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The Runaway Midwife

Chapter  1
The sun, a red eye, is just going down as we speed across the frozen waters of Lake Erie. Even with the ski mask on, my face is
freezing and my eyes run with tears, but whether from the cold or my damaged heart, I don’t know.
I think about my daughter. I think about my patient Robyn who died just days ago. I think about my friend Karen whose unexplained suicide has left me crippled. I think about the sudden turn my life has taken.
“This is safe, right?” I yell up to my driver as we bump over rough ice. “The cabbie said some men on snowmobiles went through and drowned around Middle Island last week.” Lenny stops, turns on the Ski-Doo headlights and puts on a pair of clear goggles.
“Those guys were  yahoos—didn’t watch  where they  were going. You can tell by the surface where the ice is weak . . . You have someone meeting you on Seagull Island? I can’t stay around.”
“Yes,” I lie. “Just leave me on the west side of Gull Point. You know where that is? There’s supposed to be a little cove there. They’ll pick me up on the road.”
In truth there are no friends. It’s just me and the ice and the snow and the now darkening sky. Big cumulous clouds sweep past the stars and for a minute I stretch out my arms just to feel like I’m flying.
“Hold on now!” Lenny suddenly warns before he makes a sharp turn around a pyramid of ice that juts up from surface.
“Yikes!” is all I can say.
Finally the half moon rises and illuminates the sky. The words to an old song Karen used to sing come to me . . . I see the bad moon arising, I see trouble on the way. But trouble has already found me. We hit a tilted sheet of silver at an angle and take air as we crash. “Whoa!” yells my driver, and when I grab him around the waist, I find that Lenny’s broad back in his black snowmobile suit shelters me from the wind. (He might be an outlaw, but he’s
a warm outlaw.)
“Is that the island?” I shout to my escort as a low dark shape rises up on the horizon.
“How much further?” We hit ripples and bounce up and down.

“Another twenty minutes.”

A half mile from shore, Lenny cuts the lights and moves in slowly.
“This is Gull Point,” he says in a whisper. “Because of ice slabs that have blown in, I can’t get any closer, so you’ll have to walk, but tread lightly.
“Once you’re on the beach, if you go along that path through the woods, you’ll come to the road.” He indicates an open place in the shadows a short distance away. “I hate to leave you like this, but I can’t afford to get caught by Customs or seen by any of the locals.” He helps me off and I’m embarrassed to say I have to hold on to him until my legs get their strength.
“Thank you, Lenny. I don’t want you to get in any trouble.
I really appreciate your help and I’ll be fine. I really will. I’ll be fine.”
It’s colder here than in Ohio and I shiver as Lenny gets back on the snowmobile. “Call me if you need anything,” he says. Then I’m alone, but I’m not fine. Not fine at all.
I pause on the beach, watching until the light on the snow- mobile fades into darkness, then I shake myself to get moving.
The sooner I get to shelter, the sooner I’ll be warm, but it’s hard going.
Lenny had said there were cakes of ice, but these are blocks of frozen lake water the size of doghouses and bathtubs. Twice I slip and fall and one time my backpack comes off, but I hold on to my tears.
When I finally get to land, I mentally celebrate. I’m in Canada without a passport. I made it! But the celebration doesn’t last long. Once off the beach, I’m surprised to find the snow is twelve inches deep, and even with my flashlight I lose the trail and have to retrace my path; then I end up in the brush, snag my snowmo- bile suit and cut up my face. Finally I make it to the unplowed road and throw down my heavy pack.
There are no sounds of human habitation, no car noises, no barking dogs. There are no lights in the distance. Why would any sane woman do this?
Most people won’t understand why I ran, though some will, the ones who have been there. You’re going about your life, coping as well as you can, dangling from a silk thread in the wind, and then one day the line snaps. The breaking point for me was my patient’s death.
But it wasn’t just that. The line was already fraying. My best friend, Karen, had committed suicide six months earlier. My husband, Richard, was screwing around. My nineteen-year-old daughter, living on the other side of the globe, wasn’t answering my phone calls or texts. And then my patient Robyn called out my name as she died. “Clara!” she called.
She called for me and I wasn’t there.

The Runaway Midwife
by by Patricia Harman

  • Genres: Fiction
  • paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0062467301
  • ISBN-13: 9780062467300