“But he definitely knew the robber?”
“Yeah.” Everything had started to hurt. Guess the good stuff was wearing off. “At first I thought they were like best buddies or something. But then he winked at me, and I realized he was just trying to get us all out of there alive.” It was hurting just to talk. I closed my eyes against the pain starting up inside my head. Tiny little people with tiny little pickaxes mining my frontal lobe. God only knew what they were after. “John’s brother and Chris were friends or something.”
“Holy shit. Still, the cops must have had their reasons for hauling him out of there like that,” she pressed, curious, needing to know. Georgia always asked too many questions, used too many words. “Don’t you think? I mean . . .”
I tuned her out, keeping my eyes shut, trying to calm the pain. Just breathing hurt.
Mom had returned from getting coffee or whatever. She mumbled something and the chair Georgia had been slumped in shifted. I heard footsteps and a request for a nurse out in the hallway. Hoped they brought the good drugs.
“More flowers,” said Mom the next day with an almost painfully cheerful smile. It’s a wonder her face didn’t hurt worse than mine. Her determination to remain upbeat was strong.
“The place smells like a funeral parlor.” I sniffed.
“Don’t say that.” Carefully, she moved a couple of vases in order to fit the arrangement on the hospital windowsill. “There. It’s from all the students at your school.”
I coughed out an attempt at a laugh. Yep, ribs still hurt like hell. “Yeah, right.”
In lieu of a response, she picked up her cell phone and settled back into the comfy corner chair.
“You don’t have to stay,” I said. “I know you’ve got other things to do.”
Her brows snapped together. “I’m not leaving you here on your own, honey.”
“Nothing’s going to happen.”
Oh, well. If Mom was determined to play guard dog, there wasn’t much I could do. She might even have a point. There was a big media storm happening over the whole thing. The standoff had taken long enough for some press to get there. Georgia had said there was even actual footage of Isaac getting shot making the rounds on the internet. Bastards. One overly enthusiastic reporter had already tried to sneak in and grab an exclusive. Like I had anything to say or was even remotely worth photographing. Mom hadn’t been keen on the idea of me talking to the media, but left the final decision up to me. It was a big N-O on my front.
In my dreams, my teeth still clacked against the muzzle of a gun as I stood in a stinking puddle of urine and blood. To relive the holdup again, to tell the story—the thought alone made me want to puke. With stitches holding part of my forehead and right eyebrow together, along with all the swelling and bruising, Frankenstein’s Bride would have been jealous. Why the hell would I want anyone other than the police taking my picture for evidence?
“I take it you’re still pushing to go home this afternoon?” asked Mom.
She sighed. “Your injuries aren’t nothing, honey.”
“Please,” I begged. “You heard what the doctor said: my concussion is improving and there’s nothing they can do about the cracked ribs. And I’d rest better at home—I know I would. It’d be so much quieter and I’d be in my own bed.”
Eyes narrowed on me, she sighed in defeat. “You promise me you’ll rest and follow the doctor’s orders?”
“I’m serious, Edie.”
I gave her my best sweet and innocent: eyes wide, small hopeful smile. Then with a finger I drew a line across my upper chest. “Cross my heart and hope to die.”
“Stop talking about death.”
With a final look of disapproval, she gave up the fight.
I’m pretty sure Mom was as keen to get out of the hospital as me, to get back to some kind of normalcy. Mom and I were a team. I even looked a lot like her. Tall and blond, but with boobs, belly, and butt, not to mention my lovely thunder thighs. Mom’s been on a diet almost every day of her life. Combatant would be the most accurate word to describe her relationship with food. Always denying herself, taking a crumb when she wants a full piece of cake. Maybe, for her, slipping into a small size made it all worthwhile. I don’t know. Either way, I didn’t want to live like that. Though right then, I was just glad to be alive in general.
We got home without incident. I wasn’t at the level of notoriety that the hospital had journalists camped outside it or anything. The living room couch had never felt so good. I slumped back into it. Home was everything.
Home was safe.
“That boy the police took away,” started Mom, “how did you know he was innocent?”
“He tried to save my life.”
“According to the detectives, he’s been detained on suspicion of dealing drugs before,” she said. “Among other things.”
I shook my head, immediately regretting moving. Again. Talk about never learning. “Ouch. You’re as judgy as Georgia. Doesn’t matter what he’s done before. There was only one psycho criminal there that night and it wasn’t him. Heck, Mom, if it wasn’t for John and Isaac, you’d be standing beside my coffin.”
Mom’s lips tightened in disapproval at my words, but she stopped bugging me about the topic.
Tired and bored, I sagged back against the pillows with the remote in my hand, flipping through channels. Normally I could channel-surf the day away without too many complaints. But today was different. Everything on TV seemed far off and trivial. An old black-and-white film, people arguing politics, a documentary on frogs, and some woman selling a face cream guaranteed to help you recapture your youthful glow. The model she was slapping it on looked about fourteen.
Then there was a music video featuring a girl shaking her ass in front of the camera like it was double-jointed. Her ass, not the camera. A replay of a college basketball game came next, and then there was Georgia.
She sat on a white lounge wearing a scary amount of makeup, her short, dark hair all teased up. It barely even looked like her. If they hadn’t kept stopping to flash pictures of her and me together, at camp, a selfie at the movies, and another goofing around in her room, I never would have bothered to look. Oh fuck no. She’d even given them the one of us sitting by her pool last summer with me in a bikini. It was a cool retro style and I loved it, but still. That photo had no business being on the TV without my permission.