Pacing the room, Frank could scarcely take his eyes off of Brookelynn. He kept trying to keep his mind on the task at hand, but he was finding it increasingly difficult. His hands shook with each whimper and sigh of pain that escaped Brook’s tightly pressed lips; fists clenched in anger only dug the weapons within them into his soft palms. The tools of his trade, though clamped in his hands, hung naturally at his sides. They seemed to pull the whole of his arms down, despite them just being a Rosary and worn prayer booklet. His muscles seemed to be strained in supporting an invisible weight in a manner that belied the strength which which he could and would wield his weaponry. Glancing at her with every turn he made, his eyes pierced into Brook’s when they were open, he knew the two of them could withstand the transient and invisible battle.
In the heat of the moment, it’s imperative I focus, and he began to sink into memories. Slipping backwards, he paced slower and slower as he fingered the beads and tried to focus on the shape of Roberta’s peridot and white gold earrings. They glinted in the dim candelight of her living room. It had been his first prayer meeting and didn’t comprehend her apprehension for his fresh face. No one had expressed to him how clandestine the prayer meeting would be. He sunk himself into the warm air around the candles, breathed in the soft perfume of her home. He settled into the dim light and gazed at the faces sitting in a circle with some familiar faces, some new. He focused on the Brookelynn that he knew and prayed to the memory. Soundlessly mouthing the prayers, he scarcely noticed Ashley as she entered the small dorm room.
Tears dribbled from Brookelynn’s eyes, skating down her cheeks, diving from her nose and chin into the great unknown. Closing her eyes, she held tight onto Ashley’s hand like an anchor. Ashley searched her roommate’s face for some sign of what to do, and looking back at Frank, she could see that she was on her own. This wasn’t anything to which she was accustomed. Fumbling with her one free hand, she found her cell phone and thumbed through the contact list until she found Hugh’s number. He didn’t answer. She left a text, which also went unanswered. Zooming back through her contacts, she called her uncle.
“I don’t have the time to explain this to you. I just need you to come to Frank’s dorm as soon as you get this message. Bring whatever supplies you have, and get ahold of Hugh. Jeffery, don’t do any theatrics.”
Ending the call, she looked up at Frank who stopped his pacing, “What?”
“We need Hugh. Why’d you involve him?”
“Hugh’s not available! Okay? Remember what Br. Bernard said at our last meeting, how he said that we’ve got to trust that the people around us will help us out no matter what. They might not understand, but it’s in their being placed in our lives by God’s will that they will fulfill what needs to be accomplished. We can trust my uncle to come through for us, even if he doesn’t understand!”
“Ashley, Hugh knows what to do, your uncle doesn’t. I can’t have him here, contaminating my space, our serenity.”
“You prick! For all your knowledge and interaction with our prayer group, haven’t you learned a damn thing? You’ve got to trust. Give people a chance! You’re acting like you were always in the know. I think if Brookelynn were feeling better she’d slap some sense into you.”
“Why are you attacking me? She,” he pointed at Brookelynn crumpled on the floor, “needs our help, and you want to bring a non-believer into this?”
“Then, wise guy, tell me who to call to help?”
“What about Kelpp?”
Ashley smirked, “Not a huge believer.”
“Why not call Father?”
“Father Scott. Really. Only people vetted by you? You’re not an authority on this, Frank!”
Sending volleys back and forth led them nowhere. Frank went back to praying, his pacing brought him to his tiny bathroom. Seeking silence in the bathroom away from Ashley, he didn’t return until a peace settled in his soul. Leaving the confines of the white tiled room, he stood aimlessly. Ashley turned to look up at him, crouching on the floor next to Brookelynn, “Now what?” She asked apprehensively, as she cradled Brookelynn’s puffy and swollen face in her lap. Frank shook his head at her, and opened the door.
He gazed down the hallway, gray in the fading evening light. Never before had it seemed so long and desolate, as waiting for help to arrive. Slowly came the clacking of dress shoes on the concrete stairs, at a fast clip they sounded like high heeled shoes. He stood in the doorway, and waited for him to come. Frank took refuge in the shadows, and shielded his face in shame as Dr. Hunter squeezed past him into the room. Hunter looked over his shoulder at Frank, the distance between them seemed great yet it was just a few feet. Here in this cramped dorm all faults and problems would be laid bare, and simultaneously allow Hunter to begin repairing and stitching the gashes on his soul. Frank imagined the pus that plagued Hunter’s wounds to be a garrish green. Who would be the physician to fix them all?
“Uncle Jeff, this is Frank,” Ashley pointed to her verbal sparring partner, “and this is Brookelynn. Did you get to talk with Hugh?” She bit her lip, Hugh really would have a better grasp on the situation. He’d know what to say, but he wasn’t here. She had to rely on her uncle; even she could not vett him.
“No. What’s going on?” He kept trying to pry his eyes off Brookelynn’s face, and each time he tore them away, he gazed into the grave eyes of his niece. She opened her mouth to answer but was overpowered by Frank, “Usually Ashley’s the one with the frightening ideas and thoughts. But, Brooke won’t stop crying. Most of the time, Hugh’s able to help, but he’s busy. So, that leaves you.”
Dr. Hunter sat in front of Brookelynn, and gently pulled her into an up-right position. Looking at her face, he saw something beautiful and horrific. She seemed to be washed up and washed out. A sense of destruction flowed out of her and into his depths, cold icy water flooded his world view, swirling first around his ankles, then it rose higher until it seemed that he would drown. Gasping for air, he could still feel the carpet beneath him. It seemed that he could construct a pathway to a different horizon, but from where he was it appeared too treacherous. One false step and he’d slip beneath the icy water.