Keller clicked down the hospital hall, her yellow wide-brimmed hat flopping with the energy of her steps. She passed the mirror by the elevators and stopped
to admire herself for the fourth
time that morning. Abraham said the brown pant suit was flattering. She thought it took ten years off her looks. At least.
turned at the gift shop and went inside, grabbing the huge pink teddy bear from the display window.
came back for it.” The lady in the striped volunteer uniform smiled at her,though Maxine thought her smile a bit wan.
jealous, Maxine reasoned. But she’s an older lady. Maybe her bursitis is acting up today. Actually, she’s not
bad for an elderly woman. I hope when I’m her age I look that good. She has to be at least sixty five.
thought about telling the woman how good she looked...for her age. But she decided, instead, to reciprocate and let the woman
be envious of her radiant smile. Love does that to a person, she thought. Makes them radiant and mellow and...generous of spirit. Yes. That’s
what Maxine was today. Generous.
It wasn’t every day she’d fork out forty-five dollars for a teddy bear.
But it wasn’t every day
you celebrated a new life coming into the world. Macie and Phil’s little girl, all four pounds, sixteen inches of her, lay in the nursery. She was wrapped
in a pink blanket with one of
those silly caps, that look like the cut-off toe of a sock, hiding her soft brown wisps of hair.
couldn’t have been happier if the child was hers. Hers and Abraham’s.There she went again. She was too old to be daydreaming like that. Then again,
who was to say what old was? This
is the twenty-first century, she reminded herself. And I can’t help it if I look good...really good...for my age. The stuffed bear lay on the counter
and Maxine pointed to a bouquet of helium balloons waving at her from a glass case.
those for sale?”
were for another lady, but she hasn’t shown up. Yes, You can have them. I can always do another one for her.”
pulled her wallet from the recesses of her leopard tote, and put the straps back over her shoulder, adjusting the bag so she could carry the stuffed animal
a grandchild?” the lady asked as Maxine handed her the cash.
niece.” There was no harm in the deception. A white lie. Maybe not a lie
Maxine considered Macie family ever since last Easter. They’d been through so much together. Even took turns sitting
with Abraham , all three recovering from the effects of that nightmare.
It was wonderful the way the baby came through, considering what her mommy endured.. Now it was Thanksgiving, and they
had so much to be thankful for. Frederick was dead. Austin and Doman disappeared and Maxine didn’t think the police were really looking for them. Leads
had pretty much dried up, the detective had told them. And there was Abraham.
doctor sat in the hospital lobby, looking annoyed. He glanced at his watch as Maxine approached, juggling the stuffed animal,
balloons, her tote and wallet. As she reached him, she lost the battle and the wallet hit the tiled floor sending coins rolling
in every direction.
didn’t occur to you I might need some help?” Maxine put the teddy bear in a chair, looped the balloon strings
over the chair back and knelt to retrieve the change.
knelt beside her, scooping up nickels and pennies. “Gelvaldikeh zach. Such
a goyeh you are.”
did you say, Old Man?”
said what a calamity.”
don’t care about that. What did you call me?” Maxine scowled at Sorkin.
called you a Gentile lady. That’s all. Not so bad as what I might have said.”
well just maybe I’ll start learning Yiddish.”
maybe I’ll become a nun.”
not funny. I just want to share more with you. After all this time I don’t even know if you like Elvis.” Maxine
watched as Abraham stood and poured the coins into her open coin purse. “Well?”
what? Abraham dusted off his knees and brushed at a loose hair in the fringe over his ear.
you like Elvis?”
Elvis, the milk man. Of course, Elvis, the singer.” Maxine snapped the coins into their place and put the wallet back
in the tote.
are beginning to sound like a Jewish woman.”
wrinkled his nose at her. “That wasn’t a compliment.”
sat in the blue-upholstered , chrome chair. He struggled too hard against his faith, this man. “I’ve been thinking
about converting, Abraham.”
Judaism. What do you think?”
looked across the lobby, obviously searching for something. At last, he tapped Maxine’s arm and nodded toward a man
standing, absorbed in a newspaper. “Do you see that man?”
one dressed in black, with the black hat?”
same. That is a Jew. Do you see the locks of hair curling down into his beard?”
you can grow a beard like his, and long sideburns that curl down into it, like his, then you can be a Jew.” Abraham
sat in the chair next to hers.”
put a finger to Maxine’s lips. “I’m not a religious man. I am Jew only by birth. I’ve seen religious
men who care more for a sliver of candle than the life of a brother. Macie seems different, but there aren’t many like
her. I spit on most religious men. I avoid them like a plague.” Abraham stood, his eyes fixed on her face. “Biteh, Gelibteh.” Maxine looked at him, confused. “Please, Beloved,” he said.
it again, Abraham.”
smiled, lifting the pink bear in one arm, with the other reaching for Maxine, Urging
her to stand. “Gelibteh”
serious, Phil. I want you to bring me some clothes. I want to go home.” Macie flopped back on the pillow, her arms folded on her chest. “You
just march out there and tell
the doctor he has to release me.”
about Weslie? He won’t let her go home yet. Do you want to leave her here alone?”
no reason that baby can’t go home with us. She’s perfect.”
She’s small, though. They just want to make sure she’s doing all right before they release her.” Karen Whitehall, Macie’s mother, leaned
over the bed rail and patted Macie’s
fine. She has an angel watching over her.” Macie looked to Phil for support.
angel again.” Mrs. Whitehall turned to her husband. He shrugged in response.
Karen, I believe Mace’s story. There isn’t another explanation for what happened to her last spring.” Phil sounded so...intense.
prayed, Mom, and words came into my mind that gave me the strangest peace. My friend, Mary, says they’re from the Bible, but I’d never read them. And
I felt a...a Presence with me
in the darkness in the church basement. I think it was the same being I saw at the clinic. The man made of light. My angel.”
Your drug-induced hallucinations.”
saw the man before they gave me any drugs, Mom. And the sense of peace I felt, you can’t explain that away. Oh, and
the other thing. Doctor Sorkin. They’d given him the gas, but I saw him pick Maxine up off the floor and carry her to
safety. Why didn’t the gas effect him? How was he able to lift like that at his age?”
That’s what I believe. But you think it was angels.” Karen Whitehall was condescending.
was readying for a battle. Maybe her mother would be a doting grandma, but she was still insufferable.
believe it was Someone who loved me before I was born. Someone who let me go my own way until I got into trouble and
then invited me to come back home to Him. I know that sounds trite, but I believe it was God, Mom.”
that moment, six bright balloons floated into the room above brown
pant-suited legs. A huge, pink bear followed.
“Mazel tov,” said the bear.
mother’s thin lips curled into a tight smile. “Never mind, Dear. We’ll talk about this some other time. Right now, let’s talk baby.”
took Macie’s hand, the one not taped ,bruised from the IV needle and smiled at the arrivals. “Who would have known,
seven months ago….You two.”
The teddy bear sat at the foot of the bed, the balloons
tied to it. Abraham Sorkin and Maxine Keller were arm in arm, smiling at Macie.
could have predicted I would have a box inside my chest ? But, I tell you it’s not the defibrillator that keeps my heart beating. It’s this meshugena. This crazy old lady.” Sorkin squeezed Maxine’s arm.
giggled, then her face creased in a frown. “ The new clinic is set to open in aweek. Who’ll take my place until I get back to work? Maxine can’t
handle it by herself. You need
someone with you in the patient room and someone out front.”
can’t be thinking of going back to work with a baby at home..” Karen Whitehall pushed through the couple standing
at Macie’s bedside. “You certainly can’t be thinking of leaving my grandchild in daycare. Besides, you need
time to rest. You’re still too emotionally fragile.
mother turned to Abraham Sorkin. “ She’s still delusional. That episode last spring affected her more than you
know. She’s talking nonsense about angels and miracles, like a fanatic. That’s certainly not my Macie. You have
to tell her to stay home.”
hushed. Karen Whitehall’s face blanched and her eyes widened.
mean it, Mom. Go home. Go back to the house and fix some popcorn and watch TV or something. Phil will be there after a while.”
you throwing me out of your room, Macie?”
sat, smoothing out the wrinkles in the pink hospital blanket. Under the covers, her feet worked furiously. Then she took a
huge breath and let it out slowly.
Mother. I think I am.”
these are my friends, and I want to work at the clinic and...” She stopped and gulped a breath. The decision was made;
there was no retreat now. “ and I want to sew a cover for my little girl’s bassinette and I want to wear jeans
when I go shopping and I want to let Weslie wear jeans and get dirty and...and I want to go to church like Grandma Whitehall.”
father slipped quickly between Maxine and Abraham. “We’ll be getting out of your hair, now.” He grabbed
his wife’s sleeve and steered her toward the door. When she was out of the room, he turned back to Macie, grinning.
“She’ll be fine by the time you’re released. Keep your gloves up...Champ.”
grinned ear-to-ear. “Not to worry about the clinic, Sweetie Pie. Since we’re not handling abortions anymore, just a women’s clinic, Mary Conley
has agreed to work for us part
time, and Bethany Crowder will be coming in after school. I hear that kid is a whiz at the computer. But aren’t all
kids these days...maybe she’ll even teach a trick or two to an
old dog like...”
Don’t give it another thought, Macie. Mrs. Conley is being gracious enough to fill in for us until you come back. You take your time. But don’t
take too long.” Abraham patted
Maxine’s arm. “I may have a little trip in mind for the spring.”
a honeymoon?” Phil prodded.
“Maybe later. I’m thinking about taking a trip back to Poland,
to put some ghosts to rest.”
place is huge.”
Mckenzie felt lost in the forest of granite stones and grassy mounds. He stood, with Pete and Mary Conley, looking at the
tiny brass plaque that marked Paige’s grave.
need to get a headstone for her. It’s just...every time I go to that place, the monument company, I get ...It seems
so final. I can’t do it.”
but that little marker looks so lonely.” Pete Conley pulled his collar
up against the late afternoon breeze.
“ Paige Ann McKenzie, Nov. 28, 1973—March 24, 2002.,” Ron read. “Twenty-eight years. That’s not enough.”
you’re right. She didn’t really have a chance at life, did she? She still had mistakes to correct, and some to
make.” Pete handed Ron the small nosegay he held and the young husband knelt to lay it on the grave.
week, she’d turn twenty nine. She always said when she reached twenty nine she’d stay there. She didn’t want to be thirty.” Ron dabbed
at tears in the corners of his eyes.
“ I guess she got her wish.”
his index finger, he traced Paige’s name on the marker. Overhead, two geese honked their arrival to the flock already wandering over the still-green lawns.
They were permanent residents
of the cemetery. Like Paige, Ron thought. Their cries, so lonely. Did Paige feel alone, deserted? The air had taken on a chill, and Ron stifled the urge to remove
his jacket, to spread it over the mound, already starting to sink.
be an idiot,” he snapped at himself swiping at the tears again, she’s not even there.”
Paige is not there.” Mary knelt beside the young man. “Try to remember that, Ron. She’s in Heaven .She’s completely happy and, I believe,
she’s talked to her little girl.”
I could just be sure of that, that she’s in Heaven, I think I could handle it better. I know Christians aren’t supposed to grieve. But sometimes it
feels like...like I’ve been kicked in the stomach, and I can’t breathe. I know Paige did some awful things.
I know she tried to make up for
told you she’d made peace. And her being in Heaven doesn’t depend on what she did. It depends on her faith in the Lord; in His ability to save her.
Something Macie remembers hearing
Paige say...did she tell you about the Prodigal?”
shook his head. “Not that I remember. But so much is a blur.”
it’s a parable from Matthew. I told the story to Bethany, and then Macie asked about it. Anyway, I’m sure Paige knew the story...about God’s
love. Like the father who welcomed
back his prodigal son. Macie must have reminded her about it; they had quite a while to talk. Before she escaped the clinic that night, she heard Paige say something to her about it being okay, about that prodigal
thing. I think you can take comfort
in that, Ron. And in God’s judgment.”
heard a snap and turned to see Pete holding the pieces of a broken twig. His eyes were red and his lip quivering. “Who told you Christians aren’t supposed
to grieve? I miss Paige. I can’t
imagine how you feel. If I lost Mary...Christians just aren’t supposed to be hopeless. We’ll see Paige again,
Ron. I’m sure of that. But in the meantime, it sure gets lonely.”
I tell you Macie said Paige talked about adopting? She told Macie she thought we’d make good parents. We would have,
too. Why would God take that away from me?”
put her hand on Ron’s arm. Oh, honey, if I had those kinds of answers…”
McKenzie leaned to the marker, his face against the cold metal, and kissed Paige’s name.
you next week, baby. I love you.”
Macie’s parents banished to the Stones’ living room and everyone else gone home to attend to their evenings, Phil
and Macie were finally alone.
managed really well with your mother.” Phil gave her a thumbs-up.
can get to me like nobody else. I guess it’s a mother-daughter thing.”
let you in on a secret. She pushes my buttons, too. But we don’t see them often. We can force ourselves to stay calm
while they’re here.”
“That’s why God, in His wisdom, put Florida so far away from Colorado. But they’ll go home
after Thanksgiving and we won’t see them again until Spring. Remember, this Christmas we spend in the mountains with your parents.”
Oh yes. That’s much better.”
on, your mom’s a dream. And she puts up with my mom.”
sat, staring at the speckled tile floor. Mace watched him in silence. She thought he’d grayed at the temples,
and at the places, just over his ears, where his hair curled . He looked tired. She was glad she hadn’t insisted he be in the delivery room. He was still
dealing with that guilt thing: that he and Ron McKenzie didn’t show up like the US cavalry the night the clinic was destroyed.
So, how many specks are there ?”
are counting the specks in the floor, aren’t you?”
Sorry. I was just thinking. I have you, the baby and our parents. What does Ron McKenzie
have?” Phil looked at her and Mace was surprised to realize he was waiting for an answer.
don’t know, honey. I could give you a lot of clichés, but ...I know how you feel. Even in that basement, and in the clinic, listening to Frederick and
the others talking about killing
us, I thought about you. I talked to Weslie. I felt connected.” Macie held out her hand and Phil took
it. His fingers were cold.
See? And he doesn’t have that any more. How do you survive when that’s been taken away from you? What’s left for him?”
All that time, Phil, I was scared, but I was never alone. There was a Presence. You said you believed that.”
I do believe it, Mace.”
I think, eventually, Ron will sense that too. I’ve heard other people, who’ve
lost wives, husbands, even kids, say the pain never goes away. But you learn to live with it and ,with time, it gets better.”
sighed. “I guess.”
you know what?” Mace began. “You’re pretty sexy for an old married man with a kid. You want to...what’s
the expression...suck face?”
husband leaned over the lowered bed rail and kissed her for a long time.
better. Now let’s talk about our future. Our beautiful future. Do you know why I wanted to give Weslie the middle name
To quote you, because it’s French for ‘Heaven’ and she’s
Heaven come down to us.”
you remember what I told you Steve Voight’s wife said when she called the clinic after he died? Why he killed himself?”
Macie didn’t wait for his answer. “It was because he saw hell. I feel like I saw it too. I feel like I was there. And it plays over and over in
my mind like it does in
yours. Phil, I gave our child that name... Heaven... because I was sick of the sights of hell.”
pulled his wife close and they stayed that way until a soft knock brought them back to the world.
said the nurse, placing tiny Weslie Ciel Stone in her mother’s arms.