Critical Decisions, ch. 7

by: Marty Chrisman

Finally, Luke and Kelly began saying their goodbyes to their friends and family. Luke laughed when he saw The General Lee. Bo and some of his friends had decorated the car with balloons and signs and strings of tin cans were tied to the rear bumper. Bo had moved the General after decorating it, parking it across street from the church where everyone would be sure to see it when they left.

Luke had already crossed the street and was leaning against the General Lee waiting for Kelly to join him. She had gotten detoured by some of the ladies from the church who wanted to say goodbye. She glanced across the street at Luke and shrugged her shoulders with a faint smile. Luke grinned back as he watched Jesse and Daisy rescue Kelly or she could have been there all afternoon. Laughing, Kelly gave Daisy and then Jesse a big hug and a kiss. Smiling happily, she started across the street to join Luke.

Luke, Daisy, Uncle Jesse and Enos all saw the car barreling down the street towards Kelly. They all started yelling Kelly’s name at the same time, trying to warn her.  Confused and not realizing why they had all started yelling at her, Kelly had paused for a moment in the middle of the street, trying to figure out what was wrong. She saw the stricken look on Luke’s face and watched as he started running towards her. Then everything went black as the car slammed into her, throwing her onto the hood and into the windshield hard enough to crack the glass, and then down to the pavement.

Jesse and Daisy ran into the street but it was Luke who reached Kelly’s crumbled body first. Enos, who didn’t drink and was still sober, ran to his squad car and jumped in, squealing away in hot pursuit of the car that he had just watched deliberately ran Kelly down. Luke fell to his knees, gathering Kelly into his arms and screaming her name. She was unconscious, a deep ugly gash on the left side of her forehead bleeding profusely and blood running from the side of her mouth. Her skin was deathly pale and cold to the touch. There were scrapes on her arms and legs from the pavement and one leg was twisted awkwardly beneath her at an odd angle. Instinctively, Luke pressed his fingers against the side of her neck, frantically searching for a pulse. She had one but it was so faint that Luke could barely feel it and her breathing was shallow and labored.

Luke barely noticed as Daisy and Jesse knelt down beside him. Vaguely, he heard Jesse telling him that someone had called an ambulance and that Enos had taken off after the driver of the car who had hit Kelly. Luke cradled her in his arms, refusing to let her go, rocking her back and forth and gently whispering her name. He had never been more terrified in his life. A crowd had quickly gathered, word filtering rapidly through the wedding guests about what had happened.

Part of Luke’s mind registered the sound of sirens blaring, then fading away as the ambulance pulled to a stop and two paramedics jumped out of the back. Jesse gently coaxed Luke into letting the paramedics take care of Kelly. He helped nephew to his feet and put his arm around his shoulders, trying to comfort him and to keep him calm. He could feel Luke trembling violently. The paramedics rapidly did what they could to stabilize Kelly, and then gently lifted her onto a stretcher. Luke climbed into the back of the ambulance with her for the ride to the Tri County Hospital in Capital City. Jesse and Daisy ran to the jeep, climbing inside so that they could follow them.

At the hospital, Luke got upset when the medical personal refused to let him go into the trauma room with Kelly. If Jesse hadn’t been there to keep him from doing something crazy, it was hard to know what Luke might have done. “Its okay, Luke…let the doctors take care of Kelly now.” Jesse said soothingly, leading Luke over to the waiting area where they could sit down. Daisy had walked down the hall to the pay phone to try and find Bo and let him know what had happened. Cooter and some other close friends of the family had also come to the hospital. Luke’s shirt was stained with Kelly’s blood but he was too upset to even notice. He kept his eyes fixed on the doors that led to the trauma unit, praying like he had never prayed before that Kelly would be alright.

Jesse was seriously concerned, both about Kelly and about Luke. He knew that Luke was in shock from having seen Kelly ran down in front of him, but he also knew that Kelly was seriously injured. He didn’t like what he had seen; at best he knew that she had a serious head injury and probably some broken bones. Quietly, he asked Cooter to get him a cup of coffee with plenty of sugar in it for Luke. It would help with the shock. Daisy joined them and told Jesse that she had finally found Bo and that he was on his way to the hospital. She had also called their family doctor, Doc Applebee, and he was on his way too.

Luke hadn’t said a word since they had sat down; he just kept staring at the trauma room doors, ignoring everybody around him. There was a part of him that heard Jesse and Daisy’s comforting voices, and felt their touch. He knew they were there with him but his mind was totally focused on Kelly. He drank the coffee that Jesse gave him, not even noticing how sweet it was. He just wanted to be with Kelly, to make sure that she was going to be okay.

When Doc Applebee arrived, Jesse quickly filled him in on what had happened. Doc nodded and walked through the doors into the Trauma unit to check on Kelly’s condition for himself. All the family could do was to wait. Almost two hours had passed before Doc Applebee came back out into the waiting room. Jesse knew from look on his face that the news wasn’t good. Instinctively, Jesse’s arm tightened around his oldest nephew’s shoulders but Luke didn’t seem to notice. Bo had arrived by then and was anxiously waiting with the rest of the family for news on Kelly condition.

“She’s in emergency surgery,” Doc told the family gently “They’re doing what they can but she does have a severe head injury with a skull fracture. She also has some broken ribs, a broken wrist and her left leg is broken in three places. I’m pretty sure there are some internal injuries too but I don’t know how bad they are yet. They did manage to stop the bleeding for now.” Doc tilted his head slightly to one side, indicating that Jesse should join him in a corner of the room so they could talk privately for a moment.

Daisy took Jesse’s place at Luke’s side as Jesse followed the doctor to a more secluded area of the room. Doc Applebee looked at Jesse sadly, in a soft quiet voice, he said “Jess, you need to be prepared and try to prepare Luke as best you can, it doesn’t look good at all. She may not make it.”

“Oh, Lordy,” Jesse muttered, a ragged edge to his voice “I don’t know what Luke will do if he loses her again, especially like this.”

“I know, Jess.” Doc said putting a comforting hand on his old friends shoulder. “I wish I had better news for you but I don’t. I’m gonna go on back in there now and I’ll let you know more when I know more.”

Jesse slowly walked back over to where his nephews and niece were setting. When Daisy and Bo looked at him questioningly, Jesse shook his head slightly, letting them know that the news wasn’t good so far. Tears filled Daisy’s eyes and Bo looked at Jesse with a stricken expression on his face. The only who didn’t even seem to notice what was going on was Luke.

Jesse sat back down beside Luke “They’re doing all they can, Luke. All we can do now is wait till they’re done.” He rubbed his nephew’s back in a slow circular motion but Luke still didn’t respond. Jesse knew that Luke was deliberately shutting them all out, too worried and scared to focus on anything but Kelly. Jesse remembered far too well the black depression that Luke had fallen into when he was 17 and Kelly had disappeared from Hazzard. A depression that had come dangerously close to destroying him back then.  Jesse was scared that if anything happened to Kelly now, a similar depression would be more than Luke could handle.

Most of the other people that had come to the hospital left when they realized that it could be hours before they had more news about Kelly. The only one who stayed besides the immediate family was Cooter, and basically he was a Duke at heart, so he was family too. As the hours stretched out late into the night, then into the next morning, they all tried to rest, catching quick cat naps as best they could on the uncomfortable chairs and sofas in the waiting room. The only one who didn’t sleep, even briefly, was Luke.

It was almost noon the next day, before Doc Applebee finally rejoined them in the waiting room. They all looked at him anxiously, needing to hear what he had to say but terrified of what he as going to tell them at the same time.

“She made it through the surgery and they’re moving her into intensive care.” Doc told them in a weary voice “She does has massive internal injuries and some of those injuries are life threatening. The most serious injury is the skull fracture, there’s been a lot of bleeding into the brain and some swelling. She’s in a deep coma and I can’t guarantee that she’ll wake up. Right now, she’s on complete life support because she’s having trouble breathing on her own.”

“Can I see her?” Luke asked in a barely audible voice that was hoarse with emotion and strain.

“Not just yet, they’re still getting her settled in. Why don’t you all go home and get some rest? You should be able to see her for a few minutes later tonight”

“I’m not going anywhere.” Luke said in a fiercely determined voice. He left the rest of his thoughts unspoken. He couldn’t leave he had to be here in case Kelly died.

“Luke,” Jesse said quietly “You need some rest, we all do. The hospital will call us if there’s any change. There’s nothing you can do here, not right now. I know you’re scared, we all are but the doctors know what they’re doing and they’ll take good care of her till we git back.”

“I can’t go, Jesse” Luke said stubbornly, looking at his Uncle, his sapphire eyes pleading for understanding.

“You and Daisy go on, Uncle Jesse.” Bo said “I’ll stay here with Luke.”  Jesse nodded his consent. He knew that Luke wasn’t about to change his mind but at least Jesse wouldn’t have to worry so much as long as Bo was with him. And if Luke decided he needed someone to talk to, he would talk to Bo before he would anyone else. Bone weary, he followed Cooter and Daisy to the elevator.

After the family had left, Bo tried getting Luke to go with him down to the hospital cafeteria to get something to eat but Luke refused. Not wanting to go by himself, Bo settled back on the sofa next to his older cousin. “Luke, I know it looks bad but you gotta keep on hoping for the best cause without hope, you ain’t got nothing left.” He grinned, trying to boost his cousin’s spirits. “Besides, God wouldn’t take her away from you, not after everything the two of you have been through,”

“What God?” Luke muttered bitterly, in a tone of voice that Bo had never heard him use before “If there really was a god, Kelly wouldn’t be lying in there right now.”

“You don’t mean that, cuz.” Bo said “You gotta have faith, that’s what Uncle Jesse always says anyway.”

“Just leave me alone, Bo.” Luke said in a testy voice, ignoring the hurt look in Bo’s eyes at his harsh words. Luke sighed and let his head fall back against the back of the sofa, closing his eyes. Exhausted, he finally drifted into a restless sleep, his body forcing him to rest even if it was against his will.

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