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By Kim Shaw
KimaniCopyright © 2007 Kim Shaw
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Kennedy gently pushed her favorite compact disc of all time, Wynton Marsalis's All Rise, into the vehicle's CD changer. Instantly, the quiet car was filled with the soulful wail of a solitary trumpet. Nothing else in this world spoke to Kennedy's weary spirit after a grueling day at work like Wynton's artistry. She could always count on his music to massage her senses and transport her to a serene place.
She turned the knob of the wipers so that the blades moved faster across her car's windshield. The driving rain made it difficult for her to see more than five feet on the sleek black road ahead. It had been raining without pause for the past two days, the skies wrapped in foreboding darkness night and day. Although, even if there had been brilliant sun, Kennedy would not have known it. She spent all of her daylight hours in the office for the past two weeks. Nestled against the butter-soft beige leather of her Mercedes Benz sedan, Kennedy attempted to tension. She did not regret the fact that she had been pulling down long hours at Morgan Stanley, and while it was a major coup for a second-year analyst to be second in command on a client as prestigious and world-renown as Otman Hotels, it was the most mentally and physically exhausting challenge she'd ever faced. She couldn't help but snicker withselfsatisfaction, however, as she counted the zeros on the huge bonus that would be waiting for her at the end of the deal. She'd had her eyes on a piece of investment property and now was the perfect opportunity for her to buy something for herself without the help or interference of her parents.
Kennedy was no stranger to hard work. She'd always been driven. As far back as she could remember she had been striving to be the best. In the first grade, she'd built a volcano for the science fair. She hadn't been able to rest until she could make the thing explode and spew hot lava three feet into the air. Twenty years later she showed no signs of lightening up. A laundry list of things to do loomed ahead of her in the coming weeks. Between the Otman deal at work and assisting with the planning of her parents' thirtieth wedding anniversary celebration, she had a lot on her plate.
Right now all Kennedy wanted to think about was the hot bath she planned to take as soon as she got home. She couldn't wait to curl up with the latest Eric Jerome Dickey novel as she sipped a glass of Merlot.
The crunch of shattering glass was the last sound Kennedy heard. One minute she was driving down the slick asphalt of King Street, just a bit over a mile away from her two-bedroom duplex in Falls Church, Virginia. Suddenly, the tires of her car skidded and to no avail, she pumped the breaks, attempting to regain control. Her brain raced as she tried to remember the things you were supposed to do to avoid a wreck, yet everything seemed to be happening faster that her recollection could keep up.
The car entered into a forty-five mile per hour spin and Kennedy gripped the steering wheel, the skin taut across her knuckles. The last thing she saw before her eyes closed and her grip on consciousness fractured was a flash of lightning that zipped across the sky.
The sleeping beauty caused quite a stir at the otherwise quiet Annandale Hospital that night. It was a Tuesday evening and emergencies had taken a break for a while. As she was wheeled into the trauma center, the doctors and nurses sprung into action, determined not to lose her. While all patients received the same dedicated care at Annandale, there was something about the almost lifeless woman, whose regal beauty was still apparent even in her unconscious and battered state, that tugged at their core, causing adrenaline to surge throughout the emergency room. Her skin was burnished bronze, and her slim curvaceous figure was captivating even in crises.
Evening gave way to night as the medical staff fought to restore her. In the wee hours of the morning, shortly before dawn, Kennedy awoke from the car accident feeling as though her skin were on fire. Every inch of her 5'9" frame hurt as every muscle seemed to be torn to shreds. She attempted to open her eyes but found them tightly bandaged with a thick and endless stream of gauze and tape that had been wound securely around her curly, matted hair and throbbing head. She tried to lift her right arm, but discovered that it had been set in a cast, weighing it down and rendering it immovable. Her left arm remained under her control, but as she lifted it, a searing pain shot through her shoulder and followed a path directly to the very core of her brain.
She lay still for several minutes, her mind blurry and confused. The air held a sickening smell that was a mixture of blood, which was caked in her nostrils, and antiseptics. Nothing made sense to her, as though she were in a vacuum of suspended time and space. For a moment, she considered remaining there, lost and unknowing. Yet soon panic filled her, as her mind raced to find its way out of its solitary confinement.
Feeling as though she were trapped inside of a horror movie, Kennedy's fear mounted steadily until she began to scream in her mind at first and then attempting to let that scream out. Her voice was initially barely a whisper. Her lips felt like they were twice their normal size as she slid a thick sandpaper tongue across them. She swallowed the stickiness coating her throat and tried again. With each attempt her voice grew louder, changing from a whisper to a cracked, strangled sound. She tried again and again until finally there came a loud piercing wail of agony.
The intensive care unit door burst open and all of a sudden Kennedy's room became a mass of activity. Doctors and nurses charged in and began talking all at once, or so it seemed to her confused mind. Kennedy tried her best to make sense of what they were saying as they checked her over, reviewed her vital signs, removed, replaced and tightened bandages, but it was as if they were speaking Greek.
"Kennedy Kennedy Daniels, I'm Dr. Moskowitz. Ms. Daniels?" a deep voice called, reaching her ears from a distance it seemed.
The voices asked her a myriad of questions, wanting to know if she knew her name or could tell them where she was. Kennedy answered slowly, trying to be as coherent as she possibly could. Each word was painful to articulate, her burning throat and vocal chords refused to cooperate with her. She knew the day of the week and the date. She recited her name and date of birth. She was even able to provide an oral history of her day, right up to Wynton Marsalis and the drive home. Everything after that was a mystery to her.
She begged and clamored for them to tell her what had happened to her. When the clatter in the room finally died down, all but one of the voices faded away.
"Kennedy, I know this must all be very confusing and upsetting to you, but I need you to try to calm down," the stranger said soothingly.
He introduced himself again as Dr. Moskowitz, head of emergency medicine, and advised Kennedy that she was no longer driving toward her home but in fact at Annandale Hospital. She was in the intensive care unit where a team of doctors and nurses had been working through the night to take excellent care of her.
Kennedy could hear his voice but nothing he said made any sense to her. All she could think was that none of this could possibly be happening to her.
"Kennedy, we've contacted your family the police found their phone number in your cell phone they're on their way," Dr. Moskowitz said.
Kennedy could feel the doctor's hands on her, cold hands that checked her pulse again. While Dr. Moskowitz's voice was soft and composed, his hands felt rough against her bruised skin as he touched her.
"Kennedy, you are one fortunate young lady to have come out of that car wreck, and let me reassure you that you are going to be okay."
By the time the doctor departed, his confident words that her prognosis for a full recovery remained fair ringing in the air, Kennedy had begun to scream again. This time the anguish resonated on the inside, her voice reverberating against the walls of her brain. A heaviness settled in the pit of her stomach like a boulder at the bottom of a creek. She cried a river of tears that soaked her bandages as she prayed for God to make what was happening not be happening to her. However, it was definitely real and she never felt more alone, or more vulnerable in her entire life than she did at that moment. The once fiercely independent young woman cried like a baby for her mother to come and kiss the pain away.
Excerpted from Soul Caress by Kim Shaw Copyright © 2007 by Kim Shaw. Excerpted by permission.
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