“Oh, honey.” Her hands on me, delicate but solid.
I tried to focus. It was like looking at the world through smudged glass, but I finally, finally saw where I was.
Industrial ceiling tile. Florescent overhead lights. Machines.
The second I thought it, more feelings announced themselves; the tube under my nose. The pressure in my hands, my arms, where more tubes branched out from my skin. I wanted to rip them out and scream but everything was so tight; my chest, my arms, everything. I couldn’t move.
“Why can’t I move?” I asked. I looked down at my body, which was covered completely by a scratchy-looking blanket.
My mother appeared in my view. “It’s to keep you safe, baby.”
My mother glanced up at the ceiling, searching for words. “You don’t remember,” she said, as if to herself.
I remembered Jude taking me from my room and bringing me to a dock to open my veins. I remembered him threatening to kill my family if I didn’t obey.
My mother withdrew something from her pocket then. It was a piece of paper, folded very small; she opened it in front of me. “You left this in your room before you took Daniel’s car,” she said, then showed me the piece of paper. “It was in your journal.”
The journal I didn’t remember keeping. A page of words I didn’t remember writing:
Help me help me help me help me
My mother’s face was broken. She was ashen and drawn and she looked like she’d been crying for a hundred years. “You slit your wrists, Mara,” she said, and choked back a sob. “You slit your wrists.”
“No,” I shook my head fiercely. “You don’t understand.” I tried to sit up and move but I couldn’t. I was still trapped, which poisoned me with panic. “I want to sit up,” I said with desperation.
My mother nodded and the woman I didn’t know—Joan, a nurse, apparently—came over and pressed a button, elevating the bed. I wanted to adjust the pillow under my head but from my new vantage point saw why I couldn’t.
My chest, arms, and legs were bound. In restraints.
“What is this?” The words were caught between a wail and a curse.
My mother walked up to my bed, pulled down the sheets. She glanced at the nurse, who nodded, then unbuckled the cloth cuffs that bound my wrists.
They were wrapped in white gauze. And, as if on cue, I noticed that they hurt.
I breathed deeply, trying not to come apart at the seams but it was hard. So hard.
“Everything okay in there?”
My eyes shot to the door, which was now open. An officer—or security guard?—loomed there, his hand at his waist.
“Just fine, officer,” Joan said, sounding exasperated. “Got it all under control.”
My eyes darted frantically between her and my mother, but my mom could barely look at me.
I must have looked like I felt—like I was about to scream—because the nurse began to loosen the restraints from my legs, my chest. They were complicated. “You lost quite a bit of blood last night, honey, and you were mostly unconscious. But after the transfusion, you woke up and with all the drugs we were pumpin’ into you? You went a little wild. But you’re okay now.”
“Why is there a cop outside?”
Joan paused, hesitated, just for a moment, then busied herself with checking the monitors beside my bed.
“Someone else was brought in with you from the marina,” my mother said.
The world stopped. A man? My mother knew what Jude looked like. Why didn’t she just say Jude’s—
“A middle-aged man. White hair, heavyset.” Her eyes searched mine. “Did you know him, Mara?”
The memory seared my mind.
The man dropped the radio before he could finish his sentence. An expression of exquisite pain swallowed his confusion.
I shook my head, registering the stiffness in my neck, the ache in my mouth. How did he die? “What happened?” I asked.
“We don’t know,” my mom said softly. “He wasn’t—he was—gone—when the police got there. They want to ask you some questions, when you’re ready.”
What about Jude? What about Jude?
My mother closed her eyes. “Jude is dead, Mara.”
I must have spoken out loud. For a second my heart threatened to explode with joy.
“He died in the asylum.”
She didn’t understand. “No. No.”
“The building collapsed.”
I remembered her saying those same words in another hospital room, in another state. A scream was building in my throat.
“Jude didn’t make it. Neither did Rachel or Claire.”
“No, just listen—” My words were frantic and they singed my throat.
“Dr. Kells is going to be here soon,” my mother said, “They’re going to take care of you.”
“At Horizons, honey.” My mother sat gingerly on the side of my bed, and her stare broke my heart. “Mara, baby. We love you too much to let you hurt yourself. This family needs you.”
I shook my head violently. “You don’t understand.”
“Calm down, sweetheart,” Joan said. Her eyes met my mother’s.
“I didn’t do this,” I pleaded, holding up my wrists. Joan was a blur of motion next to my bed. She took my arms gently but I flinched. Her hold tightened. “Don’t touch me.”
My mother recoiled. Covered her mouth with her hand.
“You’re not listening to me!” White noise pulsed in my ears. I hunched forward.
“We are listening. We are listening, honey.”
The room began to fade. “Just let me explain,” I said, but the words were slurred. I tried to look at my mother but I couldn’t focus, couldn’t meet her eyes.
“Take a deep breath, that’s a good girl.” Someone rubbed my shoulders.
My mother was leaving the room. Joan held my head. “Breathe, breathe.”
They wouldn’t listen to me. Only one person would.
“Noah,” I whispered into the thunder.
And then a shadow darkened the window in the hospital room door. I looked up before the black tide rolled in, praying silently that it would be him.
It wasn’t. It was Abel Lukumi, and he was staring directly at me.
THE NEXT TIME I AWOKE, THE TUBES WERE disconnected from my skin. I was still in the hospital—in a different room, though. And I was unrestrained.