Sympathy

        For Sandra Boles Ballas

Settling back on the sofa, luxuriating in its familiar softness, she spread the throw over her knees. It was fresh out of the dryer and quite warm. Perfect for a chilly, overcast fall day. She’d recorded Bringing Up Baby on TCM. The boy was off playing basketball. Freddie and his older brother, Ben, had gone to another of their horror-movie Saturday matinees.

Ben’s wife was visiting with her mother in Nashville or she would be here, enjoying the laziness of a Saturday afternoon. Well, Faith would say she missed her.

But her phone jangled and broke the spell.

At first, she didn’t recognize the voice. Janice Keener, the chain-smoking nurse friend with whom she had not spoken in at least a month. “Honey, want me to come get you?”

“Pardon?”

“I’m at the hospital. I just started my shift but I can come get you.”

“Janice?”

“He’s in ICU.”

Who’s in ICU?”

“You don’t—Faith, I—Freddie’s—Freddie. Freddie’s in ICU.”

“He’s—he went to a movie.”

“Honey, he was brought in here five minutes ago—I thought he came from you. I asked where you were. I looked for you but then realized you were probably too upset.”

“What’s happened?”

“I’m so sorry,” Janice told her. “I waited for you. He was out cold. Some kind of seizure. They were working on him. I thought heart attack right away. He didn’t—you weren’t with him?”

“Janice, he went to a movie with his brother.”

“Oh, honey—I want you to know I’ll be here if you—I mean—I’ll—I’m here. I’ll be—I’ll take time off if I have to. If you need me to come get you.”

“Did you say heart attack?

“They’re checking for it, working on him. He was out cold.”

Faith said, “He’s had low blood sugar before. And passed out.”

“Well—he—he was breathing all right. That much I know. That’s probably all it is, then. And, honey, I’m here for you no matter what.”

She remembered that Janice was prone to catastrophic imaginings and conclusions. “Well, what happened? Did they get into an accident?”

“Nobody said anything. I just saw him—I saw—you know. He was out cold. He could’ve taken a fall in the—he could’ve hit his head or something.”

“You say he was breathing all right, though?”

“One of the medics said that, yes.”

“Then it’s probably the low blood sugar. Was his brother with him? You know, Ben?”

“I just saw Freddie. And he was out cold, and they whisked him into the corridor and away.”

“People pass out for all sorts of reasons, Janice.”

“Hypoglycemia, I know.”

“I’ll be right there,” Faith said.

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