Norah felt a sharp jab on her arm, and looked over to see her older sister,
Rachel, stick her tongue out at her. The rational part of her mind told
Norah that as a fifteen year old high school student, she should be old
enough to ignore Rachel's torments, but her more impulsive side insisted
that she shouldn't let her impertinent sister get away with anything.
"Mom, Rachel pinched me!" she complained.
"Rachel, don't pinch your sister," her mother said automatically, not
bothering to glance back at the two. Norah fumed. That might have worked
if they were in elementary school again, but a simple word or two from her
mother wouldn't deter Norah's eighteen-year-old tormentor.
As if to confirm Norah's thoughts, Rachel stretched out, lifting her feet
onto the seat so that they lay across Norah's lap. Norah said nothing, but
lifted the heavy feet and pushed them to the ground. "Don't!" Rachel
cried. "Mom, Rachel's touching me, and pushing my feet!"
"Her feet are in my lap!" Norah declared in protest. "Mom, would you do
something about her? She's really getting on my nerves!"
Surprising everyone, their father suddenly spoke up, shouting, "Would you
two keep it down back there! You're in high school, for crying out loud!
I'm trying to concentrate on driving!" For a few seconds, the only sound
was that of the windshield wipers furiously screeching in their attempt to
keep the rain off the window. They didn't seem to be helping much.
Under her breath, Rachel muttered, "Norah started it."
Suddenly, tires were screeching, horns were honking, and Norah's mother was
yelling at her father. Her hands reflexively clenched as their speed
increased, and Norah could feel the car swerve back and forth in the road.
Everything happened very slow as she looked out the window and saw that
they were headed for the ditch.
Their father, who rarely cursed, was now yelling something Norah would
never repeat on her worst day. Then, the car moving agonizingly slowly,
they reached the edge of the road, and Norah felt herself rise off her car
seat. Her head brushed the carpeted ceiling before she landed, then
everything went dark.
"It's all right, you're going to be all right, Norah," said an unfamiliar
woman's voice. Norah opened her eyes, and was suddenly overcome with waves
of pain. Her head hurt, her muscles hurt, and even her eyes hurt when the
flashlights around her fell upon her face.
"What's going on?" she asked the woman groggily. She wondered where her
parents were, but found nothing unusual about the mysterious woman in the
white coat. Maybe she was an angel- she was certainly pretty enough, and
she was dressed all in white. But, why would an angel look so worried.
"Am I going to die?" she asked, although she couldn't think of any reason
why she would die.
"No, you're not going to die," the woman said quickly. "You've lost a lot
of blood, but you're in the hands of trained professionals who know what
they're doing. Everything's fine, Norah." It didn't seem unusual that the
angelic woman would know her name, until she called to the others, "Load
her up, and be quick about it."
Suddenly, Norah was aware that she was on a stretcher, and a group of
people were loading her into an ambulance. Her head was sticky. Was she
bleeding? Where were her family? "Where's my mom and dad?" she called
aloud to anyone who would hear. Nobody listened to her, and she feared
she'd been left alone when the men who had loaded her on the ambulance
turned and hurried away.
Then, someone shut the door, but Norah didn't see, because a man with a
stern face was standing over her, distracting her. "Good evening, Norah,"
he said, faking a smile that wasn't the least bit convincing. "You're
going to be just fine. I'm going to give something to help you sleep,
now." She felt a pinprick on her arm, and fell asleep.
Mike hated hospitals. He always had. When he'd been young, his mother had
miscarried, and subsequently died in a hospital. Since then, he'd always
seen hospitals as places of death, and it didn't help that he would most
likely soon loose another parent in the cold, sterile building.
He walked through the cancer ward, and a nurse working at her station
smiled warmly. "Good morning, Mike," she said before returning to her
work. Mike nodded his acknowledgement. He was at the hospital often
enough to visit his dad that most of the staff knew him by name.
Mike walked to a familiar office, and pushed the door opened. Doctor
Higgins was at his desk, and Mike cleared his throat before entering, then
stood near the doorway, his hands shoved deep into his pockets. When
Doctor Higgins looked up, Mike said, "You called. Said I was supposed to
Doctor Higgins sighed, then took off his glasses to play with them
nervously. "It's about your father," he said. "There have been some . . .
complications." Mike felt his heart thud in his chest. "I'm sorry," the
doctor said quietly. "There was nothing we could do."
"Am I too late?" Mike asked, dreading the answer.
"He's on life support now, but we can't keep him conscious or lucid
forever. The most humane thing would be to make him comfortable and give
him painkillers and something to help him sleep. I thought you'd like to
say good bye first, though."
Mike felt tears well in his eyes. "Take me to him," he said through a sob.
Lisa sighed in irritation, and slammed the front door closed. She'd had
another bad day at school, and the bus ride home hadn't been very much fun
either. She stomped all the way up the stairs to her apartment, and pushed
open the door. "You will not believe what happened today!" she practically
shouted to any family members who were within hearing range.
She stepped inside, and saw what the opened door had concealed. Her jaw
dropped, and she was too stunned even to scream.