Kelly tried to speak, but all that came out was a weak croak. His throat felt like someone had rubbed it with sandpaper.
“Steady, Slacker,” Blake said, “It’s been a long time. Wait for the nurse to get here.”
A long time, Kelly thought. What does that mean?
A nurse arrived soon afterwards. Absentmindedly pushing Blake into the background, Marcy Andrews quickly checked his blood pressure and temperature. Throughout the tests, she fired a series of questions and instructions at Kelly.
“Can you wiggle your fingers?
“Try to blink twice.
“Now try wiggling your toes.”
Successfully completing the tasks she’d given him, Kelly decided to take the initiative. When he tried to speak again, though, she slipped a small piece of ice into his mouth.
“Suck on this before you try speaking. It’ll soothe your throat.”
“How is he?” Blake queried from the corner of the room.
Pausing in what she was doing, Marcy Andrews stared at the young man as she contemplated whether to ask him to leave. She was mildly embarrassed that she hadn’t done that when she had first arrived. After a couple of seconds, she gave him a single, slow nod. She and Roberta Green, Kelly’s other regular nurse, had observed Blake and his friends’ dedication to Kelly and had been greatly impressed. That deserved a little bending of the hospital rules.
“Physically, he seems as good as can be expected.”
Kelly pondered that statement. Somehow, it didn’t sound good. He was in the hospital, he knew that much, but he didn’t know why. Blake’s statement had implied that he’d been here for some time.
Turning back to Kelly, the nurse put her arms on her hips and gave him a critical stare.
“Do you remember your name?”
Surprised at the question, Kelly nodded his head. The ice was removing the sandpaper feeling, but he wasn’t ready to speak.
“Can you tell me what it is?”
“Kelly Yates,” came the still croaky response.
With a smile, she placed a hand on Kelly’s head.
“Settle down and rest. It looks like you are over the worst of it. Time to let your body and mind recover,” she said gently.
Turning to Blake, she added, “And you should go home and get some sleep; you’re having trouble keeping your eyes open. Kelly’s out of his coma, so it’s time for you to rest.”
Wearily, Blake tried to argue, but a large yawn overtook him as soon as he opened his mouth. Conceding the truth in her statement, he nodded. Before he left, though, he stepped forward and gently squeezed Kelly’s shoulder.
“Glad to have you back. See ya soon,” he said, ending with another yawn. “Sorry, time to go to bed.”
That short exchange left Kelly drained. There was a dull ache from his chest, but not enough to prevent exhaustion from dropping him back into a fitful sleep.
The faint sound of a quiet conversation drew Kelly out of his slumber. Eyes still closed, he heard his parents speaking to the doctor. He recognized the voice from the earlier period when he had been drifting in and out, unable to react.
As he heard the doctor say that Kelly was well on the way to recovery, and now it was just a case of seeing if there were any residual effects of the head trauma, Kelly forced his eyes open.
“Mom?” he whispered. He noticed that the sandpaper feeling had decreased to a mild irritation.
“Kelly!” she responded quickly. With a rush, she was at his side and holding his hand.
“Baby...” she began, before stopping when Kelly grimaced.
“Are you still in pain?” she asked quickly, before turning to the doctor accusingly. “You said he should be over most of it by now!”
“Mom,” Kelly whispered, though he felt it was as loud as he could manage, “I’m not a baby anymore. Don’t call me that.”
“Sure, Kelly. Whatever you want,” she replied soothingly. Behind her back, Dr. Roberts smiled gently before quietly withdrawing. The young man’s family was what he needed now.
“What happened?” Kelly asked.
“You were in a car accident,” his dad replied. “That was just over two weeks ago. You hit your head on the steering wheel and were bruised from the seat-belt, but otherwise fine.”
“I seem to recall people reading to me,” Kelly said faintly, closing his eyes to remove the strain of having to focus.
“All your friends have been here, taking it in shifts. Blake told us you loved Lord of the Rings, so that’s what they’ve been reading,” his mom explained, as she gently mopped his forehead with a damp cloth.
“I remember falling into the darkness in the Mines of Moria,” Kelly stated in a distant voice. “I’m glad I managed to make my way through it. I wanted to make it to Lothlorian.”
Unseen by the young man, his parents exchanged surprised glances. His mom then looked worriedly at her son, while his dad scowled and looked away. They both knew there was still a lot to get through. Coming out of the coma was only the first step. Their son was still confused, and the doctor had told them that any lingering effects from the head injury wouldn’t be known until after Kelly regained consciousness.
For the next hour, they conversed on safe topics – how Kelly’s siblings were doing and how his friends had rallied around – before a tentative knock on the door interrupted them.
Marcus stuck his head through the door.
“The nurse said we could see him, but only for a short time, and no more than two at once.”
“Come on in,” Kelly’s mom said, rising to her feet. “I’m sure he’ll be glad to see you.” Turning back to her son, she added, “We’ll be back later, son.” With that, she leaned over and kissed him gently on his forehead.
Marcus and Hiro entered as Kelly’s parents left. Kelly managed a weak smile. He was exhausted and ready to sleep again, but he wasn’t going to give in while his friends were there.
“Not the best way of getting out of school,” Marcus remarked, as he collapsed into the visitor’s chair.
“I don’t think that was my intention,” Kelly replied dryly.
“When do you get out of here?” Hiro asked.
“They haven’t told me yet,” Kelly admitted. “I haven’t been awake for that long.”
“Well, make sure it isn’t too long. We’ve got plans to take you to a game as soon as you get out,” Marcus said enthusiastically. He knew how much of a sports fan Kelly was. If there was one thing that would bring his friend back to life, it would be watching sports.
Kelly gave the best grin he was capable of. “I’m looking forward to that. Watching a good football match will really help me recover.”
Marcus stiffened in the chair, as his jaw dropped and his eyes opened wide. He quickly looked over at Hiro.
Following his gaze, Kelly saw Hiro frowning at him.
“Football season finished months ago,” Hiro answered slowly. He flicked a glance at Marcus before bringing his attention back to Kelly.
“It can’t be,” Kelly whispered hoarsely in disbelief. “I would remember....”
His voice faded into silence. While he could remember some games well, there was a vague recollection of other games. When he tried to focus on them, he found nothing – just a feeling that they were there, without knowing anything about them.
“What’s the month,” he asked faintly, afraid of the answer.
“April,” Marcus answered.
Kelly lay back, staring at the ceiling. He struggled to recall the last football match. His two friends stayed silent as he thought.
“Six months,” he eventually said forlornly. “I’ve lost six freakin’ months.”
After a short pause, he added in a lost and distant voice, “I can’t even remember Christmas.”
“The doctor said this might happen,” Hiro said hesitantly. “You might have some problems with your memory. They should come back, though,” he finished hopefully.
Kelly closed his eyes. He knew what presents he had intended to get everyone, but did he do it? His relationship with Lisa had been getting complicated. What had he said and done in those missing months? Were they still going out, or had they dropped back to just being good friends? He didn’t know, and didn’t know how to ask.
The pain of finding a gap in his life had shaken him. He was peripherally aware of Hiro and Marcus leaving, but he was too self-absorbed to say anything. Before too much longer exhaustion had taken matters out of his control, and he was sleeping again.
Over the next few days he started to regain his strength. There were longer periods of consciousness as his energy levels improved. As his dad had indicated, apart from bruising from the seatbelt, his only significant injury was that to his head. After a series of tests, Dr. Roberts announced no physical disability – which was the first time that Kelly learned that they had been concerned about his vision and his fine muscular control. The only outstanding effect was his memory: six months had just disappeared.
Kelly was aware that things had happened in that period, but he couldn’t bring any of them to mind. It was like they were just around the corner of his mind – always out of sight, but their presence could be felt. His doctor said that there would be a good chance he would recall almost everything, but there were no promises.
As Kelly lay in bed, reading a book and wishing for time to speed up so that visiting hours would start, he heard a commotion outside his room.
“I’m sorry, sir, but you can’t just barge in there,” Roberta Green stated firmly.
Kelly smiled. Roberta, as she insisted he call her, was a plump little nurse with an incredibly wicked sense of humor. After he’d promised to deny all knowledge of the source, she’d kept him entertained with a string of dirty jokes that would’ve had the FCC shutting down any station that ever dared to air them. She was also extremely protective of her patients. With an almost sixth sense, she knew when he’d had enough and would quietly, but firmly, usher any visitors out.
“If the hospital administration had informed me that he’d regained consciousness, I would’ve been here days ago. This is a police investigation, and you’re interfering,” an angry voice responded.
Kelly stiffened. What were the police doing here? Was there something in those missing months that he hadn’t been told about?
“I’m sorry, but you’ll have to wait until Dr. Roberts gets here. Until then, you’ll have to stay here. He’s not going anywhere.”
“Fine!” the other voice spat. “Get the doctor here, now. I’ve wasted enough time as it is.”
Kelly could hear the noise of Nurse Green on the phone, but he couldn’t make out what she was saying.
Taking a deep breath, and feeling a twinge from the fading bruises, he tried to be rational. It might not be about me, he thought with a faint hope, I’m not her only patient.
Deep down, though, he knew better. He doubted she had another patient who’d recently come out of a coma.
It wasn’t long before things started to happen.
“About damn time,” the disgruntled voice remarked, though with less anger than he’d used before. “She’s told you what’s going on?”
“Yes, Detective. As Mr. Yates’ consulting physician, I have to advise you that if I think he can’t take any more questions, I have the power to terminate the interrogation,” Dr. Roberts said calmly, but firmly.
“I’m not an idiot, doctor! I know the rules. I’ve questioned witnesses and suspects in hospitals before,” the detective responded, his temper clearly starting to rise.
Witnesses, Kelly thought with a sudden surge of hope. Maybe that’s all it was. I’m the witness to something, and he’s waiting to ask me about it.
He was staring expectedly at the door, when a broad middle-aged man marched in. The suit he was wearing had seen better days, with miscellaneous stains disfiguring both the jacket and the pants. Surprisingly, the shirt was clean and ironed, providing a sharp contrast to the slovenly appearance of the rest of the clothes.
“Kelly Yates?” he asked perfunctorily, as he approached to the side of the bed. A single glance had dismissed the chair from consideration.
Behind him, Dr. Roberts stepped into the room, but remained by the door. He gave Kelly a warm smile, but otherwise stayed silent.
Kelly nodded his head to the detective. He was cautious and didn’t want to do or say anything wrong.
“I’m Detective Conner,” the man announced, dragging out a small notepad from his pocket, and a pen from inside his jacket. “I’m investigating the crash that put you into the hospital. I have some questions for you.”
“I don’t remember anything about the accident,” Kelly said cautiously, “but I’ll answer any questions I can.”
The detective scowled. Kelly edged imperceptibly away from the man. There was something about him that made Kelly nervous.
“You expect me to believe that you can’t remember anything?” Detective Conner snarled sarcastically. “How convenient.”
“Memory loss is not uncommon with head trauma,” Dr. Roberts piped up from the corner. “Kelly’s statement is quite reasonable.”
The detective spun on his heels and took a step towards the doctor.
“I’ll kindly ask you to refrain from commenting, doctor. It’s bleeding hearts like you that put words into criminals’ mouths, and makes my job harder.”
Kelly stiffened with fear. What is this about? he wondered.
“There have been no charges laid,” the doctor pointed out calmly, despite the intimidating presence the detective projected. “If there had been, we would’ve been informed.”
Detective Conner stepped forward until he was right in front of the doctor.
“This man was the driver of the vehicle that killed his passenger. He was traveling at high speed when the accident occurred. He’s being investigated for vehicular homicide. Because of him, Kyle Usher is dead, and I want to know what happened,” Detective Conner stated angrily. “Until I learn otherwise, he’s a suspect on a criminal charge.”
Kelly looked blankly at the two of them, standing nose to nose, ignoring his presence, as they engaged in a contest of wills.
“Kyle who?” he asked, perplexed.
Editors Note: If you would like to contact the author of this chapter, you may use this email address: CollisionAuthors@DeweyWriter.com. Please include the authors name. Thank you.