Critical Decisions, ch. 8

by: Marty Chrisman

Both boys were sleeping when Jesse and Daisy returned later that evening. Letting them sleep, Jesse talked to one of the nurses to find out if they could see Kelly. When she came back a few minutes later and said that they could but only for a few minutes, Jesse gently woke up the boys to let them know. They took the elevator up to the sixth floor where the hospital’s intensive care unit was located. Jesse identified himself to the nurse on duty at the desk and told her that they were there to see Kelly. She told him that only two of them could go in at one time. Luke and Jesse went in first.

Kelly was in a private room right beside the nurse’s station. There were a smaller number of patients on this floor since most of them required more skilled nursing and some of them, like Kelly, required twenty four hour care and constant monitoring of their condition. Much to the Dukes’ surprise, Boss Hogg was the one who had arranged for the private room and was even paying the hospital bill, proving that somewhere underneath that fat little body and greedy nature, he did have a soft spot. At one time, Jesse and Boss had been the best of friends, running shine together in the old days.

When they walked into her room neither Luke nor Jesse was prepared for Kelly’s appearance. Bandages or casts covered almost all of her body and her beautiful face was deeply bruised and swollen. Her head was wrapped in bandages, leaving only her eyes, nose and mouth visible. And her beautiful honey blonde hair had been cut.

All kinds of machines surrounded the bed and various leads and wires were connected to different parts of Kelly’s body. A machine beside the bed made a soft hissing sound as it forced air in and out of her lungs, breathing for her. A soft steady beep filled the room from another machine that was monitoring her heartbeat and her other vital signs. An IV beside the bed dripped medication into the back of her left hand.

Luke crossed to the bed and gently picked up her right hand in his, careful not to disturb the wires and leads from the various machines. Bending down, he gently kissed her lips. They were warm, but stiff and unyielding. Her skin was warm but she showed no response to his touch. “Please wake up, baby.” He whispered in her ear “Don’t leave me, not now. Not like this.”

Jesse watched his nephew, worry lines crossing his face. He didn’t know what to say to Luke to comfort him. There wasn’t really anything he could say. They all knew that Kelly was badly hurt and that all any of them could do was to wait. Doc Applegate had told them that the next seventy two hours were critical.

They were only allowed to stay for five minutes before they were asked to leave. Luke started to argue, wanting desperately to stay with Kelly, but Jesse was able to convince him to leave and let her rest. But he still refused to leave the hospital and go home with them. Afraid to leave him alone in his present state of mind, Daisy said that she would stay with him while Jesse and Bo went home.

Daisy got a couple of cokes from the vending machine and asked Luke if he wanted to get something to eat but he refused just like he done with Bo. Daisy’s heart was breaking, not just for her cousin but for her best friend too. She could feel Luke’s pain intensely and she wanted desperately to comfort him, the way he had always been there to comfort her when she was hurt. When she put her arm around him, Luke laid his head against her shoulder and began to cry. Daisy couldn’t help but cry too. Luke was the always the strong one. She had never seen him cry except when Aunt Martha died. Gently, she brushed her hand through his hair, making soft soothing sounds, not sure what else to do for him. When he finally quieted, she realized that he had fallen asleep in her arms. Not wanting to wake him, Daisy sat there beside him and let him sleep. After awhile, she finally slept herself.

Sometime later, Luke awoke with a start. He had been dreaming, in his mind watching Kelly getting hit by the car all over again. Carefully and quietly, he moved away from Daisy’s side. She was still asleep and he didn’t want to disturb her. Needing to stretch his legs, he stood up and walked down the hallway to the men’s room. Going inside, he walked over to the sink and splashed some cold water on his face. Bracing his hands against the sink, he looked into the mirror. There were deep dark circles under his eyes and the worry and fear he felt was clearly etched onto his face. His stomach growled, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten in almost two days but he didn’t have the energy to go down to the hospital cafeteria to get any food.

Walking back out to the waiting room, he dug some change out of his jeans and got a coke and a candy bar out of the one of the vending machines. There was a dull ache in his head that he knew was caused by the stress he was under. His mind was a little clearer than it had been but the pain still cut through his chest like a knife through his heart. He took a few drinks of the soda and ate two bites of the candy bar before throwing them both in the trash. He walked over to the nurse’s station to see if he could see Kelly again. After checking with the doctor, she told him that he could but only for a few minutes.

Slowly, with heavy steps, Luke entered the intensive care unit and walked over to Kelly’s bed. There was no noticeable change in her condition. He sat down beside her and took her hand in his, holding it tightly, trying desperately to will her to come back to him. If he could have, he would have happily changed places with her or given her the last bit of strength in his body if it would help her to get better. Rationally, Luke knew that there was nothing he could and he had never felt more helpless or hopeless in his life.

Or more terrified. He could feel everything he’d had with Kelly slipping through his fingers and he didn’t want to lose it. He couldn’t bear the thought of losing her again, not this way. Because this time he knew it would be for real and for all eternity. He didn’t argue when the nurse told him it was time to leave.

Daisy was still sleeping. Luke glanced at his watch; it was almost one o’clock in the morning. But he knew he wouldn’t be getting any more sleep. That was out of the question. He slumped down on the sofa beside to Daisy to wait until he could see Kelly again. He couldn’t shake the awful feeling that he was on a death watch, just waiting for a doctor to come out and tell him that Kelly was gone. That she had left him again, this time forever. Nobody is ever prepared for death or to lose someone they love. And Luke was even less prepared to lose Kelly a second time. He wasn’t seventeen anymore but he knew that this time it would hurt a lot more then it had back then. This time, she was his wife, even if she had only been Mrs. Luke Duke for a matter of hours.

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