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For the Rest of My Life

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Overview

The riveting, emotional sequel to the best-selling Could I Have This Dance? Claire McCall, M.D., is haunted by the question: Does she have the gene for Huntington s Disease, the disease that disabled her father? This exciting sequel picks up with Claire moving back to Stoney Creek to work as a family physician and help her mother care for her disabled father. She rekindles her relationship with John Serelli and---just before she s going to find out if she carries the HD gene---discovers an engagement ring hidden in his car. When John fails to pop the question before learning the results of the test, Claire believes he is only interested in marrying her if she does not have the HD gene. She runs away from him without learning the results of the test, or the strength of his love. Claire copes with her romantic disappointment by plunging into her work. But a brutal rapist attacks three of Claire s patients, just as each young woman is recovering from a recent accident or surgery. When Claire has surgery for appendicitis, she herself is attacked. Only her trust in God can keep Claire safe."

Details

  • SKU: 9780310249788
  • UPC: 025986249786
  • SKU10: 0310249783
  • Title: For the Rest of My Life
  • Series: Christian Medical Association Resources
  • Qty Remaining Online: 3
  • Publisher: Zondervan
  • Date Published: Dec 2003
  • Pages: 361
  • Weight lbs: 0.81
  • Dimensions: 8.50" L x 5.48" W x 0.98" H
  • Features: Price on Product
  • Themes: Theometrics | Evangelical;
  • Category: FICTION, CHRISTIAN
  • Subject: Christian - General

Chapter Excerpt


Chapter One

It was well past closing time at Stoney Creek Family Medical Center when Claire McCall, M.D., saw her through the front window. Bruised, her blond hair caked with sticky blood, and her bare arms draped around the neck of the man who carried her, the young woman's face reflected sheer terror.

Claire leaned against the front door of the clinic and sighed. She had her hand on the lock she was ready to twist, bringing a ceremonial end to another day in the clinic. It was a private ritual, a small celebration of survival in the rural clinic where she was as likely to see a life-threatening cardiac arrest or a chain-saw accident as she was a benign case of the common cold. She desperately wanted to secure the bolt, to hear the click as it slid into place, signaling the end of office hours and the promise of a quiet night ahead. Or even better, a chance to spend some time with John Cerelli, the man who graced her life with laughter, friendship, and the hope of a lost love rekindled.

She glanced again through the front window. She knew she would open the door. She was the only physician in the town. Turning the patient away would mean, for the young woman, a long trip to the hospital in Carlisle, a trip that many of the locals would forsake for a patch-up on the kitchen table. "Set up a laceration tray, Lucy. And keep the light on in the X-ray room."

"What? Not another one." The gray-haired nurse shook her head. "Lee and I were going to the Ruritan Hall for a pancake supper."

Claire opened the door. "Tell him you'll meet him in an hour."

Her patient clutched the neck of a muscular man wearing a white T-shirt soiled with the day's work. Black grease and dirt mixed with a bib of sweat below an unshaven face and dark, curly chest hair. He entered as Claire held the door, his back to her, stepping around the empty chairs, looking toward the empty reception desk.

"Is the doctor here?"

"Yes. You can take her in there," Claire answered, pointing to a hallway leading to the back. "The first room on the left. The nurse will help you."

Claire followed the couple, catching the unmistakable scent of stale sweat and whiskey, an odor she knew only too well from her father, Wally.

"She fell down the stairs," the man offered, setting the patient down on the old examining table covered with white paper.

Lucy didn't bat an eye. "Leave her with me," she said softly. "I need you to give some information to the receptionist."

He shook his head. "She wants me to stay with her. She's afraid."

The woman, appearing no older than a teenager, had her right eye wide open, darting between the nurse and the man who towered over her. Her left eye was closed, swollen shut by a lid the color of grape jelly. A jagged laceration crossed her eyebrow, gaping open, split by the force of whatever had contacted her face, pinching the skin against her supra-orbital ridge, the boney rim of skull above her eye.

Claire watched as she made eye contact with the man, who appeared older, perhaps thirty-five. "I'm so clumsy," the girl said. "I should have been more careful."

The man nodded. "It's okay, baby. We'll get a doctor to help."

Claire put on a sterile glove and stepped in front of the man. "Excuse me." She touched the patient's fair face, gently feeling the cheeks and forehead for step-off deformities or crepitance, signs of a facial fracture. She looked at Lucy. "She'll need an X ray." Then, to the girl, she asked, "How long's it been since you had a tetanus shot?"

The patient shrugged. "Don't know. I think I had one last year."

"You got one when you wrecked your bike, honey," the man said. "You split your lip on the handlebar trying to carry in the mail."

Claire nodded silently. "We can close the wound here. If she has a fracture, I'll have to call a maxillo-facial surgeon in Carlisle."

"I want the doctor to see her. She needs a doctor."

Claire offered a plastic smile.

"Where's old Doc Jenkins?"

"He retired. I'm his replacement. Doctor Claire McCall," she added, without extending her hand.

The man shook his head. "You're a real doctor?"

It was a reaction Claire had come to expect. Overcoming gender bias was a daily part of life in Stoney Creek, the town that women's liberation forgot.

The girl reached over her short cut-off jeans, which were purple with blood. "I twisted my ankle."

Claire checked the patient's right ankle, which was swelled with fluid, obscuring the normal bony landmarks. "We'll X-ray this, too." Claire examined her legs, dotted with bruises. She touched the girl's thigh. "You fall often?"

The girl shrugged and looked at her escort. "I'm so clumsy." The standard answer. Claire had heard it before. She touched the girl's chin. "What's your name?"

"Lena."

"Smile for me, Lena."

She did, parting her fattened upper lip to reveal a chipped front incisor.

"Are you hurt anywhere else?" She slid her fingers along the girl's neck. "Any tenderness here?"

The girl shook her head silently.

Claire studied the man for a moment. He stood by the girl's side, too close for Claire's comfort. "You'll need to fill out some paperwork. We need her insurance information. If you'll follow Lucy here, I'll make sure Lena gets taken care of."

He stepped even closer to Claire. "I want to stay with her. Bring the papers to me. I'll fill them out."

Claire didn't want to challenge the man. If her suspicions were right, he wasn't a man to tangle with after he'd been drinking. "Bring me a wheelchair. Let's get her X rays."

They transferred Lena to a wheelchair and rolled her across the hall to the X-ray unit.

"You'll have to wait out in the hall, sir," Claire insisted. "We're going to be x-raying. It's not safe."

"I'm stayin' with her. I'm not afraid."

Lucy took a deep breath and grasped the man by the arm, attempting to face him toward the door. "Come on. A big strong man like you don't want children lookin' like aliens, do you?"

Obviously, the warning about genetics was over his head. "Wh- what?"

"We don't want to radiate your manhood, sir. Stand out in the hall."

The man jerked his arm free from Lucy's grasp. "I'm going nowhere. I know what you're trying to do."

Claire forced a smile. An alien child would be an improvement over their father. "You were warned."

"Trouble here, Dr. McCall?"

Claire turned to see Cyrus, her office maintenance man, standing right behind the other man. Cyrus, a young man whose stature matched the other man's, had been an answer to prayer, appearing two weeks before on a warm summer's evening as Claire was locking up the office. She'd walked to the parking lot to find a man loading a lawnmower into his pickup. She hadn't remembered asking anyone to mow.

"Ma'am?" He wiped his large hands on a towel and extended his right hand to her. "Cyrus Hensley. I understand the clinic is lookin' for a maintenance man?"

She studied the immaculate job. He'd edged the sidewalk and trimmed the unruly bushes. "Uh, well, yes." She hesitated. "You did all this?"

The man beamed. "I can do plumbing and electrical work, basic carpentry if something's broke."

"Did you fill out an application?"

He lifted his hand and gestured to the freshly cut grass. "This is my application."

Claire shook her head. She had prayed for help. Until Cyrus showed up, she had bugged her boyfriend to help her with the maintenance items she couldn't handle. Two weeks before, she'd mowed the grass herself. "Okay," she responded, marveling at the ease of doing business in small-town America. "You're hired."

The man nodded. "Thank you, ma'am."

For a moment, they looked at each other without speaking, doctor and maintenance man sizing each other up. The grin on Cyrus's face never broke. Claire pulled her gaze away and stepped toward her car. She found her voice again after she heard him slam the tailgate on his truck. "We still need the paper application for our records," she called, then shook her head. The man was already pulling out of the lot.

Now, Cyrus proved his knack for showing up at the right time yet again. He repeated his question. "Trouble? Anything I can do?"

Claire smiled. "Stand with this gentleman in the hall while we do an X ray on his, uh ."

"Lena's my wife," he said. "I need to stay with her."

"Not in there, you don't," Cyrus said.

The man sized Cyrus up and down. Even with his alcoholic bravado, he had enough sense not to challenge the sober maintenance man.

"Any chance you're pregnant?" Claire asked the patient softly.

"I wish." She looked away. "We haven't been successful yet."

"Just the same, let me shield your ovaries." Claire put a lead apron over the girl's lower abdomen and positioned her ankle for the first shot. She looked up to see Cyrus closing the door. She leaned close to her patient's face and whispered, "He's been hitting you, hasn't he?"

The girl pulled her fingers through her tangled bangs. Her eyes were wide, brimming with tears.

"You can trust me. I can take you to a safe place."

"Billy Ray loves me. I'm just clumsy is all."

"Lena, listen to me," she whispered with quiet fervor. "What's to stop him from killing you next time? Men like him need help. But till he gets it, you need to get away."

"He wouldn't hurt me."

"He already has. I can't help you unless you let me. He needs help, Lena. But the next time could be the last. Men like this can kill."

"I fell down the steps."

Claire sighed and scribbled her number on a piece of paper. She folded it and shoved it into the front pocket of the girl's shorts. "This is my phone number. Think about this, Lena. I can take you to a safe place anytime you change your mind."

This time the girl did not speak, but only wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and sniffed. Then, for a moment, her eyes met Claire's. And she nodded.

They took the X rays. They were negative. No ankle fracture. No supraorbital fracture. But on the facial X rays, Claire could see another tell-tale sign of abuse: an old, healed fracture of the patient's mandible, or jaw.

It took thirty minutes to clean and suture up Lena's eyebrow, leaving a fine row of suture, evenly spaced and symmetric. While Claire sewed, Billy Ray stood close by, stroking his wife's arm, calling her "baby" and "sweet thing."

Claire had just about finished when Billy Ray presented his own theory. "Ever heard of the Stoney Creek curse, Doc? For generations people been stumbling around this town. Think that's what Lena's got? She's always fallin' down."

The doctor's head snapped upright. "Don't even start in on that with me."

Claire was the doctor who had solved the Stoney Creek curse mystery last year, uncovering an undiagnosed pocket of Huntington's disease patients in and around the Apple Valley. Unfortunately, the illness is genetic, with those carrying the HD gene coming down with symptoms during midlife. The symptoms consist of progressive mental deterioration and a loss of control of voluntary muscles until the victim is tormented by constant flailing motion of the arms and legs, and is eventually unable to swallow or eat. Even more bittersweet than the notoriety of making a great diagnosis was the fact that Claire herself stood directly in line to inherit the disorder. It was that fact, along with her desire to help her mother with the care of her father, who had HD, that drove her to leave her surgical residency training in spite of her lifelong dream of being a surgeon. HD had changed everything for Claire McCall. Her greatest diagnostic triumph in solving the Stoney Creek curse became her greatest fear, looming over her life like a dark cloud pregnant with rain.

"Come on, you must have heard of-"

"I said, don't go there!" Claire took a deep breath. This jerk not only wanted to cover up his inexcusable abuse, now he wanted to do it with ignorance. She looked at Lucy. "After you've wrapped Lena's ankle and fitted her with crutches, could you give Billy Ray here a copy of the article I published in Contemporary Neurology?" She looked at Billy Ray without flinching. "Read the article about Huntington's disease in the Apple Valley. I think it will sufficiently deal with your fears about your wife's curse."

Claire pivoted and walked out. It had been a long day, capped by a malodorous wife-abuser with an attitude about women doctors. She'd had enough.

She passed Cyrus in the hall where he stood on a ladder changing a fluorescent light. "Thanks for your help, Cyrus. You saved the day again."

He seemed preoccupied and replied with a silent nod.

She cleaned off her desk, shoving two medicine periodicals into her canvas briefcase. As she closed it, Betsy Jackson burst in without a knock. Betsy cleaned the office in the evenings, and on most of them, found Claire sitting in her desk with her head in a book. Betsy was fifty, and knew more about most of Claire's patients than Claire did. Of course it was all the stuff the doctor didn't ask: who was dating whom, who was engaged, who was divorced, who was cheating, and who had problems with their boss. It wasn't that she was a busybody. She just had such a big heart that everyone ended up telling her their problems.

She grabbed Claire's left hand. "Well? Let me see it!" She dropped her jaw. "What's wrong? Don't want to wear that rock at work? I don't blame you. I don't wear my solitaire around this joint either. You never know when-"

"Betsy! Slow down. I didn't get it."

"He didn't give you a ring?" She dropped Claire's hand and leaned over to pull a trash can from beneath the desk to empty it into the large black plastic bag she carried. "I don't get it. Did he give you something else? I heard of a man that gave a woman a car for an engagement present once. But it's not like you can wear a convertible or anything. I-"

"He didn't ask me."

This news stopped Betsy's pressured speech. "I, uh . well."

"We had a nice quiet evening in Brighton. We ate by candlelight at DeAngelo's. Then we saw a movie. That was it. No ring." She shrugged and looked away. She didn't want Betsy to see her tears. She quickly dabbed her eyes.

"You said he wanted it to be a special night."

"It was, I guess."

"Maybe Italian food is special to a man," she said. "But a woman needs jewelry to make a night special."

Claire lifted her briefcase. "It's been a long day, Betsy."

"What is that boy waiting for? It's not every day that a beautiful, smart young lady like you comes along."

Claire had expected an engagement ring. The night was going to be special, John had said. The night. That's what he'd been hinting at, hadn't he?

But he hadn't come through, and now, at this moment, with all the other pressures, Claire just felt like having a good cry.

Continues.

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