Narrowback’s Pub, South Boston, Massachusetts, summer before last
“We have a request. This is for Kylah and Ted.” The band struck up “Black Velvet Band.”
“Her eyes, they shone like diamonds…” The lead vocalist sang and swayed to the lively old Irish tune.
“Come on, Teddy, it’s our song!” Kylah grasped her husband’s hand and pulled him out of his chair.
He drained his beer and plunked the mug down. “Okay, but after this, I’m outta here. You wore me out with the Gay Gordons.”
They sidestepped around other couples heading for the dance floor. “But we can’t leave before they play ‘Killing Me Softly’,” she insisted. “I wanted to slow dance with you.”
“Tell you what.” They glided past a dancer twirling his partner. “We’ll go home, put our ‘World’s Greatest Love Songs’ CD on, dim the lights and we can slow dance in privacy.”
A thrill warmed Kylah to her toes. “Oh, you can be so romantic after a few beers!” She nipped his ear. “Then after this dance, I’m outta here with you.”
When their song ended, he walked her towards the exit. “Be right back. Gotta make a pit stop.” As she waited for him, tapping her foot to “The Wild Rover” a lug in a wife beater tank top loped up to her. “Hey, hottie. Wanna dance?” He grabbed her wrist in his sweaty hand. His beer-soured breath made her gag.
“I’m with my husband.” She jerked her hand away and sighed in relief as Ted headed back to her.
“C’mon, one dance. He’ll survive.” The creep grabbed her arm.
Ted drew back and landed a left hook that sent him spinning.
Kylah’s jaw dropped. A few curious heads turned their way. Ted steered her to the door.
“Why’d you hit him?” Expecting another barroom brawl, she shuddered. A stab of fear pierced her gut. “Why do you always have to start fights?” she shrieked over the music, the singing, the mishmash of voices.
“Nobody messes with my wife.” He swung the door open.
“One of these days you’ll pick on the wrong guy.” Once again her warning fell on deaf ears.
A spatter of raindrops slapped Kylah’s cheeks as she stepped outside under the awning. “It’s pouring. I don’t want to get on your bike in this. Let’s take a taxi.” The rain pelted the awning in a steady drumbeat.
“Come on, Ky, I know the roads.” He fished out his keys.
“Teddy, please.” A familiar premonition haunted her. Trembling, she cringed and chewed her bottom lip. “It’s too dangerous. I’m calling a taxi. Leave the bike here.” She fished in her bag for her phone.
He jangled his keys. “Go call one for yourself. I’m capable of driving a bike in the rain. Just because you’re a wuss.” He strode to the curb and straddled his motorcycle.
“Teddy, please!” She dashed out from under the awning and tugged on his arm as he started the engine. He revved it up and shifted into gear with his boot. It purred above the spatter of rain.
He strapped his helmet on. “Now if you’re coming, hop on. I’m wasting gas here.” He twisted the throttle on the right handlebar.
She trembled as her teeth clenched in anger. “No, I’m taking a taxi, damn it!”
As Ted zoomed out into the street, a car swerved and headed straight for him. The headlights blinded her. A scream ripped from deep inside her. The car rammed Ted with a sickening thump. He struck the ground, his bike a mangled mess of steel. Tires screeched as the car sped off into the night.
Ted rolled onto his back, moaning.
Dazed with shock, Kylah stumbled back into the noisy bar. She grabbed a waitress, knocking a tray out of her arms. Dishes and glasses crashed to the floor. “Help! Call nine one one! My husband got run over!”
Patrons turned to stare. The waitress pulled out a cell phone and shouted into it, “There’s been an accident…”
“Hurry up, please, he’s out there on the ground, please!” Kylah screamed.
“An ambulance is coming,” someone yelled in her ear.
Tears blinding her, she burst through the door and back into the rain to Ted. His chest rose and fell. He still breathed, thank God. “An ambulance is coming, Teddy, you’ll be fine, I promise.” She took his hand, pressed her fingers to his wrist. “Your pulse is steady,” she assured him. As rain drenched them, she bowed her head and whispered the Lord’s Prayer in Gaelic… “Ár n-Athair atá ar neamh, Go naofar d’ainim, Go dtagfadh do ríocht… ”
* * *
Wailing sirens cut through the spattering rain. A whirring red light illuminated Ted as if awash in blood. Two paramedics carried a stretcher and lifted him onto it.
“I’m right here, I’m with you.” She followed them and scrambled into the ambulance. On the endless ride, the siren blaring, she knelt at his side. “You’ll be fine, Teddy, I promise…”
* * *
It all went by in a blur. She ran after the paramedics as they raced down the hall with Ted on a gurney.
“You can’t go in there, ma’am,” a nurse warned her, guarding the ER doors.
“I’m not leaving you, Teddy…” she promised as they wheeled him through the doors out of her sight.
Light-headed from the odor of antiseptic, she collapsed in a plastic chair, clasped her hands and prayed. How many hours passed? She had no concept of time. Harsh fluorescent lights cast a cold glare on the tile floor and white walls.
She looked up at a doctor looming over her. How did they know her name? Had she given it to them? Had she filled out forms? Shown an insurance card? She had no memory of any details.
“Your husband is in stable condition in ICU. You can see him now. This way.” He gestured down the hall.
Kylah stood and stumbled. He held her up. Leaning on his sturdy frame, she entered the ward, beige curtains separating beds, beeps and blips in discord all around her. Her heels clicked on the floor. She approached Ted lying on his back, hooked up to an IV. A monitor beeped a steady rhythm as green blips ran across the screen.
His eyes opened; he mouthed words she couldn’t understand.
“Don’t talk, save your strength. You’ll be all right, they said. And honey…I’ll find out who did this to you, to make sure it never happens again.” She left her premonition unsaid.
One detail she did remember about that horrific night: the doctor’s words. They echoed in her mind, in her sleep: “If he wasn’t wearing his helmet, he’d be dead…”
* * *
Ted survived, paralyzed from the waist down. “It was an accident. Nobody tried to mow me down,” he kept insisting.
But she knew better.