Suzy and her mom didn’t stick around long. Her mom wanted to get home and make supper. Rileyknew Suzy wasn’t happy she had to leave, but atleast one adult cared enough to stay for a bit.
As soon as they were out the door, though, she realized how tired she was. She carefullyslipped down in the bed, ready to shut her eyes and disappear into sleep.
“Long day, huh?” asked a quiet voice.
Riley jumped and looked over to see a young boy sitting up in the other bed in the room. Had no one noticed she was a girl? Why would they put her inthe same room with a boy? What if she had to go to the bathroom?
“What are you doing here?” Riley blurted out,embarrassed that she was caught so off guard.
He smirked. “I had been sleeping. So, skateboarding, huh?”
“What does that matter to you? Why am I sharing a room with a boy?”
“Small town, small hospital. They don’t have many rooms, and since everyone knows everyone like family, it’s more like brothers and sisters sharing a room.”
“Older brothers and sisters don’t share rooms.”
“You must be from out of town.”
“I’ve lived here two years.”
He nodded. “Like I said, from out of town.”
It infuriated her that he thought of her as an outsider. It was the same as how everyone else treated her. They all had this thing where everyone else was so much better than she wasjust because they’d lived there their whole lives.What did that even matter?
She felt that old anger boiling inside her. She was tired of this outsider garbage. They always treated her that way, and she was not going to suffer in a hospital room because of it. She couldn’t stop her fury from finally spillingover.
“Screw you,” she growled.
The boy looked shocked, and his smile fell away as he held up his hands in defense. “Woah. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“I don’t care. Everyone in this town’s always like, ‘Hey, it’s the new girl.’ We’ve lived here twoyears, and, well, you know what, it sucks.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes,staring at each other. The boy looked shocked that Riley had lashed out at him, and Riley was ashamed she had. She could feel the redness risein her cheeks. Now she was embarrassed as well as frustrated.
He looked away, and she lowered her gaze. She had just taken out all that frustration on a kid she didn’t even know. How was that fair?
“Yeah, that must suck,” he said softly as he looked out the window.
Riley needed to change the subject. She wasn’t going to spend the rest of the night in the room and have it be this awkward.
“So, whatcha in for?”
He looked at her. “Had my appendix taken out. Stuck here for a couple days before they’ll let me go home.”
“Wow, that sucks.”
“Yeah, and no ice cream.”
She furrowed her brows. “No ice cream?”
“Yeah. I thought I was supposed to get all kinds of ice cream after surgery, but nah, nothing.”
Riley chuckled. “I think that’s your tonsils.”
“Really?” He raised his brows.
“Oh… Oh well.”
“I’m Riley, by the way.”
“Riley? Cool name.” He gave her a small smile.
“My name’s Bruce.”
“Cool. Like Batman?”
He laughed, then grabbed his side, wincing.“Sure. Let me grab my cape.”
“Might be hard. It looks like they have you tied up to that bed pretty good.”
Bruce laughed again, but it drifted into a fit of coughing. He grabbed his side, panting.“Dude…,” he choked out.
When Bruce finally caught his breath, he shook his head. “Nah, don’t be.”
“And what do we have going on in here?”came a loud female voice from behind Riley. She quickly turned to the door, instantly regretting it. A bolt of pain shot up her leg. Gritting her teeth against it, she slowly pushed herself to sit up.
“Hey now. Take it easy. How are youdoing?”
Riley nodded as the nurse strolled over to her.
She was an older woman, a little thickaround the waist, her white, curly hair piled on her head. It made her think of a motherly type from TV. She seemed nice enough, actually looked like she cared, which was an oddity. Riley wasn’t quitesure how she was supposed to act.
“Cat got your tongue, eh?” the older womanasked with a strange accent. “You shouldn’t move so quickly. It’s going to take you some time, don’tya know, to get used to that cast. Your body is still trying to move the muscles around the broken bone, so when you jerk like that…” She helped Riley ease her leg back straight, “it’s going to jolt you pretty good.”
Riley eased back onto the pillow. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I’m Nurse Jackie. I’ll be taking care of you two tonight. You need anything, just use this buzzer…” She raised the device next to Riley’s arm. “If you need help going to the bathroom, just let me know. It might take a few tries for you to get used to those crutches.” She nodded to where they leaned against the bedsidetable. Riley looked at them, then nodded.
“I’ll be fine.”
“Of course you will.”
As the woman moved away and walkedover to Bruce, Riley couldn’t stop picturing the old woman helping her to the bathroom. The idea of someone helping her in there, someone old… Ugh, that was just a huge “no”. She knew, no matter how much pain she was in, that was one call Riley would not be making.
She didn’t know why, but she suddenly feltextremely tired. Her head was so heavy that itsank deeper into her pillow. The world around her grew dark as her eyelids slowly closed. She just wanted to…drift…off…to…