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       Fairest, p.10

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  Mina used the time to look around at the inside of the all-terrain vehicle, which seemed to belong to a survivalist. She could see a tent, coolers, and various large black bags. A feeling of unease came over her at the sight of the barrel of a gun sticking out of a bag, but Mina decided to push the feelings aside. After all, this man did save her, and he didn’t look to be carrying a weapon. Maybe he was a hunter and this was the off season. After a few minutes, he jumped into the car and clicked off the flashlight.

  “I’ve got good news and bad news. The engine is fine, but we have a broken rear wheel axel, so we won’t be going anywhere fast, but at least we will be dry until help arrives.”

  “Is help coming?” Mina asked hopefully. Her whole body was shaking, partially from shock and the other from cold.

  “We will be fine.” Karl turned the key in the ignition and flipped the heaters on full blast. He reached into the backseat and pulled out a foil blanket that looked too thin to do any good. “Here, it’s a thermal blanket; it will use your own body heat to keep you warm. It looks like you’ve been out there a while.” He switched blankets with Mina and then threw the wool one on top of her lap.

  Warmth slowly started to creep into her hands, but her feet and toes still felt frozen to the bone. “You sure are prepared for everything” Mina stuttered out. She looked at the car radio and the time read 10:30pm. Did it really take her all day to make it across the valley?

  Karl pulled out a granola bar and a silver thermos, handing the granola bar to Mina. Her hands were shaking, and she gave up trying to open the package. She was so tired; all she wanted to do was sleep. She leaned against the window pane and watched the rain splatter against the glass, gather into large pools, and then slide down.

  He got the thermos open and poured a cupful of coffee into the lid, handing it to her. Mina sipped the coffee and tried to listen to what Karl was saying. Her eyes were becoming increasingly heavy, and it was hard to concentrate in the warm vehicle.

  “You must be the luckiest girl in the world. You know that, don’t you?” His lips pressed together. He studied her under heavy lidded eyes.

  Mina wasn’t so sure it was luck. She made sure to take a good look at the trunk of the tree as Karl helped her into the car. The tree wasn’t hit by lighting. There was no evidence, of charring or it being cracked or split. The hundred foot tree was uprooted, but most of the trees roots were still buried deep in the ground. Something of extreme force hit the tree, causing it to fall into the road. Mina was almost positive it was Jared, but why?

  The car felt like it was on fire and burning her up. She tried to move her hand toward the heater to turn it down, but Karl mistook her actions for wanting more heat. He turned the knob up and, Mina’s hand felt heavy and it dropped uselessly on her lap. She was having problems even controlling her own limbs. The intense heat emanating from the car’s heaters made it almost impossible for her to breath and she started to shiver again but this time from a fever.

  She heard Karl speak to her, but she couldn’t respond, couldn’t move. She heard a chuckle and felt his hand touch her cheek and forehead. She felt the seat move and heard the sound of something being opened in the backseat. She passed out and awoke a few moments later to the sound of a siren.

  Karl cursed out loud and picked up the radio again and he mumbled something into it about being “too late to be sure.”

  Another vehicle pulled up beside them. More people piled out of the other vehicle. Her door opened, and she was moving through the air.

  She opened her eyes to see she had been moved onto a stretcher and someone was taking her blood pressure. She blinked, or at least she thought she did and the next time she opened her eyes, she squinted in pain because she was in a hospital. Doctors, nurses and a familiar voice spoke in hushed tones. Her fever raged on most of the night and into the next day, sometime the next night it broke.

  “Mom?” Mina spoke quietly and a hand encompassed her own and squeezed gently. She heard her mother’s voice whisper to her that she was going to be all right. Mina relaxed and drifted back to sleep.

  ***

  Something was touching her nose! Mina’s eyes flew open to stare at an offending feather assailing her face. Her eyes followed the large white goose feather to the small hand clutching it and up the sleeve to the perpetrator. She should have known it was her younger brother.

  “Charlie!” Mina whined and tried to swat the feather away. “Do you know how many diseases that feather is probably carrying, and you brought it into a hospital?”

  Charlie just grinned wider and nodded his head. The eight-year-old proceeded to climb up onto Mina’s hospital bed with an old pencil box. It usually housed his favorite possessions like an old Matchbox car, a broken piece of quartz, silver bottle caps, a whistle, and a few old election pins. But currently these items weren’t in the box but carefully placed around Mina’s body on the hospital bed.

  “Charlie, what are you doing?” she picked up the bottle cap that was closest to her hand and handed it back to her silent brother, who put it away in the box.

  “He was worried about you,” a warm voice answered from out in the hallway.

  Mina’s head spun toward the sound, and she almost cried in relief when she saw her mother standing there. Sara started crying, crossed to the hospital bed, and pulled her daughter and son into an embrace.

  “Mom, I’m sorry. I never meant to make you worry.” Mina sniffled.

  “Shh, shh. It’s okay,” Sara intoned softly. “Well, no, it’s not okay, but we will get to that later.” She pulled away and brushed Mina’s hair out of her face. “What happened? What were you thinking? When you didn’t come home from school, I called Nan. She said you got a ride, but then when you didn’t come home at all, I panicked. I was so scared, and I didn’t know what to do. I thought maybe the Story had gotten involved and you were in the middle of a quest.”

  “Mom, it wasn’t the Story, not exactly.”

  “I hate that you have to be a part of this. If there was any way that I could protect you from the Grimm curse you know I would, right?”

  “You protected me for sixteen years from the curse and the Story. It’s okay Mom, now it’s my turn to protect Charlie and you.” Mina tried to sound strong, but her words only made her mom tear up more.

  “Oh, sweetheart. I can’t tell you how helpless I felt not knowing what was going on. The police wouldn’t understand our circumstances… how could I call for help and tell them that I thought a fairy tale had come and kidnapped my daughter or worse, killed her? I knew something had happened, but I couldn’t do anything. I ended up calling the police, but they said you hadn’t been missing for forty-eight hours.” Sara stood up and paced the room, waving her hands wildly about.

  “Mom!” Mina tried to distract her mother, knowing she was about to lose it.

  “I mean, really! Forty-eight hours? Do they not have kids? Forty-eight hours to a scared parent might as well be forty-eight days.” She stopped pacing, and Charlie jumped off the bed and began to put his knickknacks back in the box, obviously satisfied that they had served their purpose.

  “Thanks, Charlie.” Mina patted his head.

  Charlie grinned and pointed his finger into his open palm.

  Mina raised her eyebrow in disbelief. “I owe you? Why do I owe you?” she laughed.

  Charlie started signing, and Mina watched carefully. “Because you protected me?”

  Sara frowned at Charlie thoughtfully and spoke on his silent behalf. “Apparently, he read somewhere about creating a fairy circle for protection against evil. So he took all of his shiny objects and was adamant about protecting you. Even to the point of making a nuisance with the nurses.”

  “Oh,” Mina whispered quietly.

  Sara came and sat on the edge of her daughter’s bed. “So tell me what happened?”

  “Mom, if I tell you, you are going to freak out and try to over protect me and you have to promise me that you will be calm, cool, and collect
ed about what I say.”

  Sara pursed her lips and took a deep breath. “I don’t know if I can guarantee that, but I will do my best.”

  Mina looked at her mother and started from the beginning. At first Sara was confused, then worried and then angry. She had annoyed outbursts throughout Mina’s story. “How dare he kidnap her daughter and chase her through the woods. How dare he spend the night in the woods with her daughter alone! And, finally, how dare he abandon her and leave her in the woods!” Mina found it quite funny the moods her mother went through: anger, indignation and resentment.

  “I don’t care what happens, but you will stay away from that boy! Mina, he is nothing but trouble, and he’s Fae to boot. You can’t trust the Fae. I mean, just look at what he did to you! You could have been killed by bears out in those woods.”

  Mina began to laugh out loud, knowing how oblivious her mom was to what had happened. “Or in the city,” she mumbled.

  “No, I’m serious!” Sara tried to look serious, but her eyes slowly softened and she began to chuckle. “I’m just glad you are back and safe and sound. But why didn’t the Grimoire work?”

  Mina’s eyes opened wide in panic. “Mom! Where’s the Grimoire?” she looked down and realized she was in the ugly hospital gown.

  Sara looked confused, “I don’t know?”

  “Where are my clothes? Mom, we have to find my clothes!” Sara jumped up and went out the door to go look for a nurse with Charlie close on her heels. Mina was so worried she didn’t hear the slight knock on the door.

  “Oh! Well, what seems to have gotten our patient all worked up?” Mina looked up at the handsome doctor who spoke and was speechless; he looked familiar. It took a moment for Mina to put two and two together. It was Robert Martin, Nan’s future stepdad.

  Mina had to clear her throat a few times before she could speak. “My clothes, I want my clothes.”

  “Oh, I believe a nurse should have put those in a bag for you, I don’t think that they were salvageable.” He spoke in a matter-of-fact tone.

  “Oh, no, I needed something…” Mina paused, unsure of how to proceed without giving away too much information. Dr. Martin didn’t seem to notice as he looked over her charts carefully.

  He grinned at Mina, displaying very even and white teeth. His light brown hair had just the touch of grey at the temples, and his eyes were a deep hazel. “I’m sure that whatever it is the nurses can get if for you. How are you feeling?”

  “Mmm, good. I guess,” Mina offered. “Thirsty and hungry though.”

  “Not surprising with what you’ve been through. You came in with a fever, and you were dehydrated. But your fever broke last night, and other than your sprained ankle and a few deep cuts, you are on the mend.”

  “Wait, yesterday morning? How long have I been here? Wasn’t I brought in last night?”

  “Oh, your mom didn’t tell you yet? You came in two nights ago. You’ve been unconscious with a fever for two days. It broke last night.”

  Mina sat stunned in her bed as Dr. Martin came and listened to her heart. Almost a week. She had missed almost a week of school.

  Dr. Martin scribbled something on her file. “If you are ready, I will have a nurse remove the IV. You think you can handle soup?”

  Mina nodded, her stomach rumbled at the thought of food.

  “Found it!” Sara came strolling into the room with white plastic bag. She handed the bag to Mina who tore it open and pulled out her denim jeans; she dug around in her pockets.

  “Mom, it’s not in my pockets!” Mina cried out.

  “Well, maybe it fell out and is caught in the bag,” she answered. They dumped the bag of dirty clothes on the bed and began to dig through everything. It wasn’t there.

  “Is everything alright?” Dr. Martin asked.

  Mina felt uncomfortable at letting her emotions get the best of her in front of a complete stranger. “Um, no,” she lied. “I seem to have lost something very important to me. Did you see a small leather book about yay big?” She held up her hands in the size of the Grimoire.

  “Ah, no, I haven’t, but I’ll check with the emergency team” Dr. Martin answered briskly. “Hopefully, they may have it. But I see that your mom’s already found the bag. Everything on you when you came in was in that bag. Maybe you lost it in the woods.”

  Mina’s heart dropped, and Sara reached forward and grasped her daughter around the shoulders in a form of comfort. “It’s okay, honey,” Sara whispered reassuringly. “We’ll find it.”

  This was turning out to be the absolute worst day-ever. How was she going to overcome the quests if she didn’t have the Grimoire to imprison the evil Fae in? She wasn’t, that’s how. She was doomed, just like her Uncle Jack.

  “Oh, by the way, I’ve promised a few of your friends that they could visit, if you were well enough. We’ll give you some time, maybe after you eat.”

  “I don’t know. I’m not sure I want to receive company?” Mina felt another moment of panic. Who could possibly be out in the hall?

  “Even if it’s my future stepdaughter?” Dr. Martin teased and began laughing. “I can only waylay her so long before she bribes one of my nurses with cupcakes or sneaks in here anyway.”

  “Wait, Nan? Nan’s here? Yes, I want to see Nan,” Mina cried out excitedly.

  “In a bit, after you eat,” The Doctor ordered. “She can wait that long. Although I’m sure she will be trying to sneak in, but I think she can hold on for another hour.”

  Mina grinned.

  Chapter 12

  It only took forty-five minutes before Nan maneuvered her way into Mina’s hospital room. Sara and Charlie had left a half hour earlier in search of the lost and found, looking for the Grimoire. Mina had just finished her soup when Nan came sneaking in.

  “You’re late,” Mina chirped. “I thought for sure you would sneak in here earlier.”

  Nan rolled her eyes. “I tried. I couldn’t get past Nurse Dragon and my future Stepdad wasn’t helping the matter. I think he purposely put old Dragon Lady on me so I wouldn’t sneak in here.”

  “Well, then how did you get in?”

  “I got Charlie to knock over a cart at the end of the hall!” She grinned triumphantly and crossed her arms. “It made such a commotion that everyone went running.” Nan lifted a backpack and put it on Mina’s bed. “I brought you the emergency essentials: lip gloss, curling iron, hairspray, high heels--”

  “Nan, I have crutches! I can’t wear heels,” Mina interrupted.

  “Okay, scratch the heels. I’ll wear the heels; you can wear my flats.” She began to pull everything out of her bag and reached for Mina’s hair.

  Mina grabbed her best friend’s wrists and pinned them down on the bed. “Nan, what’s going on? Are we okay?” She felt terrible for the way she had acted and treated her best friend. “Can you ever forgive me for getting freaked out at the concert and wanting to go home? I shouldn’t have abandoned you like that.”

  Nan’s face became still, quiet. Then she erupted into a huge smile and hugged her closely. “No, I’m sorry for overreacting. I should’ve figured it was your way of getting some alone time with Brody. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it earlier. I know you have a crush on him.” She grabbed Mina’s hand and squeezed tightly. “Can you forgive me for hanging out with Savannah? I did it to kind of get back at you. I was still mad at the time. But as soon as I heard that you went missing. I grew up and realized how stupid I was. I’m your B.F.F. through thick and thin.”

  Mina started crying and hugged her friend again. Nan leaned back and began to mess with the makeup and things she had brought in with her. “Nan?” Mina asked. “What is going on?”

  Nan smiled at Mina. “You’re on TV. I overheard one of the nurses talking. You probably didn’t know this but someone by the name of Jed Parsons was monitoring the old handheld radio channels and overheard a conversation about a young girl found lost in the woods.”

  “That was probably Karl calling in to tel
l people he found me,” Mina inserted.

  Nan raised her eyebrows skeptically. “Well, I don’t know anything about that, except that old Jed thought it was serious and called for help, and since he knew his radio could only reach a few miles, he was able to tell the park rangers and rescue teams a general direction of where to look.”

  “It wouldn’t have mattered, I was safe with Karl, and he had a radio and called for help.” Mina tried to assure Nan that it wasn’t a big deal.

  “By the time you made it to the hospital, there was quite the stir and there were news teams already waiting for you here.” Nan began to bounce on the bed excitedly.

  “I don’t remember.” Mina replied lamely.

  “Of course, you didn’t know. It was obvious from the footage that you were totally out of it. But it was so cool!” Nan gushed.

 
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