There was searing pain in my side. My head was throbbing. When I opened my eyes my vision was blurry. I tried to remember where I was and what happened but nothing was coming to me. I called out the first thing that came to mind.
“Eric!” I screamed loudly. I tried to move, but was pinned. Where was I?
There was something in my eyes. I lifted my hand up to my face. It was all wet and sticky. Blood. The smell told me it was blood. Worse, I smelled smoke. I leaned forward, causing more pain in my side. I was trapped. Seat belt! I was in a car! Tray’s car. Tray was taking me home. He was turning left when we were hit. I coughed because of the smoke that was pouring into the car.
“Sookie!” Eric was screaming my name over and over. Then he was there beside the car. “Sookie, can you hear me?”
“I’m trapped!” I said as loud as I could.
“Sookie, unlock your door. I’m going to get you out.”
“I’m trapped!” I repeated. I didn’t think he would be able to get the door open anyway.
Eric ran around to the other side of the car. “Lover, cover your head.” He called to me.
I turned away from the driver’s side and a few seconds later I heard him trying to break the window. I coughed and gagged over the smoke that was pouring into the car. It took a few attempts, but Eric finally broke the glass. He reached inside and unlocked the door. When he opened it, he nearly yanked it off the hinges to get to me.
“Sookie, where are you hurt?” I felt his hands on my face, wiping away the blood that was near my eyes.
“My head and my side. My leg is a little sore, too, but I think it’s just bruised.”
“What about your neck? Can you feel this?” Eric prodded my left arm.
“How about this?” He reached down and pinched my left calf.
He breathed a sigh of relief and reached over into the front seat to turn off the engine of the car. “I’m going to get out but it might hurt.”
“It’s okay, just get me out.” My voice cracked.
“You’re going to be fine, Sookie, I promise. Just stay awake for me, okay?”
I nodded carefully and tried to push myself over in the seat to get out of the car. Eric ended up lifting me once I worked my way free of the front seat that had been a bit contorted in the crash. I hadn’t heard a peep out of Tray or Amelia since it happened. Both of their airbags had gone off. Amelia had been out of it before she’d been put in the car, thanks to the amount of alcohol she’d had. I could see blood coming out of the side of Tray’s head. It was smeared on his window.
Eric pulled me from the car as sirens started to wail in the distance. The closest firehouse was about two miles away. He kissed my cheek and then turned me over to Pam, who had just shown up with Johan, Felicia, Indira, Chow, Clancy and Rasul. Pam and Felicia attended to me while the men went about trying to free Amelia and Tray from the wreckage. I coughed and coughed, trying to suck in as much air as I could. Pam pressed a towel to my head where I’d been cut.
“Sookie, what happened?” Pam asked me as she and Felicia walked me to the side of the road so I could sit down at a bus stop bench while we waited for the ambulances to arrive.
“I don’t know. We were making a left and then we were hit. I came to and Eric was calling me. I didn’t see who hit us.” My lower lip trembled as I watched Eric and Johan trying to free Tray from the car.
Emergency crews started to arrive and Eric was forced away from the car. He gave what information he could about what he saw before returning to me. The first ambulance arrived and Amelia was loaded into it since she was unconscious. A police officer approached me to take my statement about what had happened. I told him the same thing I told Pam. I felt guilty for not knowing more about what had happened, but I’d barely been awake when we’d been hit.
“What about Mr. Dawson? Was he drinking tonight?” The officer asked.
“I think he might have had a beer earlier on in the night but he definitely wasn’t drunk.” I knew that for a fact. Tray had planned on being the designated driver. He’d lost his father in a drunk driving accident when he was thirteen, his father being the drunk. As a result, Tray had very strong feelings about the whole issue and made a point never to drive drunk. Ever.
“And you don’t recall anything about the vehicle that struck you?”
“No, sir, I my eyes were closed when it happened. I just saw light. When I opened my eyes there was blood in them and my boyfriend was screaming at me.” I explained to the officer, my eyes drifting over to Eric, who had been taken to be treated for smoke inhalation and was sitting on the bumper of an ambulance breathing through an oxygen mask. I gasped and started to stand up.
“Sookie, no stay here.” Pam wouldn’t let me up.
“Eric.” My lip trembled.
“He’s fine, just a little smoke inhalation.” Pam’s voice was surprisingly soothing and gentle.
The ambulance with Amelia in it was about to take off. “Could you let the paramedics know that she’s allergic to acetaminophen?”
“Of course.” The officer nodded and then spoke into his radio to relay the information. He asked a few more questions as a new set of paramedics made their way over to me to assess my injuries.
I was still having a little trouble breathing and my side still hurt. The bleeding from my head seemed to have stopped but they were concerned I might have a concussion all the same. They took my vital signs and told me there was a possibility I might have a few broken ribs. X-rays would confirm it once I arrived at the hospital. One of those foam collars was put around my neck, even though I said I wasn’t feeling any pain there. I was put on a gurnee and Pam walked with me to the ambulance.
“Sookie, are you okay?” Johan appeared, sans roadkill wig.
“I’ll be fine. Thank you for helping my friends.” I squeezed his hand when he offered to me.
Before the paramedics could load me into the back of the ambulance, he bent and kissed my forehead. “You’re a tough cookie.”
“Take care of Eric for me, okay?”
“I’m going with you.” Eric appeared.
“Family only.” The paramedic said.
“He’s my boyfriend. I don’t have any family up here.” I looked up at the paramedic with scared eyes. I really didn’t want to go to the hospital alone.
Thankfully the medics relented and Eric was allowed to come with me. Once I was loaded into the ambulance he sat down on the bench to my left and carefully picked up my hand. He leaned closer to me and kissed my hand, keeping a close eye on what the paramedic was doing. The doors to the back of the ambulance slammed shut and then we were off.
“On a scale of one to ten, Sookie, how bad is the pain?” The medic asked.
“I’d say about a six. I’m still having trouble breathing.”
An oxygen mask was put over my face. “It’s probably just from smoke inhalation, but if you broke a rib, there’s a possibility you punctured your lung. We won’t know until the docs can get you x-rayed.”
I looked over at Eric who was doing his best to give me reassuring smiles and gentle squeezes to keep me calm. Believe it or not, the ambulance got stuck by a train. We had to sit there and wait since they weren’t allowed to take an alternate route.
“What if I was having a heart attack? You’d still have to sit here?” I looked to the paramedic.
He nodded and said, “It’s protocol to wait for the train to clear.”
“Wow.” I was suddenly worried about Amelia and hoped her ambulance had made it to the hospital before the train started.
“Is there anyone you want me to call when we get to the hospital?” Eric asked me while we waited.
I thought about it for a moment. It was late and I wasn’t in life threatening condition. “I’ll call my parents in the morning. The only person we might need to call is Amelia’s father.”
I really didn’t want to have to be the one to call Copely Carmichael but if Amelia didn’t wake up on her own I wouldn’t have much of a choice. Cope- as he insisted I call him- didn’t much approve of Amelia’s relationship with Tray. He couldn’t quite get past the age difference between them and didn’t think Tray was good enough for his baby girl. If he bothered to look at something other than a person’s bank account or pedigree, he’d realize that Tray was perfect for Amelia. He tolerated all of her quirks. He found all of her little neurosis and outbursts to be endearing. He had endless patience for her exuberance. Her rapid mood swings didn’t phase him at all. And most importantly, he loved her more than anything in the world. If that wasn’t good enough for Copely, then no one ever would be.
The train finally finished and the ambulance was able to pull into the emergency bay. Eric go out and waited for the paramedics to unload me. He held my hand as I was wheeled into the emergency room, his thumb rubbing circles on the back of it. He was stopped by a nurse who told him he wouldn’t be able to go into the trauma room with me.
“I’ll be fine, Eric.” I smiled up at him, ignoring the pain in my head that it caused.
He dipped quickly to kiss my forehead. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.” I gave his hand one last squeeze and then I had to let go.
I was poked, prodded, tested, scanned, stitched, x-rayed and examined until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. I was doped up on various medications to prevent infection and keep the pain to a minimum. I was passed out when they let Eric into my little curtained off section of the emergency room. If it weren’t for the drugs, there’s no way I would have slept. There were too many people seeking treatment on Halloween night. I had strange dreams of cartoon flames tap dancing on the seats of Tray’s car, but none of them actually touched me.
When my eyes fluttered open Eric was sitting in a chair next to my bed, slumped over with his head resting on my hip. I lifted my hand and it took much more energy than I ever could have imagined. I carefully ran my fingers through his hair and waited for him to stir. He groaned my name, which made me smile.
“Ten more minutes, lover.” He whispered. How could I say no to that?
I rested my hand on the back of his head and let my eyes close. The next time I opened them it was because a nurse came in to check my vital signs. I had no idea what time it was and I’d forgotten which hospital I’d been brought to the night before. The only thing that remained constant was Eric resting beside me. He was breathing evenly. My hip was numb from being used as his pillow but I wouldn’t dare push him off of me.
“How are you feeling?” The nurse asked.
“Like I was hit by a car.” I joked wryly.
“Dr. Ludwig will be making her rounds shortly and she’ll go over everything with you. My name is Kim. I’ll be taking care of you until we get you situated in a room upstairs.” The nurse told me.
“Upstairs? How long am I staying?” I really wished Eric would wake up for this.
“You’ll have to wait until Dr. Ludwig gets here.” Kim gave me a bright smile meant to set me at ease but it did precious little. “In the meantime, if there’s anything you need, just push this button. If you’re hungry I can have a tray brought in.”
“No, I’m fine. I just want to know what’s wrong with me.”
Kim stepped around the bed and checked the IV bags that were hanging from the pole next to me. “All I can tell you is that you’re very lucky, Sookie.”
“What does that mean? What about my friends? Are they okay?” My eyes began to water and I wiggled under Eric, hoping it would wake him up.
Kim gave me a sympathetic stare and my heart sank. “The gentleman, Tray, was taken into surgery about two hours ago to repair some internal bleeding.”
“And Amelia?” I squeaked as Eric started to sit up.
“I can’t give you details on Miss Broadway’s status.” Kim’s eyes dropped.
“Bullshit. Please, she’s my best friend. I’m the closest thing she has here to family. We grew up in the same town. Please, just tell me if she’s okay. She has to be okay.” My voice quivered and tears spilled down my cheeks, burning my eyes.
“Sookie, you need to calm down. Now, as soon as Miss Broadway’s family has been notified-”
“What’s going on?” Eric interjected when he saw how upset I was.
“Something’s wrong with Amelia and they won’t tell me.” I glared at Kim.
Eric picked up my hand and laced his fingers with mine. “Can you give us a minute?” He asked from behind me.
Anxious to be out of the line of fire, Kim scurried from my little area. I squeezed my eyes closed and let my head roll toward Eric. He wiped away my tears with the pads of his thumbs. His chair dragged loudly on the floor as he pulled it closer to the bed.
“Lay with me.” I moved over and made as much room for him in my bed as I could.
Awkwardly, Eric got up and stretched out beside me in my uncomfortable hospital bed. I snuggled close to him and closed my eyes, trying to pretend that we were back at his house, in his bed. I felt safer there. In Eric’s bed Tray wasn’t in surgery and Amelia’s life wasn’t hanging in the balance. I wasn’t hooked up to monitors and IVs. I wasn’t broken and bruised. I wasn’t stitched or sore. In his bed it was just the two of us and the rest of the world didn’t exist. I’d never wanted to feel Jeter licking my feet so badly.
“I think I need to call Cope.” I whispered to Eric, who was gently twirling some of my hair around his fingers.
“It’s not even seven in the morning yet, Sookie, and you don’t even know what to tell him other than there’s been an accident. Why don’t we wait until Dr. Ludwig comes back?” Eric suggested.
“You met her? What’d she say? Why am I being moved upstairs?” I rapid fired questions at him.
“I met her briefly when they finally let me come back here after you were taken for tests. From all I could gather, they’re concerned about head trauma. They ended up having to put in two stitches to close your cut and you have a severe concussion. They just want to make sure there’s no further significant damage.” Eric explained to me calmly.
“I want to go home.” I whined.
“It’s better if you stay, at least for the night. Let them make sure you’re okay.”
“But you could take care of me.”
“Lover, I have no plans to leave your side whether it’s here or at home, but I would feel much better if we got the okay from the doctors before they let you out of here. Why don’t you try to get some more sleep before Dr. Ludwig comes back? I promise to wake you when she gets here.” Eric kissed my forehead.
He was doing his best to pacify and placate me. Under other circumstances I would have argued but I was just too tired for that. I turned onto my left side since my right was still too tender to lay on. Eric moved up behind me, spooning me the way he did when we were back home. He put his arm around me but not too tightly. I felt his warm breath on my neck and heard him inhale the smell of my hair. He hummed quietly behind me to the tune of a Smashing Pumpkins song I knew we both loved and I fell asleep.
Dr. Amy Ludwig was a tiny woman who spoke to me matter-of-factly about my condition. While it wasn’t serious, she told me I should consider myself lucky to be so undamaged considering where the impact had been on the car. In addition to the concussion I also had two cracked ribs, lots of internal bruising and several cuts from the broken glass. I’d also sprained my right wrist. I would be kept overnight for observation just to make sure my head injury wasn’t more severe.
“What about Tray?” I asked her.
She set her lips in a line while she considered what to tell me. “Mr. Dawson presented with fluid in his belly. He suffered some internal bleeding which the surgeons were able to stop. He’s in recovery and will probably be here for a few days. He also suffered a broken nose, a concussion and whiplash. All things considered, he was lucky as well.”
I swallowed hard and asked, “And Amelia? How’s she doing?”
“Amelia’s condition is far more serious. She required surgery also. She hit her head quite hard and there was some swelling in her brain. She’s currently in a medically induced coma. The impact of the crash caused an compound fracture in right leg. She was also burned by the engine fire. Her burns weren’t too severe but there’s still concern for infection. Ultimately, only time will tell if she will make a full recovery. She’s being monitored closely in intensive care.” Dr. Ludwig informed me. “Do you have any emergency contact information for Miss Broadway?”
“I have her father’s phone number. He’s the only blood relative I know of but he’s all the way in Louisiana, assuming he’s home. Her father travels extensively for business. I’m the closest thing Amelia has to family.” I explained to Dr. Ludwig.
“If you could get me the contact numbers, I would appreciate it so I can pass it along to her physician.” Dr. Lugwig stepped back from my bed. “We’re hoping to move you upstairs in the next hour or so. Kim explained to you about the call button?”
I nodded that she had and Dr. Ludwig took her leave. I breathed a sigh of relief that Amelia was still alive, even if her condition wasn’t nearly as good as I’d hoped it would be. Eric gathered me closer to him and kissed the top of my head while I cried. I cried for me, for Tray, for Amelia and even for whomever it was that had hit us.
“Eric, have they found the person who hit us?” I asked suddenly.
“Not yet, lover. There weren’t a whole lot of details to go on since you were the only one conscious when the police came.”
“You didn’t see anything?”
“I didn’t see the actual accident. I heard it as I was walking back into the bar. I heard the impact and when I turned my head the car was already speeding away. It was too far away for me to see what kind of car it was. All I know is that it was painted a dark color. The airbags must have been disabled because I didn’t see them when the car sped off. So whoever hit Tray’s car is probably being treated at another hospital somewhere.”
“Who would do this, Eric? I mean, who would hit someone like that and just leave the scene?” I figured it had to be a drunk, but even so, you’d think there would be some sort of compassion or guilt that would keep them from fleeing the scene of an accident.
“The police are checking the security footage from the hardware store to see if maybe they can get something.” Eric told me.
There was a hardware store right there on Grand Avenue that had security cameras all around its perimeter. He was right in that it was our best shot to at least see what other cars were on the road, even if it didn’t happen to catch the actual accident. I doubted we would be that lucky. I wondered what the odds were that the person who’d hit us would turn themselves in. I doubted it was going to happen but I would keep my fingers crossed.
An hour later I was moved up to the fourth floor and brought a breakfast tray. I wasn’t very hungry and only ate the oatmeal. Eric tried to insist I eat more but I couldn’t, so he finished it. The medications I was on kept me sleepy and flitting in and out of consciousness. Before I could drift off again I gave Eric Copely’s phone number to pass along to Amelia’s doctors. Then I sent him home to shower and get us each a change of clothes. He took my keys from my purse and then realized he had no way of leaving, so he called Johan to come stay with me.
I wasn’t very good company, I’m afraid, since I slept the entire time Eric was gone. I fell into a deep, dreamless sleep. My body felt heavy and wrong against the hospital bed. Johan remained surprisingly quiet and watched television while I slept. A woman’s voice calling my name was what woke me. My eyes fluttered open and immediately welled with tears.
“Mommy.” I croaked and then fell apart.