Mom took Lori’s place, sitting the closest to the bed. She picked up my hand, the one with the IV. “This is Dr. Arnold. He was the one who...” Lowering her chin, she shook her head as she drew in what sounded like a halted breath.
I knew whatever she couldn’t say was pretty serious, and as I stared at her, I saw her in my mind, sitting at the kitchen table, poring over contracts. She’d been wearing her reading glasses, and she’d told me that when my phone rang again, I had to answer it. And she’d said something else.
When had that been? Saturday. Saturday before—
Dr. Arnold sat on the edge of the bed, crossing one knee over the over. “You are a very lucky young lady.”
Focusing on him, I decided I was going to have to take his word for it, because I had no idea what was going on.
Mom squeezed my hand, and when I glanced at her, she looked like she was on the verge of tears. Her eyes were just as puffy and red rimmed as Lori’s.
The doctor reached to the front of the bed and lifted a chart up. “Other than tired, how are you feeling?”
I swallowed and it was like sandpaper rubbing together. “Tired. And I...I don’t feel good.”
“That’s probably the leftover effects of the sedation,” he said, running his fingers along the center of the chart. “We’ve got you on some strong pain relievers right now, so that can also make you feel a little sick. That said, how is the pain?”
“Um...my head hurts.” I glanced at Mom, and she smiled reassuringly. “My chest hurts. Everything...hurts.”
“You took quite a beating,” Dr. Arnold replied, and my eyes widened. A beating? I thought it had been a car accident. Before I could ask, he continued. “You suffered a concussion, but there’s been no evidence of swelling of the brain. As long as that remains true, we’re going to be out of the woods in that area.” He scanned the chart. “You might’ve figured out that your left arm is fractured. It’s going to be in a cast for anywhere from three to six weeks.”
I blinked slowly. A cast?
But my arm couldn’t be fractured. I had practice and games coming up.
I lifted my left arm and it throbbed dully. Yep. There was definitely a cast around my forearm. My gaze flickered back to the doctor. Nothing about this felt real.
“I...I can’t be in a cast. I play...volleyball.”
“Honey.” Mom squeezed my hand gently again. “There is no need to worry about volleyball right now. That is the last thing you should be stressing over.”
How could I not stress over it? It was my senior year. Coach thought I could catch the eye of a scout, and Megan would be so ticked off if I couldn’t play.
Dr. Arnold closed the chart. “You’ve had some very serious injuries, Lena, including trauma to your chest, which caused a bilateral pneumothorax.”
I stared at him blankly. Pneumo-what?
He smiled faintly, obviously reading my confusion. “It basically means you had air in your chest cavity, which put pressure on the lung and prevented it from expanding. Oftentimes it’s single sided and the puncture is so minor that all we need to do is get the air out.”
I had a feeling, based on how my sides felt like they were packed in Ace bandages, that wasn’t what had happened here.
“In your case, you broke ribs on both sides, puncturing your thorax on both sides, so both of your lungs collapsed and were unable to compensate. I cannot stress how serious of a situation that is. When we have two lungs down, we often aren’t having a conversation with the patient later.”
Mom lifted her other hand, smoothing it over her face. She stopped with her fingers covering her mouth.
The doctor draped one arm over his knee. “We had to go in and do surgery on both sides.” He gestured to the location on his body. “To remove the air and seal off the leaks.”
“We wanted to give your lungs time to recover, so we’ve had you heavily sedated and let the machines do the breathing for you, but we didn’t have to keep you under very long. You were ready to wake up yesterday.” Dr. Arnold smiled again.
I had a vague recollection of hearing people talk about me waking up, but there was something else existing on the fringes. Other people talking. Someone screaming—no, the screaming wasn’t from the hospital.
“As I said, you’re a very lucky young lady. We were able to remove the ventilation tube, but we’re going to hold you in the ICU for another day or two, since your blood pressure is a little low. We want to keep an eye on that.”
I understood what he was staying and it made sense, but a huge part of me couldn’t believe it.
“Once we think you’re ready, we’ll move you into recovery so we can monitor for infection and inflammation. We’ll get you started on breathing exercises later today, and by tomorrow we’ll have you out of this bed, walking for a little bit.”
I could barely process this.
“If all goes well, which I believe it will, you’ll be back home by the beginning of next week.”
Beginning of next week?
“You’re going to be bruised and sore for some time, and I think volleyball is going to be sidelined for quite some time.”
My heart sank. No. I had to play. I could—
“But you should heal a hundred percent and there should be no long-term effects within reasonable exceptions. But we’ll tackle more of that later.” Dr. Arnold stood, and I wondered what he meant by within reasonable exceptions. “The seat belt saved your life. If the others were wearing—”
“Thank you,” Mom cut in quickly. “Thank you so much, Dr. Arnold. I cannot express how grateful I am—how grateful we are—for all that you’ve done.”
Wait a second. There was something missing here. Something more important than volleyball and chest tubes. How did I get here? What happened?
“Others?” I gasped out, glancing at Lori.
My sister paled as she plopped down in the chair beside where Mom stood.
Dr. Arnold’s face went expressionless, like he’d slipped a mask on. He said something about how long I would be expected to be in the hospital and then hightailed his butt out of there.
I shifted my gaze to Mom. “What...what did he mean about others?”
“What’s the last thing you remember?” my sister asked when Mom didn’t answer.
Mom glanced at her sharply. “Not now, Lori.”
“Yes.” I took a shallow breath. “Yes. Now.” I tried sifting through the gaps and the empty parts. I remembered talking to Mom on Saturday, telling her I—“I went...to Keith’s party.” Closing my eyes, I ignored the throbbing ache in my head. “I remember...”
“Remember what?” Mom whispered, slowly sitting back down.
My jaw pounded as I ground my teeth together. The pool party. Sebastian. Thinking he was going to kiss me again. Being thrown in the pool. Talking—no, arguing—with him afterward, then... “I remember sitting down with...with Abbi by the pool and... I don’t remember anything else.”
I love you, Lena.
I love you, too.
Who had said that? Abbi? Megan? It was one of them. I lifted my hand in frustration, wincing as the IV tugged at my hand.
Mom caught my hand, carefully lifting it to her lips. She pressed a kiss against my knuckles. “You’ve just had a lot of information dumped on you right now. You should be resting so we can get you out of here and back home. We can talk about this later.”
What had the doctor said? The seat belt had saved my life, but the others—he made it sound like the others hadn’t... Oh my God. There were others in the car with me.
“No.” The beeping in the machines picked up, matching my heart rate. Trying to sit up, I felt like I was being dragged down through the bed. “I want to know...about this... I want to know what...happened right now.”
Tears filled Mom’s eyes. “Baby, I don’t think we should talk about this right now.”
“Yes,” I gritted out. “Yes, we should.”