KATE DRIFTED AWAKE. Her eyes were still heavy with sleep but she could sense movement in the room. She felt a light touch on her throbbing forehead. Then, ever so slowly, she realized there was a familiar warm nuzzling on her left hand. It was enough to push her awake, in spite of the pain.
“Stringer? Is that you?” Kate’s voice was barely a hoarse whisper, but it was enough to elicit a sharp yap from her Scottish terrier. The dog returned to pushing its nose into Kate’s hand. She opened her eyes to a dimly lit room with a smell she knew all too well, the smell of antiseptic.
As her vision cleared and adjusted to the dim room Kate could just make out her small white dog, sitting on her brother’s lap in a chair pulled up to the bed.
“Shush, Stringer, or we’ll both be thrown out of here.” David sharply scolded the dog. Stringer reacted with a happy wag of his tail.
“What are you doing here, you mutt?” Kate started to reach out and rub Stringer’s nose, but groaned involuntarily at the shiver of pain the movement set off. Immediately she regretted the noise as she saw David wince.
“He really got you good this time, Kate.” David‘s voice thickened with contempt. “That bastard.”
Carefully Kate turned her face more toward David. “David.” She took a breath and struggled on. “Don’t. Not now.”
“Don’t what, Kate? Don’t get mad? Don’t hate the miserable creep? Christ! I’d like to deliver his ass to hell myself. He’s made …”
“David, what about Emma? Where is she, David?” Kate strained to lift her head off the pillow even though it weighed a thousand pounds. With the adrenalin of fear she started to push back the covers and struggle up.
“Where’s Emma? Please, God, tell me he doesn’t have Emma!”
“Relax, Kate. Emma is fine.” Quickly David leaned forward and pressed his hand against his sister’s shoulder until she yielded, and sank back against the bed. David leaned back into his chair.
“Emma’s over at Mom and Dad’s. And believe me, she is safe. Heck, I’m afraid to knock on the door myself, Dad’s sitting there with a baseball bat across his knees ready to spring into action.”
David put Stringer on the bed beside Kate, where the dog promptly curled up against the blankets tucked around her legs. David leaned back and relaxed in the plastic chair. “Although, I must admit, I wouldn’t mind watching Ben catch the business end of my old bat.”
Kate wondered why her left arm felt so heavy when she tried to lift it, to scratch her dog. It was only then that she realized it was encased in a heavy white cast, from above her elbow to the base of her thumb. The arm felt swollen and hot; the unyielding pressure like a vise around it.
Unsure about the extent of her injuries Kate tentatively flexed her right hand. She was rewarded with a tight, stingy pull, where an IV needle poked in. A pulsing ache she couldn’t quite identify gnawed at her lower back.
Kate turned to David again, who watched her with eyes impossible to read in the semi-darkness. Her brother’s dark hair faded into the shadows, and his face was almost as dim. David spent so much time outdoors training the offense for his old college football team his face was tanned deep into winter. Drawn blinds over a big square window glowed faintly as they held dawn at bay. The patchy darkness felt warm, soothing even.