As the time began to drag on, Dale began to become more concerned. He wondered if the surgeon had run into some type of problem. He didn’t want to make Alissa more upset, and so he tried not to show his increased anxiety. She was trembling with the stress. The baby sensed her stress and began to move around. She was very uncomfortable.
Alissa stretched out on the sofa. She laid her head in Dale’s lap, and Dale caressed her cheek as she lay there. She forced herself to relax and the baby relaxed too.
After a couple of hours had passed, Noah asked, “Mr. Stallworth, does the surgery usually take this long?”
Dale carefully worded his response. “It varies.”
“Can’t we talk with the doctor or somebody to find out what’s going on, how she’s doing!”
Alissa sat up. “Can you please check on her Dale?”
Dale hated to interrupt the surgeon, but he was worried too. He knew he’d come across as a worried parent and not a calm, logical physician, but in this case that is what he was. He was a worried parent. He went to the operating room door and signaled to one of the nurses.
As soon as she came outside, he asked, “Is there a problem?”
“There was more bleeding than Dr. Hendrix expected. He had a laser scalpel set up and the operation is going fine now. He should be finished soon!”
Dale returned to the waiting room and told Noah and Alissa.
Finally the doctor came into the waiting room.
“The surgery went well. We got to her in time. She’s being moved to the recovery room and the nurse will come and get you after she is settled.”
Alissa hugged Dale in relief. Noah felt like an oppressive weight had been lifted from him.
After a while, a nurse came to take them to Sharlee. She looked at Noah. “You must be Noah!”
Noah looked at her curiously and answered. “Yes.”
“Sharlee has been murmuring your name as she’s been in and out of consciousness.”
Then she took them to the recovery room.
Alissa rushed over to Sharlee’s bedside. She was still unconscious.
She leaned over and kissed Sharlee’s cheek with tears in her eyes. Dale kissed Sharlee’s cheek too and told her, “I love you Princess.”
Noah hung back uncertainly. Sharlee looked so small and defenseless lying there. He felt so helpless, and he was still afraid that she wasn’t going to be well again.
Sharlee stirred on the bed. Then she opened her eyes and saw her mother. “Mom, what happened?” Her voice was low and weak sounding.
“You had to have your appendix removed.”
“You’re going to be okay though, Sweetie.” Dale added.
“I’m sorry I yelled at you Daddy.”
“I know you didn’t mean to Sweetie. I’m just glad that you’re okay.”
“Is Noah here?”
“Of course, I am.” Noah came over to her bedside.
“Dale can I speak to you outside?”
Alissa led Dale into the hallway. “Let’s give them a few moments alone.”
“Sharlee, I was so scared that you weren’t going to make it!”
“Noah, I’m sorry. I know that I should have said something.”
“I’m just glad that you’re going to be okay now. I love you so much Sharlee.”
Sharlee was beginning to drift off to sleep again. “I love you too.” Then she dosed off.
Noah stood up. Then he leaned over and gave her a gentle kiss.
Alissa and Dale returned to the room. A nurse entered to examine Sharlee. Noah had to wait outside for a few minutes.
“Were you able to talk with her okay?”
“Yes, she was very responsive.”
“Well that’s wonderful, we’re going to move her into a private room now. I’ll come get you from the waiting room after she’s settled.”
Dale told her to page him and insisted that Alissa and Noah go with him to the cafeteria to eat something while they waited.
They had been sitting in Sharlee’s hospital room for a couple of hours, and she was still sleeping peacefully. Dale and Alissa were talking softly so as not to disturb her. Noah was sitting quietly beside Sharlee. He looked at her from time to time and held her hand. Even though everyone assured him that she was going to be okay, he couldn’t stop worrying.
At around 10:30, Alissa reminded Dale of the surgery on the 3 year old child that he had scheduled for the morning. It could not be postponed. “Dale you need to go home and get some sleep. I’m staying here with Sharlee tonight.”
Dale didn’t want to leave, but he knew that Alissa was right. Sharlee would be okay. “Make sure you call me if there is any change in her condition or if you need me.”
He looked at Noah. “Noah you should go home and get some sleep too.”
Noah looked at Dale as though Dale were crazy for even suggesting it. “I’m not leaving Sharlee!”
Dale started to respond, but Alissa took him out into the hall.
“It’s okay if he stays too, Dale. You know that Sharlee wants him here. You can see how much they care about each other.”
Dale sighed. “Alright. I’ll have an orderly bring in a cot for you, and Noah can sleep on the couch. Kay sent me a text message that she packed a suitcase with some things for you and for Sharlee. She knew you wouldn’t leave the hospital. Matthew is going to bring it.”
“Get some things together for Noah too, Dale. There should be a robe and some toiletries in the guest room. I’ll send him home tomorrow to change clothes and go to school.
Noah still couldn’t relax. Although the nurses came into the room at different times throughout the night, Noah and Alissa kept checking on Sharlee too. At about 4:00 in the morning, he kissed Sharlee’s forehead and it felt warm to him. Alissa was awake then too.
“She feels sort of hot, Mrs. Stallworth.”
Alissa came over and checked Sharlee. She was very warm. Alissa buzzed for the nurse. When they took Sharlee’s temperature, she did have a fever. That meant that there was an infection. The nurse contacted Sharlee’s doctor and he came to check her. They started her on an antibiotic.
Alissa debated whether or not to call Dale and decided against it. He himself texted her about 5:00, and she went out into the hall and called him. She told him what was happening. Dale contacted Sharlee’s doctor, but he knew that it wasn’t very unusual.
From time to time, Sharlee would awaken, but she wasn’t feeling well. She was glad to go back to sleep.
When the time came, Alissa insisted that Noah go home to change and then to school. She promised to text him updates on Sharlee’s condition. Alissa assured him that if Sharlee worsened, she would make sure that he was allowed to leave school and return to the hospital.
After finishing the operation, Dale came down to Sharlee’s room. “How is Sharlee doing?”
“She’s been sleeping most of the time. Her fever is going down, but her temperature still hasn’t returned to normal.”
Dale noticed that Noah wasn’t there. “You actually got him to leave?”
Alissa laughed. “It wasn’t easy, but he’s really a good kid, Dale. He loves Sharlee a lot. I know that they are very young, but I think that they have something special.”
Dale did not like what Alissa was saying. “Yes, the key words are that they are very young! Their feelings could change tomorrow. I don’t think that they should get so serious about one person at their age.”
“Sometimes it happens though, Dale. I was only a year older than Sharlee when I met you.”
There was nothing else Dale could say after that. He still didn’t like it though. He couldn’t shake the feeling that this relationship would end up hurting Sharlee.
After school, Noah went straight to the hospital. Sharlee was alone in her room, and she was awake. Noah went over and kissed her.
“How do you feel?”
“I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck but also better now that you’re here.”
Noah smiled at her. He put his hand on her forehead. It felt normal, but she still seemed very weak.
Alissa entered the room.
She asked Noah, “How did it go today?”
“I had a hard time concentrating but it was alright.” He told Sharlee that everyone said to tell her hello and to get well quickly.
Dale came soon after. He brought some soup from Sharlee’s favorite restaurant to tempt her appetite. Dale made a special effort for Sharlee’s sake to be nice to Noah. He offered him a sandwich that he had also bought because he knew that Noah would come to the hospital right after school.
As Noah and Sharlee ate, Alissa hugged Dale and said, “Thank you!”
Suddenly there was a loud knock at the door and two police officers entered the room. They immediately looked at Noah.
“Are you Noah Hall?”
“What is this about officer?”
They ignored Dale’s question and one of them went over to Noah and pulled him to his feet. He handcuffed Noah’s wrists together while the other officer read Noah his rights.
“Why is he being arrested?”
“He is being arrested for the murder of Mr. Mickey Parks.”
Alissa had taken Sharlee’s tray and made her lie down. Sharlee was shocked and trying to hold back tears.
Noah looked at the expression on Sharlee’s face. “Can I please say goodbye to my girl? She just had surgery!”
“Make it quick.” They unlinked his cuffs.
Noah moved over to Sharlee. “I’m going to be okay. You just worry about getting well. I love you. He gave her a quick kiss.”
Sharlee tried to get up. “You can’t do this. Please don’t take him away! Daddy do something!”
The officers led Noah from the room.