Riley opened her eyes, but wasn’t sure where she was. She really felt out of it. What had happened? Had she really been dumb enough to go down Deadman’s?
She turned to roll out of bed and the instant soreness that screamed across every muscle in her body told her, “Yep, she really was that dumb.”
“Hey, don’t get up” Came a soothing voice she quickly recognized. Suzy was there. She looked around the two bed hospital room and saw her sitting next to Riley. Her face was dirty, but Riley could see the streaks from where Suzy had been crying. Had she really been crying over her? Wow, and yes, Riley was now officially a jerk for making her best friend cry.
Suzy had been a friend of hers for the last two years since Riley’s dad had moved them to the small town in the middle of nowhere. She didn’t have too many friends, most of them having all grown up together in a town that didn’t get many newcomers. Suzy, being another outside had quickly greeted her and welcomed her into the fold, though, sometimes Riley thought Suzy did it more because she felt sorry for her.
Riley was just turning thirteen, and Suzy was a year older than her. She should have been a grade ahead of Riley, but because her family moved around so much, had gotten held back a year, something she was not happy about. Her being older and in the same grade made her really tall for the class. Well that and her curly red hair and freckles always made Suzy stand out in pictures.
“How bad?” Riley said with a groan, lying back and wondering just how a person could bruise their butt as bad as hers felt.
“Well, you broke your leg and knocked yourself out pretty good.”
Then Suzy looked around before easing in close to her. Riley could smell her sweat, and knew it had to be the same day, though with how Riley’s head hurt, everything seemed fuzzy.
“They had to call your dad, get his permission to set the leg.”
“Yeah, he’s not here yet, but I over heard the doctor talking to him. He didn’t sound happy.”
“I bet, I was supposed to be home grounded.”
“You never told me that.”
“Yeah, if I had, would you have come out with me to take down the curve?”
“No, I would have knocked some sense into you.”
“Well, now you know why I never told ya.”
“Never-mind.” Riley said as she tried to reposition herself. She felt the weight of the cast now as she was becoming more awake, and also felt the twinge of pain the moment she tried to move her foot. She just couldn’t get herself comfortable, no matter how she moved. she could still feel everything aching. Riley finally noticed that much of the other leg and both her arms were heavily bandaged.
“What’s this?” She held up both her arms and nodded her head to them.
“You were skinned up pretty bad.”
“Great, so what did my dad say?”
“Well, he was pretty loud talking to the doctor, and pretty upset. Don’t think you have to worry about playing on your X-box anytime soon.”
“Well, he’ll be here after work sometime later tonight.”
“Okay, how long was I out?”
“About seven hours. You were knocked out pretty good, and then you started to come through during setting the leg, so they had to put one of those things on you that put back to sleep.” Suzy pointed to the pouch that was hanging over Riley’s bed. Riley saw where there was a bandage on the back of her hand and she grimaced at the idea that they had used a needle on her. She really did not like needles. They were so small and pointy, and they pinched going in.
“Wow, really? And my dad’s still not here?”
“I figured he should be. My mom’s supposed to get here soon to pick me up. She wasn’t too happy that I rode with the ambulance guys.”
“So you left my board and your bike out there?”
“I put them off to the side of the road. I doubt anyone will take them.”
“Yeah, but if Chaz finds them, you know he’ll bust up the board. He’s been giving me grief over making it all summer.”
“Don’t worry about what he thinks.”
“About what who thinks?” Riley’s dad asked as he came into the room. His smartphone was pulled away from his ear, and the screen lit up that Riley could see her dad was still on the call. Her dad nodded to them as he put his finger over the mic on the phone. “Hey, you okay?”
Riley nodded and her dad kissed her briefly on the forehead.
“I’ll be right back, I just have to finish this phone call.” Her dad said and then stepped back into the hallway.
“Well, that set a record.” Riley said as he looked over at Suzy.
“Yeah, well, at least he said hello.”
“I think he just wanted to make sure I was awake so he could start in once he got off the phone.”
“Maybe I should go?”
“If you want. He probably won’t yell as much with you here.”
She shrugged, and Riley smiled at her.
“Okay, well, now that that’s out of the way.” Mr. Herman said as he walked back into the room. Riley had to look up as his dad stood tall over him. Her dad had to be imposing at work, as he was the district manager for the fast food place outside of town. He was always driving around the county and was often getting phone calls. He must have had a bad enough day before arriving at the hospital as there were stains of sweat under his arms.
Mr. Herman scanned over his daughter, looking her up and down, that expression of disappointment obvious in his creased brow.
“You were supposed to be home, grounded.”
“If you know, then why weren’t you there? You’re thirteen, do I need to get you a baby sitter. I thought you’d be old enough to be left home alone.”
“That’s not an answer.”
Riley knew where her dad was going. It wasn’t going to do her any good to answer, this was just going to keep going on and on. She was in trouble, and had no idea how bad this was going to get.
“Well, I talked to the doctors. You really did a bang up job. Looks like you’ll be home six weeks all on your own, no worry about you sneaking out.”
“What!?” Suzy and Riley were both surprised. Six weeks, that was after school started and she would miss the open try outs for volleyball. Not that there weren’t enough open places on the team that anyone trying out would get accepted, but if you didn’t try out, it didn’t matter as you weren’t allowed on the team.
“Yep, and you can think twice about getting your X-box back any time soon. I might just sell it to pay for the hospital cost.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Really? How fair is it for me to pay for you breaking your leg and have to stay overnight in the hospital?”
“But-“ Riley started to protest, but then she realized what her dad had just said. That can’t be right. “Wait, stay overnight? Just for breaking my leg? Why not give me some crutches and get me out of here.”
“Well, that’s normally the case, but you broke your leg just right and they had to use anesthesia. They’re also worried about a possible concussion. Oh, you definitely took a nasty fall.”
This couldn’t be happening. Hospitals were creepy. They smelt funny. People died in hospitals, she was where people died. Someone could have died in this very bed. She squirmed some more in the bed, and her leg reminded her why she should’t be moving around with another stab of pain.
“Oh wow.” Riley said, easing back. She was starting to feel really really tired, and none of this was cool. She was kinda wishing her dad wasn’t there.
“I’ll hang out until my mom gets here, and she might let us stay a little longer.” Suzy said.
“Thank you,” Mr. Hermon said, his smile genuine as he nodded over his shoulder at her. Then her turned his attention back to Riley, the smile gone. “Your Aunt Nancy will be here in the morning to pick you up and get you home. I have to leave early as I have a store far out that I just fired the store manager, so I’ll be away for a few days.”
“Great.” Riley said, already imaging the large plump woman his father called Aunt Nancy, lecturing her on her room not being clean. Aunt Nancy never liked how Riley’s dirty clothes were in piles rather than making it into the hamper. Come on, who keeps their room spotless? It’s not like she kept half eaten food all over the place and spilled soda worked into the floor. Sure, that was last year, but she didn’t do that anymore. She’d learned. Riley had to battle a whole army battalion of ants after she’d done that, and so she’d learned her lesson.
Though there might still be that spot in the corner behind her bookcase, but come on, who ever looked back there. It was a great place to stash candy wrappers.
Her dad must have picked up on her eagerness to be left alone with Aunt Nancy.
“Hey, she’d have to of come over anyways as I don’t feel comfortable leaving you alone when I’m gone that long. It’s a long time to leave a young lady like yourself home alone. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with it even if you were seventeen, going on eighteen. You’re my little princess, I gotta protect you.” Riley’s dad was saying as he was already checking the time on his phone, or checking it for messages. Could be both, it was hard for Riley to tell. Then he looked back to her, trying to put a chipper tone into his voice. It came out weak and hollow, “And she’ll be able to help you get around. You know, she broke her leg when she was a kid. She’ll probably be able to show you how to use those.”
Riley’s dad nodded to the crutches already leaning against the bed’s nightstand. Yeah, like she really needed to be shown how to use those by Aunt Nancy. She’d figure it out on her own, it didn’t look too difficult.
“Okay, well, I gotta run.” Her dad was already half way to the door when another woman Riley recognized entered. Riley smiled and her mood immediately brightened. Suzy’s mom was great, and she often wished she had her rather than the always gone dad she was stuck with. Just seeing her there in her loose blouse top and jeans made him think of freshly cooked chocolate chip cookies. Suzy’s mom was always making them, or so it seemed and just seeing her brought back the smell. Maybe that was why Riley smiled so much around her.
“Hey,” his dad said, moving to hurry around her, “gotta run.” Then he was gone, leaving a surprised mother and daughter standing by the door.
“Boy, he was sure in a hurry.” Suzy’s mom said.
“Yep, always is.”