The alarm on my phone rings, the opening notes to Macarthur's Park. I'm a really heavy sleeper, and I can sleep through anything but that song. I hate it. But today's different. I've already slept through two alarms and I know I'm probably going to be late to my first class, but I've been up all night because of Bill's escape and I'm a mess if I don't get any sleep.
Richard Harris's voice jars me back to life. Goodness, he's almost up to the part about the sweet green icing, and I just can't hear that today. I hit the mute button and stuff my phone into my overcrowded purse.
This is not the time to think about Bill. This is the time to look over my chemistry notes and pray that I don't fail the test. I need this grade to keep my scholarship. No, this is not the time to think about Bill. I'm the one who left him, after he had that affair. He's the one who gave me that bad knee that still tingles before the rain, and the cut above my eye, and the broken finger, trying to force me to come back. And he's also the one who just escaped from prison.
By the time I finish studying, I'm nearly late for class. I throw on some jeans and a t-shirt and run out the door. I stop for just a second to touch the new mezuzah on my doorpost, a verse from the torah protecting my apartment. It's a gift from Ruth, my Hebrew teacher. I'm going to convert later this month.
I'm almost to my car in the parking lot all the way down the stairs before I realize. Dang it, I forgot my purse. I'm definitely going to be late now. This day could not be going worse. I'm going to be late to that stupid test and fail. I'm running towards the building as fast as I can go when my high heeled boot slips and my ankle twists at an excruciating angle. I feel like swearing, but I don't. The day I swear is the day I die. And I feel like crying, but I don't cry.
And then I hear footsteps behind me. I'm still on the ground, and I can't decide whether to look and see who it is or hide my face, because even though I don't cry there's mascara running down my cheeks and it's pretty ugly.
And then someone's leaning over me. There's breath, hot on the back of my neck. It scares me, because I think I know who it is.
No answer. A dull pain.
And I pass out.
I wake up in a strange room. It's all white and my first thought is that I'm in heaven with angels on clouds or whatever they have up there, but then I realize that there's a ceiling fan. That's sort of an odd thing to have in heaven. I'm such an idiot.
From my tv medical drama knowledge, I'm pretty certain I'm in a hospital. I try to roll over to test that theory, but it turns out that I'm in a ton of pain. My head's aching and my left arm feels like it's been cut into pieces and sewn together with a red-hot needle. What the heck happened to me? There's a brace on my neck, and if I could see my arms I'd guess that they were in casts or bandages or something.
And for once I, the girl who is always in control, can't do anything about it.
For the first time in nine years, since Dad died, I let the tears roll down my face. Will anyone even come to see me here? Dad's dead, and Mom disowned me when I married Bill and got pregnant. I guess even though she's a Chinese lady married to a black guy, I can't I marry a white jew.
I bet Ruth would visit, but I don't have her number memorized or my phone. If I get out of here alive, I swear I'll memorize her number until I repeat it in my sleep.
Just let me get out of here.
Suddenly, a face appears above my head. He's about thirty, with beautiful blonde hair and bright blue eyes. He looks tired. And worried. "Jayla, are you ok?"
"How do you know my name?" He shifts his eyes to the corner and shrugs, and I know that whatever he's about to say is a lie. And I am so hardcore done with everybody lying to me. "I'll always love you, whoever you marry," said Mom. "I'll stick to you forever," said Bill. "Go ahead, I'm listening," said Siri, my iPhone app. But my iPhone's broken, and Siri never hears me.
"Don't lie to me," I tell strange sort-of-hot guy. "What the h-e-double hockey sticks are you doing here?" He smiles like what I've just said is funny. The day I swear is the day I die, but I can come close.
"It's sort of hard to explain why I'm here," he says nervously. He's biting his lip. "Do you remember Bill?" I laugh sort of hysterically because of course I remember Bill, and he looks frightened.
"Yes, I remember Bill." I try to keep calm. And carry on. Like those t-shirts. Actually, I'm wearing one right now! I laugh again. Am I on pain meds? I never laugh this much.
"I'm so sorry to have to tell you this, but Bill attacked you today." I thought so. "Don't worry, they caught him. He's back in prison. But when he ran away after someone saw him, he dropped his phone. The ambulance team found it and thought it was yours, so they called the emergency contact. That's me. I pretended I knew you so that I'd be able to see if you're ok. But if you don't want me here, I can go now." His voice keeps breaking, his eyes are teary. He seems genuinely emotional. It's nice to see genuine for one.
"S'ok. You can stay." My words are slurred. "Am I on medicine?" It comes out me-du-shene. I'm so embarrassed.
"Yes, you are." He smiles, and I feel tickles in my stomach. He's cute. But wait a second…
"Why are you Bill's emergency contact?" He looks uncomfortable again. I don't want to make him uncomfortable, but I've gotta know.
"I'm so sorry to have to tell you this," he says.
"I never would have done it if I'd have known that he was married and I'm so sorry but I was Bill's boyfriend last year and apparently he never removed me from his Emergency Contact list."
He says it very fast, in one breath, like that's gonna soften the blow or I'm not gonna understand it all. But I do. I never knew Bill was gay. Or Bi. Or whatever the heck they're calling whatever the heck he is. And I never knew how empty you can feel inside.
Cute guy is looking at me, and he looks scared, and I have to stop calling him that because he's gay or something. He wants me to say something, I can tell.
So I do. My first ever swearword.
It's a bad one.
And I don't even care if I die.