by Anj
(a.k.a. Azurenon)


All disclaimers in Chapter One


        When my eyes opened the next time, they focused better. Yet, my thoughts were still fuzzy. The blonde nurse was leaning over the hospital bed, pulling the cover up on me. She didn't notice I was awake; she was busy at her task. The aroma of her perfume drifted up to me, as she moved about. A strand of blonde hair, which had crept out of the smooth, tightly wrapped hairstyle, supposed to contain it, dangled loosely by her cheek. She reminded me of my mother from this vantage point. A lump formed in my throat.
        "Well… hello again," she said, with a smile, upon noticing I was awake. "We thought you might… sleep the day away."
"Where's... my mother?" I asked, in a voice barely above a whisper.
        "Excuse me?" she said, as her face drew closer to mine.
        I cleared my throat, which was a painful experience, then tried again. "Where's... my mother?" I repeated.
        She backed away and looked at me rather sadly.
        "Good!" boomed another voice from the foot of the bed, causing me to flinch. "You're awake. Nurse, would you please get the doctor," Uncle Brandon continued, as he moved up on my left side and gently touched my arm. "We've been worried about you."
        I started to raise up again; for, it seemed no one wanted to answer my question.
        "Now, now... you need to lie still," Uncle Brandon admonished, placing one strong hand on my shoulder. "Remember what happened last time you did that? You've been through quite a rough time. Just try and rest, all right?" he soothed, his Southern accent not nearly as pronounced as my father's. "You remember, don't you, I'm your uncle, Brandon? And I'll see to it that you get the best care money can buy."
        I started to ask again about my mother and father, but was interrupted.
        "How's our patient today?" asked Dr. Rosemund, as he and the nurse strolled into the room.
        Not very patient, at the moment, I wanted to say. "Trying to get up again," answered Uncle Brandon.
        "Oh now, you mustn't do that," the doctor said, nearing the bed. "No, you must understand that you've had a very bad trauma to your head and back. It's best if you don't try to sit up just now. If you need anything I'm sure your nurse, Miss Bennington will be happy to get it for you."
        I fidgeted a little, feeling uncomfortable surrounded by only strangers. If someone would just answer my question about my mother and father I wouldn't need to get up, I wanted to say. I felt like a kid again and wanted to kick out at something in my frustration.
        "My legs!" I exclaimed, suddenly realizing I couldn't even feel them, much less move them.
        "Just lie still," admonished Dr. Rosemund calmly, as he placed one hand on my shoulder. "You... you were in a very bad accident and you suffered a trauma to your lower back and your head. I was afraid there might be some… complications with the spinal trauma.” He glanced over at my uncle as if speaking to both of us. “Now, it's quite possible your paralysis is temporary. Although with any bruising of the spinal column it's…” He paused and looked down at me. “Well, we'll be able to tell more once we can perform some tests. And we shouldn't do that until you're stronger. So, for now, we need you to just rest."
        Paralysis? I closed my eyes. Dear God let this be a dream, I prayed. Let me wake up! When I open my eyes again, I'll be back home! Yes, back home, safe and sound. Back in my own bed with…
        “Faith?” said Dr. Rosemund. You're not real! I wanted to scream. Go away! Leave me alone!
“Faith?” the nurse, Miss Bennington's, voice now.
It was obvious they weren't going to leave me alone. "My mother... and father?" I asked, in as loud a voice as I could muster, without too much pain. "Were they... hurt? Are they here?"
        There was a long silence, as the doctor glanced over at Uncle Brandon.
        "Now, now... don't try to talk just now,” Uncle Brandon intervened. “Everything is all right. Your mother and father are... in good hands. For now, you should rest like the doctor says. Perhaps tomorrow we'll discuss this further."
        "I... I want to know... now!" I demanded, irritation apparent in my voice. "How bad?"
        I glanced around at each of them. Miss Bennington offered up a fake smile, which quickly dissipated and returned to the sad expression she'd worn each time I'd inquired about this. I knew in my heart they were hiding something from me. I closed my eyes again. I felt trapped! I couldn't even get out of bed to go and find out about my parents. Good God, let me wake up! Take his dream away! It's not real. It can't be real!
        And yet I could hear the doctor and Uncle Brandon move towards the end of the bed and begin whispering. I opened my eyes slowly and focused on Miss Bennington. She appeared to be my best hope of getting to the truth. "Are my parents... badly hurt?" I struggled to say.
        "Sh-h," she said quietly, putting her finger to her lips and glancing towards the two men, who were moving towards the door, still talking in hushed tones. "Doctor's orders. Try not to strain your voice. For a while you'll need to remain quiet. You've been through quite an ordeal. You've been unconscious for almost two weeks now and you'll be weak for a good while yet," she continued, as she let down the guardrail and sat down on the side of the bed. "I know you have a thousand different questions running through that pretty little head of yours, but just know... you will get your answers. I promise," she added with a nod.
        As I searched her face and eyes for any tell tale sign that she might be lying, I realized she wasn't as old as I'd first assumed. Matter of fact, she didn't appear to be over thirty at most. And even though she was a complete stranger to me, somehow I felt that I could trust her. There was just something about the warmth in her vibrantly blue eyes, which made me feel she wouldn't be just a nurse, but a friend.
        "Are you thirsty?" she asked, changing the subject.
        "Yes," I strained to say.
        She immediately put her fingers to her lips again. "Until your throat heals, let's make a deal, okay? When you want something, you either point or..." She paused and reached over taking my right hand in hers. Her hand was very warm and trembled slightly. "Or you can squeeze my hand; once for 'yes' and twice for 'no'. Deal?" she inquired, with a smile.
        I watched dimples form around the corners of her mouth and tiny lines spread outward from the corners of her eyes, as she continued to smile. One neatly arched eyebrow twitched slightly, as her vibrant blue eyes darted back and forth seemingly searching mine for the answer to her question and the nostrils of her slightly upturned nose, flared, as she inhaled. I finally squeezed her hand once.
        "Good, now let me get you something for those dry lips, hmm?" She reached over beside the bed and retrieved a plastic pitcher.
        I noticed right away that the machine I had seen earlier was now gone and I saw no tubes running towards me.
        "It's not going to be easy to swallow for a while, but of course you know that already, don't you?" She glanced up at me, as she removed a piece of ice from the pitcher. "So, we'll start off slow with an ice cube and just wet your lips, hmm."
        She gently placed the melting ice cube to my lips and moved it over them very slowly. The ice felt good against these hot, dry membranes. When I swallowed, it did indeed hurt like a bitch. I wondered why my throat should be sore if I had only suffered a trauma to my head and back. I motioned to my throat.
        "Pain?" she asked.
        I started to speak, then thought better of it and squeezed her hand twice. She turned her head quizzically. I raised my eyebrows as if I were asking a question, then motioned again to my throat. Her vivid blue eyes darted back and forth, as if searching mine for the content of my inquiry.
Suddenly she flinched. "Oh… you wanna know why your throat hurts?" she asked. I squeezed once. "Yes, well the doctor said you suffered a slight trauma to your neck, too. I suppose he forgot to mention it, since it wasn't as serious as the others." She placed the ice cube back to my lips. "It should pass in time," she assured me, with a smile.
        I felt comfortable allowing her to take care of me as if I were a child and she were my mother, nursing me through one of many childhood illnesses. I remembered my mother telling me that after I was born, I spent a month in the hospital because I was an underweight baby. Yet, this had not affected me at all growing up, I was as healthy as a horse. I was always into some sort of sports activity, because I just loved to compete. I loved a challenge of any kind, usually. But the one I was faced with now would be the biggest challenge I'd ever undertaken. And one tinged with anger, because I'd had no say so in the matter.
        "You just rest now," Miss Bennington said, interrupting my thoughts. "You should feel stronger tomorrow. I'll be right over there, if you need anything." She nodded towards the right side of the room, where a large high-back, vinyl covered hospital chair sat near the window.
        After she moved away, my mind wandered back to my parents and what condition they were in. I assumed it wasn't good, because no one wanted to answer my questions. Least of all, Miss Bennington, whose facial expressions were enough to warn me away from inquiring about it for the moment.
Uncle Brandon said they were in good hands, I reasoned with myself. They're probably hurt like me or… maybe worse… No… no, don't think like that! Just focus on the fact that they're being taken care of like you are. “In good hands,” he'd said. Focus on that.
As I lay there, my eyes growing exceedingly heavy, I latched onto the thought “ They're in good hands.” I'll cling to that hope, I assured myself, even as my thoughts grew exceedingly fuzzy and the need for rest soon claimed my body.

        "Is she asleep?" a whispery female voice asked, as I tried to open my eyes to see who was there. "Oh well, I'll come back tomorrow."
        I tried harder to get my eyes to open, wondering if this could be my mother. Yet, my lids were so very heavy, that they fluttered open only briefly and I caught a mere glimpse of a woman in black retreating through the doorway.
        "Mo... Mother...?" I croaked.
        "No, Faith," Miss Bennington's voice answered. "That was Mrs. Landry. She was on the plane with you. Do you remember her?"
        I frowned in concentration. I hadn't known any of the passengers' names, nor did I care to remember the plane ride again.
        "She merely wanted to peek in on you and see how you were doing," Miss Bennington explained.
        At least I now knew that people had come away from the crash with few if any injuries. Perhaps my mother and father were not so bad off, after all. They just didn't want to tell me about their injuries, for fear I'd want to get up and go to them. I sighed heavily. But, I can't go to them. I can't even get up outta this bed! But, I didn't want to think about this. They'll tell me when I'm stronger, I thought, as I drifted back to the bliss of La-La land.

        Sometime during the middle of the night, I awoke. It took me awhile to realize I wasn't at home, in my own bed. Once the full weight of past events came back, however, a flood of emotions, which had heretofore somehow been kept in check, coursed through me. Tears flowed from my eyes and careened down my cheeks. I reached up to wipe them away and felt something strange above my eyebrows. My hand traced its path up and over my head. I gasped, when I realized it was a bandage. It covered my entire head! I had seen movies about people with head injuries and couldn't help but wonder if I had any hair beneath it.
        I felt around the sides, tracing its full path. It covered my forehead completely, went around the side of my head and over my right ear, where I felt the fine stubble of hair, which had obviously started to grow back. I knew then that the chances of me having any hair left underneath were slim to none, at best. I traced the bandage on around my head and back to the left ear, which was completely covered!
        Tears flowed like water from a faucet again, after that brief reprieve of discovery. How bad are my injuries? What do I look like?
        I reached up with both hands this time to wipe the tears away. My left hand was reluctant to respond and a sharp pain shot up my arm, as it neared my face. I stopped the progress of both hands before they ever reached their destination. I blinked in disbelieve, as I took in their condition. My right hand was slightly bruised, scratched and my fingers were swollen. There were also a few bruises and scratches up my arm, along with what appeared to be needle marks. My left hand, however, was swollen all out of proportion. The diamond pinky ring my mother had given me for my birthday last July was missing. There was a bandage around my forearm and one that ran from my shoulder to my elbow. No wonder it had hurt to raise it, I thought.
        While surveying all the damage, I remembered that my mother had been sitting on my left side on the plane, my father sitting beside her. If my arm and head were in such bad shape, what might have happened to them?
        "Oh good god in heaven this can't be happening." I muttered unintelligibly, breaking down again.
        Miss Bennington must have heard me, because I heard the squeak of springs and then the soft patter of bare feet on the tile floor, as they neared the bed. I heard the guardrail being lowered and felt the bed give, when she sat down on the right side. Then I felt her warm hand as she touched my face.
        "They're.... not dead, are they?" I blubbered. “Tell me… they're not dead!”
        She offered no response, she merely placed her other hand on my right arm and caressed the side of my face. I wanted desperately to be held at that moment, by someone... anyone. I didn't care who! I merely needed the comfort of arms around me. Despite the pain, I attempted to raise up, reaching out for her. A dull throbbing started in my head, sharp pains shot up my left arm and the blackness overtook me once again.

        The next time I drifted back to reality it was morning. Miss Bennington was busy removing the cot she must have slept on the night before.
        "Good morning," she said warmly, when she glanced my way and realized I was awake. "Think you might be up to eating something this morning?"
        I started to tell her I was famished, but thought better of that idea and merely raised my right hand and made a fist once.
        "Good," she said, with a broad smile. "But first... let's see if we can raise the head of this bed just a little. That'll make it easier for you to drink from the straw and swallow." She then pressed one of the buttons on the remote control attached to the guardrail. "Let me know if you feel any discomfort, okay?"
        The top of the bed slowly began to rise and my head started to feel heavy, my stomach quite weak. I motioned for her to stop. She then reached over and took my hand in hers.
        "Pain?" she queried. My reply was negative. "Dizzy?" she further inquired. I answered affirmatively. "Okay, let's just leave you here for a moment and we'll see if it doesn't go away, hmm?" I closed my eyes and tried to will the dizziness away. I hoped that when I opened them again, it would be gone. "Better?" she inquired, when I reopened my eyes. I answered affirmatively. "Think we can go just a bit further?" I signaled: “yes” and this time I didn't suffer from the dizziness or the queasiness. "Alright... everything okay?" I squeezed once. "Good, then I'll go see about getting you something to eat."
        She came back a little while later with some type of off-white colored liquid that tasted awful. She snickered as I made a face, following the first sip. Then she wiped my chin, where it had dribbled out the side of my mouth.
        "I don't blame you a bit," she said, smiling. "I hated this stuff myself."
        My eyes grew wide at the thought of her being in my predicament.
        "Oh yes," she continued, understanding my expression. "I was right where you are. Matter of fact, I was worse. Except for your paralysis, of course." She twirled the straw around in the liquid, looked over at me and then continued. "I laid in a hospital bed for several months." She paused, watching my expression.
        "You want to know what happened, hmm? Well... I was in a car accident and... I wasn't wearing a seat belt. My head went through the windshield and I broke my left arm and leg. So, I know something about what you're going through." She turned her attention to the straw in the drink. "It's one reason I chose to become a private nurse and a therapist, so I can help other accident victims. Here, take another sip," she said offering it to me. "I know it tastes god awful, but you wanna get outta here, don'chu? Well, humor me." Her eyes twinkled as she smiled.
        I accepted the proffered drink, if only for her sake, since she was being so kind.
        "I can tell you're gonna be an excellent patient. Why you'll be… well in no time."
        I could only hope she was right. But, my thoughts were no longer on myself at the moment; they were already straying to my parents. I opened my mouth to inquire about this once again, but was interrupted like before.
        "Good morning," boomed a deep, masculine voice from the doorway. Again I flinched. "Remember me?" Uncle Brandon asked.
        I squeezed Miss Bennington's hand once. "She remembers you, Mr. Neilson," she told him.
        He eyed her rather strangely for a second, as if wondering why she was answering for me. Then his eyebrows shot up. "Oh yes… I forgot. We're not supposed to talk, are we? I see you're looking better this morning," he continued, flashing a broad smile, as he approached the left side of the bed.
        I tried to return the gesture, but it never reached my lips, because the liquid left me with a pasty, bitter taste in my mouth.
        "Why the frown?" he asked, the tone of his voice revealing his concern. He started to take my hand then seemed to have second thoughts, as his eyes traveled over it and up my arm to my head.
        "It's the liquid, I'm afraid," Miss Bennington offered. "It doesn't have a very pleasant taste."
        I made a face, as if to say: That's an understatement. She merely grinned, then lowered her eyes.
        "Oh well, I'm sure you'll be eating real food soon," Uncle Brandon offered, as he patted my leg, even though I did not feel the gesture of comfort. He cleared his throat, as if realizing his mistake. "So, has the doctor been in yet?" he asked.
        "No, it's... it's a bit early for that," Miss Bennington answered, getting up from the bed. "We were just having breakfast."
        "Oh, I won't stay long then. I just wanted to see how my girl was doing," he offered, while flashing me a warm smile.
        My girl? I thought. Where'd he get the idea I'm his girl? I stared into his eyes. Was he trying to be affectionate to his brother's daughter or was there some other reason for his comment? I could not say why, but for some reason when I looked into his dark brown eyes, which were not so unlike my father's, I had the distinct feeling I couldn't trust him. There was something missing from their depths. Or perhaps I was just prejudging him too soon on account of his previous comment. Because I was still my father's girl, unless....
        "I can't get over how much you look like your mother," he said softly, as his eyes seemed to turn misty. "Yes, well..." He paused, cleared his throat and glanced down at my left hand. "I... I must get to the office now. But, I'll be back this afternoon to check on you." He gently lifted my hand to his lips and placed a kiss on my misshapen fingers. "You have a good day now." He slowly placed my hand back on the bed and winked at me. "Miss Bennington, may I see you outside for a moment?" he said, his voice changing from the soft tone he had used with me to a stern, no nonsense one.
        "Of course," she replied.
        I wanted to inquire about my parents again, but knew it would be a waste of breath; for, they were both headed for the door. They're waiting until you're strong enough to hear about it, I reasoned. The stronger and calmer you appear, the sooner they'll tell you.
        He closed the door behind them and I was unable to hear what was said, but whatever it was, she wasn't happy about it. I could tell by the way she acted and the fake smile that was plastered on her face for several moments after her return, that his words to her had not been cheerful. I couldn't imagine what she'd done wrong.
        Soon, her mood seemed to lift and she informed me that she was going to give me a light wipe off, since I couldn't get up to bathe. I was a little embarrassed to have anyone other than my mother do this, but after all, things had to be done. I merely closed my eyes and tried not to think about it, as she moved over my body with the warm washcloth. I did look, however, when she removed the sheet from my legs. I could tell from the way she pulled it down, that she had her back to me, so I didn't feel quite so embarrassed about it.
        I was surprised to find my legs had hardly suffered any damage. There were a few scratches and a bruise or two, but nothing like the rest of me. It appeared the parts that suffered the most were from my waist up. And the worst injuries, I had already seen. Or felt. Hadn't I? What was beneath the bandages? If they were keeping the condition of my parents from me, what else might they be hiding?
        I closed my eyes, when I noticed her moving towards my most private part. Although I could feel nothing, I still felt strange about it. I also felt rather peculiar about the tubes that were running from this part of my anatomy to the side of the bed. I knew immediately what it was. I sighed heavily. At least I won't have to worry about making a mess, I thought.
        After my bath, I dozed off again. The doctor came in later, saying he was pleased to see I was able to withstand my head being raised. He said I'd probably be strong enough for the tests tomorrow. And perhaps could eat real food tomorrow afternoon, if my throat was not too sore. After he left, my eyes grew heavy and I was gone again.

        When I awoke, it was late afternoon and Miss Bennington was in the high back chair by the window, reading a book by my favorite author, D.J. Fleming. It was the new one, whose arrival in paperback I'd been eagerly awaiting. Oh how I wanted my mother to be there in that chair, safe and sound, reading to me, as she had when I was a child.
        "Hungry?" Miss Bennington asked, stuffing a bookmark in the novel.
        I made a fist once for “yes”, then made a face about the taste.
        "Perhaps tomorrow we'll get some real food in you," she said, as she stood up, placing the book on the long heating/cooling unit located beneath the window.
        I stared at the book, as she stretched and yawned. I wanted to be able to walk over there, pick it up and read the jacket cover.
        "You like to read?" she asked, obviously noticing my gaze.
        I made a fist once for “yes”. She reached down and retrieved the book, then placed it in my right hand on her way out the door. "I'll be back soon," she called.
        I was only able to read for a minute or two, before my eyes began to feel very tired and sore. When she returned, she must have noticed the way I was rubbing them.
        "Too soon, huh? Perhaps I'll read to you after supper. That is, if you want me to," she offered, as she reached over to retrieve the book. I squeezed her hand rather hard for emphasis, as she took it from me. "Oh, you like that idea, aye? You're pretty strong too," she remarked, looking down at my hand on hers. I glanced over at my left one and grimaced. "It'll get better," she offered. "You'll see."

        After I downed as much as I could stomach of the awful liquid, she pulled her chair up beside the bed and began to read. Yet, no sooner had she started than the door opened and Uncle Brandon walked in. He gave no warning whatsoever of his arrival, which took us both by surprise. He gave Miss Bennington a sharp glance, as her voice trailed off.
        "How's my girl?" he asked, with a broad smile. This time the gesture did make it to my lips, because he looked and sounded so much like my father at that moment, I could hardly resist. "Feeling better, I should think. Yes, I see that beautiful smile. This is indeed good," he said, walking up to the right side of the bed this time and taking my hand in his.
        "I was so worried about you there for awhile. But, now I'm sure with all this great care you're receiving…" He paused and glanced down at Miss Bennington who was still occupying the chair beside the bed. She seemed to take the hint and vacated it. "…why you'll be out of here in no time at all." He paused again, as he sat down in the chair, still holding onto my hand. "I knew you had that Neilson spirit. I could tell the moment I saw you that..." He cleared his throat, as if he had almost said something he shouldn't. "Well, I could just tell you were a fighter. Especially when you kept insisting on knowing..." He bit his lip, as he turned away.
        I knew he was once again attempting to sidestep the issue of my parents, even though he was the one that had raised it. I wanted to scream out, Where are they? Are they close by? Are they hurt badly? Just tell me, please and stop this anguish! But, I held my tongue. I knew my mother and father would want me to obey the doctor's orders and get better as fast as I could, so I could come visit them. At least this is what I told myself in order to remain calm and appear strong enough to handle hearing whatever condition they might be in. They're in good hands, I told myself. Just keep telling yourself that. They're in good hands.
        "Your cousin Jason sends his regards," he said, changing the subject. "Oh that's right, you haven't met Jason, have you? Oh, you'd like him. He's a fine young man; top of his class at school this year. Yes, he makes me very proud. A true Neilson through and through. Never gives up, no matter what." He patted my hand. "He'll come see you when you're stronger. He's probably out riding his favorite horse right now. Oh, that's right you've never even seen Shady Grove, have you? Oh, you'll love it. Jason does. You can go horseback riding, swimming, play tennis... do you play?" he asked, as if there were nothing wrong with me that a few days rest would not cure.
        I squeezed his hand to say I knew how to play tennis.
        He merely looked at me quizzically. "Is there something wrong?" he asked, becoming concerned. I squeezed his hand twice. "Nurse, there's… there's something's wrong, she's squeezing my hand!" he said, rather excitedly.
        "She's answering your question," Miss Bennington replied, as she glanced over at him from her seated position on the heating/cooling unit. He merely stared at her. "She squeezes once for 'yes' and twice for 'no'. It's... just our way of communicating until her throat gets better."
        He gave her a long look, his expression one of envy. Then he turned back to me, with a quaint smile plastered on his face. "Like I said, you'll love it. Your mother did. We had some rousing good tennis matches in our day. She almost beat me several times." He laughed heartily, his eyes taking on a softer appearance, as if reliving a memory. "Yes, your mother was one special lady."
        WAS! Had he just slipped up and revealed something I should know or was he merely speaking of her in the past tense, because his memories were of the past? I glanced over at Miss Bennington and found her watching him, intently. The moment our eyes met, she glanced away.
        "Oh yes, I brought you something,” he said, “I… I left it in the hall. I'll be right back."
        He came back in with an oversized brown teddy bear, holding a big red heart against his chest that read, I Need A Hug, in big gold letters. It was a beautiful bear, but I was no longer a child who could be placated by a stuffed animal.
        He brought it over to the bed, grinning from ear to ear. His smile was contagious, I couldn't bring myself to hurt his feelings, especially when it was the thought that counted. I gave him a smile and reached out with my right arm for the large bear. I held onto as tight as I could; for, it was the first thing I had been able to put my arm around. I thought not of Uncle Brandon's feelings at the moment, but of my own. I needed a hug. And I needed my parents. Or at least I needed to know how badly they were hurt.
        "Get well soon, Princess," he said, as he leaned over and lightly kissed my cheek. Then he quickly turned and left.
        Princess? I thought. What is this with the pet names? First it was my girl and now Princess. Was it just his way of showing concern and affection for his niece? I could only assume so. I wondered if he had been to see my mother and father, as well. If so, why weren't they asking about me? Why didn't he say anything about them? Could they both be in a coma like I had been? Were they even worse off than I was? On the verge of death? A lump formed in my throat. Tears threatened once again. Stop this! I admonished myself. They're in good hands!
        After he left, Miss Bennington read to me, until I fell asleep.

        The next morning I felt stronger. I was even able to move my head a small amount without feeling any pain or dizziness. Miss Bennington said that this was definitely a good sign. One of my legs even twitched, although I didn't feel it. She said this was especially promising.
        Uncle Brandon arrived before the doctor and stayed until the tests were completed. I'd never had so many tests. They poked, prodded, examined and x-rayed me from head to toe, or so it seemed. When they finally wheeled me back to my room on the gurney, I was exhausted, even though I'd done nothing but lay there while they did their thing. I went right to sleep, once I was back in my own bed.
        When I awoke later, no one was in the room with me, but I could hear voices outside the door. I heard my uncle's voice and Miss Bennington's.
        "Yes," said Uncle Brandon's baritone. "It has all been arranged. Yes, most assuredly."
        "What about...?" Miss Bennington's voice lowered and I couldn't make out all her words. "Well, I don't agree," I heard her say, quite loudly.
        Then he said something I didn't understand and they resumed their normal tone, which was too low for me to make out clearly. All I heard were faint mumbling sounds.
        "But the longer you wait, the harder it'll be," she said, a few moments later. Her tone was no longer angry but pleading.
        "In the end it's my job," he said. "So I'll make the decisions. I think I know what's best for her. She's my niece."
        Although I hadn't understood all of the conversation, I had a good idea what it was about: my parents. They're in good hands, I reminded myself.
        A few moments later Miss Bennington walked into the room; her face a sad, tortured visage.         "Oh Faith… you're up," she said, surprise resounding in her voice.
        Dr. Rosemund and Brandon then came through the door with smiles plastered on their faces.
        "Hello Faith," Dr. Rosemund said, in greeting. "I believe I have some good news for you. We found nothing to indicate my first prognosis was incorrect. We found no signs of any permanent damage to your spinal column. But…” He paused and glanced over at my uncle. I had a feeling I wasn't going to like what he was about to say. “…but, with any sort of trauma to the spinal column, there's always a chance…” He paused again and looked down at me. “… the damage will be permanent. But,” he added quickly. “…there's an equally good chance you can regain part if not all of your mobility.”
        In other words, you don't know, do you? I wanted to say. I glanced over at Miss Bennington. I wanted to see what her face revealed. Her lips turned up at the corners, not in a large smile, but at least she wasn't frowning.
        "Now listen to me very carefully," Dr. Rosemund went on, "I've seen patients with even more severe trauma walk again. But this required a lot of physical therapy. Miss Bennington here comes highly recommended as a therapist," he added, glancing over at her. "And since your uncle has hired her full time and is setting up your accommodations with the necessary equipment for your recovery…” He glanced over at Uncle Brandon again. “…I feel confident that if you follow her advice, I see no reason why you can't go home in..." He paused dramatically. "How does a week sound to you?"
        Getting outta here, sounds great, I thought, but what about my parents? I couldn't leave without them.
“You'll need to take it slow and easy now,” he cautioned. “Many patients try and rush their recovery and end up hindering their progress. We don't want that happening to you, now do we? So, slow and easy. And perhaps…you could possibly… be back on your feet in... a few months," he added, though somewhat reluctantly.
        Months, I thought, as I released a heavy sigh. It was looking as if I had a very long road to haul ahead of me. "My parents?" I asked in a deep, raspy voice I didn't even recognize. I reached up to my throat. "My voice...?"
        "That's to be expected, your throat was bruised. From what I understand there was some sort of cable wrapped around yours and your mother's...." He stopped suddenly and glanced over at Uncle Brandon.
        "What? What about my mother?" I demanded, my throat hurting with each word. "How bad... is she?"
        "Faith, you really shouldn't talk," reminded Uncle Brandon, as he reached for my left hand. "Should she Doctor?"
        I looked over at Miss Bennington and pleaded with my eyes for her to answer me. "I... I'm afraid she insists on knowing," she said for me.
        The doctor merely lowered his eyes and glanced over at Uncle Brandon. I swung my gaze in his direction rather quickly. I found him glaring at Miss Bennington, as if he wanted to do her harm. Then his expression quickly softened, when he noticed I was watching him.
        "Leave us," he said matter-of-factly, as if dismissing two servants, his gaze never straying from mine.
        Once they had left, he came around to the right side of the bed, where the guardrail was already down. He eased down on the edge of the bed, then reached over and took my right hand in his much larger ones. He gently lifted my hand to his lips and kissed my fingers. I knew from the way he was acting something was desperately wrong with one or maybe even both my parents. It must be terrible, I thought, as I watched him slowly reestablish eye contact.
        "Faith... as your uncle, this duty falls to me and... I'm not good at these things.” His eyes clouded over as tears welled up around the lower lids. "Your father... my brother... he... he did not survive the crash."
        I felt instantly numb from head to toe. A whirlwind of emotions started swirling around inside my brain, paralyzing the parts of my body that hadn't previously been affected.
        "Your mother…" He paused, as tears flowed from his eyes. It seemed this was the hardest part for him. "She... she past away... day before yesterday." He quickly got up and removed a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and dabbed at his eyes. Then he moved towards the window.
        My heart began to pound a cadence like the drumbeat of a death march. Something inside my head soon joined it, keeping perfect time to the rhythm. Tears welled up in my eyes, a large lump formed in my throat. I thought my heart was going to burst wide open! Instead, however, my anger boiled over, as I realized he had misled me to believe they were still alive and… “in good hands”!
        "Why… didn't you tell me?!" I screamed, as loud as I possibly could. My throat burned.
        Uncle Brandon spun around on his heels and his eyes grew large. "Faith, I..."
        "You coulda told me!" I continued, though my throat felt like it was on fire now. "You lied to me! You let me think... they were only injured!"
        Miss Bennington burst into the room at that moment and saw me raising my head up. "Faith no, you shouldn't...!"
        "Get out!" I exclaimed, though it came out as more a growl.
        "Miss Bennington I think you should leave, this is between..."
        "Not her, you!" I growled, gesturing towards the door. "Get out! Get outta here now!" I screeched, shaking my fist at him.
        "Faith, please!" Miss Bennington admonished, as she slowly approached the bed.
        "Ju... just get him ou-u-ut!" I screamed, as my hand fell back onto the bed and broke into uncontrollable sobs.
        Miss Bennington quickly placed her hand behind my head, catching it before it hit the pillow. "I… I think you should leave, Mr. Neilson," she said, softly, as she slowly lowered my head onto the pillow.
        "But, will she...?"
        "She'll be fine," she assured him.
        "Ge-et... ou-ut!" I growled through my sobs. "Li-ar!"
        "Faith, I only..."
        "Mr. Neilson," said Dr. Rosemund's calm voice. "Please come out into the hall, if you would. Give her a little time? She's had quite a shock."
        "Poor baby," Miss Bennington said, as she caressed the side of my face.
        Without thinking, I reached out and pulled her to me. I was dying to be held by someone, but, not my uncle.
        "Faith, I'm so sorry," she breathed into my ear.
        "Oh God, why didn't I die, too?" I wailed. "I wanna die, too!"
        "I can't let that happen, sweetheart," she said, softly. "You're here for a reason."
        I knew Miss Bennington had uttered these words, but what I heard was my mother's sweet voice. I wailed in agony at the pain that was seemingly wrenching my heart into a million tiny pieces. The pain was so great I prayed for death to claim me right then and there. Then to my utter relief, blissful darkness came and saved me from the relentless torture of my broken heart.

Part 3

original fiction | homepage | what's new | xena homepage