Chapter 9: Words
I can only imagine what we must have looked like, trooping into the waiting room at the hospital dressed as we were, and Jake and I leading, covered in blood. There weren't a large number of people there besides us, but I still don't want to know what was going through their heads.
We'd been instructed to wait here until they came to tell us anything, so wait we did. Mike sat silently in a seat in a corner and stared at the opposite wall. Sarah ran off somewhere to call Jessica's family. Shaelyn paced silently while Connor picked a bench across the room and stretched out there.
I wandered halfway down the room and chose a seat in an empty bank of chairs. Jakob sat beside me. I leaned on his shoulder. "How're you holding up?" he asked.
I shrugged. "Really freaked out… But okay. I think."
He didn't answer. A few minutes later, he asked the question I'd been dreading. "How did you know?"
"I didn't," I claimed. "I got lucky, I guess."
He turned and raised a questioning eyebrow at me.
"I can't explain it. I need to call my mom," I added. I got up and walked away. It was an excuse, but I really did need to call her. My heels clacked loudly in the too-quiet room as I all but ran to find the quietest space I could, as far out of earshot as I could manage. I wished I could just sink into the shadows.
I found a spot around the corner that would have to work, as the doors beside me declared I could go no farther, and speed-dialed my mom's cell phone with shaking hands.
When she answered, though, I froze. What if she hung up on me, got angry over the vision before she'd even hear me out? Andrew was right.
"Can I talk to Shawn?" I managed.
There was one heart-pounding moment, and then it was his voice on the other end. I felt my shoulders relax and drop, and my knees stopped shaking.
"I'm at the hospital," was all I could get out at first.
I think the most accurate way to put it would be that Shawn went into 'dad' mode. "What happened?" he demanded. ""Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," I assured him, and glanced around, making sure no one was listening. "I'm freaked out, but I'm alright. I had a vision. I don't even know how to explain it, and it's not something I want to do here, but Jessica got hurt, and… It's complicated."
"We're on our way," was his response, and I was grateful it was him I'd told. He didn't ask questions that he knew I didn't want to answer. He didn't doubt me. "Do you want us to bring you anything? Food, maybe?"
"Sure, I guess… And clothes. Jake and I are kind of a mess…" I opted not to outright mention the blood.
"No problem. Hang tight, we'll be there soon."
I was so exhausted that I'd all but fallen asleep on Jakob's shoulder by the time Shawn and my mom got to the hospital. He shook me awake.
"Aren't you a sight for sore eyes?" Shawn commented. He handed me a shopping bag.
"That's not funny." I yawned and got up.
"There's some clothes in there for Jakob, too. I brought some of Andrew's."
I dug them out of the bag and handed them to Jakob, then headed to the single washroom to change, passing my still silent mother on the way, who just stood by and watched the exchange.
I dumped my clothes on the floor – he'd even brought shoes! – and began peeling the bloody material off of my body. I thought about just throwing it in the trash, but reconsidered. I doubted any of the clothes I'd worn tonight were salvageable, but I figured that if I or Jessica could somehow convince the police that she was attacked, they might need it. So instead, I stuffed it carefully into the empty bag.
I looked down at myself to find that I was still covered with a thin layer of blood that had soaked through the dress, so I wiped myself clean with damp paper towels, and redressed myself in fresh undergarments.
At this point, I knew a few things for sure. One, I was going to somehow have to wriggle my way out of Jakob's questions. I was going to have to convince him I knew nothing, even though he was the one who followed me as I ran from the table to the washroom. Maybe I could say that it was a migraine and I was going to be sick. If I didn't get too into the lie, I might get away with it.
I slipped into my jeans.
Two, somehow, I was going to somehow have to keep my mother from having a hissy fit as soon as I stepped back into the waiting room. I dreaded this more than lying to Jakob.
I pulled the tank top Shawn brought me over my head.
Three, I had to deal with Jessica. She'd seen him. Hopefully she didn't know that there was a connection between him and me. If she did, then my secret was out, unless I could convince her not to tell anyone that I knew who her attacker was. I wasn't sure how likely that was.
I shrugged on the sweater and zipped it up. I pulled on socks and slid my feet gratefully into my sneakers. I sighed.
My mother waited, thankfully, until after Jakob had left to change before she tried to start a conversation. Of course, my mom didn't understand the concept of a right time and a right place, of which here was neither.
"Amye," she said, thankfully quiet, "I want you to actually be honest with me now. What actually happened?"
"Didn't Shawn tell you?" I muttered coldly. I glanced at him. He eyed us carefully. I didn't blame him for not wanting to get involved. I wouldn't either.
"I said be honest."
"I was honest."
"Amye," she began to warn.
"I'm not having this argument with you, Mother," I snapped. "Not here. If you want to threaten to lock me away again, you can do that when we get home, not in public like this."
Jakob cleared his throat behind me. "Um. Should I go sit with everyone else?"
My mom started to say something, but I cut her off before she had the chance to send him away. "No. It's fine. Come sit." I patted the seat beside me. He took it and wrapped his arms around my middle. He buried his face in my hair, and I glared at my mother, daring her to say something else. She didn't.
Shawn shook me awake again some time later, when a nurse came in to talk to us. She announced that Jessica was out of surgery and recovering well so far. They'd repaired all of the damage successfully, and they figured she should make a full recovery. A collective sigh of relief went around the room. Then her pager beeped, and she headed back through the doors.
Someone else came back later. "Is one of you Amye?" she asked.
We all looked around at each other, and then at the nurse, and I answered hesitantly, "I am."
"Jessica's awake. She's asking for you."
I stared at her. At the same time, I felt everyone's eyes on me.
"Would you come with me please?"
When I got up, it felt like I was moving in slow motion. I met the stares from around the room. Some, like Jakob's were confused. Others were accusing and made me feel uncomfortable. I shuffled down the hall behind the nurse, away from all of them.
The nurse led me to a curtain. "In here." She motioned with a small sweep of her hand. I thanked her and she left. I turned and let myself in.
Jessica lay in the bed, propped up by pillows. Her wrists were wrapped in white bandages. I felt a twinge of guilt when I looked at them. She was almost as white as those bandages, even though they'd surely given her a number of units of blood in transfusions. She smiled weakly at me. It took me aback; it had been a long time since she'd even acknowledged me. "Hey," she whispered.
"Hey." I glanced around quickly. I wasn't sure what to do with myself. I didn't want to stand there awkwardly. I spied a hard plastic chair in the corner of the little curtained-off cubicle and went for that. I pulled it up beside the bed and sat down. "How're you feeling?"
"I've been better." There was a certain bitter amusement in the way she said it. I wasn't sure whether she meant me to laugh, so I said nothing.
"Sorry if I scared you, by the way. Back at the hall. I'll bet it was a lot of blood."
I shrugged, not wanting to reveal that it wasn't the amount of blood that freaked me out, but what losing that much blood could mean for a person.
Silence ensued. We sat and look at anything but each other until she finally sighed exasperatedly and slapped her palms against the crisp sheets. "Alright," she said, "I didn't want this to be awkward, but clearly, that's not how this is going to go, so I'm going to go ahead and apologize, because I know that this whole… not-talking thing is my fault. So I'm sorry."
"Don't be. I would've done the same."
"Just accept the apology, okay? I acted like a bitch, and I accept that."
"Alright, fine," I conceded.
"You saved my life tonight," she said after another long pause. "They told me you came running into the bathroom and found me. If you hadn't, I'd be dead by now. Thank you."
I tried to smile, and that was all I could do. The words 'you're welcome' seemed wrong in the situation, like a sick joke.
"I didn't try to kill myself," she said softly. She didn't meet my eye. "Do you believe me?"
"I believe you."
She lowered her voice. "I was attacked."
I swallowed. "I know."
"I think you know who did it." She said it like an admission of guilt, and stared at the corner of the cubicle.
I shook my head. "They were gone when we found you."
"I've seen you drawing him." My heart stuttered. So she knew. Now what? "How do you know him?"
"I don't know him," I admitted, and the truth started to roll out of my mouth. "I ran into him, once, about a month ago. Someone's been stalking me since then."
"You think it's him?"
"I've seen him watching me. In restaurants, on the street. He comes into my house when I'm not home. He left me flowers the last time. I never thought he'd go after any of you. I'm sorry. This," I gestured at her bandages, "is my fault."
"Amye, look at me." I did. "He's a crazy fuck, okay? That doesn't make it your fault. We all make choices, and this was his. I don't blame you. I am curious about something though. Would you promise to tell me the truth?"
To this day, I still wonder why I told Jessica everything I did. At the time, all that was going through my head was the notion of why I was spilling everything to her so freely, when I'd been contemplating only a few hours earlier how to explain it to her in order to keep her in the dark as much as possible. I tried later to come up with excuses for telling her. It was because I felt bad. Over the fact that she was hurt. Because I believed it was my fault, and I couldn't bring myself to lie because of that. Or it was because someone outside my family was taking me seriously, and that was encouraging. No matter the reason, though, when she asked me, "You said, 'I know,' when I told you I was attacked. I didn't tell you before now. Did you know, then? Did you know he was there, what he was doing?" I answered honestly.
"I saw it."
"You weren't there, though."
"No, I wasn't. I had a vision."
"Like, a psychic vision?"
"You could say that, yes."
"You're… not joking."
"I wish I was, but no. I've been watching that guy and his cronies slaughter innocent people for a month."
Jessica nodded thoughtfully. "Would it sound weird if I told you that actually makes a lot of sense?"
"Sarah," she answered. "After the party, she told me you had all these weird newspaper articles all over your room, like a cop on TV going nuts trying to catch a serial killer. She called you a freak."
"Whatever. I think I'm a freak, too."
"It's them, isn't it?"
I paused for the first time through our hushed conversation, and actually considered what we were discussing. I almost laughed as the realization hit me that almost anyone else would be somewhere between laughing and calling the doctor back here, but to examine me. But I was sobered by the look she gave me, one full of genuine concern. "Yeah," I said, looking at my hands, "it's them."
"What is it?"
"Nothing, really" I dismissed. "It's just that no one besides my brothers have ever taken me this seriously before. You had to have considered at least for a second that I might be crazy. Or lying. Andrew and Jack both did."
"For all I know, maybe you are. But I figure, after everything that happened tonight, why would you? You might have lied and told me that you were just in the right place at the right time, all that crap, but why would you tell me a crazy story like that if you were lying?"
"Do you think we could call a truce?" she asked abruptly. "I think… after tonight, I can't stay mad at you. You saved me, and that trumps any drama over a boy. So, I'm sorry, and I forgive you. Friends?"
"Friends," I agreed, all the while wondering what the hell exactly was going on, how I'd gone from worrying about shutting the bitch up to being friends to the point sharing my secret in such a short period of time. "Thanks, by the way," I added. "For believing me. Don't tell anyone?"
"What do you want me to say?" she asked simply. "If we're in this together, we need to figure out stories."
"Just leave out any connections between him and I. Make it a random attack by someone who managed to bypass security. You remember nothing about me coming in."
"What will you say?"
"I don't know." I thought for a minute. My story would be more difficult to craft. But then I remembered my half formed idea from the bathroom stall that I'd hoped might convince Jakob. "What if I told them it was a migraine? It's not like I'm lying. I get migraines from the visions all the time. So, it made me sick, and I ran to the bathroom. Jakob followed me there, but that might still work, because he didn't know what was wrong with me. Then we saw you and adrenaline took over? I was too preoccupied to still feel sick because I was trying to save you?"
"That's good; it sounds believable. We'll stick to that. Go tell everyone I'm fine, okay? And that I'm expecting a ton of get-well presents. Just kidding," she added.
"Well, well, look who still has a sense of humour." I got up.
"One other thing," she said. I paused with my hand on the curtain and turned halfway back. The look on her face alone was enough to fuel the building tension. "He wanted me to give you a message."
I gulped. "What?"
"He said to tell you, 'I'll be seeing you.' That's it."
My insides froze together. "Feel better, Jess," I managed, and then I let myself back through the curtain. Numbly, I found my way back to the waiting room.
"How'd it go?" Jakob asked.
"I sat beside him and blinked. "That was weird…"
I pulled up to Amye's house behind Shawn's SUV. Amye had fallen asleep pretty much as soon as I'd gotten her in the truck after all but carrying her out of the hospital. Now, instead of trying to wake her up again, I just walked around to her side of the truck and lifted her out of the seat.
Shawn held the front door for me to carry Amye inside. "You can sleep on the couch here tonight," he offered as I passed. I graciously accepted, starting to feel about as exhausted as Amye.
I carried Amye down to her room, got her shoes off, and tucked her under the covers. Then I sat on the side of her bed and watched her sleep for a few minutes.
Her tangled hair was all in her face, so I brushed it aside with my fingers. I held one of her hands with my free hand and studied her. Even in sleep, there were deep circles under her eyes. Her face relaxed, and yet she still looked troubled. How could someone be in such a state of unease all the time?
Maybe it was nosey, but I wanted to know what was troubling her, what tortured her every day and kept her from sleeping. I wanted to make it go away. Again, there was that feeling that something was off and I just couldn't get to what it was. It centered around her, though, and it was far more than the migraine she tried to pass tonight off as. Of that much, I was certain.
"What are you, Amye?" I wondered out loud. "What aren't you telling me?"
So, I'm sorry that this chapter isn't as action-packed as the last, just more informational. There will be more action coming, though, and soon :)
I've found that I have more time to write than I expected to. Everyone kept warning me how busy university is, but it's not that bad. Even with midterms happening right now, it's not how busy I expected it to be. That's good news for all of you, because it means that I'll be writing more sooner! So I'll keep this short and go write some more for you!