I will be releasing excerpts from A Shrouded Spark every Sunday, #ShroudedSundays–so, enjoy what’s left of your Sunday with this excerpt!
Noni’s eyes flew open wide with disbelief. “Coma? What— why was I in a coma? What happened?” She noticed her aunt watching her sadly, face contorted into an expression of fear and confusion.
“You mean you don’t remember?” Deidre asked.
Noni remained silent and shook her head. She couldn’t remember a thing. Deidre looked to Dr. Cohen as if to gain permission to speak. Noni tried to relax. She waited for an answer. Her aunt, nerves wracked, wrung her hands together as she began talking.
“You and Bianca were in a car accident. You were hurt very badly.” She paused, closing her eyes and mustering up the courage to find the right words—words that would not jar the memory of the crash. “Bianca is fine. She has a broken arm and a few bruised ribs, but that’s all. It’s you we were worried about, baby.”
Noni gripped the rails weakly, trying and failing at pulling herself into a more upright position. Frustrated, she let her arms fall to the side and heaved out a heavy, tired breath. “Where’s Bianca?” She clutched at the side of her head, irritated by her lack of coordination, and let her head fall to the pillows.
The older woman stood quickly. “She’s here, Noni. I’ll bring her.”
When her aunt left, Noni let her eyes fall shut. She wracked her brain for glimpses of what she’d been through, for memories, for something, but in the end, she found nothing. She couldn’t call to mind a single moment from the crash, but body held tight to every memory. She could feel every ache in every bone, every bruise on every inch of her skin. She could barely move without feeling pain. There were bandages across her head; she could almost smell the blood underneath—that, mixed with the hospital stench invading her nostrils and the mixture of medication in her body, caused a lurch in her stomach. Sick, she covered her nose with the edge of her hand. She breathed deeply and concentrated on the sound of the heart monitor beside her bed.
When Bianca finally came, she wept immediately upon the sight of her cousin. She rushed to Noni’s bedside, wrapped her good arm around Noni, and sobbed into her shoulder.
“I’m so glad you’re awake,” she sniffed, using her sleeve to wipe her eyes. “Don’t ever scare us like that again.”
Noni, dazed and aching, muttered a promise into Bianca’s shirt to never scare anyone like this again.
Dr. Cohen wanted to keep Noni under close observation. Though Noni was conscious and lucid, Dr. Cohen still wanted to be sure of her condition. Comas were not to be taken lightly, and the doctor couldn’t send Noni home without being completely sure.
Hospitals made Noni anxious. She’d spent more than enough time in them as a child. The stench of antiseptics, the squeak of slip-resistant shoes, the tired faces of worried relatives roaming the halls—all of it made her squirm. Noni’s father had been a surgeon. Her mother had been a nurse. They spent all of their time in the hospital, and she spent all of her time in the hospital day care. It had been something of a second home.
During Noni’s recovery, her days in the hospital blurred together. The medicine spun her in and out of consciousness. There were times when she woke and forgot why she was in the hospital, but she would find Deidre or Bianca at her side, and they would always explain. Only one person outside of her family visited Noni, and she was lucid when he arrived.
Terrell rushed into the room with a bouquet of flowers, grinning wildly. He was still in his work uniform: black pants, white shirt, and green vest. He was grinning in the doorway, his brown eyes sparkling as they found Noni.
“You’re awake,” he said. “Thank goodness.”
It took her a few seconds to register his face, but when she did, she smiled. “Yeah,” Noni replied. “It’s something, right?”
Terrell came to her bedside and motioned to the flowers. “I bought these.” He said. “You don’t seem like the type to like flowers, but you know, it’s the principle of the thing.”
Noni laughed, reaching out for the bouquet. “It’s the principle of the thing. Thank you.”
Noni had known Terrell for a little over two years, ever since she started working at the Michael’s Grocery Store. He was a few years older than her and had been working there long before she was hired. During her first few weeks, Terrell was her trainer. He showed her the ropes and helped her work through her mistakes. He knew how to do his job, and he knew how to help people.
Terrell watched Noni closely as she peeled through the flowers, examining each and every bloom in the bouquet. There were orange and red lilies and fuchsia carnations. She’d never really been a fan of flowers, but they were beautiful.
“How are you feeling?”
Noni shrugged, setting the bouquet aside on the small table beside her bed.
“Everything hurts,” she told him. She paused, trying to find the words. Dr. Cohen told her that forgetting words was normal for coma patients who’d just woken up. Normal or not, it was frustrating. “Forget it,” she muttered. She looked over at him. “I feel like crap.”
“I think that’s normal,” Terrell told her.
“I don’t remember it,” Noni admitted. “—the accident. I don’t remember.”
Terrell nodded. “Maybe it’s for the best?”
“Maybe,” She sighed. “Thank you for coming.”
“You don’t have to thank me,” He grinned. “As soon as I heard you were awake, I knew I had to see ya. I came a few times, you know, while you were still out.”
“Was it bad?” Noni asked.
Terrell nodded once more, running his hands across his hair. “Yeah. It was. It was bad, Noni.”
“Okay,” She sighed, closing her eyes.
Abruptly, one of Noni’s nurses came into her hospital room. The woman was smiling and spoke immediately.
“Hi, Miss Grace,” She greeted. “How are you feeling?”
Noni rolled her eyes. Terrell saw her and laughed.
“Awful, but what’s new,” she grumbled.
The woman laughed softly. “That’s normal,” she said. “I’m just here to do some routine checks, okay?”
The nurse checked her vitals, her temperature, her motor skills, and just about everything else. She didn’t leave before letting Noni know that she seemed completely healthy. Noni hoped that meant she could go home soon and get as far away from the hospital as possible.
Terrell stayed through the whole ordeal. He didn’t ask Noni anymore questions about her condition, and he didn’t remind her of the crash again. Instead, he told her stories about work and about all the ridiculous things that happened while she’d been gone. He kept her smiling and entertained until visiting hours ended.
“Hey,” he asked her. “You want me to come back tomorrow?”
Noni nodded. “If you have time, that’d be…great. That’d be great.”
Terrell left just before Bianca returned. She took his spot at Noni’s bedside, laying her head on the edge of her cousin’s bed.
“You ready to go home? ‘Cuz I am.” She complained.
Noni sighed. Bianca had no idea.