Aveny didn’t remember the drive, or abandoning her car in the ambulance pull-through. She only remembered waking, her arm freshly bandaged and an unpleasant burning sensation where the IV pushed new blood into her vein.
Aveny blinked her eyes in weary confusion. The room swam in a strange haze of translucent blue and beige. Somewhere, a beeping noise alternated between high and low pitches. She shut her eyes for a moment, breathing in the strange acrid stink of plastic tubing. Then she batted them open, forcing her vision to focus on the tall rectangle before her: a doorway, she realized. She focused on the nurses passing outside. Their forms made no sense to her addled brain. She furrowed her brow in consternation.
Just as she was about to forsake comprehension for sleep, it all came rushing back – the pain, the fear, the mad flight to safety, everything – and suddenly she remembered where she was. She sat up abruptly, wincing as her IV caught on the bed rail and forced her back down again with a thud. A machine started beeping nearby and a tall, blonde woman entered the room in a pair of black scrubs.
“Well, good morning,” she said with a cheery smile.
“Morning?” Aveny queried, panic rising in her throat. “What day is it?”
“Oh, sorry about that,” the nurse replied. “You just woke up, so you get a ‘good morning.’ Let’s see,” she paused, unearthing her cellphone from one baggy pocket, “Looks like it’s about 6:00.”
Aveny’s stomach dropped. 6:00. School ended hours ago. And she wasn’t there.
“Can I make a phone call?” she asked, shakily. She hadn’t the foggiest idea where her cell phone was.
“Sure,” the nurse replied, adjusting the IV tube and re-taping it to Aveny’s arm. “But first, do you want to tell me what happened here?” She eyed the bandaged area.
Aveny felt foggy headed. “Someone wrapped my arm…”
The nurse raised her eyebrows. “I know. We did that. I mean, how did you cut your arm open? You’d already lost a lot of blood by the time you got here.”
Aveny stumbled to form the words. “Oh. I was swimming and I cut myself on something in the water.”
“Where were you swimming?” the nurse pressed.
“In the sound,” she said, the words escaping her lips before her mind could catch up.
The nurse pursed her lips and made a humming noise. “That water’s not exactly clean. I’ll let the doctor know. She can decide if we need to add another prescription.”
Aveny nodded. “Can I use your phone?” Tremors of anxiety pulsed through her body.
The nurse grabbed a nearby phone and ran the cord out from the wall, setting it neatly on Aveny’s lap. “Would you like some help dialing?” she asked.
“No, it’s ok. I’ve got it.”
She did have it, but just barely. After a failed attempt to hold the receiver between her uninjured shoulder and her cheek, while dialing with her uninjured hand, she finally laid it in her lap to dial, before timidly lifting it to her ear.
Brand picked up on the first ring. “Hello?”
Aveny could feel the stress in his voice. “It’s me,” she replied.
“Where are you? What happened?”
Aveny couldn’t tell if it was anger or fear in his voice.
“The school called me and I left work to come get the kids. I must have called you 30 times. I tried tracking you on Google maps but it was deactivated for some reason. So I panicked and called the police.”
Aveny cringed. She had no excuse for the hours her phone sat stationary on the shore – so she’d simply deactivated it. She was so often not where she should be these days. A surge of guilt rushed through her body.
“I’m so sorry – I got hurt. I’m at Providence in Olympia.”
“What happened?” Brand pressed. “Are you ok?”
“Yeah, I cut my arm pretty badly and by the time I got here I’d lost so much blood, I passed out,” she explained. “I just woke up.”
“We’ll be right there,” he said.
“No, it’s ok. I think they’re going to release me soon,” Aveny fumbled, her statement completely foundationless.
“Aveny, if you lost so much blood that you passed out, you shouldn’t be driving home,” Brand said. “We’re coming. We can talk more when we get there.”
“Ok,” she relented.
“I’m glad you’re ok,” he said quietly.
“Thanks. Me too. I’m so sorry.” Her words were tinged with guilt.
Aveny hung up the phone and attempted to rework her jumbled memories into an explanation that actually made sense. But her eyes were already closing.