AJ was still holding Jordan's fingers as he looked at his heart monitor, the green line that represented his heart rhythm rose and fell in a seemingly endless cycle. He watched as the numbers on the screen changed at random intervals as his son's steady breathing was heard.
"...Daddy?" a small voice called out.
AJ immediately looked down to see Jordan's big brown eyes staring up at him. "Hey, buddy. You had me so worried. Did you have a good nap?" he asked him quietly.
"Is Grammy okay?" Jordan wondered.
AJ nodded once. "Yeah, she's okay. Do you hurt anywhere?"
"Not really." He paused. "Is she hurt bad?"
AJ didn't want to completely lie to Jordan, so he told him what he thought he could handle. "A little bit, yeah, but she's gonna be fine. Grandpa's with her, so, she isn't by herself."
"Oh. Where's Mommy?"
"She's outside in the hallway," AJ answered gently.
"Because they only let a certain number of us in here with you at a time. You're in here so that all of the doctors can take special care of you."
Jordan looked around the ward and saw all of the other children in beds, some that were younger, some were approximately the same age as he was, and some that were older than him. "Is everyone else here hurt, too?"
"Yes, some are hurt and some are very sick, but they're here to get all better."
"When's Mommy coming?"
AJ sighed and squeezed his son's fingers tighter. "Jordan, the truth is that...Mommy can't come in here for a little awhile."
Jordan lip started to quiver. "Why, Daddy? Doesn't she miss me?"
AJ's heart sunk. "Of course she does, J, she loves and misses you very much. But Mommy's sick, and this place has special rules. Mommy's not allowed to come in here until she feels better so she doesn't get you sick, understand?"
"I want Mommy." A tear slipped down his cheek.
"I know, but she can't come in here right now."
"I want Mommy!" he demanded a bit louder and started to cry. He repeated that phrase over and over without ceasing as he sobbed.
AJ let go of Jordan's fingers and scooted his chair closer to the bed and stroked his brown curls to try to console him. "Shhh, shhh, shhh, shhh. Hey, hey. It's okay, buddy, it's okay. I know you do. Believe me, Daddy wishes that she could be here, too."
He continued to cry for a few more minutes until Dr. Romero came up to Jordan's bed. "What's with the waterworks, sport? You okay?"
"I want," he sniffled, "my mommy."
She just looked at AJ with a small frown.
"Are you sure that there's no way my wife can come in here? I don't want him to get more upset."
"I'm sorry, I really am. I wish there was something more that I could do," she apologized sincerely.
"What if she wore one of those things—a surgical mask over her face so she wouldn't spread anything around?"
She didn't answer but motioned for him to come with her so they wouldn't discuss this in front of Jordan.
"Please? I don't think we can deny him much longer, she always sings to him when he's sick or hurt. How can you keep a mother away from her child?"
Dr. Romero looked at him with great pity and couldn't blame him for being frustrated with the situation. "I'm very sorry, truly I am. As I told you and your wife before, it's hospital policy. I can't bend or break the rules, I could lose my job. As long as he's in here and she's infectious, she can't see him. There's nothing I can do. I'm sorry, Mr. McLean, that's my final word."
AJ sighed heavily. "I understand, Doctor, and call me Alex, please." He walked back over to his son's bed. "Jordan, I'm gonna go talk to Mommy for a little bit, okay? I'll be back soon, be good."
"Okay," he said.
AJ got up, kissed Jordan's cheek, and exited the PICU.
"Alex, how is he?" Kim demanded as they hugged.
"He's okay, he's been asking for you. He's pretty upset."
"I hate this, I want to see him."
"I know you do, but you can't." AJ was so hurt; that was last thing he wanted to tell her.
"I wanna see him, damn it! That's my son in there!" Kim repeated. She was just as furious, if not more than AJ was over the issue.
AJ sighed and hugged her more tightly. "I know, I tried to talk with Dr. Romero, but she won't budge. This is just horrible timing, how are you feeling, babe?"
"I'm actually more tired and anxious than anything else. I just wanna see Jordan."
"Well, maybe your cold won't get too bad. You need to eat though, let's go to the cafeteria and grab a bite."
"I'm not really very hungry," she protested, not wanting to leave where Jordan was even if she couldn't be with him.
"Kim, you're sick and pregnant. You have to eat. C'mon."
"Fine," Kim conceded and the two of them went up to get some dinner.
AJ turned around at the sound of his name to see Tony sitting at a table by himself with some food. They both took their trays and went over to sit down with him. "Hey, Dad, how's Mom?"
"She's in a lot of pain and is resting right now. She's been asking about Jordan and wants to see you. She's feeling pretty guilty about the accident."
"Damn, I would've been there sooner but I went and saw Jordan up in the Pediatric ICU. I had blood taken for testing and everything before I could go in. Kim's not allowed to see him."
"Because of her cold?" he pressed.
"Yeah," Kim said.
"Oh, man, that's horrible. I'm sorry."
"Yeah." Kim paused to cough a few times. "I'm fine." She assured them and opened the plastic container in front of her before taking a bite of her turkey sandwich.
"Yeah, so fine that you aren't even allowed to see your injured son in the hospital," AJ scoffed lightly.
Kim glared at him. "Do you honestly think that I want it to be this much more complicated? I would have given anything to be in there with our son—"
"Alright, alright. Settle down, you two, relax. You do not want to fight right now, not here. Eat," Tony interjected.
"But, we're not—"
"Just eat, Alexander," he sighed.
AJ started eating his Subway sandwich as instructed by his step-father and the three of them were quiet for a few minutes.
Tony was the first to break the silence, he could feel the tension that they exuded due to this stressful situation. "How is Jordan doing?"
AJ wiped his mouth with a napkin set it down before he spoke. "He's okay, he told me that he wasn't in much pain. That must be some good morphine that they have him on." He chuckled lightly. "He asked about Mom, but he really wants to see Kim. He got all upset, crying and everything."
"The poor little guy," Tony said with sympathy.
"Wait, he was crying for me?" Kim asked her husband.
"Yeah," AJ repeated quietly.
"My poor baby, was he scared?"
"I don't think so, he never mentioned being afraid. I was with him when he woke up and that is what's important."
Kim agreed. "Right, I would have hated for him to wake up alone in a strange place."
"Yeah. Well, I'm done. Dad, what floor is the SICU on?" AJ asked as he stood.
"You hardly ate anything," Tony noticed.
"Yeah, well I can eat later. Save the rest of it for me."
Kim wasn't having that. "Wait, how is that fair to me? You're the one who made me come up here and you're not even staying?"
"I wanna go see my mom if that's okay with you, Kim. You know, the one that was in the car accident with our son? Which floor, Dad?" AJ asked again, getting more impatient by the second.
Tony sighed, he really wished that they wouldn't fight at a time like this. "Fourth, same as where we waited for news."
"I'll be back in a little bit then." He turned to leave the cafeteria.
"I don't know if they'll let you in though," Tony added.
AJ immediately rotated back around. "Why not? I'm her son."
"They have a strict visiting policy. One visitor at a time for five minutes every hour."
"Wow. Did you visit this hour?" AJ hoped that he didn't.
"Nope considering it's a quarter after five. It's all yours."
"Okay. Stay with Kim." He turned to her. "I'll be back, okay?"
"Sure," she replied with almost no emotion in her voice.
With that, AJ set off to find an elevator and went down to the fourth floor. He stopped at the desk outside of the SICU to see if there were any precautions he needed to take before entering. "Hi, I'm here to see a patient, my mom. Denise Solis."
"And you are...?" the receptionist asked as if she hadn't heard what he said seconds ago.
AJ inwardly rolled his eyes. "Denise Solis' son, Alex McLean, I'd like to see her, please."
"Can I see your ID?"
"Sure." AJ took his wallet out of his back jeans pocket and flipped it open to show her his driver's license.
"Okay, thank you. Are you aware of this department's visitor policy?" she asked as AJ put his wallet away.
"Sort of, one visitor for five minutes per hour."
"Right, you'll also have to wash your hands and arms for three minutes and put on a sterile gown before entering."
The receptionist pointed to the scrub station just past the first set of doors in the SICU. "Just go right in there to get started."
"Thank you very much."
AJ read what was on the glass doors before pushing a button to open them: ONLY MEDICAL PERSONNEL AND IMMEDIATE FAMILY MEMBERS ARE ALLOWED BEYOND THIS POINT.
He stepped up to the sink and took a soap pad, wetting it and washing his hands and arms for three minutes as instructed by the receptionist out in the hall. A nurse was there to help him into his pale yellow gown and he backed into the last set of doors that brought him to the interior of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit.
It looked a lot like the department that Jordan was currently in, all it was really missing were the murals of various animals and rainbows along the walls.
AJ gasped softly when he saw his mother in a bed a few feet from him. He walked quietly to her side and sat before taking her hand, being careful of the IV needle and tubing that extended from it to a bag filled with clear fluid that hung from a stand next to the bed.
"Excuse me, are you family?" a young nurse asked from the foot of Denise's hospital bed.
AJ looked up at her. 'She can't be a day over twenty-five.' he speculated. "Yes, I'm her son, Alex."
"Ah, she's been asking for you. Your step-father Tony has been sitting with her. Sorry, I'm Melissa. I'll be caring for your mom until my shift ends at midnight."
"I'm sorry to hear that Jordan was in the accident as well. I hope he's okay."
"How do you know—you're a fan?"
"Yeah, kinda." She blushed a bit.
"Let me know if you need anything, Dr. Jarnowski will be in to see your mom soon." She walked off to attend to a patient a few beds down.
AJ turned his attention back to Denise. She looked much worse than Jordan. She had significant bruising on the left side of her face and he could tell that her broken leg was in a cast.
"Alex...?" Denise had opened her eyes slightly and was looking up at him.
"Yeah, it's me. I'm here." He squeezed her fingers a bit tighter as a tear slipped down his cheek, but he quickly wiped it away with his left hand.
"I'm so sorry, Alex, so sorry..."
"Shhh, shhh. It wasn't your fault, Mom. Jordan's okay, he's gonna be fine."
"But I was driving, I should've been more careful."
"No, no, it wasn't your fault. We'll press charges on the guy who caused the accident. But let's not worry about that right now, okay?"
"I'm sorry," she repeated.
"You've got nothing to be sorry for, please don't take the blame for this. No one blames you for what happened, we're all just glad that you're both okay," AJ assured her gently.
"And Jordan?" she wondered anxiously.
"He had to get his spleen removed and he's got some bruised ribs and a broken arm, but, he'll be fine. I promise."
Denise sighed as her eyes closed again. "I'm so tired, Alex..."
"It's okay, it's just the medicine. You need your rest."
"I love you...always."
"You too, Mom, I love you." He bent down to kiss the back of her hand gently.
AJ watched her sleep for what seemed like a minute before Melissa came up to the bed. "Um, Mr. McLean? Your five minutes are up. You need to go now."
"Call me Alex. And thank you." He stood and sighed heavily. "You'll let us know if there are any changes?"
"Of course, you can visit again in an hour," she said with a light smile.
"Thanks." AJ walked over to a hazardous waste bin and stripped himself of his sterile gown before exiting the SICU and walking down the hallway.
With another heavy sigh, he turned a corner and sunk to the floor against the wall with his head in his hands. The reality of the situation finally hit him like a ton of bricks as he sobbed quietly for things to be like they were just hours ago. Why couldn't it have been some other family, someone else's life that was flipped upside down? He didn't understand it. He was finally trying to fix his issues and it felt like everything was falling apart again.
None of them would ever be the same after this.