Chapter 13B – The Summons

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I felt a bit better after I took the Tylenol. And the sunglasses helped a lot. I had the mother of all headaches. Bright light and loud sounds where my enemy. As soon as I stepped out of the cabin the onslaught began. Big George was walking along the same path.  Normally the sound of Flip-Flops wouldn’t have bothered me. But the flip-flopping sound crashed inside my head and sounded like a pair of wall studs being smashed together repeatedly. The sun was behind me and when Big George smiled the sun magnified his incredibly bright smile. The glare felt like a red hot nail being driven slowly into my forehead. Peter walked beside me not saying a word. He had a very good idea of how I felt. Every time either one of us had to say “good morning”  to any one we said it very slowly and deliberately. Some time ago, Peter discovered that you when said a greeting in just this manner people somehow figure out you were in pain or under the weather. As we walked into the lobby we passed a clerk sorting the mail. Soon after we sat at a small table and started to peruse the morning menu.

“I think I’ll have bacon and eggs. I’m hungry as a horse. What’s m’lady going to have this morning?”

I couldn’t believe what I just heard. He demolished enough lobster the previous evening to put a significant dent in the seafood industry. Against my better judgement I simply had to enquire why he had such a voracious appetite.

“I’m on the verge of death and you’re thinking about your stomach? How can you possibly think about eating anything at all?”

There was a pause while Peter looked at me. I could tell from his expression he was trying to compose his answer in his head before he said anything. He buttered some bread then put some jam on top of it. Just watching him eat made me queasy.

“I simply want to make m’lady happy. To do that I have to eat from time to time. I want to be able to perform anytime you ask me to.” He winked then there was a gleam in his eye. And there was something special in the way he said “perform”. Ohh…

Then a busboy appeared and handed me a telegram. He would have handed the telegram to Peter but he was busy buttering yet another slice of bread. Peter looked at me while I read the telegram.

“Well, what’s happening in the world?” He saw my eyes bulge out and the color in my face drain away. “Let me guess. There’s been a coup somewhere hasn’t there?”

I read it twice and simply couldn’t believe it. I was in a state of shock. All I knew was that as soon as Peter read the telegram he would be worried.

“Peter, I think you should read this right now.” I handed the telegram to him. He read it and went silent.

Urgent. Stop. Return at once. Stop. Willowby near death. Stop. Meet you at the airport. Stop. Urgent. Stop. Come now. Stop. Explain more when you arrive. Plane waiting in Nassau. Stop. Doctor Wilson. Stop End.

The bread that had been destined for his mouth was put on the side of his plate. When he stood up the enormity of the situation hit him. “Holy crap! We’re outa here. Got a plane to catch. Let’s hustle.” Peter walked over to the desk Captain George sat at and explained the situation as well as he could.

“I think I better call my grandfather and get his input” A quick telephone call and Big George appeared. His trademark smile came with him but he was more business-like. He asked to see the telegram. Peter handed it to Big George. After reading it he folded it up and handed it back to Peter. He then gave orders to Captain George. “I want you to give Mr. Christopher anything he wants. If you have tours planned cancel them. This gets top priority.” Big George then walked over to the booth where I was sitting. Peter sat down beside me and Big George sat opposite us. First he just looked at us. Then he started talking. “I can see you two are very much in love. And I know this honeymoon was very important to you. And it didn’t turn out the way you wanted. That’s why I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to ask you to not check out. I’m going to erase all trace that you were here from our computers. You have a standing invitation to come back any time you please. That includes children too. Now fly back to the mainland.”

***

During the flight, Peter was pretty quiet. Not quite sure what to do I sat up front in the co-pilots seat. Captain George and I talked.

“If you don’t mind me asking Mrs. Christopher your husband seems pretty shaken up by whatever’s going on. Can I ask what is going on?”

I explained as best I could.

“One of Peters best friends is dying. He also saved Peters life when he had cancer.”

“Is that why Peter talks so softly and is hard to understand at times?”

I nodded my head.

“His doctor originally thought he had a mild case, but it wasn’t until after the radiation treatments that it was discovered the cancer did more damage than first thought. He has good days and bad days. Fortunately, the good now outnumber the bad.” Before I knew it the plane was landing in Nassau. Captain George turned towards me and said something very strange. “The tower has just informed me your return flight is a Lear Jet Lima Oscar Romeo Five Niner Five going to YYZ.” I wasn’t at all sure what he meant. I shook my head hoping some sort of translation would fall out of the sky.

“I haven’t a clue what you just said.”

Just then Peter came forward.

“Those are aeronautical terms about our next flight. It’s a Lear Jet with the markings LOR-595 going to Toronto.”

Captain George was impressed. “Not bad for an author. My grandfather has all your books. When’s your next one coming out?” Peter was caught off guard and started to stammer. I answered for him. “Our first book will be out this Christmas. Peter insisted the book have both our names on it. And it’ll be put out by Random House.”

Suddenly the radio squawked again “Upon landing kindly taxi beside Lear Jet Lima Oscar Romeo five niner five“. Captain George taxied till we were about five feet away from the Lear Jet. We tossed our bags through the hatch and were told to prepare for immediate take-off. I know the circumstances were kind of grim, but things were happening so fast I found it mildly exciting. And for the first time in my life, I didn’t have to sprint the length of an airport terminal to catch a connecting flight.

The flight was felt relatively speedy after we leveled off at thirty thousand feet. Peter took to pacing up and down the aisle. I wanted to say something but I didn’t know what to say and he was lost in thought. The reddish color of the seat covers was all there was to look at. That and a bedraggled copy of Time magazine. The pilot and the co-pilot didn’t say a word to us in conversation. Finally, after an hour, I couldn’t stand the silence any longer and spoke up.

“Will you please stop pacing and talk to me. Tell me what you’re thinking. I read that telegram and I don’t know what to think. Dr. Wilson must have been rushed. We know four people with the last name of Willowby. So we don’t know who is dying. Do you know something I don’t?”

Finally, Peter sat down in the seat across the aisles. His eyes were red and his skin was flushed. He had cried. But not because something happened to him. Because of what didn’t happen to me. “I wanted to give you the best, most fantastic honeymoon in the world. Not because I’m crazy in love with you, which I am, but because you deserve it. You’ve put up with me and my moods, and the cancer, and you really deserve a break.”

Peter caught me by surprise and I wasn’t sure how to respond.

“I know this lousy timing but we could become members of the mile-high club.”

Peter turned his head in the direction of the restroom then made a face. He looked at me. “Interesting idea but have you seen the size of that place? And if you’ll pardon the pun I don’t think I’m up to it right now. That telegram has me puzzled and you know I don’t care for mysteries.” I moved to the seat beside him, lifted the armrest, put my head in his lap and quickly fell asleep.

***

I woke with a start. The wheels of the jet had just touched the tarmac. The jet taxied to the area reserved for it. After clearing customs we entered the area meant for people arriving from the Caribbean. As the sliding doors opened we saw Dr. Wilson, the hospital administrator, waiting for us.

“Thank heavens you’re here. I know the telegram only served to create more questions than it answered and I apologize for that. The Willowby family has been hurt. Badly.” Dr. Wilson led us to his car and we all got in, not knowing what to expect.

My first thought was about Kenny. Was he injured or worse? The next thing Dr. Wilson did was to hand us an envelope.

“Before I say any more you’re supposed to read that letter. It’s from Trina to you both”. Peter took the letter from the envelope and placed in front of me so I could read it too.

Dear Cassie and Peter,

I should have done this years ago. Dads lawyer has been bugging me to do this for a long time. A couple of weeks ago Kennys father was declared legally dead. It’s not right for a boy to grow up without a father. And a boy should not be without a mother. That’s why I’d like both of you to be godparents to my boy. The odds of something happening to me, mom and dad are pretty slim but you never know. You both have a special connection to Kenny and him to you. If anybody should be parents you two should. Please, take care of my boy if I can’t.

       Trina Willowby

After reading the letter I had an uneasy feeling why the word urgent was peppered throughout the telegram Dr. Wilson had sent. Peter leaned back in the car seat looking shocked, surprised and winded. When we talked about adoption so long ago we never thought it would happen this way.

Peter put the letter back in the envelope. I asked Dr. Wilson what happened.

“Trina was driving her car through Coboconk. They were going from north to south. Her dad was in the front passenger seat and Wilma was in the back seat. Kenny had turned his ankle playing street hockey and was in my car which was three cars behind Trina. Do you recall a T-shaped intersection by the Patty house? Some drunk bastard came barreling out of that intersection and T boned Trina’s car. Trina was killed instantly. Dr. Willowby has deep cuts in his scalp as well as a broken hip. After he was extricated from the car the paramedics got to work on him. But he had a massive heart attack from the shock. That’s when the paramedics called in an air ambulance. The chopper was almost at the hospital when he suffered a second attack. He was gone two minutes later. Wilma got the worst of it. She has massive internal injuries and its only a matter of time. There’s only so much medical science can do.”

Then Dr. Wilson lost his temper. “God damn it. It’s just not right. Two generations of one family. If ever there was a reason to bring back hanging this is it! Bill Willowby was my best friend. I was his bloody best man. It’s just not right!” It wasn’t long before a siren could be heard. “Damn it all to hell! This the last thing we need. Cassie, you’re now three months along and you’re having premature labor pains. Leave the rest to me”. An OPP cop car appeared out of nowhere. Dr. Wilson drove his car onto the shoulder of Highway 35 and turned off his engine. A few seconds later the cop car parked a few feet behind Dr. Wilson. A cop wearing jodhpurs and sporting intimidating looking sunglasses walked towards the car. He held on to his belt buckle and had an OPP baseball cap. Dr. Wilson did a marvelous job of lying through his teeth.

“Officer, your arrival couldn’t have been more fortuitous. I’m Dr. Wilson of Lindsay Memorial. The woman in the back is three months pregnant and is having premature labor pains. It looks like an ectopic pregnancy. Can you be a good chap and clear the road for us? This a real emergency.”

Peter pinched my hand and I howled in pain.

“Oh, can do doc. Just follow me” said the cop who hurriedly returned to his car and gave us a high-speed escort.

We slowed down when we came to Fenlon Falls, but as soon as we passed through the town it was 80 MPH all the way. We got into Lindsay going like a bat out of hell and the cop gave us a police escort all the way to the parking lot. A gurney came out and I quickly got on but as soon as it was inside the hospital I slid off. All three of us ran for the elevators. Peter and I looked at Dr. Wilson. “4th floor” he barked. I wanted to get to Kenny. “How much does Kenny know?” I asked inside the slow moving elevator. “Not much. Delores, Dr. Willowby’s secretary, is with him. I decided to keep him in the dark but it wouldn’t surprise if the little scamp knows more than we do.” As we got to the fourth floor Dr. Wilson barked “turn right.” I ran down the hall till I could see Kenny. Then I fell to my knees and held him close. It felt nice holding him again and feeling his little hands on my back. Delores was seated nearby and I asked her how Wilma was. “Not good at all. I think she wants to see you and Peter.” Peter came out the room where Dr. Willowbys body was. He pale and his eyes were moist. “You all right Peter?” He pulled two handkerchiefs out of his pocket. “Just saying goodbye. We better get to Wilma’s room while she’s still here.” I told Peter she wanted to see us both. Before we entered her room Peter handed me a handkerchief. “Now I know why you hate hospitals” I said. As we entered Wilma started talking. “Is Kenny with you?” she asked. “I know I look like hell but could you go get him?” I wasn’t sure this was a good idea. Kenny was only ten. “We read the letter and we’ll do our best”. Wilma leaned back on the pillow. “Thank you. Now do a banged up grandmother a favor and get the boy”. Peter went and got him. But before Peter brought him back he gave Kenny a little pep talk. He pulled up his trousers and knelt in front of Kenny. “Your grandmother is not going going to look like the person you see at home. She’s been in a terrible car accident and there are all sorts of bandages and tubes.” Kenny looked at Peter and his tiny chin began to quiver. “Is Grandma going to die Uncle Peter?” Kenny had just put his uncle in the most uncomfortable position he had ever been in. “Yes, and there’s nothing we can do to stop that. But right now she wants to talk to both of us. She needs you to be really brave. Can you do that?”. Kenny tried to stop his chin from quivering. Peter was now standing and he looked down at his nephew. “If it makes you feel any better my chins quivering too”. Kenney put his hand in his uncles and they walked in. Kenny looked his grandmother and was afraid. “Kenny, come to the side of my bed and put your hand on the sheets” said Wilma. When Kenny put his hand on the sheets Wilma took his hand and placed it inside mine. Then she asked Peter to stand beside me. She took Peters hand and placed it on top of Kennys. “Cassie and Peter are going to take care of you now Kenny. Your grandfather and I can’t do it any more.” Wilma looked at me like she wanted to say something. Then I looked at Peter and motioned for him to take Kenny out.

Wilma looked incredibly tired. She slowly raised her head, looked at me and said “You are.” I had no idea what she meant. But she would never answer me. She slipped away quietly. Dr. Wilson, who was out in the hall, was doing his best to comfort Kenny. Peter was leaning against the wall crying. I started to break up and he embraced me. Without saying anything we started comforting Kenny had lost his mother, grandfather, and grandmother. One plus one normally adds up to two but in this case it became three. And we became a family.

…What happens next. Only Chapter 13C will tell you

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