I woke up in an unfamiliar room. Water-stained floral wallpaper covered the four walls, and a deep burgundy carpet coated the floor. A tiny wooden desk sat in the corner of the room next to a tall window with deep red curtains and tassels. On the other side of the window a striped plush chair fit in a small nook, and beyond that, a small hallway.
I slowly dressed in clothes that I'd never seen before placed at the foot of the bed. I navigated the hallway and pushed open a door that led to a wide room. A whole wall made up of separate windows flooded light into the cream-colored living room on the right and the tiny white kitchen on the left. Next to the windows was a small dining table, with four chairs in which one was occupied. My father stared out the window at the woods beyond and took a drink of black coffee from a cracked cup. I quietly pulled up a chair and sipped at the tea left out on the table for me. We sat peacefully for about ten minutes, following the squirrels with our eyes that darted from tree to tree in search of nuts. Finally, I broke the silence.
"So, where are we?" I asked without breaking my stare.
There was a long pause before he answered. "This is Aunt Millie's home; she left to visit some cousins up north for a couple weeks. She told us we could use it in the time being."
Aunt Millie was around seventy, and still one of the most active senior citizens I'd ever known. If you wanted to visit her she'd always insist that she come to your house, and then she'd ride her bike there. That's one of the reasons why I'd never seen this house before. She never owned a car; if she needed to get somewhere she'd ride her bike, or if it was too far away, take the bus. I'd always respected Aunt Millie, for her integrity, and not letting her age stop her from what she loved to do.
I pondered about Aunt Millie when the question I'd meant to ask my dad crept into my head, "Kate?" I barely whispered.
"She's in the hospital, just a few minutes from here." My father looked to the ground, leaned his elbows on his knees, and his brow creased in thought. I automatically braced myself, he always displayed that look when he was contemplating on whether to share something with me or not. He finally straightened his back and looked at me straight in the eye, "ICU, actually."
Those were the three scariest words in my dictionary of the hospital. Intensive Care Unit. My definition? Section of the hospital where very severely injured or sick people go where intensive care is provided 24 hours a day, and most people who come in come back out cold, pale and with a non-beating heart. Basically, the ICU was a place for the dying.
Which meant Kate was probably dying. I had never felt so cold inside and my hands literally trembled. My father seemed to sense my distress and wrapped a comforting arm around me. But I didn't feel comforted. Not with the knowledge that my sister had a good chance of perishing, being wiped away from the world.
"Will we get to see her?" My trembling voice asked.
"Yes, let's go right now," he said.
I stood up and automatically reached into my back pocket to grab my lucky bracelet that I always wore when I needed luck, only to remember that I had lost everything in the fire. I somehow didn't feel sad of that thought, probably because it wasn't the greatest time for self-pity.
I was in a daze for the entire trip to the hospital. I remembered reaching the old truck outside of the house, but the whole drive became a blur, a mixture of jumbled thoughts I couldn't sort out to remember well enough. I became aware of reality when my dad parked the pickup truck in the hospital lot. We hiked up a series of cement stairs and signed in at the front desk. He then led me through a maze of hallways, twists, and turns when I caught sight of the door at the end of the hallway labeled, "Intensive Care Unit."
I sucked in a deep breath and reminded myself I had to be strong for Kate. Unfortunately, at that very moment, a women in her 50's with short, blonde hair burst out of the ICU door and quickly hurried past us as she sobbed and dabbed her puffy, red eyes with a tissue. I felt a pang of fear and worry as she hurried by, but forced myself to collect my emotions before I passed through that door.
We slowly entered and the atmosphere immediately changed. It was serious, gloomy, and almost anxious. We passed by rooms with beds hooked up to large machines and tubes. Patients varied from a heavy woman attached to about twenty different machines to a teenage boy who was curled up onto his side. The sweat poured down his face and he gritted his teeth to keep the sound of his pain inside. A sick smell of throw-up and cleaner made my stomach churn and my head feel faint.
Finally, we reached the end of the hallway. My dad stopped at a room on the right labeled 313 and pushed it aside. Those chestnut eyes met mine and filled me with warmth and sadness at the same time.
I crossed over to a nearby chair and stroked Kate's hair softly. Her eyes closed and she took deep breaths, in and out through her lungs.
After a couple minutes her eyes reopened and she turned her head to the side facing me. I could tell from the look on her face that even that simple movement required all of her effort and that she was in great pain. She looked at me with the eyes of a wounded puppy and quietly spoke in a soft, strangled voice.
"Carmen, Daddy explained most of what happened to me, but will you tell me exactly how you remember it? No editing out anything please."
I hesitated but began to tell my story from the time Rose dropped me off. Kate listened intently through the entire thing and even winced a bit when I described what she looked like on that gurney.
"Sounds more dramatic than what Dad told me," she sighed.
"Yeah, well it was pretty traumatizing," I admitted.
We sat in silence for a bit while I stroked her hair. After much examining I finally asked the question that had been eating away at me.
"Dad, Kate?" I asked softly, "Do either of you know how the fire started?"
"Well the police investigated the house… or what was left of it after the fire," Dad explained, "Based on Kate's story they think the fireplace must've started it. They don't really know how but that's their best guess."
"Oh," I patted Kate's hair and met her eyes, "Do you remember what happened, Kate?"
"Well I got home as usual on the bus," Kate began, "and turned on the fireplace. I did the laundry, ate a snack, and around five I went upstairs to our bedroom to do homework. I closed the door and drew the curtains because I didn't want any distractions. I slightly noticed that the bedroom was getting warmer but I didn't think anything of it.'
'Around 5:30 I opened our bedroom door a huge burst of flames exploded behind it and burnt me across my face. I slammed the door and started to panic. I knew that I had to get out as soon as possible so I untied the curtains to jump out the window but there were flames behind the window too! I didn't know what to do because I had no escape and no phone to call 911. Finally I hid next to our dresser which was as far away as I could get from the flames that had just melted the window screen and half of the door. The flames began to get closer and closer to me when the house collapsed. I was trapped under a metal beam and couldn't free myself while the fire burned my body everywhere! I think I lost consciousness before they pulled me out." Kate shivered as she remembered her experience.
I had no words to reply to Kate's story. It was so horrific, so tragic. A nurse came in to add a sedative to Kate's fluid and her eyelids began to droop immediately. We kissed her goodbye and she murmured something intelligible. My dad and I had just left the room when the nurse grabbed ahold of my arm.
"Wait! Before you go, the doctor needs to see you. She's in meeting room 2A around the corner," She pointed to the right.
We turned the corner and knocked on room 2A. "Come in," a feminine voice chimed from the other side. Dad opened the door and a young blonde woman waved us in.
"Hello Mr. Jefferson, I'm Doctor McCee," she extended her arm.
"Nice to meet you," Dad shook her hand.
She motioned to two empty chairs across from her desk, "Please have a seat."
I sat down on the fluffy cushion and Doctor McCee folded her hands neatly on the desk.
"Now, Mr. Jefferson, is it alright with you that the young lady here be a part of our conversation?"
Dad looked at me then at the doctor, "I don't see why not, Carmen's very mature for her age."
"Very well then," she glanced at me for a quick moment, "Mr. Jefferson, as you know I have been treating Kate for the previous day, and I have taken note of her burns and how strong of a treatment I may need. It appears that Kate has many second and third degree burns, a very serious condition. The burns have damaged many nerves and veins in Kate's system and will leave some serious permanent damage."
This is where it was going to get bad; I could see it in Doctor McCee's eyes. I felt a tremor roll through my body and my palms started to sweat.
"Mr. Jefferson," she began, "According to my analysis of Kate, I – I have to tell you that, er, that Kate," she looked into Dad's eyes with a sad expression, "Kate received severe internal damage and has a very slim chance of surviving."
End of Chapter 3
Note from Kaikeline:
Hey guys I'm really sorry for posting Chapter 3 late! But anyways what did you think of it? In other news I am considering posting another story which I have a couple of ideas for. What do you think? Please review and share! :)