Chapter 1 - Its all over but for Crying
"Toby, stop it! If you don’t stop playing around, I’m going to stop the car and make you walk home." His voice, always so strong, expecting to be obeyed instantly took on a tinge of frustration at the antics of his youngest child.
"Does that mean we wouldn’t have to go to this stupid party then?" Toby enquired, gleefully annoying his father.
"Stop it Toby, your father is trying to drive." Karen sighed turning around in her seat to glare at her son.
"She started it." Toby replied sulkily prodding his sister in the ribs again. Sarah mischievously stuck her tongue out at her little brother before turning back to watch the rain pour down the car window once more.
This was Karen’s big night, she had worked so hard to get this deal signed, which meant a big promotion and a huge boost to the struggling company she worked for. Sarah leant forwards and squeezed Karen’s shoulder, offering silent support. Karen smiled and patted Sarah’s hand, silently thanking the powers that be that she and her husband’s daughter had finally become friends. The girl had matured since moving to the city, and though she was just about to turn 25 she still looked young, her long jet-black hair framing her pale, elfin face.
"I’m sure there will be lots of other youngsters there that you can play with Tobe." Sarah said ruffling his hair as he climbed over her to reach for the bag of sweets.
"Yer right." He scoffed, sighing as he swiftly stuck several sweets in his mouth before his mother could notice.
"Toby put your seat belt back on. I won’t ask again. If we get stopped by the police I’m going to dock your pocket money for the rest of your life to pay for the fine." Sarah’s father glanced up into the rear view mirror and winked as he caught his daughter’s eye. He hated driving at night, and even more when it rained. Squinting against the glaring lights of the oncoming traffic he negotiated his way down the highway towards the city centre.
It was swift when it came, the punctured tyre, the truck slamming
on its brakes to avoid them, and then silence and the slow dance of the truck as it jack-knifed on the rain slick road, wrapping itself almost caressingly around the car.
Silence returned to the empty highway, the rain thrumming softly on shattered glass and severed metal, washing the blood away.
She woke gasping and screaming as the bleeping machines reached fever pitch in the dark room. People were rushing around her, poking and prodding at her with their diagnostic tools making her want to run from them, finding somewhere to hide from the pain.
"Easy Sarah! You were having a nightmare. Calm down its OK!" The nurse said whispering in the girl’s ear, stroking her long black hair.
The gasping, ragged breaths slowly eased, the racing pulse returning to it uneven jogging. Some of the doctors shook their heads sadly before leaving the room to mutter over their case reports.
"Such a shame." She heard one of them say as he looked back at her before closing the door. She closed her eyes again against the pain and his words. The monsters never disappeared when you woke.
"Leave me alone." She whimpered, her voice cracking from disuse. "Just leave me alone." The rest of the nurses looked up at her and nodded slowly, getting authorisation from the nurse still stroking her hair.
"Your councillor will be here shortly, lets get you looking half decent." The nurse continued ignoring her charges shaken head.
"What’s the point? He’s seen me look worse." Sarah sighed as the nurse picked her up bodily so that she could remove and replace her nightgown.
"Its good to talk about things Sarah. You’ve been though so much." The nurse continued, fluffing the pillows before helping the girl to lie back onto them, half sitting, and half lying. She sighed; it was better than it had been 4 weeks ago when she thought she would see another of her patients pass on. She left unspoken the results of all the hundreds of tests and operations she had been through after the accident, and the notes from her previous visits to the hospital.
Sarah lay back and watched the false ceiling above her, not wanting to see the pity in the nurse’s face.
"Good morning Sarah, and how is my favourite girl today?" James asked as he breezed in through the door into her private room and settling himself in the only comfy chair.
"Not dead yet unfortunately." Sarah rasped still watching ceiling. James sighed and got his notebook out before having a look over her record chart hung at the end of her bed.
"And I thought we’d made some progress last month."
"That was before I contracted this unknown virus that’s ripping my nerves to shreds." Sarah said scathingly.
"Another nightmare last night?" He said ignoring her vicious words. He looked up at her as she nodded, silent. He went on reading through the pages of notes.
"Look, Sarah, I know its hard, but there’s hope yet. They’ve managed to kill the virus; you’re not going to get any worse now. It time we start looking on the good side."
"The good side of what? That I’m paralysed from the chest down, and won’t ever be able to walk ever again, or that at least my broken legs and crushed pelvis can’t give me any shit when I start getting older. Maybe I should find the good side of the fact that I survived the wreck that killed my whole family? It isn’t that I don’t appreciate what you’re trying to do for me James, but I really don’t want to talk about it."
"I hate seeing you like this. You’ve got so much to do with your life, you’re pretty, and young and talented…"
"But who’s ever going to see past my wheelchair now? Who’s going to want to employ a disabled actor? Who’s ever going to look at me and see me, and think that I’m pretty?" Sarah wept, covering her scarred face with her hands. She didn’t have the strength to push him away as he came and sat next to her on the bed pulling her up so that he could hug her.
"Its OK to cry." He whispered, finally glad that something had moved this emotionless young woman to cry openly at last. He remembered the first time he’d met her, not so many years ago, how painfully thin she was, her hazel eyes haunted and lost.
They’d never found the man who’d raped and beaten her. She’d never even cried then, never where anybody could see she had a weakness. Now she sobbed against his chest, wrapping her fingers into the cloth of his shirt, crying for her lost family, and childhood and her hopes and dreams of being an actress.
"They’re throwing me out." She whispered once she’d got her emotions under control once more. "They think I don’t hear them outside the door. There’s nothing else they can do for me here, and they want the bed for another intensive care patient. They should have turned the machines off weeks ago and saved themselves the trouble of trying to be nice to me." Shbe winced as she tried moving.
"It’s their fault I got this stupid virus in the first place. Their fault not mine, but I have to live with the consequences whilst they go home to their wives and 2.4 children. Oh James, I’m never going to be able to have children!" She wailed again, tears flowing down her face.
"I’m sorry." He whispered. "Perhaps it will be a little easier for you outside of here. You can return to your flat or to your…"
"No! I don’t want to go back there. Not yet. I’m not ready. I’m not ready for any of this." She said, her arms going limp against his chest.
"I’m going to go and speak to the doctors, I’ll be back in a moment." He said helping her back down onto the pillows and stroking her hair away from her face. She nodded silently staring back up at the ceiling.
He’d never had to deal with somebody as traumatised as she was, but then, he’d only been a psychiatrist for 6 years, and Sarah had been his longest client, with the worst kind of ordeals to deal with. It would be worse for her now she’d lost her family as well; he paused as he closed the door, watching her stare numbly at the ceiling. She looked so broken.
"I’m sorry, but there are other patients who need the bed."
"Miss Williams’ virus has been dealt with, her broken bones are almost healed, and she no longer needs the skills of our intensive care unit now that the nerve deterioration has stopped. I know it sounds hard, and I know that we can only apologise for the malpractice the hospital is responsible for." The head of the intensive care unit sighed rubbing his hands across his worn face.
"It is so hard to prevent these super viruses these days, as soon as we control one, another mutates and becomes harder to deal with. I have ensured that she gets the best possible care from the paediatrics unit, and from the physiotherapists, but really, she needs to move on."
"Thank you for your blunt assessment. Just one more question whilst I have a moment of your time. What would you suggest she try and move on with first? The loss of mobility? The death of her family? Her destroyed ambitions and the nightmares she still has of the crash? Or the fact that the people who were meant to be fighting to save her life almost killed her because somebody forgot to scrub up properly?" James snarled standing up and turning left the office and the department head spluttering behind his desk.
"Hey there dreamer." He whispered as he caught the movement of her hands as she woke. "Feeling hungry? They left some sort of congealed things in a plate over there if you are." James grinned taking hold of her slightly cool hand as Sarah turned her head and smiled at him.
"I’d much prefer a BK." She said quietly. "Are you sure you can’t smuggle one in?"
"And have the rest of the hospital patients begging me to let them share? No way! Anyhow, like I’ve said before, the first thing we do when we get out of here tomorrow is find the nearest drive thru." He sighed to himself as he watched her smile fade when he mentioned her finally leaving the hospital after 7 weeks of pain and fear.
"I’m going to be right there with you." He said reassuringly stroking a stray piece of hair away from her face. She nodded dully and continued to stare at the ceiling.
"Look, I thought I’d let you know, your lawyer is coming in a while. There are a few last things that need to be done about your families things."
"I don’t want to see him."
"I know you don’t, but it can’t be put off any longer Sarah." She nodded again, too tired to fight about it any longer, they would make her listen to the reading of the will whether she wanted to or not. Just like everything else. They were moving her out of the private room even though she didn’t want to face the outside world. They had decided to sell her apartment and her parents home to buy a large house with a garden in the city so she could be close to the amenities, even though she didn’t want to.
They had even decided that she would want a live in help at the new house so that she wouldn’t be on her own, even though all she desperately craved was the silence of her own head. She could feel the world turning around her, people eddying to and fro, swimming in the currents of life, but she was caught out on a limb, not going anywhere, stuck in a different moment.
She listened to the hiccupping irregular beat of her heart, and the rasping of breath in her chest, listening for them beginning to slow as darkness crept across her field of vision. Just silence.
"SARAH!" James gasped jumping up to shake her, his heart in his throat as he took note of the blueness of her lips, the distinct lack of discernable breath and the glassy look in her eyes.
She blinked and stared at him, no apology for not wanting to continue breathing in her emotionless gaze.
"Please don’t do that, you know it frightens the hell out of me!" He sighed shaking his head as he collapsed back down onto his chair.
"Don’t you have other clients you need to see?" She asked turning her head away from him.
"Nope, today is your day, I’m not leaving until your sarcasm and dry humour drive me away."
The knock on the door interrupted them and was immediately followed by Grievier, Sarah’s father’s lawyer.
"Good afternoon Sarah." He said quickly placing his briefcase down on the bedside table.
"Just a few last things, and then we’re all done." He said with a quick smile. "There has been a complaint made against the will concerning… well, concerning your mother." He said, trying to keep the nervousness out of his voice.
"Doesn’t surprise me." Sarah sighed bitterly. "So what does she want now?"
"An amendment to clause 34A section 3C. She wants half the proceeds from the sale of the family home rather than a quarter. I think, to be honest, in order to make life simpler, we should agree to the amendment, but refuse her request on the pension fund."
"Whatever. I don’t care about any of it." She glanced furtively at the small shoebox lying next to her, her most treasured things. She had asked James to get them for her when she realised that she would be in this small room for some time. That was all she cared about, a single small box of memories and childhood dreams, very few of which included her mother.
Sarah’s glitteringly perfect, beautiful actress mother, who cared nothing for her daughter and for her injuries, or for her loneliness after she had left when Sarah was still a child. She’d sent a note when they’d informed her of the accident detailing that she would be unable to attend her ex-husbands funeral, and that she hoped Sarah would get well soon, and how soon could she begin legal proceedings.
"If you’ll just sign here, here, and lastly, here." The small, neatly dressed lawyer said drawing Sarah back to the present. She took the pen off him and scrawled her name where he had indicated.
"All done now. Fingers crossed this will be the last time I’ll need to come visit. If you need me in the mean time, just give Sandra a call, she’ll page me and I’ll come over straight away."
"Grievier, here." Sarah said, pulling a slightly crumpled envelope out of the shoebox with his name elegantly written on the front. "You’ll know what to do with this when the time is right." She whispered as he took the envelope from her. He nodded silently, acknowledging the pleading look in her eyes. "Thank you. For everything."
"Should you need me…" He said pausing by the door and nodding at James.
"I’ll call." She replied, the words making her throat close up in the wash of memories, as he walked away to be replaced by her physiotherapist.
"Well, this is the bit I hate, so I’m going go and see if I can’t fix up those awful colours in the new house for tomorrow." James said, wrinkling his nose at the thought of having to paint.
"I’d offer to help, but then I’d have 2 tone walls for the rest of my life." Sarah said as he hugged her goodbye.
"That's my girl! I’ll see you in the morning then." He waved staying out of the way of the rather large physiotherapist who was getting her things out over the bed.
"Good bye James." Sarah said sadly as he closed the door behind him.