Denise, curious, and almost frightened, stood at the door of
Joanie Weston's room. She had talked with Maria at the nurse's
station before coming to her room, and found out all that had
happened. Maria said that after Joanie's tranquilizer wore off,
she seemed rested, and doing quite well. Maria said it would be
fine to go in to see her. In fact, Maria said they had told
Joanie about Denise, and how devoted she had been, and that she
would probably be here, as soon as she found out Joanie had
Hesitating, and not knowing why, to step into the room of
this stranger who had occupied so many of her thoughts, and much
of her time since she had been brought in. And now that she was
conscious, and she could finally meet her, why was she so
Gathering her courage and putting on her best 'volunteer
smile', she knocked on the half-closed door.
Hearing a soft 'come in', she stepped inside. She could see
the patient sitting up in bed. The television was on in front
of the beautiful young woman.
"Hi, I'm Denise Whitaker. I'm a volunteer here at the
hospital. I've been hoping to meet you ever since you came in,"
Denise said, shyly.
"Hello, Denise. I'm Joan Weston. You can call me Joanie,
if you like. That's what most everybody calls me. You must be
the one everybody has told me about, who's been so faithful and
concerned about me. I appreciate it. I really do," she said,
clicking off the television.
Denise sat down in the chair near the bed and said, "I
couldn't believe you were here so long, and we didn't know
anything about you, how to get in touch with your family, or even
what to call you. We called you 'sleeping beauty' a lot,"
Denise said smiling.
"Hey, that's sweet. Looks like everybody took pretty good
care of me while I was 'out'. The doctor said I would probably
get the traction set-up off in a couple of days, then I could go
home pretty soon. I live not too far from here, a little community
called Golden. Do you know where that is?"
"Yes, kind of. I've heard of it anyway. Do you have any
family that we should contact? A husband, children? What
happened anyway? Do you remember?"
"Yeah, I remember, but it seems more like a nightmare, than
reality! I was coming home from a visit to my brother's family's
home. He died not long ago, and was buried in Colorado, where
they had lived for quite a while. And this drunk driver, I guess
he was drunk, (or maybe it was kids showing off, or something),I don't know -
was behind me for several miles. I was trying to get ahead of
him, or let him pass me, and the next thing I knew, here I am!"
"Gosh, that's awful! Thank God you weren't killed! You
were awfully lucky to have only a fractured leg, and minor
injuries. You know, the scars hardly show on your face!"
"You're right! I do thank God!" Joanie said with a shudder.
"It sure could have been much worse!"
"About your family, is there anyone we should call?" Denise
"Oh, well, I don't really have much family, anymore," Joanie
said sadly. "My husband was killed in an accident three years
"Oh, that's awful," Denise responded sympathetically.
"And I didn't have any children. Well," Joanie hesitated,
"I did give up a child for adoption when I was fourteen. But,
that's a long story. I had been raped... After that, I could never
get pregnant again, something about some damage that was done in
childbirth, the doctors said. Anyway, I don't know why I'm
telling you all this. You must think I'm terrible."
"Oh, no! I'm just sorry you've had so much sorrow! And to
be so young, and beautiful! May I ask you a very personal
question? You don't have to answer it, if you'd rather not,"
Denise asked shyly.
"I don't mind," Joanie replied, curiously.
"Well, I was just
wondering if you ever think about the baby you gave up. I'm
sorry! I'm being too nosy, huh? I mean, I'm adopted, and I
wonder about my 'real' mom a lot, you know. Just if, if she ever
thinks about me, and stuff. I don't mean to pry, after all, you
hardly know me!"
"Oh, that's OK." Joanie said sadly, looking off toward the
window with the curtains pulled back. "You know, I haven't
talked about this to anyone for a long, long time. I've just
kept it all bottled up inside." Looking back at Denise, she
said, "Yes, I think about my little girl all the time. I only
got to see her, and hold her one time. She would be about your
age now, I guess. She was born on July 10. She's just turned
sixteen, the way I figure it. No, I'll never forget that day!"
Denise felt the color began to drain from her face, as she
heard the date of Joanie*s child's birth. No, of course not! It
couldn't be! It was just coincidence, that it was also Denise's
birthdate! That she was also adopted-all just a coincidence!
"I can't imagine the horror of being raped, and being
pregnant from it, and then giving up the baby! It must have been
awful! And you were only fourteen?" Denise responded, trying to
make her voice sound normal, as her mind was racing.
"Yes, but you grow up fast in a situation like that! I
loved my baby girl very much, even though it was a horrible way
to conceive. I didn't want to give her up, but I knew I had to,
for her sake! But, I've prayed if the Lord be willing, I'll get
to see her again, someday. I pray for her all the time. I call
her Diane. Of course, I don't know her real name, but God does."
"That's such a sweet story. I hope you do get to meet her.
I'm sure she would be very proud to know you were her mother."
Denise replied, feeling she had to get out of this room as soon
as possible! She had to get herself under control!
Denise looked at her watch, and said almost hastily, "Well,
I've really enjoyed talking to you, Joanie, and I'm so glad
you're doing well. I've really got to go now, but, I'll be back.
"Thank you, for coming, and for listening. I guess I needed
to talk to someone, today. I was having flashbacks, when I came
out of the coma. And you're a very kind girl. Did you say your
name is Denise?"
"Yes, Denise Whitaker."
"Please do come back to visit me. I like you already,
Tears filled Denise's eyes as she left the room, and began
to walk down the hall to the elevator. Wishing it could be true,
that she had found her 'real' mother, then scolding herself, she
continued to remind herself that this couldn't happen. She
couldn't be Joanie Weston's daughter! It was just too far out!
But yet, the same birthday! And Maria had asked if she was
related to her! She said they looked a lot alike! And Denise
had felt that feeling of familiarity, looking at the 'sleeping
beauty'. Could it be? Oh, God, could both our prayers have been
It was already dark when Denise walked out of the hospital,
and out to her car. Though preoccupied in thought, fear began to
rise up in her, as she walked to the dimly lit parking lot,
remembering the many warnings she'd had about kidnappers,
rapists, and murderers, lurking in parking lots at night.
Hurriedly, she unlocked her car door, climbed inside, and locked
her door again. Breathing a sigh of relief, she put the key in
the ignition, and started her car. She turned on her lights, and
pulled out of the parking lot onto the street.
Scolding herself for her fear, she remembered that Joanie
had been raped. Perhaps, her fear wasn't so foolish after all!
Curious about the circumstances of the attack, Denise let her
mind wander, as she automatically turned onto the main drag.
The unusually congested traffic reminded Denise it was
Saturday night. How could she have forgotten so quickly. Then
the awful feelings came flooding back with the memory of the
How had everything gone so wrong?
Interrupting Denise's confusion, a black sportscar, which
looked very much like Jon's, pulled carelessly out in front of
her, at an uncontrolled intersection, causing a near panic, in
spite of the fact that the driver manipulated the car speedily,
avoiding a collision.
Red flags went up in Denise's mind! That looked like Jon's
car, but there was a girl in there with the driver. Could that
have been Jon?
After the way things were left this afternoon, Denise felt
very unsure of everything! The car in front of her put on the
blinker for a right turn, and without hesitation, Denise followed
suit! She had to know what was going on!
With close observation, she saw that the driver was paying
little attention to the traffic. The passenger seemed to be
moving around in the car a lot, as if playing some kind of game
with the driver.
Surely, this couldn't be Jon! But who else drove a car like
that in this town?
Instictively, Denise knew, though hoping against hope, that
it had to be Jon! But who could the passenger be?
Fury began building as the pieces began falling into place.
He had been upset with her this afternoon. Then she went to the
hospital, alone, instead of spending time with Jon, as they had
What did she expect? A good-looking, popular, college guy
like Jon wasn't about to sit at home on a Saturday night!
Driving as close to the sports car as she dared, trying not
to attract his attention, she pursued, hoping to get a glimpse
of whoever was with him.
Signaling for a left turn, the car ahead made it's way to a
convenience store, on the highway leading out of town.
more slowly, Denise's thoughts returned to graduation night, when
Roger had parked here, after rescuing her from the lonely highway.
Remembering the feeling of rejection and desolation after
Jon had left her stranded on the highway, and then her continuous
excuses for his behavior, she began to admit to herself for the
first time that, perhaps, Jon hadn't been so perfect after all.
She realized that although Jon's actions had been induced by
the beer he drank, he had willingly indulged, knowing the
problems that could come from it. For some reason, perhaps fear,
yes, the fear of losing Jon, she had totally excused his behavior
Was that love? Or was it stupidity?
The passenger was getting out of the car. Oh, no! It was
the redhead from the graduation party, the one whom Denise had
overheard saying she had been with Jon! Denise was shocked, but
there was no mistaking the copper-red hair, and petite build.
As Denise drove slowly by, she searched her mind for the
girl's name. She had looked it up in the yearbook, but what was
it? Now she remembered, Jessie! Jessie Arnold.
Could it have been true? The things that she had overheard
in the restroom that day? Denise had never seriously considered
the possibility of Jon cheating on her before, but after all,
what had changed? They were still 'going steady'! She still was
wearing his ring! Regardless of the afternoon quarrel, he still
had no right to be with another girl! And they had looked quite
chummy in the car, Denise decided angrily.
Well, she wasn't going to let him off so easily this time!