Read an Excerpt
A Blessed Life
By Dana Corbit
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe waiting room stretched for miles in shades of warm tan and cheery peach, with pastel ocean scenes dotting the walls.
Every bit of it was a lie. There was nothing sunny or happy about sitting in this sanitized holding cell. Not when Serena would have given anything to be on the other side of the wall ... with Tessa. Instead she was forced to wait in here, helpless, while someone jammed a needle into her daughter's hip, examining the bone marrow there, looking for the worst.
"If this is a charmed life, I'd sure hate to see a cursed one." Serena didn't care if the other parents and grandparents in the room overheard her mumbling. She squeezed her eyes shut but could still see her little girl, so far from her arms. At least the three-year-old was slumbering away her mother's desertion and the medical assault on her body.
Unable to sit any longer, Serena stood and stretched her stiff legs, pacing the length of the room. She passed the television screen that had switched from a morning talk show to the midday news. Even the smell of this place - stale chips and soda - added to the nausea that had been building since this morning when she'd brought Tessa for her bone marrow biopsy - alone.
She stared by turns at the pay phone and her watch. Where wasTrent? He'd promised to be here. This time at least ... if none of the others. As frustrating as it was to admit, she knew if he walked through the door that minute, she'd forgive him for everything. For every time he'd failed her and their daughter since Tessa first became ill. Even for the indiscretions she suspected. If he'd be a stand-up husband just this once, she'd find a way to work through the rest of their problems. Finally, she gave in and dialed.
"Deirdre, this is Serena Jacobs again. May I speak to Trent?"
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Jacobs. Mr. Jacobs still isn't in. I checked his schedule, and he'd planned to be out most of the day. Is there a message I can give him when he calls in?"
"Yes, please tell him I'm still waiting at the hospital." She hung up the phone without waiting for the pleasantries.
Shuffling back to the upholstered chair she'd claimed as hers, she wrapped her sweater tightly around her shoulders. Outside, the July heat had turned southeast Michigan into a steam bath, but here inside, she was chilled to the bone. She fought the fog that was clouding her vision, but the tears came anyway, dampening her face before she could grasp for control.
Trent, please show up. Tessa needs you. I need you.
Serena pulled a tissue from her purse and dabbed at her eyes, ending up with a soggy tissue that had done nothing to stem the flow. Glancing up, she caught the other people in the waiting room trying not to stare.
She had to get control of herself. It would terrify Tessa if she saw her mother looking as if she'd just come from a funeral. In many ways she had, but that didn't matter. Not now. Tessa needed strength from her parents, at least from the one who wouldn't fail her. She straightened in her seat and rubbed her thumb along her lash line, clearing the smudged eyeliner.
No matter what the hematology oncologist told her today, she planned to stay strong for Tessa's sake. Leukemia was an unlikely diagnosis; the physicians had made that much clear. They were only ruling out the last of the "ugly" diseases before they could trust their earlier suspicions. And those weren't all that beautiful themselves.
Please, God, let it only be JRA. She stared at the floor, keeping her eyes open for fear she would pass out if she shut out the light. Her stomach clenched and sweat gathered under her bangs. What was she saying? Had she lost her mind? She shook her head. Here she wasn't just hoping, but begging, that Tessa would have to live with a potentially crippling chronic illness like juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. How could she wish that on her own child?
But that answer was as simple as that most wonderful word she kept repeating like a mantra: life. No matter how difficult a diagnosis of JRA was, it, unlike several of the diseases the specialists had ruled out in the past few months, was something Tessa could live with. Recent medical advances even made it possible for her to have a high quality of life. Serena realized she didn't have the luxury of worrying about levels of contentment yet. When she straightened, a renewed strength filled her.
"Mrs. Jacobs?" The anesthesiologist stood before her, waiting until she looked up. "Tessa's in Phase One Recovery, which means she's still sleeping, but I'll go ahead and allow you into the PACU - that's the post-anesthesia care unit - if you'd like to wait with her."
When she reached the unit, Tessa was lying very still in the hospital bed, looking even tinier than when the anesthesiologist had taken her away. Her need to make physical contact with her child was so strong that Serena leaned over and brushed the mass of dark curls from Tessa's forehead. She traced the line of thick lashes resting against the child's cheek. Tessa started, showing she was returning to consciousness.
Serena pulled her chair close to the bed, leaned her head against the rail and poked her arms through the bars, simply to touch her daughter's hand. She should not have allowed the doctors to take Tessa away. A better mother would have insisted, no matter what the hospital's ridiculous rules, on being allowed in the operating room.
She might have been too numb to fight earlier, but she had to scratch her way out of this void now. Tessa needed her. That was the important thing.
Staring down at her little girl, Serena felt the lullaby they sang together each night come from somewhere deep inside her. "Hush-a-bye, don't you cry, go to sleep, my little baby. When you wake, you will have all the pretty little horses." She wanted to sing away all of the pain and the broken promise that she'd always protect Tessa.
The child awoke in slow, groggy increments, moaning as she returned from that dark place of unnatural sleep.
"Hi, angel-cookie. Mommy's here." Serena used the singsong voice that had always calmed her daughter's bad dreams until now. But those visions had been only of monsters that inhabited closets or toys that made mischief. She wasn't at all sure she had any remedy for Tessa's very real nightmares today.
Excerpted from A Blessed Life by Dana Corbit Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.