Written by Anna Abner
Copyright 2020 by Anna Abner
Miguel Diaz floats along a fluffy, puffy river made of cotton balls. Someone screams his name, and he pops open his eyes on a familiar high ceiling.
What was he doing sleeping at school?
He tries to speak, to sit up, to understand what’s going on, but he can’t make his body work.
Even full of panic, he recognizes Samantha LaRusso’s voice and he remembers trying to protect her and the moment Robbie pushed him off a staircase landing.
Miguel wets his lips in anticipation of speaking, but the only sound he creates is a whimper.
“Miguel, oh my God, don’t try to talk. You’re going to be fine. You’re okay.”
The more times Sam says he’ll be fine, the less he believes her.
Something is wrong.
He stares at Sam as she clings to his right hand. Why can’t he feel her? Why can’t he squeeze her fingers and reassure her?
A stranger bends over him, maybe touching him, he can’t tell. Lots of words. Blood pressure. Hospital. Oxygen.
Something is definitely wrong. Exactly how bad was his fall from the landing?
The stranger traps his head in a stiff collar and lifts him onto a stretcher. Is Sam still there? Is she still holding his hand? He can’t tell because the stranger helps carry him away and he’s back on a fluffy, puffy river made of cotton balls.
Sam insists on riding in the ambulance because there is no one else around who cares as much about Miguel as she does, not that it makes any difference. If anything, watching him pass out and have a seizure on the gurney only makes her more afraid. She cries so hard her face is a mask of tears and snot, but she doesn’t let go of Miguel’s hand the whole way there. Even though he hasn’t reacted to her touch from the moment she reached his broken, twisted body on the staircase, she can’t stop hoping his fingers will curl around hers.
With a squeal of tires, the ambulance pulls in front of the emergency room and things happen fast. Miguel is whisked away to places she can’t follow, a policeman is asking her questions she can’t answer, and her phone starts the incessant beeping and ringing that won’t stop for days.
When Sam finally, after forty-eight hours of agony, visits Miguel in his hospital room, he looks different. His body seems shrunken to half its normal size, his eyes are bruised and sunken deep into his face, and his color is closer to almond milk than mocha. He is a pale replica of himself, tubes and wires slithering out from every corner of his faded hospital robe, his upper body frozen inside a contraption made of screws and metal.
Ms. Diaz talks to the nurse, so Sam has a few moments alone with the silent, unmoving figure on the bed.
“Hey, Miguel,” she breathes, not expecting a response and getting none. “It’s me. Sam.” A machine beeps and hisses, his chest rises and falls, but nothing else changes. “I’m so worried about you. Please get better.” Without even thinking about it, she sinks into the plastic chair beside his bed and clasps his hand. “Please, Miguel. You have to wake up. Okay?” She squeezes limp, warm fingers. “Okay?”
The fluffy, puffy river made of cotton balls vomits Miguel up without warning, and he opens his eyes to burning lights. He doesn’t know where he is, when he is. He feels like a man out of time. He tries half-heartedly to call out for help, but no sound emerges from his parched throat.
He feels something, though. He hears something. A voice. Someone is there. Thank God. To be so disoriented and alone would be too much to bear.
He tries to speak again.
At last, his ears register a voice.
“Miguel, relax. Your mom is getting the doctor.”
He knows that voice.
“Sam?” he tries to say.
And then she’s leaning into his field of vision and his eyes adjust, the light stops burning, and he is awestruck by her blue eyes and beautiful face framed by long blonde hair.
“Miguel, you’re safe. You’re in the hospital. Your mom went to find the doctor. Okay? Can you hear me?”
She grasps his hand to her chest, and he remembers the last time she held his hand when he couldn’t feel her, couldn’t hold her.
He can feel her now. Though his body lies heavy and offline, he wants to please her. Wants to touch her.
With what feels like monumental willpower, he forces his fingers to move. Slowly, he squeezes.
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