As you might have guessed, I have a great interest in psychology. When mixed with an assignment in a creative writing class to write a short story, this is the result.
Critique is welcome, of course, but this story is over a year old now and may not be changed even for very good suggestions. ASK BEFORE REPOSTING as I am very protective of my work.
On the worst day of his life, he arrived at the hospital to find Roselle’s parents huddled together in the emergency waiting room. He sat next to them. “Any news?” he asked.
“She’s in surgery,” said Mr. Dotty. His eyes were bloodshot. “Did you know anything about what she was planning, Levi?”
“Colin!” scolded Mrs. Dotty. “You know Levi would have told us.”
An uneasy silence fell as they settled in to wait and Levi realized with surprise that he was still wearing his graduation robes. His hat was gone, though, and he wasn’t sure where it had gone. It was a couple of hours before a doctor arrived. Mr. Dotty was on his feet instantly.
“Dr. Edwards, how is she?”
Dr. Edwards motioned for Mr. Dotty to sit down. “Roselle is in intensive care. We have induced a coma for now, to protect her brain from further damage.”
“How bad is it?” asked Mrs. Dotty, her voice quavering with tiredness and worry.
“We don’t know yet. I’m concerned that she may have damaged her hippocampus.” Mr. Dotty opened his mouth. “That’s a structure right about here,” said Dr. Edwards, pointing. “It plays a part in making short term memories become long term memories, among other things.”
“Is she going to remember us?” asked Mrs. Dotty, horrified.
“Probably,” said Dr. Edwards. “It’s always hard to tell with brain injury. It’s most likely that she will have most or all of her memories from before the incident, but we’re worried about anterograde amnesia.”
“What does that mean?” asked Mr. Dotty, hesitantly.
“That means,” said Dr. Edwards, “that she may not remember anything after the incident. Sometimes, there is a gap before the incident, but other than that, memories that are already formed are usually intact.”
“So she might not remember…what happened?” asked Levi. Mrs. Dotty jumped as if she had forgotten that he was there.
“It’s hard to say. Despite all we’ve learned, the mechanics of the brain is still greatly unknown. All I can say is that by the looks of it, the area around the hippocampus is badly damaged and the hippocampus is involved in creating long-term memories. I wish I could tell you more. Now it’s a waiting game.”
~ ∞ ~
I hate this part.
She wakes up slowly, disoriented, and asks where she is. Today, she had gone on vacation and hit her head. A surfing accident, maybe. She always liked surfing. I haven’t been able to tell her the truth since the first time.
“Where’s Lucas?” she asks, sitting up. “I have to tell him something.”
The hope in her eyes is worse every time. “You were in a car wreck.”
She gasps, covering her mouth. “He’s all right. Tell me he’s all right.”
I hold her as she sobs, waiting for her to forget. Seven minutes. It’s always seven minutes.
I don’t know how many more stories I have left. If I have to lie, she deserves good lies. Exciting ones. Six minutes.
~ ∞ ~
The noise of the crowd died down as Roselle stood to speak. Her hands shook as she shuffled through the papers on the podium and Levi wondered if she had stage fright. He didn’t think that she ever had before. Her voice was thin and wavering when she finally began to speak and she clutched at the podium with white-knuckled hands as she delivered a speech that was not the one Levi had helped her to write.
Levi frowned and sat up straighter. He had a clear view of her because most of the other graduates were slouched in their seats, probably wondering when they could get their diplomas and leave. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she spoke in rambling circles.
Then she brought up the car wreck, a night she had vowed never to relive for anyone. Evan Cameron and Janie Cloche straightened on either side of him. Like everyone else, they had read about it in the newspaper. Despite her robes and the valedictorian sash draped over her shoulders, Roselle looked like a little girl–shoulders hunched, an inexplicable sense of helplessness about her. The principal, a tiny wisp of a woman, leaned over and whispered something to the senior sponsor, who shrugged helplessly. This isn’t the speech she turned in, he could almost hear her saying. That one was inspiring. He craned over the lanky boy in front of him, who was whispering to the girl at his right.
Roselle’s eyes locked on his and he felt a growing unease. Had she lied to him? An unexpected movement caught his eye and he turned his attention to Roselle’s hand in time to see her reaching down the front of her robe and withdrawing–
Shouts of surprise and fear rang out around him as she pulled out a pistol. He watched in horror as she aimed the gun at her own head and pulled the trigger.
She had left the safety on. Thank God, the one thing she didn’t do right. He fought against the fleeing students, determined to get to her before she could try it again, as he knew she would. He caught a glimpse of her fumbling with the safety as the teachers remaining on stage tried to talk her down.
Levi finally broke free of the crowd as screams began anew, just in time to watch Roselle fold toward the ground behind the podium. He pushed past the policemen who, with their guns drawn, were warily approaching her. One of them grabbed at his shoulder and shouted at him, but he twisted away.
“Rose,” he breathed. She was still as death and her blonde hair was matted with blood. However, her chest rose and fell with shallow breaths.
“You’ll be all right.” He wondered if she could hear him, hear the desperation in his voice. He should have known. He should have known.
~ ∞ ~
I hate this part.
Her parents are here this time, when she wakes up. They still tell her what happens, over and over. It’s cruel, and today is a bad day anyway. She can’t remember the truth, but she can feel the pain. I wait until her parents have left. Her tears are forgotten and she is filling out a square of Sudoku in a book her parents gave her.
She looks up.
“Levi! I didn’t hear you come in. Mom should’ve told me you were coming to visit. Lucas was going to come over later.”
“He’ll be a little bit late.”
“Oh.” The disappointment passes quickly. “Do you know, I wasn’t good at Sudoku a few days ago, but now it’s almost too easy. It’s weird. Lucas is coming over later, did you know?”
I don’t correct her on either count. She’s been practicing Sudoku for years, now. She is silent for a few minutes.
“Levi! When did you come in? Have you been there long?”
“No, not long at all.”
~ ∞ ~
The back room was hot and crowded with far too many people, most of them swathed in black.
She was beautiful in the shapeless black robe and tasseled pasteboard hat. Her hair flowed down her back in a perfect sheet and her valedictorian smile was blinding. Even so, he pulled her aside.
“You’re sure you’re all right?” said Levi. “I know–”
“Levi, I’m fine. You worry too much.”
His eyes narrowed as tears gathered at the corners of her eyes. “You’re not taking those pills the hospital gave you.”
“Of course I am,” she snapped, ducking her head and scrubbing fiercely at her eyes. He caught her by the shoulders and waited until she looked up at him.
“Tell me the truth.”
“So I missed a couple,” she said. “Can’t we talk about something else? We’re about to graduate!” Something wasn’t quite right with the happy squeal in her voice or the brightness that suddenly filled her expression..
“You know how you got last time,” Levi said seriously.
She sighed and shook her head at him. “I’m fine.”
“At least promise me you’ll take one when you get home.”
“Done,” she said without hesitation. “Now, stop being a spoilsport and come say hi to Sara.”
~ ∞ ~
I hate this part.
She wakes up with a jolt and looks around frantically. She sighs in relief when she sees me. “You look awful,” she says.
Two years of this, I think, and even you wouldn’t look wonderful.
“Where am I?” It’s winter. She was in a skiing accident. She’s in a hospital in Colorado, see the snow? “Where’s Lucas?”
He’s a patient in another room. He’ll come visit when he’s well enough. She smiles. “I don’t know how I could forget such a wonderful vacation,” she says.
“You and Lucas are here. It’s perfect.”
Seven minutes. I want it to be longer.
~ ∞ ~
He found her at the bend in the road over the river–the most dangerous bit of road in the county. Her black dress whipped in the wind as she gazed down at the churning water. Children told tales about that river–its current was so strong, Levi had heard once, that if you so much as put a finger in it, it can drag you away.
Mascara streaked her cheeks as she looked up at him. She looked odd with make up. Older. “Whenever I drive by here, I just want to keep going straight. But I can’t.”
“Roselle, please,” said Levi. “You know this isn’t what he would want.”
“What if it’s what I want?” she said testily. “We were going to get married. He had just asked me. Right here.” She began to sob. “He was going to wait until we got to IHOP, but we were fighting. I made him stop here.” Levi caught her as she collapsed and she buried her face in his shirt. “Why can’t I do it?”
“You have so much more to live for,” Levi said. “You’re going to be valedictorian.”
“I don’t want it!” she cried, pounding a fist against his chest. “Not after this.”
“Live for me, then,” he said. “I don’t know what I would do without you. We’ve been friends as long as I can remember.”
“Since fourth grade,” she said, looking quizzically up at him.
“So I have a bad memory,” he said. She didn’t smile. “Please, Roselle, I know it’s hard…”
She didn’t respond for a while, but then she broke away from him. “We’re going to be late,” she said, rubbing at her eyes and smearing her mascara further. She looked like a ghost.
“Ride with me,” he said gently. She shook her head.
“Don’t tell anyone,” she said, setting off toward her car.
He couldn’t answer.
~ ∞ ~
I hate this part.
She blinks awake and looks around, confused. “Levi?” she says. “Why are you in my bedroom?” She sits up, eyes widening. “Is Lucas okay?”
“He’s on his way. Try to rest.” She nods and asks for a book. There is one in the drawer. She’s read the first page more times than I can count.
It’s already fading.
~ ∞ ~
Levi was already slowing down when Maryam said, “Pull over! Pull over!”
He flung the door open and jumped out as Maryam fumbled with her seatbelt. Red and blue lights reflected off of Roselle’s glittery dress as she shouted at a paramedic. When she noticed Levi, she barreled into him. She was sopping wet. “They won’t let me see Lucas!” she cried.
Maryam arrived, carrying her shoes. “What happened?” she demanded.
“We were–we had pulled over and this car just ploughed into the side of his car. He has to be all right.” Levi saw Maryam look doubtfully toward the twisted guardrail.
“I’m sure he’s fine,” said Levi. He brushed Roselle’s dripping hair away from her face. It had been really pretty an hour or so ago, but now it was just a muddled mess. Her dress glowed red and glittered black as the lights flashed behind her. “Are you all right?”
“Just a few bruises,” she said dismissively.
“Your arm is bleeding,” said Maryam.
She gave Maryam a feeble smile. “I think I hit a rock on the way up. Really, I’m fine.”
The same paramedic that had quietly suffered her abuse a few minutes before approached and said, “Miss, we need to get you to the hospital.”
“I want to ride with Lucas,” she said.
“No, ma’am, we need to get you onto a stretcher. Just in case.” He gave Levi a pointed look. Levi nodded to Roselle.
“Maryam and I will meet you there,” said Levi. “I’m sure he’s fine.”
The guardrail was wrapped in yellow caution tape and it creaked ominously in the wind. “He’s dead,” breathed Maryam as they climbed into the car. “No one can lose that much blood and not be dead.”
~ ∞ ~
I hate this part.
Today, as she wakes up, it is to find out that she passed out while skydiving with Lucas, who is in the bathroom down the hall, still vomiting. She smiles, as radiant as ever. She won’t even remember brushing her teeth this morning by now.
“You look terrible.”
~ ∞ ~
Maryam was still beautiful, even after several hours in a hot conference room. Her dress made her look like a tropical bird. Even so, his mind was elsewhere. “Where are they?” said Levi.
“I don’t know,” she said, not looking up from her menu. “Do you think they’ll mind if we order?”Several couples passed their table, laughing and shouting. One of the girls stumbled against their table as she passed.
“Sorry!” she giggled as her date helped her up. “I’m not used to high heels.” The group whirled away in their blinding dresses and tuxes.
“It doesn’t take forty-five minutes to get here,” Levi said, as if they had not been interrupted.
Maryam tore her eyes away from the raucous group. “Has it really been that long?”
Levi glanced at his watch. “Forty-seven, now.”
Maryam frowned. “Maybe you ought to call.”
He pulled out his cell phone and dialed Roselle’s number. “She isn’t answering.” He called Lucas next. Still nothing.
“Let me take my hair down and we can go look for them,” she said. She levered herself to her feet, slipped on her shoes, and went toward the bathroom. While she was gone, Levi tried Roselle’s and Lucas’s phones several more times. When she reappeared, her hair in uneven black ringlets, she said, “Nothing?”
He shook his head.
“Let’s go, then.”
~ ∞ ~
I hate this part.
She is already awake and examining the scar on her arm. “How did I get this?” I tell her that I don’t know. “Why am I in a hospital? I feel great.” I tell her that she’s been in a coma.
“Oh,” she says.
“Don’t worry. Lucas can tell you.”
“Where is he?”
“I’ve already called him. He’s on his way.”