This story is a sequel to King's Basket, which appeared in the Fall 99 issue of apocrypha. Recovery is narrated by the young sex crime survivor from King's Basket as she recovers in the hospital.
Recovery and Grief
I hear the boy in the next bed growl, "What's taking them so fuckin' long," and that scares speed into my heart. I understand his frustration -- I learned a long few hours ago that getting promoted from Intensive Care to Floor means you have to wait much longer for the nurse to come--but I want nothing to do with him. I'm glad there are curtains between him and me.
I lie quietly, feeling tears in my eyes and aches in my body. My face and ribs are sore. I also hurt deep in my crotch and I don't want to think about that. Nurse Marlo gave me a stuffed Garfield the Cat and a sticker clock just before I left the ICU, but my most cherished belongings are the pen and pad that Dr. Pinder gave me at the same time. I need them because my voice box is stuck. The cords have swollen shut and I can't get air through, so I'm breathing through a tube in the base of my neck. They don't know how well my voice will recover.
My name is Chelsea Patterson, I'm 12 years old, and I'm staying in Metropolitan Hospital Center, also called MHC. It's Thursday the 2nd of September , 4:49 PM according to that sticker clock I put on Garfield's nose, and I want my voice back. More than that, I want my family back, especially my big sister Fallon! I have a secret message for her and it's in an envelope on which I've printed her name. It's been just under 24 hours since I last saw her but it already feels like a lifetime!
People used to call me a sociopath. I got over the "scratch-and-bite" level before leaving K, but I was forever making nasty mischief like putting chewed gum on Fallon's bicycle seat, blowing wet razzberries in her face at the dinner table or in the phone when she was talking to a friend, hiding her belongings, stealing her food, and scribbling in her diaries and other books. But the thing about Fallon that I took to heart just last year, the thing which finally made me wise up (though not enough!) and be her friend, was that she never hit me or retaliated down to my level. Almost without exception all was forgiven within 24 hours, usually much less. Even with Mom's sharp temper (which they still say I've inherited), I have a very forgiving family. I was sent to counseling only twice. Playing the bloodsucker in K was my worst no-no, and in Four I was suspended after a cat fight with a classmate.
But my worst deed happened yesterday, September 1, because I wore clothes which were much too revealing! I had my Lisa Simpson "I PRACTICE SAFE SAX" shirt which I should have given away even before I turned 11. And my tight jeans showed every crease and contour. I was showing my baby fat and bellybutton and love handles. I really liked playing the sexpot. If only I'd dressed properly that man would never have noticed us! We had just finished a fast-food supper at a mall near Columbia University when this uniformed man grabbed us and said we were shoplifters. He had a gun and he made us get in his van. He cuffed our hands, put drops in our eyes and made us take pills. He marched us into a thicket. I passed out as he unfastened my jeans, and that's all I remember.
When I woke up I was in agony and blind and scared so far out of my mind I said I'd fallen off my pony, though I knew that was last year. I still had my voice, but it was going and my asthma was acting up much worse than ever! I thought I would die! I remember this nice-sounding Detective Briscoat, and there may have been another detective (Curtis?). A very nice lady named Domi calmed me and I was able to tell her about Mom and Dad in Mexico, and about Fallon. But after that my voice got really bad and they put me to sleep.
From time to time after that I woke up and they tested me, but I was blind and hurt and so scared that they had to keep me tied down. I was terrified! They kept me asleep with a sedagive most of the time until 1 PM today. That's when I woke up with working eyes, and was I glad!
But I've had crazy mood swings ever since. It's like the past few years of growing up have been undone and I'm a snotty crybaby again. I keep bursting in tears and I don't know why. Well, maybe I do sometimes. When I first wrote, "Where's Fallon?" Dr. Pinder told me not to worry about her and just work on getting myself well. My first thoughts were, She's dead isn't she! If she's dead just tell me! and that brought out my waterworks big time! I actually wrote down "If she's..." before I realized that was something I did not want to know!
Later it occurred to me that for all they knew I could have been asking about a pony or some other pet, so I wrote, "Where's Fallon Patterson my sisser?" Nurse Marlo Sanguinette corrected me about my spelling of 'sister' and that really upset me (normally I'm a fine speller); baby juices flowed from my eyes for many minutes after (Dr. Pinder spoke to Nurse Sanguinette, who didn't correct me after that). Dr. Pinder told me no one knew about Fallon and I figured that my big sister wasn't dead or in hospital and had saved us by kicking that man in the nuts!
Marlo Sanguinette also used a big needle which reminded me of a painfully unfunny doctor-vampire riddle. But Marlo's okay. She stayed with me in the ICU and through notes I told her about my family. My Dad's a notary public (I may have left out the 'l') and my Mom's co-owner of a restaurant chain called The Herd and School, which serves steak and seafood. Fallon will enter her second year of law studies at Columbia next week, and become a defense attorney after graduation. I hope to be a singer, but if that doesn't work out I'll either work in food service (I have the stomach for that) or follow Fallon into law (last year I became interested after reading her books and talking to her).
There's a photo -- Dad took it five months ago -- above our fireplace. On the left is Fallon, gaping in surprise. Law books are on the table between us. I'm on the right, and I'm smirking because I told details of Virginia v. Bigg which Fallon didn't know. That's still the only time I got the better of Fallon fair and square. The pranks I pulled as a brat were whole other matters.
I was so stupid as a little kid, I was even more stupid when I showed skin yesterday, and here in MHC I've got the stupids big time. I'm supposed to stay in bed, but soon after being moved to this Floor, just after 2, I got up. They'd washed me with sponges but I still felt dirty and wanted to bathe! Just sitting up brought a warning haze before my eyes, but I got to my feet anyway. Everything seemed to swim and shimmering yellow clouds blocked my sight, then gave way to blackness.
I came to on the floor. I could see but I was afraid to move because I hurt so much! They rushed me to treatment and X-rays. Then Dr. Avola and his team tested me.
Apart from new bruises and a puffy eye the fall had not harmed me. Surprisingly, I passed that "touch my fingers, touch your nose" test for the first time.
Dr. Avola and his people became much more cheerful. They got together and talked out of my earshot, or so they thought. I didn't catch everything they said, but what I heard reassured me.
"Amazing...even with that accident she's better," said the youngest of Avola's group.
"That's the beauty of pediatrics," said Dr. Avola. "Nothing bounces back like a kid."
He returned to my side and said he wanted no more "gross misdemeanors," though he wasn't really cross. I borrowed a piece of his stationery (I'd heard that some doctors had their names printed in gold on every sheet, but Dr. Avola wasn't one of them) and wrote, "I won't leave my bed. I promiss." I realized my mistake and blushed, but he just said, "Are you a politician?" After I shook my head he said, "Then I trust you."
As they wheeled me out, Dr. Avola was using a wall phone. I heard him say, "Rey Curtis, please." Something about that name stirred in my mind.
The orderlies paused at a nurse's station. Both nurses were so gross that I was slim as a model by comparison. I'd seen quite a few fat doctors also. Last year I noticed this tendency to spare tires and wobbly bums among doctors and nurses after falling off my pony. I was sure that those kids who called me names like "Tank" and "Lardass" were never in hospital.
I was put back in my bed at 3:07. By that time I was thinking of Fallon again. I grabbed my pen and paper and asked for an envelope.
I inspect that envelope for the umpteenth time. I've drawn a big heart in each corner, and tiny hearts along the edges. In the middle I've printed 'FALLON' above and 'FOR YOUR EYES ONLY' below. I take out the note and read:
You were write, I should've dressed consirvitivly. I'm sorry! I hope you're OK!! I'll be fine!!! Love Love Love Love!!!!
Shaking my head, I cross out 'WRITE' and print 'RIGHT' above. That big 'C'- word doesn't look right either, but I can't figure out how to correct it. So I just draw hearts over every 'O' in 'FALLON' and 'LOVE'. I feel more tears coming and I carefully fold the note and put it back in its envelope.
I sniffle, and right away that boy in the next bed says, "Fuck" under his breath. Tingles prickle my skin and my heart races again. Soon as my family gets here I want to move to a private room, away from that creep.
I figure Fallon's meeting Mom and Dad at the airport. Obviously she's not in hospital because that envelope's been in plain sight for almost two hours and no one has offered to deliver it. I don't think she kicked that man now. She never hurt me, not even by accident, and though she's strong it's never been her nature to hurt any living thing. The last I remember, she was trying to talk that man into letting us go. Her voice was calm as always, but I could see she was scared. Not for herself but for me.
Now my guess is that man put us back in his van and had an accident. That would explain why my body's so achy. He fled and Fallon escaped and got help for me. She must think I'm still unconscious or sleeping with sedagives.
Nothing will make us happier than to see each other. I can't wait... Shit, it's 5:22! They'll be here any minute and I'm still filthy! I've been sponged a few times but I need a good long hot bath and shower! I've got to show them that I'm well enough to bathe.
The clouds come back as I stand. I keep holding the bedrail, ready to lie down if I have to. The clouds are annoying and I feel lightheaded, but this time my sight stays. With unsteady legs I walk alongside the bed. As long as I hold the bedrail I'm not really breaking my promise.
I stub my toe on a jar. The water jar. That reminds me, I mustn't tangle the lines and leads...fewer than when I was in the ICU, but still of concern. The straw's in my pee chute. I've got a pulse oximeter lead connected to my left index finger. There's an IV line feeding my left arm.
With all these in mind, I stop and turn. This sets off nasty aches through my chest, but I've had worse. Carefully I walk, stop, and turn. The clouds seem to be fading. Cautiously I speed up my pace. I feel a little stronger. We Pattersons are tough material! I reach for the button to summon a nurse.
It's Mom! Mom and Dad are here! I rush to them and almost trip over a line, but Daddy catches me, saying, "Easy, Chelsea." I feel his warmth, and Mom's, as they gently embrace me. I circle their waists with my arms.
Mom and Dad are red-eyed, and tears flow from Daddy's eyes as he strokes my head and says, "Look at you...living proof...that there's only one way...to keep a Patterson down!" Then he really cries.
The most terrible cold horror surges through me. Where's Fallon! I look at Daddy and Mommy, look at Dr. Avola and a nurse I haven't seen before, look beyond them, look back at my parents, and lose it. Unseen giant hands wring water from me.
Daddy and Mommy hold me, pat me, caress me. Daddy says, "A lot of people worked very hard to keep you alive. That's why your body's so sore. They gave Fallon their best, too, but...Thank God we still have our brave young lady."
I am not brave and I am not a lady and if my cords weren't stuck I'd be bawling like a baby!
My chest is tight and it's hard to breathe! Dr. Avola sits me on the bed, listens to my chest and says, "You're fine, honey, just need a few touch-ups." He connects that neck tube to an outlet in the wall while a nurse injects something in my IV line. Quickly my breathing becomes easier, but I can't stop crying. Hot tears are streaming and my nose is running and I'm drooling like an infant!
Mommy and Daddy are sitting at each side of me and they're gently rubbing me. Their warmth is comforting, but each time I start to get comfortable I remind myself why we're here. Fallon's dead, Fallon's gone forever and I brought this on!
Mommy says, "Darling, may we read your message?" I nod, then with a shocking tingle I remember what's on it. I gaze at the floor through my watery eye as I hear Mom unfold the paper.
A gentle hand on my cheek wakes me and Mom says, "Chelsea?" Some people would like to see you. They want to catch that..."
I nod and ease myself off Daddy's lap. Mom and Dad make sure I don't fall. I see Dr. Avola at the door with a woman and two men.
Dr. Avola introduces the three. The stern-looking woman is Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael. The sad-faced older man is Detective Lennie Briscoe and his partner, who's quite handsome, is Detective Rey Curtis...I know that name.
All three tell us how sorry they are, then Rey looks at me with his soft dark eyes and says, "Chelsea, we think you can be a big help to us. We'd like you to look through our scrapbook."
He opens the book and puts it on my lap. There are six heads on the page and three are half-bald like the man who grabbed us. But none of the faces look right. The guy in top center has big ears like our attacker's and I bet people call him "Dumbo." There's a kid -- Avery DeBartolo -- in my class who I call "Dumbo" and, when I'm in a rhyming mood, "Jumbo" because of his ears.
Suddenly I realize that our attacker -- Fallon's killer -- may have gone bad because people teased him too much. I think of Avery, who'll be in Seven with me. New leaf this year, Chelsea, and pray it's in time!
"Honey, do you see him here?" Rey says. He has the most gentle voice I've ever heard. "Let's try the next page."
Other pages. I should have noticed! But Rey is turning...and there he is! Upper right corner! Furiously I jab a finger at that face!
Detective Briscoe says, "Whoa-whoa! Easy, Chelsea, that's police property!" I hear Mom say under her breath, "Let's hope!" and I can tell she's very angry.
Abbie Carmichael says, "Chelsea, please calm down and look again. Take your time and be absolutely sure."
I press that finger and nod. I look at the board he's holding; it reads:
KINBASKET, ROYSTON BENNETT
5-11 170 DOB 02 25 61
NYPD#21043 07 13 98
So he was born on February 25, 1961 and that picture was taken on July (Or is it June? Shit! I used to know!)... I count through the months...yes, the seventh is July. July 13, 1998.
Rey says, "When Kinbasket took you and Fallon, was he wearing a uniform?" I nod.
Detective Briscoe says, "What kind of uniform was it? A red coat and a big black bearskin hat?"
That's ridiculous! I shake my head and scribble, "Green, like a mall gaurd."
Looking at Detective Briscoe's old-hound face, I think he's a good man who's seen too many bad things and says ridiculous stuff to cover his sadness.
The detectives ask me a few more questions, and I'm glad they accept my nods and shakes; I don't want to describe my -- no, our ordeal in writing. They look at Abbie Carmichael, who nods, then they thank me.
Mom says, "One minute. Just give me one minute with that man!"
Mom's the biggest strongest person in my family and she really could break that man. Rey says, "We'd like to do that, Mrs. Patterson."
I notice Rey's ring; it's like my Daddy's. Rey's married and I bet he has kids and I'm sure he's never mean to them.
The detectives say goodbye and leave. Abbie talks to my parents briefly, then thanks me while stroking my hair. She hands me her card. She has a nice voice and I think we could be friends, but I sure wouldn't want to be in her bad books.
After she leaves, I snuggle with Mom on my left and Dad on my right. My mind's eye shows Kinbasket's mug and this time the '98' leaps at me. I'd been so worried about June or July that I'd missed the real problem!
I grab my pen and paper. Furiously I scribble, "That pfoto's more than a year old, they knew about him so long, why did they let him loose?!!"
Mom frowns, then snaps, "Chelsea, what's 7 times 6?"
I write, "42" and add, "Why?"
Mom embraces me gently and says, "Darling, that's a question we can answer."
I remember what's special about that number: Mom was 42 when she gave birth to me.
And she was 35 for Fallon.
I press my head to her, and rub her, and with my other arm I pull Daddy closer.