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Walls Around The Heart - Part Two
Nicole Starleigh Yeager
Sometime later I awoke again, this time in a hospital bed with Lauren sitting on a chair by the window. It took a minute to find my voice, but I finally did.
"What happened?" I asked in a hoarse whisper.
I had startled her and she jumped up. "Oh my god, are you all right?"
I just looked at her, not sure exactly how to answer that question. I was in a hospital room, my head was killing me, and I had just woken up from quite a blackout. "Well, I'm not dead," I said, smiling.
She seemed relieved to see me smile. "I knew I shouldn't have left you up there, alone. I knew I should have made you come with me, or waited for you or whatever."
She seemed to ignore the question and ran to the door. Opening it, she called outside the room, "Guys, she's awake."
I expected Brett and Kyle to show up, but was a bit shocked when a police officer entered the room as well. I just looked at them all for a minute.
"What happened?" I asked again.
"Miss Anderson, I'm Officer Calvin. There was a break-in to your hotel room tonight, and we think you caught the burglar off guard." The officer seemed polite enough. I guessed he was there to question me.
"What? I'm lost," I said. "A break-in? Our room?"
Kyle spoke up in a softer than normal voice. "What happened in the room? Do you remember?"
I was taken aback by the effect his soothing voice had on me just then. I tried to sort things out... and then it all came back to me. I nodded. "I think so."
"We understand that you were the only one in the room when Miss Slawecki left to go downstairs. Can you think of anything you might have been doing where you would not have seen the perpetrator come into the room?" the officer began.
"Uh... I was out on the balcony for awhile," I answered.
"What were you doing out there?"
My three friends were watching me intently. "I was... uh, I was letting off some steam." I looked directly at Kyle for a split second, then back at the officer. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him put his head down. Lauren must have told him that I had been upset.
"Can you remember the events that led up to the attack?"
"Events? Well, I went back inside and shut the door, and I thought I heard something, but I just figured Lauren forgot something and came back in. Then when I talked to her but didn't hear anything back, I figured I must have been hearing the people in the room next door. I didn't hear anything again until I went for my purse."
"Where did you hear the noise?"
"It sounded like it was in the bathroom, but I was too freaked out to check."
"What did you do next?"
"I talked to them and said maybe they're in the wrong room. I said if they didn't leave I would get security. Then I tried to get out, but I guess I never made it."
"Did you see your attacker?"
"No. He must have been behind me."
"Did he speak to you at all, in any voice you could possibly recognize?"
"No." I remembered how eerily quiet it was in the room at that moment.
"Okay, well, the hotel is giving you a new room, while we investigate the crime scene. We can't have you in there while we're working. We ask that you don't remove any of your things until we are finished. We will have the hotel send your bags down to your new room. Please go through your things and let us know if anything has been stolen."
We all just nodded.
"I will be in touch. The doctors will be releasing you this evening, Miss Anderson."
He replaced his hat on his head and left the room. Lauren dropped her head into her hand. Brett put his arm around her shoulders. I noticed Kyle had a bit of blood on the sleeve of his white T-shirt.
"What happened to you?" I asked him.
He looked up at me and said, "What?" I could see that I had interrupted a pondering thought.
"What happened to you?" I said again, nodding at his sleeve.
He looked down. "Oh, wow, I didn't even see that." He pulled the sleeve taut to examine the stain. It wasn't very big, but enough to cause curiosity. "That must be from you."
"From me?" I clenched my jaw as a wave of pain throbbed through my head. I took a deep breath as it passed.
"Yeah, he picked you up off the floor when we came back up looking for you."
"Oh. I'm sorry," I said.
"Don't be sorry," he said, trying to make light of the situation.
"Lauren, I don't think the ibuprofen is going to be strong enough for this," I said, wincing.
"Well, the doctor's going to give you something. You're not allowed to go to sleep tonight anyway," she answered. "So it looks like I'll be staying up with you."
"You don't have to, I had a nap today," I told her.
"It doesn't matter. You'll be sleepy," Kyle said.
I was too weak to hate him at the moment. "Why do I have to stay awake?"
"Because, you've got a nice concussion," Brett answered.
"I just don't understand how anybody got in," Lauren said. "The door locks automatically and we should be the only ones who have key cards."
"Yeah, but me and Kyle noticed today that the door doesn't always shut right away. You have to make sure it is shut tight. Remember, it blew open about a half hour after she left with Eric?"
"That's screwed up. They should give us the room for free," Lauren said.
"That's poor maintenance!"
"You could sue them," Brett said.
I didn't want to think about suing anybody. "When can I get out of here?"
"Let me go find the doctor," Lauren said. "Brett, come with me. We gotta get her discharged."
They left Kyle and me alone in the room. "Are you feeling all right?" he asked.
"If all right means that I am still alive and not bleeding to death, then yeah."
He chuckled, quietly, as if he wasn't sure whether I was joking or not. I smiled too. "I think I better wear a helmet for the rest of the weekend."
"You're lucky, you know."
I looked at him. "Oh? How so?"
"I'm just saying, it could have been worse."
"I'm sure it could have, but I don't want to think about that right now. I don't want to think about anything. It hurts too much." We were getting along pretty well, I thought. Lauren would be proud.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there."
That comment shocked me. "There's nothing for you to be sorry about. Besides, he might have gotten you too."
He shook his head. "No, he wouldn't have. I would have kicked his ass."
"No, because he would have gone after you first, knowing that you would fight back before I would."
"They seriously think I have a concussion?"
"You do have a concussion."
"Do you know what he hit me with?"
"One of the desk lamps."
"No wonder. Oh, man, I just want to get out of here."
"You should wait for the doctor."
"But, that could take forever."
"You really wanna go?"
"They're gonna send me home anyway."
"All right, come on, then. I'll check and see if Lauren and Brett are coming back yet."
As he went to the door, I slid my legs off the side of the bed and touched my feet carefully to the floor. It was as if every little move was too much for my head to handle. It screamed in pain at me, each time that I moved. Dizziness began to overwhelm me as I stood next to the bed. The room began to spin as I clutched the blanket. Thankfully they left me with my own clothes. I hated hospital gowns. I called out to Kyle as I felt myself losing my balance. Before I could fall to the floor, he was right there, holding me up.
"You sure you're all right?"
"Yeah, I was just laying down too long, is all. Please, just get me out of here. I hate hospitals. People die in hospitals." Dammit. I had let out one of my worst fears to one of the people I trusted the least.
His voice was soft and comforting. "All right, just hold on to me, then. We'll just go out to the car awhile."
I started out holding onto his arm, but the pain throbbed with every step and soon seemed unbearable. I nearly set into tears. Kyle noticed this and put his arm around me, holding me up.
"It's all right," he said to me. "Lauren's going to get the medication from the doctor when she sees you're gone. If you want, I'll call her. I have your cell phone."
"No," I said. "You can't use cell phones in the hospital."
He laughed. "Oh yeah, I guess you can't. She'll figure it out. I already told Brett you probably can't wait to get out of here and that we should get you out."
"What do you mean?"
"I knew you hated hospitals."
"Cause Lauren said you freaked when her and Eric said they'd take you the first time you bumped your head."
I chuckled. "The first time... What a vacation this is turning out to be."
"No, no," Kyle said. "Do that and they'll take you back in there in a minute. Stand up."
"I'm trying," I said. "I don't want to go back in."
"I know. Look, you car is right over there. Crap."
"Lauren has the keys."
"I can sit on the ground, then."
"No, you can just sit on the trunk."
"Fine." I had never felt such pain in my life. My eyelids were growing heavy, as well. He was right about the being tired part. Wow, was I tired. If I could just close my eyes for a few minutes...
"Keri, Keri," Kyle said, lifting my head. I opened my eyes and looked at him. "Stay awake. Promise me you'll stay awake, or I'll take you right back in there."
"Okay, okay." I took a deep breath, intensifying the pain in my head, and stood up to walk the rest of the way to the car. I tried to climb up onto the trunk but didn't have the energy. I felt him pick me up by the waist and set me on the trunk. Not letting go of me, he got up on the trunk and sat next to me. I guess he was afraid I would fall. He was probably right.
It was nearly forty minutes later before Lauren and Brett came out to the parking lot. "Why the heck did you bring her out here? We searched for the freaking doctor for twenty minutes, waited for him to come see her, found out she wasn't there, convinced him you must have taken her to the bathroom and got him to write the stupid prescription!"
"Relax, Lauren, I brought her out here. She needed to get out of the hospital because..." I squeezed his hand when I realized that he was about to tell them both about my fear of hospitals. "Because it was making her sleepy. I figured the walk would do her good." I sighed quietly. He'd gotten my message.
"Next time at least let me know what you're doing!" she fumed. "The doctor yelled at us for removing her from the room without the proper authority!"
"Sorry." He was holding me up. I didn't want to move a single part of my body.
"You get the prescription?" I asked, wincing.
"Yeah, we'll have to stop somewhere and get it filled on the way back. I can come back out and pick it up when it's ready," she told me as she started to unlock the car.
Once Brett opened the back passenger door, Kyle said to me, "Steady yourself for a minute." I braced myself on the trunk as he slid off and lifted me down. Slowly, I made my way into the backseat. I curled up as soon as I was in. I could feel Kyle buckling my seatbelt, but still couldn't move. He shut the door and walked around the other side to get in. Lauren sat in the driver's seat and Brett sat up front with her. As she started the car, the music came on. As quiet as it was, I cried out when the noise agitated my headache. She quickly turned it off.
"Sorry, hon," Lauren said. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah," I whimpered, still sitting sideways on the backseat.
Kyle leaned over and unbuckled my seatbelt. "Here, just lie down across the seat."
Lying down across the seat meant lying my head in his lap. I didn't move.
"It's all right, I promise," he said.
"Keri, it won't hurt as much," Brett said from up front. He must have been watching us.
Finally, I did. I felt the car start to move as Lauren pulled out of the parking lot and headed down the highway. Everyone was quiet, thankfully.
Five minutes down the road (though it seemed to me like a half-hour), somebody pulled out in front of us and she had to slam on the brakes. In a flash, Kyle's arms secured me to the seat and kept me from falling to the floor as I cried out in pain. The jerk of the vehicle seemed to throw my brain against the front wall of my skull and send it bouncing back against the rear wall.
Lauren started screaming at the woman in the other car. The pain throbbed with the tone of her voice. Kyle must have seen me wincing, because he reached up and touched her shoulder to get her attention.
Softly, he said, "Lauren, try to talk a little quieter. Her head is really sensitive."
"Sorry," Lauren whispered to me in a huff. Then she grunted in rage. "People need to learn how to drive!"
Kyle didn't let go of me the rest of the way back to the hotel.
"Did you forget to stop for my prescription?" I asked.
"No, we stopped, you just don't remember, I guess," Lauren said.
"Kyle, you didn't let her fall asleep, did you?"
"No, she was awake the whole time. She was just staring at the back of the seat though," he answered as he helped me to the bed. I wasn't allowed to lay down, but he propped some pillows against the headboard so I could sit up comfortably.
Had I gone to sleep? I couldn't remember. Maybe I was just concentrating on trying to ease the pain so much that I didn't even notice them stop to drop off the prescription.
"It'll be ready in about 45 minutes," Lauren said. "We're lucky we found a place open 24 hours like that."
"What time is it?" I asked, curiously.
"It's after 11," Brett answered.
"Oh." I had expected it to be much later than that, actually. "Can I have some ice?"
"Yeah, Kyle, go downstairs and get some ice. I think there's a machine on the third floor, but there's definitely one in the lobby."
Kyle took the bucket and left the room. I sat and stared at the painting hanging on the other wall. "That's a Monet," I said, deciding to try and take my mind off of the pain.
"What is?" Brett asked.
"That painting," I nodded, then winced. Bad idea. "Ow."
"I am never leaving you alone again, you know," Lauren said.
"He would have got you too," I answered, eyes closed to ease the pressure.
"Hey, open your eyes," she scolded.
"I'm awake, I swear," I answered. "Can somebody open the sliding door? I want to listen to the waves."
Brett walked over and pulled it open for me. "There's a nice breeze," he said, standing there. "Too bad it's too dark to see anything."
"Are there any chairs out there?" I asked.
"Yeah, two chairs and a little table."
"I'm gonna sit out there for a little, I think."
"Not by yourself," Lauren said.
"Who's going to come after me on the balcony?"
"That's not what I'm talking about," she said. "I don't want you falling asleep."
"How long do I have to stay awake?" I wasn't liking this idea very much.
"Let's just say I better get us some coffee."
Brett moved out of the way as I slid off the bed and shuffled my way to the door. The sea breeze felt cool and wonderful on my face. Peace at last, I thought.
Not long after that, Kyle returned with the bucket of ice and a hotel attendant, who brought with her a complimentary dinner on one of those room service carts. The manager learned that none of us had eaten because of the incident and sent a full course meal up to us.
"My manager, Mr. Hummel, asked me to offer you an extra night's stay at the hotel, free of charge. Our hotel has never had a bad reputation and we wouldn't want you to think poorly of us. We appreciate your business and would like to keep you satisfied," she told us.
I could hear it all from the balcony, but dared not turn my head. It was all very bearable at the moment, and soon Lauren would be off to pick up my prescription.
"Well, we have to ask Keri, first," I heard Lauren say.
She stepped out onto the balcony. I didn't turn to look at her. "What's up?"
It wasn't her, it was Kyle who had come outside. "The hotel is giving us an extra night's stay for free. It's up to you."
I thought for a minute. Maybe this weekend wasn't completely ruined. "Tell them to throw in some free room service, and it's a deal."
I heard him chuckle as he went back inside. The waves seemed to become more animated. The crashes on the beach below had grown more and more frequent, not to mention they sounded larger. The breeze picked up into a small wind. I peered up into the sky; the moon was still shining, and I could still see the stars above us. But, out over the sea, the stars disappeared, and blackness took their place. Rain clouds were coming in. Whether or not they were bringing a storm with them, I wasn't sure. I sat disappointed; I would have to go back inside soon.
Kyle stepped back out onto the balcony. "She said she'd see what the manager says." He paused, I guessed, to look out over the water. "You're gonna have to come inside."
"Not for awhile," I answered. "It's beautiful out here."
He didn't say anything in return, but walked back inside. Moments later, Lauren came out with a bag of ice. "Here you go," she said. "I wrapped a towel around it so it wouldn't be too cold."
"Thank you." I leaned forward and she put the ice pack behind my head. I rested against it on the chair.
"Is that comfortable enough?"
"Listen, I'll be back in a little bit."
"Hey," I said as she turned to go back inside.
"What?" she stopped and turned to me.
"Where are you going?"
"To get you some coffee. I think the Dunkin Donuts is open till like, one am for the partiers. Or maybe even twenty-four hours."
"For what? There's nothing to be sorry for!"
"I'm ruining your weekend."
"No, you're not, we got an extra night out of the deal, anyway."
"Why don't you guys go out tonight? It's still early. I promise I won't fall asleep. I just want you guys to have fun."
"No, I'm not leaving you here alone. If you want, I can send Kyle and Brett out, and I'll stay with you."
"No, you go, too."
Curiosity brought Brett to the door. "What's going on?" he asked.
"She wants us all to go out tonight."
"Keri, how are you going to go out? You can't even walk hardly," he said.
"Not me," I said. "You guys."
"What, and leave you here?" he asked.
"I'm a big girl."
"Yeah, with a concussion and an asshole on the loose somewhere in the hotel," Lauren said.
"He's gone by now," I said. "At least, if he was smart, he would be."
"That's not the point. The point is, who's going to keep you from falling asleep if you're in here by yourself?"
"I promise you, I'll stay awake. Juts bring a couple of coffees from Dunkin Donuts or something on your way back from the drug store and I'll be fine. I promise. Go, have fun. That's what this weekend is for."
"Don't you want to go out?" Brett asked her.
"Well, yeah, but I'm not going to leave her here alone."
"I'll stay here with her, you two go out and have some time to yourselves," Kyle said.
I sighed. Oh, boy. I think I'd rather fall asleep and never wake up.
"Are you sure?" Lauren asked.
"Yeah. I'm sure," he answered.
"Wait. It's up to Keri." She walked back out to the balcony. "Do you?"
"It's fine," I interrupted her. "Go, have fun. I mean it. This is your weekend." I smiled at her in the dark, but I don't think she saw me.
She huffed. It was obvious she wanted to go, but she felt obligated to stay in and take care of me. I would have done the same for her. But I wasn't letting her stay. "All right, we'll go out. But we're not going to be out late. Kyle, how about you and Brett go pick up the prescription, it should be ready soon. And stop and get some coffee on the way back. That way I can get ready to go out."
"Gimme the keys," I heard him say. I could hear the jingle of the keys as they landed in his hands. Then he and Brett left.
Lauren came back out onto the balcony. "Is it gonna be okay that he's here with you?"
"Yes. I promise, we'll get along. I don't have the energy to fight with anybody right now, even him."
She chuckled. "I kind of... have to tell you something... but I'll tell you later. Like, maybe when we get back home." She disappeared into the room.
"Lauren!" I scolded as loudly as I could, and yet it sounded meager to me.
She reluctantly came back out onto the balcony. "I really can't tell you right now."
"You have to. You know you can't say something like that to me and then leave me hanging. You know how bad that pisses me off."
"I know, but... I just can't."
"Is it about you and Brett?"
"No. Quit asking me."
"What is it about? Did I do something?"
"No, you didn't."
"Does it have to do with me?"
"Yeah, sort of. Okay, it has everything to do with you."
"Then what did I do?"
"You didn't do anything! It's about somebody else, too."
"Me and somebody else? Who? Eric?"
"I can't tell you right now!"
"But if it has to do with Eric, you have to tell me now, cause I will probably never see him again after this weekend."
"It has nothing to do with Eric."
"You should not be so difficult with me, right now, I could really hurt myself, you know." Maybe a guilt trip would work?
"No, I'm not telling you right now. It would only piss you off anyway." She had spoken nearly as fast as she disappeared into the room again.
I grunted, then winced. "Ow." Stupid on my part. I had given myself a headache. "This better not have anything to do with Kyle!" I called in after her. "I told you I am through with that whole thing and don't want to hear any more crap!... Ow... See the trouble he makes!"
"You might as well give up, because I am just going to pretend I can't hear you, unless you talk about something else," she called from inside.
I guessed she was getting clothes together to get changed. I forced myself up from the chair. It was a difficult task and the bag of ice clumped down onto the seat. I gripped the railing of the balcony for balance, and realized I had better not go any further. I was able to see inside the room. "Why do you do this to me?"
"Feeling better?" she asked as she noticed I was up from the chair.
"Yes. Wait, no... If you don't tell me I'm going to sit here thinking about whatever the heck it could be and that's going to give me a heck of a headache."
"Then don't think about it." She escaped into the bathroom and locked the door behind her.
I saw the sky light up in a flash of lightning out of the corner of my eye. A gust of wind nearly knocked me over as the first audible clap of thunder rolled over the hotel. I sat down for a minute on the other chair. It wasn't raining yet, and I loved thunderstorms. As fierce as some of them were, I found peace sitting amidst them.
Seconds later she was out of the bathroom again. "D'ya know what? Just forget that I said anything. I don't know what I was thinking. Want us to bring anything back for you?"
"Are you hungry? We could see what they sent up for us."
"No, I just want to get changed. Hey! How did you get your suitcase?"
"All the bags were already here by the time we got back. Didn't you see them?"
"No, I must have missed them."
"Don't you remember the cop saying they would send our bags down?"
I looked at her. "Cop? When did I talk to a cop?"
"You're kidding me, right, please tell me you're kidding me."
I smiled. "I am. I remember the cop. I just don't remember him saying that."
"You better not be losing your memory."
"I'm not, that's normal for me."
"You know, you're right. But, Kyle even changed his bloody shirt, didn't you notice?"
"Why would I notice?"
"Well, whatever. Just get changed... I don't know if you're gonna get that blood out of your shirt."
"Aw, are you serious? My new shirt!"
"You must be feeling better."
"I am, a little. The ice helped, I think."
"You're a lot more talkative, now."
"It's not like they crushed my skull or anything. Just a little bump with a sharp object."
"You have to quit pretending you're all big and mighty, dear, and just accept that you do get hurt once in a while. A concussion is nothing to mess around with."
"Oh, screw you," she laughed, and lifted my bag up onto her bed. "Want me to get something out for you?"
"My pj's would be nice."
"Where are they?"
"I don't know, in there somewhere. I need my face wash, too, and my toothbrush and toothpaste."
"Oh, well, they didn't bring everything down, they just sent the clothes down."
"How did they know which clothes went to which suitcase?"
"Obviously, they just guessed, because, I don't think any of this is yours." She lifted a pair of men's socks out. "Whose stuff it is?"
"I think its Kyle's."
"Ech. Where's my stuff? In his bag, I'm sure."
"Hey, at least they got mine and Brett's stuff in the right bag."
"That's cause all your stuff was in the same bag, the ONLY bag that happened to be sitting by that dresser."
She lifted his bag up onto the bed. "Yeah, here's all your stuff."
"Ew, the police saw my underwear?"
"It's nothing they haven't seen before."
"But they touched it!"
"I don't remember giving them permission!"
"Well, the hotel called the hospital after a while and asked me if I wanted to have our stuff sent down to the new room. I said, yeah. So they sent most of it, except what the cops wouldn't allow them to take... like all the stuff in the bathroom, where the guy must have been hiding."
"I know, but it sounded convincing, didn't it?"
"They never called you at the hospital."
"I hate you."
"You love me."
"Are they really keeping some of the stuff?"
"Yeah, they have to keep some of it because they're not done yet."
"So, did anybody see anything?"
"Nope, no one said anything yet." She threw my pajamas onto my bed. "Honest."
"Are you sure you want me to go out? I can stay here and chill with you."
"Just quit arguing with me. If anything happens, we can call you."
She sighed. "All right. But, I know you can't stand to be around him."
"I'll deal with it. If he's moving in with us, we have to learn to get along, somehow."
"Ok, if that's what you really want."
"What I really want is for you to try to have fun this weekend, and for those two to hurry up and get back here with my pills." I got up and walked back into the hotel room; a drop of rain had splattered my shoulder. "Man, I wish I had a cigarette right now."
"Too bad you quit."
"I know. I pulled it off, though, didn't I?"
"Yeah, I don't know how you did it."
I sat down on the end of the bed and pulled the nightclothes over to me.
"I'm going to go change."
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