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"There's a Mr. Edward Hanson to see you, Mrs. Osborne. He says it's urgent that he speak to you."
Maggie stared at her secretary. What could Trent's lawyer have to say that would be urgent? Hope flared to life in her heart. Could this be the Lord's answer to prayer? she wondered. Had Trent rethought the idea of divorce as she'd begged him to do?
The flame of hope flickered and dimmed a bit. Were that the case, Trent would have come himself. Just last week hadn't he said he wouldn't change his mind? He'd even asked her not to contact him again. He'd reminded her that he was dating. He was marvelously happy with his life the way it was. The past was past, he'd said. His future lay ahead.
And losing him was all her fault. "Show him in, Connie." She forced a smile, her heartache too personal to share with a co-worker. "Oh...okay," Connie said, clearly surprised at the break in policy.
Having cut her hours, Maggie's appointments were carefully scheduled now. Forty to forty-five hours a week. That was all she'd ever give to a career again.
Maggie watched Connie's wide retreating back for a few short seconds, then she closed her eyes. Please Lord. Let this be good news. Bless my marriage. Bring Trent back to me.
Maggie stood to greet Ed Hanson. His sandy hair was in its usual disarray, his jacket wrinkled as always. He was a man she'd once considered a friend, though he'd been Trent's friend since childhood. And like most of their friends, he had chosen sides in the divorce--Trent's side.
"Ed, good to see you. Won't you have a seat? Can Connie get you something? A cup of coffee? Iced tea or a softdri--" Maggie's breath hitched in her throat when she saw the desolate expression in Ed's pale blue eyes. Her hand came up to cover her heart.
"What's wrong? Is it Trent? Has something happened to him?"
Ed shook his head. "It's Sarah and Michael. And the kids. They were on vacation."
"Yes, I know. Sarah and Michael have remained friends. We attend the same church now. In fact, they--" She stopped. She was babbling. Her heart clenched with fear. "What's happened?"
This time Ed's eyes clouded with tears that he blinked back. Maggie instinctively sank into her chair as Ed began his explanation. "They apparently almost made it to their destination. Two more exits and they'd have been fine. But they didn't make it. Their van was hit by an eighteen-wheeler. The police say the driver fell asleep at the wheel."
"How badly are they hurt?" Maggie demanded, on her feet once again.
"Sit down, Maggie," Ed said, his tone sad and frighteningly kind.
"Why?" Her voice shook. "Why must I sit down?"
"Because it isn't good. Not good at all." Ed took a slow deep breath. "There's no easy way to say this. Sarah was killed instantly. Michael only lasted an hour."
"Lord, give me strength," Maggie prayed, and once again her fledgling faith did give her the strength she needed. She found she could breathe after all, and her heart settled back into her chest as she settled back into her chair. The children. She needed to think of the children and the loss they had suffered. "The children!"
"Calm down. The kids are all alive. Michael even managed to stay conscious long enough to give permission to the hospital to treat them, so there's no worry there. Mickey has a spinal injury. They won't know the full extent of it until they finish tests on him. He's the worst off. Daniel suffered a concussion but he's conscious and seems to be out of danger. Grace has cuts and bruises and is under observation. Rachel was in the rear of the van and wasn't even hurt badly enough to be hospitalized. She's with an emergency care family."
"Thank you for letting me know in person," Maggie said, her voice barely above a whisper. "Who did Sarah and Michael appoint guardians after Trent and I separated? She never said."
Ed grimaced. "Actually, that's why I'm here. They never did change that. You and Trent are still the guardians."
"But Trent and I--""
"Will be divorced by the end of the year. But Sarah never believed it would happen. She said she was praying Trent would change his mind. I tried to convince her but--""
"Sarah is nothing if not stubborn." Maggie felt her stomach bottom out. "Oh...was. She was." Maggie bit back tears and pressed her fingertips tightly against her lips. If she started to cry now she might not be able to stop.
"There are going to be a lot of adjustments for you, Maggie."
"But Trent isn't going to change his mind. He doesn't even want any contact with me."
"Maggie, you left him.""
"And no one regrets that more than I do. I was wrong, but at the time I saw no other way. I guess I was trying to force him to change his mind about an adoption. But he didn't, and I doubt he ever will."
"It isn't all that unusual," Ed said, defending Trent. "He doesn't want to raise someone else's kids. But Michael believed that if something happened to them, Trent would feel differently about raising his own nieces and nephews. And you know as well as I do that Trent agreed to the guardianship without giving it any thought at all. The chance of something happening to both of them was one in a million. And Trent thought Michael led a charmed life, that nothing bad would ever happen to him."
Maggie just stared at him, still stunned. She and Trent were still their guardians? It was all too much to take in. "Where is Trent, and how did he take the news?"
"He's in Toronto on business. I called him before I came here. He sounded as if he was in shock at first. He's utterly devastated, Maggie. You know how important Michael was to him. He's flying to Florida as soon as he can get a flight. I don't know when that will be."
She thought of Sarah and Michael's parents, of their loss. "Have Nancy and Albertine and Royce Osborne been told?"
Ed's eyes shifted away. "No. I'll tell them on my way to the airport. I've got us booked on a flight at six. That gives you about an hour-and-a-half to pack a bag and get to the airport." Ed stood. "Meet me at Southern Air's terminal entrance no later than five. Okay?"
Maggie's first glimpse of Trent was at Mickey's bedside the next morning. He was holding his eight-year-old nephew's hand. Trent's face was in profile, his black hair glinted with blue highlights in the sunlight from a nearby window. She stood there just feasting on his face, remembering the wonder and excitement of being held in his arms. Then Mickey's ragged breath drew her attention.
He had tears in his eyes, and, when one fell, Trent reached up with a tissue to dry it before it ran into the boy's blond hair. "Everything's going to be all right, Mickey," Trent was saying. "The doctors said not being able to feel your legs is normal right now. It doesn't mean anything bad, yet."
Last night when she'd arrived Mickey had been asleep, and it had seemed cruel to wake him with news of his parents' deaths. With Trent not yet there, she had elected to wait to tell Mickey the bad news. Rachel had been another story. She'd been released to a foster family and was apparently inconsolable, having seen her mother dead at the scene and her father and brothers and sister taken off in ambulances.
Ed had remained at the hospital, and Maggie had gone to Rachel. Though the woman taking care of the six-year-old had been kind, she'd also been out of her depth trying to console a grief-stricken child. Maggie had calmed Rachel and reassured her. She'd finally lulled her into an exhausted sleep, but it had been a rough night as nightmares of the crash and its aftermath had haunted the small girl. Maggie had only gotten what little sleep she'd had by lying in the tiny twin bed with her.
This morning Rachel had clung to her, so leaving her behind with a stranger had been impossible. With no clear alternative, Maggie had brought her along to the hospital. Ed was now ensconced with Rachel in a waiting room.
"I want Mommy and Daddy. Where are they?" Mickey demanded.
Maggie let only a tiny sound of distress pass her lips, but Trent twisted in his seat and looked at her.
His startling blue eyes were so filled with pain and confusion that it nearly broke her already shattered heart into even more pieces.
What do I say? those beloved eyes shouted at her. Praying for the right words, Maggie walked in and stood behind Trent. She put her hand on his shoulder, and he stiffened. Maggie almost removed it, but after a few seconds he seemed to lean into her touch as if he needed her as much as she did him at that moment.
"Mickey," she said.
The child's eyes sought hers. "Aunt Maggie, do you know where Mommy and Daddy are?"
Trent moved closer, dropping to one knee near the head of the bed. His height allowed him the same vantage point he'd had before, and he kept hold of Mickey's hand. Maggie settled into the hard plastic chair Trent had vacated.
"Do you? Do you know where they are?" he asked again.
Maggie nodded, and she saw Trent squeeze Mickey's hand even more tightly. "Do you remember anything about the accident at all?" she asked.
"I woke up from the ambulance noise. Some man was strapping me into a hard bed thing. Rachel was crying and so was Grace."
"A very big truck hit the van while you were sleeping. Everybody but Rachel was hurt. I heard Uncle Trent explaining that you can't feel your legs because your back was injured. Daniel's head is hurt but he's doing fine. Grace was cut by glass and she's doing fine, too. But Mommy and Daddy were in the front of the van where the truck smashed into you. They were both hurt very badly, and the doctors just couldn't help them. Honey, Mommy and Daddy have gone to heaven to be with Jesus."
Tears filled Mickey's eyes and poured out. His lower lip trembled. "When Pop-Pop Morris went to heaven, I could never see him again. They can't come back to see me either, can they?"
"No honey, but they'll be watching you and you'll always have them right here," she promised, laying her hand over Mickey's heart. "We have to think of what's best for them even though we miss them so very much that it makes us hurt. Because you see, they were both in such terrible pain that Jesus came to take them to heaven where they wouldn't hurt anymore."
"Do you think that before Jesus came for them they were as scared as I was 'til Uncle Trent came to see me?"
Maggie's eyes met Trent's. "Oh, yes. But hurt and scared as your daddy was, he was more worried about you children. The last thing he did here on earth was to make sure the doctors knew to take care of all of you, and to call us."
"Aunt Maggie, is it all right for me to be sad? I'm glad Jesus came for them, but I'm still sad."
"Yes, honey. That's just fine. I'm sad sometimes and miss my daddy. But I know Pop-Pop Morris would never want me to stay sad all the time."
"I'm still scared, too. Who's going to take care of us now? Who's going to be our mommy and daddy?"
Maggie smiled, hoping to reassure the child, though all she felt was turmoil and conflict. "We will.
Daddy and Mommy made us your guardians. That's a big lawyer word that means Uncle Trent and I will always be here for you."
Mickey's eyes sought out Trent and his hand came up to pat Trent's cheek. "Thank you for guarding me, Uncle Trent." Mickey's big brown eyes blinked, then closed.
Maggie waited a few moments. "He's asleep, Trent," she whispered. "Ed wants to talk to both of us."
Trent let go of Mickey's hand and stood. He looked down at her, his eyes angry. "That's fine. But we'd better get a few things straight between us first."
He turned and stalked to the hall. He was hurting, she reminded herself. Trent always processed hurt into anger. She'd never understood why until meeting his parents. They'd never react to something so subtle as hurt feelings. Hurt was something one was expected not to show, to get over alone and then to forget. However cold anger or righteous indignation were acceptable reactions.
Maggie took a deep breath and prayed for guidance, then stood and followed her husband into the hall.
"You did a great job with him," Trent said. "I didn't have a clue how to explain about Mike and Sarah. Thank you."
"No thanks necessary. I just said what I believe and what Michael and Sarah would have wanted him to hear."
"You were doing fine until you promised him we'd both be there for him. You know that isn't the way it's going to be."
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