Chapter 12

That sat in the Audiologist’s office in Billings staring blankly at each other.  Annie didn’t know what to do with the man who had long legs sitting next to her.  Both of them now sporting Band-Aid’s after having blood work drawn. 

Cass was adamant about the test despite the fact that there was no doubt about Annie’s parentage.  Cass wanted everything upfront and legal.  She even had her own done so that Annie wouldn’t be scared. 

Kevin had to give credit where credit was due; his daughter couldn’t have been raised by a finer woman.  Not more than five years ago they would have waited a few weeks for the test results on the DNA, these days it was just a matter of hours.  Kevin had convinced Cass that they could go to lunch, then go back and get the results.

Idly Kevin looked around the office, information, materials, and visual aids on hearing hung on the walls, as well as in plastic bins that had been anchored to the wall, next to the receptionist’s window.  Not exactly knowing what was wrong with Annie, Cass had set up a meeting for him to meet with her audiologist and ear doctor so that Kevin could get some insight.  Kevin had begged Cass to set it up the meetings when he found out that they were going to the same hospital that had been treating Annie since birth. 

Stretching as he stood up, he walked around and read the posters on the walls.  He checked out a huge plastic ear and played with the parts that were removable.  He heard a little giggle after he dropped one of the parts.  Kevin ended up dropping the entire head on the floor and it rolled while he retrieved the missing piece.  The giggle turned into a laugh as they watched the head roll on the floor.

Annie sat in the chair and watched.  A small argument had ensued before they had left between Annie and Cass over Annie not wanting to put her hearing aids in before they left the ranch.  Cass gave in and had let her off the hook in the so that they wouldn’t be late.  He didn’t exactly agree with the way it was handled but then he wasn’t in a position to say too much about it at this point.

Kevin glanced behind him and watched as the green eyes that matched his followed his every movement.  Picking pamphlets up, he read them placing a few in his jacket pocket. 

Grabbing a Dr. Seuss book, he took a seat next to her.  He started reading aloud and she looked at him with a shy smile.  Turning the page, a small hand touched his and he stopped.  She smiled shyly and then went back to the book.  Every now and then she sneak a shy glimpse of the big man’s face and see that he was reading audibly.  She understood him, even though she couldn’t hear him.  More than once the tiny fingers stopped him from flipping a page because she wasn’t done reading yet.  Being only five she was looking at the words more than reading them.

Kevin was impressed at how rapidly her shyness of him disappeared by this one small gesture.  He was exercising great restraint when all he wanted to do was reach over and hug his daughter for the first time in his life.  She had edged closer to him and was almost in his lap, she was enjoying the attention that he was showering on her.  He was not treating her any different than any other child her age.  Just sitting down and reading together.

Their reading session was broken by the sound of Cass’s as she came out of the Doctor’s office and spoke the words, “I understand.”  Grimly she looked at Kevin as Annie huddled up even closer to him.  A frown replaced the grimace she wore.  Walking up to Annie, she tapped her shoulder, “Come on munchkin.”

Cass lagged behind as Annie went into the room.  Turning her head she narrowed her eyes at Kevin, “You had better not of said one word.”

“I didn’t,” he answered her with a testy expression on his face.  Kevin pushed forward past Cass; he wasn’t losing this one chance.

The doctor introduced herself as Dr. Griffin.  She began explaining Annie’s problem to Kevin who listened intently.  Cass quietly kept Annie distracted on the other side of the office with books and toys.  She didn’t want Annie to see them speaking and ask why Dr. Griffin and Kevin were talking about her.  Giving up hope since Annie had become focused on Kevin, she led Annie out and shut the door.

Kevin sat straight up in the seat and leaned forward towards Dr. Griffin cutting her off in mid-sentence.  “Look I don’t know the half of what is going on.  I’m sure you don’t know who I am but this is how it’s going to be.  Annie needs new hearing aids and she needs them now.  We can talk later in the week about everything else.”  Kevin snagged one of the Doctor’s cards from the holder that sat on the desk.

Dr. Griffin closed the folder, “I know that sir but since Miss Collins hasn’t finished paying for the first set, I can’t, according to hospital policy make new molds and order another pair.”

Kevin’s eyebrows shoot up rapidly, “How much?”  He hated the paperwork type.  Everything always perfect, they didn’t care whether she could hear or not.  There was no charity left in the world these days, he mused in head.

Dr. Griffin could tell by looking at Annie when she was in the office and now sitting across from Kevin who he was.  Cass had told her he was a close family friend.  I guess you can’t get any closer than that she said to herself.  “New hearing aids are eighteen hundred dollars a piece Mr. Richardson.”

Kevin wasn’t surprised, he knew from being in the industry ear pieces weren’t cheap.  “Make the molds today and I’ll pay for them.”

Dr. Griffin smiled and then sighed, “Mr. Richardson, I understand that you want to pay for this but one I don’t take checks in this office it has to be done downstairs at the cashier’s office.  Not only that but Cass owes much more than that to the hospital.”

Kevin’s eyes rolled, “How much?”

“Let’s put it this way, that little girl that just left this room isn’t paid for yet.”

Kevin didn’t understand what the woman was telling him.  “What do you mean?”

Dr. Griffin spoke her words carefully but this man needed to understand that he just wasn’t going to snap his fingers and get his own way irregardless of who or what he was to Annie Collins.  “Most of the ranchers and farmers have little or no health insurance.  It’s very common around here.  Miss Collins sends a check in at every season and pays what she can on the bill.  She is still paying on Annie’s delivery and hearing aids.  She doesn’t qualify for any assistance because of the property she owns.  Annie’s hearing aids are over two years old.  They are too small and basically non-functioning at this point.  I can’t keep fixing them”

“Shit,” Kevin groaned.  “She never said a word to me.”  He slumped back in the chair and stared at his hands that were clenched tightly together.

Dr. Griffin wasn’t stunned by the man’s reaction she was almost expecting it.  “Considering I’ve never seen you before I’m not surprised.”

“How much does she owe all together?”  Kevin’s face tightened slightly.

Dr. Griffin answered him in the form of a question.  “Normally I wouldn’t be at liberty to discuss this with you but I can assume you are a relative of my patient, Annie Collins?” 

Kevin turned in his seat and watched the door as he spoke, “Yes I am,” he mumbled.  The last thing he needed was for Cass to find out he had publicly admitted that to anyone.

“In that case I can tell you that the outstanding balance is five thousand dollars on one bill and thirty six hundred for new hearing aids.”  Dr. Griffin waited for the shock of hearing the huge numbers affect the man.

Kevin flipped open his checkbook and wrote a check.  “I know you don’t normally take checks in this office but could you make sure this gets to where it needs to be.”  Kevin tore the check out of the book and made note of the amount in the register.

Dr. Griffin picked up the check and set them in the folder.  “I think I can do that for you,” discreetly she closed the folder as the door opened again.

“Are you almost done?  She’s getting real antsy, she’s bored.”  Cass had tried but Annie had become enamored with Kevin so quickly that she wanted to be with her new friend.  If she Annie motioned toward the office wanting to know when Kevin was coming back, one more time she was going to go through the ceiling.  She had never seen Annie so taken with someone so quickly, well except for A.J. this morning.  Annie had managed to wrap A.J. around her little finger in twenty seconds flat. 

Kevin was in a tough spot now.  How can he get the hearing aids without Cass knowing. 

“Cass I want to take another look at Annie before you go.  If you don’t mind?”  Dr. Griffin winked at Kevin as she got up from behind the desk and met Cass at the door.

Cass shrugged, “No at all.” 

“Why don’t you wait here with Mr. Richardson while we take a look at her.  I’ll bring her back when we are done.”

Cass gave Kevin a smoldering look and he knew his goose was cooked.  Cass was no dummy and she was on to him already.  “That will be fine, I believe Mr. Richardson and I have something to talk about while you make new molds for Annie.”

Kevin groaned loudly at her words as Dr. Griffin left chuckling quietly under her breath.

The door closed and Kevin was out of the chair, “She needs them and I don’t want to hear your bullshit.  She just told me those things are two years old.”

“Yes they are and it’s all I could afford,” Cass hissed at him.  “I have bills up the ass and I do what I can.” 

“No you didn’t because if you weren’t so pissed at me you would have told me from the beginning.  She needs those, I paid for them and she’s gettin’em.  I paid up the rest of the hospital bill for the two of you.  Don’t say one damn word to me about it.  I’m not going to stand by and watch your anger and pride stand in the way of her hearing.”

Cass opened her mouth to speak and then said nothing, suddenly she felt ashamed.  This was for Annie and she had to put her anger at Kevin aside.  She nervously chewed her bottom lip as she watched him glare at her.  He was angry and she knew it.  Annie was suffering with the old hearing aids.  Cass swallowed her pride, “Thank you and I’ll pay you back.”

Kevin’s jaw stiffen, “You will not pay me back and when we get the results of the DNA test later today, we’ll finish this conversation of bills up the ass too.”  Kevin sailed out of the office leaving Cass standing in the middle of it.

She dropped into a chair and rubbed her temples, a raging headache beginning to form.  “Abe, you old codger, if you were alive I’d shoot you for this,” she mumbled.  She waited for both of them to return.  Knowing that after five minutes Kevin most likely had wandered around the suite of offices and found Annie.  The man had the tenacity of a bull and fighting this one was hopeless.  She was extremely puzzled by his parting comment about her bills, but she didn’t really care right now. 

Hauling herself out of the chair she headed back to the lab.  She stood in the door and watched Annie and Kevin pick out new colors for her hearing aids.  Cass grinned when Annie kept looking at Kevin and then back to the colored pieces of plastic.  Finally she picked up two drastically different colors.  One a very intense green and the other one was a bright yellow orange color.

Kevin’s nose wrinkled up and he shook his head slightly at the awful color of the one piece she held.  He bent down and pointed out another one.  Annie picked it up and held them together.  “I like these,” she said to Kevin.  It was very distorted but he understood her.  

A whimper came from the doorway. Kevin caught sight of a hand flying over Cass’s mouth, a flash of red hair, and then she was gone.  He looked down at Annie and then back to Dr. Griffin.  “If this is what you want fine, but you are going to wear them whenever your mother tells you to, understand.”

“Yes,” Annie garbled out as she beamed her knew giant buddy a smile.

Dr. Griffin’s smile couldn’t have gotten any larger when she heard Annie talk without being poked or prodded into doing so.  “Why don’t you check on Cass while I finish this order for emerald green and ocean blue hearing aids,” she spoke.  She didn’t have to pick her head up to know that Kevin had already left the room.





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