Authors: Laura Langston
Tags: #JUV000000, #book
The thought struck me funny. I began to laugh.
You must go back.
There was the voice again.
I didn't want to go back. Being here, wherever here was, was the nicest thing that had happened to me sinceâ¦I don't know. Since before Nana died, when I used to stay at her house in the country, and she'd tuck me in at night and make me apple pancakes in the morning and put my hair in French braids and she would love me. This was like that love, only more.
I hadn't felt it since I was ten years old. And I didn't want to give it up.
“No,” I said.
Your work is not finished.
“Someone else can pick up my shift.” When I laughed a second time, I felt Logan draw near. I smelled him.
And I began to cry.
Tears ran from the eyes of the 3-D Hannah on the ground. I saw M.C. wipe them away with the sleeve of her caftan. But where I was, there were no tears, only an ache. A sweet, tender ache of a memory suddenly real. “Logan?”
He was beside me, bigger than I remembered, but invisible. The presence was still there too. I knew, somehow, that it had let Logan in.
“I want to.”
Something jolted the Hannah on the ground. Bentley's EpiPen had found its mark. The fuller me began to shrink and empty.
“Hannah!” Bentley's voice pulled at me. “You're going to be fine. We've called an ambulance.” His hands rubbed the spot on my thigh where the EpiPen had hit.
My edges sharpened; the hum inside me started to fade. The presence was still around me. Logan too. But it was like they'd left the room.
“Go back and do it,”
“Do what?” I asked.
He said something about Tom I couldn't hear. He was starting to fade. I couldn't smell him anymore either.
“Tom's a jerk and so are you. You shouldn't have gotten into that car.”
His laugh was faint but real.
you too, Hannah Banana.”
Before I could answer Logan, the voice said,
That voice had always been there, I realized. Inside me. Grounding me, yet moving me forward at the same time.
It was logical, and yet not. As I struggled to make sense of a truth bigger than anything else I knew, I felt a
. Like I was being sucked backward.
And I slammed into my body.
A small crowd had gathered. I heard people whispering. Great. I hated people staring. I hated standing out. Even if I was lying down. I looked into the three sets of anxious eyesâBentley, Lila and M.C. Four if you counted rancid Kitty dog, who peered over her basket and whined.
“Thank God,” Bentley said. “I was ready to pull out a second EpiPen.”
Lila squeezed my hand. “Your mom is on her way.”
A siren sounded in the distance. I knew it was for me. I was cold. Even in the bright sunshine. Shivery cold.
Bentley stood. “I'll get you a blanket.” I heard him ask the crowd to move on. The siren grew louder. So did Kitty's whining.
M.C. reached for her. “Hush now!” The dog's whining turned to small yips.
“She's worried about you. She wants to make sure you're okay.” Before I could stop her, M.C. thrust Kitty dog in my face.
The animal flopped against my neck, a quivering mess of bald skin and bad breath. Turning away from her mouth, I awkwardly stroked her lumpy back. I was on the ground, back in my body. I was the same Hannah, and yet I wasn't. Something was different. And it wasn't just the pain in my neck or the thick wooliness of my mouth. I was, for lack of a better word, new. As if I'd been bathed from the inside out.
Be strong for what?
The siren was getting louder. I didn't want to go to the hospital. There was something Logan wanted me to do. Some kind of job. But the memory was going, and I needed to figure it out. I struggled to sit up. Kitty dog stuck to my neck like Velcro.
Lila gently pushed me back down. “Rest.”
“She's right,” M.C. said. “The medics need to look at you before you move.”
Oh good. Not only was I flopped out in front of Bartell's wearing a stupid red vest that defined ugly, and with a ten-thousand-year-old rancid Kitty dog stuck to my neck, but I had to lie still and wait for a bunch of HOTTIES. And for sure they would be. The drool-worthy guys always show up when you look your worst. (And, yes, I still loved Logan, but I had my pride.)
Bentley returned with a blanket. “You're going to be fine,” he said as he covered me.
I was far from fine. Clutching Kitty dog in desperation, my fingers played with the folds of her skin like she was the answer to all my problems.
She wasn't. She was the start of them. Only I didn't know it at the time.
Right then, as I felt Kitty's tiny heart beat under my hand, as I breathed in her smelly dogginess, and even with that siren growing closer, I grew calm. My shivering stopped. I became warm. Hot, even. My palms burned. I started to feel bigger again. Softer too.
Was I going back there? I shut my eyes and waited for the fullness to grow. For the hum to start. I thought about Logan and that presence. But I was too sleepy. I kept drifting off.
A minute later, or maybe five or ten, I heard the slam of doors, felt the rush of air as someone crouched beside me. A hand plucked Kitty from my neck. Chilled again, I shivered.
“Hannah?” Fingers touched my cheek. “Hannah Sinclair?”
I opened my eyes, mumbled, “Yes.” A guy who looked like Jude Law smiled down at me. Damn, why couldn't these guys be ugly?
“What's your name?” Mr. Beautiful asked.
I answered, then shut my eyes. All this for a stupid bee sting. Couldn't I have gotten hit by a car, helping a runaway toddler instead?
Someone slapped a blood pressure cuff on my arm. Another set of hands probed the sting on my neck. I reached up, wanting to get Logan's medallion out of the way.
“Do you know what day it is?” the Jude Law look-alike asked.
“Yeah, it's Sunâ”
“Good Lord, look!” M.C. yelled. “Kitty's walking. All by herself. Tell me I'm not seeing things?”
Sweat beaded my upper lip. I tried to sit up. Two sets of hands held me down. “Stay still,” someone said.
I turned my head and saw the dog out of the corner of my eye. Kitty wasn't walking exactly, but she was standing up by herself. And wobbling forward. Twice. Which was twice more than she'd wobbled since I'd known her.
M.C. clapped her hands in delight. I paid no attention. I had something else on my mind. Logan's St. Christopher medallion. It wasn't around my neck.
“Where's my medallion?” I asked Mr. Beautiful. “Did you take it?”
“No, ma'am,” he said. “You weren't wearing a medallion when we got here.”
They kept me in the hospital overnight for observation. Which was not smart. Hospitals are for sick people. If you aren't sick going in, you probably will be going out. But my opinion didn't count. All they cared about was that my blood pressure was super low.
All I cared about was finding Logan's St. Christopher medallion.
That and figuring out what he wanted me to do.
“Your dad and I will drive back and see if we can find it.” Mom tucked in the cover on my bed. They'd finally moved me to a room after a zillion years in emergency. “Although Mrs. O'Connell promised to take another look before she went home.”
I rolled my eyes. “Like she's gonna crawl around the ground by the flowers.”
“I don't know. She looked pretty spry to me.”
Maybe it was Mom's use of the word
(I swear to God, she's the only parent since 1942 who has used the word), or maybe it was the image of M.C. dusting the ground with her uni-boob, but I started to giggle.
Mom smiled; the worry lines at the sides of her mouth disappeared. “You're going to be fine.” She squeezed my arm. “They're only keeping you in for observation. It's routine.”
“I know. But something happened. I went somewhere.” I'd tried to tell her everything in emergency, but she'd brushed me off. I struggled again to explain the weirdness. “There was a voice. And Logan was there.”
The worry creases returned. Fear darkened her blue eyes. “You mentioned that.” She fussed with my pillow.
“He wants me to do something.”
“He wants you to start living again.” When I didn't respond, Mom added, “Maybe it's time you went back to see Dr. Fernandez.”
Dr. Fernandez was the shrink my parents had insisted I see for a few months after Logan died. I didn't like her. Mostly because she started every sentence with, “What I hear you saying,” and then disagreed with everything I said. Plus she had really bad teeth, and I'm sorry, but I just couldn't get past them.
“I'm not crazy.” I wasn't. Was I?
“I didn't say that.”
She didn't have to. Mom and Dad were worried about me. I didn't go out much. I'd lost interest in tennis. For a while, I'm sure they thought I was suicidal. But suicide wasn't the answer. Why would I leave people grieving when I knew how much it hurt missing Logan?
“We'll talk about it when you get home,” she said. “I'm sure Dad's brought the car around by now.” She leaned over and kissed my forehead. I caught a whiff of Mom-smell: spearmint breath mints, Ivory soap and magnolia hand cream. My eyes teared up.
“Look hard,” I said. “For the medallion.”
“Of course.” And with one last kiss, she was gone.
Her runners squeaked as she went down the hall. I heard the ping of the elevator coming to collect her, the swish of the doors as she stepped inside. I was alone. With way too much time to think.
Had I left my body?
My practical self told me I was imagining things. My heart said I wasn't. I couldn't explain it, I didn't understand it, but I knew it as sure as I knew my street address.
The whole thing was real.
“It's not unusual to hallucinate at a time like that,” the emergency doctor had told Mom. I heard her. I also heard her say it was shock. The shivering. The crying. The weird idea that I'd gone somewhere. She'd given me a pile of pills to take. Stuff to calm me down.
It wasn't working.
My senses were hyped. I swear I heard the information clerk six floors down answering the switchboard. For sure I heard the doctors at the nurses' station, the elevator moving from floor to floor, the faint
of a machineâor was it someone walking?âdown the hall.
It was M.C. She poked her head around my door and gave me a giant smile. “It's about time they sprung you from emergency.”
“Did you find Logan's St. Christopher?” I tried to sit up, but my arms had gone on strike. I was so tired.
“Not yet.” She pushed her walker into the room. “But it'll turn up.” She wore a huge multicolored poncho over her caftan and a brilliant red beret on her head. She looked like an overweight, crazed French chef.
Disappointed, I flopped back down.
“Hold on, I'll hoist your bed.” With a speed that surprised me, M.C. wedged her walker into the small space between my bed and table, leaned over and flicked a switch. The head of the bed rose.
The movement caught the attention of Kitty dog, who appeared from under the poncho and launched herself at my face, wiggling and yipping and licking my chin like she was my new best friend. I hadn't seen the dog move this much in...well...never. She pretty much always acted her ageâten thousand years old.
“You're not supposed to have dogs in here.” Kitty moved to my ear, which was way better than having her anywhere near my nose.
“What they don't know won't hurt them,” M.C. said.
The dog was moving down my neck toward my sting. I grabbed her snout and held it between my hands, trying to stop her and keep her quiet at the same time. She snarled and showed her teeth through my fingers. “Okay, okay.” I let her go. She threw herself at my other ear.
“I can't stay long.” M.C. began pulling things out from under her caftanâa tub, a soupspoon, a metal thermos top. “But I wanted to come and thank you.” She poured something thick and orange into the thermos lid. I smelled onions and spice. My stomach growled. “It's not every day someone heals my Kitty dog.”
What was she talking about? I hadn't healed the dog. The dog was probably too ashamed to walk, but the sound of the ambulance had scared her. (If you were a dog named Kitty, would you want to walk?)
Before I could point this out, M.C. thrust the mug into my hand. “Carrot-ginger soup,” she said. “After all you've been through, you need the grounding energy.”
So what if she didn't make sense. I hadn't eaten since lunch, and it had to be almost nine o'clock. One of the nurses had promised to bring me a sandwich, but that was hours ago. The soup was hot and tasty. M.C. had claimed to be a good cook over the last few months, but I figured she was bragging.
After downing a second cup, I leaned back on my pillow and asked the question I needed answered. “What do you mean, all I've been through?”
“Lifting off and getting the power and coming back and healing Kitty.”
A shiver ran down my spine. “Lifting off?”
“Your body might have been lying in Bartell's parking lot, but after telling me that you'd been stung by a bee, you left. You were gonzo.” Her pale blue eyes glittered as she stared at me. “You took yourself off to the great beyond, where you got yourself the power to heal Kitty.” She gestured to the dog. “Look at her. She's walking.”
No, she wasn't. My new best friend was sitting on my knee, drooling.
“I did not heal her.” If I had, I would have given her hair. And cured her bad breath.
“Yes, you did. You healed her with the laying on of your hands.”