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Still Frames In Your Mind Series
Litost – Chapter Three: Olivia’s a Saint


 

“What was it specifically about Eli that changed Kathy’s mind about your partner?” Gwen asks, now that Elliot has admitted it was the turning point.

Olexa brings two sides of Ketchup that Gwen had added to the order for the fries and onion rings. This was puzzling to her brother, who seemed unaware that the only free items they leave at the tables here are salt and pepper. Everything else, you have to pay for.

She picks up the largest onion ring on her plate, ripping the breading away from the warm onion ring and breaking it apart with her nail, and pulling the onion separate from the breading while she discards it on the side of her plate, dipping the breading in her ketchup and eating that instead.

Elliot looks at his sister with a puzzling expression on his face. The only other person he knows that orders onion rings for the onion-flavored breading is his daughter, Elizabeth. He searches his memory looking for any recollection of Gwen eviscerating an onion ring prior to this. He comes up with nothing.

“Have you always done that?” He finally asks, blurting out the question that was plaguing him as he watched her ripping apart a second onion ring. She pauses, her blue eyes meeting his with her brow raised elegantly.

“Stop trying to change the subject. Yes. Now, spill the story.”

“Lizzie dissects her onion rings too.” He almost whispers as Gwen smiles at him, dipping the second breading in the ketchup.

“What can I say, my niece has tastes. We like the breading but the root vegetable inside? It’s Satan’s vegetable.”

“You are an odd duck, Gwendolyn Louise Stabler-McGinley.”

Gwen’s head falls back as she looks up to the ceiling, chewing the breading in her mouth, “Ugh, not you too.” She tilts her head back down and looks at her cheeseburger, smashing the bun down before she picks it up and takes a bite out of it. “Perfect. Now, Elliot, why’d she change her tone after Eli?”

“You know Eli’s birth story, right?” Elliot asks, dipping a french fry in his ketchup.

Gwen stares at her brother for a moment, taking another bite of her burger and shaking her head. “Nope. Can’t say I do? Was he born in a bathtub or something?”

Elliot laughs, a full, hearty, honest-to-God laugh and Gwen’s brows furrow as she looks at him as though he’s absolutely nuts. After she swallows the bite she places her burger back down on her plate and goes back to tearing apart her onion rings.

“Oh. I never realized that…I never told you the story?” Elliot asks, taking a sip of his soda. Gwen shakes her head.

“Nope. The only thing I know about Eli’s birth was that I got a birth announcement in the mail when I went to go check my PO box about a month after he was born.” She took a sip of her milkshake.

“Wow. Um, okay.” He takes a bite of his burger, chewing it fully before he takes another sip of his soda and looks at his sister. “So, I had completely spaced out that Kathy had a doctor’s appointment, because the case we were working, Liv and I. The husband in the case found out that he wasn’t the father of a little boy he loved – more than anything -  and the boy’s father filed for a petition – it was a mess…but Liv, when the father disappeared and the wife turned up dead – I uh…knew where he went. So, I knew I had to talk to him….Liv, she offered to take Kathy to her appointment, because she couldn’t drive because she’d been having these blackout episodes with her blood pressure – hazards of being pregnant and over 40.”

“What a damn Catholic you are,” Gwen interjects earning a look from her brother, in which she winks. “How’d that divine birth control work for you, big bro?”

“Shut up, you wanna hear this story or not?” He asks. Gwen thinks about it for a minute before she nods. “Okay, so anyway, Liv and Kathy call me after the appointment to tell me how it went, and uh…we were just hanging up the call when I hear this god-awful sound and then the line goes dead.” Elliot takes another sip of his soda, followed by another bite of his sandwich, Gwen hasn’t taken a bite since he started talking because she’s so interested in this story.

“What happened?”

“Well, apparently, this car smashed into the side of Liv’s car and Kathy was pinned. Liv, she was knocked out for a minute, but she was uh…shaken up. She checked on Kathy first, deciding not to pay any mind to whether or not she was injured severely. That’s just…how Liv is.”

“Wait, so – someone smashed into the car that your partner and your wife were in?”

“Yeah. The top two most influential women in my life were in a car accident and one of them was carrying my fifth child.”

“Which one?”

“Gwen, hand to God, I never touched Olivia.”

“That’s a shame.” Gwen mutters. “What? Are you blind? I asked you what she looked like and you gave me her running personality traits that you love the most, meanwhile, you show me a photo from twelve years ago and she’s gorgeous. Like, I can’t imagine her looks went downhill, if anything, I bet she’s even more gorgeous now.”

Elliot shoots his sister a look from across the table as he notices that both of their plates are almost empty.

“Okay, anyway.” Elliot takes a deep breath, “So, according to what Olivia begrudgingly admitted to me after I harassed her about it for a while, saying that I didn’t need to know the details like she knew them – she called 911 and the fire department got there in record time, of course, it could have something to do with the fact she told them her badge number when she called in the accident.” Elliot takes a sip of his soda, “So the Fire Department gets there, and they see she’s out of the car, she’s moving around, she keeps telling them she’s fine.”

“Is that normal?” Gwen asks, eyes wide as she’s trying to imagine what she would’ve been like in this scenario. Freaking the hell out. “I mean, for her to say she’s fine. Because, I’d get it if she said she wasn’t – she’d just been in a car accident with her partner’s wife and unborn child.”

“Yeah. She’s fine, that’s her response.” Gwen bites the corner of her lip as she listens, reaching blindly for her straw to her half-melted milk shake. Sometimes, extra thick milkshakes were a god-send when someone was telling a long story. “So anyway, the Fire Department didn’t have a female on duty that day – and they needed someone that could stabilize Kathy’s neck. So, Olivia being who she is, she climbs back into the car.”

“Wait.” Gwen holds her hand up, eyes wider as she shakes her head in disbelief. “She climbed back into the car?”

“Yep.” Elliot sighs, “Do you wanna hear this or not? Quit interrupting.” Gwen rolls her eyes. “She climbs back in and puts the brace on Kathy’s neck, it’s when Kathy comes back too temporarily that she gets Olivia’s attention and tells her that there’s an issue.”

“What was the issue?”

Gwen.”

“Sorry, you’re…really slow at telling me this story and I’m getting extremely impatient.” Gwen pouts slightly as she sits back into the booth, crossing her arms.

“Kathy’s water broke. That was the issue. So, she’s having contractions and the Fire Department needs to cut off the top of the car using the jaws of life so the Fire Department is telling Olivia to keeps her hands steady on Kathy’s head, to hold her. Kathy’s is going in and out of consciousness – but then they notice the blood.” Gwen gasps, and Elliot nods, “So, they decide she needs fluids.”

“An IV?”

“Yeah. According to Liv, they didn’t even ask if she’s ever done one, the EMT though, they talked her through it, and she did it. Liv actually successfully put in the IV, taped it, hooked up the bag, and squeezed it. Kathy regained consciousness almost immediately. So, they handed Liv one of the fire fighter’s jackets through the car, because they had to take off the roof – and Liv, she’s freaking out but trying to remain calm for Kathy who’s crying…and she’s reassuring her through this whole thing. Her contractions were every three minutes at this point, and there’s nothing anyone could do to slow it down. Plus, the EMTs didn’t carry any of those drugs on the ambulances.”

“Jesus.”

“Yeah. So, our Captain shows up, I’m a helicopter at this point, because they rushed me away from where I was almost immediately after they heard the call on the radio. He’s got me on the line, and I’m talking to Kathy. I could only tell her that I’d be there soon, and she told me that Liv was taking really good care of her.”

“Like she would do any differently?” Gwen asks, genuinely curious. Elliot shoots her another reprimanding look and she smiles at him, reaching for his soda that’s almost empty, wanting something different than her milkshake.

“No. So, Kathy knows the baby is coming, Liv knows it’s coming – and she’s pumping this bag of fluid, holding a jacket over their heads and they start to cut off the car’s roof. The entire time, Liv is reassuring Kathy, - I can hear her on the line because my Captain is talking to me. And…uh, I hear Liv. She’s calling her sweetheart and telling her that she’s right there. She’s also calling her honey, and –“ Elliot takes a deep breath. “Kathy asks her not to leave her side, so…Liv doesn’t.”

Gwen stares down at her arms, which have now broken out in goosebumps. “What happened?”

“So they get Kathy out of the car and she’s fully dilated, they get her in the ambulance and – Eli’s head was crowning. So, according to Olivia, Kathy leaned against her as she encouraged her, telling her she could do it, letting her know how it was going and telling her she was doing a great job – and he came out quickly. When he came out, he was screaming and perfect and Kathy she told Olivia that ‘we did it’ like, Liv was part of the family. She’s always been part of my family – but uh – that kinda cemented her in Kathy’s mind.” Elliot feels a pain in his chest as he talks about this. “It’s probably the first time that Kathy sees Olivia as my partner – not as…competition.”

“She delivered your son.” Gwen’s speechless. “Then what? They went to the hospital?”

“Well, Kathy uh…she coded. Almost thirty seconds after Eli came out – her blood pressure dropped and the EMT just hands Eli off to Olivia so he can resuscitate Kathy – and there Liv is, in the back of the ambulance, with my newborn son against her chest, staring at my wife on the gurney who’s flatlined.”

Gwen just stares at him, then she abruptly stands and slides into the booth next to him, pulling her hand back and punching him in the arm.

“Ouch. What the hell?”

“You didn’t say goodbye to that woman after she did that?”

“It wasn’t the first time she saved one of the kids.” Elliot whispers, looking down. Gwen’s face is twisted with rage and sadness and awe.

“You’re a dumbass.”

 “You done?” He asks, pointing to her plate. She nods, as she pays Olexa for their meal.

“I want you to tell me about the other times she’s saved the kids.”

“Why?”

“Because. I’m trying to understand it all, Elliot.” Gwen stares at her feet, kicking around a stray rock from one of the bricks on the street.

“Let’s go back to the Apartment.” Elliot sighs, “If you have a beer or wine or something I’ll tell you the other stories…”

“I take back what I said, by the way.” Gwen sighs. “I want you to tell me about the thing that happened that made you walk away – after you tell me these other times that she saved the kids.”

“You sure? There was one before Eli with Liz, Kathleen twice after Eli – and…Dickie.”

Gwen pauses as she looks over at her brother, pulling back her fist and punching him in the arm again. He reaches over and covers his hand over the spot where her fist had landed mouthing ‘Ouch’ as Gwen reaches around and pulls her hair back into a pony tail.

“You’re an asshole. I take back the dumbass thing, you’re an asshole.” She pauses, “And Olivia? She’s a saint, as far as I’m concerned. A goddess, divine in every way.”

“Yeah…she is.” Elliot whispers, “Did you know what Elizabeth chose as her confirmation name?”

“No.” Gwen suspends disbelief for a second. “El.”

“Olivia. Patron Saint of Music.”

Gwen closes her eyes for a second when she opens them, she’s got tears of her own in the corners of them. “You bastard.”