Negative Zero (Book 1)

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Chapter 4: Visiting Hours

Chapter Four Visiting Hours

My body had almost completely healed in the time I was “asleep.” By the time I had spent the first forty-eight hours out of my coma, I had met and been visited by every nurse and doctor known to the hospital, some not even assigned to my room. Nurse Ember was right, I was the talk of the hospital. I didn’t really mind much at first since it kept me distracted.

Ms. Makerov visited me every day and even made a new batch of her soup for that hangover I was going to wake up with the day after my birthday. She brought a lot of art supplies from my apartment for me to keep busy along with my journal. A patient down the hall let me borrow his portable DVD player and movies when he wasn’t watching anything, so I was grateful for that. He was quite the horror junkie, so most of the movies consisted of blood, guts, and gore. Again, I didn’t mind. Nothing really phased me since I’d watched that stuff since I was young.

I was almost at the end of The Amityville Horror (Ryan Reynold’s version) when I heard a girlie gasp at the entrance to my room. I hit pause on the player and turned my head to see her standing there with her hand to her mouth. I hardly recognized her with her hair in a simple ponytail, pink t-shirt with a white peace sign, and baggy jeans. Her painted toes barely showed under the bottom of the pants in her flip-flops.

“Brittonia?” I asked quietly. I don’t even know what shocked me more: the fact that she was in “normal” clothing or the fact that she was actually in front of me.

“H-Hi, Evika.” Her voice was shaky as she raised her palm to me, almost as if to make peace before crossing the threshold. I acknowledged the irony after looking at her shirt once again. She slowly walked over to my bed, securing her purse strap to her shoulder as if it were going to jump from her and run away. Nerves?

“Ev,” she looked at me with deep concern, “I am so sorry for what happened.” She looked as if she was going to cry. In fact, the closer she got, the more I could see she looked like she’d already been crying.

“Brit---” was all I could get out before her tears started to fall.

“Evika, it’s all my fault.” Her face tightened, and she let her tears cascade. “I should never have let you walk home like that. I should never have let things get that out of hand. I was so afraid you were gone, Evika. I tried getting a hold of you the next day, and I didn’t even know what happened. I drove over to your place and ran into Ms. Makerov coming home from here, and she told me you were here.” She held her hands to her face and sat down in the chair next to the bed. “Evika, we didn’t think you were going to make it. I was so afraid of losing---”

“Brit,” I said, grabbing her wrist. “I’m still here. I don’t know how or why...but I’m here. Nothing is your fault,” I assured her.

She looked at me intensely. Her deep, brown eyes lightened with the salt water floating in them. She looked pitifully sorry. This girl was truly blaming herself. “Evika,” she said softly, still crying, “you never would have jumped if things went differently that night.”

I bulked, shocked by her words. “Wait, jumped? Brittonia, I didn’t jump. I was just drunk and stupid and angry. I wasn’t trying to kill myself. I also made that clear to the hospital when they were going to throw me up on floor six with the crazies.” I looked at her, waiting for her response, hoping she believed me.

She stood with a confused expression. “I guess I just assumed.” I could see relief in her face. “Either way, I’m just so sorry for all of this.”

I sighed. “Please stop apologizing, will you? I’m gonna be okay. My heart’s ticking fine, my vitals are good, my bones are healed. I’ll be out of here and back to normal. I’m fine.” I shrugged, trying to make everything sound simple, but I knew it wasn’t going to be.

She shook her head at me with an intrigued look in her eyes. “That’s just it, Evika. You’re fine. How are you fine? Even the doctors can’t explain it. There’s just no logic to this - how you’re still here.”

I looked at her blankly as I thought of what to say. I really had no answer. “I don’t know,” I said. “My number just wasn’t up yet, I guess. I don’t have the answer, and I wish I did.” I truly wished I knew the reason, but I just wanted to get out of there and move on with my life. I decided to divert my attention to something a bit more tangible.

“Enough of the ‘should have been dead’ talk, I need to focus on what the hell I’m going to do when I get out of here tomorrow.”

“You get discharged tomorrow?” she perked.

“That’s what they said.” I was relieved just thinking about it. “The landlord hasn’t called me back yet. I’ve left him about three messages since Friday. I have to find out if he’s going to evict me or not.” I slammed my body back onto the inclined bed and sighed. “Ugh, I was already past due on my rent way before now, and my checking account is bone dry.”

Perplexed, she looked at me. “Didn’t Ms. Makerov tell you?”

Oh no. I was afraid to ask. “Tell me what?”

“Evika, your rent has been paid up. We aren’t sure how. That was the first thing I asked her once I saw her again and when we knew you were going to be in here for a while. I’d asked my dad to cover it all for you.” My eyes widened in shock. “I knew you were behind to begin with. When we went to the office they said they couldn’t disclose anything about the rent except that it’s been all paid up through the end of next month.”

My mouth remained agape as I listened to her. The wheels in my mind kept turning, trying to figure out who would have had the money to pay six months of my rent. I couldn’t come up with one, single person.

“So,” she said, “you don’t have a clue as to who it would be either, huh?”

I shook my head. “No idea,” I replied quietly.

“Maybe Ms. M. didn’t want to bring it up until you questioned it. I mean, you’ve been through quite a bit in the last few days, I’m sure.”

“True,” I agreed and then looked at her in amazement, recalling the gesture she asked of her father. “That was really nice of you to go down there to try and bail me out, though.” I smiled.

She waved her hand at me. “No worries. If that wouldn’t have worked, I was going to drag you and make you come live with me, but I figured that would have been a bit much, and you’d never agree to it anyway.”

“You’re right. I doubt I’d agree to that arrangement.” We both laughed.

As the humor of that subject wore off, I remembered poor Joel. “Oh my gosh, Brit. Have you talked to Joel? He must be worried sick about me. I tried calling him a few times, but I keep getting a funny disconnection recording.”

She looked at me and bit her lip. “That was going to be my next topic.” She looked concerned. “Ev, Joel took time off from school and flew out here about a week ago to see you. He emailed me once he got back two days ago and said his phone was shut off since he skipped out on the bills to help pay for the plane ticket. He wrote me from the library. I emailed him back and told him I’d send him the money to get the stuff back up and running, but I haven’t heard back from him. The first thing I put in the email was that you were up.” She gave me a sad look. “Evika, he was heartbroken when he saw you.”

“Wait, you said he got back to Paris two days ago?”

She nodded. “Yes, the day you woke up.”

“Go figure.” I threw my hands in the air. “That’s just my luck.” I felt anger inside me. The prickling in my eyes started.

“I know. That’s what I said when Ms. M. called me the other day to tell me you were awake. I’d just driven him back to the airport for his flight.” She shook her head, thinking about it. “Bad timing.”

I sucked air. “Speaking of driving. Holy. Hell. I completely forgot about my car. It broke down that day we---”

Brittonia held up her hand for me to stop. “Now that I was able to help you out with.” She smirked. “My dad knows the guys at the impound lot that they took it to. Your little bug is recovered and back at your apartment parking lot. Oh, and it turns out, all you needed was a new battery. Consider it your belated birthday present.” She smiled brightly.

I looked at her and evaluated her disposition. She was being genuine. She was concerned, apologetic, helpful, and doing anything she could to try to make this situation better for everyone. I was proud of her, but I didn’t really know what brought this whole new Brittonia about. It was like someone had slapped the brat out of her.

“Brit, why the change of heart?”

She looked at me questioningly. “What do you mean?”

“I mean just that, why the change of heart? Why are you being Miss Helpful all of a sudden and actually meaning to be?”

Her mouth gaped open, and looked offended that I would even say such a thing. Then she gave a confident look and finally answered.

“Evika,” she searched for the words, “after my mom died, I became callous to everyone. I never could figure out why you even put up with me, always giving me chances even after I’d ditched you or acted like a snob. You were always the one who defended me, even when I didn’t deserve it.” She teared up, but looked me straight in the eyes. “Evika, I know it sounds cheesy, but I realized it was possible that I wouldn’t have that one person in my life anymore that knows who I really am...the person I can count on to help me see who I really am.” She tried to smile at me, but still kept a solemn look.

I was shocked. “Brit, you don’t need me around to know who you are.”

“Ev, we are two girls without our moms, and we will probably never get over it. I chose to be a nasty snob while I was still hurting, and you, despite your hurting inside, you never once treated anyone like I did. The whole time I was jealous of you, but I really admired you.”

I looked into her deep, brown eyes. She didn’t look away; she kept them locked to mine, as if desperate for me finally to see it, this change. I smiled at her. “So, does this mean I’ve finally broken through the Brit-wall of darkness?” I chuckled to lighten the mood.

She followed my cue and smiled back at me. “I think the great wall has finally fallen.” Then she leaned into me and whispered. “But don’t tell anyone. You’re the only one allowed in right now.”

“Wow! I’m honored.”

We both laughed.

“So.” Brittonia shrugged. “How about I give you a ride home tomorrow?”

For the first time since I’d known her, I had one hundred percent faith in her that she’d come through for me. “That would be great.”

She grinned and stood, much more comfortable than she looked when she walked in. “Well, I’ll clear my schedule tomorrow and hang out here all day till they kick you out, if you want. For now, I’ll let you rest and finish watching Ryan Reynolds with an ax.” She laughed. “Believe it or not, I’ve got a date later, so I better go get ready.”

“A date, huh?” I raised an eyebrow. “What a surprise.”

“Yes. Quite the gentleman, this one. Not like the other guys. We actually do fun things, like go play putt-putt or driving go-carts. We even go bowling, and not once has he dragged me to a damn bar.”

“So what’s his name?” I asked.

“Christian,” she said with an innocent simper.

I studied her face and smiled. “You totally like him.”

Brittonia sighed. “I’d be crazy not to. He gives me everything I want, and I haven’t even had to sleep with him yet.”

My eyes widened. “Brittonia!”

She laughed. “Oh come on, I had to give you some of the old Brit, didn’t I?”

I rolled my eyes. “Have fun on your date.”

“Plan to.” She strolled toward the door. “See ya in the morning, Ev.”

“Oh, Brit?” I stopped her.

She turned around in the frame of the door. “Yeah?”

I held two fingers up and smiled at her. “Peace?”

Puzzled, she looked at me, then down at her shirt, and back up again while rolling her eyes. A smile formed as she shook her head. “Peace, Evika. See you tomorrow.”

I finished watching the movie and lay back in the bed. I thought about Brittonia maybe finally meeting the right guy, how things may be starting to look up for her like I’d always hoped. I thought about Joel and what he might be doing, how worried he probably was, and feeling salty about his leaving the same day I woke up after four months. I really missed him. I thought about the places my mind had taken me while I was in the coma; the wonderful memories of my mother that my mind replayed for me while I waited to come back.

Then I thought about him. That handsome, dark knight who seemed to be keeping my mind stimulated by reappearing in my dreams lately. Coming out of nowhere, but always at the perfect moment, just when I really needed him. I wondered what it meant. I wondered if he were someone I’d known and had just forgotten about, and parts of him were just coming back to me, fragments of a person I once knew.

The image of him was impossible to forget. Those emerald green eyes, that dark hair and soft skin, and that five-hundred watt smile. I thought about the expression on Brittonia’s face when she said her new boyfriend’s name. I wondered if I’d ever feel like that or if I even wanted to.

“Hayden,” I said his name to myself. I liked the sound of it. I remember telling him I liked his name. I really did. I wondered if I went back to sleep if he would grace me with his presence once again. I was tired anyway and needed something to think about. I recalled his emerald eyes again, getting lost in them and imagined him lying in the grass under the willow tree while I played him a song.

But when I fell asleep, I dreamed of nothing.

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