Lost in The Waters Chapter One
Allison’s eyes shot open. She didn’t even know they were closed. She had seen everything so clearly. The black sand of the beach, the violent waters, the pouring rain. How could my eyes have been closed?
Her eyes pulled in a very different view now. White speckled ceiling tiles wrapped around bright, round fluorescent lights that settled into the ceiling, burning into her newborn-like pupils. A set of low beeping sounds settled into the crook of her eardrums, taking the place of the stormy beach and the muffled, useless voices.
Her fingers grazed the blanket, but she didn’t know that. She didn’t know anything. She just felt something pliable, but rough in texture. Her mouth no longer held the flavor of sea salt but instead tasted like plain stale water. It was the smell of her new surroundings that confused her the most.
Illness mingled with cleaning supplies and rubbing alcohol, old food, and Fede by Laura Ricci, the perfume her mother had worn since forever. My nose! Allison took a deep breath through her nostrils then, because she finally felt like she could. She felt the air waterfall to the very bottom of both lungs and she felt relief. I can breath! With the sound of her deep inhale, everyone in the hospital room whipped their head in her direction, as if her nasally breath was as loud as a train horn. It startled them, and pleased them, all at the same time.
Allison’s mother saw her daughter’s eyelashes flutter open and closed. She was greeted by those beautiful hazel eyes again and her mother felt her own hazel eyes burn with emerging tears. She threw herself on top of her daughter and wrapped her arms around her tightly, afraid she would lose her again if she let go. “Allie! Oh my God, Allie!” Allison could feel the weight of her mother, her arms wrapped around her middle, reminding her of the heavy white dress.
She looked around the room slowly. Realizing her whole body felt sore and she suddenly thought that maybe she was on that beach after all. Maybe she had been saved. Oh shit. Maybe I’m actually dead. What the fuck kind of afterlife is this? Pastor Johnson immediately came into her mind, his preaching words bouncing off the frost-painted glass that sent rainbows of color on the floor of the church tiles. It was the dancing rainbows Allison would watch instead of the service. She didn’t believe in any of it, but she came from a very catholic family and didn’t want to disappoint. She said amen when she needed to and kissed cheeks when she was opted to make peace with her neighbors.
The room grew with voices, soft, but with excitement frail between their words. They were afraid her eyes would close again. They did not want their hopes to be held too high. Her mother just kept thinking, “Of course my baby is alive. God is good.”
“Ring the call bell, Lori,” A mystery voice floated to Allison’s ears “Get the nurse.” She looked over her mother’s slender form, and the strands of hair that had floated on top of Allison’s face. A man stood behind her mother. His eyes beamed with eagerness and a smile stretched the leathery tanned skin on his face. The pale, greying blonde hair on his head was receding back from his forehead. He had one hand on the rail of the bed and his other hand was placed on Lori’s back.
Next to the mystery man, stood Matthew, Allison’s brother. He looked different to her now, somehow older in the last week since she’d seen him last. Allison tried to think of the last time she had seen him. Him and his girlfriend, Bonnie, waved goodbye from the windows of his Rav4 as they drove off for their trip to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Bonnie and Matt had a goal of visiting all the national parks in the United States.
Yellowstone has aged you, Matty, she thought. It was like he wasn’t a teenager anymore. His hair seemed much longer, and his face just held, not wrinkles, but lines of maturity that were not there before. Next to him stood a girl that, just like the mystery man, Allison had never seen before. She had a tiny, heart shaped face that was surrounded by a cloud of dark brown curls.
She wore a lot of makeup, but it looked well put together, almost professional. Her eyes mirrored not only the eagerness of the mystery man standing behind my mother, but they possessed the exact same silver filled irises. Their noses were the same as well. Allison suddenly felt uncomfortable as she pieced together that the two strangers in the room were related, as if it wasn’t odd enough that they were in the room to begin with.
Finally, Allison had felt someone gently squeeze at her right hand. She turned her head slowly toward the source of the action, her neck aching a bit with the motion. Another mystery man was sitting there next to the head of her bed. Mystery Man Two was much, much younger than Mystery Man One. Maybe in his late twenties?
Allison was taken back a bit by him immediately. He was an exceedingly good looking man, yet was also a complete stranger holding her fragile fingers within his strong ones. His brown eyes were surrounded by puffy red flesh, yet they held what Allison could only describe as a sense of relief. He was relieved she opened her eyes. Relieved he didn’t have to bury the love of his life, the woman he almost killed.
A corner of his mouth pulled up to smile, there was something so shy yet intimate about it and the way he looked at her. He leaned forward and lingered a kiss on her forehead before resting back into the chair. What the fuck?
“Everything alright in here?” Lori sprang from her daughter’s torso as a heavy set woman entered the room, her top stretching over her flesh. Allison saw her mother's face for the first time, and like her brother’s, it was different. The only difference was her face seemed to get younger, whereas Matty’s had gotten older. Just like the mystery woman, her mother’s face was made up with professional-like makeup skills. My mother sucks at putting on makeup. She never wears it. Maybe a sweep of mascara for church, but nothing like this.
“She’s awake, Maureen! She’s actually awake.” Her mother’s voice trailed off in disbelief, and again, Lori’s thoughts returned to God and she blessed herself just as Maureen began to speak. She approached the bed and Lori and Mystery Man One stepped out of her way, “Allison. My name is Maureen. I’m your nurse today. Do you know where you are?” Allison felt stupid. Because at that moment she realized that she knew she was in a hospital, but she didn’t wonder why until now. She was too preoccupied with placing the new faces that stood at her bedside.
Another voice came through the door, but the person did not enter. “Need any help in here?” It sounded like a woman.
“Ashley! Go and page Dr. Bran, please. Tell him Ms. Mills is awake.”
“On it” As Allison heard footsteps rushing down the hall and fade from earshot, she felt her heart gallop a bit inside her chest. Ms. Mills? Another patient maybe? Maureen’s attention returned to Allison. She took in the site of the woman who had been asleep for a whole month. Her hair was recently washed and combed, as Maureen was big on taking care of her patient’s hair. Maureen would never forget all the disgraceful times her mother would come back from the hospital with mats at the back of her head. Her mother’s treatment was why she became a nurse in the first place.
The color of Allison’s skin had returned and was no longer a sickly pale. Her hazel eyes laid on pillows of dark, baggy circles, as if she hadn’t had a good nights rest for the last month or so. She was thinner than when she had first come into the hospital. She lost a lot of her muscle mass. Maureen thought about how Allison’s family had mentioned she was into fitness. She had great veins, Maureen was thankful for that.
“Alright, Allison, do you know where you are?” Allison went to speak, but her throat felt tight and her mouth was dry.
“Water,” her voice croaked. It was the only thing she wanted to say and it barely left her lips. “I can’t give you water just yet, not until they’ve done a speech and swallow eval. But!” Maureen dug through the pocket of her scrub top and pulled out a fresh white packet. She peeled open the paper package to reveal an oversized cotton swab. “I have this. Tastes like lemon. It will help with the dryness.”
Maureen gave Allison a moment to suck on the god awful taste of artificial lemon. Then her questions began again. “Alright, Allison. Let’s try this again. Do you know where you are?” Allison’s weak fingers found the stick of the swab and she reluctantly pulled it from her mouth. As awful as it tasted, her mouth felt more like the stormy beach she escaped from instead of the barren desert it had felt like before.
“Hospital.” Everyone in the room had let out some sort of sound. Whether it be a sigh or a soft little choke preventing the expulsion of a sob. They hadn’t heard her speak in a month and it pained them more than they thought that it would to hear her voice again. They were finally allowing themselves to feel hope that her eyes would stay open this time.
“Very good! Very good. It’s nice to finally see you awake Ms. Allie. You’re family here has missed you a great deal.” Maureen smile took up most of her face. She was almost just as glad as everyone else to see this poor girl finally open her eyes. Allison looked around the room again. Her mother, Mystery Man One, her brother, Mystery Woman, and Mystery Man Two. All of them had a similar look of excitement on their faces, and yet Allison only knew two people in the room. Her mother and Matthew.
“Okay.” She mumbled in confusion. Maureen’s hands went to Allison’s left wrist and she pulled at a white, inch thick bracelet wrapped around it.
“Can you tell me your name and date of birth please?”
“Sure,” Allsion used her hands to push herself up a bit in the hospital bed. “Allison O’Neil. January 23, 1990.” Maureen squinted her eyes at the bracelet and pulled Allison’s wrist a little closer to her face, trying to get a better look at the tiny, ink letters of Allie’s last name. “Your name one more time, please?” Allison’s mother chimed in then, convinced that the nurse thought her daughter was crazy, but wanted to ensure her that technically, Allison was correct.
“O’Neil is her maiden name.” Allison eyes darted to her mother in confusion. Maiden name? “Okay,” said Maureen. Her smile fell a little bit. A thin layer of concern began to gloss over her eyes. “Allison? Could you tell me your full legal name?” Allison’s eyes never left her mother’s face and the confusion never left her own face. “Allison Marie O’Neil.” Allison said stubbornly to her mother.
Maureen gently returned Allison’s wrist to the bed and stepped back a little. Her gaze went up to the monitor sitting behind Allison’s head. Her vitals looked good, especially her oxygen saturation, which was Maureen’s first concern. Maureen looked back down to Allison. “Allison, do you know what year it is?”
“2014.” Maureen’s brows pulled together, wrinkling the young skin that sat between her eyebrows.
“Hello everyone! I was paged with lovely news?” An older man walks up to the bed, settling his stance next to Maureen. “How are you doing, Allison?” His veneers shined brightly against his dull, aged skin. He was in his seventies, counting down the days until him and his wife would make their final trek to Key West, Florida, and settle their until the days they died.
The room was quiet. No one dared to say a thing. No one wanted to manifest the words into the air. No, no, that would make them real. The silence stretched on for maybe a second or two, and yet those seconds went by as if each of them was an eternity.
The doctor looks up to Mystery Man Two, giving him the respect of his first glance. If his fear has come true, he feels bad for the poor guy. The smile fell from the doctors face upon meeting Mystery Man Two’s gaze, ultimately bringing Allison’s attention to him as well.
She looks at the mysterious man in his late twenties with the dark black hair buzzed to about a 2 against his scalp. The one with the brown eyes encased by puffy, red skin. The one with the big strong hands that held her delicate fingers. His name was Travis Mills, and he was the one who fell in love with Allison five years ago and married her two years ago. But she doesn’t remember this.
Travis stared at Allison in disbelief. Tears streamed down his stubbled cheeks and his mouth rested plainly in a flat line, the corners occasionally quivering downward. The look made Allison uncomfortable, as it was another look that was far too intimate for strangers, and in that moment she realizes again that she only knows two people in this room and the rest are alien to her. Dr. Bran read the room. He could feel the tension weigh heavy in the air. But he would be the first to tell you. Even after practicing as a neurologist for the last 35 years of his life, this part never got any easier for him.
“Allison. My name is Dr. Bran. I am a neurologist here at Mt. Justice Hospital in Port Townsend, Washington. You had been in a car accident a month ago and suffered from a head injury, but miraculously no broken bones,” As the doctor went on. Travis’s head fell forward as if it was suddenly the weight of pure lead. He was ashamed for what he had done, no matter how many times people told him it wasn’t his fault. He would always feel responsible because his hands were gripping the wheel. His foot was in charge of the pedals. He coerced her to go out that night, even if he really did mean well.
The doctor continued, placing his wrinkled, liver-spotted hand over Allison’s. “Just a lot of bruising and some abrasions to your right arm and both legs. You have been in a medically induced coma for the past month to combat the swelling of your head injury. Our goal in this was to prevent any structural damage to your brain.” Dr. Bran cleared his throat before continuing.
“We discontinued those medications after we had done repeat scans to check on the swelling. From what I’ve seen, I don’t believe you have any structural damage, however, with things like this we can only really tell if there are any issues once you wake up and we speak to you.” The nurse mumbled something to the Dr. Bran before he turned to address everyone in the room. “It is normal to experience amnesia in events like this, it is usually temporary. We’re going to need to ask Allison some questions to develop a baseline.”
Through the doctor mumbo-jumbo all Allison had heard were the words ‘car accident’, ‘head injury’, ‘coma’, ‘damage’, and ‘amnesia’. Allison’s eyes began to burn and tears ran quickly down her face, almost as quickly as the rain that had come down on her while she sank into the sand of the beach. Lori stepped up to the bed again, past the nurse and the doctor. She ran her fingers through Allison’s brown hair with the natural sunkissed highlights she had gotten from her mother’s genes. “Oh, honey. It’s okay. You’re okay.” She rested her chin on top of Allison’s head and placed her left hand onto Allison’s arm. That was when Allison saw it. Wrapping itself around the boney, finger of her mother was a giant rock of a diamond. The light catching ever facet and shimmering the rays of the fluorescent lights. Gaudy. Allison thought, My mother would never even glance twice at something like that in a jewelry shop window. What was it? Allison then glanced at the man who had put his hand on her mother and then back down at the ring. Her father died when she was fourteen and her mother had said she’d never marry again.