Chapter 15 : I Guess It's Not Happily Ever After...Not Even Close
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And Again...Tear-Jerker Alert, Warning for Character Death and Injury
For a long time there was nothing. Well at least I thought it had been a long time, but it really could have been any amount of time; minutes, seconds, hours. But slowly I began to feel. The first thing I felt was the pain. It was like there was nothing else, all I could feel was the horrid feeling that seemed to encompass my entire body. I really didn't know that I could hurt this badly. Speaking of which, why do I hurt this badly? I searched my fuzzy brain for something that should have made me hurt like this. But I couldn't figure out why, I knew the memories where there but I couldn't get to them. For now I was just floating in a sea of pain and I couldn't remember anything. And once again there was nothing, absolutely nothing.
A while later I could feel that I was moving, and there were bright lights around me. They were giving me a headache even through my still closed lids. The pain I had felt for a while earlier came back with a vengeance, and I felt like I should be crying out in pain but I didn't hear anything. This was strange, and I still couldn't remember what in the hell had happened to me. It was like I had sunk to the bottom of a well, and I couldn't find which way was up. Everywhere I turned was only more water, more pain.
Through the haze that still surrounded me, my thoughts, my senses, everything I heard came the sound of distorted voices. You know the way you hear things when you're underwater? But slowly the voices became clearer, they became voices I recognized but I still couldn't place them. Which infuriated me, I knew that I should know. Why couldn't I remember anything?
"Tell me doctor, how is she?"
"Ashley has suffered multiple injuries and is currently in a coma. Her left left leg is broken, she has a few cracked ribs, and a concussion. Along with multiple lacerations and contusions, she had a bad cut on her right temple that is likely to scar."
I heard the sound of someone crying and obviously trying to hide it, and then, "Will she wake up?"
"We don't know, we really have no way of knowing for this kind of thing. Either she'll wake up or she won't."
There was a new voice now, and it sounded angry, "So your not going to do anything, your just going to sit there a preach all this stupid maybe crap?"
The voice sounded tired, slightly annoyed but replied patiently, "I'm sorry I can't be of more help, but that's just how it is sometimes. It's a miracle she's alive at all."
Then there was the sound of retreating footsteps, and another moving closer to me. Suddenly I could feel someone's warm breath on my cheek, and a soft voice in my ear.
"Ashley do me a favor and wake up please. I miss your sarcastic tongue."
And then I could hear as those footsteps retreated as well. I fought to remember whose voice I had just heard in my ear, blurry images raced past as I forced myself to try and swim once again. And then it was there, the image still foggy, but there never-the-less, Timmy.
And as soon as the dam had been breached the memories started flooding out. The other voices. One belonged to Admiral McGee, another to Professor McGonagall, and yet another that must belong to some unnamed doctor. But with the knowledge of names, came all my memories.
The car crash. My parents were dead I could feel it. All the blood.
I pushed through the grief I was feeling, there would be time for that later. It was time for me to stop hiding in the dark, it was time to wake up. I peered through the murkiness that had become my consciousness. But now when I fought through the water there was a light. I had found which way was up. Orienting myself in the water I found that I had sunk to the bottom. I pulled my feet beneath me and pushed up towards the light, towards hope, towards life.
As I fought against the torrents of water that sought to push me back down, there was a new sensation. My lungs burned with a desire for air, and desire to breath. It would be so easy to just open my mouth and suck in the water. So easy to let myself descend back into the depths, the quiet calm where everything was good, where there was no suffering. But I couldn't do that, I knew with my memories back that if I allowed myself to sink back to the bottom that I would hurt my friends, and now my friends were all I had left. I couldn't, wouldn't do that to them.
And so I continued up through the murky darkness. Slowly the water got brighter, and I could feel more. I felt the wonderful burning in my lungs, the burn that told me I was alive. And with a final kick and drag of water pushed back with tired arms, my head breached the surface.
I opened my eyes to see white walls, bright lights, and the grief hit me like a ton of bricks.
I closed my eyes again, sucking in breath. Trying and failing to control the emotions I was feeling.
My eyes flashed open as I felt my anger grow. I could use that anger. It could help me hold onto my strength, be the strong person I expected myself to be. I could deal with the others later. When I was alone, when none could see the dam break. When none would know just how much it hurt.
I forced myself to take deep, slow breaths as I fought to calm my breathing, which had some how neared hyperventilating as I fought with myself. I could feel the pain and sadness trying to drown me. But I forced them down and cast them aside. Pain and sorrow were crippling. But anger, anger I could use.
I opened my eyes again, and took in the injuries I knew I had. The doctor had said I had a concussion, and that was definitely true as I squinted my eyes against the harsh florescent lights and could feel the pressure of a massive headache building. A few cracked ribs, I took a deep breath and confirmed that with the twinge of pain as my lungs expanded. Broken leg, I looked down and saw that my lower left leg was wrapped up in a pale purple cast. And she mentioned a cut that would scar, I reached my hand up and across my temple felt the raised and bumpy line of stitches.
I sucked in a breath again as emotion threatened to overtake me. I am alive, that's all that matters.
I glared around the cheery hospital room, the bright colors that were designed to make ill patients feel better, give them hope were just ticking me off. In my hypersensitive state I saw each bright color and happy design as a mockery. Mocking my injury. Mocking my loss. Mocking my parents death.
Looking for a source of comfort I noticed a large bay window to my right. And through it I could see the stars twinkling. But their brightness didn't seem like a mockery to me as the hospital room did. They seemed like a comfort, like they too felt the loss when two lives were snuffed out. I needed the stars, needed to be closer to them.
And so momentarily forgetting that I had been in a life threatening accident and was currently thought to be completely unaware in a coma, I threw the rough hospital sheets off of me and swung my legs off the bed. I tried to stand and stumbled as sheering pain shot up my leg. Right I have a broken leg, this is going to complicate things. But as my temper reared at my inability to get closer to the stars that twinkled like tears in the inky dark sky, I felt a warmth spread down my leg and when I looked down the extremity was bathed in a soft bluish glow. And then the pain evaporated. I wiggled the toes just visible out of the end of my cast and felt no pain.
Encouraged I put weight on it again, although with a bit more weariness. But this time I felt no pain, just the slightly unbalanced feeling standing on the cast gave me. As I took another step towards the haven of the window I felt a slight tug at my hand, it didn't really hurt it was just a bit uncomfortable. So I peered down my eyes slightly bleary from the concussion and saw an IV tube traveling from the needle in my hand back to the bags of fluid and medicine that were being pumped into my system. So with an ease I shouldn't have had after nearly dying, I reached back grabbing the wheeled pole and pulling it with me.
I sat sideways on the padded bench leaning my slightly sore back against the wall. Then I gingerly pulled my legs up to tuck my knees against my chest, beyond happy that I was sporting a pair of scrubs instead of your classic hospital gown. Taking a deep breath I leaned my chin against the top of my knees and peered out into the night sky.
It was late or maybe the term is early now, the McDonald's had left a few hours ago, my parents and sister had all gone to bed long ago, and I was sitting up in my room playing computer games. I was so engrossed in my online world that I jumped at the shrill sound of the phone ringing. Not wanting it to wake anyone I rushed out of my room and scooped the phone up from the cradle and answered it. I listened as I heard what the voice on the other end told me with growing horror and when the line went dead at the end of the conversation I dropped the phone, and it fell on the hardwood floor with a small crash.
Zach and Sophie were dead. The people who were like an uncle and aunt to me were dead. I couldn't remember a time when they weren't there, and now they were gone. I had seen them just four, maybe five hours ago and now they were dead. My mind flashed to Ashley. She was hurt, badly hurt. I watched as worst case scenarios raced through my mind. I felt like I was going to be sick. The people who were like my second set of parents were dead, taken away in an instant. And Ashley, the girl who was like my little sister was now an orphan and might not even live long enough to know that.
I was startled from my horror when I heard my dad call out, "Tim what the hell are you doing?" he looked annoyed and tired but when I looked up the fact that something was wrong must have been written all over my face because now he asked, "Tim what's wrong?"
I looked around me, my mind was working slowly, it was taking me longer to process everything that was going on. I saw my dad looking at me with a rare bit of obvious concern, but as I snapped out of my haze I hurried towards Sarah's room to wake her up. As I walked I called back to my dad, "We need to get to Bethesda. Now." and something in my voice must have told him how serious it was, because he didn't ask questions he just went to wake my mother.
I explained in a hollow voice what I had been explained to me on the phone as my dad drove to Bethesda Naval Hospital with a determination I rarely saw. And a few hours later we were rushing into the hospital at seven in the morning, as my mother immediately went to harassing a nurse for information.
But since she'd been there for almost five hours by the time we got there we didn't have to wait long for information. Just a few minutes after dad had forced mom to sit down next to a crying Sarah a doctor came out calling, "Family of Ashley McDonald?"
The four of us jumped up and we also saw a strict looking woman stand up and head towards the doctor as well. My parents and I looked at her in confusion but that was cleared up when Sarah said, "I think that's one of Ashley's professors." And we all nodded and continued up to the doctor.
The doctor examined our motley crew for a moment before he shrugged and said, "Ashley is currently stable but she is in a coma, if you'll follow me I'll take you to her room."
The five of us followed silently through the white halls of the hospital until we entered the pediatric ICU. The doctor walked into a room and we followed. I stopped as I took in the sight before me. Ashley was laying in a hospital bed, battered and bruised. She had a cast on her leg, IVs spouting out of her hand, a line of stitches along her temple, and an oxygen tube running around her face. She looked so tiny, so frail. I had always seen Ashley as so strong, but it was hard to see why now.
How was it possible that the girl who I hadn't seen cry since she was a toddler, who had beaten me up on multiple occasions, and never seemed to fazed by anything be laying here in a hospital bed unresponsive?
I started slightly as my father said, "Tell me doctor, how is she?"
The doctor replied, "Ashley has suffered multiple injuries and is currently in a coma. Her left leg is broken, she has a few cracked ribs, and a concussion. Along with multiple lacerations and contusions, she has a bad cut on her right temple that is likely to scar."
I heard both my mother and sister trying to stifle their crying when the Professor who had been silent until now asked, "Will she wake up?"
I was a bit infuriated at how blunt she was and the fact that she hadn't asked when she asked if, and the doctor's response didn't help to stifle my temper as he said, "We don't know, we really have no way of knowing for this kind of thing. Either she'll wake up or she won't."
My temper shot up a few notches as I practically yelled, "So you're not going to do anything? You're just going to stand there and preach all this maybe crap?"
The doctor replied with a voice that sounded tired and annoyed, "I'm sorry I can't be of more help, but that's just how it is sometimes. It's a miracle she's alive at all."
I was angry as the doctor motioned for all of us to leave the room, everyone else obeyed his subtle command immediately but I didn't. I quietly walked over to Ashley's bedside. Controlling my temper and my sadness I leaned down and whispered in her ear, "Ashley do me a favor and wake up please. I miss your sarcastic tongue."
Without another word I turned and joined everyone else in the hallway. I caught the tail end of the doctor explaining that she wasn't likely to wake up anytime soon, and we ought to go and grab a bite to eat. Before I could even begin arguing my father gave a look that shut me up and had me following them, but that didn't mean I was happy about it.
My father, who was familiar with the hospital having been stationed at the base near here for a few years, led us through the hallways into the hospital cafeteria. And then to a table in the back.
We all sat down and the woman said, "Allow me to introduce myself I am Minerva McGonagall, I'm Ashley's head of house at her school. I wish we could have met under better circumstances." She seemed calm, cool, collected by I caught the hitch in her voice.
A few introductions followed and the professor was surprised that we knew about Ashley being a which, but moved on easily.
A bit later my father insisted that we all got some food, and knowing it wasn't worth the argument I listened.
As we sat back down my mother asked, "Professor, if you don't mind my asking how did you know about the...the accident?"
It killed me to hear the sorrow in my usually cheerful mother's voice, but I listened as the professor replied with a sad smile, "Anyone at Hogwarts who is a muggleborn has a staff member listed on their emergency contact, because by our laws all minors in our world must have a wizarding adult to represent and vouch for them." My parents nodded and she continued, "Also, since it seems you are like family to her, I want to tell you that you could have her transferred to a magical hospital."
A short discussion followed about the benefits that a magical hospital could do Ashley and it was decided that if she wasn't any better by tomorrow morning that this Professor McGonagall would see to having her taken to one of their hospitals.
As soon as everyone finished their meager meals, we caravanned back up to the room. But we all stopped short as we saw an empty bed. And as I peered around I spotted Ashley sitting in the bay window across the room with her knees up against her chest and her arms wrapped tightly around them.
Without looking up, and with a voice so void of emotion it could have come from a robot she said, "They're dead, aren't they." And what scared me the most is that she didn't say it like a question, it was clearly a statement.
This chapter was really hard for me to write, both because it's so sad and because I wanted to get the emotions right. I hope you guys like it even though it's a total downer.
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