Dad, please, wake up.
Taylor continued the internal plea as she and her mother administered CPR, each word punctuated by the thrust of her palms into her father’s chest. In the distance, she heard the wail of a siren.
Jenny, younger than Taylor by six years, stood and craned her neck. “There’s a police car coming.” She waved to the driver and ran to the car as it came to a halt in the driveway.
“My dad—we think he’s had a heart attack. My sister and my mom are doing CPR.”
Taylor continued thrusting, only glancing up at the approaching officer. She didn’t recognize him but didn’t have time to think about that. She kept to her task but felt him drop to the ground beside her.
“Let me take over.” The officer nudged her as the ambulance turned onto the lane.
“I’ve got it.”
“Your breathing is labored, your face is beet-red, and you’re not going to do him any good if you pass out.”
As if to back him up, a stream of sweat ran into her eye, momentarily fogging her vision. She quickly moved aside, and he took over.
Taylor rolled back onto her heels and took a deep breath. She watched as her mother and the unfamiliar officer tried to revive her father. She pushed herself out of the way when the paramedics said they would take it from there. Her friend, Tori, a fellow classmate throughout school and now an island paramedic, cast a sympathetic look in her direction.
It seemed as if she were in a dream as she watched Tori and Jimmy work on her father. She heard their voices, but their words made no sense. Everything felt like it was moving in slow motion. She watched her mother climb into the back of the ambulance and felt Jenny take her hand.
“I’ll drive you to the hospital,” the stranger said.
Without thinking, she followed him to his car, but slowly, reality crept in.
“Wait. Mom’s going to need her purse and the insurance info. Let me grab it.”
Taylor rushed into the house and retrieved her mother’s purse and her backpack from the hook in the kitchen. Taylor had never been a purse kind of girl. She hurried out the door and folded herself into the backseat of the patrol car. Her heart skipped a beat as the car leapt into drive and the wee-woo of the siren filled the air. Jenny laid her head on Taylor’s shoulder, and Taylor tilted her head so that it rested on her sister’s head.
As they veered around corners and sailed down streets, Taylor sniffed back a tear. Her last conversation with her father had been yet another rant over the situation her father hated as much as she did. She closed her eyes and wished she hadn’t lost her temper with her father over something that was out of his control.
Nick concentrated on keeping up with the ambulance but glanced, every now and then, at the sisters in the backseat. Both were blonde and quite pretty. One looked like she was probably still in high school, but the other looked closer to his age. He knew they were distraught and was surprised they held it together. When he glanced again, he saw a tear slide down the face of the older sister. She blinked out another before using the back of her hand to wipe them away. He shifted his gaze to the younger girl. She shook with silent sobs, and he admired their self-control.
Though the sound of the siren screamed, Nick felt an uncomfortable silence envelop him. He’d never been in this type of situation. Should he remain silent? Should he make small talk? Ask if they were okay? He cleared his throat.
“Are, uh, are you two okay? Can I call anyone or do, uh, anything?”
As if startled to find him there, the older girl blinked several times as her gaze met his in the rearview mirror. He saw a wave of emotions roll across her face.
“Um, thanks,” she managed. “I’m not sure what you can do.”
“Taylor, should we call grandma?”
He saw the older one, Taylor he supposed, nod. “I’ll call them.” She leaned forward, reached behind her back, and pulled out a phone. Nick watched the road and assumed she was calling her grandparents.
“Gram, it’s Taylor…Gram, we’re on the way to the hospital. We think Dad had a heart attack…Yes, she’s with him…No, Jenny and I are with, uh…” she hesitated and caught Nick’s eye in the rearview mirror.
“Officer Black, Chincoteague Police.”
She repeated the information, assured her grandmother they were okay, and said they would see her at the hospital. Again, Nick marveled at how well she kept herself together.
The thirty-minute drive felt like it took hours. When they pulled up into the emergency bay, Nick hustled from his seat and opened the back door. The girls quickly exited the car and began following the stretcher, carried by Tori and Jimmy. Their mother put a protective arm around the younger sister, Jenny was it? Before disappearing into the double glass doors, Taylor turned back.
“Thank you,” she called. “For the ride and the support.”
Nick stood by his car and watched the doors close behind them. He wished there was more he could do.