Like most daughters, I loved my parents, but right now, I wanted them anywhere but
here. Hospitals are always hard, but my parents managed to make it harder. My head was already
pounding from all the thoughts and emotions coming at me. Not just from the patients and their
families and the doctors and the nurses, but also from my mother and father. Instead of shielding
their thoughts and trying to make it better for me, they let their emotions crash into me.
My mind wasn’t strong enough for all this. Neither was my body. Tubes eviscerated my
right hand. A giant bruise blossomed beside the newest IV line. A cast wrapped around my left
wrist. My broken pinky finger had been set and taped to my ring finger. The back of my head
was held together with stitches. Beneath the blanket, my body was covered in bruises.
I didn’t feel any physical pain because of the medications the doctors pumped into me.
They said I needed it to recover, but it made my body feel like it wasn’t mine. And the steady
drip of opiates didn’t just steal my physical pain; it left me unable to form the psychic shield I
needed to protect myself from the misery swirling around me.
Mom sat in the chair closest to my bed. She wore one of her flowing peasant blouses and
faded jeans. Her hair was pulled back in a messy bun, and light brown strands slipped loose to
hang around her face. The corners of her hazel eyes were pinched with worry.
Her hand hovered over my arm, unsure where to touch me—if she should touch me.
Finally, she laid her hand gently on my thigh. “You just need to rest here for a few more days.”
She was wrong. I needed to get out of here. Away from all these thoughts as soon as
possible. “I want to go home.”
Mom shook her head. “You need to let the doctors help you.” Like they did last time.
Her thoughts slammed into my brain. She thought hospitalization was the solution to
“Please. Look at what’s happened to you. You can’t go home until you’re better,” she
said. I can’t lose you. I won’t let that happen.
I didn’t know how to reassure her. Yes, I’d almost died, but being here was hurting me
more than it was healing me. I swallowed all the words I wanted to say and hoped for Caleb to
come back soon. My brother would know how to talk to Mom, how to make her understand.
The doctor came in to check on me and Mom’s agonizing fear rose up. Don’t let her have
Dad patted Mom’s shoulder. He looked like an older, surfer version of Caleb. Both were
tall and muscular with curly blond hair. Dad’s hair was a darker blond streaked with platinum
from decades in the sun and salt water. His eyes were greener than Caleb’s, but like Caleb’s, they
were rimmed with purple bruises. When Dad smiled, sun lines radiated from his eyes and cut
across his cheeks. But I hadn’t seen them since he’d arrived at my bedside. Instead, waves of
exhaustion rolled off him and rippled over me, right before I heard his thoughts. I can’t go
through this again, watching you slip away.
My younger sister Naomi lounged in the chair in the corner as far from me as she could
get. She had Mom’s light brown hair and thin frame and Dad’s green eyes and height. She
looked nothing like me and only distantly related to Caleb. Her long legs looped over the armrest
as she flipped through a magazine. Thanks for ruining Christmas break. I’d rather be anywhere
I felt the same way.
At least Oliver was gone for the moment. Mom had convinced him to go home, take a
shower, maybe even sleep. I couldn’t bear his guilt; it was so thick it choked me.
Oliver. My husband. God. I’d never loved and hated someone so much at the same time. I
still couldn’t believe he’d called my parents. He knew how bad they were at handling me. How
could he have thought that having my family here would be good for me?
Bitterness frosted my thoughts. I was in a hospital, bruised and battered. I’d almost died.
That’s what Caleb had said. He was the only one willing to tell me the truth. Oliver had said it
was bad, but he wouldn’t say how bad. He couldn’t bear to admit what happened to me.