Robbie soaked in a warm bath while his mother whipped up some blueberry pancakes, but by then his weariness over took his hunger and he could barely keep his eyes open long enough to get one pancake down.
"Come on, buddy. Let's get you into bed. You've had a rough night,” Fred said and he lifted his son up from his chair at the kitchen table and carried him to bed.
"Night Robbie," Jamie called after them, "I'm glad you're okay."
The boys had awakened to find George in the kitchen making coffee. "Were are Mom and Dad?” Thomas asked.
“They are at the hospital have Robbie’s leg checked out,” George answered.
“They found him?” Jamie asked. “Is he okay?”
George had explained to them what he knew and then offered them a breakfast of cold cereal or oatmeal.
Since arriving home, Fred has yet to speak to his two older sons, barely even looking at them or acknowledging them in the room.
"Come on, Jamie. Lets go watch television," Thomas said, standing from the table.
"Why don't you boys help your mother clear the table and wash the dishes," Fred said walking back into the kitchen.
"Yes, sir," Thomas said.
The boys set to work clearing the table, rinsing the dishes, and loading them into the dishwasher. "We are in so much trouble," Thomas whispered to his brother.
"Why do you say that?"
"I can just tell. Dad is pissed. He’s waiting to cool off before he says anything, but we are in for it, you wait and see."
Jamie shrugged. Thomas always thought they were in big trouble, and usually it all would add up to a lecture from their father or maybe being grounded for a few days. It seldom was as bad as Thomas seemed to fear.
Later that afternoon, Robbie asked if he could get up and play a video game.
"Of course honey, you don't have to stay in bed. If you feel like getting up for awhile then that's what you should do. You want me to get you the crutches?" Susan asked.
"Yeah." The crutches were hard to use and hurt his arm pits, but Robbie knew that it would only be a matter of time before Thomas started teasing him if he asked their father to carry him every where.
"Hey squirt,” Jamie said as Robbie made his way slowly to the sofa. "How’re you doing?"
"Okay, I guess. Want to play a video game?"
"Sure. Which one? You pick."
They hadn't been playing the game too long when Thomas walked in. "Come on, Jamie, let’s go outside."
"Thomas, I'm playing a game with Robbie right now. You go outside."
Thomas flopped down on the chair across from where Jamie and Robbie sat. "Why did you do it, brat?"
"Do what?" Robbie asked, putting his controller down.
"Get lost like that, get Jamie and I in trouble. Was it because I made you go look for wood by yourself? Or do you just enjoy getting me in trouble?"
"I didn't do it on purpose, Thomas. I swear."
"Good God, Thomas, shut up. You are such an ass. He didn't get lost on purpose," Jamie said with disgust.
"Whatever." Thomas got up and stormed out of the house, letting the screen door slam behind him.
"Why does he hate me so much?" Robbie asked.
"He doesn't hate you, Robbie. It's just Thomas, he’s that way to me too."
"No he's not, not like he is to me. I always make him mad, no matter what I do. Why?"
"I don't know, Robbie. But I promise you from now on I'll stick up for you, okay? From now on when he bullies you I'll be there to stop him."
“Mr. Chase has suffered a massive stroke,” the doctor said once everyone was seated in the waiting area. “The next seventy-two hours are critical. If he makes it through them, we’ll be able to tell how much of an effect the stroke has had on his brain. However, even if he survives he will more than likely have paralysis on the left side of his body. His vision may be impaired, as well as his speech.”
“If he survives?” Thomas asked. “You don’t expect him to?”
“The next seventy-two hours will be crucial,” the doctor repeated. “We will do everything we can for him. If there are any more of your immediate family, you may want to call them.”
Silence fell around them as they each absorbed the doctor’s words. “I’m sorry I don’t have better news,” the doctor added.
Susan’s quiet sob brought the brothers out of their own thoughts. Thomas was sitting closest to her and silently slipped his arm around her, pulling her to him.
Robbie watched his older brother and for the first time realized the weight Thomas must carry. As the oldest he was expected to take care of everyone, everything. Fred has always place so much responsibility on Thomas. What has it been like growing up with that?
“Thank you, Doctor,” Jamie said as the doctor rose to leave them with their grief.
“Mom, have you had anything to eat?” Thomas asked when she pulled back from him, wiping her eyes.
“No, but really dear, I’m not hungry.”
“You need to keep your strength up though. Why don’t you go with Robbie and Jamie down to the cafeteria and get a little something to eat, okay?”
“I don’t want to leave your father,” she protested.
“I’ll be here with him and I can come get you if there’s any change. You won’t be far.” It was obvious that he wanted his brothers to take her out of the area, but neither was sure as to why.
“Come on Mom, let’s go see what they have to eat,” Robbie said taking her arm. There was no point in arguing with Thomas.
“Oh, all right, but I’m really not hungry.”
“We know, but you need to try to eat anyway,” Jamie took to her other side as they led her down to the cafeteria.
“Mom, would you like for us to go by the house and pick up a change of clothes and some things for you to freshen up?” Robbie asked after they had her seated at a table with a bowl of vegetable soup in front of her.
“That would be lovely. You boys don’t need to stay here with me though. You go to the house and rest for the night.”
“Mother, we aren’t going to leave you here alone.”
Susan nodded. “You’re such good boys, but I’ll have Thomas with me. Jamie, would you get me a cup of coffee?”
After he had walked away from the table, Susan sighed and slumped just a little in her chair. “What will I do, Robbie? If I lose your father, what will I do?”
Robbie slid his arm around her shoulder. “Don’t you worry about that right now, okay? We’ll be here, we’ll get you through this.” There was no point in giving her pat answers; this was going to be a tough row to hoe either way. She would need their support through this whether Fred lived with a stroke-impaired body or if he died, as Robbie felt, might be more merciful.
Jamie came back with her coffee and the brothers exchanged a look as they both wondered just how this would all play out.
“Thank you, dear,” Susan said, taking the paper cup. “I think I’m ready to go back now.”
“Eat some of your soup, Mom, please.”
They managed to coax her to eat most of it then walked with her back to the ICU area. Thomas was there obviously waiting on their return.
“Mom, come with me. I’m going to show you a room for you to rest in,” Thomas said, walking toward them.
“I don’t want to rest, Thomas.” Susan’s weariness was starting to show in her voice.
“Okay, well let me show you where it is in case you want to use it later. They have an area for the families of ICU patients, where you can sleep or shower and change clothes, and the nurses can come get you if they need to.”
Thomas was in full on take-charge mode. There was no point in trying to stop him. “Jamie, why don’t you and Robbie go to the house and get Mom a change of clothes.”
Susan gave Robbie a nod and a slight smile. He remembered this signal from her when he was a child - ‘do as your brother wants’ it conveyed. It was usually easier to just go along with what Thomas wanted; let him run the show. Robbie supposed Susan realized this and was accustomed to it, as Thomas was so much like their father in that aspect.
“Come on Jamie,” Robbie said. “We’ll be back in a little bit, Mom. Is there anything in particular you want us to get?”
“My needlepoint and crosswords, they’re by my chair in the den.”
They were silent a good part of the drive home. Jamie kept waiting for Robbie to start complaining about Thomas, but it never came.
“You hungry?” Jamie asked as they got to the part of town where a majority of the fast food places were. Neither man had bothered to eat at the hospital.
“I don’t care, any of these are fine.”
“Wow, you’re even willing to eat junk food?” It was a long-standing joke between them, Jamie’s love for fast food and Robbie’s distain for it.
“Just not McDonalds, please.”
“Ah, so there is a limit as to how far you will fall.”
Robbie shook his head, “Too tired to care is more like it.”
“Have you called Sara yet?” Robbie asked as Jamie pulled out from the drive through window.
“No, I need to, maybe when we’re at the house. Do you want your food now?”
“No, let’s take it home. Will she come?”
“Yeah, it may take her a day or two to clear her schedule.”
“Lisa too, I assume,” Robbie said.
“I’d imagine, “ Jamie waited for Robbie to go on, when he didn’t he said, “Koi’ll want to be here for you too.”
Robbie frowned, “Yeah, he will, but he can’t. I can’t do that to Mom.”
“Do what? Invite a friend to come here to support you?”
Robbie rolled his eyes, “He’s not my friend; he’s my lover and I won’t ask him to pretend he’s not. Besides, people would talk and even more important I don’t want to subject him to Thomas. I just hope I can convince him to stay home.”
Not for the first time Jamie felt for his brother, for how hard his life must be, and how much harder Robbie made it on himself.