Hyphema by Chelle Cordero

by Chelle Cordero

Vanilla Heart Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1935407843
Print ISBN: 978-1935407843

Hyphema: Bleeding in the eye caused by trauma. Paramedic Matt Garratti, moves his family down south to work at his dream job as a flight medic. Before long, Matt wonders if he is pursuing his dream or bringing his family into a nightmare from which they may never wake.

Note: Prologue omitted.

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Chapter One

Damn that’s good. The hot coffee sliding down his gullet was welcomed to ward off the chilly morning. Matt stared out the kitchen window and noticed droplets of ice crystals against the pane. It was early and still dark outside. He savored another gulp of hot coffee.
Delicate brown arms wound around his waist. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.” Matt covered both of his wife’s hands with one of his own. Maybe it was the early spring chill in the air, but he really wanted to crawl back into bed with her.
“I wanted to be awake with you.” Sudah snuggled under his arm and slid against his body until she was facing him. She gently ran a hand up the crisp uniform shirt until she touched his shield. “You look so handsome in your uniform.” Taking a step back she smiled up at him. “I am very proud to be married to such a hero.”
Matt chuckled. Sudah never missed an opportunity to praise him and bolster his ego. “I love you babe.” He leaned down and kissed her. Matt was worried about providing for his little family and being a good husband and parent, he didn’t have a great example growing up. “One of the three best days of my life was the day I met you.” She always teased him when he said that and demanded that he tell her what the other two were. He never hesitated to tell her that their marriage and the day their son was born made up the other two. “Hey, do you want me to light the stove for you before I leave. It’ll help warm the place up a bit.”
“No. I will take care of it later if I need to. I do not want to leave it burning until I am ready to be in here.”
Matt loved the old wood stove that sat in the corner of the kitchen. It threw heat into the living area and was great defense against the early morning dampness. When they first moved in he teased Sudah that she would have to cook on that instead of the more modern stove and oven on the other side of the kitchen.
She looked at the clock and reminded him that he had to get going if he was to get to work on time.
He uprooted his family from New York to North Carolina, but he knew that career wise he could do much better for them with this move. He was just starting to train as a flight medic back in New York when they announced that the Mercy EMS base where a job was originally guaranteed was closing. All of the existing flight medics were scrambling for jobs and he didn’t think his lack of experience would hold up to the others in the region. He heard about job openings at this station and Sudah told him that she had no objection to the move.
His mom still lived up in New York, so did his best friend Julie. Other than them, he never really felt any other ties to the area. Sudah had already moved across the ocean from Pakistan so to her New York to North Carolina seemed miniscule. Aden was just a baby, as far as he knew the world consisted of his crib and his parents’ arms. Julie had even suggested to him that leaving the area he grew up in might be good for him. He told his best friend about the bad memories he had of his own father’s abandonment when he was just a little kid.
Matt knew that Sudah would understand why he had doubts and he knew that she would tell him he had no reason to worry, but he didn’t talk about it to her. He wanted to appear strong in his wife’s eyes so that she would always feel safe. He took her in his arms for one more long kiss to last him through the day and then he put his jacket on.
He navigated the winding roads carefully. It would take a few more trips to really get used to the route. Matt was a seasoned paramedic from New York and now he was going to be using his skills to save the good people of North Carolina. As much as he missed riding with his paramedic partner back in New York, being a flight medic had been a dream of his ever since the first time he stepped foot on an ambulance.
“Wee-oh, talk about somebody from the dead coming back and biting you in the ass.” The crew room was filled with laughter as Matt and Tony walked in. Big John slapped his knee, “When I called it into the hospital I said that there were two patients but the other one refused medical assistance.”
“What’s going on?” Tony offered Matt a can of soda from the counter.
The question spurred on another round of laughter from the five people sitting there. Little John answered between chuckles, “Big John and I were dispatched to a one car M.V.A., the guy didn’t hit anything, the car was just sitting there in the middle of the road. Seems a dog ran out in front of him and he hit the brakes. Well the dog got away, but the guy in the back comes forward and hits him in the back of his seat.”
“And this is the best part,” Big John guffawed. “The patient was driving a delivery truck for the funeral home. The guy in the back was a stiff in a body bag!”
Matt and Tony both laughed at the image.
“I really wanted to check the vitals on the guy in the bag, but with my luck I would’ve unzipped the bag and the stiff would have sat up.”
“I wonder if we could have collected on two patients.”
“I mean the driver definitely got hurt, he really got hit in the back hard. But I want to hear how he explains that injury to his friends.”
“Hey, maybe he’ll have the stiff charged with assault with a dead weapon. A dead weapon, got it?”
Everyone in the room groaned. Both Johns were feeding off of each other until the laughter was contagious.
Matt sat at the table and drank his soda once he stopped laughing.
“Hey guys,” Frankie spoke up. “Howz about some paintball this weekend?”
“Sounds good.” Tony replied immediately. “Maybe we can take the old ladies out to dinner after. Be a good chance for Matt and his wife to meet the crowd.”
“Ginny and I won’t be able to make it. Sorry guys, her folks are coming down.” Big John waved off the beginnings of a protest. “But you four go ahead. Besides this way we can save the best for last. Ginny and I will meet Matt’s wife some other time.”
Matt shrugged. “I’d have to make sure we can get a sitter for the baby.”
“My daughter will do it.” Little John made the offer.
“Thanks. I’ll speak to Sudah.”
“Hey, what kind of name is Sudah?” Frankie leaned forward.
“She’s originally from Pakistan.”
“Sounds exotic.” Little John raised his eyebrows comically. “She pretty?” Matt nodded. “Looking forward to meeting her.”
“Do you think your friends will like me?”
Matt chuckled. “Are you really worried?” He realized that she was. “Oh baby, how can they not like you?”
“It is one thing to ignore stares from strangers, but these are people you know. I do not wish to embarrass you.” Sudah adjusted her scarf.
“You could never embarrass me.” He stopped her and turned her to face him. “You’re beautiful and you are the best person I know…”
“I wear a scarf.”
“I am a Muslim. I am not an American yet.” She looked down. “I do not want to cause trouble for you.”
“Sweetheart, I am very proud of who you are, everything about you. My friends won’t have an issue.” He hugged her gently. “Besides, I wouldn’t worry. I already told them that you’re from Pakistan. Hey, they accepted me and I’m from New York.” He laughed. “Anyway, John wouldn’t have sent his daughter over to babysit if he had a problem.”
Sudah smiled at him. “Dory is a very sweet girl. She is very polite. I think she will be very good with Aden.”
“If it works out, maybe you and I can get out a little more often, you know, couple stuff.” He snuck a quick kiss to her cheek before they entered the club room where the others were waiting for them.
After introductions were made all around, the four men donned their paintball gear and headed onto the field; the wives sat on the benches outside of the locker room with no interest in participating in the sport for themselves. Trisha, Little John’s wife, poured hot cocoa from a thermos for all of them.
Laurie pulled a nail file out and was examining her nails. “I’ll never understand their fascination with this game.”
“Boys will be boys,” laughed Trisha. “Actually I tried it once, got a bunch of bruises and said that was enough.” Trisha caught an odd look on Donna’s face as she sat staring at Sudah.
Clearly puzzled, Sudah spoke up. “I do not even know what they do in this game.”
“They go around shooting at each other…” Laurie started to explain.
“Shooting?” Sudah was alarmed.
Trisha broke in, “It’s just little balls of paint, and they splatter on contact. There’s really no harm.”
“But it sounds so violent.”
“Wouldn’t you be used to that?” Donna directed her question at Sudah.
“Donna?” Both Laurie and Trisha were shocked by Donna’s question.
Sudah shrugged. “Why am I used to violence?”
Clucking her tongue, Donna waved off her friends. “Well I figure where you come from…”
“I come from Pakistan. We are not near the Afghanistan border where there are skirmishes. My home is in a little town, it is very nice there.”
“Well you Arabs are always fighting.” Trisha tried to stop Donna, Donna ignored her.
“But I am not Arabic, I am Pakistani.”
Donna snorted. “Same thing.”
Trisha broke in. “Donna I don’t understand why you are being so rude. I am so sorry Sudah.”
“Why are you apologizing?” Donna faced Sudah menacingly. “My older cousin’s fiancé was killed on 9/11…”
“Oh goodness Donna, that was almost ten years ago. Sudah was only a little girl back then.”
“I am very sorry for your loss, but we are very much alike then. My father’s dear friend Jamaal also died on that terrible day.”
“Hmmph. On one of the planes I bet.”
Laurie gasped.
“He was working in a restaurant in New York City. He was very proud and working to bring his family to America. He loved this country and was studying to become a citizen.”
Donna rolled her eyes. “So what happened?”
“He ran to the two buildings after the first plane crashed. The restaurant was across the street. He was trying to help when the second plane came. He was lost in the debris and fire.” Sudah had to pause. “We were very sad that day. I remember when Jamaal’s wife was told her husband was dead. I felt very bad for her.”
“And yet you cover your head like those Arab women who cheered.”
“I cover my head because I am Muslim. It is a sign of respect for my beliefs.”
“Muslim? That’s who attacked us.” Donna snorted. “And they say that Bin Laden lives like a hero in Pakistan.”
“I have not seen him. I do not know where he lives. I would tell authorities where if I knew.” Sudah smiled sweetly and shook her head. “The Islamic people are people of peace. The few who murdered so many and the people who were happy about it are not true believers. They are cowards who hide behind a sign that says ‘I am a Muslim’. They do not speak for most of us.”
Anxious to change the topic, Laurie interrupted. “Hey, do you do all of that curry cooking and stuff?”
“I cook many dishes from the area. Matt likes the combinations and flavors of the spices.”
“Tony and I went to a Pakistani restaurant in New York on vacation last year. He really liked the food.” She came close to Sudah. “Do you think maybe you could teach me to cook some of those dishes?”
“Oh that would be a great idea! I’d love to learn too.” Trisha chimed in.
“I would be very pleased to teach cooking Pakistani meals.”
The next few hours passed with conversations about the culture Sudah was raised in and why she came to America. They spoke about Sudah and Matt’s mixed faith marriage and their decision to raise Aden as a Christian. Laurie and Trisha set a date to come over to get a food demonstration from Sudah. They planned to introduce her to some of the local culture as well. Donna was more cordial, but she never warmed up to Sudah.
The men finally came back from the field; they were laughing, sweaty and splattered with paint. They stopped to shower in the locker rooms. Then the four couples went to a local diner for dinner.
Matt was trying to keep himself busy. He laughed to himself at the irony of his job. Everyone wanted flight medics to be the cream of the crop and yet, when all was said and done, they spent the majority of their time on the ground and bored. He and Tony were scheduled to do a non-emergency transport later that day; up north most transports were done by air ambulances, fixed wing aircraft, but down in this area choppers were often used for the short hauls.
“Hey man, can I speak to you?” Frankie stopped Matt as he was sweeping out the hanger.
“What’s up?”
“I heard that Donna gave your wife a hard time about her being a Muslim and all. I wanted to apologize.”
Matt looked confused. “Sudah never said anything.”
“Laurie told Tony that Sudah handled it real well. Look, I just want you to know, I don’t have any problems with your wife.”
Matt could see the sincerity in his eyes. “Good to know.”
“So how did you wind up with a girl from over there anyway?”
Matt let Frankie follow him into the crew room before he answered. “Sudah enrolled in a college program in New York. I sometimes helped out with the paramedic program there. We met one day in the hallway and I knew that I loved her right away.”
“So she’s not a citizen, right?”
“Not yet.” Frankie handed Matt a cup of coffee and they sat at the table. “She’s working on it though, but it takes several years.”
Frankie took a long swallow from his coffee. “It’s just that it’s odd to see foreigners around here…”
“You know we all started out as foreigners somewhere in our families.” Matt bristled a bit.
“Hey, no offense. I just didn’t know if you guys are prepared for some of the shit that can go on down here.”
“We’ve gotten some looks. A few folks have made comments too.” Matt shrugged. “But I’ve also heard some whispers about northerners and New Yorkers, as well.”
“Well you know that all of us here at the station got your back…”
“Whose back do we have?” Tony entered the crew room.
“I was telling Matt what Laurie said.”
“She shouldn’t have gone mouthing off, I’m sure that Donna didn’t mean any harm.”
“Yeah well,” Frankie scoffed, “she shouldn’t have said anything.’
“Let it go. I don’t want it causing any problems between you and your wife.” Matt grabbed three cups and the coffee pot. “Anyone up for some swill?” Matt poured after getting chuckles and nods.
Other crews joined the chatter in the crew room. Ground crews and flight crews intermingled. The chief called a few in to his office to exchange tablets, electronic patient care report computers, which they carried on their runs. A ground crew was dispatched to a woman in labor, another to a child who fell on a playground.
That night Matt tried to get Sudah to talk about meeting his coworker’s wives, but she didn’t say anything negative. He hoped that she would feel comfortable making new friends.

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