of one hand and a catheter. The two in his hand were easily removed but the other ... ?
He was reaching for the buzzer to summon the nurse when his hand froze in midair.
He must be hallucinating again.
Gurt stood in the doorway.
Just under six feet, long blonde hair reached below her shoulders. With large, firm breasts, wasplike waist and shapely legs, she had a figure most twenty-somethings would envy.
The same small boy from Lang's supposed dreams stood at her side, his blue eyes locked onto Lang's.
"It was said you might die," Gurt announced, immobile in the doorway.
"Sorry to disappoint you."
Gurt was impervious to sarcasm. It was part of her Germanic nature. "Why sorry? It does me glad."
"I'm glad you've come back."
"I came because I wanted Manfred to at least see his father."
She gently pushed the boy forward.
"Lang, close your mouth. It is most unattractive hanging open."
Now Lang realized why the child had something familiar about him. His face was a small, youthful reproduction of his own. _
Lang couldn't take his eyes off the boy who was standing next to the bed, regarding him as though trying to memorize what he saw. "But I don't... I couldn't... You never..."
Gurt seated herself in the chair, fished in a purse the size of a small suitcase and produced a pack of Marlboros. "I left because I was pregnant. I did not want what you call a marriage of a shotgun."
Gurt s mastery of the American idiom was less than complete.
"Shotgun wedding," Lang corrected.
"Why would someone marry a shotgun?"
Lang shook his head impatiently. "You knew I wanted to marry you. That's why it hurt so bad when you left me. I
mean, I just turned around one day and you were gone .. ."
His voice trailed off as he remembered his shock and sorrow. Hell, he ought to be angry with this woman who had thought so little of his feelings. He ought to...
He was so glad to see her, even more astonished and delighted his dreams of a family might materialize long after he had abandoned them, that his joy would permit no anger. He shook his head slowly, making sure this scene wasn't the result of painkillers.
He had despaired of ever seeing Gurt again, of having a child of his own. Pain or not, he would have chosen a dozen more broken bones as the price of the elation he felt. Despite his desire for a family, he had always viewed the alleged joy of parenthood as suspect. Midnight feedings, projectile vomiting, nasty diapers. In seconds he had become a believer, a transformation more miraculous than any politician's hundred and eighty degree change of position.
And look at him! Already handsome, intelligence glittering from those blue eyes. In an instant he forgave Gurt the pain of her disappearance, her refusal to consider marriage and anything else she might ever have done or do in the future. He knew it was irrational but he didn't care. He knew it was love for the family that had appeared as though from behind a magician's cape. It was not a time to be rational
Involuntarily, he reached for the boy, to touch him, to make sure this was no drug-induced dream. The tubes stopped his arms short. The boy, Manfred, stepped into the embrace without hesitation. Lang felt even more delight at the touch of his son's skin, the rigidity of his bones, the knowledge this flesh was of his own.
Ignoring the sign above her head that proclaimed Grady was a smoke-free environment, Gurt lit up, sending a jet of blue smoke into the air. Lang was too happy to chide her about her habit in general and the locale in which she was giving in to it in particular.
She leaned back in the chair. "When I left you, I did not want you to know I had pregnant. I wanted to go back to work—"
"You didn't have to," Lang interrupted.
She nodded and took another drag from her cigarette. "I know. But who wants to be like the women in the building where you live? Not working makes them stupid." She took another puff. "Or they already