Home > With Malice(4)

With Malice(4)
Eileen Cook

He looked away. The show had run for four nights, and he couldn’t manage to make a single one. The replacements had a cold.

Simone, Tara, and I had lounged around, dissecting everyone else’s performance. I left out the part about how we toasted our victory with some of Simone’s dad’s beer that we stole from the fridge in the garage. I was almost sure I had planned to spend the night. I remembered wearing sweats. My stomach clenched. I wouldn’t have driven drunk. I was capable of doing stupid things, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have done anything that dumb.

“How long have I been out?”

“Your accident was just over three days ago, Thursday. This is Sunday morning,” Dr. Ruckman said. “What you’re experiencing is retrograde amnesia. It means you forgot not only the accident, but some time before and after too. It’s pretty common with head injuries. That’s also why you’re having some trouble with word finding. It’s called aphasia. I would expect both of these to get better with some time. Do you remember the ambulance?”

“No,” I said.

“How about the flight?”

I blinked. I could understand the words he was saying, but it was almost as if he were speaking a different language. They must have flown me to a bigger hospital, maybe in Detroit. There was a sense that I did remember something about flying, but when I reached for it, it skittered out of reach. Like a spider bolting for a corner. Gone.

“It’s okay if you don’t recall. You’ve been in and out since you were brought here. Your Glasgow scale score—that’s how we measure the impact of a head injury—was pretty low, but you’ve been doing well, coming up and out of it.”

“What’s a perfect score?” I asked.

“Fifteen,” he said.

“What am I?”

“Today I’d say you were a fourteen or fifteen.” Dr. Ruckman smiled.

I smiled back, relieved. Nailed it. I needed an accounting of what else was wrong with me. “My leg’s messed up,” I said, stating the obvious, since it was hanging from a sling suspended above the bed.

Dr. Ruckman lightly tapped my knee. “You’ve fractured your left femur. When you were admitted, we used external fixation to keep things stable, but now that you’re doing better, we’re going to schedule you for surgery, and they’ll put in some pins.”

“Oh.” My stomach sank through the bed. This was bad. I was supposed to leave in a couple of weeks. Surgery and pins sounded serious. I’d been planning for the trip forever. “Can I still go to Italy?”

My parents exchanged a look. A thick fog of tension filled the room Oh, shit. My heart felt like a hummingbird trapped in my chest. They had to let me go.

“I can see a doctor over there,” I said. “And I’ll do whatever exercises I need to. Or I could use a wheelchair,” I suggested, knowing there was no way a school trip was going to let me go in a chair.

“Sweetheart,” Mom said.

“I’ll do anything,” I pleaded. “Don’t say no now. I might be better in a day or two, and we can decide then.”

“The trip is over,” my dad said.

“Keith,” Mom said, her voice tense.

“But—that’s not fair,” I said. “You can’t decide now. I haven’t even had the surgery yet. I might be okay—”

“No,” my dad cut me off. “I mean you already went. The car accident was in Italy.”

It felt as if someone had ripped the air out of my lungs. I’d been in Italy, and I couldn’t remember a thing. It was one thing to miss some memories, but I’d blacked out the entire trip. That couldn’t be possible.

“Sweetheart?” Mom patted my hand. A wave of clammy sweat broke out across my forehead and down my back.

“This is a lot for Jill to take in. We might want to give her some time,” Dr. Ruckman suggested.

“No, I need to know,” I said. The beeping from my monitor picked up speed.

“Don’t be upset,” Mom said.

My mouth fell open. Was she kidding?

Dr. Ruckman picked up a syringe and injected something into the tubing that led to my arm.

“Hey,” I protested.

“Why don’t you rest for a bit, and we can talk more later?” Dr. Ruckman patted my arm.

I wanted to yank away from his touch and tell him to keep his patronizing tone to himself, but my head began to fill with thick bubbles, and it seemed I could feel the cold medicine sliding into my veins, traveling through my body. I could almost trace its progress. I sank back down on the pillows.

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