January 21, 1978


Daniel Yablonski's POV

Dr. Daniel Yablonski was driving carefully into the winter storm. He pushed aside an exasperated sigh and kept on driving through the heavily-pilling snow. If it were up to Daniel, he would be tucking his two small boys into bed, and fall asleep next to his wife before the next fifteen hour shift at Three Rivers.

Daniel Yablonski had helped his friend and colleague, Dr. William Foster, build the hospital. It had taken them longer than two years to build the organ transplant hospital, and it was worth every dime spent, and all the hours – sometimes days – they both spent away from their wives. At almost perfect timing, Daniel's youngest son, Andrew, was the first birthing Three Rivers had. A perfect gift. Daniel smiled widely at the memory.

Despite the weather, he looked back at the smallest sleeping face inside the 1973 car. Andrew was two years old now today. Today would have been the night Daniel would have sung the birthday song in Polish, lulling his small son asleep. Instead, here they were, driving through the most impossible weather Daniel had ever seen in the years he had immigrated to America to become a physician. His wife Erin, a pediatric surgeon, was in the passenger seat, his lips pressed together in a grim line. They both didn't want to be there.

But they had to. William had called, saying that it was an emergency. Both Daniel and Erin had to be at Three Rivers as soon as possible. The parents were unprepared, so they took their boys with them. It would be all right; they had that before when Logan and Andrew were babies.

Daniel was unprepared for the sleet of snow that came rushing forward. The white made him shut his eyes in pain. He felt Erin grip his hand as the car spun out of control.

He felt the instant pain of something as it crushed his chest.

Daniel Yablonski was instantly gone.


Erin Zelasko's POV

"Daniel…" Erin moaned. "Daniel…" Her sobs echoed through the crushed car. They had flipped over a number of times, she was certain of that. It was only when her husband's chest collided with the steering wheel did he die. Daniel was strong in many ways, but not in body. He had survived the death of his parents when he was a boy. He survived and faced the difficulties of being a Polish immigrant in America. And now the strong man that had captured Erin's heart was dead.

Erin moaned again, this time not out of grief. She was certain that she had a concussion and perhaps a few broken ribs. A gash had embedded itself on her forehead. My sons, Erin forgot about her pain. Her sons, Andrew Jason Yablonski, two, and Logan William Yablonski, four, were in the car as well. Erin craned her neck to look in the backseat only to pull away and howl in grief.

Logan was dead. Tears now poured down her face. His sightless brown eyes haunted her memory. Erin moaned the name of her oldest son over and over again until she was out of breath. She sighed. Erin knew that she was dying. Perhaps it would be fitting, after all. Daniel and Logan, the joy of her life, were dead. She repeated it out loud to herself. "The joy of my life…"

Andrew.

Erin stopped. Was little Andrew still alive? She looked around, and when her eyes meet the pale face and the closed eyes, Erin thought that her youngest son was dead. Not so. A moment later, she saw his small chest rise in a breath. Erin could feel wetness drip down her cheeks. Andrew was alive. And soon, the toddler would be the only one. Who would take care of him when she was gone? Who would…?

"I'm sorry," Erin murmured. "For leaving you."

She thought of her husband, and son.

Erin Zelasko died with a smile on her face.


No more snow fell that night. There were no sounds, no noises. The only sound heard was a small boy crying for his family. He didn't understand why they didn't wake up. "Mama! Papa! Logan!" His cries echoed on deaf ears. Andrew suddenly shivered. He was cold. The two-year old laid his head against his brother's body for warmth. Why is Logan cold? He thought. Slowly, Andrew fell asleep.

The ambulances arrived at the accident site early in the morning. Dr. Daniel Yablonski and Dr. Erin Zelasko, and their son, Logan, four, were reported dead on the scene.

The lone survivor, Andrew Yablonski, two, was only frostbitten.


Dr. William Foster's POV

His mind was numb. The words, which he could not understand, whispered in his head. "Dr. Yablonski, his son, and his wife are dead from a car accident, Dr. Foster." The words refused to have a meaning in his mind. "Their youngest son survived. We have to treat him for frostbite."

William's best friend and rival was dead. His wife. Logan had not survived the crash either.

How could this have happened?

Silently, William recalled the last happy memory he had of Daniel and his family.


"Andrew!" William smirked as Daniel called out to his son. After all these years, Daniel had never lost his alluring Eastern European accent.

The birthday boy looked over curiously over to his father. He slowly walked over to the six foot three man. "'Hat, Papa?" he squeaked.

William smiled fondly at the two-year old. Even though he just turned two – today, in fact – Andrew could mostly comprehend what the adults were saying. He responded. And he followed his older brother, Logan, like a dog.

Logan was sitting plates for the table. Studying his chocolate brown eyes, William couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking. Logan seemed older beyond his years. He fondly smiled at Miranda, his daughter, sitting in her highchair. Logan did the same.

William was so occupied in his thoughts that he almost missed Daniel's heavy Polish accent. "Tort urodzinnowy," he whispered in Andrew's ear.

"'Ort urod?" Andrew tried out the new word.

"Tort urodzinnowy," Daniel whispered again, this time loud enough for everyone to hear. "It means birthday cake, Niski Andrzej." William smiled widely. That was Daniel's nickname for Andrew. Niski meant small in Polish; the name Andrejwas the Polish form of the name Andrew. Daniel's nickname for Logan was Orzeł Biały, which meant white eagal. From the years he had spent with Daniel, he knew that the orzeł biały was the nation coat of arms in Poland. William had laughed out loud when he first heard Daniel call his sons those nicknames, the day they were born. Daniel was a Polish nationalist. At first, he had laughed because he thought it was silly, but now William understood now that the nicknames were special.

The two boys had something children there age didn't have.

"'Ort urod?" When Daniel shook his head, Andrew began to cry, thinking that he had upset his papa.

"Daniel!" Erin, Daniel's wife, appeared from baking Andrew's cake. "What kind of father are you that makes his child cry on his birthday?"

"One that teaches his children their national language?" Daniel tried. At his wife's expression, he turned to Andrew and wiped his eyes. "I przepraszam, Niki Andrej." I'm sorry. Along with the rants of why Poland was a better country than America, William had to tolerate his friend's foreign language lessons.

At the sound of his nickname since birth, Andrew looked up at his father. "Better, neh?" Daniel asked, smiling widely. Andrew nodded. "Good."

"So, Daniel," William had asked as Andrew went over to coo at Miranda with Logan, "do you think your boys will end up Polish nationalists like you?"

William still remembered his friend's laugh as he wrapped his arms around his wife's waist. "I don't know. We'll have to see, neh, przyjaciel?"

William still remembered hearing Daniel Yablonski's sweet tenor as he sang the "Poland-ized birthday song."

"Sto lat , sto lat,
niech zyje zyje nam

sto lat, sto lat,
niech zyje zyje nam

jescze raz eszcze raz
niech zyje zyje nam

niech zyje nam."

He can still hear Logan's nasally voice singing along with his father's, and Andrew's and Erin's glowing eyes.

"Dr. Foster?" A nurse's voice broke William's memories. "Your patient is ready to see you."

Dr. William Foster sighed. "Okay," he said. "I'm ready."


He looked so small in the pediatric hospital bed. Andrew Yablonski was going to be okay. He had to stay at the hospital for week. Because of the severe frostbite and…other stuff. William sighed. A day he wished would never come. He can still hear Daniel directing him that he should "perish by getting beaten to death by a policeman," to take care of his family. There was hardly any family left. Only Andrew survived.

He traced the face of the tiny orphan. Andrew didn't wake up. William sighed. The sigh seemed to have come deep from his chest.

"I know I'm not your papa," William muttered, "but I…I will sing for you. It's the least I could do."

Slowly William began to sing.

"Sto lat , sto lat,
niech zyje zyje nam

sto lat, sto lat,
niech zyje zyje nam

jescze raz eszcze raz
niech zyje zyje nam

niech zyje nam."

It was only then that he allowed himself to cry.


The solution to Andrew's loss of his parent and older brother was resolved in a week. William had heard that Andrew had an uncle that was willing to take care of the toddler, therefore, Andrew's adoption into the Foster family was no longer necessary.

William still had his doubts. Who was this Michael Zelasko? Erin absentmindedly told him that her parents died ten years ago and she had no other family when they first met. That was in 1972.

Which meant Michael Zelasko was bad news.

"C'mere, Andrew," Michael said gruffly. William studied the short man. Michael did not look like his late sister at all. According to him, they hadn't seen each other in twenty years. William had all the right reasons to doubt that Michael was the person he said he was unless he counted the last name.

But the anguish on Michael's face upon hearing about his sister's death was evident.

Andrew shook his head, hiding behind William. He doesn't like Michael, does he? William thought as Michael continued to stare impatiently at them. I'm not surprised.

Suddenly Michael crept over to where Andrew was hiding and scoped him up in his arms. Andrew's squeal of surprise was abruptly cut off with a slap to the face. Andrew instantly quieted.

"We'll be leaving now," Michael gruffly said, hulling Andrew over his shoulder. He didn't even look at William.

William didn't know what to say as the two walked away.

At the corner of his eye, William saw Andrew wave to him.

He thought he heard the whisper, "Pożegnanie, Do'to' Fost'r."

That was the last time Dr. William Foster saw Andrew Yablonski for fifteen years.