My wife is a huge Dr. Quinn fan and has all, save three, episodes on tape. After finding your fan fiction page, I was inspired to try my hand at writing a story for her. Accordingly, this one is dedicated to my wife, Mary.
by Rob Bell
She couldn’t tell when it began, all at once it was just there. The sound came into her head like the evening fog drifts into the valley, hardly noticeable at first, and like a thickening fog, the sound grew louder. At first it was hard to distinguish what it was, but as it became clearer she could tell it was high pitched wailing. It slowly grew louder and louder. It was a harsh sound, but yet she felt drawn to it. She wanted, needed, to be closer. She had to know what it was. It sounded like....like.....like a baby crying. It sounded like Katie crying. Katie was crying!
Michaela jerked upright in her bed. Her disheveled hair was damp from sweat as she had not moved since she last fell asleep. Disoriented, her head was still clouded with the fading mists of dreams and sleep. She pressed her palms to her forehead to try to concentrate. She still heard it. It wasn’t a dream. Katie was crying, again. How many times had she been awakened by the child tonight? Four? Five? When was the last time? She vaguely remembered the clock chiming four just before she collapsed back into bed. Into the empty bed that is. Sully was not there. She was alone and had been so for some time now. It seemed that he was gone so very often. He was missing a large part of Katie’s life and each time he returned, it took Michaela and him longer to get back to ‘normal’. It wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. She wasn’t supposed to be alone out here. Of course she wasn’t really alone, as Matthew and Brian were with her. But while a comfort, they couldn’t fill the need a woman feels for her man. Inside, a part of her was missing. Of all times for Katie to get sick, it had to be when he was gone with Cloud Dancing to meet with the federation of tribes in Nevada! It was just a cold, but the poor thing was stuffed up, feverish and for the past few days her ordinarily sweet disposition had changed to that of a stepped on wet cat! There was no Sully to say, “I’ll do it” while he gently pushed her back into the haven of sleep. She had to do it herself.
A sudden piercing cry brought Michaela back to reality. She pushed her legs out of the bed and groped for her robe. It fell off the bed onto the floor just out of her reach as Katie let out a particularly shrill shriek. It pierced her ears and made her already aching head hurt even more. Unsteadily at first, she got up and started toward the crib. Getting her feet tangled in her cast-off robe, she almost fell, smashing her toe against a chair in the process. She let out a short cry and then clamped her hand over her mouth, afraid she would frighten the already fretful baby. She hobbled over to the crib and picked up the child.
She carried Katie over to the rocker he had made and sat down. She gently rocked back and forth and hummed some tune she had heard the children in town singing a few days before. She didn’t know the words, but neither did Katie and she doubted the child would care what they were anyway. The re-assuring touch of her mother was enough to instantly cause the child to quiet down. She still cried, but now it was a soft, almost sobbing, cry. She fidgeted and struggled at first, but then settled in as the rhythm of the rocker began to have its desired effect. Finally she fell quiet and all Michaela could hear was her breathing. She was probably asleep, but Michaela did not move, just in case. Katie had gone limp. She was a small child, but after this night, it felt like fifty pounds on Michaela’s shoulder. Continuing to rock and hum, Michaela stared out the window. The tops of the pine trees formed a dark green horizon against the blue black sky. In the east, it was just beginning to brighten to a shade of violet. Michaela could hear the clock chiming 5 downstairs. Another day,.....alone.
When she was sure that Katie was asleep, she ventured to put her back in the crib Sully had made for her. The child must have finally cried herself out because she never moved or uttered a sound. Michaela took a moment to straighten Katie’s bed clothes and make sure she was covered, then gave her a kiss on the forehead. Her lips sensed that the fever had now broken. Relieved at that, she slowly straightened up. Her back was stiff and ached a bit. It was no wonder as she had been carrying or rocking the child half the night. Michaela’s arms felt limp and heavy and all the sleep was still not out of her head. She thought she would lie down for just a bit more to freshen up her mind. But as she bent over to pick up her robe, she heard Matthew and Brian stirring. They were getting up to start the morning chores; cows to be milked, a cooking fire to be lit and all the other small tasks that starting a day entails. That was it, her night was over. Another day with all its opportunities, joys, trials and demands was beginning. It would come whether she was ready or not, so she might as well be ready. Tired as she was, she started to make herself presentable.
The cool water on her face finally brought her fully awake. It ran down her back and chest and soaked into her nightgown, but the damp coolness of it felt good after the feverish night. She shivered as a single cold drop ran between her shoulders and down the small of her back. After pulling off the damp gown, she dried herself. The abrasiveness of the towel made her skin tingle and chased away the chill. She was starting to feel more human. She quickly dressed and sat in front of the mirror at her vanity and stared at her hair. She tried a few strokes with a brush, but it became caught in knots and tangles and pulled at her head. ‘I’m too tired to fight with this’, she thought.’I’ll just put it up.’ She twisted the partially damp hair and piled it on her head. Securing it with some pins she dropped her hands to the table and looked into the mirror. Some wayward strands of hair pulled free and stuck out like lightening bolts and the entire hairdo was slightly askew. Her face was pale and her eyes dull. She looked tired. ‘No wonder!’ she thought. She was tired. But the day would not wait any longer. She pushed a few of the loose strands of hair back in place and preceded to start to face the day.
The morning passed as usual. Matthew chopped wood, Brian lit the cooking fire and then helped Matthew milk the cows. Michaela cooked breakfast and after they had all eaten, she and Brian cleaned up while Matthew went back outside to more chores and then Brian was off to school. The little morning routine never varied very much, but the familiarity of it was helping her feel more normal after the distressing night she had had.
After checking back on Katie, Michaela took more care in getting ready. She had office hours to keep and she couldn’t let her patients see her like this. Matthew was going to watch the baby until Michaela got back. She didn’t want him to bring Katie into town as he normally did due to her cold, so she resolved to get out of the clinic early and come home. Maybe she could even get in a nap before dinner.
Office hours at the clinic attracted the usual assortment of minor ailments, injuries, and general complaints. Nothing she hadn’t seen a hundred times before, but it was of the utmost importance at the time to the person she was treating. She could do most of it in her sleep and by 1:00 PM she felt as if she was. The night was catching up with her. She found herself nodding off as she worked on patients’ records.
‘I’ve got to wake up.’ she thought. ‘I’ll walk over to the telegraph office to see if my shipment of supplies has arrived. Maybe the fresh air will clear my head.’ Locking the door behind her, she set off.
“Mornin’ Doctor Quinn!” Horace greeted her as she approached his window. “What a beautiful day!”. He smiled at her and waited for a reply.
“Yes, beautiful.” she said with little effort.
His expression changed as he got a better look at her.
“Gee, Doctor Quinn, you look terrible! Well.... I mean.....” he stumble over his words as he strove to cover himself. “I mean.....I mean you don’t look like yourself. You look tired.”
“I’m alright, Horace. Katie has had a cold and I’m afraid I haven’t been getting too much sleep lately.”
“Is she alright?” he asked with genuine concern.
“Yes, she’s fine now. The fever broke this morning but I’m afraid it happened a little too late for me to benefit.” No sense trying to hide the obvious. Might as well own up to how she looked and felt.
Adopting his best manly take-charge posture he said “Well, if you need anything, any help or anything, you let me know. I know its hard with Sully bein’ gone for so long so I’ll do what I can to help out if you need somethin done.” Horace was one of the genuinely nice people in Colorado Springs. Many took him for a fool or for being slow, but it took a pretty sharp mind to work a telegraph office and handle all the railroad business and he rarely made a mistake.
“Thank you for the offer, Horace, but Matthew is a there and Brian is more of a help every day. I think we can manage.” She smiled. Purposely changing the subject she asked, “Did my supplies from Denver come in on the morning train?”
“No, m’am, no packages at all. But you did get this envelope all the way from Boston.” He dug under the counter and produced a large manila envelope that was obviously stuffed to capacity with something. “Kind a small for medicines. Did you order something out of a catalogue?”
Not that it was any of his business anyway, she took the envelope and replied “No, I’m only expecting those medical supplies from Denver.” She was surprised when she looked at the return address. “This is from the doctors that took over my father’s practice when I left Boston.”
Horace stared first at her, then the envelope and then back at her. It was obvious that curiosity was killing him. “What do ya suppose they want?”
“I have no idea. I’ll have to take this back to the clinic and see.”
Horace looked disappointed as she turned to walk back to the clinic. Nice as he may be, given his job as the mailman/telegraph operator, he had a little too much access to people’s private lives to make Michaela comfortable opening this in his presence. She had no idea what was in there but she had no desire to share anything with him until she knew what it was. She tucked it under her arm and went back to the clinic.
Not knowing what to expect, Michaela carefully slid the letter opener across the top of the envelope. She pulled out the contents, which appeared to be a pamphlet, a bound copy of something, another smaller sealed envelope and a letter. Thinking the letter would explain what this was all about, she read it first. It was indeed from the doctor that had taken over her and her father’s practice when she came out to Colorado. He had been friends with her father ever since medical school and had known Michaela all her life. He had written a paper that he was going to present at a conference in New Orleans. That was the bound copy. He was inviting Michaela to attend since the conference was actually closer to her than to him. He thought she might enjoy “getting away” and being with other physicians for a while. The pamphlet was the program of the conference. He had circled some of the names of the other presenters. He was certainly in very good company as the names read like a who’s who of medicine. There were even people coming from Europe. Michaela laid the program down and thumbed through her friend’s paper. It seemed well written and very scholarly. Well above anything she was use to out here in the west. She was lucky to get an hour a week just to keep up with her medical journals, never mind do any research. She picked up the program again and looked through the topics. The professional and scientific terminology brought back memories of medical school or when she shared her practice with her father. She heard those words every day in the hospital in Boston, but out here she had to use terms that these people understood. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go and immerse herself in all this learning and knowledge?
But what was she thinking? First off she couldn’t be gone from Colorado Springs. The children depended on her, as did the rest of the residents of the town. But never mind that, she could never afford such a luxury as a trip to New Orleans, a stay in a plush hotel, meals and registration at such a prestigious conference. It was out of the question. She gathered up the papers to put them back in the envelope, resolving to read her friend’s paper later, when she came across the plain smaller envelope that she had not opened yet. It had her name on it in a familiar handwriting. Setting everything back down, she slit open the top and pulled out a note and some other papers. The note was from her mother. He had told her of his presenting at the conference and how he thought it would be wonderful if Michaela could attend. Her mother agreed, but knew that Michaela would consider it too much of an extravagance and would not go. So, she had paid for the entire trip herself, right down to the train tickets and hotel reservations! Michaela’a mouth opened as she looked at the other papers and found the round trip train tickets to New Orleans, the name and address of her hotel and the receipt for her conference registration. This was worth hundreds of dollars! Money that Michaela did not have. Her mother had made it possible for her daughter to be with the best physicians there were to learn the latest there was to learn. The rest of the note was just family news and some gossip, as if this was a perfectly normal thing for her mother to do.
But there were still her responsibilities here. She was the only doctor for miles in any direction. And the children, she couldn’t leave them. No. It would have been wonderful, but she just could not get away. Her duty was here. She had to stay. She would take the tickets to the railroad office and cash them in and wire the money back to her mother. Then she would wire the conference to tell them she wasn’t coming and to refund her mother’s money. It had been a momentary possibility, but reality had come back in and that was that. Michaela put all the papers back in the envelope and set it on her desk. It sat there the rest of the day as she treated patients and worked on records. Occasionally she would glance at it and wonder what the conference would be like, then she would shake her head and get back to work.
Fortunately, she did manage to get out of the office a little early. As there was no one waiting and no appointments, when Brian came by after school, she just closed down the clinic and took him home with her. The rest of the day passed normally enough. Her routine was set, almost every night passing in the same way. She could go through it as she did her work most days, automatically. Days blended together and suddenly a month or a year was gone. Her life was passing by in a daze, and with Sully gone the routine had become even duller. She stared vacantly into the fireplace as she rocked Katie to sleep. Brian was at one end of the table doing his homework and Matthew was at the other reading.
“Ma, how far away is Boston” Brian suddenly asked, bringing Michaela out of her trance.
“Over 2,000 miles, why do you ask?” she responded.
“We’re learning about Columbus and I was wonderin’, if instead of takin’ the train we had to sail from Boston to here, how long would it take. Our train ride to Boston was only a week, but it took Columbus 70 days to go from Spain to America and that’s,” he paused as he looked in his book, “over 9,000 miles.”
“Brian, you can’t sail from Boston to Colorado!” said Matthew from his book without moving.
“I know. I was just wonderin’ how long would it take if you could.”
“Well, Brian,” Michaela interrupted the dispute before it grew any more, “You have to remember that was 400 years ago. There have been many advances in travel since then. The train we took was very much faster than Columbus’ ships. But, just for argument’s sake, let’s make a problem of it. If it took Columbus 70 days to go 9,000 miles, how long would it take him to go the 2,000 miles from Boston to Colorado Springs?”
“Aw, ma! I was just wonderin’. I didn’t want to do no arithmetic.” he whined.
“Any, Brian, you didn’t want to do any arithmetic. But never mind that, it’s a good exercise. See if you can work it out.”
Brian sighed and turned back to his work. Matthew smiled, shook his head and went back to his book. Michaela smiled back and then looked again into the fire. Travel really was easier these days. It brought her mother’s letter to mind.
“I heard from my mother today.” she said.
“Grandma! You got a letter from Grandma! What did she say? Is she comin’ to visit again? Are we goin’ back to Boston?” Brian jumped up as he rambled on and came over to her side. Matthew looked up and waited for her answer.
Brian stood at the side of the rocker with his hands on the arm looking anxiously at her. She smiled at him and said, “She sends her love to both of you and wished that she could see you.”
“That’s it? No visit? No trip?” Brian said with disappointment in his voice and on his face.
“Brian!” said Matthew. “What kind of talk is that? You sound like a spoiled brat!”
Brian looked blankly at Matthew and then realized how what he had said had sounded. “I didn’t mean it that way! I just wanted to see her again.”
“I understand.” said Michaela. “And she feels the same way. But this time there is no trip and no visit. Just a letter,.....and a package for me.”
Brian’s eyes lit up again. “A package! What kind of package? What was in it?”
“Brian, you’re doin’ it again!” Matthew said.
“Never mind, Matthew, it’s alright.” said Michaela “It was a package of information about a medical convention in New Orleans at which an old friend of the family will be speaking. She thought it would be nice for me to go, so she signed me up and even sent me a train ticket.”
Now Matthew was interested. “New Orleans. You’re going to New Orleans? That’s great! I’ve heard that’s a beautiful city with big plush houses and fancy restaurants.” Brian’s eyes were as big as saucers and he nodded assent to everything Matthew said even though he didn’t know anything about New Orleans. “No, no, I won’t be going.”
At the same time, both Matthew and Brian exclaimed, “Not going?!? Why not?!?”
“Well, first of all there’s you two to take care of....”
“We can take care of ourselves!” announced Brian with a look of hurt pride. Matthew just rolled his eyes as Michaela smiled at Brian. As he mussed up Brian’s hair he said, “And even if he can’t, I can watch him for ya.” Brian pushed Matthew’s hand from his hair.
“While you two might be able to get along for a while, you’re forgetting someone ...Katie.”
“We’ll watch her for ya. We can take care of her” Brian said without hesitation.
Matthew was not so sure. Taking care of the place and watching Brian was one thing. Minding a baby was quite another altogether. He looked at Brian and then at Michaela, but didn’t say anything.
“Thank you for offering, Brian. But I think you might find it more than you’re bargaining for.” She gave Matthew an ‘I understand’ smile and put her hand on Brians cheek. “Watching a baby is a 24 hour a day, seven day a week job. On top of that, Katie is just getting over her cold and she can be quite a handful when she’s not feeling well. Believe me the past few nights have taught me that.”
“But don’t you want to go to New Orleans and see your friend?” Brian asked.
“Yes, of course I do. But we don’t always get to do everything we want. Sometimes other things are more important. I have responsibilities here and I must tend to them” she explained.
“It would be nice if you could go.” Matthew said.
“Yes it would. But you know as well as I, Matthew, that you can’t just leave your responsibilities. And it isn’t just you. The whole town and the territory around us depends on me. I’ll stay here and take care of my patients and my family. There will be other conferences in other years. Perhaps I’ll go to one of them. With that said, would you like to read your grandmother’s letter?”
“Sure” said Brian.
She got the envelope and pulled out the papers. She handed Brian the letter and as he scooted off to the fireside to read it, she leafed through the conference brochure again. Matthew noticed the far off look in her eyes as she re-read the pamphlet. As she read, the fatigued look vanished from her face. Her eyes were intent on the paper, taking in every word. It was obvious that she was fascinated by everything in that pamphlet. Then he got an idea.
The next day passed as had most others recently except that Katie slept through the night. Michaela, in turn, slept soundly and long. Too long as a matter of fact. When she finally came down stairs, the boys had already eaten, Brian was off to school and Matthew was out in the barn. They left her a note saying that they had taken care of themselves so that she could catch up on her sleep. She smiled as she remembered the conversation of the night before. They were growing up. By all measures, Matthew already was and Brian was not far behind. But she still had Katie to take care of, and would for many years to come.
The rest of the morning was normal enough. She opened the clinic and saw a few routine cases. Andrew had stopped by as he was in town and wanted to know if she would have lunch with him. They were going to meet at Grace’s cafe around noon. But at 11:45, three men crashed through the clinic door, two carrying the third between them. They un-ceremoniously dropped the man they were carrying on the examing table and looked around.
“Where’s the Doctor?” the biggest of the three said to her, “ My friend’s hurt bad.” When Michaela did not move he shouted, “ Go get the doctor.... NOW!”
Michaela calmly, perhaps a bit cooly, replied, “I am the doctor and there is no reason to shout.”
“A lady doctor?” the other man said increduously as the two men looked at her, then each other then back at her.
“I assure you I am fully qualified and that your friend will get the best care possible.”
Hesitating as they looked at each other again, the big man relented and said, “Well, I don’t see as we have much choice. Go ahead and take a look at ‘em.”
Michaela’s examination of the man revealed a bad leg wound. The was a large laceration and he was bleeding profusely. His color was not good and his breathing was shallow. He had obviously lost a lot of blood.
“How long ago did this happen?” she said as she worked to clean the wound.
“Just outside of town a little while ago. Our wagon tipped over and his leg got caught in the spokes of the wheel. We brought him in as fast as we could over his horse.”
“Well, he’s lost a lot of blood and there is a lot of vascular damage.” she said.
“What kind of damage?”
“Vascular damage. Damage to the blood veins in his leg. He’s lucky it wasn’t the artery or he would have already bled to death. As it is, I don’t know if I can save his leg.” She explained.
“Wadaya mean ‘save his leg’? He cain’t lose no leg. He’s a cowboy, how will he make a livin’ with only one leg? He cain’t ride with only one leg!” the big man said.
“There’s extensive damage to the system that supplies the blood to his leg. If I can’t repair it, the leg won’t get enough blood and it will die. When it dies it will get gangrene and it could spread and kill him. I may had to take it off to save his life”. She spoke quickly but calmly as she worked furiously to repair the damage.
While the medical details might have escaped the two men, they did understand the word “gangrene”. Anyone who had fought in the war knew what that meant. It brought an instant hush to the room. The only sound was Michaela’s instruments clicking as she worked. As fast as she could work, she knew it was not fast enough. She needed help. Colleen use to be her assistant, but with her gone at college, Michaela had been working alone. It had been alright up til now as most of Michaela’s work was pretty routine stuff. But now she needed help.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw the clock. It was 11:55. Andrew would be waiting at Grace’s Cafe. ANDREW!
“Quickly,.....you,” Michaela indicated the big man, “go down the street to the cafe. You’ll see a young man there in a suit. He’s a doctor. Tell him Dr. Quinn needs him right away.”
The man stood there staring at his friend’s leg and the growing pool of blood on the floor.
“Unless you want to help me cut this man’s leg off, do as I say NOW!” she barked.
Jolted back to reality, he tore out the door and ran full tilt down the street.
Soon afterwards, Andrew ran through the door. As he took off his jacket, she briefed him on the situation as she continued on the man’s leg. After he was brought up to speed, he pitched in and took over part of the work. Between them they stabilized the situation, but before they could move on to repairing any of the damage, they had to ensure the blood flow to the leg or all else would be a waste of time. Try as she might, Michaela just couldn’t do it. She used every technique she knew, but it was to no avail.
“It’s no use, Andrew. I can’t save the leg. Please get ready to amputate.” she sighed.
“No, wait Michaela, there’s another way.” he said.
Michaela looked questioningly at him without saying a word.
“Its a technique I heard explained in St. Louis at that meeting Preston made me go to. He said it would be good publicity for me to be seen amongst those other doctors. The procedure has to do with injuries like this.”
“Well,” Michaela asked impatiently, “what is it?”.
“Here,” he said as he move in and took over, “it would take longer for me to explain it than to do it.” He explained what he was doing as he worked. Michaela was relegated to passing instruments and holding clamps.
Andrew did it. He saved the leg. His new technique worked. Michaela did not know whether to be glad that the leg was saved or sad that she had been found so lacking. After getting the patient to recovery and briefing his friends, who retired to Hank’s salloon to celebrate, Michaela and Andrew cleaned up the surgery.
“That really was marvelous the way you saved that leg. You learned that at a medical conference you said?” She asked.
“Yes. While at first I did not see a reason to go as I get all the journals, after being there a few days I found I was learning more and more. Michaela, its amazing how fast medicine is changing. The journals are helpful, but they are at least a year behind. By being there in person I got the benefit of information immediately and could ask questions. And while Preston had me go for all the wrong reasons, in the end I was quite glad I attended.”
After cleaning up, Andrew went back to his clinic and Michaela finished up the patient’s record. She paused as she worked and stared out the window into the dusty street beyond the curtains. While her skills were far above those of the average person, in this isolated setting they were deteriorating because so many of the cases she handled were routine. In a big city hospital she would see a little bit of everything everyday. She noticed the envelope with the tickets to New Orleans on her desk and thought again about the conference and the wonderful topics and presenters in the pamphlet. She looked over at the mirror on the wall and saw herself as she was after an hour of surgery in the hot clinic. The contrast between what she saw and what she imagined the conference would be like was stiking. She was drenched in sweat. Her hair was in disarray and partially stuck to her forhead. Her smock was covered in blood and there were lines in her face and bags under her eyes. She looked more like an overworked butcher than a skilled surgeon, and at the moment, that’s what she felt like.
But there was nothing to be done about it. She just couldn’t get away. She sighed deeply and started to clean the blood off herself.
When the day was finally done, Michaela walked over to Loren’s store to get a few things she needed at home. Matthew was there with Katie talking to Dorothy. His not making a stop at the clinic first was somewhat odd, but she didn’t think too much of it. She greeted everyone and picked up Katie and got re-aquainted. Loren shuffled about filling her order and she engaged Matthew and Dorothy in small talk.
“Hear you had a big day at the clinic.” Matthew said. “Almost had to cut off some guy’s leg?”
“Yes that’s right. It was a friteful injury. If it hadn’t have been for Andrew being in town, I would have had to aputate the leg. But how did you know?”
“Dorothy told me.” he replied nodding in Dorothy’s direction. Michaela then looked at her quizzically.
“It’s a reporter’s job to know these things, Michaela.” said Dorothy. “Besides, Andrew came by the cafe for a cup of coffee and looked a fright, so I asked him what had happened. He told me the whole story. It will make an excellent headline!”
Oh wonderful, Michaela thought. Now the whole town will know how out of date my skills are. But she just smiled at Dorothy and let it pass. After some small talk, she picked up her order and she, Matthew, Brian, who had come in from school, and Katie all got on the buck-board and drove home.
On the ride home, Matthew said, “Dr. Mike, remember how you said that you had responsibilities here and couldn’t go to that conference in New Orleans? How you had to take care of us and the people of Colorado Springs?”
“ Well, I don’t know if I specifically said that I take care of all the people in Colorado Springs, but that’s the general idea, yes. Why?” Michaela responded.
“Well, I had an idea.” Matthew continued. “I spoke with Andrew and he said that the hotel is kinda slow at the moment and he would be glad to keep office hours at your clinic while you were gone.”
“That’s very nice of him, but...” she was interrupted by Matthew who cut her off.
“And......I spoke with Ms. Dorothy and she said she would take care of Katie. She said it would be wonderful to have a baby around again.”
“But...” she tried to interject.
“And, Ms. Grace will cook us meals and get Brian his lunch when he’s at school.”
“Yeah,” chirpped in Brian “an’ Matthew and I will take care of the house. That way you can go to your meeting!” Matthew and Brian looked at her, satisfied that they had met and overcome all of her objections.
“When did you think all this up?”Michaela asked.
“Last night when I saw you looking’ at the pamphlet about the meeting. I could tell you really wanted to go so I decided that I would find a way. Just had to ask a few friends and we were all set.” Matthew explained.
Michaela opened her mouth to protest, but she could see the immense sense of achievement on Matthew’s and Brian’s faces. Instead she said, “Well, I suppose with all the work you’ve done I at least can give it a little more thought.”
“Yippee!” shouted Brian. “You’re goin’ to New Orleans!”
“I didn’t say that, Brian. I said I would give it some more thought and I will, but I won’t promise what I will decide.” She bought some time with that. She would let them both settle down and then tell them tomorrow that she was not going. She just couldn’t get away.
Later that night after the children were in bed, Michaela sat on the porch and stared off into the darkened tree line. There was just no way she could get away, she thought. She’d never left them for that long before. Her family needed her here. But she had to have the best family and friends in the world. Who else would go to all this trouble just so she could go away. Her mother, her children, Andrew, Dorothy, all of them. They really thought it would be good for her to go. She lazily thumbed through the brochure and her thoughts went back to the clinic this morning. If it hadn’t have been for the technique that Andrew learned at that meeting, that man might have lost his leg or even his life. What else was out there that she was not aware of? How many other people’s lives could she save with new knowledge? How much suffering could she ease? She wouldn’t have admitted it to herself, but she was gradually talking herself into going. She sat for a while longer thinking and looking out at nothing in particular. Then she started to smile.
The next morning at breakfast, when everyone was settled at the table, Michaela said, “Well, I’ve given the matter of the conference a lot of thought and I want to thank you for all you’ve done so I could go.”
“But,” and he hesitated, “you’re not going, are you?” said Matthew.
“No, Matthew” she said and she saw the disappointment in his eyes. “No, Matthew, I am going. I am going to the conference.”
For a moment, the two boys sat there staring with their mouths open. Then Brian let out a whoop and started to dance around the room as he cheered. Matthew sat back in his chair and got a big grin on his face. Michaela first smiled and then giggled a bit. It was official. She was going to New Orleans.
The next few days passed in a blur of preparations for the trip. She had packing to do, purchases to make, had to brief Andrew on some of her ongoing cases and had to let Dorothy know all Katie’s quirks and needs. This last caused some consternation when Dorothy told Michaela that she had already raised her own family and knew all about babies and such and she didn’t see how Katie, as special as Dr. Mike might think her to be, would be any different. But that was nothing compared to when she tried to tell Grace what the boys liked to eat, Grace told her in no uncertain terms that she was quite aware what people like to eat and that she didn’t tell Michaela how to practice medicine so she would thank her kindly if Michaela didn’t tell her how to cook, intimating that Michaela’s cooking might not be up to the standards that she thought it ought to be to feed two growing young men. To avoid a dispute, Michaela yielded to Grace’s professional judgment on the matter.
The day finally arrived and her family and friends gathered at the train station to see her off. She was so full of emotions she didn’t know what to do or say. She was sad to leave her family, but excited to go on a trip. She was nervous about meeting other physicians and looking like a back woods hick, but looking forward to learning new things and meeting new colleagues. When the time finally came, it seemed that one moment she was on the platform being hugged and kissed, and the next she was in her seat and the train was pulling out of the station. She didn’t even remember getting on the train. She waved until the train went around the bend and she could see them no more. Now she was really gone. They were already going about their lives without her. Sully wouldn’t even know she was gone. She fretted for a while, but then decided that she had thought all this through already and if she was to get anything out of this trip, never mind enjoy it, she had to leave it at that. No more worries. She wanted to go into this with the best frame of mind she could. She settled back to enjoy the scenery as New Orleans grew slowly closer.