calla seraphine taylor hadn't spent a lot of time in hospital rooms, before now. she was more familiar with care homes, which tried just a little too hard to make themselves comfortable and remind their patients of home. they had walls painted warm colours and too many potted plants crowding every surface, like if they breathed enough life into the place then maybe no one would remember that the people there were half-dead. hospitals were different – they were white and sterile and it felt cold, though sometimes it was hard to tell if that was a physical cold or something purely imagined.
but now, she was fully confined to one, and she hated it. she had woken up here yesterday with her aunt and uncle hovering near the door as if they didn't really want to be there at all, and a nurse leaning over her to check her vitals and ask her if she remembered her name. the first question out of her mouth had been, "where's justin?"
justin was dead.
she wondered if, perhaps, he would have made it if she hadn't interfered the way she had. if she had pushed harder when ryan said they couldn't call an ambulance because of all the underage kids drinking at his parents' place while they were out of town. if she had never climbed into the driver's seat of justin's car, maybe he would still be alive. but she had, and his funeral was going to be tomorrow afternoon; that's what her aunt and uncle had told her first thing this morning.
they were down in the hospital cafeteria for breakfast; she'd asked them to get her something more edible than the tray of food she had stubbornly left untouched next to her bed. the door to her room opened and revealed not them, but a doctor, and calla looked up, opening her mouth to take in breath to speak, but it still hurt to breathe too deeply, because they'd told her that one of her broken ribs had punctured a lung, not that she really cared when justin's lungs weren't working at all anymore. she wound up pressing her right palm lightly over the bandages and hesitating a moment longer, a shallow less-painful breath before she asked, skipping over a hello entirely, "d'you think i can get out of here tomorrow?"
Actually, he knew she wouldn't. He'd been there.
But she did survive, and she'd have to deal with those consequences, whatever that may mean for her. And, having been there himself, he knew that it was impossible to go through that alone. Or, almost. Not completely. He was proof of that. He hoped it was easier for her. That, unlike him, she'd be able to forget the details. (She probably wouldn't.)
She'd woken up yesterday, though, a few hours after her surgery when they'd weaned her off the anesthetic. He'd waited a little longer than he probably should have, but he knew she wouldn't rest easy once she found out, so he'd wanted to give her body a little extra time to heal. He hadn't been there when she woke up, though. Just a nurse and a surgical intern who'd been in the operating room. They'd kicked him out, told him he needed to take a break and return in the morning. So he'd gone home, relived Dani's death a dozen times, slept an hour or two, and then came back and now he'd finally get a chance to speak with her.
He was about to ask her how she was feeling when she moved her hand to her chest, feeling the tenderness there, but she spoke first anyway. Stubborn little creature. Children were resilient, of course; she'd heal faster than most, thanks to her age, but she shouldn't have to heal at all. He raised his eyebrows with his question, pausing, then pulling up a chair to her bedside. The nurses were all over her vitals; he trusted them to let him know if they were wrong, he rarely bothered to check them unless the patient was expressly not stable. There was no point expending the extra energy on something so unnecessary.
...No. That pain? It's not going away anytime soon, Calla. You were seriously injured - it will take some time to recover. There's no escaping that.
He probably should discuss this with her guardians - aunt and uncle, if he recalled correctly, which he always did. But she was clearly old enough to take things into her own hands (or, thought she was), and who was he to say fifteen was too young to start knowing these sorts of things? He'd started to learn at five. He sighed softly, reaching out to steal a grape from her tray, knowing better than to touch the pudding. He popped it into his mouth and chewed a moment.
she removed her hand from her ribs, flattening it over the crisp white sheets instead. it didn't do much good; it's not like it made him suddenly think that it stopped hurting to breathe.
he took a grape from her tray, which would have bothered her if it hadn't been a gross hospital grape. it took a moment for him to chew and swallow, and she didn't feel much like talking – more like throwing something, because whoever this doctor was, he wasn't going to sign whatever papers needed to be signed for her to get out of here – and so silence overtook the room, aside from the soft beeps of the machines. finally, he spoke again: "why tomorrow?"
shrugging one-shouldered in a way that managed not to move the rest of her torso too much, calla avoided looking at his face. "it's justin's," she started, but the word funeral wouldn't come out. it caught in her throat and, after a second of trying to will herself to say it, she gave up. maybe it was better to be here for it, anyway, since she was the reason it was happening. to tug the focus away from this (hers or his? she wasn't sure), she crossed her arms, accidentally brushing too heavily against her bandages, winced and uncrossed them again, and picked at invisible dirt on the bedsheets. "how'd you know my name?"
Except then she spoke and pulled him away from it. The small smile returned to his face - a practiced mannerism from his days of needing to work on it and force good bedside manner. It was no longer an issue, just second nature. He even managed a soft chuckle as she questioned his knowledge, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees.
Well, I may not have been here when you woke up, but I did operate on you. Your name is on your chart.
He motioned to the plate of food on the table then. She may not feel like it, but she did need to eat. It wasn't the best of food, but it was made for post-surgery patients; nothing too rich or hard on the system. She'd hate it, but she'd have to stomach it - at least for a short while.
You should eat, you know. It's not all bad. Made sure they gave you the better stuff, even.
"well," he said through a quiet laugh, "i may not have been here when you woke up, but i did operate on you." oh. she didn't say it out loud, but formed it with her mouth anyway. "your name is on your chart." so this was the doctor who had patched up her punctured lung so she could breathe properly. she opened her mouth to say something (a thank you, probably) but he beat her to it. "you should eat, you know" – here, he gestured to the food in front of her – "it's not all bad. made sure they gave you the better stuff, even."
"my aunt and uncle said they'd get me something downstairs," she answered stiffly. it was probably against the rules for patients, but she had pouted and complained enough about the hospital-issued patient food that they had agreed as they left the room. "um, thanks, by the way. for... you know."
He had a feeling that wouldn't go over well. He could already tell she wasn't exactly going to be an easy child to handle. Some were; some cooperated and were sent home sooner rather than later because they did. But she seemed stubborn. And he couldn't blame her - she obviously didn't have the easiest life - but that meant this was going to be tough for him and for the nurses.
Maybe he'd bring her something. Her aunt and uncle didn't know what would be safe for her, but he did. He could do that.
...Oh. No need to thank me. It's my job, after all.
He took a moment to figure out that was what she was thanking him for, but once he did, he responded quickly. He had never gotten use to being thanked. You would think, by now, he would have. Almost every patient he saw in the operating room, he saw on the worst day of their lives. And then he had to go tell their parents, their children, their siblings, their spouse - their whoever - that they were either okay. Or that they weren't. The latter never thanked him, and somehow, those were usually easier to bear. He knew how to console someone. Accepting thanks was another story. He hesitated a moment more, eying her carefully, then took in a breath.
...I'll make you a deal. Eat, and you can go. To the funeral tomorrow. I want you back here after, but... you can go for that. If you're careful. And if you eat.
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