It was annoying, really, this feeling of being watched, wondering if I was going crazy or if the strange presence I’d felt over the past two weeks was more than just a figment of my imagination. I guess it was possible I was imagining the whole thing. Considering the level of paranoia my father operated under on a daily basis—and the fact that I had a tendency to absorb other people’s emotions as if they were my own—there was a distinct possibility I was losing it.
I didn’t fear my watcher, even though fear would have been a healthy response. I simply understood I was capable of the impossible, possessing skills that were valuable to people both good and bad. The thought of someone spying on me seemed inevitable at this point.
My father did everything he could to keep my particular skill set a secret. For all intents and purposes, I was your average seventeen-year-old who lived her life just like any other teenager. I dealt with normal teenage problems and had normal teenage experiences.
Oh yeah, I’m totally normal.
I think I was just ready for something to finally happen and sick to death of hiding who I was and what I was capable of. Instead of ignoring my stalker, I was tempted to turn around and confront this faceless observer.
That’s it! That’s exactly what I would do. I would turn around, throw my hands up in the air and scream, “Okay, you got me. You’ve finally figured it out. Take me to whatever freaky government lab you want and start dissecting my brain for answers. Then maybe you will be able to tell me why I do what I do.”
I understood my powers. I just couldn’t figure out why I was the only person who had them; the only person on this planet capable of healing illnesses and injuries in ten seconds or less.
I almost laughed at that last thought. Ten seconds or less…it could have been a catchy business slogan if miraculous healings were something the general public accepted as totally within the realm of normal.
I was so not normal.
My father and I pondered the “why” for years, but we’d never been able to find any answers. He now refused to dig deeper and tended to avoid the topic whenever I brought it up. I couldn’t tell if this was some form of denial or maybe some kind of coping mechanism for raising a daughter with supernatural abilities. On the other hand, I always felt like he knew more than he was willing to discuss, and I never pushed him to open up about it because I was scared he might actually tell me. I wanted answers, and I was afraid of what those answers might reveal.
Back to my strange stalker issue. The presence I felt wasn’t necessarily malicious or threatening in any way. It felt more watchful. I had no way of knowing if that was good or bad; hence my irritation. I decided the best thing to do was to continue on my way to the hospital and think about it later. I had more important things on my mind.
My father had called me not five minutes earlier to let me know he needed me at the hospital.
My father rarely called me back to the hospital after I’d finished a shift. He didn’t like to encourage my natural propensity for healing anything broken. He hadn’t given me any more details, and I knew better than to ask. We never talked about my abilities over the phone.
I had the errant thought that grabbing my truck and driving the two blocks over would have been faster, but I’d been so surprised by my father’s phone call, I’d failed to consider it.
I entered the hospital through a side entrance and ran up the stairs rather than taking the elevator. I wanted to avoid as many people as possible. My father met me in the stairwell on the second floor.
He looked awful. My stomach clenched at the thought that someone was injured.
“Dad, what’s happened?”
He grabbed my hand and pulled me through the door. In a lowered voice he stated, “A little girl; eight years old. Ambulance brought her in about fifteen minutes ago. She was in an awful car accident and has suffered some major head trauma.”
“Head trauma?” My eyes shot to his face. “Dad, you know if her brain is too damaged to communicate with— ”
My father glanced around, agitation written all over his face.
“Hope, lower your voice. It’s bad enough I’ve brought you back here. I’ve already cleared out everyone in the ICU. As long as she’s unconscious there’s really nothing they can do, which is convenient for both of us.”
I stared at him in amazement. “Nothing they can do? I find it hard to believe your team of doctors and nurses aren’t running more tests just because she’s unconscious.”
“I did the preliminary exam and told them she was dealing with a minor concussion and a broken arm.”
I nearly stopped dead in my tracks.
“If I can’t heal her your preliminary exam is going to have several holes in it. How could they have possibly bought that?”
My father’s jaw tightened momentarily, a sign he was about to tell me something he was uncomfortable with. “I may have lied and stated any other tests were strictly against the parent’s religion.”
Now I did stop dead in my tracks. Anxiety descended like an unwelcome in-law. “You could lose your job. If her brain is beyond repair you could—”
My father’s grip tightened on my arm, and he continued pulling me forward. “I know, Hope. Just take a look at her, okay?”
I couldn’t understand this. My father was no risk taker, especially when it came to my powers. This was terribly out of character for him.
We were almost there. A few feet later we reached the entrance and rushed inside. I sucked in some air and let it out slowly, recognizing the little girl lying in the hospital bed. It all made sense now.
“Eve?” I spun around in a panic. “You didn’t tell me it was Eve.”
“You know I couldn’t talk about this over the phone considering how high-profile she is.”
“Forget the fact she’s the mayor’s daughter, she’s a family friend.” I wasn’t sure I could do this. I’d babysat Eve on numerous occasions, and it was always harder to heal people I cared about. I was so afraid I’d fail. There was also the possibility Eve was supposed to die. If it was her time to go, I wouldn’t be able to heal anything, and my father would most likely be called into question for not reporting the severity of Eve’s injuries.
“Hope, we can’t let her die. Her father would never survive it.”
His voice shook with barely suppressed emotion. He was just as upset about this as me. Now I understood. My father would never risk discovery if it were anyone else but Eve. He’d never put me under this kind of pressure, either. He wanted my life to be just as normal as I did. If I failed to do this it would devastate me more than he could possibly imagine, and he knew it, but Eve’s parents had been close to mine since before either she or I had been born. We had to save her.
I had to save her.
“Is she meant to die, Hope?”
I blinked; startled he’d spoken those words out loud. He was slipping. He wasn’t being as careful or as guarded as usual. I pushed those thoughts from my mind and turned around to face my sweet little Eve.
I studied her for a moment and waited for that sinking feeling to settle in, but it didn’t. That was a good sign, but there was only one way to be sure.
I walked over to her bed and reached out, gently holding her head between my hands. I closed my eyes and searched for her life force, connecting with it instantly. It was strong and welcoming, ready to receive instructions.
“She’s not supposed to die,” I whispered.
My father’s heavy sigh of relief echoed my own, but I knew the injuries she’d sustained would most likely take her life if I didn’t concentrate and proceed with great care. The process of healing was something I never treated lightly. It required complete focus and careful attention to detail, otherwise, I could actually make things worse.
Each healing was very different from the other. A person’s life force was as one-of-a-kind as a fingerprint and sometimes difficult to connect to.
Not this one, though.
Eve possessed a spirit that was pure, innocent, and incredibly trusting.
Connecting to Eve’s life force enabled me to determine what was happening within her body, but if I couldn’t do that I wouldn’t be able to save her.
I cringed, grateful she wasn’t conscious enough to experience the pain her injuries caused. The first problem I encountered was damage to her skull and brain tissue. I choked back a small sob. I’d spent so many hours with Eve and her vibrant personality. She was a spunky little eight-year-old, and I loved her. I did not like seeing her injuries or feeling her pain.
I found damage to the cerebral cortex, severe swelling in the brain, and a blood clot in the anterior cerebral artery. My concern escalated to a whole new level. The anterior cerebral artery supplied blood to the inner regions of the brain. There was a chance she’d have a stroke, or worse, if I didn’t dissolve the blood clot as soon as possible, but if the head trauma proved worse than this, her life force wouldn’t be able to send healing instructions to the brain. At least, none that it would be able to recognize or understand.
I took two deep breaths to calm my emotions and then focused on the blood clot, showing Eve’s life force what had to be done. I wanted the blood clot to dissipate slowly and morph into a very thin line. I offered up images from my mind and visualized this rather complex process, giving mental pictures and step-by-step instructions with as much detail as possible. I saw the intelligences within the blood cells begin to respond as her life force relayed my instructions to the brain. It responded immediately; a very good sign.
The blood clot thinned out gradually and then completely disappeared.
I wanted to hold her in my arms and cry happy tears of relief. Instead, I let out a shaky sigh and moved on to the next injury.
The brain tissue and veins surrounding the cerebral artery needed repairing, as well as the fracture to her skull. I continued relaying instructions which were received and implemented with quick efficiency. Turning my attention to the rest of her body, I balked when I discovered a kidney had been punctured, causing severe internal bleeding. I felt certain she was supposed to live, but it was amazing the poor child had lasted this long. I gently stroked her cheek and sent images of healing, knowing they’d be followed and obeyed.
Once I was satisfied with the condition of her kidney I focused on the rest of the damage. She had a broken arm and some superficial injuries, but they were in no way life threatening. I reluctantly left those injuries alone, knowing her body would take care of them on its own without my help. It wouldn’t do for the girl to have nothing wrong with her after being in such a terrible car accident. I couldn’t raise suspicion or bring unwanted attention to the hospital.
I left the cuts, bruises, and broken arm alone despite an overwhelming desire to do the exact opposite. I settled for teaching Eve’s body how to speed up the healing process, instructing her life force to send certain signals to her sensory nerves—mainly the nociceptors— that no injuries had been sustained. If the signals could prevent her nerves from recognizing the remaining injuries, she wouldn’t feel any pain while her body healed.
Pain is an important and crucial part of healing, but with me there to monitor the healing taking place, there was simply no need for it. I wanted her body well-rested from its ordeal, and easing her pain was the one last kindness I could give her.
Exhausted, I gently released Eve’s small head, severing my connection with the sweet little girl. She no longer had to fight for her life. A tired happiness engulfed my entire being.
“Hope,” my dad whispered. He laid a warm, supportive hand on my shoulder and rubbed it gently.
I’d been so absorbed in the healing, I’d completely forgotten my father was sitting in the room with us. I glanced up at him and was struck by how exhausted he looked.
“Will she make it?” His voice was laced with worry. I gave him an encouraging smile.
“She’ll make it. She had a blood clot in her brain and some internal bleeding due to a damaged kidney, but that’s all better now.” I rubbed my tired eyes and felt the residue of the little girl’s life force slowly ebbing away from me.
My father still looked worried even though Eve was fine. His graying sideburns and the shadows under his eyes made him look much older than his forty-three years.
“I healed her easily,” I continued, hoping he’d stop looking so somber. I turned to watch the even rise and fall of Eve’s chest as she slumbered on; unfettered by the very serious condition her body had been in not ten minutes earlier. “She was very receptive.”
Children were always easier to connect with. They had less baggage and a more trusting nature unless their parents were monsters. Connecting with the life force of a child who’d dealt with years of abuse was nearly impossible. Fortunately, I hadn’t had much experience in that department.
“I knew about the head injury and the blood clot, but not the punctured kidney. I’m relieved I got you in here when I did.”
I gave him a hard look and wondered why he didn’t sound relieved.
“What would I do without you?” He sounded sincere, but appeared a little distracted.
“Well, your life would be pathetically boring considering the fact you never do anything but work at this hospital. Glad I can provide some excitement around here every once in a while.”
I needed him to joke around with me or crack a smile. He mussed up my long, dark hair in a way that made me certain I looked as if I’d just rolled out of bed. I pushed his hand back and managed a look of annoyance as I attempted to smooth out the damage he’d inflicted.
The tension we’d felt before I healed Eve was finally beginning to lessen, and my fun-loving, albeit overprotective, father started to resurface.
“You kept Eve’s lab results a secret then?” I asked. My father nodded.
“The only injuries recorded in her file will be the ones you didn’t heal.” His face looked troubled. “It’s not the most ethical thing I’ve ever done, but I felt it necessary that we intercede like this, for John’s sake.”
That’s what he was worried about. It’s what he was always worried about; being discovered.
“We saved her life, Dad.”
“If anyone finds out I fixed the results…”
“They won’t,” I interrupted. “No one will. Just look at what we’ve accomplished!”
I turned back to Eve. I was glad I’d had a shift at the hospital earlier. If anyone did see me in the area they’d probably assume I was just working late. I did the cleaning and janitorial work on the third floor. It wasn’t a glamorous job, but it gave me some extra pocket money, and allowed me to pursue my main reason for being here. I wanted to help the patients who needed me. In my mind that was everyone, but my father was big on keeping a low profile. I stuck to healing children, and only if their injuries were life-threatening. Sometimes I helped teenagers and adults when they’d accept me, but many wouldn’t allow me to connect with them. There were so many resistant and distrustful people out there.
I would have liked to have worked as a doctor myself and helped in a more official capacity, especially since I knew more about the human body than any other doctor I’d ever encountered, including my own father. Being a high school senior wasn’t the same as being a college graduate with an MD, so I had to settle for janitorial work.
At the start of each shift, my father would bring me into his office on the second floor and discuss the condition of any patient he felt might benefit from my gift. He didn’t like having me here healing people and would have avoided it altogether, but considered it a necessary evil after learning the first three months of my job had been spent dodging various hospital personnel in order to sneak into patient’s rooms and heal as many children as I possibly could.
When a twelve-year-old autistic boy with a broken leg was miraculously healed from not only the break, but the autism as well, it caused such an uproar amongst the staff and the boy’s parents that my father nearly fired me.
I had to suffer through a huge lecture about remaining discreet and avoiding attention, but secretly I was congratulating myself on the young boy’s condition. He was an awesome kid and had so much to offer. After that, my father began monitoring all extra-curricular activities during my shifts. It annoyed me, but I guess I could see the wisdom in it.
There was a Pediatric Oncology Unit that took up the entire third floor. It was funded by some wealthy congressman whose teenage boy had been saved from a fatal gunshot wound by my father. I’d played a major role in that particular miracle, but no one could know that. When I wasn’t cleaning the hospital rooms or making beds I spent the majority of my time with the oncology patients. The children seemed so excited for the visits, and for me, that was all that mattered. I tried not to get too attached to them, though. I knew there were many who’d eventually pass on, and I wouldn’t be able to prevent it from happening.
That being said, I’d grown very fond of a ten-year-old boy named Kirby and visited him as often as I could in order to ease his pain and attempt to heal him. The healing never took, though, and each attempt became a bit more heartbreaking for both Kirby and myself.
I kept at it anyway. I wasn’t going to stop trying until I figured out what was preventing me from being successful.
My attention snapped to the present when my father suggested I call it a night and head for home. I nodded, getting ready to walk my weary frame out the door when a thought hit me.
“Were there any other people hurt in the accident?”
He looked at the floor and swallowed.
I moved directly in front of him so he couldn’t avoid my gaze. He let out a loud sigh and sat down in one of the chairs.
“John’s office aid, Sarah. She was in the car with them.”
I looked down at the floor feeling unreasonably angry.
“You were just going to let me go home without even allowing me to assess her situation? She’s the closest thing to a mother that Eve’s got.”
“Hope, just walk away from this one,” he pleaded a bit desperately. “She’s an adult. It will be too difficult for you to connect with her, and there’s nothing you can do. I don’t want you internalizing that. I don’t want you comparing this situation to what you’ve already been through with…” he stopped talking before the thought could be vocalized.
My father rarely touched on the subject of my mother. All it ever did was leave an uncomfortable silence in its wake. Then he’d be withdrawn and pensive for the rest of the day.
“Just let this one go, okay?”
I shook my head, refusing to look at his pained expression. I didn’t want him suffering due to my decisions, but I couldn’t walk away from anyone. Not if there was a chance I could help. Being acquainted with Sarah didn’t make the situation any easier. I wasn’t close to her, but I knew Eve couldn’t lose another mother.
“You know I can’t do that. I have to at least try. For Eve’s sake, I have to try.”
“I promise there’s absolutely nothing you can do, and I didn’t get access to her records in time. Her situation is known amongst all applicable staff. There’s really no changing this one, Hope.”
“Can I just see her?”
He ran his hands through his hair and let out a frustrated sigh.
“Only if Betty’s working this shift. I won’t be able to sneak you in if the nurse on call is anyone else.”
Betty was the head nurse at the hospital. She tended to turn a blind eye to my sporadic interference because she respected my father and she was religious enough to believe that my “healing influence” was a direct gift from god. That’s what she said, anyway. If she suspected what I was really capable of she never let on.
Even though my father was Chief Surgeon at the hospital, he still needed to be careful and follow protocol as much as possible, but his status made it much easier for me to maneuver my way around, healing whomever he allowed me to heal.
“Don’t thank me yet,” he grumbled as he reluctantly stood up. “I still think this is a bad idea.”
I pushed my overprotective father out the door and followed him down the hallway.