The Walking Wounded - Cover

The Walking Wounded

Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay

Chapter 23

Tomorrow was now today, and Karin had come to pick Kevin up. She'd knocked on his door and found him ready and waiting – as nervous, it seemed, as she was. And she couldn't understand why she was so nervous about this. She could understand the sharp stab of fear she'd felt when she'd realized she was pregnant. She could understand her terror at realizing that she was going to be a single mother. She remembered and understood the cold sweat she'd experienced when she told the church that she was pregnant. But why was she afraid – no, not afraid, but definitely nervous – at the thought of finding out the baby's gender?

"Why is that, Kevin?" she asked him.

"Shoot, Kar, I don't know. But if you make me I'll guess that it's the way everybody is always afraid of new things ... well, maybe not everybody, but a lot of people. Stuff you don't know, it makes you scared. Like one time I was makin' a run on a road I'd never been on before, and the way the hill was I couldn't see nothin' over the top of it. An' I knew that there wasn't gonna be no 18-wheeler jackknifed over the top, an' there wasn't gonna be no tree layin' in the road, or nothin' like that. But I still got nervous at not knowin'. And I think maybe this is the same kind o' thing."

"The fear of the unknown?"

"Yeah. I couldn't've come up with those words, but they're exactly what I'm talkin' about."

She glanced over at him while they waited at a red light. "I've said before that you're intelligent, Kev. And I mean it. Perhaps you don't have the ability to frame sentences as well as I do, but you very rarely fail to understand me."

"Shoot, Kar, you're easy to understand – as easy as any woman, anyway."

"Are you saying that women are incomprehensible?" She smiled, knowing that he liked to see her do so.

"Would I say that?"

"Yes, you would." The light changed, and she gave the car some gas.

"Then I guess I am, girlie."

"Good. It's a skill women work hard to perfect."

Kevin might like to see her smile, but she loved to hear him laugh. It was a big laugh, all right, and in the car it was almost loud enough to hurt, but it was the freest, most sincere thing she'd ever heard. Kevin didn't laugh, she realized, for effect. If what he heard or saw didn't make him laugh, he didn't, and if it did he laughed without self-consciousness or pretense.

She realized also that whether he'd tried to do it, or had simply been himself and artless, he'd very effectively taken her mind off her worries. And she did find it hard to be very worried when she was around Kevin. Perhaps it was his size, which was impressive; or perhaps it was the same unpretentious sincerity she'd heard in his laugh; or perhaps it was just the fact that he so obviously loved her. Whatever it was, she tended to calm down when she was around him.

I don't suppose the feminists would approve of that, she thought. Women are supposed to be self-reliant, needing a man about as much as they need purple wings. But God designed women – and this was a new realization for her – to be part of a complementary pair, not alone, but with someone. Just as a man, except when God calls him to celibacy, is incomplete without the woman God has chosen for him, so a woman is incomplete without the man God has chosen for her. And so I'm happy to be able to lean on Kevin – he's the one God provided for me to lean on.

With this thought she took her right hand off the steering wheel and reached over to take Kevin's. She'd shaken hands with many men, and had held her ex-husband's hand, and Kevin's was the only one which could make hers look small. I've got hands to match the rest of me. He must have felt, or somehow sensed, her nervousness and the calm he brought to her, for he gave her hand a gentle, reassuring squeeze.

They pulled into the doctor's parking without saying anything else. Inside, Karin signed in and they sat down to wait. The appointment was for 10 AM, but getting in to see a doctor at the appointed time is something that rarely happens. Doctors run around like chickens with their heads cut off, she thought. And I've seen that, too. Mom and Dad may have money, but I grew up raising things. It was something she hadn't thought of for a long time, and remembering the chickens, and the goats, and the garden with its vegetables and flowers, passed the time for her. Before she knew it, the nurse was calling her name, and when she looked at the clock on the wall she realized that 20 minutes had passed in what seemed like a breath of time.

She held Kevin's hand tightly as they passed within the door and followed the nurse to an examining room. The nurse confirmed the purpose of the visit – an ultrasound examination – and said the doctor would be with them shortly. That means more waiting, Karin thought, and grimaced at Kevin. On previous visits she'd hopped up on the examining table and waited there, but this time she wheeled the doctor's stool over next to the sole chair, and sat on it, letting Kevin have the chair. He'd have never managed the stool, and even she was big enough that it wasn't terribly comfortable.

"Nervous, babe?" Kevin asked her.

"Yes, a little. But I'll be okay. I'm glad you're here, Kev."

"Me too. I just hope I don't faint."

"You won't faint! There's no blood or anything..." And then she saw his grin, and realized he'd been pulling her leg ... and had nearly pulled it off in his hand. She punched him in the arm, not softly – but then Kevin probably wouldn't have noticed a soft punch. "You are a royal pain, do you know that?"

"At least I'm royal. That's better'n what they used to say 'bout me back in Fresno."

"I don't think I want to know what they said about you back there. Kevin, I know your past hasn't been very moral, or very attractive – in fact, what I know of your life before you met Christ scares me to death. And while I won't stop you from telling me anything you think I ought to know, I'm as happy not knowing."

"There's things in my life you ought not to know. There's things I don't want you to know. It's not just that it's scary. I'm ashamed o' a lot o' what I done ... did. If I was to give you a list o' everything I did wrong, we'd be here all day. An' I don't wanna put that kind o' load on you."

She leaned against him – for once, with the differing heights of the stool and the chair, her head was against his arm instead of leaning over on his shoulder. He reached around with his right hand and stroked her face, gently, as though he didn't want to disturb her makeup. "Did I mention yet that I love you, Kevin?"

"Not in the past five minutes. But as much as I like to hear you say it, I can tell even if you don't. Anyone who'll ask me to come to the doctor with 'im to find out whether it's a boy or a girl, an' who'll lean on me like that, an' ... an' ... an' all the other stuff you do, well, I don't think you're that good an actress."

"I'm not – though all you have on that is my word. But I'm not. I really do love you."

"An' I love you, Kar. An' I think I love you more every day. Either that, or I just understand it better every day..."

"Maybe it's both."

"Yeah, could be."

Just then the examining room door opened. The doctor was a tall, slender – almost skinny – woman with black hair that just barely came over her ears. She looked at Karin with some sort of emotion barely visible on her face, and then at Kevin. And when she looked at Kevin her face went cold, and her voice was cold as she spoke. "Who, sir, are you?"

Karin straightened up and answered. "This is Kevin Farley. We're engaged."

The doctor's voice was less harsh this time. "I hadn't known, Karin, that you were engaged."

"It's new ... it's a long story. But we're going to get married, and Kevin will be the baby's father."

"He is not the biological father."

"No. That's my ex-husband. But Kevin will be the father."

The doctor – her name tag said Melody Sanders, MD – looked back at Kevin with a slightly less unfriendly expression. "You'll have to wait outside."

"Hey, Doc—"

Karin cut him off with a finger on his lips. "Doctor, I want Kevin to be here. He's going to be the baby's father, and ... and I want him here."

For a moment Karin thought the doctor would insist, but in the end she yielded. "Very well. Please lie down on the table, Karin."

Karin gave Kevin a quick kiss and got onto the table. The doctor busied herself with the ultrasound machine while Karin pulled her blouse out of her slacks to expose her abdomen.

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