Power Awakened Chapter 3
“I’m sorry,” the nurse says. “Family only.”
“I am family!” I insist, attempting to shove the nurse out of my way.
The nurse straightens, squaring her shoulders and giving me a stern look. “Young lady, touch me again, and I’ll have security carry you out of here.”
I look into the nurses eyes and immediately feel the rush of information.
She’s only trying to do her job, plus the jobs of two other staff members. There’s a guy dying in the room next to Art’s, she’s got a mortgage to pay, three kids, and an alcoholic husband. And when she gets home the husband might be there, or might not be there, and she has no idea which is worse.
The nurse frowns, a look of concern crossing her tired features. “Young lady, are you okay?”
I sway and put a hand to my head, a sudden throbbing shooting through my temples. “I—I think I’m getting a migraine.”
The next thing I know, I hit the floor, landing on my tailbone. Groggy, pain shooting up my backside and throbbing in my head, I scoot and slump against the nearby wall.
Meanwhile, the same nurse I was eager to pulverize moments ago rushes around the corner. She returns in what seems like seconds, bending down and putting a small plastic cup of water to my lips, trying to get me to drink.
I sip obediently, cool water washing down my throat. Some of the grogginess begins to wear off, and I realize the nurse is speaking to me.
“Are you okay?”
I attempt a nod, and wince. My voice is hoarse, raw. “Why are you helping me?”
The woman’s brow furrows and she gives me a puzzled look. “Because I’m a nurse?” she offers. “It’s what I do?”
It’s more than that, I can sense it, but when I try to dig deeper and find out why, I’m hit with another wave of dizziness. I close my eyes briefly, then open them again. My ability to read people is becoming more powerful, but at the same time, it’s getting harder to control.
“You’ve been in a daze for about twenty minutes,” the nurse continues. “Migraines can be stress-related. You should really see someone.”
I’m about to nod my head in agreement, if only to placate her, when I remember why I’m there in the first place.
I scrabble to my feet, ignoring my aches and pains. The nurse steps back and points with her chin. “Your dad’s here now. You can go on in.”
I trail my hand along the wall as I gain my bearings and limp into the room. I’m met with a sight that makes me gasp. Art is barely recognizable. His face is bruised, resembling the color of bad fruit. One arm is in plaster, and one leg too. The only thing that still looks like him is his hair. It looks perfect, as always, which is absolutely ridiculous given the situation. If he survives this, I plan on telling him so.
A severe bruise has closed one eye, but the other is open and glistening, seeking something other than George, who is leaning over the bed muttering to him, his tone low and threatening.
“What are you saying to him?” I demand.
George straightens, giving me the evil eye. “I’m trying to find out what he’s mixed up in. He’s been in a fight. You damn kids are always going looking for trouble, expecting me and Janice to bail your sorry butts out. Well, no more. Kid finally got what he deserved.”
“Art,” I say evenly, attempting to ignore the brute on the other side of the bed, “Who did this?”
“… No … car…”
I give him a hard stare. “Last night you wouldn’t shut up. Now you won’t talk? I know you’re hiding something, Art. Covering for someone. Tell me.”
“… No body… car…”
I frown. “The nurses didn’t say anything about a car. And I know you didn’t kick your own ass. Not even you can manage that without help. Who did this?”
Ignoring my still faintly throbbing temples, I try to read him. I can’t though, there’s too much going on with George looming over us, and the nurses and orderlies rushing about. I’m forced to stop when the edges of my vision begin to blur, signaling the return of my migraine.
“Those kids in your grade,” I say, rubbing my temple. “Did they do all this?” I wave a hand over his body.
Art tries to shake his head, but winces.
George huffs and puffs, plopping into a chair in the corner. He sneers over at me. “He took a beating. Let him take it like a man. He doesn’t need a girl to clean up his messes.”
I swallow hard, my body tight with anger, but also a healthy dose of guilt. I pretty much told Art the same thing today, and left him to fend for himself. I’d told him to never back down. And now look at him.
“I warned Janice that you two were trouble,” George grumbles, continuing his verbal attacks.
Struggling to keep my voice calm, I glare at him. “George… shut the hell up.”
George looks affronted. He stands to his full height and stomps around the bed, towering over me.
“I bend over backwards for you pieces of dung, and this is how you repay me? Art got his head beat in. It ain’t my fault, but I hope it knocked some sense into him. I look forward to the day when someone knocks some sense into you.”
I lift my chin and cross my arms. “Why don’t you do it?” I dare him.
George’s face mottles, and he steps forward as if to grab me by the shoulders, but drops his hands at the last second. He knows the nurses are watching him. One has been watching the whole time and is now on the phone, probably with security. I also get a glimpse of a very tall, dark-haired guy among them. He’s hanging back, watching from the window. I can’t make out his face though.
“You’re trying to draw me out,” George sputters, evidently noticing the guy too. “But I’m smarter than you, little girl.”
I roll my eyes, forcing a bravado I’m not sure I feel. “I doubt that.”
His brows collide sharply along his forehead, and he clenches and unclenches his fists for a few seconds as he searches for words.
“I’ll see you at home.” With that, he shoves past me and throws open the door. Before stepping out of the room, he looks back at me darkly. “You’ve got guts, girl. But you better be careful. Not every guy is as nice as I am.”
The nurse bustles in right after George leaves the room, and asks if everything is okay. My entire focus is on my brother though, and I barely hear her. I’m too busy regretting every word I’d said to him earlier today and the night before.
I try once more to read him, since he’s not being particularly forthcoming about what happened. Again, I fail and only wind up feeing nauseous. My pounding headache returns, the pain so bad it feels as though my skull is splitting open while something tries to crawl out. All I’m able to pick up is a sense that Art feels as if he deserved what happened to him.
“You’re wrong,” I say quietly, stepping closer to his bedside. A tear fills his good eye and flows down his cheek. I wipe it away, and force a smile for him.
“This wasn’t your fault, Art. It was mine.”
He closes his good eye, another tear leaking from the corner. “Go home,” he chokes out.
Even though I can’t read him, I can still sense that he’s broken inside. He’s hurting not just physically, but emotionally, and somehow I know it’s going to take more than time to heal this kind of damage. Just as a bone heals badly if not properly set, so he needs realigning.
“I’m sorry, but I’m not leaving, Art.”
I place a hand on his forehead in a soothing gesture, and his good eyes closes. Within seconds, he drifts to sleep. I watch him, riddled with guilt and regret. His breathing is so shallow, only the beeping monitors let me know he’s still alive.
“I won’t ever abandon you again, Art. You can trust me on that,” I whisper over him, filled with resolve. His eye opens again, and I can tell he doesn’t believe me.
“George won’t be back today. He’s probably getting drunk now.”
“He was already drunk. Thank God I got here when I did.”
Art grimaces, and a half-cough, half-laugh erupts from his mouth. “Don’t thank Him. God didn’t stop this from happening to me.”
I shrug. “I guess it’s just a figure of speech.”
“You were right, Ems. Don’t get involved in other people’s lives. You could get hurt.”
He laughs again, and in that moment, he seems older. Perhaps it’s the cynicism. I reach out and cradle his good hand. For the second time in 24 hours, tears flow from my eyes. This time though, they seem to come from a source of great strength, rather than a broken fissure.
“I’m so sorry, Art. This should have been me.” I make a mental vow that if I can prevent it, I will never let him suffer like this again. I know it’s a case of “too little, too late,” but I don’t care. I’m also not leaving his bedside until he starts showing clear signs of improvement.
Perhaps Miss Carter had been right. Everyone needs a friend at some point in their lives. The big question is, am I capable of being one?