Union County Tales

Reagan L Thomas

Prologue

There was a

Young woman, by the name of River

Kind and charitable, she was always a giver.

A pediatric doctor, she put her patients before herself

Doing everything in her power to get them help.

At the tender age of 26, she was new to her title

But as a student, her intellect had been unrivaled.

She was quite attractive, and knew that fact well

With hair of brunette and eyes of hazel.

Though she was short for an adult,

Her personality more than made up for that fault.

Passionate and outspoken, all could see she burned with hot fire

A trait to be very much admired.

In tow with her at nearly all times,

Were her three best friends; two humans and one canine.

One she had known nearly her whole life,

Her name was Danielle, and she was close to flawless in River’s eyes.

She preferred the name Danni around her friends,

But she was Ms.Miller to her elementary students.

The second was a nurse by the name of Lyric,

And her name quite suited her talent with music.

She and River had met as students,

Both serving as residents.

River wondered why she didn’t use her voice for fame,

But Lyric just didn’t want neon lights spelling out her name.

River’s third companion was a pit bull,

Who with her big brown eyes and soft fur, was quite adorable.

The dog’s name was Maya, and she was the smartest animal River had ever met,

And she doesn’t just say that because it’s her pet.

One her wrist, River always wore a band

That stuck out in it’s bright red.

It had been given to her by one of her first patients,

A little boy with a rare and devastating ailment.

Epidermolysis Bullosa was the name of the illness that plagued the child,

River tried her best to ensure his survival,

But her efforts proved fruitless, the E.B. won in the end.

She had been heartbroken, as she and the family had become friends,

So she never takes that reminder of him off her arm,

And his small voice never leaves her heart.

Her iPod and headphones are always on her person as well,

As music makes her blood pump like nothing else.

The right song is able to turn her worst days around

And she smiles as she feels the beat of the drums pound.

All in all, River is sweet and kind, though she sometimes comes off as brash,

And when she sees someone being mistreated, her actions can be a bit rash.

This attributes to her innate desire to protect others, even if she does go overboard,

One such occasion happened at her job just a few weeks before.

Today, while spending time with her friends, she recounts the incident,

And smiles to herself as she recalls that specific patient.

Story

River glanced up at her newest patient over the paperwork concerning her. Name: Vanessa Tarleton. Age: 15. Ethnicity: African American. Sex: Female. River winced as she read the next part; the description of why the teenager was lying in the hospital bed with an IV slowly administering fluids. The kid’s wrists were bandaged, and she was on constant watch. A therapist was scheduled to meet with her once River was done with her. A mixture of sadness, shame, guilt, and hopelessness could be seen behind her brown eyes. River’s heart dropped as she glanced back at the paper in her hands. Attempted suicide.

She took a deep breath before addressing the young girl. ¨Good morning, Ms. Tarleton, I am Dr.Temple,¨ River still felt a slight thrill whenever she said the words Doctor Temple, swelling with pride at the title. ¨I’m going to be your main practitioner while you’re here recovering.¨ She reached out her hand to Vanessa, then to Mr. and Mrs. Tarleton. She pulled a chair up to her patient’s bedside, steepling her fingers and resting her elbows on the railing. ¨Now, sweetie, we’re going to start with some basic questions, okay? I need you to answer truthfully.¨ The girl nodded solemnly in response. River gave a reassuring smile, then began the questions given to every patients. When’s your birthday, what medications are you on, have you ever smoked or drank alcohol… Vanessa answered these in a quiet voice. She shook her head vigorously at the ‘Any chance you’re pregnant?’ Question. ¨Alright, honey, last one; do you feel safe in your relationships? Like with your friends, family, boyfriend, girlfriend or whatever.¨ The girl’s body stiffened, and her eyes darted quickly to her parents before she lowered her head, her hair obscuring River’s view of her face.

¨Yes.¨ She replied in a small voice. River cocked an eyebrow. That didn’t seem right. She cleared her throat before standing up.

¨Alright, now for this part, Mr. and Mrs. Tarleton, I’m going to have to ask you to leave the room. There’s a room right down the hall where you can get coffee and snacks. Plus it’s got a flat screen TV.¨ Two sets of eyes widen. Here we go… River thought to herself. She straightened herself, rising to her full height of five feet.

¨Why do we need to leave? She’s our daughter!¨ Mrs.Tarleton asserted. ¨She’s under the age of 18 so we’ŕe responsible for her, still.¨

¨Yes, well sometimes in situations such as these, it’s better for the doctor and patient to discuss things one-on-one.¨

¨No.¨ Mr.Tarleton said, rising from his chair. He was a very large, imposing man, at least six feet tall, but River stood her ground. ¨You can’t make us do anything. We're paying you, so you work for us right now. And we say that we’re not leaving.¨ River glanced at Vanessa. The kid was looking between the two adults frantically. River gave her a soft smile in an attempt to calm her nerves.

¨I am quite aware that you are my client and I am serving you,¨ River agreed. ¨However, your daughter’s well being is my top priority at the moment, and I guarantee you that this will be helpful for her. And, being her parents, it is safe to assume that you want nothing but the best for her, correct?¨ River crossed her arms and tried to look as much the part of her title as she could.

¨Fine,¨ Mr.Tarleton said through clenched teeth. He then knelt beside his daughter and whispered something in her ear. The girl cringed away from her father, but nodded as he stood. The parents then brushed past River, and the door closed behind them with a thud.

Nobody would be that adamant unless there was something they don’t want me to know. River concluded. They’re obviously worried about Vanessa telling me something. River resumed her seat next to the bed and leaned forward intently, studying her patient’s face. She was a beautiful girl, even with the bags under her eyes and her sickly pallor. Her skin was a lovely shade of brown that wasn’t washed out by the harsh hospital lighting. She had long, curly eyelashes which cast shadows on high cheekbones. River cleared her throat before speaking. ¨Okay, I’m going to ask you that question again; do you feel safe in your relationships? And I swear, I won’t tell your parents. See, there’s a thing called HIPPA that prohibits doctors from disclosing any information about patients that the patient doesn’t want them to.¨

Vanessa blinked a few times as she looked at River. River reached out and squeezed her hand, trying to reassure the young girl. Vanessa’s eyes flashed to her hand that River was holding, and then slowly she lifted them again to the doctor’s face. Then, she finally met River’s eyes for the first time.... And immediately burst into tears. River jumped up and grabbed a box of tissues sitting on the table. She hated when her patients cried; it broke her heart like nothing else. Soon there were tears rolling down her face too. Unsure of what to do, River embraced her patient, feeling her shake as she sobbed. After a few minutes, she calmed down enough to speak, and River sat back in her chair as she waited patiently for her to finish blowing her nose.

Vanessa sniffed and then took a shaky breath. ¨I-I’m sorry,¨ She stuttered. ¨I didn’t mean to lose it like that…”

River held up a hand to stop her. ¨No, no, no, don’t you dare apologize. Your system is suppressed by medication, lack of sleep, and stress, which makes it harder to control your emotions. Plus, you’ve been through a lot. Besides, breaking down every once in awhile doesn’t mean you’re weak, it just means you’ve been too strong for too long.¨ Vanessa stared at her in awe; as if she had just told her the most incredible thing she’d ever heard. ¨Now, let’s talk about something else for a bit, I’d hate to upset you again.¨ River offered a small smile. ¨So, what kind of music do you like?¨

The two of them talked for about fifteen minutes, about music, and books, and dogs, and school. Soon, River had the teen laughing. She was immensely thankful for her good sense of humor, then. But soon, the older woman’s pager went off, reminding her that she had another appointment in 20 minutes, so she reluctantly turned the subject of the conversation to the matter at hand. ¨So, I’m sorry but, I really do need an answer for that question.¨ She sighed.

Vanessa’s smile dropped, and she looked down, inhaling sharply as she looked at her bandaged wrists. ¨No.¨ She admitted. ¨No, I don’t. My parents...¨ Her hands clutched at the bedsheets. ¨They’ve never treated me the way my friend’s parents treat them. Or like how parents in books and movies treat their kids. I’ve never understood why...¨ Her head suddenly snapped up, and deep brown eyes locked on hazel ones. ¨Is there something wrong with me? Am I a bad daughter? Do I not deserve their love?¨

River felt too many emotions all at once, her brain flipping through a million feelings within the span of a second, before finally choosing one to land on: Anger. ¨Your parents make you feel like you don’t deserve to be loved?¨ She asked, her voice rising slightly as the anger seeped into it. Vanessa nodded sadly, her eyes brimming with tears. ¨Vanessa, if it isn’t too much to ask, what exactly have your parents done to make you feel like that?¨


¨You!¨ River snarled as she skidded into the break room where Vanessa’s parents sat, watching TV. They swiveled around to face the doctor as she approached them, absolutely seething. ¨How dare you treat your child like that! How dare you make her put up with fifteen years of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse! I have a mind to rip you limb from limb!¨ Rage stole away her inhibitions, making her not realize how incredibly unprofessional she was being. River’s coworkers who had overheard the commotion from the hall rushed into to see what was going on.

¨She just threatened us!¨ Mrs.Tarleton gasped. ¨You can’t do that! We can get you arrested!¨

¨I CAN GET YOU ARRESTED FOR CHILD ABUSE!¨ River roared ¨VANESSA IS ONE OF THE SWEETEST, FUNNIEST, SMARTEST CHILD I’VE EVER MET AND YOU HAVE MADE HER FEEL SO ALONE AND SO UNLOVED THAT SHE WANTED TO DIE!¨ Hot, angry tears spilled from River’s eyes as she yelled. Her coworkers were shouting at her, standing between her and the subject of her rage, but she ignored them, far too upset to comprehend what they were saying.

Mr.Tarleton was standing, now, walking slowly and deliberately towards River. Once he got within about two feet of her, he stared down at her, towering over the young doctor. But River refused to be intimidated, her fury making her act like she was invincible. ¨I will not hesitate to tell your boss about this.¨ The man growled. ¨And you will be fired.¨

¨I DON’T GIVE A DAMN!¨ River shouted. ¨RIGHT NOW, THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS TO ME IS THAT YOUR CHILD IS TERRIFIED OF YOU! THAT SHE WOULD RATHER TAKE HERSELF OUT OF THIS WORLD THAN HAVE TO KEEP BEING TREATED LIKE DIRT BENEATH YOU FEET! I TOLD YOU, HER WELL BEING IS MY TOP PRIORITY, AND IF THAT WELL BEING COMES AT THE COST OF MY JOB, I’M OBLIGATED TO HER TO PAY IT!¨ The room went quiet. A small crowd of doctors and nurses had formed in the room, and all were shocked by River’s outburst. Vanessa’s parents looked dumbstruck for a moment, before rushing out of the room. A few nurses followed them out, obviously concerned about what just happened. River stared after them for a minute as she processed what she had just said. Her knees gave out and her shins hit the floor hard, the rage leaving her body in one big whoosh. ¨What did I just do?¨ She whispered.

¨Anyway,¨ River concluded, taking a sip of her latte. ¨The court date is next week. Mr. and Mrs. Tarleton are being tried for child abuse. I’ve been talking to Vanessa everyday, and she says her foster parents are great, and that she feels like they love her enough for all the years she went without feeling unloved. And the rest of the staff at the hospital sided with me; they agree I did the right thing, sticking up for Vanessa.¨

Danni and Lyric both gaped at her. ¨I mean yeah, you did do the right thing but, you really could have gotten fired, and you’ve been dreaming of this career for as long as I can remember.¨ Danni said. ¨Plus, didn’t you kind of violate your oath as a doctor?

¨Yeah well, my superiors agreed that I was in the right. And it doesn’t hurt that my boss has the hots for me.¨ She grinned and flipped her brown locks as she said this. Danni rolled her eyes.

¨I’ve always admired how you stand up for what’s right, Riv, but seriously, try to control yourself next time.¨ Lyric added.

¨I’ll keep that in mind.¨ River laughed. Her friends sighed in exasperation. They’d been dealing with River’s fiery nature for years now, and the girl has nearly given them both heart attacks multiple times as got herself into messes like this. But for all the worry she caused them, neither would change a thing about their friend.

Analysis

River is a character I’ve had for a while now and I absolutely love her. I’ve always considered her to be a version of me who isn’t afraid of calling people out when they’re problematic. So, I decided to go the route of The Wife Of Bath and use this strong willed, outspoken woman as my protagonist. I made her a doctor because first off, I know a hospital setting, and they say to write what you know, and secondly, I wanted River to have the need to help others, and a doctor is a good career for someone like that. Now, the themes of suicide, self harm, and abuse are all subjects that I feel need to be tackled today in society. I know people who have been through situations similar to Vanessa’s, so I really wanted to address it. River portrays how I feel when I hear about things like this happening. I always want to do something to help; to protect the people going through it, so, that’s what River does. She just wants people to get the justice they deserve, even if she goes a little overboard in trying to do so. She burns with a flame that sometimes gets out of control, but it’s always for what she thinks is right. All in all, I have a positive view of her, and believe her to be virtuous.