Pressing my lips together, I fought the urge to point out that we weren’t exactly hidden and were not hard to find, so she seriously didn’t need to look everywhere.
Skylar had that Miss America smile on her face as she walked up to us. She placed her hand on Sebastian’s arm, and I focused on the ground. “Can we talk for a second?” she asked.
I briefly squeezed my eyes shut, knowing he was going to say yes and it was time for me to end this conversation before any more serious damage was done. I shoved my feet into my flip-flops. “I’ve got to go over...there.”
Sebastian turned to me. “Lena—”
“See you in a bit,” I cut in, forcing a smile at Skylar.
She smiled back, and I think she said something, but I didn’t hear her over the roaring in my ears as I hurried back toward the pool, immediately tracking down Abbi.
“You okay?” She was sitting on the edge of a lounge chair. Keith was leaning back in it, and at some point he must’ve decided the Speedo had to go, since he was now wearing shorts and a T-shirt. It was a definite improvement.
“Yeah.” I cleared my throat. “Totally fine.”
She looked doubtful as she glanced back toward the pool house. She opened her mouth, but I cut her off. “We’ll talk tomorrow.”
“Okay.” She patted the space next to her. “Sit with me.”
I sat on the edge of the chair, with my back to the pool house, and I didn’t look over my shoulder. Not once. And as I sat there, listening to Keith and Abbi attempt to outsnark each other, I told myself that everything that had happened with Sebastian wouldn’t matter. Tonight sucked. But tomorrow would be a better day.
Tomorrow had to be.
Sunday, August 20
I couldn’t move, and everything hurt—my skin felt stretched too tight, muscles burned like they’d been lit on fire, and my bones ached deep into the marrow. I never knew pain like this before. I could barely breathe around it.
My brain felt like it was full of cobwebs and fog. I tried to lift my arms, but they were weighed down, full of lead. Confusion swirled inside me.
I thought I heard a steady beeping sound and voices, but all of it seemed far away, as if I was on one end of the tunnel and everyone was on the other end. I couldn’t speak. There...there was something in my throat, in the back of my throat. My arm twitched without warning, and there was a tug at the top of my hand.
Why wouldn’t my eyes open?
Panic started to dig in. Why couldn’t I move? Something was wrong. Something was really wrong. I just wanted to open my eyes. I wanted—
I love you, Lena.
I love you, too.
The voices echoed in my head, one of them mine. One of them definitely mine, but the other—
“She’s starting to wake up,” a female said from somewhere on the other side of the tunnel.
Footsteps neared and a male spoke. “I’m adding propofol now.”
“This is the second time she’s woken up,” the woman replied. “Hell of a fighter. Her mother is going to be happy to hear that.”
Fighter? I didn’t understand what they were talking about, why they thought my mom would be happy to hear this—
Maybe I should drive?
The voice again, in my head, and it was mine. I was sure it was mine.
Warmth hit my veins, starting at the base of my skull and then washing over me, cascading through my body, and then there were no dreams, no thoughts and no voices.
Tuesday, August 22
Nausea churned my stomach.
It was the first thing I noticed when the suffocating, blanketing darkness eased off again. I was sick to my stomach, like I could vomit, if there was actually anything in my stomach.
My head throbbed, along with my jaw, but the worst pain was coming from my chest. Each breath I took scorched my lungs and didn’t seem to really do anything for me. I had to take more breaths to get enough oxygen. There was unnatural tightness, like rubber bands had been stretched around my chest.
Struggling to make sense of what was going on with my body, I willed my eyes open. Nothing happened at first, like they were sewn shut, but I worked and worked at it until I peeled them open.
Bright light blinded me, forcing me to lose all progress and close my eyes again. I wanted to shrink back from it. I shifted slightly, then stopped when darts of pain shot up and down my body.
What was wrong with me?
“Lena?” The voice moved closer. “Lena, are you awake?”
I knew that voice—it belonged to my sister. But that didn’t make sense, because she should be at Radford. At college. I think.
I had no idea what day it was. Saturday? Sunday?
Cool fingers touched my arm. “Lena?”
Trying again, I opened my eyes, this time prepared for the light. My vision cleared, and I saw a drop ceiling, like the kind in my classroom. Lowering my gaze, I looked to the right and I saw Lori sitting in one of the two chairs next to me.
It was her.
But it wasn’t.
My sister looked horrible, and she never looked bad. She was genetically predetermined to always look amazing, even in the mornings, but right now her hair appeared unwashed and was pulled up in a haphazard bun. Her eyes were bloodshot and the skin under them puffy and pink. The gray Radford University shirt was wrinkled.
“Hey,” she whispered, smiling, but something was off about the smile. It was weak and strained. “You’re awake, sleepyhead.”
Had I been sleeping a long time? Felt like it. Like I’d been sleeping for days. But this wasn’t my bed or my bedroom. I wet my lips. They felt dry, as did my mouth and throat. “What...?” I ran out of air, and the words were hard to force out. “What is...going on?”
“What’s going on?” she repeated, and then closed her eyes tight. The skin puckered at the corners. “You’re in the intensive care unit in Fairfax. At INOVA,” she said softly, opening her eyes and glancing at the door.
“I...I don’t understand,” I whispered hoarsely.
Her gaze darted back to mine. “What?”
Getting the words out was exhausting. “Why am...I in the ICU?”
Lori’s eyes searched mine. “You were in a car accident, Lena. A really—” Her breath caught and she breathed deeply. “A really bad car accident.”
A car accident? I stared at her for a moment and then shifted my gaze from her, back to the drop ceiling and the too-bright lights. A second passed and I turned my head slightly, wincing as stabbing pain ricocheted from one temple to the next. The walls were white, lined with boxes and containers marked as hazardous material.
The tugging feeling at the top of my hand made more sense. It was an IV. I was most definitely in a hospital, but a car accident? I searched my head, but it...it was full of shadows with memories cloaked behind them.
“I...I don’t remember a car...accident.”
“Jesus,” Lori murmured.
The door opened, and I saw Mom. A tall, thin man followed her, wearing a white lab coat. Mom halted almost immediately, clasping her hands together against her chest. She looked as bad as Lori.
“Oh, baby,” Mom cried, and then she was lurching forward, rushing to the bed.
A memory floated to the surface. Words—words that had been spoken to me. Do you love me enough to carry me inside my house, pass my mom and tuck me into bed?
Someone had said that to me—outside, in the driveway of Keith’s house. The voice came back out of the darkness, eerily familiar. But only after we stop at McDonald’s so I can get chicken nuggets.
The memory floated away as soon as it formed, and I couldn’t place the voice or tell if it was even real or just from a dream.
“Thank God.” Mom bent over, carefully kissing my forehead and then my nose and then my chin. “Oh, thank God. Thank God.” She kissed my forehead again. “How are you feeling?”
“Confused,” I forced out. Really, extraordinarily confused.
“She doesn’t remember.” Lori rose, smoothing her hands over her hips. “She doesn’t remember the car accident at all.”
“That’s not uncommon with these types of injuries along with heavy sedation,” the man in the white lab coat said. “Her memory will most likely come back either completely or with a few patches once we get everything out of her system.”