The doors opened and I stepped out into the quiet hall. The nurses at the end didn’t pay much attention to me as I wheeled a right. Maybe it was because of my uniform. I didn’t care as I hurried down the chilled hall, looking above the windowless doors. I came to the end and turned left.
My feet stopped as if I’d stepped in cement.
Halfway down the hall, there was an older couple talking to a middle-aged doctor. The man was tall with brown hair and the woman was shorter with the deepest…the deepest red hair.
Both were pale as the doc reached out, clamping his hand on the man’s shoulder. I couldn’t hear what was being said, but the doctor spoke again, and the woman’s face crumpled as she placed her hand over her mouth.
The hall spun as I stumbled against the wall. My gaze traveled to the room beyond them. The door opened and a nurse stepped out. All I could see was a curtain and a hand—a pale, small hand. It wasn’t moving.
Fuck. I pressed the palm of my hand against my chest as the door drifted shut. Footsteps pounded up the hall, and I looked, recognizing the man who was only a year older than Andrea—her brother, Brody. He didn’t even see me as he rushed past, his flip-flops smacking like cracks of thunder.
I leaned against the wall as it hit me, really fucking slammed into me. She was in that room. It was Andrea. No fucking coincidences. No point to hope there was some kind of mistake. It was her. Pain lit up my chest like someone had planted a fist in it.
My knees gave out and I slid down the wall, my ass hitting the floor. I dropped my arms over my knees and just stared ahead. It was her.
It was Andrea.
The first breath I took burned and sent pain splintering throughout my chest and ribs. It hurt in a way that immediately forced my grimy-feeling eyes open. I winced at the harsh overhead lights in the drop ceiling. I tried to lift my hand to shield my eyes, but my arm felt like it was weighed down with lead.
Sit up. I needed to sit up, but as soon as I started that process, a sharp stabbing sensation shot across my abdomen, causing me to exhale harshly. Okay. I would not move.
A shadow moved closer to the bed, and as I blinked, a form took shape. Dad. My father was leaning over me. Deep shadows were grooved into the skin under his eyes. Taut lines formed around his mouth. His brown hair was a mess, as if he’d shoved his fingers through it many times. He hadn’t shaved. When was the last time I’d seen him unshaven? Goodness, it had to be back when he still…he still drank.
Oh my God.
I had been drinking and—
“Honey, you awake?” Dad sat on the edge of the bed, and I realized his shirt was wrinkled. So were his khakis. Actually, he was wrinkled. “Andrea?”
I forced my tongue off the roof of my mouth. “Yeah.”
He closed his eyes briefly, letting out a long and low breath. “You’ve been asleep for over a day. I know it’s normal after these kinds of injuries, but I didn’t want to leave this room until you opened your eyes. Your mother is going to be so upset to know she decided to pick up food for us at this exact moment. Are you in pain?”
Pain? Everything hurt—my stomach and my head, even my hand. My gaze drifted to my right hand and I suspected the giant, freaking I.V. hooked up to it was the culprit.
“Injuries?” I rasped out.
Dad reached out, picking up my left hand in his cool one. He squeezed gently. “You hit your head pretty hard. It’s a concussion. And you’re pretty banged up, but the…” He squeezed my hand again. “Your spleen ruptured. There was no saving it. It had to be removed, and you needed a blood transfusion. Without a spleen, there are going to be some complications. Issues with fighting off infections and…”
He continued on, but I wasn’t really hearing him any longer. My spleen had burst and I no longer had one. Blood transfusion? A concussion? My mind raced back to the car, to the seconds before I heard the metal crunching and giving way.
“Did I hit someone?” I blurted out, ignoring the raw pain in my throat. “Did I hurt someone?”
Dad stopped and he stared at me so long that panic built in my chest. “Oh my God,” I croaked. “Did I hit someone? Did I? Oh God, I can’t—”
“You didn’t hit anyone, Andrea.” His throat worked as he stared down at me. “You hit a barrier wall on 495.”
Only a smidgen of relief filtered through my system. I didn’t hit someone. That was good, but I could’ve hit someone. Oh God, I could’ve killed someone.
“They ran a blood test. You were over the legal limit,” he continued, his voice rough at the edges, brittle. “You were drinking and driving.”
Pressure increased as those words settled in, seeped through the confusion and took root. I’d drunk and drove. Had I done that before? Never. I’d always waited at least an hour or more before I drove. I always made sure.
Oh my God.
Dad let go of my hand and his gaze moved to the blinds over the window. “I’ve failed you.”
His words jarred me. “Dad—you didn’t fail me. This… this was all me. I…did this.” Truer words had never been spoken. Tears rolled down my face. “I did this.”
He shook his head. “Your mother and I, even your brother, knew you drank. We kept telling ourselves that it wasn’t that bad. That you weren’t like me. That you wouldn’t become like me. We were wrong.” His gaze shifted to mine, and I saw that his stare was glassy. “I was wrong, but I will not let you become me.”