“Hey, who is this?” Natalie said into the receiver.
“Who’s this?” said a disgruntled adolescent voice.
“It’s Natalie. Is your mom around?”
“She’s kinda busy.”
“Well, can you get her? I really need to speak to her.”
She heard the clunk of the phone. Eventually, the boy came back on the line. “She’s yelling at Josh and can’t hear me.”
Natalie was on the public phone, standing right outside the emergency room at St. Paul’s Hospital, which she guessed was about an hour from Denise’s. “Well, could you give her a message for me?”
“Who’s this?” the boy said again.
Natalie rolled her eyes. “It’s your Aunt Nat. Who is this?”
“Danny, please tell your mom I’m going to be late. I’m at the hospital.” She hesitated, expecting Danny’s indifference to turn to instant concern, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, he simply said okay.
“Uh, Danny, could you tell your mom that Bethany got mixed up with some wasps and we’re at the hospital.” She could hear Bethany’s hysterical cries. She’d left her with a nurse who refused to let her use her cell phone in the emergency room so she had to step outside. She was sure Denise was champing at the bit that she wasn’t there yet.
“Okay,” Danny replied.
“Soon as the doctor looks at her,” Natalie said, “then we’ll be on our way.” Unless she decided it would be easier just to turn around and head back home.
“Bye.” Danny hung up.
As difficult as her daughter was at five, Natalie wasn’t sure she’d be able to handle her as a teenager. She rushed back to the emergency room to try and calm Bethany, whose legs were a mass of red swollen stings. The nurse gave Natalie an accusatory look, but it hadn’t been her fault for what occurred.
After having driven for what felt like hours while Bethany’s wiggling and sniffling became more and more panicked, Natalie gave up trying to find a gas station or diner with a bathroom on the main drag and pulled off to the side of the road. She grabbed a handful of tissues.
“Where’s the bafroom?” Bethany said once Natalie slid open the side door of the Caravan.
“You’re looking at it, Babe,” Natalie said, lifting her daughter out of the vehicle and leading her into the thick bushes, hiding from any possible passing cars. She slipped Bethany’s panties down around her ankles. “Crouch down.”
She handed some tissues to Bethany. “Wipe yourself with these when you’re done.”
“This is yucky.”
“It’s no big deal.” Then, feeling the urge to go herself, Natalie pulled her pants and underwear down and crouched. “See. This is the way God intended it to be.”
But as soon as Natalie was in midstream, Bethany began to howl, swatting her legs, attempting to run but falling face down in the bushes. Natalie dribbled on her pants as she rushed to pull them up. As soon as she saw the wasps circling her daughter, she scooped her up and ran back to the road as quickly as possible with Bethany peeing all over her. That’s when she figured it probably would have been wiser to pull off the main drag to find a bona fide bathroom.
Thinking clearly was difficult with Bethany screeching and clawing at her, but eventually she recalled the road sign some ways back with the indicating H and, allowing a hysterical Bethany to sit in the front seat, she raced down the highway, backtracking from where she’d been. The warning light of a police cruiser demanding she pull over was a relief. Not waiting for the cop to come to her, she jumped out and spilled the story to him as quickly as possible. Surveying the little girl who now seemed to be calming into shock, he told Natalie to follow him. Only moments later did they pull up to the hospital’s emergency entrance. He ran around to the passenger side and scooped Bethany up, carrying her inside while repeatedly telling her she’d be all right.
Once paramedics had Bethany on a gurney and a doctor had been called, Natalie turned to see that the officer was still in the room talking to one of the medical technicians. She couldn’t help but notice that the cop was about her age, maybe a couple years younger, but very attractive. It occurred to her that maybe he was hanging around for a reason other than speaking to the technician. She went over to him and thanked him for his help, noticing his eyes were a curious green and there was no tell-tale ring on his finger.
“No problem,” he said.
“Would it be possible to get your precinct number so that I can sing your praises to your boss?”
“Just doing my job, ma’am,” he said, looking her over. That’s when she remembered she was covered in piss.
“Oh, good grief,” she said, “I’m so embarrassed. My daughter got me good.” She pointed at her clothes. “Would you be able to tell me where the closest store is? Like a Target or something?”
“Sure.” A skinny nurse, not the officer, spoke up. “Just a mile or so down the road. But it’s a Walmart.”
Natalie turned back to the officer, but, to her disappointment, he was on his way out the door. She went back to Bethany whose tears had exhausted her to a sound sleep.
“Well, at least we know she wasn’t allergic,” the nurse said, brushing the sweaty bangs off Bethany’s face.
“How’d we know that?” Natalie said.
The nurse gave her a serious look. “This many stings, she wouldn’t have survived.”
“Really? Wow.” She had little idea that children could be so demanding but seemed to be finding out more and more with each passing day.
At first, Bethany had been Natalie’s trump card years ago when Greg said they were over. She’d had a feeling he was ready to end the relationship, so she conveniently forgot to take her birth control. After all, she’d worked too hard to get him. She’d dressed a little nicer, flirted and let him know she was available. It took some time, but finally, he relented. Now, he was gone, and she was left alone with a child she had little idea how to raise.
Just then, a woman who introduced herself as the resident doctor appeared. “She got herself in some mess, huh?”
“Where the hell have you been?” cried Natalie. “She could’ve been allergic to those bees!”
“My staff kept me informed,” the doctor said, putting the stethoscope to Bethany’s chest.
“How soon can you get us out of here?” Natalie said. “I’m covered in piss.”