Promises of Mercy

By: Vella Day


“So Chris lived life to the fullest.”

She finally made direct eye contact. “Yeah, he did.”

Stone leaned forward. “What were his goals?” None of which might ever be realized now.

She shook her head. “I’m not sure. If I had to guess, I’d say it was to have a good time.” Her lips pressed together, and she looked up at the ceiling again as if she’d find her composure there. “When he came to live with me, I insisted he take at least one night school class and get a job, so he worked as a garage mechanic. He’s really talented.”

“I’m glad he found something he excelled at.” He scarfed down part of his meal while he thought about her answers. “Were you and Chris always close?”

“Surprisingly, yes, even though we were opposites. I was always studying and figured when I was done with school, I’d have plenty of time to travel and enjoy myself.” She sipped her tea.

“How’s that plan working out?” He tried to keep his voice light.

A small chuckle escaped. “When I find the time to do the things I want, I’ll let you know.”

“I hear ya. I always dreamed of seeing the world, too. Finding the time and money seem to be my stopping points.”

“Amen.”

It was cool they had the same vision in life. “The ER doc said you’re an oncology nurse.” He wanted to hear about her passion.

“Yes.”

“Why oncology?” He wasn’t sure he could handle the depression day in and day out.

“It’s where I believe I can help the most.” She returned to her food for a moment before continuing. “When I see how quickly the doctors have to meet with so many patients, I’m glad I chose nursing where I can spend time with each person.” A spark filled her eyes.

“What’s the best part of your job?”

“That’s easy. Seeing my patients’ courage. I’ve never met more upbeat and wonderful people in my life.” She inhaled, and then exhaled deeply. “Don’t get me wrong, I do have many sad cases, but when some go home and live a full life, I’m so happy for them.”

“It seems as if you really love what you do.”

Her face softened, and she looked beautiful at that moment. “Yes.” She sighed. “But now I’m not sure how I’m going to take care of Chris full-time and do my job the way I want.”

He wondered why she thought it was her responsibility. “What about your parents?”

She shook her head. “My dad, who was a lawyer, walked out on us a long time ago, and my mom works long hours.”

“As a cardiac surgeon, maybe your mother could hire someone to care for her son.”

“She could, but I’m not sure she plans to.” Amber’s lips pursed. “I’ll speak with her about it.”

He hadn’t expected such pain and bitterness to lace her tone. For today, he’d leave that conversation alone. No need to bring up something so unsettling.

For the next few minutes, they ate—or rather he ate and Amber picked. She’d bring the fork close to her mouth and hold it there for a moment as if she was lost in thought.

He glanced at the big clock behind the cafeteria line. “When do you need to get to work?” She was dressed in scrubs, so he assumed she was here for her shift.

Amber sucked in a big breath. “At two. If I have time, I want to stop back and see Chris once more. My boss said to take a few days off, but I figure if Chris’s condition changes, I’ll be close by.” She closed her eyes tight for a moment. “You know what he said when he first woke up after the accident?”

Stone shook his head.

“He said he wanted to die.”

Stone nodded. “He told me that, too, but it’s the fear talking. It’s going to take time to come to grips with the life-altering event.”

She drew in her bottom lip. “How can I convince him that he can lead a useful life?”

Did she really believe he could? Fuck, if he got run over and couldn’t move, Stone might elect to die, too. When Heath had been in his arms, he kept begging Stone to let him go. Stone had tried to convince his friend to hold on for the sake of his wife and newborn child, but Heath had shaken his head, claiming he didn’t want to be a burden to his family.