I felt lame saying that, but…hi.
“Oh, wow. You missed the entire second week of classes. Susan was fielding calls about you. She was all griping about ‘missing transfer community college students’, then suddenly she got a call and her attitude completely changed. I was instructed to take notes for you, make copies, and hand them to her at the end of each day. What happened? Are you okay?”
Maybe I should’ve called the school first? But what office would I call? Probably the general administrative office?
My head was swimming again. I was on overload.
Why had I called Siobhan again?
“I was in a coma.”
“YOU WERE IN A COMA?! WHAT?”
I grimaced, holding the phone away from me. That didn’t help with the whole mind-swimming thing. For real. Why had I called Siobhan?
“What happened? Are you okay? Are you in the hospital? Do you need me to bring you anything? I’m totally here, anything you need. Are you okay now?”
There were too many questions.
“Uh, I’m at someone’s house.”
“Whose house? I didn’t know you knew someone else down here.”
“Can—” It was hitting me just then. I didn’t have a car.
Because I totaled the car.
Stone said he handled the car.
But I had no car.
I had no way to get back to Jared.
I needed to call Jared.
It was just him and me. We were almost strangers.
The pressure was building.
BUILDING—I was hyperventilating.
They were gone.
And I had no car.
And Jared was no longer my brother.
I told Stone that Apollo’s parents could adopt him.
What was I doing?
Where was I?
I had no parents.
I had no one.
I was alone.
They were gone.
I couldn’t breathe.
I heard someone saying my name, but it was from a distance, down a tunnel it sounded.
What was I doing?
I mumbled something to that someone, but I wasn’t sure who it was.
Then I dropped something.
I was falling.
Yeah. That was a good idea.
I could sit.
Sit here. Not think.
Everything would be okay.
I just needed to sit a bit.
There was a pounding somewhere.
I was waking up slowly.
My head was hurting.
Everything was dark. Flashes of red and yellow were lighting up the walls. What the hell was going on?
A doorbell was ringing.
Whoever was there—it came back to me.
I’d had a panic attack, and then I fell asleep.
Someone was yelling for me. Siobhan.
She’d been on the phone with me. She must’ve called an ambulance, but how had they known where to come?
Standing, wincing because everything was hurting, I tried to find the front door. Stone hadn’t shown me this way, so I followed the sound of the doorbell ringing. Then, standing on the other side of it, I swept open the curtain and two paramedics were there, along with a cop.
“OPEN THE DOOR!” The cop motioned for the door.
I unlocked the door and opened it and—
ALARM! SIREN! ALARM! SIREN!
A strange, almost robotic voice filled the house, “YOU HAVE VIOLATED A PROTECTED AREA. LEAVE IMMEDIATELY. THE POLICE HAVE BEEN CALLED. YOU HAVE VIOLATED A PROTECTED AREA…”
The cop came in, looking around. “You have a way to turn that off?”
I shook my head. “It’s not my house.”
“According to records, Stone Reeves lives here?” I didn’t know why he put that as a question. Ohhh, understanding flooded me.
I straightened upright. “I know Stone. I’m just staying here.” I guess.
A phone started ringing. It was the house one, and I answered it. A woman’s voice came over, “Are you in need of assistance?”
“No,” I sighed. A panic attack, then I fell asleep. I didn’t think I could explain all this away, though.
“Do you have the code?”
Fuck. Double fuck.
The woman didn’t even hesitate. “Thank you, ma’am.” A dial tone hit me next.
Pretty sure that wasn’t good, but I turned back toward the door. The cop and paramedics had come in. All three were regarding me with suspicion.
I heard more ringing, but this one, I recognized. I had left my phone up in the guest area and I started to go for it, but the cop took my arm. “Let me grab it.”
I gestured, feeling a sense of impending doom and the general wish that an entire mountain would drop on me. “It’s probably Stone wondering what the hell is going on.”
He nodded. “I’ll get your phone.”
He went in search of the electronic perpetrator and the female paramedic approached. “Ma’am? My name is Jill. We had a call that someone might need assistance?”
The paramedic touched my arm. “Was that you, Miss? Are you in need of help?” Her hand slid down to my wrist, and she was taking my pulse.
I turned to her. “How’d you know where I was?”
The cop was returning, talking on my phone.
She was counting, but her partner stepped forward. He went to grab a chair, and brought it up behind me. “If you could have a seat?”
I did. My knees were about to give out anyway.
The male paramedic knelt beside me, unpacking his bag. “We had a call from a Susan Anderson, your academic advisor. She gave us this address.”
But how’d she know this address? Wait. Stone. He must’ve been in contact with the university, too. Jesus, was there anything he hadn’t already taken care of?
The cop stepped forward and handed my phone over. “He’d like to speak to you.”
I took it but had the foresight to ask the time first.
When had I called Siobhan? Earlier. Right? Time was slipping away, but this was how it’d been before. I had sat and stared into nothing until somehow my brain told me to stand, to move, to eat, to walk, to wash, to keep going.
It was now after eleven and I had no sense of any one moment over the past couple of hours. I put the phone to my ear. “Did you win?” He had his game. It would’ve been done by now.
Silence. Then, “Are you fucking kidding me?”
I winced, but I couldn’t blame him for being angry.
“I’m sorry, Stone. I—”
“Are you okay?” he cut me off, asking roughly.
“I will be.”
The female paramedic was shining a light in my eye. I blinked, trying to turn away, but she overrode me, saying, “Ma’am, you need to keep still for us.”
I did, trying to. “I had a panic attack, and then I fell asleep. That’s it. I swear.”
“Is your head okay?”
“Yeah.” This was embarrassing. “I just got overwhelmed and I forget things and—”
“It’s okay. It’s okay. As long as you’re okay. You are, right?”
The paramedics were still checking me over, now watching my chest. They’d already finished with my blood pressure. I was talking so my airway wasn’t blocked. I was fine.
I told them and Stone at the same time, “Yes. I’m fine. I am.”
At that moment, the alarm cut off. I saw the cop on the houseline, and he hung up a second later, coming back to us.
“Yeah,” the female paramedic said, shifting back on her feet. “I tend to agree. A panic attack?”
The cop said, “Mr. Reeves said you recently experienced your own car accident after finding out—”
“Yes!” I almost shouted that word. I didn’t want him to say the words. I couldn’t—that was part of the problem. I lowered my head, unable to look up, seeing the pity in his gaze. “Yes, but I’m fine. I just got overwhelmed.”
“You were in an accident?” female paramedic questioned.
“She was put in a coma, came out of it Thursday, and was released from the hospital yesterday. Mr. Reeves said you’d gone back to the ER yesterday.”
“Yeah. I…” They were making a bigger deal out of everything, more than it was. I was losing steam. Why was everything so hard? Why’d everything take so much energy? Why’d I want to just go to sleep again?
That’s what he said. That was true. The body needed to do double work to heal after a trauma, and that went for both mental and physical trauma. I knew this. I knew this, but God. I sucked in a breath. My chest was hurting. My throat was hurting. I felt like my insides were pulling apart, one organ at a time was being ripped to pieces.
Trauma. Yes. I suppose that’s the best word to describe it.
The cop said, “Mr. Reeves said he was on his way back. He can answer any questions, but she doesn’t seem to be in need of medical assistance right now.”
At his words, a shift came over both paramedics. They began packing but stood.
I remained sitting, my head lowered, and as if just sensing I wanted my space, they moved over to where the cop was. I heard the guy ask, “Are we really talking about the actual Stone Reeves?”
“Seems like.” The cop’s tone turned almost cheerful. Upbeat. “Sounded like him on the phone.”
“They won tonight, right?”
“Reeves ran in two of the three touchdowns himself.”
The female. “He’s a future Hall-of-Famer. Has to be.”
They kept talking while I sat, listening. We all waited.