“Hello.” Turning down “Glorious” by Macklemore blasting in the background while I washed the kitchen floor with Pine Sol and water, I answer the phone after the first ring.
“It’s me.” I hear my best friend and cousin, Crystal, say from the other end. “Where are you?” I can’t see her face, but I know something is wrong. Even though she’s asked me that question a million times before, this time it’s different. There is no carefree tone. This time, it’s curt and to the point with no laughter in her voice.
“I’m home,” I say, almost whispering as my hand shakes against my ear. My mouth suddenly goes dry, my neck starting to get hot. Something inside my stomach suddenly drops when a slow burn sets in.
“You need to come to the hospital.” Crystal is an emergency room nurse at St. Mary’s, so whatever feeling I was having before has now doubled. “Blake is on his way to get you.” When she mentions my brother, I now know something is gravely wrong. The honk outside doesn’t allow me to question her any further. “You need to get in the car, okay?” she says softly but firmly. “Listen to me, Hailey. Go outside and get here.” My head nods as the hand holding my phone to my ear falls away.
The front door opens, and Blake comes in, looking at me with sorrow and sadness. His brown eyes meet mine briefly, and then he looks down. He doesn’t say anything to me; he simply holds out his hand to me. I put my hand in his, and he leads me out to his truck. He opens the door for me, helping me take that step in.
As I’m looking at him, he pulls the seat belt over my chest and buckles me in. My mind’s still playing the phone call, trying to dissect the conversation. Trying to find one little word that can be the clue. “It’s going to be okay.” His voice breaks through the haze.
I nod my head at him, then he steps back and shuts the door, jogging over to his side. He gets in and puts the truck in drive. I’m on the outside looking in, watching my life fall apart without knowing it.
The only thing I’m certain of is that the sun is shining without a cloud in the sky. As I watch a bird soar through the sky almost in the same direction we are going, I think to myself, Bad things don’t happen when it’s sunny outside, right?
I watch the bird, not even realizing we’ve made it to the hospital. I don’t have a chance to open my door because Blake has it opened before I even think to reach for the handle. “You’re going to be okay,” he assures me as he raises his baseball cap to run his hands through his short dark hair.
“What’s going on?” I have a feeling my entire life is about to change, so I beg him to tell me before we walk through those doors. Blake doesn’t answer. He just reaches down to grab my hand and lead me through the revolving doors.
The harsh smell of antiseptic immediately fills my nose. Voices bombard me, though, none of them are familiar. Glancing around, I take in the hustle and bustle of the emergency room. My heartbeat echoes in my ears as I try in vain to locate a familiar face. I just need to know who we’re here for.
As we silently walk down the corridor, my mind never stops thinking about why we are here. I look up at Blake, asking the one question that makes my heart squeeze with such intense pain, it feels like it might explode.
“Is it Mom? Dad?” I can hear the pleading in my tone. He gives me nothing, continuing to look straight ahead. My eyes go back to the floor, following the tile pattern as we make our way beyond the entrance to the emergency room. The first thing I see is both of my parents, alive and healthy. My mother has tears running down her cheeks, and my father has his arm around her shoulders. They are standing next to the nurses’ station. I look back at Blake in horror. “Is it Nanny?”
He doesn’t have time to answer because Crystal comes out from behind the nurses’ station in her everyday uniform of blue scrubs and Crocs, wearing a stethoscope around her neck.
With one glance at her face, I stop my feet in their tracks. My feet are stuck to the floor as if someone crazy glued them to that spot. I can see the hurt and tears in her eyes. She looks at me with her head tilted sideways, her bottom lip trembling. My body blocks any movements I try to make. I try to advance to Crystal, but I can’t. My knees start to give out, and a horrible shrieking sound comes from somewhere.