Jon assisted Denise out of his car. They had just finished a wild game of tennis at the Country Club, and of course, he had won. Denise smiled, thinking he might not have if she hadn’t slacked off a few times deliberately, but he was so handsome when he felt proud of himself, a little cocky she thought, but handsome!
They walked up to the porch and Jon held the door open for her.
“Surprise!” shouted the group of her friends and family.
Caught off guard, Denise just stood there looking around as everyone was talking, laughing, blowing party whistles, and acting silly!
A surprise birthday party! She had not expected this as her birthday was not until Monday, but she was very excited. How had they pulled this off without her getting suspicious? But, it was a wonderful treat to have all her friends over for the fun! Jon had returned from college for the weekend and now Denise realized that, of course, Mom would have planned the party so he could be here.
She had missed Jon so much. It seemed months since he had been home last, but actually it had only been two weeks. It sounded simple enough, when Jon had told her he would be home from school every weekend, but, it hadn’t panned out that way. He had so much homework, so many tests, and he just couldn’t study at home, he had told her, not knowing she was just next door. He had been very sweet about it all, and came home every chance he got, but, of course, he had to make good in school. His whole future depended on it!
The cake and punch were delicious, as well as beautiful, and Denise lavished praise on her mom and Vickie, Jon’s mother, for a job well done!
But of all the surprises, Denise was most shocked when Dad walked in the room and handed her a set of car keys.
“Now that you’re sixteen and can get your unrestricted drivers license we figured you might could use a car! Besides your Mother is tired of accompanying you back and forth to the hospital.” Dad laughed as he hugged his ecstatic daughter.
Denise had signed up as volunteer at the local hospital to avoid idle time while Jon was away, after she returned from cheer- leading camp. She had learned to feel kind of “at home” at the hospital when Dad was there, and at Nancy’s suggestion that they do volunteer work together, Denise had jumped at the chance.
Running out the front door, followed by a procession of laughing, shouting friends and family, Denise spotted a metallic lavender Volkswagon convertible with a large white bow on the hood. It was just darling!
“It’s second-hand, but it’s as good as new. and it’ll get good gas mileage too.” Dad pointed out.
Denise hugged him hard as tears filled her eyes, then went to Mom and gave her a big hug and kissed her cheek.
“Oh, thank you Mom, Dad! I love it!” Denise shouted as she walked around her new car, gently touching the shiny finish. She was so proud of it. Her folks were absolutely the greatest, she thought to herself.
Jon was standing nearby and she reached for him, giving him a big hug too. She was so happy! All was right with her world. But the best part was looking into those big, brown eyes of Jon’s, and seeing her joy reflected in them. But late Sunday afternoon, she again was saying goodbye to Jon.
“I’ll call you tonight when I get back to the campus, OK? And I’ll be back Friday night, if I possibly can. I miss you so much when I’m gone.” Jon was saying with much emotion. He took her in his arms, kissed her tenderly, then released her, got in his car and drove off, waving to her, and his family.
Denise stood, as she had each time he had left, trying to restrain her tears, waving, and throwing kisses in his direction. All she could do now was wait for his call.
But that night after supper. Dad approached Denise and Todd with an unexpected proposal. “Your Mom and I have been talking about taking a trip. an extended vacation, before I go back to work at the office. We’re thinking about touring Europe. There’s a discount available now through a travel agency, and we’d be gone about a month. What do you two think about it? Do you want to go?”
“Gosh, Dad,” Todd said. “What about Little League? I made it to the All Star playoffs! I can’t miss my games!”
“Yeah, and I’m doing volunteer work at the hospital. Of course, I guess I could get out of it if I tried,” Denise said thoughtfully. “But I really enjoy doing it. It really seems to make some of the patients feel better!”
“Well, if you want to go, either of you or both. you can,” Doris spoke up. “But the doctor suggested that Dad have a vacation, a good, long, relaxing one, before he returns to the stress of daily work. And I’m all for it! I can use the rest too! ”
“We’re planning on leaving the last week in July, so we’d be back just before school starts. Its up to you whether or not you want to go along.” Tom explained.
He looked at Denise, then at Todd. “Just think about it and make up your own minds. That’s only a couple of weeks off, you know. You can stay with your grandparents, I’m sure, if you decide not to go.
Just then the phone rang, and Denise jumped to get it, sure it would be Jon’s call. “OK, Dad, I’ll see what I can come up with.”
“Hello. Oh, Jon, I’ve been waiting for you to call. What took you so long?” Denise quizzed, jokingly.
The next morning Denise drove her new car to the hospital, elated at no longer having to be accompanied by an adult driver. Of course, she would have to go take her driving test to make it all legal. But, she could go right after work. She was so proud to have her own car!
Denise met Nancy and some of the other volunteers and nurses in the locker room at the hospital . Everybody was full of excitement, as the night nurses were telling the day crew about a new patient that had been admitted to ICU early this morning, a victim of an apparent one car accident. It appeared that the young woman had been traveling alone when the wreck happened. No one knew how long she had been injured before being spotted by another traveler, as the car was almost under a large culvert near a seldom traveled highway. The rescuer had called the ambulance. But, no one had found any identification, so she was admitted to ICU as Jane Doe, suffering from blood loss, head injuries and a fractured leg. She continued to remain unconscious.
“Bet she went to sleep while she was driving,” Nancy surmised.
“Do they think she’ll pull through?” Denise asked curiously.
“Well, Sheila, the aide on the second floor, was saying earlier that the nurse on duty told her it could be pretty serious, but they’re hopeful.
“Its awful that they can’t let her family know about the accident!” Denise said, remembering the anxiety her family had experienced when Dad was sick, but, not to know would be much worse.
“They said the car was so badly smashed front and back, they couldn’t find a trace of identification, no wallet, license plates, nothing! But. I’m sure they’ll keep looking.”
“Yeah, well, maybe she’ll come to and tell us who she is.” Denise said, feeling deep sympathy for the woman and her unknowing fami1y.
As the elevator came to a halt on the fourth floor of the old hospial. Nancy and Denise began making their way to the nurses’ station to check the patient list. (With some patients, you could go in, visit briefly, offer a magazine and run errands, but some were not to be disturbed.)
They spoke cordially to the nurses, aides and housekeepers as they passed them in the hall. Everyone was always so busy, especially in the mornings.
“Guess what!” Denises* mind returned to last night’s discussion.
“What?” Nancy replied, seeing Denise was being dramatic.
“I have a chance to tour Europe this summer if I want to go. Think I should?”
“Do I think you should go to Europe? Are you crazy? You’d have to be out of your mind to pass up a chance like that! Who’s going? Give me the details! Can I go, too?” Nancy said excitedly.
“Well, the doctor suggested Dad take a long vacation before returning to work so Mom and Dad decided to go to Europe. They got some kind of special deal through a local travel agency, and they’ll be gone about a month and get back just before school starts. But Todd’s in Little League with All Star playoffs coming up soon, and I’m doing the volunteer work and–”
“And you can’t stand to think about being away from Jon for a whole month! That’s what’s bothering you, isn’t it?” asked Nancy, knowingly.
“Well, yeah, that’s a big part of it! But I think I’d really miss my volunteer work, too. I’ll have to quit when school starts anyway, but I haven’t decided yet what I’m gonna do. I do think it’ll be good for Mom and Dad to get away. Of course, I can stay with either of my grandparents if I decide not to go. I don’t know. I just haven’t decided yet. I’ll talk to Jon about it this weekend, though.”
They were waiting at the nurses* station for the lists, but everyone was busy right now.
“So”, Nancy began, “did you ever find out anything more about that red-head with the beige pumps?”
Denise laughed. They had talked that scene over and over and had discussed every possible angle, still knowing no more than they did at the first! But, Denise had avoided the subject of what had happened graduation night. She couldn’t confide in anybody about that. Besides, she had forgiven Jon, anyway. “No, not yet! Guess I’ll just have to ask Jon about it sometime. Of course, there’s no absolute quarantee I’d get the truth, but I don’t know any better way. But, I’m not really even concerned about it anymore. Jon has been a perfect angel.”
“Yeah, but you haven’t seen much of him since he went off to college, and he went pretty soon after graduation.” Nancy reminded her.
“Well, I’m sure that he cares about me! Everytime we’re together he proves it to me!” Denise said smuggly.
“I know, I just love that necklace he gave you for your birthday. Expensive, I’ll bet.”
“You better believe it! I looked in an exclusive catalog from the store where they do a lot of shopping the other day, not that it would matter if it wasn’t, you know. I’d still love it, because Jon gave it to me. I was just curious because I know he can’t really afford much on his allowance and with all his college expenses, and everything. But the necklace was in there, all right, and it’s worth a pretty penny!”
A nurse appeared in front of them, handed them a list each and they went separate directions, leaving the magazine cart in the hall, pushed out of the way.
Time to get my mind back on these poor, sick people, Denise thought, as she walked down the hall to #1 on the list.
It Continues Still…