Wife by Design(5)

By: Tara Taylor Quinn


“I’M PUTTING BUTTERFLIES on this, but it needs stitches,” Lynn Duncan said, her tone as matter-of-fact as she could make it while tending to the brutalized skin of the twenty-four-year-old brunette sitting on the table in one of the two small examination rooms at The Lemonade Stand Tuesday evening.

“I hate hospitals.” Regina Cooper wasn’t crying as she gave yet another reason she was refusing to allow herself to be stitched. Lynn almost wished Regina was sobbing, even though that would make her task more difficult. The younger woman’s voice was deadpan, her words slurred as she formed them through cut and swollen lips. Like the life had been beaten out of her.

“I can do it right here,” Lynn said. Technically she was off shift, but when you lived on the premises of one’s job, you tended to be on call 24/7. Not that Lynn minded.

At-risk women came to The Lemonade Stand in coastal Santa Raquel, California, to find shelter. Lynn had found her life’s purpose here, nursing them.

Tending to the third of three ugly cuts on the woman’s chin and neck—one the result of a knockout punch to her mouth and the other two gashes from the glass that broke when it had been thrown at her—she said, “These are going to scar, Ms. Cooper, if we don’t get them stitched properly.”

“I don’t care.” Regina hadn’t said much in the half hour since she’d arrived at The Lemonade Stand, partially, Lynn suspected, because it hurt too much to talk.

“You’re a beautiful young woman,” she said. “You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. And we need to get these taken care of properly.”

Sara Havens, one of the Stand’s counselors, was outside, waiting to take Regina under her wing. She’d know better what to say. But they didn’t have weeks, or even days, for counseling to change Regina’s mind about these cuts.

A member of the Stand’s small full-time security team was there, too, standing guard.

Lynn’s face was inches from the other woman’s as she gently worked the torn skin together as well as she could. Regina’s pretty blue eyes met hers. “You see where my beauty got me?” she asked in a near-whisper, her eyes growing moist but not enough for a tear to fall. “I can do without it.”

“You’ll remember him, and the beating you just took, every single time you look in the mirror if we don’t get these properly stitched,” she said.

“I’m going to remember anyway.”

“You want to wear his anger? To keep him with you every minute of every day for the rest of your life?” Nursing school had taught her how to tend to bodies. The year she’d spent in grad school after Kara’s birth had provided her with her advanced nursing midwifery certification. The two years she’d been living full-time at The Lemonade Stand had been a completely different education. “You want to let him mark you that way?”

Tears blurred the hurt-filled blue eyes. “I can’t afford stitches,” the woman said. “I don’t even know how I’m going to pay for the butterfly bandages. I can’t use my health insurance. It’s through his work and he’ll know where to find me….”

Stopping her work, Lynn studied the younger woman. “That’s why you won’t agree to stitches? Because of the cost?”

Regina nodded. “I went to the ATM as soon as I left, but he’d already drained our account. I’ve got a hundred bucks on me, this week’s grocery allowance, and that’s it.”

Regina spoke slowly, sounding as if she had marbles in her mouth, but she made herself understood.

Going for stitching supplies, Lynn pulled on a fresh pair of sterilized procedure gloves. “Your care here is free, Regina,” she said. “I thought you knew that.”

“Medical care, too?”

“Everything. For the first four weeks you’re here, you have access to all services, and pay only what you can afford to pay. If that’s nothing, then nothing is what you owe.” She smiled at the young woman. “Now, are you going to let me take proper care of you and get this stitched?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Regina’s mouth wouldn’t allow a smile, but the relieved look in her eyes spoke volumes.

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