23 Weeks- working title- K. Larsen ©2016
“What’s your name?”
“Nora,” I whisper. My throat feels sunburned. Sweat soaks the hair covering my neck. Wind gusts hair across my face.Something drips from my head. Or onto my head. I can’t tell which. A blurry face appears over mine. Too close. “Nora, we’re going to lift now.” I stare at the grey sky. I shudder and worry about what might be watching from the thicket of woods nearby. I can’t nod and my mouth makes no sound. For a moment I feel weightless. Free. I imagine it’s how birds feel soaring through the sky. Gravity quickly reminds me that something’s amiss. My leg feels like it’s on fire. I wince when I’m jostled into some kind of metal box. An ambulance. The sterile hygienic odor hits me like a brick in the face.
Everything looks like a watery blur from behind the rain-streaked windows of the ambulance doors. People have a deep-seated craving for a sense of family, belonging, identity. Looking back, I realize that he probably interviewed lots of different girls for the job and picked the one he thought would be easiest. It wasn’t just the girl he choose but the life she came from as well. “Nora, stay with me.” The paramedic’s voice is deep and oddly soothing. It pulls me from my thoughts. I slide my gaze from the window to him. I want to know what he looks like but my eyes won’t focus enough to get a good look. He pokes at me with something as if I am a large bug to be inspected. My body screams with pain. It feels like there’s a noose around my throat so tight stars dance in my eyes. I’ve experienced this before though. I can survive. Life’s made me numb. I squeeze my eyes shut. “Nora, can you hear me?”
I jolt awake—disoriented. Where’s Lotte? Tubes snake in and out of me. I’m covered in soft blue and don’t feel gritty with dirt anymore. The steady beeps of nearby monitors hurts my ears. So much white noise. A symphony of electronic background sound that’s headache inducing. I’ve been too used to the quiet of nature for too long. The door to the room is closed. I don’t like closed doors. Panic jump starts my heart. I’m trapped. Again. My leg is hoisted up and in a cast. I squint trying to recall the proper name for the contraption. My sternum aches and I have white lights dancing in my peripheral vision.
The door opens. Please be Lotte. A man in a suit enters the room. I lift my head slightly. “Hello Nora.” I don’t know who he is. He surveys me while chewing a nail. It’s strange to think of the unexpected turns a person’s life can take. “I’m detective Salve. And I need to ask you some questions.” I feel my face wrinkle in confusion. “Do you remember what happened?” he asks.
I drop my head to the pillow, stare at the ceiling as he pulls a chair next to the bed. “I was in a car accident.” My voice is a raspy whisper. When I chance a look at him again, he’s nodding.
“Yes. That’s good. Do you need anything?”
“Water,” I answer. And Lotte.
“Sure thing. Hang on.” He stands, the chair legs scrape across the floor and I cringe at the noise. When he returns he holds a small cup of water out at me, a straw plunged into it. He’s younger than Holden by at least three or four years from the looks of it. I wonder how long he’s been a detective. His brown hair is close cropped and his nose has a bump in the bridge. He has nice eyes and an easy smile. A nice face, Angela would say. I take the cup from him and chance a small sip. It’s hard to swallow but I manage.
“So, Nora, what’s your last name?” he asks.
I sigh and say, “Roberts.”
Detective Salve lifts an eyebrow at me. “Really.”
I lick my dry lips. “Really,” I mumble.
“How old are you?”
“Eighteen.” He eyes me then. Takes me in. “What’s your date of birth?”
“March 19th, 1980.” I look younger than I am. I always have.
“Do you want me to call your parents?”
“I don’t have any,” I answer. Like most kids who grew up without parents, over the years I have collected little tidbits of life knowledge, scraps and bits from friends parents, teachers, boyfriends, employers. Anyone who offered up a touch of wisdom and I kept them like fabric remnants so that I could someday stitch them into a nonsensical quilt-like afghan that might somehow make my life better-easier. Right now I’d kill to have a parent. I don’t know where he is. I don’t know where Lotte is. I don’t know if I’m close to home or close to the farm.
“Is there other family I should call?” I stare at the ceiling again. A nurse comes in and explains that she’s taking my vitals, upping my fluids and asks if I need anything for my pain level. I want the detective to leave. He gives me an uneasy feeling. Men aren’t to be trusted. Dara, the nurse, writes her name on a whiteboard and tells me to let her know if I need anything at all. She gives Detective Salve the side-eye as she leaves.
“Angela Clark,” I croak.
“Sorry?” Detective Salve says.
“Call Angela Clark.” I give him the phone number and wait for him to leave. We’re not done yet. He told me that. But at least the unidentified girl in the car wreck has been identified. I buzz the nurse. She’s quick.
“My head is killing me.” Dara nods while simultaneously darting around. She reminds me of a butterfly with their erratic flight patterns. She’s dainty and delicate looking. Before I can blink twice she’s handing me pills and the cup of water from the table. I swallow them down with ease.
“You should really try and sleep. The Doctor will be around soon to fill you in soon.”
I bite my bottom lip and try to make myself comfortable before I close my eyes. I shouldn’t close my eyes. I feel guilty for not getting up. For not finding Lotte or asking about her.
When I sleep my brain doesn’t hurt. The world is quiet. At least it used to be that way. Sleep was a heavenly escape. I didn’t dream. Sleep provided me sweet escape for eight hours. It’s dark out when I wake. Rather, when I’m roused from sleep.
“Ms. Roberts.” An unfamiliar voice. I blink a few times before rubbing away the sleep crusties. My mouth is dry again.
“Nora,” I scratch out. He tucks my chart under his armpit and hands my water to me. I drink the remaining liquid. It’s not enough.
“Nora,” he says.
“You’re aware of the car accident yes?” he asks curtly.
“Yes,” I answer.
“You’re lucky to be alive,” he says and a part of me wants to laugh but I don’t. “You shattered your femur and part of your patella. You sustained a nasty contusion on your sternum and a serious concussion. It was estimated that you were pinned under your truck for at least three hours before help arrived-which is partly why you’re dehydrated and suffered moderate hypothermia.”
“Where’s Lotte?” I ask.
His brow furrows. “Who’s Lotte?”
“Charlotte,” I say. “She was in the truck with me.”
He pinches his lips closed. Swings his tongue in front of his teeth behind his bottom lip making the skin look as though a snake lives in his mouth. “As far as I know, there was no one else recovered at the scene.”
“That can’t be right. She was in the truck with me.”
His face wrinkles in frustration. “Tell you what? I will ask around for you. Maybe I’m wrong.”
“When can I leave?” I ask.
“We need to do a couple more CAT scans, get your fluids up and monitor your break. But outside of that-soon.”
Now I do laugh. “That doesn’t sound very soon.”
“It’s all relative,” he says with an easy grin. “Also, the EMTs didn’t recover any personal effects. Do you have health insurance or an emergency contact you’d like on file?”
I shake my head. “I already spoke with a detective. He’s calling someone for me but I don’t have insurance. Is that a problem?”
“Not at all. Just another step to take. I’ll send someone up to get you officially admitted and work out payment options with you. I expect you’ll be moved upstairs out of emergency shortly.”
“How long have I been here?”
“You arrived,” he looks at his watch. A big fancy one. I can hear the ticking from my bed. “Fourteen hours ago. Most of that was spent in surgery to set your femur and get the screws in place.”
I blink. “Oh.”
“Do you have any questions for me Nora?”
My gut clenches. “No. I’m fine.” The better I feel, the more rested I am, the worse my panic is. He’s still out there and Lotte is missing.