This had not been a particularly busy night at Memorial Medical Center, but it seemed as if Anna Schaeffer had been on the go all night. She had just finished mopping up a patient’s blood and vomit around an emergency room bed and changed the sheets. Now Anna was hoping she could take a short break.
Getting used to the night shift had been a big adjustment. Originally she had agreed to take the shift because the fifty cents an hour higher pay looked very good. It also meant she could avoid paying for a baby sitter, since the children now slept through the night and a neighbor was willing to look in on them. Still, at $9 an hour she was having trouble making ends meet.
Just off the emergency room was a consultation room; a quiet spot where doctors and nurses could meet with a patient’s family. It was here that Anna sought a place to sit in the dark early morning hours. She had no more than sat down when she heard a gentle voice say, “Hello, Anna.” Anna stood and turned toward the voice. When she saw who it was her mouth dropped open in amazement. She was rendered speechless.
“There is no reason to be afraid, Anna. I see that you remember me.”
Remember? Anna thought to herself. How could I forget? After all it was Gabe who had come to her in her darkest hour. It had been Gabe who gave her the strength and determination to survive, to start a new life – to be reborn. His sudden appearance brought back a flood of painful memories. Anna fell back into her seat, the memories and emotions overwhelming her.
How awful it had been. Growing up Anna just assumed that it was a parent’s job to punish children for being bad. As a small child, Anna had been spanked for wetting her bed or slapped if her parents thought she was too loud. There was the time all her sheets, blankets and pillows were tossed out the window from their second story apartment into the pouring rain, because she had not made her bed. As she got older her father’s spankings became more like beatings.
When she was 14 and a freshman in high school, she met Jude, an 18-year-old senior. He had taken an interest in her, listening to her troubles, offering his support. Jude seemed to be the answer to her prayers and she latched on to him, blind to warning signs of trouble – too much alcohol and a quick temper. But she was in love and her father’s abuse had dulled her instincts.
Anna was 16 when she became pregnant. With her parents’ permission she and Jude got married. Shortly after their first child was born, Anna was pregnant again. With the pressure of having a wife and children, Jude’s quick temper picked up speed and he began to lash out at his wife and children. Anna was caught again. Where could she turn? Her parents were glad to have her gone and Jude’s family, she had since found out, had a history of abuse and didn’t understand Anna’s problem.
Several times Anna had gone to the local women’s shelter only to weaken and return to Jude. One evening Jude had been in an especially foul mood. He had come home drunk and began to beat the baby for crying. That is when Anna walked out of the apartment with both children never to return.
As she walked down the street, uncertain about where to go and feeling completely lost and alone, she was approached by a tall African-American man dressed in black. It had been Gabe. Gabe’s reassuring words, “Fear not,” and his gentle manner calmed her initial fear. It was Gabe who directed her to a good shelter. The shelter gave her great support, took care of the legal paper work for separation from her husband, and provided the initial counselling that she needed. Her counsellor encouraged her to move away and start life anew, which is how she had ended up in Springfield, took the training to be a Certified Nurse Assistant, and began working at Memorial six months ago.
Editor’s note: Check back here tomorrow for the next installment in Rev. Bill Sterritt’s modern adaptation of the nativity story. RI Future is serializing Sterritt’s 26-page short story throughout the holiday season. Here’s my post on the Amicable Congregational Church’s nativity story and scene.
- Chapter 1 – Jose Crosses the Border
- Chapter 2 – Jose’s Union Sympathies
- Chapter 3 – A Child Bearing a Child
- Chapter 4 – A Miraculous Pregnancy
- Chapter 5 – A Hospital Turns Them Away
- Chapter 6 – Jose and Maura, Out In the Cold
- Chapter 7 – A Baby Is Born
- Chapter 8 – A Man Named Gabe
- Chapter 9 – A Baby Named Hope
- Chapter 10 – David Eagle Wing
- Chapter 11 – A Child To Die For