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The memory keeper, p.34
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       The Memory Keeper, p.34

           Lisa Stowe

  Chapter 34

  The hospital room was overly warm and stuffy and Cody sat, listening to the beeping of machines and wondering how long she was obligated to stay before she could escape.

  May was propped up by pillows, elevated by the bed, breathing with the aid of oxygen, and yet still wheezing. Her eyes were fixed on the television as her fingers marched across the remote swallowed in her hand. She was refusing to concede Cody’s presence.

  A nurse came in, dark graying hair in a ponytail and round wire framed glasses low on her nose. She nodded to Cody, checked monitors, IV’s, and readouts, and then pushed a button.

  “Time for a blood pressure reading, Ms. Marsh.”

  “Do you know how lucky I was that my heart attack wasn’t more severe, Beth?” May asked the nurse.

  “Yes,” Beth said. “You told me about it the last time I was here.”

  “I was so lucky I was able to get to the phone,” May continued. “My daughter just walked out on me, even though I could barely breathe. If I’d had a more severe attack, I would have died right there on the hotel room floor, and no one would have known until time for maid service the next day! I certainly wouldn’t have been found by my daughter because she left me to go visit with her so-called friends. Just left me.”

  Cody sat forward in order to rub the small of her back, where a deep ache had settled from kneeling over Matt.

  “It appears your breathing is better mom,” Cody said. “You’re talking fine.”

  “My daughter doesn’t know anything about medical issues,” May said to the nurse. “She can’t tell when someone needs oxygen, and she didn’t even recognize the signs of my heart attack." May flipped to a channel where the only sound was in Spanish.

  “It does seem like we can try going without oxygen though,” the nurse said in a cheery voice. “I’ll have the doctor come in and talk to you about it. And tomorrow morning we’ve scheduled you an appointment with a nutritionist. As you said, this attack was very mild. So let’s see if we can’t get you a bit healthier so we can avoid anything worse.”

  Cody couldn’t help it. A laugh bubbled up and out, flowing like liquid sound. How long had it been since she had laughed? Too long. And how long since she had laughed in front of her mother? Never.

  “I didn’t say it was mild. And I certainly don’t think it is something to laugh about. Do you see anything humorous here?” May asked the nurse.

  “Now that’s a dangerous question,” Cody said, and laughed again as the nurse turned her face away from May, hiding an answering smile. “I hope the nutritionist gets hazard pay.”

  “I can only hope, Beth, that you have no children.”

  “Four boys,” the nurse said. “Well, men now. Plus four siblings.”

  “Speaking of nutrition,” May said. “When am I going to get something to eat? It’s almost midnight and I was told I would get some dinner after being admitted.”

  Cody stood up and arched her spine, then twisted side to side in an effort to stretch out the backache. She nodded to the nurse and headed for the door.

  “You were given dinner at eight,” Beth said.

  “That was a sandwich, not a dinner,” May replied.

  Cody let the door swing shut on the nurse’s answer, and headed down the hallway. Four doors down, she glanced in the partial opening and saw Rivers sitting in a chair. Her legs were curled up underneath a brilliantly colored skirt in shades of emerald and turquoise. The fringe that hung almost to the floor held tiny beads that caught the low light in the room and twinkled when Rivers raised her hand to wave Cody in.

  Jess was also propped up in bed with a tray across her lap holding papers. She was tapping a pen on them and talking on the phone. Her throat was heavily bandaged and her voice was a gruff whisper.

  “I know it’s midnight. I know I’m in the hospital. But that doesn’t mean my brain has shut off. Quit dicking around and get Search and Rescue called out. By dawn they can be in place to search Desolation.”

  “Rachel?” Cody asked, all laughter gone.

  “Jess refuses to admit she’s on medical leave,” Rivers said. “Everyone is out looking for Rachel. There’s even police at her house, with Sunny, in case Rachel comes back for Florence. Jess thinks that’s what she’ll do, but she wants the areas searched around Jake’s place and Nate’s camp just in case.”

  Cody could only nod. Thinking about Rachel hurt.

  “That’s a beautiful skirt,” she said instead.

  “It’s the one I wear belly dancing,” Rivers said. “I swear, Jake is having way too much fun going through my clothes.”

  Jess hung up the phone and dropped her pen. “What’s the news on Matt?” she asked, and winced as if the whisper cut.

  “He’s still in surgery,” Cody said. “It sounds like his knee will have to be rebuilt. He’s going to have pins and some kind of bar, like an internal brace put in. I don’t understand it all.”

  “The doctor told me if you hadn’t deflected the shot, the rifle would have blown his leg off at such close range,” Jess said.

  Cody shrugged, staring at the floor, trying to ignore the building ache in her throat. “They don’t know how long it will be before he can walk again.”

  “But he’s alive,” Jess said, and even whispered the words were firm.

  Cody nodded, but couldn’t manage anything else. The ache had grown to such pressure that tears built up around it. She covered her mouth with her hands, holding her breath as if that could stop the hurt and betrayal and fear from the last several hours.

  “Oh, Cody,” Rivers said, standing and wrapping her arms around Cody.

  The sobs spilled, grew, spilled again in shaking silence. Hot tears burned against her closed eyes, soaked her face, ran between her fingers and down her wrists. Rivers held her tight, held her up, held her until she could breathe again.

  “Rachel…” Cody began, and could get no further past fresh tears that surged upward through the distress.

  “Rachel was your friend,” Rivers said. “She did horrible things, but she didn’t let you fall did she?”

  Cody shook her head.

  “And she didn’t shoot you either, did she?”

  Cody managed another shake.

  “When you were on the phone she could have picked up that rifle and shot you instead of running, couldn’t she?”

  This time Cody was able to nod.

  “Then remember that.”

  “That’s bullshit,” Jess said in her whisper. “Rachel killed people. Get mad Cody. You deserve better friends then that.”

  “She has us,” River said, rubbing Cody’s shoulders. “And we’re not going anywhere.”

  “Well, I’m sure as hell not,” Jess said. “Since they won’t even let me pee alone.”

  The words had their intended effect, making Cody smile a little, giving her a light moment to take a deep breath and try to regain some composure.

  “So you don’t know when Matt will be out of surgery?” Rivers asked, offering Cody a change of subject as if it were a gift.

  “No,” Cody said, wiping her eyes with tissue Jess offered.

  “Well, you can stay here with us,” Jess said. “I could use someone other than Rivers to talk to.”

  Rivers dropped down on the side of the bed and leaned forward to kiss Jess on the forehead. “You know you love me,” she said.

  “I know no such thing,” Jess replied, but she didn’t resist when Rivers entwined their fingers.

  Cody sat down in the chair Rivers had been using and fatigue was a weight that pinned her there. Her emotions were so shattered they had become miniscule granules washed away by her tears.

  There was nothing left except numbness, and she closed her eyes in gratitude.

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