Traces, Part Seven

I think I regain consciousness when everything is shaking and bouncing. The world is really fuzzy though. I hear a lot of people talking and fussing, and the sound of machinery. My eyelids flutter open. There are a lot of faces and flashing lights that are bright enough to make me visibly cringe.

An ambulance. I’m being wheeled to an ambulance.

Some of the people helping me notice that I’ve woken up and try to talk to me, but I’m too exhausted to understand them. They sound like they’re speaking gibberish.

I pass out again.

Now I’m being wheeled down a hallway. This is much smoother than before. Again, a nurse realizes that I’ve woken up, but now I can understand what she’s saying: “Do you hear me? You’re gonna be okay, trust me.”

I try to ask about Sammy, but either my voice or my mouth idn’t working. I fall asleep again.

This is how it goes for what feels like forever. Not quite awake, not quite asleep. I have a feeling it isn’t all because of my head injury; a lot of it must be painkillers or something. Over what could be days or hours, I see a lot of doctors. I think I see my mother a few times, and even on the weirdest moments, Lea.

I finally wake up. Truly, actually wake up. The world is clear now. But the moment my eyes really open, a powerful headache enters my skull. Oh God. I think I liked the weird, drugged out feeling more than this, I think, and lean my head back gingerly. I glance over to see my mother half asleep in her chair, her cheek resting on her fist. “Mom?” I ask. My voice doesn’t sound like itself; I sound croaky and raspy, like I’ve been stranded in the desert without any water. I sound like a stranger.

My mother jerks awake almost immediately. “Ella! Oh my God, Ella.” She leans forward, as though she wants nothing more than to hug me, but is too afraid of breaking me to do so.

“Do I look that bad?” I ask.

Her mouth twitches at the side a little, but she seems too tired to truly smile or laugh. “No, sweetie. You look amazing, considering.” She absentmindedly touches my cheek with her hand. “Let me get the doctor,” she says quickly. “Don’t worry, you won’t be alone. I brought Lea along, okay?”

“Okay,” I say quietly. My mother quickly rushes out the room, and before the door can even close, Lea walks in. Today she’s wearing a lavender dress. It surprisingly matches her dark skin and gray hair well.

“Ella, dear,” she says softly.

“Hi, Lea,” I answer. “Do…is Sammy…” I dread the answer. When I went to call 911, I couldn’t even tell if she was breathing. And I couldn’t being myself to care for some reason. I hope it was because of the head trauma.

Lea purses her lips tightly and knots her hands together. She sits down without even looking at me. “I think you should talk to the doctors first, Ella.”

My stomach sinks. “She’s dead, isn’t she, Lea?”

Lea pointedly avoids eye contact. “I didn’t say that,” she says.

“But it’s true.” My voice catches violently at the last word, and I can feel my chest tightening up. Not good. I can tell I’m about to cry. I can’t let anyone see me cry. I don’y even know why. All I know is that I can’t. Is it because I’m a survivor of a serial killer, and I want to look strong for the sake of Sammy’s family? I don’t know, I just can’t allow myself to cry. My fists ball up at my bedsheets.

Finally, the door opens. Mom and a doctor walk in. “I’m Dr. Acker,” he says. “Now, if you don’t mind, Ella, I need to ask you some questions.”

The minutes pass by in a blur. I understand and hear his questions, but they don’t sink in. I forget them the moment I give an answer.

All I know is that I’ve been out for a day and half. Not just because of my concussion, but also because of blood loss and general psychological trauma.

He’s finally done asking me questions. Now I have one for him. “What happened to Sammy?” I demand.

Acker looks away from me awkwardly. “Samantha Day? Ah…” He’s about to answer when my mom steps in.

“Ella…” she whispers. I can tell from the look in her eyes that my guess was correct.

“She didn’t make it,” I finish for her. My mom can only nod.

And that’s when everything inside me breaks. I start sobbing like a child.

Stop crying. Just stop it. You’re gonna look like a nut job who can’t handle grief. Stop it. Get a grip, Ella. And yet the damn tears just don’t stop. They flow down my cheeks, and as mom holds onto me, I see them stain stain her shirt with tears and snot. Disgusting. I’m disgusting.

I’m such a horrible friend. I never believed her. I thought her imagination was running away with her again and that’s why we did this horribly stupid plan.

I’m the worst friend…no, the worst person to ever exist.

I barely realize I’m mumbled everything into my mother’s shirt when she pulls away from me. “What’d you say, Ella?”

I blink back the tears. “I was just mumbling. I’ll be okay.”

Before she responds, the door opens once more. But now there are police there.

Of course. They need to question me about Sammy’s murderer and my attacker.

Right after I had a crying fit.

I can already tell this won’t go well.

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