Page 84 of We Were Once

29

Chloe

There’s a state of unconsciousness when you waver between lucidity and dreaming. The always felt presence of my mom and the faintest scent of her Chanel perfume fragrant the air. But it’s not her that kept my mind at peace while asleep.

It was Joshua.

I can feel him around me as if his arms are holding me. His lips kissing me as he whispers, “I love you,” in my ear. He’s here even when I can’t respond. I feel him, a dream so real that the heat from his cheek still warms mine. So real that I rush through the fog to find him.

Disappointment greets me when he doesn’t. Too dark to see much, my eyes go to the light sneaking in under the door.

My body hurts, needing a good stretch from lying around too long. I never did like lazy days unless I was being lazy with Joshua on the couch or in bed. That’s my favorite way to spend my time, the days when neither of us had to leave for hours. Giddiness slinks up my spine, and I smile.

Wanting to find him, I flip the blanket from my waist, but pain grapples its way up my arm when the IV is tugged. I stare at my hand, the bruising that blotches the top, and the needle. Why would I . . . My eyes begin to adjust and then go wide as fear grips me. Monitors on my left, an unfamiliar window on the right. Bed rails keeping me contained. Voices on the other side of the door.

My heartbeat spikes as alarm rings through me.

The door flies open. My mom rushes in with a nurse, both of them on a mission. “Honey, you’re awake!” Tears spring to my mom’s eyes as her voice trembles in relief. Patting down my hair, she kisses my head. “I’ve been so worried.”

Gently reaching as not to anger the IV, I hug her. “I’m okay, Mom.” My voice is cruddy, so I peek over to see if there’s something to drink.

“Water?” She pours a cup, and I sip, holding the rail next to me. “Do you need more? Are you hungry? How do you feel?”

The lights are brightened but kept at a comfortably dimmed setting. I’m dodging questions until my throat feels coated enough to ask, “I’m fine. What happened? Why am I here?”

“You were thrown from the car during the accident.”

Accident? I’m staring at her, waiting for more, something that can lead me to a place where what she said makes sense. But it’s not her words that give me a clue. It’s when I shift. “My legs?”

The nurse comes around the bed, angling it up. “How’s that?”

The points of pain are too vast to keep track of. “Why do I hurt everywhere?”

Standing back, she says, “The doctor will be in shortly. Let me know if you need anything.” She hands me the call button. “Just push this.” She sees herself out, quietly closing the door behind her.

My heartbeat has settled, but my mind is still racing. I’ve ignored the throb in my head, not realizing until now that it’s not just a headache. Touching the side, I ask my mom, “Thrown from the car? Do I have a concussion?”

Although she appears relieved to see me, my mom harbors concern in her eyes. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

I stare at an empty corner of the room, trying to summon my memories. Opening that door has Joshua filling my brain. “Chasing the moon,” I reply, lost in the feel of freedom but unable to make sense of it.

My mom’s head tilts as she asks, “What is chasing the moon?”

“I have no idea. It just came to me. Other than that, I remember Dad giving me the car. Where’s Joshua?” I cover my stomach, trying to settle the churn. “I want to see him.”

The remote to operate my bed suddenly becomes the most interesting thing she’s ever seen, avoidance at its worst. “Are you comfortable? Hungry?”

My chest squeezes. I touch her forearm in a silent plea to look at me. When she does, I whisper, “Was he in the accident? Is he okay?” I’m not sure I even hear myself as fear runs through the question.

“He’s fine, Chloe.” With my fears confirmed, I watch as she slumps. It’s an odd sight from a woman who’s always poised. “I checked with his nurse several times when he was in recovery. He’s strong. He’s a fighter.” Resting her hand on my leg, she adds, “You shouldn’t worry about him. You need to focus on your own recovery.”

“There’s nothing to focus on but lying here, Mom,” I lie, knowing there’s underlying issues—little aches inside every time I take a breath, fire burning through my ribs on the right side. I don’t want to be the cause of worrying her more than the obvious exhaustion already tugging at the corner of her eyes.

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