Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat


PREVIOUSLY: Sarah Jane tried to call Jesse to get Rachael’s phone number. Anna called Sarah Jane and told her to come home. Sarah Jane ignored her for two hours. When she got home, there was a sheriff’s patrol car in front of the house.


Chapter 12

I pressed the accelerator then skidded to a stop behind the patrol car. When would I learn? Whenever I minimized Anna and her demands, it came back to bite me. Something had happened and I should have been here.

I shoved the car into Park and opened the door all in one motion. “What happened?” I called to Anna and the sheriff deputy standing on the porch. “Oh, hi, Frank.” My breath came a little easier. Frank’s been Jake’s friend for years. He’s like one more brother.

“Glad you could make it, Sarah Jane.” Anna’s voice could have cut through a quilt, batting, backing and all.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know—”

“You mean you didn’t believe me.”

Frank raised a hand. “It’s your dad, Sarah Jane. He collapsed. The ambulance took him to the hospital.”

The bottom dropped out of my stomach and I turned on Anna. “Why didn’t you call me back? And tell me what happened? Why would you let me stay at work when my father—”

“Come on, Sarah Jane.” Frank grabbed my elbow. “I’ll follow you to the hospital.”

I wrenched free and turned back to my sister-in-law. “Anna, how could you?”

“I told you to come home. How is it my fault you dawdled for two hours?” Anna’s thin rationalization left me speechless. I stared at her a moment, then turned and clattered down the porch steps.

Frank was right behind me and in a moment I was following him down the tree-lined lane and onto the main highway.

* * *

Three hours later, I sat in the family waiting area of the Critical Care Unit at Rosedale Community Hospital. Jake was with Dad. My other brothers and Frank filled the rest of the chairs. I’d had three minutes with Dad, holding his hand and stroking his cheek while machines beeped and dripped and put out thin sheets of paper with lines and graphs.

“Tell me again what happened,” I said to Nathan.

“I was spraying in the west orchards. I went to the shop for some tools. I found Dad on the ground just outside. He didn’t answer or respond. I called the ambulance, then Jake and Anna, then Will and Abel. I asked Anna to call you. Frank heard the call on his scanner and he went by the house as soon as he could. He was working an accident out on Highway 16. That’s when you got there.” Nathan stared at his hands. “I still can’t believe it. A heart attack? Dad’s never been sick. Not even a cold. And he has a heart attack all by himself.”

Daniel stood and strode out the door, hitting the wall with his fist as he went by. I stood to follow.

“Let him go.” Abel patted the seat next to him. “He’ll be okay. He’s just worried and it’s better for him to keep busy.”

Footsteps clacked down the hall and we all turned to see who it was. A doctor could be bad news.

Anna entered, holding April’s hand. “How is he?” She scanned the room, but since it was Jake’s turn with Dad, her expression darkened when she didn’t see her husband. “Where’s Jake?”

That was my cue to follow Daniel. I brushed past Anna but gave April’s shoulder a squeeze.

Out in the hallway, I wandered to the big double doors leading to the cardiac intensive care area. Visitors had to be electronically buzzed in by a nurse or someone inside the unit. Only one visitor at a time. And only for five minutes. There were more rules here than in a manual for contract bridge. No outside food or drink. No lingering in the halls.

The doors buzzed and I wheeled around to see Jake coming out.

“How is he?” I rushed to my brother and grabbed his arm.

“The same. We need to talk.” He pulled me close. “Let’s find the others.”

In the waiting room, I sank into the chair by Abel and pulled April into my lap. I ran my hands through her silky hair and smoothed down the flyaway strands.

“Dad had a massive heart attack,” Jake said. “He survived the attack and the surgery here and that’s good. What’s not good is that we don’t know how long he was unconscious before Nathan found him. They’re doing everything they can for him, but he has a long road.”

We all nodded. Jake wasn’t saying anything we hadn’t already surmised from the guarded words and hushed voices.

“I think …” He took a deep breath. “Does anyone know where Dad keeps his will?”

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