“Then what’s going on? I don’t understand, Daddy.”
“My sweetheart, I’m not sure how to tell you this. I’m sick and I need to spend some time in the hospital so that the doctors can help me get better.”
“You can’t stay here with us? You can’t stay here with me and Mommy?” Abby asked confused.
“No, my sweetheart, I can’t. I need to be in the hospital.”
“But why Daddy? Mommy can fix things; she’s really good at making me feel better when I’m sick. Why can’t you just stay here so she can do that for you?” Abby persisted.
With tears slipping silently down her cheeks, Nikki replied quietly, her voice small and scared and on some level ashamed that, for the first time in a long, long time she could do nothing to help her husband when he needed her most; “Baby, if I could do that, I would. But sometimes, there are things that even I can’t do.”
“So, what’s going on? What’s making you sick?” Abby asked turning to Victor questioningly.
“It’s my heart, sweetheart, I have to have an operation.”
“That’s how the doctors will fix it? Then you can come home?” Abby asked innocently.
“Hopefully, yes.” Victor replied cautiously.
“Hopefully?” Abby echoed confused.
“Baby, the doctors need to operate on Daddy’s heart and they don’t really know what to expect. There’s a lot of stuff they don’t know. They really don’t know what will happen.” Nikki joined the conversation once again.
“Daddy, what’s going to happen? Are you going to be okay?” Abby asked, becoming fearful.
Wrapping his arms around her and holding her close and tight, Victor whispered heartbroken, “I don’t know, my sweetheart, I wish I did, but I don’t.”
“So, Daddy might not come home?” Abby asked wide-eyed looking from Victor to Nikki.
“No, Abby, Daddy might die. He might not come home.” Nikki’s heart broke to see them both in so much pain, looking so lost and alone. ‘What can I do? There has to be something I can do here, but what?’
“NO! Daddy, please don’t go there! Don’t go to the hospital! You need to stay here with us! We want you here with us! Mommy and me can take care of you. We’ll take really good care of you, Vicki and Nick will help too.” Abby begged clinging to Victor for dear life.
“My sweetheart, everything will be alright. I promise, I’m not going anywhere, alright?” Victor whispered soothingly as he stroked her hair and held her close.
“You promise?” Abby asked wide-eyed and fearful.
“I promise.” Victor repeated without hesitation.
After they got her calmed down a little more, Nikki and Victor got her to bed.
“Where could Victoria be? It’s almost midnight, for God’s sake!” Victor exclaimed worriedly as they walked back downstairs.
“I don’t know. Give me a little while and I might be able to find out,” Nikki replied as she walked out the door.
“Be careful, it’s pitch black out there and very cold.”
“Don’t worry, I will,” Nikki replied as she kissed him on the cheek and closed the door behind her.
It didn’t take long to find Victoria on the porch of the main house. She stood there with her back to the door staring at a picture of her, Victor and Nikki.
Silently and carefully, Nikki walked up behind her and touched her shoulder.
“Mom! Don’t do that!” Vicki exclaimed as she jumped a little at the unexpected contact.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“That’s okay, I didn’t hear you come out,” Vicki replied as she wiped away tears and more fell.
“Oh baby,” Nikki whispered as she wrapped her arms around Vicki and held her tight while they let their tears flow.
“What are we going to do? What are we supposed to do now, Mom?” Victoria asked helplessly.
“Come, come in. It’s getting really cold out here. Come inside and talk to your father.”
“Mom, what is there left to say, really? What’s left to say?”
“Come in anyway.”
Wordlessly, Vicki agreed.
The moment she walked back in, Victoria’s heart broke all over again as she saw her father sitting on the living room couch crying as he thought about all he was about to lose.
Victor looked up and saw the tears streaming down her cheeks, choking her voice until it was a mere whisper in the cold, dark night.
“My sweetheart, my baby,” he whispered, his voice matching hers as he held her tight.
“Whatever happens, I’m not gonna give up without a fight, alright? I’m not going anywhere!” He vowed quietly yet firmly, determined not to be separated from his family, regardless of how hard he had to work to keep that from happening.
“Promise?” Vicki asked in a small voice, more fearful than she could put into words.
Helpless against the searing fear running through her and the chilling ache seeping into her, Nikki stood there, watching father and daughter cry in each other’s arms. They cried for many things, for a life that was once filled with so much fun and joy, so much love and laughter, but most of all they cried for a life that was cruelly being stolen from them, ripped away while they could do nothing but helplessly watch it happen.
Her tears finally getting the better of her, Nikki walked over to them and, wrapping her arms around them, let her own anguished, terrified and heartbroken tears fall.
Drained, they all silently turned in for the night, hoping that this wouldn’t be the last time they’d get to see each other.