Author's Note: Thank you to all of you who have read and reviewed this so far. I honestly didn't think that anyone would actually read this since it's been a while since anything on this page has been updated. But now that I know people are actually reading my story, I'm going to continue writing.
If you've already read this, you'll notice I've added on to the prologue. I just started watching HawthoRNe at the beginning of June of this year. Thankfully I was able to catch up before season two premiered, but the idea for this story came when I first started watching. As a result, the timeline of this story won't exactly match up with the timeline of the show, but I'll explain now that while I do borrow from the show, a lot of this will be unique material. One of the things that drew me to this show was the morale, or lack thereof, that certain characters, especially Christina, held. You'll notice on the show they don't really give much a backdrop to explain how things got to the point they are now, so with this story I hope to explore some of the earlier Christina and Tom years that helped shape them into the characters we see today.
Thank you for reading.
THORN Prologue 2008
I looked over at my alarm clock and winced, trying desperately to blink the sleep out of my eyes. After leaving the hospital impossibly late yet again, I came home only to catch a few hours of sleep. For some reason, I felt more exhausted now than I did when my head first hit the pillow. I pulled on my running shoes, my brain anticipating another uneventful day at Richmond Trinity; sure there was all the melodrama in the ER. But all throughout my jog, I couldn't help but feel that my life has been just that as of late: uneventful. It's been uneventful ever since she left all those years ago. I shoved my thoughts aside, mentally admonishing myself. It's been well over fifteen years since I heard from her last, a post card at that, and I was still thinking about her.
I peeled off my sweaty clothes, letting the pitter patter from my oversized shower head rinse away the tension that was sure to return within ten minutes of being at work.
"Wakefield, you're here too early," Bobby complained as I tried to breeze past the nurses' station unnoticed.
"Good morning to you too," I smiled.
"Don't forget you have to orient the new CNO this afternoon," she reminded me.
"Remind me again why you didn't take the position?" I teased, knowing it would irritate her. "You would make an excellent chief nursing officer," I added honestly.
"In this zoo?" she laughed. "And for the hundredth time, it's not me."
"No worries," I chuckled.
"Besides, I've got more than enough to keep me occupied," she said, pointing to the stack of charts in front of her.
"I'll see you later," I told her right after they paged me.
The morning crawled along slowly enough. I had two surgeries, well one was a laparoscopy, and both went without a hitch. My schedule was cleared for the afternoon, so I retired to my office right around noon
"Come in," I said after hearing the knock on the door. "What can I do for you?"
"You can look at the file for the CNO I hired," Morrissey instructed, tossing a folder onto my desk. "She should be here soon."
"Thanks," I nodded, dismissing him.
I perused through the résumé, my interest piqued when I realized this person went to the same high school I did. I racked my brain before shaking my head. I didn't remember meeting a Christina Hawthorne, but then again there were well over two thousand students at our school. I wondered briefly it could be her, but I quickly squelched the thought, not wanting to get my hopes up. Putting the file aside, I began reading through some documents my assistant had left on my desk that I needed to sign off on. Another knock on the door briefly interrupted my reverie.
"The new CNO is here," Morrissey said.
"Send her in," I replied absent mindedly, still scrutinizing one of the many waivers.
I heard someone clear their throat and extended their hand. "Good afternoon Dr. Wakefield. I'm Christina Hawthorne."
That voice. Where have I heard that voice before? I stood up promptly and took her hand in mine, looking up for the first time.
And just like old times, my heart raced, my skin tingled, and I felt like the air had been knocked out of me.
"Tom, oh my god!" she screamed, throwing herself into my arms.
I wrapped my arms around her awkwardly, while my body involuntarily relished in the familiar feel of her embrace. Taking in her scent, I finally realized, after all this time, what I had been missing.
"Wow that was really unprofessional of me," she said, breaking free of my grasp. "But what do I care?" she added, causing me to laugh.
I stood there flabbergasted, still unsure of what to say. "Were you expecting someone else?" she asked.
"Umm, I was expecting a Christina Hawthorne," I said lamely. And then it hit me. She was married. Of course she's married you idiot! A girl like that . . . But it was glaringly obvious that the person in front of him was no longer a girl.
"Well that's me. At least now it is," she chuckled nervously, playing with her ring. "When they told me I'd be meeting with the Chief of Surgery, Dr. Thomas Wakefield, I couldn't help but think for a fleeting moment that it might've been you. But then I thought, there are probably a dozen Tom Wakefields floating around the world," she rambled. Well there's one thing that hasn't changed. "But it's really you!" she exclaimed, hugging me again. "It's been too long," she mumbled into my chest.
The events that followed were really sort of a blur. We went over the details of her job and what it would entail, I explained some of the ins and outs of the hospital. I introduced her to some important people, as well as her nursing staff who seemed taken with her immediately, and gave her a tour of the hospital.
"Is cranberry juice okay?" I asked, setting the bottle down on the table next to her tray. "I remember it used to be your favorite…"
"More than okay Tom. Nowadays I'd much prefer a cranberry vodka to help me unwind after a long day. You know, you should try it sometime," she winked.
"I'll take you up on that," I said.
"Mmm," she moaned in approval after taking a sip. "I can't believe you remembered."
"I remember just about everything about you," I admitted. "How have you been?" I asked quickly in an attempt to lighten the mood.
"Well I wouldn't know where to begin. But I do know that we don't have enough time for me to tell you my life's story, so here's the abridged version: I started school, dabbling in a little of everything that interested me before finally deciding to focus on nursing," she began. "Who would've thought that I would become a nurse," she laughed.
I could see it. She was incredibly bright and tenacious, not to mention compassionate, even if she didn't realize it; Christina always had a real heart for people.
"People change," I said.
"Nah, I'm still me . . . just more practical I guess. I figured I could help real people this way," she continued. "Anyways, I met Michael, and we got married not too long later, much to Amanda's dismay. And now I'm here," she finished, skipping all of the important details.
"Wait by Amanda, do you mean Amanda Hawthorne? Like on the board of directors Amanda Hawthorne?" I asked, finally making the connection.
"That would be my mother-in-law from hell," she chuckled. "I know how sketchy that seems me getting this job what with her working here and all. But she hates me, and there is no way she'd ever go out of her way to do something that would help me. But enough about me. How are you doing?"
"I'm good," I lied. But how could I tell her that my life had been empty in her absence? That time, in this case over fifteen years, didn't heal; and yes, absence made the heart grow fonder. I couldn't be "good" because sitting across the cafeteria table from me was the girl I'd shared all my secrets with. The girl I spent hours on the phone talking to about nothing and everything at the same time, even though I could see her through my bedroom window because she lived next door. The girl who left home after graduation taking my friendship, and unbeknownst to her, my heart.
Christina POV Four Months Later
So I've been working at Richmond Trinity for several months now, and it's been an . . . adventure, to say the least. It felt like home. I absolutely adored my nursing staff and had taken to slowly coaxing them out of the shells of complacency; in this profession, I've found that instinct often overrides protocol, and so far my instincts haven't failed me yet. Some may think me absolutely crazy, and others even dub me reckless. But at the end of the day, the health of my patients is all that matters. Change has been difficult, but I've implemented a couple small ones nonetheless. On the other hand, there certainly was a lot of activity here. To the average bystander, every day in the ER was a soap opera; I guess I can't entirely refute that point since Richmond Trinity's Emergency Room staged such a wide range of emotion. Life, death, happiness, and unbelievable sorrow; it all just about started and ended here. But to me and other medically trained personnel I'm sure, each new case that comes in shatters the thought that you've seen all that there is to see to pieces. My job challenged me, and I couldn't help but feel like my life was more exciting. Well my work life at least. Of course me constantly butting heads with the board and most of the doctors added to that, but Tom had my back. He always did. Things between us weren't the same as they were before, but how could they be? I mean a lot can happen in fifteen years. Don't get me wrong we were still friendly, but while I still considered him my best friend, there were so many things that we probably didn't know about each other. And he was right; people do change.
I was so happy that he and Michael hit it off. I don't know why the thought of my husband not getting along with Tom bothered me, but I didn't have to worry about it very long. Everyone at the hospital adored Michael, it was kinda hard not to, and people often pointed out the uncanny physical and personality semblances between Tom and my husband. Ever since the hospital barbeque, the two have made plans to do whatever it is that men do any weekend that Tom wasn't swamped at the hospital. Even Camille seemed taken with him, a huge feat considering her mood swings and teenaged attitude.
Speaking of the devil . . . I thought as my daughter's number flashed across the screen of my office phone. Why was she calling my office number?
"Hey sweetie is something wrong?" I cooed into the phone.
"Mom!" she said frantically. "I've been trying to reach you, but I haven't been able to get through to your cell!"
"Whoah, whoah, whoah. Calm down, I just have crappy reception in here. Where's the fire?" I asked, concerned.
"It's dad," she said. "We were at home, and he was making dinner, and I really don't have time to explain everything right now. We're on the way to the hospital."
"What?" I asked disbelievingly as the line went dead.
I ran to the Emergency Room right as the paramedics burst through the automatic doors, a frightened Camille not far behind. Now I had seen plenty of gruesome things in my lifetime; plenty a tragic scene unfold in this very hospital. But nothing could prepare me for the sight before my eyes. My husband was strapped to a stretcher, a neck brace keeping him immobilized. He was so pale, so still. I barely recognized him. Being the loving wife I knew it was my duty to be by his side, but I couldn't bear to take a step. I was frozen in place as the scene progressed before me in a hazy slow motion…..
The gurney careened through the ER with Camille chasing after it, and I heard the familiar 1, 2, 3, from Bobby as they transferred Michael to a bed. While I teetered between time and space, my heart raced, my head pounded, and I couldn't help but feel that some universal law was dishing out its own form of justice for me not trying harder to make things work with Michael. It took a scream from Camille to shock me back into reality.
"You're hurting him!"
"No they're not honey, they're just trying to help," I assured her. I switched into nurse mode then, shouting orders.
"Christina, you can't be in here," Candy warned.
"That's my husband!" I yelled.
"My point exactly," she said, eyeing me sadly. "You're too emotional to think rationally right now."
"I need a CT scan and an X-ray to check for possible head trauma or broken bones from his fall. And I need a biopsy lined up," one of the interns ordered.
"A biopsy?" I echoed, my mind reeling.
"Just standard procedure; we need to rule out some things first," he explained. "And right now nothing is making sense. How does a seemingly healthy young man just collapse out of the blue?"
I knew this already, and the intern was making sense. Other than the neck brace and plummeting pressure, no one would have a clue that Michael was hurting. But I couldn't wrap my mind around the possibilities.
"We need his pressure stabilized before we send him for any tests," Bobby said, echoing my concern. "Somebody page Dr. Mazaki,"
"No, I want Tom to do it," I demanded. I trusted the other doctors on staff to do a good job. But I wanted the best. And Tom was just that.
"He's in surgery," Candy said.
"Well how much longer will he be?" I asked, my voice suddenly sounding uncharacteristically small.
"Four hours," Ray answered. "He had to take over a bilateral cingulotomy Neuro's out."
"Mom what's wrong with dad? What are they doing to him?" Camille shrieked.
"Christina, you need to get her out of here," Bobby instructed.
"Camille, baby, let's go," I said.
"I'm not leaving him," she sobbed.
"We need to give the doctors and nurses room to work," I explained. "Come on. We need to go find your grandmother."
I walked out of the OR feeling exhausted and strange. Peeling off my gloves and mask, I ambled over to the locker room to change out of surgical scrubs. As I entered the hallway, I could quickly sense that something was wrong. The nurses' station that was usually bustling with activity was oddly silent save for the errant rings of phones going unanswered. The halls were still and the faces of the nurses were pensive and sad. Christina was nowhere to be seen or heard, and I began to worry. Even the ER was quiet.
I traipsed briskly through the ICU and saw Bobby in one of the rooms. Backpedaling, I peeked in to ask her what was going on. "Bobby - " I started, pausing mid sentence as I noticed Camille in one of the beds. Her resting face was contorted in agony.
Bobby looked up at me, her eyes red and puffy. It was obvious she had been crying. "They had to sedate her," she said, answering my silent question.
"What happened? Where's Christina?" I wondered aloud.
"I think she should tell you herself," she said, wiping her eyes. "You just missed her. She's probably in one of the waiting rooms," she added, reading my mind.
I raced over to the lobby and found Christina sitting in one of the chairs, her hands over her head, and her face buried in her lap.
"Christina," I called her name softly. She looked up at me, and the expression on her face was one that I would hope to never see again.
"Tom," she croaked, her voice hoarse. She hadn't been crying, but she looked like she was about to break.
Not wanting to pry, I waited for her to speak. But my concern only grew as the seconds ticked by, and my instinct to help her quickly overrode the need to appease her.
"Christina, I can help you. But I need you to talk to me," I coaxed.
After a few more moments of silence, she finally stated, "It's Michael."
"What about him? Is something wrong?" I asked, worried.
"He," she started, shaking her head in disbelief, "has cancer," she finished.
My head pounded as I tried to process the information. I was in shock, probably not as much as she was, but in shock no less. I suddenly felt disgustingly low for envying him for so long; I was jealous of him long before I had met him, and it wasn't my place. Michael wasn't just Christina's husband. He was my friend.
"Wh-what type?" I stuttered.
"Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma," she said.
Of course, one of the worst kinds. I've seen this before, and it never ended well. Not only would this be a challenge mentally, but emotionally too. I've been blessed enough to never have to witness any of my family suffer through the atrocity that is cancer. I've done this time and time again, I'm an oncologist for Christ's sake, but the expression ''til it happens to you', or in this case, Michael, never made more sense than it did now. I tried desperately to hold on to any sliver of hope that I could offer her; if it was detected early enough, we could possibly still save him . . .
"Stage four," she whispered.
And for the first time since she left all those years ago, Christina broke down in my arms sobbing.
"Do me a favor," she sniffled.
"Anything," I told her.
"Lie to me. Tell me everything will be okay," she murmured into my shirt.
"I can't," I said. And as much as it hurt, I knew from experience that placating her now would only hurt her more in the long run. I also knew that everyone else will probably tell her that it'll be okay, but I wasn't everyone else. "But I can tell you that you will be okay," I added. She would be. She always was. I wasn't telling her to be strong, I knew that she was already, but she needed to realize that it's okay to be weak sometimes. It's okay for her to put her guard down with me, to be vulnerable. It was okay for her to be angry, or worried, or sad.
She was silent for quite some time, most likely mulling over what I'd said. "Thank you," she sighed.
I don't know how long we stayed like that; her in my arms while I caressed her hair, not knowing what else to say. I've dealt with cancer patients and their families before, but somehow a simple I'm sorry didn't seem adequate. Besides, Michael wouldn't be just another patient. He was my best friend's husband.
And with that I resolved to do my damned best to make this man better. Failing Christina was simply not an option.