By Audrey W.
Johnny opened the door to the hospital room and peeked
inside. Joanne DeSoto was sitting at her husband’s
bedside, tears in her eyes as she watched
“How’s he doin’?” Johnny whispered.
Joanne looked over at the doorway. “Johnny,” she said, pleasantly surprised. “It’s good to see you. Please. . .please come in.”
“If you need to be alone with him. . .”
“No, no. Please stay.” Joanne swiped a tear running down her
cheek. “I. . .uh. . .I want to thank you.” She cleared
her throat as an overwhelming feeling of gratitude washed over her. “Hank told
me you saved
Johnny blushed slightly. “Well, I wouldn’t say--”
“Don’t be modest, Johnny. You two are always there for each
other when it really counts. It makes sending my husband to work each time he
goes, that much easier. . .knowing you’re there to
watch out for him in dangerous situations.” Joanne took a hold of
“Hey, hey,” Johnny soothed, stepping closer to the woman. He
placed a hand on her left shoulder and gave a light squeeze. “
“How are the kids takin’the news? Do they know he’s in the hospital?”
A sudden panic washed over Joanne’s face. “The kids! Jennifer. . .I almost forgot!” She whispered loudly.
“What?” Gage wondered, his face concerned.
“She’s got a ballet rehearsal this afternoon after school.
Her dance class is putting on a recital Saturday night in honor of Mother’s
Day.” The woman groaned. “I want to be here when
“I can take
Jennifer to ballet practice,” Johnny offered. “I mean, I just have to take her
there, I don’t have to dance, right? My ballet leaves a lot to be desired,” he
teased. The paramedic smiled when he saw his humor worked to brighten Joanne’s
face. “I can tell Jennifer about
“You sure you don’t mind? You’re talking driving through late afternoon rush hour and hanging out with a bunch of little girls in pink tutus.”
“I’m sure. What about Chris? Don’t I need to pick him up, too?”
Joanne shook her head. “He’s got Little League practice, but we already promised him he could ride with his friend, Billy, and go to his house for dinner afterwards. Billy’s parents are supposed to bring him home around .” She eyed Johnny carefully. “You sure you want to do this?”
“Sure,” Gage said, putting his hands on his hips. “It’ll be fun.”
“You all set for your ballet practice today?” Johnny asked after he met Jennifer DeSoto at her classroom door. He had already explained to the little girl that her parents were busy and couldn’t make it to her rehearsal.
“Oh yes!” the six-year-old answered. She glanced at the clock on the wall as the other students continued to file out of the room. “Oh no! It’s ! We gotta go right this minute!”
“Why? What happens at ?’ Johnny asked, grinning. “We turn into pumpkins?”
The girl frowned at his attempted humor. “Mommy always picks me up at and we’re already leaving by . Now we’re late!”
“Only by a minute or so.”
Jenny rolled her eyes. “C’mon!” She grabbed his right hand and pulled.
Johnny shook his head. Girls.
Once in the Land Rover, Gage headed across town to where the Jennifer’s ballet class was held. He glanced at his petite passenger beside him as she sighed.
“It’s . When Mommy’s passing the grocery store here, it’s only .”
“Uh huh. Now it would be with Mommy. But it’s with you.” She shook her head. “We’re gonna be late.”
“Well, wait a second,” Johnny said. “We’re only a minute behind. It’s not like we’re really gonna be late. I mean, if we walk across the parking lot faster, we’re there on time.”
Jenny looked at the clock on the dashboard. “It’s always when Mommy is going by the bank here, but now it’s .”
Giving his young passenger a slightly annoyed glare, Johnny pressed down a little more on the gas pedal.
Whose bright idea was it to teach her to tell time already, anyway?
“I told you we’d be late,” Jennifer said as Johnny drove down the street the dance school was on.
“Now hold on. We’re almost there and didn’t you say your mom pulls into the parking lot at ?”
“Well, it’s now. We’re gonna make it exactly on time. I told you I could do it.”
The little girl chewed her lower lip, intently watching the clock.
Gage could see the dance school but had to slow down to a crawl while the car ahead of him nearly came to a stop to move over into a left turn lane. Finally at their destination, Johnny grinned as he turned into the parking lot. “Good deal! It’s and we’re on time. See sweetheart? I told you we’d make it.”
Jennifer shook her head. “It was when you started to turn, but it’s already.”
Hiding the annoyance in his voice Johnny asked, “What is so important about being here exactly at anyway? Your mom said the rehearsal wasn’t until .”
“Mommy says if she tells Daddy she did somethin’ betterin’ him, he’ll do it till he’s even betterin’ her. I wanted ta see if it worked on you.”
Johnny sat staring at his passenger, his mouth open partway in surprise.
Girls! Man, they start early! But he had to admit Joanne had a point. Because the next thought on his mind was wanting a chance to redeem himself and get Jennifer to the school before the time Joanne usually did.
Gage got out and opened the door for Jennifer, lifting her out. “C’mon, smarty pants,” he kidded. “Let’s go.”
While at the rehearsal, Johnny sat with the mothers who had brought their daughters. He felt awkward with there not being another man in the building. Any other time, the paramedic would’ve seen it as every man’s dream. But knowing nothing about ballet, and the current discussions being about the cost of tutus and hairstyles, he didn’t have anything to contribute.
Johnny sat quietly in the group of women as he watched Jennifer perform with the others. The little girl smiled with pride when her escort grinned and winked at her.
The paramedic’s mind briefly went back to
Coming out of his thoughts, Johnny again smiled and
applauded as Jennifer’s group finished their dance. The kid could be a stinker
at times, but she was still
An hour and a half later, Johnny and Jennifer were on their way home. Since Chris was eating at his friend’s house, and Joanne probably wouldn’t feel like cooking, Gage stopped at a fast food place on the way. He bought himself and Jennifer each a burger, order of fries and a Coke.
Sitting across the booth from the little blue-eyed blonde, Johnny decided it was time to fill her in on the situation with her dad. He had wanted to be honest with her before, but breaking bad news to a kid was something he didn’t look forward to.
“Uh. . .Jen. . .when we get to your
house. . .uh. . .your mom’s gonna be there to meet
us. But your daddy’s at
The little girl nodded. “Did you save him?”
“I carried him out of the house and took care of him on the way to the hospital, but the docs did the rest.” He gave a lopsided grin. “He’s gonna be fine. It’ll just take a little time,” the paramedic reassured again.
“Daddy always says if anything happens, he wants you takin’ care of ‘im.”
“He does?” Johnny’s grin widened as he recalled the time
when he and Roy were still new as partners and paramedics. Johnny had offered
to take care of a victim’s dog while the lady recovered from injuries sustained
an automobile accident. The animal barked at
“Yes, he does. And Mommy agrees all the time.”
“No kiddin’ . . .huh. . .”
Jennifer shook her head. “Huh uh. Honest.”
Johnny looked at the wadded up burger and french fry wrappers on their tray and the empty plastic cups from the sodas. He then glanced over at his special little friend.
“You ready to go home and see your mom?”
The two got up from their seats and started for the exit, Johnny holding Jenny’s hand after he dumped their trash in a can on the way out. The girl looked up at him.
“You know what?”
“You make a good mom! Even if you do run later than Mommy.”
“Uh. . .thanks. . .I think. . .”
Johnny opened the passenger door of his Land Rover and lifted Jennifer up into the seat.
“There you go, sweetheart.”
Jennifer furrowed her brow. “Johnny?”
“Is Daddy really gonna be okay?”
The dark-haired paramedic gave the widest grin he could muster.
“Yes, he is.”
“Pinky swear?” she asked, holding out a little finger.
Johnny gently hooked his right little finger around hers, and gave a slight shake. “I pinky swear.”
Jennifer’s resulting smile was genuine. She knew if Johnny pinky swore , that meant her dad really was going to be okay.
Mother’s Day arrived and
Johnny held Jennifer’s hand and Joanne Chris’s as they got off the elevator on the second floor. The foursome started down the hallway passing other rooms, when Jennifer looked up at Johnny. The paramedic returned the look and squeezed her hand.
Chris was pulling his mother, he was so anxious to see his dad. “C’mon, Mom, let’s hurry!”
“Christopher, keep your voice down.”
“Sorry. But c’mon.”
Joanne glanced over her shoulder giving the trailing Johnny and her daughter a smile.
Doing much better and feeling more alert,
Both children released their hold on their escorts’ hands and rushed forward.
“Daddy, Daddy!” Jenny cried.
Chris was silent, but reached out to embrace with his father.
Joanne followed behind her kids, and Johnny stayed by the door, allowing the family to have time alone together.
“Happy Mother’s Day,”
Gage nodded hello and grinned. “You’re lookin’ a lot better.”
“Thanks to you.”
Johnny waved off the praise. “Hey, I didn’t wanna have to break in a new partner. Breaking you in was hard enough,” he teased.
“Oh is that right?”
“No problem. I’m just wonderin’ which one of you did such a good job of teachin’ ‘er how to tell time.”
Jennifer’s face lit up even more as she rattled off all the details of the event. After going on and on about the music, costumes and dancing, she glanced over at Johnny.
“And he was the bestest mom at practice!”
Joanne shook her head and patted Jenny on the back. “Let’s say he was the best mother’s helper. I think Johnny would be more comfortable with that.” She walked over to their friend and gave him a hug. Pulling back afterwards, Joanne wiped at a tear on her cheek and smiled.
“It might not’ve turned out this way if it wasn’t for you, Johnny. Thanks for the best Mother’s Day gift a mom could want.” They both looked over at Roy and the kids, locked in another embrace. “Her family together, safe and happy.”
Thanks Jill H. and Kenda for the beta reads! :o) Any errors are mine. Once again, my daughter inspired an idea. Suffice it to say, she knows how to tell time very well. :o)
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