"Rachel's in Emergency now. Check in there."
"Right. Thanks." He hung up realizing that he couldn't remember her name, this friend of Rachel's, but it was the least of his worries, the very least. "Unbelievable," he muttered as he zipped his jeans and reached for a shirt. Things were bad at the office and bad in the field. He was living an architect's nightmare, needed in both places come morning, and then there was Jill. Tonight was the charity dinner that she had been working on for so long. He had deliberately planned business trips around this date, knowing how much it meant to her. His tux was pressed and waiting. She was expecting him at five. Five -- and he hadn't slept a wink. And he was heading south to God only knew what, for God only knew how long.
But Rachel was hurt. You're not married to her anymore, his alter ego said, but he didn't miss a beat stuffing his shirt into his jeans and his feet into loafers. You don't owe her a thing, man. She was the one who walked out.
But she was hurt, and he had been called, and depending on what he found in Monterey, there would be arrangements to make for the girls. They would have to be told how she was, for starters. They were too old to be sent to bed with empty reassurances, too young to face this possible nightmare alone. Rachel was their caretaker, companion, confidant. The three were thick as thieves.
The doctors are worried about her brain, the friend had said. Well, of course, they would worry until things checked out.
He tossed cold water on his face and brushed his teeth. Minutes later he entered his studio -- and in a moment's dismay wondered why he still called it that. It had become more a place of business than of art. What few drawings he had done were buried under proposals, spec sheets, contracts, and correspondence -- the refuse of an insane number of construction projects in various stages. The place reeked of pressure.
Using the slate gray of dawn that filtered through the skylights, he crammed his briefcase with his laptop and as many vital papers as would fit, and his portfolio with multiple versions of the Montana design. Tucking both under in arm, he strode down the darkened hall to the kitchen. He didn't need a light. The place was streamlined and minimal. Grabbing his keys from the granite island and a blazer from the coat tree by the door, he set the alarm and went down to the garage below. Within minutes, he was backing out the BMW and speeding down Filbert. His headlights cut a pale gray swath in the smoky night, lighting little of Russian Hill. Other than the occasional street corner lump that could as easily be a homeless person sleeping as trash waiting for pickup, San Francisco was one big foggy cocoon.
Pressing numbers by feel on his car phone, he called information. He was heading south on Van Ness by the time he got through to the hospital in Monterey. "This is Jack McGill. My wife, Rachel Keats, was brought in a little while ago. I'm on my way there. Can you give me an update?"
"Hold on, please." Several nerve-wracking minutes later, he connected with a nurse in the emergency room. "Mr. McGill? She's in surgery. That's about all we know at this point."
"Is she conscious?"
"She wasn't when they took her upstairs."
The doctors are worried about her brain. "What's the surgery for?"
"Would you hold on a minute?"
"I'd rather not --" The sudden silence at the other end said he had no choice. He'd had no choice when Rachel had moved out six years ago, either. She had said she was going, had packed up the girls and their belongings while he was away on business. He had come home to an echoing house, feeling as thwarted and helpless then as he felt now. Then, armored in anger, he had sold the house and moved to one that didn't echo. But now, there was no such out. Her face came to him with every shift of the fog, an urban Rorschach in which her features were beautiful one minute, bruised the next. His nervous heart was beating up a storm.
Reproduced with the permission of Simon & Schuster.
Copyright © 1998 by Barbara Delinsky.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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