Choices

by: Wendy

Daisy spun around, her heart hammering in her chest like it was about to break through, unsure of what she had heard. Suddenly, she spotted Luke lying on the ground in a pool of blood, her heart stopping for an instant before pounding even harder. As she ran toward her cousin, her eyes continued searching for Bo. He had to be here somewhere, but, as she dropped to her knees beside Luke, she could not find him. “It’s okay, sugar. Everything’s gonna be fine,” she murmured, reaching to attempt to stop Luke’s bleeding, but, just before she touched him, she realized it was too late. Tears streaming down her cheeks, she reached to touch her older cousin’s cold, dead hand. After a moment, she heard Luke’s voice calling her name, as if from a great distance. As she gazed at his face, trying to make sense of it all, his hands suddenly grasped her arms, pulling her closer. She fought as hard as she could, but his voice kept getting louder and his grip tighter until…
Daisy’s eyes flew open, a scream lodged in her throat. Hands still clutched her upper arms and, for a terrible second, she felt like something had followed her from her dream, especially when she found herself still staring into Luke’s crystal blue eyes. “Come on, sweetheart, its okay,” Luke said softly, concern stamped on his face. Without another thought, Daisy threw her arms around him and began sobbing into his neck as relief coursed through her. “Okay, baby, you’re all right. It was just a dream,” Luke returned the embrace, his hand gently rubbing her back in a calming motion. He held her for a moment, allowing her to cry herself out, making soft shushing noises. When her tears finally stopped and she pulled back to wipe her eyes, he said, “That must have been some dream. I heard you moaning when I went past your door. Wanna talk about it?”
Daisy smiled gratefully, but shook her head. “No, that’s okay. You know how dreams are. They just sound silly when you try to explain them to somebody,” she heard the slight tremor in her voice and hated it, but there was nothing she could do about it. A glance at her cousin’s face told her he had heard it, too. Deciding not to mention it, Luke stood up to leave. “Okay, then. If you’re sure you’re alright now, I’m gonna go start my chores. Yell if you need me,” Luke was worried about her reaction. Even when they were kids, no dream had ever left Daisy shaking and crying like this. Daisy watched him walk to the door, then softly called his name. When he turned, she smiled and almost whispered, “Thanks.” He smiled back and nodded once before he walked out.
As she dressed, Daisy let her mind wander back over the dream. There were a couple of differences, but it was the same basic dream she had had so many times in Greenriver. Before she had just assumed the dreams came because it had been so long since she had seen her family. She couldn’t imagine what had triggered it this time, after all, she had been home almost a month. A sound from the crib on the other side of the room told her that her daughter, Jessica, was awake. Forcing herself to smile as she turned to get the baby ready for the day, she thought, ‘Don’t think about it anymore. Like Luke said, it was just a dream.’
In spite of her determination to put the dream out of her head, she found herself thinking about it all through the day. Every time she looked at Luke, a piece of the dream would pop into her head, like it was hovering at the edge of her mind, just waiting to pounce. By the time she went to bed that night, she was so jumpy that she was sure she would never fall asleep, but she was out almost as soon as her head hit the pillow. Around morning, the dream returned, but this time as she turned, she noticed a dark sedan speeding away before her eyes fell on Luke’s body. Daisy jerked up in bed, breathing hard, tears streaming down her cheeks. Wiping her eyes, she sighed and lay back down for a moment, but she couldn’t seem to stop shaking. “Get a hold of yourself. It’s just a dream. Luke’s fine,” she muttered fiercely, wiping her eyes again with the sheet. After a few deep breaths, she got up and went to look at herself in the mirror over her dresser. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying and there were still signs of tears on her cheeks. “Just calm down and grow up. You’re acting like a child, panicking over a silly dream,” she scolded her image.
That afternoon, though, it suddenly became much more than a “silly dream.” Daisy and her cousins were in town picking up some supplies. Bo had gone across the street to check with Cooter on some parts while Daisy and Luke finished loading bags into the General’s trunk. As he started to close the trunk, Luke shot a glance at his cousin. Daisy had been distracted the past couple of days – hardly speaking to anyone, not eating – and every time she looked at him she seemed on the verge of tears. For some reason, he kept thinking about her reaction to the dream the day before. Daisy turned to walk toward the garage, but Luke reached out and caught her wrist, pulling her gently back to lean against the car. “Daisy, what’s wrong? If you don’t tell me what’s bothering you, I can’t help. And don’t tell me it’s nothing – I know you too well for that,” his tone was gentle but firm, reminding her of Jesse.
For an instant, Daisy wanted to tell her cousin everything, but, instead, she forced a puzzled smile and shook her head slightly. “I don’t know what you mean. I’m fine, Luke, just a little tired is all. I – Jessica didn’t want to sleep last night.” She hated to lie to her cousin, and she was fairly sure he didn’t believe her, but she was sure he would think she was crazy if she told him the truth. “Come on, we’ve got to get back to the farm so I can start dinner.” She pulled away and started toward the garage again, hearing Luke sigh behind her as he started to follow. When she got almost all the way across the street, Luke spoke again, “It’s that dream again, ain’t it?”
Daisy spun to face Luke, slightly surprised that he had mentioned the dream, when she suddenly realized that this was the location of her dream. She took a step back toward her cousin, just as a midnight blue sedan rounded the corner, heading straight for him. Even if Luke jumped back right then, there would be no way the car would miss him. With a sharp cry, Daisy launched herself at her cousin, catching him off guard and knocking him backward out of the way. She hit the pavement hard and immediately rolled in an attempt to save herself, but there was a sudden crushing weight on her abdomen. Lights flashed in front of her eyes and all of the air left her body in a rush, then the weight was gone, but it was replaced almost instantly by a horrible pain. Luke’s voice carried to her ears, but she could not make sense of his words – he seemed to be yelling into a well. Finally, she drifted into welcoming blackness.
“Cooter, call an ambulance,” Luke yelled as he and Bo rushed to Daisy’s side. His pale blue eyes scanned the scene, but it seemed like all he could see was blood – it poured from a gash on her forehead where she had struck the pavement and trickled from one corner of her mouth. His hand went immediately to her throat, where he finally found a weak pulse, and his eyes began to track the rise and fall of her shallow breathing. Everything he had ever learned about first aid was tumbling through his mind at lightening speed. “Bo, get a blanket or something to cover her up, we gotta keep her warm,” he could not remember why, exactly, but he knew it couldn’t hurt. One hand went quickly to her forehead to attempt to stop that bleeding as he searched for a source for the blood at her mouth. “Just hang on, baby. You’re gonna be okay,” Luke fought to sound strong and confident as he whispered to Daisy, but inside he was falling apart. He barely even noticed when Bo returned to place a blanket from the trunk of the General over Daisy.
Bo’s voice shook slightly as he told Luke he had called Jesse on the CB. He had turned when he heard Daisy call out to Luke, and now the accident kept replaying in his mind, driving out everything else. Before Luke could respond, Daisy made a soft gurgling sound and her eyes fluttered open. Both boys’ hearts skipped a beat at the agony in those wide, brown eyes. “Luke,” her voice was weak and breathy, the one word obviously taking a lot of effort. Luke moved carefully into her line of vision and forced a smile as he spoke to her, “Shh, don’t try to talk, Daisy. The ambulance will be here soon.” Daisy closed her eyes for a moment and drew in a shuddering breath before trying again, “This…is the… dream.” Luke started to shush her again, then realized what she had said. He sighed and murmured, “Okay, baby. It’s okay,” praying hard that it would be. As the wail of the ambulance siren drew closer, Daisy turned her head to look at Bo and drew in another shuddering breath to speak. Bo shook his head and gently placed a finger on her mouth, “You need to rest, darlin’. You’re gonna be fine. We’ll have plenty of time to talk later.” Daisy smiled weakly at her youngest cousin before giving in to the darkness again, as the ambulance stopped beside them.
After a moment, Daisy became aware of someone softly calling her name. As badly as she wanted to stay in the pain-free safety of the darkness, she felt like she was being pulled toward the voice. Finally, she couldn’t fight it anymore and braced herself for the pain to return as she opened her eyes. When the pain did not come, she tried a couple of experimental deep breaths, then closed her eyes with a groan. “Great, I’m…” she began, but a soft laugh cut her off.
“You ain’t dead, honey, just kinda …’in between,’” the voice came from behind her now, causing her to spin around and open her eyes. Daisy found herself face to face with a woman about her own height with brown hair lightly streaked with gray and a bright, kind smile. Her heart leapt in recognition. “Aunt Martha!” Daisy quickly hugged her Uncle Jesse’s wife, then pulled back to stare at her in confusion. Martha and Jesse had raised her after her parents died, but Martha had died while Daisy was in high school. “If I ain’t dead, then how…? What do you mean I’m ‘in between’?” Martha smiled again and gave Daisy’s arm a gentle squeeze, “Come on, honey, let’s sit down and I’ll try to explain.”
Once they were seated, Martha sighed and began studying Daisy’s face intently, something she had always done when she had something important to tell one of her kids, but wasn’t sure how to begin. Finally, she took a deep breath and began, “Okay, I guess you’ve figured out by now that that car was intended for Luke. It was supposed to be his time to go, and he wouldn’t have suffered. When you gave yourself to save him, though, everything changed. Now he has a long life ahead of him – I’m real proud of you for giving him that – and you have a decision to make. See, honey, you were supposed to have a long life yourself but, well, there is so much damage that… Right now you’re in between life and death – your body is in a kind of coma- and it’s up to you which way you go.”
While her aunt was talking, Daisy’s mind was whirling, trying to take it all in. Now she asked the first question that came to her, “If I choose to live, does that mean Luke has to die?” Martha laughed gently and shook her head,” No, baby, Luke’s fine now. He was given a kind of second chance. This ain’t a trade off, it’s a reward. Most people don’t get any choice in the matter, but, because of your sacrifice, you do. You need to realize, though, that your body took quite a beating. If you go back, you will be in an awful lot of pain for a very long time – and you will have to go through months of surgeries and therapy to get back close to how you were.” Daisy nodded thoughtfully before speaking again,” If I choose to stay here, what … happens?”
“Well, you wouldn’t be in pain, here. You can look in on Jesse and the boys from time to time,” Martha hesitated, then sighed, “But, that ain’t what you’re asking, is it?” When Daisy shook her head, Martha sighed again, “Jessica will be just fine, honey. If you go back, she’ll have you to take care of her. If you don’t, Luke will take her and raise her. Either way, she has a good life. Now, I’m gonna leave you to make your decision. Just remember, no matter what you decide, I’m proud of you, and I’ll always be watching over you.” With that, Martha gave Daisy a quick hug and vanished, leaving her alone with her thoughts.
Jesse and the boys stood when the doctor entered the room. It felt like days since they had been informed that Daisy had been taken to surgery. Rosco had already come to take statements from the boys and Cooter. Cooter had left to take Jessica to Lulu. Now, Jesse studied Doc Applebee’s face for clues as he asked, “How is she, Doc?” The doctor sighed and gestured for them to sit back down. This part of the job was never easy, but it was even harder when you had known the patient and her family most of their lives.
“She came through the surgery fairly well. She’s stable now, but she’s still unconscious. There’s a lot of internal damage – most of her ribs are broken, one lung has collapsed. I’m sorry, but, for now, all we can do is wait and pray, “Doc Applebee watched Jesse closely as he finished speaking. Jesse seemed to be getting paler and older with every word. Finally, Bo cleared his throat and asked quietly, “Can we see her?” Doc nodded and gave Bo an affectionate smile – this was the most subdued he had ever seen the boy. “Of course, but I need to warn you – she’s hooked to a lot of machines. Most of them are just monitors – they look worse than they are. She’s in room 207.” Jesse nodded and thanked the doctor before leading his boys down the hall.
The first thing Jesse noticed when he reached Daisy’s room was how small and fragile she looked. He moved to sit by the bed and carefully took her hand, dimly aware of his nephews entering the room behind him. Seeing her like this, it hit him just how serious her injuries really were – Daisy had always been the one he had never really had to worry about, and a part of him had just assumed that she would be okay. “Come on, baby, you’re stronger than this. You’ve got to fight,” Jesse’s voice was barely a whisper, nearly lost in the beeping of the monitors as he rubbed her hand. Bo and Luke glanced at each other, their hearts breaking again at the pain in their uncle’s voice, and a silent communication passed between them – they would see to it that the one who had done this was brought to justice.
That night, the only one at the farm who slept was Jessica. Jesse had the boys move her crib into his room as soon as the three of them got home – then spent the night in there alternating between watching the baby sleep and looking at photo albums from Daisy’s first days at the farm to the present. Bo and Luke went through the motions of getting ready for bed – even lying down and turning off the lights – but, they just lay there staring at the ceiling in silence. Finally, after a couple of hours, Luke sighed and said softly, “I should’ve tried harder to get her to tell me what was wrong. Maybe I could’ve …” his voice trailed off as Bo sat up and flipped on the lamp. “Luke, she had a dream. This was just an accident – a coincidence – it could’ve happened anytime,” Bo watched his cousin for a moment before speaking again, “There was no way either of us could’ve stopped it. Daisy saw the car coming and she made a choice.” Now Luke sat up and turned to face Bo, tears sparkling in his eyes, “Bo, I should’ve seen it. I was focused too close on her, and she paid the price. I’m supposed to protect you and Daisy – not watch one of you get hurt for me. She pushed me out of the way – if she …dies… it’ll be my fault, just as much as if I’d hit her myself.” Bo closed his eyes for a moment, then moved to sit on Luke’s bed. “If you had seen it coming, you would’ve pushed Daisy back – and I’d be saying this same thing to her. She did it because she loves you. You can’t get mad at her for that. If you’re gonna get mad at anybody, get mad at the one driving the car,” he gave Luke’s shoulder a gentle squeeze, “Now, get some sleep. We’ve got a lot to do in the morning if we’re gonna find this guy.” After a long moment, Luke nodded, then raised his eyes again, “Thanks, Cousin. I guess I needed to hear that – but I still feel like I let her down, you know?” Bo gave him a quick hug and nodded, “I know. I feel the same way, like I should’ve been closer. All we can do now is pray and help make sure this guy doesn’t hurt anybody else.”
The next morning, after Jesse had left to take Jessica to Lulu and go to the hospital, Bo and Luke finished their chores and headed for town. Both of them felt a little guilty about not going straight to the hospital, but they also felt like they would do Daisy more good by finding the one who had hurt her. After a couple of minutes, Bo broke the silence, “Where are we going first?” Luke answered instantly, “Cooter’s.” He caught Bo glancing at him, and half smiled,” He might have an idea what kinda car it was. I figure it’ll be easier to find it if we have a clue what we’re looking for.”
Cooter looked up in surprise when his friends entered the garage. He had expected them to be at the hospital, but, as soon as Luke asked about the car, he realized that he should have known this was too important for the boys to leave to Rosco. He sighed and shook his head slightly, “I’m sorry, ya’ll, but, like I told Rosco, I didn’t get a real good look at it. All I saw was a dark Ford sedan, probably a ’78 or’79, with a dent in the driver’s door.” Bo glanced at Luke and grinned. When it came to cars, Cooter noticed more than most people. They thanked Cooter and left, with a promise to keep him posted.
Outside, Luke stood for a moment, staring at the scene of the accident, before climbing into the General. He kept feeling like he was missing something, but he had no idea what it could be. As Bo started the car, Luke closed his eyes to try to focus his thoughts. His eyes snapped open as a whiff of stale whiskey drifted through the car. Hobie, the local drunk, was leaning in the window, his face just inches from Luke’s. “I…I heard your cousin was hurt. She okay?” the old man’s words were badly slurred and he swayed as though he might fall over at any second. Bo forced himself to smile as he answered, “She still ain’t woke up. Doc says all we can do is wait and see what happens.” Hobie nodded a few times, then reached in to grab Luke’s arm tightly. “She’s a good person,” he slurred, staring intently at Luke, “I…Nobody’d hurt her on purpose, ya know? She’s a good girl.” After a moment, the old man nodded again, then released Luke’s arm and staggered off, mumbling to himself.
Luke stared after Hobie for a long time, the nagging feeling that he was missing something growing even stronger. Finally, he turned back to find Bo watching him as if trying to read his thoughts. After a couple of seconds, Bo asked softly, “Where to now?” Luke sighed, “Well, we ain’t gonna get anything from Rosco, that’s for sure.” He glanced at his watch, considering their options for a second. “Head for speed trap number one. Maybe Enos can tell us something.”
The first thing Daisy noticed was that the pain had returned with a vengeance. A part of her wanted to flee back into the darkness – anything to escape this – but an image of Jessica’s smiling face flashed before her eyes. Suddenly the darkness wasn’t an option anymore – she had to get back to her baby. As she fought for consciousness, she became aware of sounds around her – a steady beeping and a whispering voice. Gradually, the sounds became clearer until she recognized Jesse’s voice. Her uncle seemed to be alternating between praying and urging her to wake up. The sadness in his voice seemed to pull at her, giving her a burst of strength to force her way up out of the lingering darkness. She felt him gently rubbing her hand and focused all of her energy on squeezing his hand in return.
Jesse’s head was bowed and his eyes closed in prayer when he felt the light pressure on his hand. His eyes flew open and his head snapped up, his heart pounding with excitement and hope as he examined Daisy’s pale face. Her eyes were still closed, her features slack, but he thought he saw movement behind her eyelids. “Come on, baby. That’s it, fight. You can do it,” Jesse’s voice never rose above a whisper, his eyes glued to her face as he reached up with his free hand to brush her hair back from her face. After a moment, he felt her squeeze his hand again and her eyes twitched,. “That’s my girl, come on,” his voice was choked with emotion. After what felt like an eternity, Daisy made a soft moaning sound and her eyes fluttered open.
The light seemed way too bright after so long in the dark and it took several seconds for her eyes to focus. Jesse was standing by the bed smiling down at her, still gripping her hand with one hand while he reached to press the button to call the nurse with the other. Tears of joy sparkled in his bright blue eyes and his voice shook slightly as he told the nurse that Daisy was awake. Daisy closed her eyes for a second, then glanced around the room, expecting to find the boys and Jessica nearby. Instead, she found the source of the beeping – machines surrounded her, monitoring her breathing and heart rate. Returning her gaze to her uncle’s face, she whispered, “Where…?” her voice trailing off into a violent coughing fit. Jesse winced when her eyes filled with tears as the pain worsened, and gently stroked her hand. “Shh, take it easy, baby. Don’t try to talk. You’re at Tri-County Hospital,” he watched her carefully as he spoke, “Lulu’s watching Jessica. The boys are finishing up the chores, they should be here soon.” Daisy nodded weakly and closed her eyes again as Doc Applebee entered the room. As the doctor began examining Daisy, Jesse went down to his truck to call the boys.
“I’m sorry, ya’ll, but I can’t tell you anything. The sheriff…”Enos was standing by his patrol car, twisting his hat in his hands as he spoke, when Jesse’s voice cut in over the CB. “Shepherd to Lost Sheep. Shepherd to Lost Sheep.” Luke leaned into the window of the General to grab the CB mic, terrified that his uncle had bad news, Bo and Enos crowding around him. “Lost Sheep here. What’s wrong, Uncle Jesse?” Jesse’s laugh carried from the small speaker, causing all three men to relax, “Nothin’s wrong. I was just wonderin’ where you two was. There’s a lady here askin’ for ya.” The boys looked at each other for a moment, then Bo let out an ear-splitting yell that caused Luke and Enos to wince, even as they grinned at each other. It felt like a huge weight had been lifted with just those few words. “We’re on our way now. Lost Sheep out,” Luke’s eyes sparkled with joy for the first time in days as he slid into the passenger window, watching impatiently as Bo slid across the hood to climb into the driver’s side. The CB was going wild with calls from Cooter, Rosco, and most of Hazzard expressing their relief at the good news, making the boys smile again at the reminder of how many friends Daisy had. As Bo pointed the big car in the direction of the hospital, Luke closed his eyes and offered up a silent prayer of thanks.
Opening his eyes again, Luke glanced at a car with dealer tags on the back turning down a side road. As he turned back to look out of the windshield again, something clicked in his mind and the details he had been missing earlier seemed to fall into place. “Dealer tags!” he exclaimed, sitting up a little straighter and turning in his seat again to look at the other car. “Huh? What about dealer tags?” Bo stared at his cousin in confusion. He was used to the way Luke’s mind worked, and could usually follow, but this little leap had left him behind. Luke turned to face Bo, his excitement obvious on his face, “The car that hit Daisy. It had dealer tags on it. Since there’s only one used car dealer in town, that means…” “We need to go see Hobie,” Bo finished for him with a grin.
They decided to stop by the car lot after they checked on Daisy, but, as they passed it, something caught Luke’s eye. “Turn around, Bo!” he commanded. “Why? I thought you wanted to check on Daisy first,” in spite of his protests, Bo automatically obeyed. “Look over there by the office,” Luke instructed, nodding toward a car – a midnight blue, 1978 Ford sedan with a dent in the driver’s door and dealer tags! Bo’s eyes widened as he pulled into the lot, “You don’t think…?” Luke interrupted quietly,” I think it’s worth checkin’ out – before somethin’ happens to it.”
The boys climbed out of the General and walked slowly around the other car, looking for any sign that it was the same one from the day before. As he passed the front of the car, something on the bumper caught Luke’s eye. He bent down for a closer look, and sucked in his breath sharply as he realized what he was looking at – a small dent with strands of long brown hair caught in dried blood at its center. He raised his head to point it out to Bo, but stopped when he noticed that his cousin was looking toward the office with a strange expression on his face. Following Bo’s gaze, Luke saw Hobie standing on the top step, his face pale and his lips moving soundlessly. Luke glanced back at the car again, and felt the final pieces of the puzzle slide into place. He took a step toward the old man and noticed tears sliding down Hobie’s wrinkled cheeks. “What happened, Hobie?” Bo’s soft voice startled Luke – he had expected more anger from his impulsive cousin. Glancing at him, he realized that Bo had not moved and was doing his best not to pose a threat to the old man, even though his hands were shaking almost as bad as Hobie’s.
“It – it was an accident. I didn’t th-think she was real,” the boys had to strain to hear Hobie’s voice. “I…I thought I was just seein’ things again – bad shine, ya know? – but then…” Hobie’s legs folded under him, causing him to drop down onto the step. He shook his head and looked at the Dukes pleadingly, “I’d never of hit her if I’d knowed she was real – ya gotta believe that. I was gonna tell y’all this mornin’, but I just couldn’t.” He closed his eyes for a second before speaking again. “Daisy’s the only one I ever knew who never treated me like I was just some old drunk. She always smiles and talks to me – just like she does everybody else- and, she always makes sure I got food. She cares, ya know? And, now, I … “His voice trailed off and he stared at Bo and Luke for a moment, tears streaming down his face.
Moving slowly, Luke stepped over to sit down beside Hobie on the step, “Why didn’t you stop? When you figured out that she was really there, why…?” Hobie shook his head, “I didn’t figure it out till this mornin’ when I heard about it on the radio. That’s when I came lookin’ for y’all. I was hopin’ I had heard wrong, but… I’m so sorry, y’all. I…” Bo’s voice was still soft, but it shook slightly as he spoke again, “If you couldn’t tell us, why not Rosco or Enos?” Hobie sighed and smiled sadly at Bo, “I didn’t want y’all to hear it from them. I figured… well, I don’t really know what I figured. I guess I wasn’t thinkin’ straight.” He lowered his head and sighed again, “I-I know they’ve got to be called, but…”
Ten minutes later, Jesse stood up as Bo and Luke entered Daisy’s room. He glanced back at his sleeping niece, and motioned for the boys to step back out into the hall. “Where have you two been? Daisy’s been askin’ for you ever since she woke up. She just fell asleep a couple of minutes ago.” Luke quickly explained the delay to his uncle, finishing with, “We waited with Hobie till Enos got there. Enos had been coming here when we called – he said to tell Daisy that he’ll be by to see her when he goes to lunch.” Jesse shook his head sadly, “Hobie’s always been a drunk, but he’s never…” Luke sighed when his uncle stopped talking, “He said something about bad shine. He was drunk and probably just thinkin’ about his next drink.” Jesse opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by a sound from inside of the room. He smiled at the looks on the boys faces and stepped aside to let them in to see their cousin.
Hobie was arrested for drunk driving and hit-and-run. He spent the next six months in a rehab center to help him stop drinking and was given probation for the next ten years – after Jesse talked to the judge.
Daisy spent a week in the hospital. The next few years were hard – filled with surgeries and physical therapy, but she never once regretted the choice to come back to her family.

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