself to look directly at the captain’s eyes for effect.
“I can handle it, Cap. I need to do this for her mom.”
Hank shook his head as Gage trotted over to the paramedics from Squad 36. There were times he wished John wasn’t so headstrong when it came to going the extra mile for victims. Yet at the same time, that was one of the qualities he admired most in the man.
The sirens from the ambulance and squad faded in the night air, as the three paramedics approached the wrecked car. The firemen from 110’s who had been trying to find Amanda hadn’t had any luck. They had just finished cutting a piece out of the backside of the front seat on the passenger side when Johnny and the others stepped over.
“Any sign of the victim yet?” Weston from 36’s asked.
“Amanda.” Johnny said flatly.
Weston gave Gage a puzzled look. “Huh?”
“The ‘victim’ has a name. It’s Amanda.”
“Right, got it,” Weston said, putting up his hands in defense. “I’m new on the scene, remember?”
Johnny suddenly realized he had already reacted in a way he hadn’t wanted to. Of course Weston didn’t mean to leave out her name. And none of the others knew her like he did. Johnny shifted on his feet and ran a hand through his hair.
“Sorry. It’s just tension from seeing her mother upset, I guess.”
“Sure, Gage. No problem.”
“You think you can fit in the hole we cut?” One of the firemen asked Johnny. “You’re about the skinniest one here.”
Johnny peered inside the car and checked out the opening. “Yeah.”
“Be sure you take it slow and easy,” Captain Daniels from 110’s said. He had walked up behind the men during their conversation. “We don’t want that bus to shift on the wreckage or we’ll be cutting you and the girl out.”
“Right,” Johnny said as he prepared to climb into the car. Before he got all the way in, Captain Stanley was beside the vehicle.
“We just got notified the crane will be here in about five minutes. So no unnecessary heroics.” He paused, making sure the words had a chance to sink in on John. “Just see if you can spot the little girl anywhere and if you can tell what kind of condition she’s in.”
Johnny knew what Hank was referring to. They needed to know if this was a rescue or a recovery. He prayed it would be a rescue.
“Got it, Cap. Right in and right out.”
The others watched as Johnny eased himself into the hole they had cut, his waist and legs still showing.
Johnny felt around with his right hand. He could hear the wreckage creaking as he stretched to reach behind the driver’s side of the seat. It was then he felt something.
“Someone shine a flashlight in here!” Came Johnny’s muffled yell.
Weston grabbed one and shone it in over Johnny’s upper body.
Johnny could see part of a child’s leg, pink sock and white tennis shoe sticking out from under the back seat. Although the seat was under the front part of the bus, it hadn’t been forced completely to the floor. If it had been an adult under there, no question, they would have been crushed. But Amanda was a scant 40 pounds and forty-six inches tall.
Please let her be alive.
Johnny carefully took off the shoe and sock, and felt for a pulse on the inside of the ankle. It was very weak, but he could feel it.
“She’s alive!” Johnny yelled.
The men all felt a wave of relief and a renewed sense of urgency. Since Amanda was alive, they knew her golden hour had to be coming to an end if she was seriously hurt.
Hank Stanley called to his paramedic.
“Can you tell how bad she’s hurt?”
“No! If I can get in a little more . . .” Johnny said as he slid in to just below his waist. He tilted his head to an odd angle to try to see underneath the seat. “I need more light!”
Weston angled the light differently to see if it would help. Johnny’s mumbled “Okay, that’s good,” halted his efforts.
Johnny could barely see Amanda’s face in the uneven lighting. The shadows under the seat made it difficult to discern what injuries may be present. He could tell she was lying on her stomach, her head turned towards him, and her left arm tucked under her ribs. Her left pant leg looked to be bloody.
Ignoring the instructions his captain gave him earlier, Johnny reached under the seat in an attempt to see if he could assess any of the girl’s injuries. If there was just something he could do for her. . . an IV or anything. But in the cramped space, it was useless. It would all have to wait until they had Amanda out.
Captain Stanley watched as the large crane was brought in and set up near the mangled vehicles. He then turned to where Johnny was still in the car.
“Okay, John!” He yelled. “We’re ready to lift this bus off!”
Johnny took another look at Amanda as he started to back out. He didn’t want to leave the child alone. If he had it his way, he’d wait along with her. But Johnny knew Cap wouldn’t go for it. No way.
Not sure she could hear him, he whispered, “Hang in there, sweetheart. We’ll have you out soon. I promise.”
Johnny stood back and watched, hands on his hips, as the crane began to move the bus. Weston and his partner, Petrie, stood next to the dark-haired paramedic, as did Captain Stanley.
Hank glanced at Gage, and could tell the paramedic could use a few words of encouragement.
“It won’t be long now. We’ll have her out of there.”
Johnny nodded. “I know, Cap.”
Gage continued to stare at the bus as it was set down away from the car. He glanced at his watch . . .it had been twenty-five minutes since he had left Amanda in the car. Had they wasted too much time?
As the okay was given to work on getting the little girl out, the firemen and paramedics converged beside the vehicle.
After cutting away more of the damaged car, the back area was cleared. Weston climbed onto the wreckage ahead of Johnny and worked to free the child under the seat. Johnny wanted to be the first one there, but shoved any resentment away. There wasn’t time for those kind of feelings now. Amanda needed help, no matter who it was.
As he pulled her free, Weston helped Johnny get a backboard under the girl.
“She’s lucky to be alive,” he voiced out loud.
Johnny looked at the child lying in front of them. Weston was right. . .she was one lucky kid to survive the accident so far, but he knew she wasn’t out of the woods yet. Although they had gotten a few small groans from the girl, she hadn’t even regained consciousness yet.
The two paramedics quickly got Amanda to the medical equipment that Petrie had set up nearby. They all worked together to get the little girl ready to transport. When it was time, Johnny climbed in the ambulance with her. As Petrie went to shut the doors, Captain Stanley stepped over.
“How’re you doing, John?”
“You sure you feel up to being the one to ride along?”
“Wouldn’t have it any other way, Cap.”
Both men turned their attention to Squad 51 returning to the scene. Johnny’s look of relief at seeing his partner back wasn’t lost on Hank.
“I’ll have DeSoto follow you in. That’ll free up 36’s again for another call.”
He shut the doors, after seeing Johnny nod an okay. Stanley watched as the ambulance pulled away.
If that kid doesn’t make it, he’s gonna be devastated. And I’m gonna be sorry I let him stay.
Johnny monitored the vitals of his young charge. Seeing no change, he sat back on the bench and stared at the small child’s face. The few scrapes and bruises on her chin and forehead looked out of place. Her left broken arm and leg were splinted, and the equipment looked huge on her small limbs. He thought about the doll she had given him for good luck that sat in the corner of his locker back at the station. If anyone ever needed luck, Amanda did now. But if the little girl woke up and found out he had given it back to her, most likely she wouldn’t understand why and would be upset.
The ambulance attendant noticed the way the paramedic was watching the patient. It was obvious this rescue had an effect on him.
“It’s harder when it’s a kid, huh?”
His thoughts interrupted, Johnny looked up at the attendant. “Yeah. And I know this one.” He gazed down at Amanda again. He hadn’t even seen her since he had taken her and her friends out trick-or-treating on Halloween. Now here it was February 11th and Valentine’s Day was just around the corner. He should’ve at least found a way to wish the kid a merry Christmas in December. Johnny glanced back up to the attendant. “Her name’s Amanda Freeman. She’s a sweet girl.”
Johnny scooted forward and once again checked the vitals. Her blood pressure was dropping. He grabbed the biophone and contacted Rampart within twelve blocks of their destination.
Amanda was whisked down to treatment room three, Johnny trotting alongside the gurney.
“Was her pressure still that low when you pulled in here?” Brackett asked.
“Yeah,” Johnny answered as he followed the others into the treatment room, still carrying the IV in his hand.
He stuck the IV bag in his mouth, holding it with his teeth, as he helped them transfer the child onto the exam table. A nurse pushed an IV pole over and Johnny hung the bag, as Brackett began to examine the girl.
Johnny stood back chewing his lower lip, hands on his hips, as he watched Brackett work on his young friend.
“How’s her mom doing? Any word?”
The doctor glanced up at the paramedic, then brought his attention back to his patient. “Joe said she was okay, considering. He did have to sedate her to get her to calm down, though. She went into hysterics as soon as Roy left.” Kel was checking Amanda’s pupils. “She’s in surgery now.”
Johnny nodded and once again stared at Amanda. “You think the girl will be okay?”
“I don’t know, Johnny. I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep.” Brackett eyed Johnny closely. He’d seen the paramedic concerned when they’d brought a child in before, but there was something more this time. “Is the father coming?”
“No, he’s on a plane to Miami.” Johnny stepped forward. “Look, Doc--”
Gage was interrupted by Roy opening the door.
“You still needed in here?”
Johnny looked first at Roy, then at Brackett. The doctor shook his head.
“No, I was just on my way out,” Johnny lied.
Roy held open the door as Johnny walked past him.
“Look, I know you’re worried about Amanda and her mom. I am, too. But dispatch wants us available for an apartment fire.” Roy shrugged. “Maybe being busy is a blessing.”
Johnny watched as the door to treatment room three closed behind them. Was that the last time he’d see his young friend? He shoved the thought out of his mind and forced a grin as he faced his partner.
“Yeah. . .yeah, maybe you’re right.”
Johnny walked slightly behind Roy, taking one last glance down the corridor towards the treatment rooms. Saying a prayer to himself, he hoped it would do some good.
Johnny followed behind the ambulance as they brought in a victim from the apartment fire. It had been well over an hour since they had left Rampart to report to the fire. Although he was concerned for their current patient, Johnny found himself wondering how the Freemans were doing.
While Roy went into the treatment room with Doctor Morton and the fire victim, Johnny sought out Brackett and Early. He found them in the Kel’s office. Johnny knocked on the doorframe to get their attention.
“Hi, Johnny.” Brackett greeted.
“Hi, Doc. Any news on the two we brought in earlier?”
“The mom’s still in recovery. She had to have some surgery done on her left leg, but she should be okay with physical therapy. We’ll watch her closely over night on her other injuries.” Doctor Early smiled. “If all goes well, she should be in a regular room by tomorrow morning.”
“And the little girl?” Johnny wondered.
“She just got out of surgery, Johnny,” Brackett explained. “It’s too soon to tell. But I’d say the prognosis is good. She had some internal bleeding, but we were able to find it and repair the damage in time.” His mouth twitched as he paused in thought. “The rest of her injuries aren’t life threatening, unless she develops a complication along the way. She did regain consciousness briefly before we got her up to the OR, so that was a good sign.”
“Okay, thanks. I’ll check back next time we’re here.”
As Johnny headed for the door Doctor Brackett questioned, “Johnny?”
The paramedic turned around. “Yeah?”
“Do you know the little girl? Amanda?”
“Huh...yeah. . .yeah, I do,” Johnny reluctantly acknowledged, not wanting the doctor to accuse him of being unprofessional because of his concern for Amanda.
“Is she a neighbor of yours?”
“No. No, I just. . .Roy and I have been called to her house a few times on some. . .” a small smile touched Johnny's face. “Some interesting runs. Nothing serious - Amanda just has a way of getting herself into mischief. She and I have become. . .well, friends, I guess you'd say, and I'm kinda worried about her.”
Rather than berate Johnny for his concern, Brackett nodded. “I understand. It's difficult not to worry when a friend is injured, no matter how much our training teaches us to remain detached from the situation.”
Johnny smiled his thanks at the doctor. “Yeah, so I'm finding out the hard way.”
Wishing he could’ve gotten more definite news on Amanda, Johnny headed back towards the treatment rooms, thinking about the little girl. He heard his name called from behind.
He turned to see Shelly hurrying to catch up.
“I just got done helping on some rounds,” Shelly explained, somewhat out of breath. “How’s your night been?”
Any other time, Johnny would have been thrilled to see Shelly. But tonight, he didn’t feel anything. One girl was on his mind and she was at least 18 years younger than the nurse.
“Have you thought about where we’re going to go on Valentine’s Day?” Shelly wondered. “I was thinking dinner and a movie would be fun.”
Oh man. . .our date. . .
“Uh. . .I’m. . .I’m not sure I can keep the date.” Johnny couldn’t believe he was actually saying the words. They sounded like they were coming out of someone else’s mouth.
“No? How come?”
“A. . .uh. . .a friend of mine got hurt tonight. . .in a car accident.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Shelly said, frowning. “But Valentine’s Day is still two days away. Maybe everything will be okay by then.”
Johnny shrugged. “I don’t. . .I hope she is.” He could see a puzzled expression come over the nurse’s face. “I just think it’s better if I don’t make other plans.”
“Is this another girlfriend?” Shelly asked, her arms folded across her chest.
“No. . .no, it’s not like that at all. It’s a little girl.” Johnny sighed. “A special girl I’ve gotten to know and I. . uh. . .I think I should be here for her. I’m sorry.”
“Hey, I’m a nurse, remember?” Shelly said, her voice softening. “It’s okay. Really. We could spend time with your little friend together. . .”
Johnny shook his head. “Thanks, but I think it’s something I need to do alone.”
Shelly nodded. “Okay. But if you change your mind, you’ve got my number.”
Johnny watched as the nurse turned and walked down the corridor away from him. He knew he wouldn’t be calling her for Valentine’s Day. He had too much on his mind to worry about planning a date. More than ever, he understood why Roy put off ideas for his own hobbies to do the things his kids wanted to do.
Roy glanced over at his partner as they returned to the station. It was difficult to see the younger man’s face in the darkened cab, but Roy could tell he was deep in thought. His eyes back on the road, Roy tried to console Johnny.
“You know, Brackett’s one of the best doctors at Rampart.”
“Yeah.” Came an empty reply.
“Amanda’s in good hands, Johnny.”
Roy shook his head. This was like pulling teeth.
“You can stop at the hospital after we get off shift in the morning and stay as long as you want to.”
Johnny opened his mouth to reply, but Roy cut him off. “If you plan on giving me another one word answer, forget it. I don’t need an answer. I’m just trying to help you remember, things might look better in the morning.”
After a brief pause came a reply.
Roy glanced over and grinned. He wasn’t sure if that was a sincere ‘thanks’ or a smart-ass one-word answer. But for now, he’d take it as the former.
After a quiet night with no more calls, the crew of A-shift waited for B-shift to arrive so that they could go home. Johnny was particularly antsy, as he was afraid they’d get toned out before the relief crew was on duty. That would extend their day and delay his chance to go to Rampart on his own. He glanced at his watch for the fifth time in twenty-minutes.
7:52 . . .they should be in the locker room getting changed by now.
Chet noticed Johnny taking another peek at the time.
“Big plans for the day, Gage?”
“You could say that, Chet.”
Roy moved his left hand to get Chet’s attention, then shook his head slightly, mouthing “don’t.”
Marco saw Roy’s reaction to Chet’s barbing. Picking up on what was going on, he wanted to let Johnny know they cared.
“How is Amanda, Johnny?”
“They still have her in ICU, but Dixie said she was holding her own when I called this morning.”
“That’s great! What about her mother?”
“Doin’ good. She was able to go right to a regular room.”
Marco smiled. “They were both very lucky.”
Chet nodded in agreement. “Yeah, when I saw that bus on the car, I figured if anyone was in back, they were a goner for sure.”
“Chet, did anyone ever tell you, you have no tact?” Mike wondered.
B-shifts arrival in the dayroom saved anyone from having to make further comment on the subject.
As Roy and Johnny walked through the apparatus bay towards the locker room, the dark-haired paramedic picked up the pace.
“You want me to go with you today?” Roy offered.
“Nah, I’m okay.”
“Did Dixie say if they were able to get a hold of Mr. Freeman?”
Johnny pushed open the swinging door, holding it ‘til Roy had one of his hands on it.
Gage shook his head. “She didn’t say. But I would hope they did by now.”
“I’d sure hate to be far away and get news like that about Joanne and the kids.”
“I know.” Johnny pulled his jacket out of his locker and closed it. He stepped over the bench, and headed for the door again. “I’ll see you tomorrow before roll call.”
“Okay. And Johnny. . .”
Johnny turned back to face Roy.
“If you want to stop by the house anytime today, you’re more than welcome to. We don’t have any plans.”
“Thanks, Roy.” Without giving any more indication of an answer, Johnny walked out towards the parking lot.
DeSoto had his own jacket on and was closing his locker when Captain Stanley walked in from the dormroom.
“Yeah, he just now walked out.” Roy motioned toward the apparatus bay. “You can probably still catch him.”
“No, that’s okay. I was just wondering if he’s really in better spirits today or if it’s an act.”
“I’d say he is. The Freemans are doing better.”
“Good. I was beginning to think I’d made a mistake letting him stay on the scene yesterday.”
Roy shook his head. “No. I think you did exactly the right thing, Cap.” He gave one more look to the door Johnny had just gone out of. Not a doubt in my mind.
“Hey, Dix,” Johnny greeted as he stepped up to the desk.
Dixie looked up from her paperwork and saw the man in front of her, still in uniform, a little pink teddy bear in his hand. Dixie smiled. “Well, hey, yourself, Johnny!”
Johnny shifted nervously on his feet. “Did Brackett give the okay for me to go into ICU to see Amanda Freeman?”
“Yes, he did.” Dixie could see a sense of relief come over the paramedic. “He thinks a visit would be good medicine for everyone involved . . .including you.”
“I think so, too,” Johnny grinned. As he turned to step away, he paused. Facing Dixie again, he asked another question. “Did anyone get a hold of Mr. Freeman?”
The frown on Dixie’s face led Johnny to believe they hadn’t. The answer surprised him more.
“Yes, we did. But I take it that man’s all business . . .?”
Johnny shrugged. “I’ve never met ‘im.”
“Well, if I ever do, I’m setting him straight in his priorities. Once he found out his wife and daughter were doing okay so far, he saw no reason to come home early. They won’t be released from here until he’s done in Florida anyway, is how he put it.”
Gage knew when the time came for Mr. Freeman to see his family, the man had better watch out. He was sure Dixie meant what she said. She was compassionate . . .but she wouldn’t stand for stupidity or lack of good judgment in patients or others in the hospital, including patient family members.
“How did his wife take the news? Or does she know?”
Dixie nodded. “She didn’t seem surprised at all.”
Johnny cocked an eyebrow. “I’ve heard of people like him . . . heck, we’ve brought a few in here like him. They’re having a heart attack, but don’t let the business day end . . .I just don’t get how they can do it.” He shook his head. “Man, Amanda has to be scared being by herself in a strange place.”
“I'm sure she is. I suppose men like Mr. Freeman view the monetary support they give their family as being the most important contribution. But you know, years from now Amanda won't remember a thing about how much money her father made or didn't make, but she will remember his absence at a time when she needed him the most.”
“You’re probably right. That’s gotta be tough on a little kid. Has she asked for him?”
“Not that I know of. But I’m sure she will. Hopefully her mom’ll be up to being taken around in a wheel chair by then. That’ll help.”
“Yeah. . .” Johnny trailed off in thought. Coming out of it, he slapped the counter with his empty hand. “Well, I’d better get up there. See ya later, Dix.”
“Yep, see you later.”
Dixie watched as the paramedic walked towards the elevator. She always knew John Gage had a big heart when it came to victims. This only confirmed the fact.
A light tap on the door brought Bonnie’s attention to the front of the room. The lighting was dim, but she could make out the person walking towards her.
“Hey, how’re you doin’?” He asked, eyeing the IV tubing leading to her arm as he approached.
Bonnie had been sitting slightly raised by the hospital bed. She winced as she shifted her position. “Better. . .I’m still kind of woozy from the medication.”
“You’ll be like that for awhile. I understand they had to do surgery on your left leg?”
Bonnie nodded. “I won’t be running any marathons soon,” she replied groggily. “You . . .you’ve been to see Amanda?”
“Just heading there.” Johnny tried to force a smile. “But I wanted to make sure you’re okay first.” Should he mention the other?
“I suppose you’re wondering why Amanda’s dad’s not here.”
The paramedic shrugged slightly. “Uh. . .yeah.” Talk about reading a mind. . .
“What ever you’re thinking, don’t sell him short, Johnny. He’s a good man . . .besides, about the time we get tired of each other, he’s on his way across the country for a few days.” She smiled, then yawned. “Makes the times he’s here that much better.”
“Hey, if it works . . .” Johnny grinned. “Listen, I’ll let you get more rest. But before I go, is there anything I can get for you?”
Bonnie eyed him carefully. “Not unless you want to sneak a wheel chair in here and take me to see Amanda.” Tears formed in the woman’s reddened eyes. It was then Johnny realized she had probably been crying awhile. “I really need to hold her.”
Johnny shook his head. “Sorry. But don’t worry. Dixie said as soon as they think you’re up to it physically, you’ll be going to see her. And I can guarantee you, Dix will see to it.”
“I figured that would be your answer,” the mother replied, sarcasm in her voice. “But it was worth a try.” She sniffled, as Johnny handed her a tissue from a nearby box on the tray table. “Okay. Go see your girl. She really looks up to you, you know.”
Johnny blushed slightly, fidgeting with the bear. “Well . . . she’s just a kid.”
“Better not let Amanda hear you say that. She’ll be sure to let you know everything a six-year-old can do . . .and believe me, they can do a lot.” Bonnie wiped at her newly moistened eyes. “And don’t sell kids short. They may blow the little things we’d scoff at out of proportion, but they’re pretty good at judging adults.” She looked at the bear in his hands. “That’s cute. A Valentine bear, huh?”
“Yeah, it’s all I could find, considering the holiday is so close.”
“It’s great. Amanda’ll love it.”
Johnny nodded and walked towards the door.
“Johnny?” Bonnie called out quietly.
The paramedic stopped as he was reaching for the door and turned around.
Again he nodded in acknowledgement and walked out.
Johnny could hear the muffled voice of a woman talking in a soothing tone. Opening the door to Amanda’s room, he saw a nurse by the bed adjusting the drip of an IV. The nurse looked over to the visitor.
“How’s she doin’?” Johnny whispered.
“Not too bad. She wants her mother, but we can’t do anything about that yet.”
“Yeah, I know. I just came from her room.” Johnny walked over closer and looked down at the little girl in the bed. Her eyes were droopy, obviously from the ordeal and medication. But her coloring was much better than it had been when they pulled her out of the wreckage. “Hi, Amanda. It’s me, Johnny Gage.”
Amanda’s tired eyes moved to try to focus on her visitor, but the attempt was weak at best.
“I just gave her more pain medication, so she’s probably ready to go back to sleep,” the nurse explained. “It’ll be nice when we can get her to the Pediatrics’ section. At least there she could have pink elephants and yellow giraffes on the walls to look at, instead of these bare white walls.”
“Yeah, you know, they need to look into doing that in the other rooms here. It gets pretty drab if a person’s in here very long.”
The nurse smiled and patted Johnny’s shoulder as she walked past. “We can’t make it too pleasant, Johnny, or some of you guys who get hurt on the job might enjoy it here too much.”
“Good point . . .I think I know why they make hospitals so plain now.” He watched the nurse walk out the door, then stepped closer to Amanda.
Johnny looked for a place to set the bear, since the girl wouldn’t be able to hold it yet. The foot of the bed seemed like the best place for now. He put it so that the back was against the metal footboard, and the little toy was facing Amanda so she would see it when she woke up. Looking next for a place to sit, he saw a chair in the corner of the room near the door. He quickly went over and pulled the chair across the room, close to the bed, and sat.
“Hi, sweetheart,” Johnny said, as he caught the child staring at him through half-open eyelids.
Amanda’s mouth curved slightly. Johnny hoped it was an attempt at a smile.
Johnny wasn’t sure what to say. Should he mention Bonnie? Or would that upset the little girl? He couldn’t decide what was best. When he saw a tear roll down her cheek, he knew he’d better say something.
“It’ll be okay, Amanda. You want me to stay here while you sleep?”
A slight nod of the head was all he needed. He reached out wiped away the tear, then held Amanda’s right hand while she closed her eyes and went to sleep. Being worn out from the emotions of the previous day and work in general, Johnny slouched and rested his head back, falling asleep himself.
Doctor Brackett and the pediatrician, Doctor Glynn, walked into Amanda’s room discussing her progress over night. When they caught sight of Johnny asleep in the chair, his hand resting on the bed and Amanda’s relaxed finger tips in his open palm, they stopped.
“Is that the father?” Doctor Glynn whispered.
Kel shook his head. “No, that’s John Gage, one of our paramedics.” He grinned as he watched the two still sound asleep. “He told me he knows Amanda from a few rescue calls he’s been on. I have to admit, I’d normally have him in my office for sleeping in a patient’s room, especially a little girl’s. But under the circumstances, I think it was what they both needed.”
Glynn nodded in agreement. “Any reassurance she could get today was a plus.”
“How about we let them sleep a bit longer, then check back. Say, 20 minutes?” Brackett suggested.
“Sure, the extra sleep can’t hurt Amanda and I’d say he could use it,” the pediatrician said, indicating Johnny.
Walking out, the two doctors headed for the nearest lounge on the floor.
Familiar voices filtered into his mind, as Johnny began to come to a level of awareness. He slowly opened his eyes and peered around.
ICU. . .?
Remembering he was with Amanda, the paramedic sat upright and gave a panicked look at the now open door.
Brackett stepped into the room, Doctor Glynn behind him. Kel caught the expression on Johnny’s face as the younger man stood up, running a hand through his hair.
“I . . .I . . .”
“Did you get enough sleep?” Brackett asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I’m sorry, Doc. I didn’t mean to . . .” He glanced at his watch and saw 40 minutes had gone by.
“I guess I was more tired than I thought.”
“It’s okay, Johnny. Don’t make a habit of it. But in this case, it’s understandable.” Brackett folded his arms across his chest. “So how is our girl doing?”
Gage shrugged. “The nurse gave her medication just before I got here, so she was real drowsy.” He thought about the tears he had wiped from the girl’s face. “Uh, Doc . . .can I stay here until she wakes up? I hate to just disappear on the kid.”
“Well, how about this. There’s a lounge with vending machines a few doors down. Why don’t you go get yourself a cup of coffee and something to eat while Doctor Glynn and I check Amanda . . .we’ll let you know when we’re done and we can discuss it then.”
Johnny nodded, stifling a yawn. “Sounds fair. Thanks.” He took one last look at Amanda sleeping, then walked past the doctors and out the door.
He sat at the small square table and took a sip of the brew in the cup. It had been over fifteen hours since he and Roy had arrived on the scene of the accident that changed the lives of his friends. Johnny leaned back in the chair, setting the coffee cup down on the table.
It’s not right. Amanda and Bonnie are stuck in here, unable to see each other, and the idiot who caused this whole thing walked away without a scratch. I hope he gets more than just a fine for careless driving.
“Hey, Johnny, what brings you to the ICU?”
The paramedic looked up to see one of the nurses he flirted with on occasion pulling out a chair to sit with him. Once again, he found himself just wanting to be alone. Not one to be rude, Johnny answered her question.
“A friend of mine was in a car accident yesterday. I’m just here to give her support when she needs it.”
“Oh . . .” The nurse answered curtly. “I didn’t know you were seeing anyone.”
“I’m n . . .” I don’t want to explain this again. I’m not gonna throw Amanda’s situation around like it’s everyone’s business. “Yeah, she’s a special girl.”
The nurse quickly stood up and pushed the chair in, cutting the conversation short. “Well, I’d better get to the desk and catch up on what’s new, since I’ve been off a couple of days. Good luck, and I hope your friend is okay.”
Johnny watched as the lady left the room. He shook his head.
Women . . .when ya want ‘em around, they play hard to get. When you want to be alone, there they are, hangin’ all over ya, and they’re upset if they think you’ve found another date in the meantime.
He sighed. He had a hunch she would be back when she found out exactly why he was there. Johnny stood up and took his coffee cup to a sink, dumping the remaining liquid out. He rinsed the cup, then set it on the counter. Now seemed like a good time to go to the mens’ room and freshen up. Maybe when he got done, Brackett would let him sit with Amanda a little while longer.
Feeling better after having splashed some cold water on his face, Johnny came out of the bathroom just in time to see Doctor Glynn disappear into the lounge.
I should’ve just waited in there.
Gage hurried into the room, hoping to get good news from Brackett and permission to stay awhile longer with Amanda. He stopped when he saw that Kel was nowhere to be seen.
For an instant Johnny’s heart jumped, although common sense told him if something was wrong, the pediatrician would most likely be with Amanda, too. Taking a deep breath, Johnny asked the inevitable.
“Where’s Brackett? Is Amanda okay?”
“Yes, she’s doing fine. Doctor Brackett got called downstairs to the base station.” He gave Johnny a curious look. “He said you know Amanda from a couple of rescues you were on?”
“Yeah, I do.”
Glynn nodded. “It’s always difficult to see a child injured, and more so if we know them. I don’t think any of us in this profession get used to it. But if it helps to know, we figure she’ll be in her own room by tomorrow unless she takes an unexpected turn. Her incision looks good, though.”
“That’s great news. . .and it does help. Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it.” He walked over to the door and opened it, then turned to Johnny. “You might want to give it a few hours before you go visit Amanda again. She’ll be out awhile longer, I’m sure, and unless you want to spend your whole day here, no sense in it.” He looked at his watch. “Be back in about two hours if you want to be around when she wakes up. Doctor Brackett agreed it would be a good idea, too.”
Johnny smiled inwardly. Kel Brackett did have a soft spot after all.
“I’ll go home to get changed and eat. Tell Brackett I said thanks, will ya?”
“You got it.”
Johnny followed the doctor out of the room.
Dressed in blue jeans and a light blue plaid shirt, the sleeves rolled up, Johnny once again sat in the chair watching his young friend. Noticing the pink bear had fallen on its side at some time, he reached over and repositioned it. When he sat back in the chair, he saw that a pair of young eyes were watching him.
“Well, hi there!”
Amanda reached up and rubbed at her eyes with the back of her right hand. “Where’s mommy?”
“She’s in another room, but she’s fine.” Johnny gave a reassuring grin. “She’s anxious to see you, too, but the doctor said she has to wait awhile.”
The paramedic thought it was odd that the girl didn’t ask for her father, too. But maybe she already knew . . .maybe what Dixie had said was true. Amanda would remember the times he wasn’t around when she could’ve used his support. Bonnie said kids were good judges of adults . . . the girl must’ve figured he wouldn’t come right back.
“I’m scared,” Amanda whimpered, tears beginning to flow.
“Hey, no need to be scared. I’m here . . . and I know a really nice nurse who is going to make sure your mommy gets to see you as soon as possible. Okay?” Johnny wiped at her tears with the top of the sheet.
Amanda nodded. “ ’Kay.” She looked at the bear at the foot of the bed.
“That’s yours. You want it closer?”
He set it near her and she picked it up by one of its legs with her right hand, pulling it beside her.
“What’re ya gonna name it?”
“Don’ know.” She shrugged and yawned.
“Well, you can think of a name later.”
Amanda eyed Johnny curiously.
“Are you magic?”
“Magic? No, I’m not magic. Why?”
“How. . .how’d you find me?”
“Oh!” Johnny smiled broadly. “I see what you mean. I was there to help get you and your mom to the hospital. So I knew you were here.”
“Like you took Spike to the hospital?”
“Yeah, kind of.”
Amanda wiped her eyes again. She looked so tired to Johnny. And the scrapes and bruises on her face only added to that effect.
“How about you try to rest some more, so you’ll be awake when your mom visits.”
“Will you be here?”
“I’ll stay here ‘til they kick me out. How’s that?”
“Good.” She held the bear in her right arm and closed her eyes again.
Johnny sat back in the chair and sighed.
Her dad should be sitting here, not me.
Now that he knew what the situation was with Amanda’s father, the paramedic decided he would tell Bonnie not to hesitate to call if her daughter needed help with anything at all.
The following morning Johnny met into Roy in the locker room.
“How was your day off?” The senior partner asked, as he buttoned his shirt.
“Not bad. I spent most of it at Rampart.”
Johnny glanced at Roy, as he pulled a white t-shirt out of his locker. “Yeah. I had to, Roy.” He put the shirt on over his head. Pulling it down into place, he continued. “Mr. Freeman didn’t come home. He didn’t see a reason to rush back, so I had to stay with a very scared kid.”
Roy was shocked. “He didn’t? Does he know how serious it was?”
“Yeah,” Gage shrugged. “Dix said his answer was that he couldn’t do anything ‘til they were released and he would be home by then anyway. So he stayed in Florida.”
“He’ll regret it later. Trust me.”
“Yeah, Dix pretty much said the same thing.” Johnny finished dressing then put on his shoes. “Well, ya ready?”
“Yeah, let’s go see if there’s any coffee left.”
The two paramedics headed for the dayroom.
After the third rescue of the day, Johnny found time to run up to Bonnie’s room. Roy stayed with Dixie to catch up on the latest news at Rampart. As he opened the door, Johnny could see she was doing much better. The mother was sitting up in bed and working a crossword puzzle.
“You sure look happier.”
Bonnie looked up from her magazine and smiled. “Hi! Yes, I am.” She continued to just stare at Johnny.
“What?” Gage looked behind him. He returned his attention back to the woman. “What’s up?”
“I don’t know what to say, except thank you. But it doesn’t seem like enough.”
“For . . .?”
“Sitting with Amanda yesterday. She talked about it all morning.”
Johnny waved his hand. “Ah, it was nothing. I enjoyed it.”
“Well, so did she.”
“How’s she doing?”
“Okay. You’d think she would be worried about being hurt . . .but not my Amanda.”
Bonnie shook her head. “Typical kid, she’s broken hearted she’ll miss the school Valentine party tomorrow. Heck, she wasn’t even as worried about me,” she added, laughing. “At least she’ll be out of ICU later today.”
“That’s good,” Johnny grinned.
“I told her there’s always next year to have a party. But at her age, a year’s like a lifetime away.”
“Poor kid. I guess it would seem like a big deal.”
“Oh, it is. One of those trivial things to us that kids think is the end of the world. But she’ll get over it. I’ll let her have a party of her own when we get healed.”
The dark-haired man turned as the door opened behind him.
“Johnny, we’ve got a run,” Roy called out.
“Okay.” He gave one more reassuring grin to Bonnie. “See ya later.”
“Thanks again. It really meant a lot to Amanda.”
As the door closed, Roy watched his partner.
“You broke rule number one, you know.”
Johnny sighed and nodded. “Never get involved with the patient. I know.”
“Now you see why we have it?”
“Yeah, I want to fix everything that’s broken in Amanda’s life. And I can’t.”
“You got it,” Roy said as he motioned for Johnny to go forward.
The two men hurried to the elevator to find their way to the exit.
As the guys headed back to the station from Rampart after taking in a near-drowning victim, Johnny had other things on his mind. He turned in his seat and stared at his partner.
“Hey, Roy? Jennifer’s school has Valentine’s parties for the kids, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Roy shrugged. “Sure.”
“What do they do for the kids . . .I mean, do they play games, have cookies and milk, or what?”
Roy glanced over at his partner in surprise. “You mean you never had a party like that when you were in grade school?”
“They have cookies and fruit punch, and the kids all bring boxes they made to hold Valentine cards. . .then they set the boxes on their desks and all the kids walk around the room depositing Valentine’s in the different boxes.”
“Boxes? What does Jennifer use?”
“A shoe box. Joanne helped her color it and glue paper hearts on it that she cut out. Then Jo put a hole in the lid . . .you know, a big slit. And that’s what Jennifer’s Valentine’s she gets will go in.”
“A shoe box, huh?” Johnny chewed his lower lip.
Sandy’s Shoes is just around the corner.
“Roy, turn right up at the next street.”
“Right? Why? We need to go left.”
“Just turn right. I need to make a stop somewhere.”
“Okay,” Roy sighed.
Once they had made their turn, Roy saw the shoe store sign.
“Okay, stop in front of--”
“Sandy’s Shoes. I know. But you can’t just walk in and take a box, and leave the shoes behind.”
“I’m not,” Johnny answered as he got out of the squad.
The two paramedics got a few strange looks as they entered into the store. Johnny ignored the stares and headed for the children’s section.
“What size shoe does Jennifer wear?”
“Jennifer . . .what size shoe does she wear?”
“Johnny, you’re not buying my daughter shoes just to get a shoe box.”
“I can’t buy shoes for me, the box would be too big, Roy. C’mon. Just tell me what size to get.”
“Look, I’ll buy the shoes. You can have the box.”
Johnny looked at his partner and grinned. “Thanks!”
“Only thing is, if I buy Jennifer shoes, I’d better buy Chris shoes or I’ll never hear the end of it.”
“What are dads for?”
Roy gave a wry smile. “Spoken like a true bachelor.”
Johnny sat at the table in the dayroom with glue, scissors, and construction paper in front of him. He awkwardly cut out assorted hearts and stacked them near an empty small shoebox.
Roy sat nearby, still surprised at his partner. He hadn’t seen this side to Johnny before and it put the younger man in a whole new light.
Chet stopped in shock at what he saw as he came in the dayroom after a run.
“What are you doing?”
Johnny ignored the question, which left Roy to answer.
“He’s decorating a box to put Valentines in.”
“Wait a minute,” Chet said, wagging a finger. “No one ever said a thing about exchanging Valentines here . . .ain’t no way--”
“Not here, Chet!” Johnny said as he stopped the work on the box. “I’m making it for Amanda. I’m gonna take it to her school tomorrow and get the kids to put Valentines in it for her.”
“Okay . . .I got my answer. But . . .why? She’s not even your kid.”
“Because sometimes the little things in life are more important than we think. And I know Amanda needs this.”
Chet held up his hands in defense. “Okay, Gage. You win.” He pulled out a chair across from Johnny. “You need help with anything?”
Johnny looked to Roy in shock, then Chet.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me.”
“Hey, I have a soft spot for kids, too, ya know. Just tell me what you want me to do. . . oh, and uh. . .don’t let this get around.”
“You’re on!” Johnny grinned. “Here’s some paper and scissors. Start cutting out hearts and I’ll glue these on.” He indicated the pile of paper hearts nearby.
Roy felt like he was in a Twilight Zone episode. Two of the guys he would least expect it from, were sitting in front of him making a box for children's Valentines cards.
The morning of February 14th, Johnny couldn’t wait to get off shift. He had called the principal at Amanda’s school the day before and gotten permission to go to her classroom and gather up Valentine cards for the little girl.
Roy had already promised to help Joanne with delivering the goodies she made to their own kids’ classes. But Chet was a willing participant in Johnny’s special plans.
Johnny started the Land Rover, and pulled out of the station, Chet following behind in his station wagon. Once they arrived at the school, they were loaded up with the Valentines from Amanda’s classmates, and a small paper bag of heart-shaped sugar cookies and heart candies. The teacher also handed Johnny a stack of ‘get well’ cards that the kids had made.
The two men pulled into the parking lot at Rampart and got the items for Amana gathered together. Chet carried the bag of treats and the ‘get well’ cards, while Johnny took the box with the Valentines in it and a red helium balloon he had bought.
“You sure you want to go to a Valentine's party for a little girl?” Johnny asked, shooting Chet a skeptical glance.
“Wouldn't miss it, Gage. After all, I helped decorate that box you're carrying, so I expect to get credit where credit is due. Besides, I can be good with kids, ya' know.”
Johnny rolled his eyes, then grinned. He had a feeling Chet wanted Amanda to have a good Valentine's Day far more than the Irishman was willing to admit.
“Just be sure you don’t scare the kid,” Johnny said as they stepped off the elevator onto the pediatrics floor.
Chet shot a glare at his shift-mate. “I won’t scare her. I won’t even say a word.”
Gage stared at the fireman’s face a minute.
“No offense, Chet, but I think you’re better off saying something.”
Johnny snickered, as they arrived at Amanda’s room. He switched the box of cards to the same hand as the balloon and opened the door, peeking in. Amanda’s bed was adjusted so that the girl was sitting up slightly and Bonnie was beside it in a wheelchair.. Johnny pushed the door all the way open.
Amanda and Bonnie both looked at Johnny, their mouths open.
“What’s this?” The mother asked.
“It’s a Valentine’s party. For a special girl.” Johnny winked at Amanda. He walked over and tied the balloon to a bed rail, then placed the box of Valentines on the bed.
“Yep. That’s right. For you.”
Amanda looked at the decorated box, her eyes lit with excitement.
“What’s in it?”
“Valentines. Here, let me open it.” Johnny lifted the lid and the assorted cards were scattered about inside.
“Mommy, look! Valentines!”
Bonnie smiled as she watched her daughter pick up one card at a time and read who it was from.
“There’s something else, too,” Johnny offered. He motioned for Chet to come closer.
The fireman brought over the stack of ‘get well’ cards that were rubber banded together and the bag of treats. He handed the cards to Bonnie.
She took the band off and spread the cards out on the bed.
“Oh, these are wonderful!”
Amanda stared at the cards on her bed. She hadn’t expected this at all.
Johnny signaled for Chet to hand him the treats. As he complied, Chet had a sheepish grin. Something didn’t sit right for the paramedic. He opened the bag and looked inside.
“Chet, two cookies are gone!”
“Well, I was hungry.”
“You ate a little girl’s cookies? I don’t believe you sometimes,” Johnny said, disgusted. “When did you even have time?”
“Just now, while I was waiting.”
“Oh man . . . Chet.”
Amanda giggled at the men’s exchange and pointed at Chet. “He’s funny.”
The two men looked at the girl in surprise. Both had expected her to be upset.
Johnny leaned down near Bonnie. “I thought she’d be crying. She’s a good kid,” he said out of the side of his mouth.
“Tell that to the cat we had that got its whiskers trimmed up to its face on one side,” the mother answered in a hushed tone. “They use those for help with balance, you know.”
“Oh . . .”
“Yeah . . .he walked around like he was drunk . . . kind of wobbled for a couple of weeks.”
Amanda was too engrossed in her Valentines to notice the discussion. She was reading each name again, a smile on her face.
Johnny looked at the girl and grinned. It didn’t matter if she did have a tendency to get into trouble. He could tell that the Valentines had done their job. This topped any date he could’ve had. A little girl who needed to smile was doing just that.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Amanda.
Thanks, Kenda, for the beta read! Any errors are mine.