BY JOANA HILL
Shakespir EDITION | COPYRIGHT 2016 JOANA HILL
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I was just getting back from summer camp when I heard the news. There’d been a huge storm, lots of downed lines from trees. I hadn’t thought to check the weather as Tami’s mother drove us back home, out of the woods and towards civilization. As we got closer to our town she switched to the local station. It played decent music but it didn’t have a very wide range; only around fifty miles surrounding the town. Instead of the latest pop sensation, though, they were talking about the storm.
“Five have been injured and brought to the hospital, two in critical condition,” the announcer said. No names were given, and Tami and I glanced at each other, unsure what to make of it. Did we know any of them?
As if she could read my mind, my cell phone started ringing, sounding off for the first time since I’d started camp. Mom.
“Honey, I’m heading to the hospital,” she said instead of hello. “Are you still on the road?”
“Yeah, we’re about twenty miles away now,” I said, glancing up just as we passed an interstate mile marker. “What happened?”
“Your sister was trying to get home just as the storm hit. She’s in the ICU.”
I knew Mom would tell me to go home, to not worry, but how could I not? I knew she had called to assure me and so I’d know where she was when I got home. But he had jut made me worry more.
As soon as I hung up, I turned to Tami’s mother.
“Tara’s in the ICU. Can we go to the hospital?”
“Of course, honey.” She glanced in the rearview mirror at me. “Is she okay?”
“Apparently not.” The closer we got to town, the more I could see what the problem was: a storm had kicked up, and rain was coming down in sideways sheets. Even on the outskirts as we left the interstate, the devastation was clear. Trees knocked down, telephone and power lines on the ground, even the river was close to flooding it banks as we crossed the bridge. And Tara had been out in this?
The hospital was way busy for there only being seven people injured. We’d wanted to park as close as possible, but there were so many cars around that we ended up pretty far out. I was worried tiny Tami would get washed away before we reached the door, but we made it.
As I got to the waiting room and Tami’s mother waited in line to talk to the front desk, I saw people of all ages, mostly huddled into family units, whispering to each other and looking worried. Some toddlers were complaining that they were bored, not understanding what was going on.
I wish my world were still that simple.
Tara was still in surgery; they were stitching her up and setting bones. We were directed to the waiting room closest to her so we could meet up with my parents, but of course, we couldn’t see her yet.
“Bella!” Mom looked shocked when she saw us all push through the swinging doors. “I thought you were going to head home.”
“How am I supposed to just head home when I know Tara’s hurt?” I frowned at the stern look she was giving me. I knew she was ready to send me home. But I would rather wait there for hours than have to rely on Mom to call me and tell me when something happened. She tended to try to protect me, but it just frustrated me that she thought I couldn’t take things like this. As far as I was concerned, it was better knowing, whether good or bad. Waiting was the horrible part for me. If I went home, I’d just have to wait longer.
Instead of arguing the point, Mom threw her hands in the air and turned away. Dad was on a business trip, but Aunt Tia had come to wait with her. Aunt Tia was from Dad’s side, a woman Mom’s mother described as ‘too passionate for her own good.’ Passionate was her secret word for Mexican, I had found out. She wasn’t allowed to be that racist around my parents. It had apparently been a thing at their wedding and they ended up not talking to her until I was born.
“So what happened, anyway?” Tami asked as she sat down across from Aunt Tia.
“Tara was trying to get home. The clouds had been dark for a couple hours but the storm was not slow. It simply came and immediately dumped the wind and rain.” Aunt Tia’s English wasn’t always great when she was upset, and she clearly was. “Tara was out with friends and they tried to get to shelter but before they could, a tree ripped right out of the ground and downed seven telephone lines. One landed on her leg.”
“…ouch.” Tami’s alarmed face mirrored mine. “No wonder she’s in the ICU.”
“Yes, her leg was crushed. They’re trying to reconstruct it but it is taking longer than we hoped.”
Well, if the bone was entirely crushed, of course it was going to take a while to do anything. And she probably wasn’t able to be treated right away either, if she wasn’t lucky enough to be the first one brought in.
“Yeesh. Good thing Dad finally got us health insurance last month, huh?” I didn’t mean to smile, but it ended up that way. Mom gave me her patented Look, and the smile fell from my lips. “I’m sorry Mom but I really would prefer to look on the bright side. She’s being treated and they’ll fix her leg and catch any infections. She’ll be okay.”
“I know, but I still worry.”
Every single one of us snapped our heads up as a nurse entered the room.
“DeMarco family?” She gave us a kind smile as we all stood in unison. “We’ve finished with Tara. She’s still asleep but she should be waking up any minute now. Only immediate family for now, I’m afraid.”
I glanced over my shoulder at Aunt Tia, Tami and her mother. Aunt Tia looked ready to fight, but Tami took her hand and tugged her. “Come on, Tía Tia. We’ll go get something to eat. They’ll probably let us in later and I know Tara will be starving.”
That appeased her, at least for now.
Tara was the only one in her room, but it was so tiny I doubt more than two of us could’ve fit. The nurse came in as well to check up on her and her vitals, and it was like one of those block puzzles where you have to slide them around one at a time in a precise pattern to get the ball in the hole in the corner. By the time we finished shifting around, Tara’s eyes were open.
“Hey, mija.” Our mother spoke Spanish without an accent, but it was such a staple of our lives that we didn’t tend to care. “How you doing?”
“My leg feels funny,” she said, her voice sleepy. It took some effort, but she managed to turn her head and look at me. “Heeeeeey. I thought you didn’t get back until Saturday.”
“…Tara, it IS Saturday,” I said.
“Damn, the pain meds are really doing a number on me.” She didn’t even pay attention to Mom trying to admonish her for swearing. “I don’t know if it’s the meds or the pain but I don’t actually remember anything past us trying to walk home…”
“It’s probably better that way,” I said, taking the two steps it took to get to her bedside and reaching to pet her hair. “You’re going to be here for a day or two, probably. At least you get to see that pretty nurse.”
“All nurses are pretty,” Tara said, laughing and then coughing. “My throat is dry.”
Our mother turned. “I’ll go get you something to drink. Water. No caffeine.”
“Yes, Mama.” Tara lifted her head enough to watch her go before she turned back to me. “So on a scale of zero to Lindsay Lohan on a bender, how bad do I look?”
“I’d put you at zero. You always manage to come out of things looking fabulous.” I leaned down at that, pressing a kiss to her forehead. “But you should probably rest once you’ve gotten your drink.”
“And miss the pretty nurse? No way.” She coughed again. “I guess I shouldn’t talk, huh?”
“That’s never stopped you before.” I shook my head and stepped away. Mom had gotten a cup of water from the cafeteria. “Get some rest, Tara. We’ll all be here when you wake up again.”
She took the cup and eyed me. For a moment there was silence, except for the very angry storm still going on outside. Thunder sounded before Tara said, “You better be.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JOANA HILL has been writing her whole life, from class assignments to books with crayon drawings bound together with yarn. She discovered National Novel Writing Month in 2005 and has not stopped seeking out communities to support her writing ever since, leading to her obtaining a BFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maine at Farmington. These days, she lives in her hometown in Maine with three cats, lots more stuffed animals, and enough video games to keep her distracted from her writing for a long time.
Bella returns from summer camp only to find her town is practically under water, and her sister has been hurt in the storm that caused it. Will Tara be alright?