“What have I done?”
“You’re going to wear a hole in the carpet, son,” Todd’s dad said as he watched his youngest son walk back and forth across the emergency room lobby.
“Why haven’t they told us anything?” Todd asked for the umpteenth time since they arrived. He stopped pacing for a minute as he looked at his folks, a pleading look on his face.
“They’ll tell us as soon as they know something, honey,” his mother answered. She held a handkerchief in her hands that she alternated between scrunching up and smoothing out.
Todd went back to his continued pacing as he thought about what brought him and his parents to the emergency room. The late night phone call from the police had woken his folks. He had been awake, only having snuck in a few minutes earlier. Yeah, he had a curfew, just like Kelly and his older sister Jessie had when they were in high school, but by the time he’d gotten to high school they’d not really enforced that rule. Not that it really mattered anyway since Kelly had shown him the ways to sneak into the house without alerting his folks. He hadn’t been caught yet. Not even tonight when he’d arrived moments before the phone rang.
He didn’t answer the phone when it rang, lest his answering it give away his late arrival. He’d heard his father’s voice as the call detailing Kelly’s accident came in. He had quickly jumped into bed and pulled the blankets over himself and pretended to be asleep. A rapid knock came seconds later followed by the door opening. His father told him that his older brother had been in a car accident and that they were transporting him to the hospital and then he left. He waited a minute then joined his folks for the trip to the hospital.
His continued pacing was interrupted by the arrival of the doctor. He came over to stand near his parents as the doctor introduced himself.
“Mr. and Mrs. Yates?” the doctor asked. When Todd’s parents nodded he continued. “I’m Doctor Shaw.”
“What’s the word on Kelly?” she asked scrunching up her handkerchief again.
“It’s touch and go at the moment. We’ve stabilized him for the time being but we need to keep an eye on him.”
“Will he be alright?”
“It’s too early to tell. He didn’t have a lot of internal injuries that we could see and no broken bones. He was lucky - he was wearing his seatbelt. His passenger wasn’t so lucky. He wasn’t wearing his seatbelt and was ejected.”
“When can we see him?” Kelly’s father asked.
“He’s resting now and he’s in a coma so we won’t know the full extent of his injuries until he comes out of it.”
“You mean he might have brain damage?”
“It’s possible. He had his seat belt on but he still hit the air bag pretty hard. We’ve moved him into ICU until we’re sure he’s stable. You can visit him one at a time but only for a few minutes. I’d recommend you go home, get some rest and come back tomorrow.”
“I want to see my baby,” Kelly’s mom insisted.
“Certainly, but only for a few minutes and only one at a time.” With that the doctor motioned the Yates family to follow him. He headed out of the lobby and thru a set of double doors marked ICU. He brought them down a dimly lit hallway. He stopped at the nurse’s station and consulted a whiteboard hanging on the wall. “Kelly’s in bay four. One at a time and no more than five minutes.”
“Thank you doctor,” Mr. Yates said taking the doctor’s hand.
“You’re welcome,” The doctor responded shaking back. “I’m sorry I didn’t have more encouraging news. Goodnight.”
Kelly’s mom had made her way into the bay where her eldest son lay while the doctor and her husband finished up their conversation. Todd could tell by her sobs that his brother didn’t look well. She stayed a few minutes longer than the doctor recommended. His father was next. Todd could hear his emotions as well. Kelly had always been Dad’s favorite, Todd knew that. He didn’t know why Kelly was his favorite, but he was. His father didn’t stay as long as his mother had and like his mother, he asked Todd if he was sure that he wanted to see Kelly. Todd kept insisting that he wanted to see his brother. But nothing his mother and father could say prepared him for the sight when he finally entered Kelly’s bay.
The soft light in the corner of the room illuminated the bandaged face of his brother. The steady beeping and whirring of the machines that he was hooked up to were the only sounds he could hear.
“Why?” Todd asked quietly, lest his parents hear him. “Why did you have to go out tonight? Why couldn’t you stay in? Why couldn’t you have gone out with Blake or Hiro?” He grabbed his brother’s free hand and held it for a few minutes. His mother’s arrival at the foot of the bed brought Todd back to the present.
“Honey,” his mom spoke quietly. “We need to go now. Kelly needs his rest.”
Todd nodded and leaned over the inert body of his brother and kissed his cheek. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. He let go of his brother’s hand and joined his mother. He took one last look at the form in the bed before he turned to leave.
* * *
The sounds of the birds chirping outside awoke Todd from his slumber. He eyes opened and he stretched as he returned to full consciousness. He sat up and stretched some more. The house was quiet, almost too quiet. He’d usually hear his brother in the morning or his folks but not this morning. He was beginning to wonder why he wasn’t hearing the usual noises when the events of the previous evening came flooding back.
He jumped out of bed and headed downstairs. A note was leaning up against the centerpiece of the kitchen table. He picked up the note and read it.
“Todd - Your father and I went to the hospital. The doctor called and said they moved Kel into a regular room. See you soon. - Mom”
Todd took the moving of his brother as an encouraging sign and went back upstairs to take a shower before heading out.
Thirty minutes later he walked into the main entrance to Springfield General - “Where the sick get well and the well stay that way.” He stopped at the information booth and inquired about his brother’s location. Two elevator rides and several floors later he found the room and slowly opened the door. His parents and Doctor Roberts turned as he entered. His mother’s eyes were red and puffy - she’d obviously been crying and his father looked forlorn.
“Hello, Todd,” Doctor Roberts greeted him. Doctor Roberts was a kindly older doctor who had a balding head, and what hair he did have was white. A pot belly couldn’t be hidden by his white hospital coat and the bold tie that was his trademark completed his look. He had been his physician since birth.
“Hey Doc,” Todd answered. “How’s Kel?”
The doc looked at Kel’s chart and looked at Kelly. “As I was just telling your folks, Kelly made remarkable improvement after you left to the point where we could move him to this room. He’s still in a coma but other than that he’s doing 100% better then when he was brought in.”
“The ER doctor mentioned something about a passenger who had been in the car and killed. Do you know who it was? It wasn’t Blake was it?” Mr. Yates asked.
“No, it wasn’t Blake. I didn’t recognize the name,” Doc replied. “He wasn’t one of my children. His name was Kevin or Korben or Kyle I think. I’m pretty sure it started with a ‘K’.”
“How long will he be out?” Todd’s mother asked. Her husband’s arm was around her and it looked as though he was keeping her upright. If he removed the arm she would fall.
“It’s hard to say. He took a good hit to the head so it might be a while. The best thing you can do for Kelly is to talk to him, read to him, tell him what’s going on outside. Studies indicate that a person in a coma can still process external input even though they don’t respond. I’ll be back later to check in on Kelly.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Mr. Yates responded for his family.
Doc gave Mrs. Yates’ shoulder a gentle squeeze and then left the room. She’d just pulled a chair over to Kelly’s bedside when the door to the room swung open followed by a knock.
Todd watched as Blake, Kelly’s best friend, Jeremy, his best friend and Hiro, a friend of all of them came quietly into the room. Todd moved over closer to them.
“Why didn’t you call me, Toad?” Blake asked, his voice fraught with emotion, his face betraying his feelings.
“It just happened last night,” Todd responded. “I’d not had a chance to call anyone yet. How’d you find out?”
“Dad heard it on the scanner. He asked me about it this morning. He thought it sounded like Kel’s Camaro but he wasn’t sure.”
“What happened? Is he ok?” Hiro asked.
“I don’t know much,” Todd confessed. “Just that he was in an accident and was pretty banged up. Apparently there was someone else in the car with him and he didn’t survive.”
“Who?” Blake asked.
“Doc didn’t know who it was. Kyle somebody. Kel’s in a coma right now. They’re not sure when he’ll wake up. But he suggested that we read to him or talk to him. That might help.”
Blake nodded and motioned Hiro to follow him. Jeremy stayed behind.
“Hey, bro,” he said. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”
“Yeah, I’ve been busy. How have you been?”
“Same shit, different day. You know.”
“Yeah, I hear ya.”
And so begin the vigil, as Todd would later come to refer to it as. Pretty much the entire visiting hours were filled with someone in Kelly’s life reading, talking, playing music, whatever they felt like in the hopes that they’d be the one that would help Kelly to regain consciousness.
Two weeks later Kelly awoke. Todd was relieved when he heard the news. Yeah, Kelly had awoken, but to him it was six months earlier. It was the fall, and football season was in full swing. He was still trying to figure out what he was going to dress up as for his and Blake’s Halloween party. He’d developed amnesia and he couldn’t remember the past six months.
After Kel had regained consciousness the constant visitors had slowed down. Not for a lack of desire to see Kelly but for the simple fact that it was coming up on May and that meant finals. The teachers at the high school had been pretty lenient with Todd, Jeremy and the others from the High School that had been participating in the vigil but now that he was awake, they wanted them in class instead.
Todd was sitting in his afternoon English class learning about the finer points of grammar when the intercom squelched into life.
“Mr. O’Connor is Todd Yates there?”
Mr. O’Connor sighed and put his chalk down. He hated these interruptions, especially when he was about to reveal an important piece of information to his students. “Yes, he is present.”
“Would you please excuse him and have him report to the office?”
Mr. O’Connor sighed again and motioned to Todd that he could leave. “He’s on his way.”
Todd grabbed his class materials and exited the class. A thousand thoughts ran through his head. Why did the office want to see him? He hadn’t done anything wrong. At least nothing that could be traced back to him. Maybe it had something to do with Kelly. Maybe something had happened to him. Maybe they’d found out who Kyle was. Maybe it was that asshole of a detective that has been harassing Kelly and the rest of the family.
He reached the office still wondering what he had been called for. The secretary handed him an absence card. He looked at it perplexed and looked at the secretary much in the same manner.
“Your father called. Kelly had some sort of trouble and they’ve taken him in for emergency surgery. You’ve been excused to go to the hospital.”
Todd muttered a thanks as he left and he then headed out to his car, his thoughts on his brother.
Twenty minutes later he arrived at the surgical waiting area to find his parents and older sister already there.
“What happened?” he asked as he joined them.
“Apparently Detective Connor paid a visit to Kelly and was harassing him about the accident. Kelly got up and was arguing with the detective when he suddenly collapsed with epileptic type seizures and he urinated on the floor. That’s all we know.”
Todd nodded and sat down next to his sister.
“Hey tadpole,” she said greeting him. “How’s school.”
“It’s ok.” Jessie was the only one in the family that could call him that. She started calling him tadpole soon after Kelly had called him toad when they were younger. Kelly had trouble pronouncing certain letters and words when he was younger and one of the troubles he had was with the double d’s in Todd’s name. It came out sounding like “toad”. The nickname had stuck and he was still occasionally called that by his family and close friends. Jessie had called him that until she had learned about the life cycle of the toad and realized they came from tadpoles.
“Figured out which schools you want to apply to yet?”
“A couple. I like U.C. Santa Cruz and B.C. but I’ll probably end up at good ole Springfield U.”
“Don’t knock good ole SFU.” She laughed.
Todd just nodded and they fell into a comfortable silence. Time soon found him in the same position as almost three weeks earlier, pacing back in forth like an expectant father from the old movies. He’d completed his 500th turn and was beginning to consider going pro at pacing when Doc appeared in his hospital scrubs. Both of his parents jumped up when he arrived.
“How is he?” Mrs. Yates asked.
“He’s in recovery resting comfortably. He should be moved back to his room later tonight.”
“What happened?” Jessie asked, joining her parents and Todd.
“Apparently the force of the crash caused the lap belt to bruise some of his lower abdomen and intestines. His movements earlier with Detective Dick, pardon my French, aggravated the bruises and caused him to start bleeding. The seizure was brought on by the stress of the accident and his general condition. He’s not had another seizure and I’m hoping that it was just a one time incident. We had to operate to make sure that there weren’t any other complications that hadn’t shown themselves on the x-rays and ultra sounds that Doctor Shaw had done when he arrived in the emergency room.
“That’s it, I’m calling Chief Lenoch. This has got to stop.” Todd had watched his father as he’d gone from showing worry for his son to his showing anger at the detective for the way he was treating Kelly and causing him to require surgery.
“I’ve already got a call into the chief and I’ve instructed hospital security to not let detective Dick into his room.”
“Thank you, Doctor.”
“You’re welcome. Now my advice to you would be to get some dinner and come back in a few hours. He should be out of recovery and back to his room around seven. He’ll probably be a little groggy from the surgery so don’t expect too much out of him.”
Todd’s stomach growled as if it had heard Doc’s advice.
“That sounds like a good idea. Let’s go kids.”
* * *
It wasn’t until several days after his surgery that Detective Dick, as Doc called him, reappeared in Kelly’s hospital room with Doc in tow. Todd and Blake were visiting with Kelly and they were playing a game of Phase 10 when the two adults came into the room.
“This case gets curiouser and curiouser,” detective Connor exclaimed to the boys.
“How so detective?” Kelly responded. “I still don’t know who this ‘Kyle’ is.”
Todd and Blake looked at the detective.
“Well, Kyle was a passenger in your 1996 Camaro and according to the lab guys your car had been rear-ended that evening.”
“When? I don’t remember anything like that.”
“Well, as near as the boys in the accident reconstruction unit can figure out, you were run off the road by Kyle’s truck.”
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.