Authors: Laura Langston
Tags: #JUV000000, #book
I walked in the front door like I belonged and headed straight for the elevator. Luck was on my side; nobody stopped me. Following the directions Tom's sister had e-mailed, I got off the elevator and turned left. It wasn't like I'd get lost. I knew the floor; I'd stayed here after my bee sting.
When I saw the three nurses at the desk, my heart skipped a beat. I needed to get past them without being stopped. I turned my head and looked the other way. Silly, but I was playing that little kid game: if I don't see them, they won't see me.
Three steps past. Then four. And five. A nurse cleared her throat. I was going to get busted. I just knew it. But I didn't. Fifteen seconds later, I was around the corner and home free.
Tom was halfway down the hall, in a semi-private room. I hesitated in the doorway. There was an empty space where the other bed was supposed to be. At least I didn't have to worry about another patient complaining that I was breaking the rules. But Tom's mom was there, sitting curled over him like a comma. I should have expected it, but I hadn't. I must have made a sound, or maybe she sensed me, because she looked up.
“You're Hannah Sinclair,” she said when she came to the door. We'd met at Logan's funeral, but I hardly recognized her. The last eleven months had not been kind. Her face was heavily lined, her hair in need of a cut and color.
I'm here to see your
son so he can verbally abuse me and
I can prove to my dead boyfriend that
he doesn't want my help.
“I thought I'd stop in and say hi. Just for a minute.”
“He's not really up for talking,” she said. “He's had a rough night.”
I tried, Logan. I did.
“But if you don't mind sitting with him, I'd appreciate a chance to grab a cup of coffee and a muffin from downstairs,” she said. “I can't eat in front of him. The smell of food makes him sick.”
“Sure.” I followed her to the bed.
She leaned down and whispered something in Tom's ear. Then she straightened and took her purse from the back of the chair. “I won't be long.” Her footsteps echoed out the door.
I slid into her seat. Tom's eyes were shut. He was on his back, still and white. Was he even breathing? Nervously I studied his chest, feeling a flutter of relief when I saw the rise and fall of the sheet. Starting to second-guess myself (what was I supposed to do nowâwake him up and say Logan wanted me to give him a healing?) I glanced around the room. It was standard-issue hospital: a bathroom in the corner, a wall-mounted tv, and machines. Machines hooked up to Tom. One had a screen with a spiky green line, the other held a bag of clear fluid.
“What are you doing here?” He spoke so quietly at first I thought I'd imagined it. But when I glanced back, his eyes were open. He was staring straight at me.
Should I tell him the
truth? Should I pick up his hand? Yeah,
that would so fly.
“I had an errand to run. I thought I'd come in and say hi.”
“Done. Now leave.” He closed his eyes again.
I couldn't. I'd promised his mom I'd wait until she came back.
“Go,” he said.
I bit my tongue.
Be kind. The guy's
“I don't need you sitting there judging me for being a screwup. Now go.”
“I'm not judging you.”
His eyes flew open. “You are.”
I didn't respond.
“I don't need you beating me up. I can beat myself up.”
Yeah, right. If Tom had a conscience, I'd never seen it. More tongue-biting.
“Don't you believe me? Don't you think I'm sorry?”
. My tongue was probably bleeding by now.
He fisted the hospital blanket in his hand. “I have a real bad infection.”
Here was my chance to tell him. I opened my mouth, but he spoke before I could.
“I could lose my leg. They're deciding tomorrow.”
My control broke. “You're worried about your
Logan's dead. I bet he'd trade you places.”
“You think I don't know that?” His voice climbed. Moisture pooled in the corner of his eyes. “I can't forget. I never will! Logan was my best friend. If it wasn't for me, he'd still beâ” His face crumbled. He rolled over and faced the wall. “Get out of here.”
Oh, crap. His anger was one thing, but I hadn't expected him to cry.
His shoulders shook. Tears mangled his words. “Just go!” Great gulping sobs filled the room.
He was crying the way I'd cried for months after Logan's death. My old pain yawned open, a great black hole that threatened to suck me in.
Blinking back tears, I rushed to shut the door. I didn't want the nurse to hear. I prayed his mom would take her time too.
“Logan wouldn't want this,” I said, sitting back down.
His answering wail was haunting; it curled the hair on the back of my neck. “Tom!” I reached out but stopped just short of touching him. I was afraid to. “Tom, don't.”
He kept crying.
After a minute, I couldn't stand it. There was only one way to comfort him. Taking a deep breath, I reached out and touched his shoulder.
I was taking a chance. If Lexi felt something when I touched her, Tom might too. But I couldn't let fear stand in the way of being kind. Touching Tom felt right and natural. Since the accident, there'd been moments when my grief for Logan had almost choked me. Sometimes I'd been alone with it. Other times Mom had been there, stroking my hair, soothing me with her touch.
Tom deserved the same comfort. “I know you're hurting.” I rubbed his bony shoulder through the sheet. “I know you feel bad. I do. But it'll get better. It will.”
I braced myself for the hum, for the stretch, for the presence. A part of me wanted it to come, and bring Logan with it, and a part of me wanted it to stay away forever so I could be normal again.
But all I felt was Tom's misery, the guilt that needled him with every breath. His leg wasn't the only thing hurting. The pain of Logan's death was like a black mark on his soul.
He blamed himself. I saw that now.
He'd been hiding his feelings behind a mask of indifference and cruelty. That's probably why he drank so much. To try and forget. It was working so well for him too. Not.
After a minute, his crying slowed. I kept my hand on his shoulder and willed the presence to come. For the first time, I wanted it to come. I
But my body was as empty as a glass waiting for milk.
It wasn't going to work. M.C. was wrong. Marie was right. I had imagined everything. So what was it Logan was trying to tell me? Why was I here?
Tom shifted under the covers. I lifted my hand and leaned back in my chair. He rolled over, stared up at the ceiling. He was probably dead with embarrassment. I would have been.
Dead with embarrassment.
The irony of the phrase didn't escape me.
“Marie and Lexi will probably come by this afternoon.” I wanted to pretend the last five minutes hadn't happened.
He was silent.
“Everybody's worried about you.”
He turned his head. His cheeks were streaked with tears, his eyes too bright. Fever, I thought. “I owe you an apology,” he said.
I owed Tom an apology more. I
been judging him. I'd blamed him for Logan's death. Anger wouldn't bring Logan back. Neither would guilt. Dr. Fernandez was right: guilt was a waste of time.
“I've been a total jerk to you since it happened.”
“I've said some awful things too.” I didn't want to talk about the accident anymore. For the first time in a year, I was ready to look forward and not back. “Can't we try and forget?”
He gave a tiny smile. “Friends?” He propped himself on an elbow and held out his hand.
That's when I knew.
was what Logan had wanted. For Tom and me to be friends. For us to forgive ourselves and let go of our guilt. Fernandez had been right about that too.
“Friends.” I took his hand and squeezed. It wasn't the kind of healing I'd come here to offer, but forgiveness had to count for something. If nothing else, I felt lighter and happier than I had in almost a year.
Then, just as I was about to let go, a million pinpricks exploded inside my body. Suddenly I was alive in a way I'd never been alive before.
A part of me sat on the chair holding Tom's hand, but the other meâthe fuller, softer meâgrew and stretched and rode the hum. And I wasn't alone. The loving presence was with me.
Tom's voice floated out like a distant wind. “What's happening?” I felt him tug his hand away.
But I wouldn't let it go. “It's okay,” I said.
I knew it was. Even though I didn't understand, I knew this was right and real and nothing to be scared of. The knowledge brought a powerful heat that rocked my body and shot out my hands.
“I feel weird,” he said.
Of course he felt weird. He was sick.
“All tingly,” he added. “Like there's an electric charge running through me.”
He felt it, just like Lexi. But Tom wouldn't keep quiet about it. He'd tell people. For sure.
The thought made me dizzy with fear. I might be able to laugh it off or put it down to him being sick, but somebody was bound to figure it out. Tom himself might connect the dots: Alan, Lexi, then him. Or Marie might spill. What if my friends figured out how different I really was?
, the voice said.
I knew if my fear grew any bigger, the
would snap me back to the smaller me. And it would all be over.
I could drop Tom's hand and stop this now. Fly under the radar for the rest of my life. Work to make this healing thing go away. But Tom would lose his leg.
If I helped him, I risked standing out and being different. And who knew where that road would lead? Other people were bound to think like Marie. Other people were bound to think I was crazy. I'd hate that.
It was Logan. He was here. I smelled him. Tears clogged the back of my throat as I stared wildly around the room. Where was he? I wanted to see him again. Just once more.
“What's going on?” Tom asked as he balanced awkwardly on his elbow. His pale face reflected fear and confusion and guilt. His guilt was going to be with him a long time, I thought, staring into his feverish eyes. Losing his leg wouldn't make it go away. And whether he lost his leg or kept it, I knew he'd remember the accident for the rest of his life.
That kind of hell seemed a lot worse than any kind of hell I might face. I couldn't control what people thought of me. All I could control was me. And this.
I had to help Tom. I pushed my fear away. There was a tickle at the back of my neck, a soft puff of air by my ear.
And then Logan was gone. The presence, however, grew stronger.
I was vaguely aware of Tom lying back on the bed, of me scooting close so I could continue holding his hand. He complained some more about heat and tingling. I can't remember what I saidâI was mostly thinking about Loganâbut I must have said something funny, because Tom laughed a little, called me Hannah Banana, and then he shut his eyes.
I don't know how long we sat like that. Time didn't make sense. I was getting okay with things not making sense.
Until his mom came back, and I left the room. That's when the last thing happened. And that's when I started to wonder if maybe I really was losing my mind.
As I headed for the elevator, I felt like I could sleep for a thousand years. I was exhausted. Way more tired than I had been after Alan's thumb. After touching Lexi's nose. A nurse disappeared into a room up ahead. A pink-coated lab tech pushing a needle cart gave me a curious look as she walked by.
So what if I got stopped now, I thought. So what?
But when it happened, I was annoyed.
“Excuse me, miss?” I was four steps past the nurses' station, in clear sight of the elevator. I needed sleep. I hardly had the energy to push the elevator button, never mind drive home. I'd have to put the air-conditioning on high and blast it in my face to stay awake.
“Miss!” The voice rang out again. I stopped, reluctantly. “Visiting hours don't start until noon.”
“I didn't know,” I fibbed as I turned around. “But I'm leaving now.”
“Oh. It's you.” It was the same freckle-faced nurse who had looked after me the night of the bee sting. She smiled. “I can't believe it. Your timing is perfect.”
I guess that depended on your point of view.
“I meant to call last week, but I got busy and then I was off five days. Hold on a minute,” she said. “I'll be right back.”
I watched her go into a small glassed-in office behind the station. She bent over a desk, rooted through a drawer. Hurry up, I thought, yawning.
Seconds later, she was back. “Someone left this for you.” She held out her palm.
I couldn't believe it. It was Logan's medallion. For sure it was his. Right down to the tiny chip on the upper left corner.
“I'm sorry it took so long, but like I said, I was off for a week. Calling you was on my âto do' list for today.” She laughed. “And here you are.” She dropped the medallion into my outstretched hand.
My fingers folded around it. I'd get the clasp checked, I thought, clutching it to my chest. Replaced even. Relief made me giddy, light-headed. “Was it the ambulance guy?” They'd probably found it on the ground when they'd moved me to the stretcher. Maybe it slipped off when I fainted. “Did he turn it in?”
“No.” The nurse shook her head. “A young man dropped it off. About your age. He had black, black hair.”
It couldn't be. I started to tremble.