Serendipity, Indiana – Book Two
Emily Kincaid’s past includes a series of broken relationships and dead-end jobs, but her future is a giant question mark. Everybody wants to help–the nurse aide Emily can’t stand, Emily’s grandmother who had the perfect marriage and wants Emily to find the right man, and her teenage sisters who are eager to get her out of their way.
And on top of all this, there’s the voice in Emily’s head that keeps giving her advice she can’t understand.
Turn the page, Emily.
There it was again—the same disembodied voice I’d heard countless times, giving me the same inexplicable direction. If I could find a page to turn, literally or figuratively, maybe the voice would stop nagging me. Maybe, too, I’d finally know what direction my life was supposed to take.
Considering my lack of focus in the past, there was almost unlimited opportunity for improvement.
I opened my eyes. The tiny room I inhabited now in my parents’ home was painted marshmallow-crème white, and except for the bed and an antique dresser on the opposite wall, nearly bare.
I groaned as I pushed myself to a sitting position on the bed and managed to get both legs over the side of the mattress. My flannel gown had ridden up as I tossed in my sleep, so my knees were visible. The right one was still swollen, and I massaged my thigh.
“Come on. You’re supposed to be getting better every day, remember? That was our deal.” Truth be told, the leg hadn’t been consulted, but the rest of me had decided it was in the best interest of all concerned.
Stretching to reach a shelf just above the bed, I unplugged my phone and replied to texts from my friends Karly and Danielle. I read a long email sent in the middle of the night by my brother, “the perfect child,” Ben who felt guilty for not calling more often. Lucky Ben, at college getting an education and having the time of his life. He was on the right path to leave boring old Serendipity, Indiana, behind him.
I smiled, remembering what a pest he’d been as a little kid. Now that he was big and strong and generally pleasant, I seldom saw or heard from him. However, I was in frequent contact with the twins, our seventeen-year-old sisters who seemed bent on driving all of us completely bonkers. The faces of Hannah and Taylor flashed into my mind and I groaned again.
Setting my phone aside, I pulled Lightning off its perch at the head of the bed and hoisted myself up, bound for the bathroom. The fam said I was moving faster these days, but when you’re twenty-five years old and dependent on an aluminum cane, it’s hard to feel super positive about yourself. And yes, I named my cane. Doesn’t everyone?
The bathroom mirror confirmed the scar along my jawline was still quite obvious, continuing to hinder nonexistent beauty pageant options. I washed my face, ran my fingers through my hair, and sighed at the dark circles that were still under my eyes.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. None of this will make sense to you if you don’t know what happened before.
Just a heads-up, Taylor and Hannah won’t be the only unpleasant types in this story. I’m sorry to say they learned a lot of attitude from their big sister—me.
First I need to tell you about the dream. Although it only happened once, it was emblazoned on my memory. But the voice telling me to turn the page…I’m not sure how many times I’d heard that.
You’ll have that little phrase memorized before long, I bet.
Eyes tightly shut against the brightness of the sun, I lift my face to its warmth. Soothing heat bathes the skin of my neck and arms. A gentle breeze musses my blond hair, and soft tendrils tickle my neck. I slowly open my eyes and watch the breeze rustling the full skirt of my pretty blue dress.
Surrounding the blanket I am sitting on, wild daisies sway and dance. The field of flowers extends as far as I can see, even from my vantage point high on the hill. Songbirds call as they chase each other across the sky.
Turn the page, Emily.
I didn’t recognize the soft voice.
And what page?
I opened my eyes. The hill, the daisies, and my pretty blue dress were all gone. The movement of the breeze was gone. I also had the jarring recollection that my hair wasn’t blond at all, but dark brown. Instead of that lovely scene, there was a very beige room, an assortment of medical equipment beeping and whirring, and the smell of disinfectant. The world’s ugliest abstract-print curtain hung from a metal track in the ceiling.
So it had been a dream—but it had seemed, and felt, so real. I squeezed my eyes closed to block out the current view and try to recapture the place I’d just left.
“Dr. Waverly. Dr. D. L. Waverly.” The intercom voice sounded bored. “Please call one nine.”
I opened my eyes again and saw my mother sitting beside me, her head resting on one palm.
“Mom?” I whispered, in case she was asleep.
She was suddenly sitting straight up, on high alert. “Emily. You’re awake! Oh, sweetie. We were so afraid….” Her hug was gentle but awkward because of the mass of tubes.
“What happened?” I choked out the words, and my throat hurt from the effort. Due to my rasping, it took Mom a moment to understand what I had said.
“You’re in the hospital, sweetie. You had a car wreck about a week ago. Late at night, on your way home from an evening with your friends.”
“Adam was here to see you.” Her voice was flat. “But he had to leave.”
“Oh.” So he was okay, at least. I knew she didn’t like Adam any more than she had liked my previous boyfriends, and I had no desire to go down that road now. As long as he was fine, I knew I’d see him soon.
I didn’t remember a wreck or what had led up to it. “Mom, was anybody else…?” Oh please, let nobody else be hurt—or worse.
She shook her head no. “Just you,” she whispered. Her eyes filled with tears, and she looked away. I felt fabric brush my arm as she smoothed the sleeve of what was probably a super ugly hospital gown.
“Sweetie, it’s a miracle you’re still here with us. They said we might lose you.” Her voice broke. “We didn’t give up though—and look at you now!”
“I look that good, huh?” It was the best I could do at humor, to try to cheer her. I bet I looked horrible, because I was beginning to realize I felt that way. My entire body ached, and my right jawline burned.
“You look like an angel to me.” She brushed some hair off my face. “But you’ll feel better when you’re not in that hospital bed. Now you’re awake, we can work toward getting you out of here and home where you belong.” She smiled the way she did when she was being sad and brave at the same time.
I grinned weakly up at her, I think, but felt completely exhausted. I probably fell asleep again.
After that, there were many times I’d wake up and realize I was in the hospital and Mom or Dad was sitting by my bed. One time Grandma Reba was there instead.
“Hey, yourself.” Her blue eyes sparkled with a mischievous challenge. “Are you going to stay in that bed forever, Emily Elizabeth?”
I chuckled, which by this time only hurt a little bit. “I hope not.”
“That’s good to hear. What are you going to do?”
The answer to her question depended on Adam who hadn’t been here any of the times I was conscious. Surely, he was making plans to take me home to our apartment. He’d better not let me down.
“Go home, I guess.” Meaning the place I shared with my boyfriend, but I didn’t say it that way because I knew Gran didn’t approve.
She frowned, something Gran seldom does. “You’ve been given a second chance, Emily. Best be using it wisely.”
A tall, dark-skinned man came in, wearing a white lab coat. As he walked, his focus moved back and forth between the clipboard he held and the phone he was texting on. He stopped at my bed and seemed surprised to see us.
“Well. This is lovely. The grandmother is visiting?”
Gran nodded. “Are you her doctor?”
“Yes, yes. One of them. Miss Emily Kincaid, you have come back from the dead. Very nice.” He glanced at the clipboard and back up, meeting my eyes. “Concussion, internal injuries, and a severe right tibial fracture.” He must have noticed my lack of understanding. “Shin bone. Your lower right leg is fractured.” He gently turned my face to one side with his long fingers. “And this scar to help you remember.”
His grin was unnaturally white, but his deep brown eyes were friendly. “So you must now begin to work. This will be hard work, Miss Emily. You will tire easily and become frustrated.” He wrote something across the paper on the clipboard. “But it cannot be helped. We start at this very low point.” He nodded and looked at my grandmother. “Your name, dear lady?”
Gran brightened, looking immediately younger at the handsome doctor’s attention. “I’m Reba Markland.” She held out her hand, and he took it solemnly. For a grandma, she did look pretty awesome with her silver hair in a pixie cut, and a complexion that had never spent time lying out in the sun.
“Ah. Miss Reba Markland, it is a decided pleasure to make your acquaintance. I am called Dr. Jay. I have noticed your presence here many times since this fine girl came to us.”
“Of course. I’ve been here many times.” Gran retrieved her hand slowly, her face glowing with pleasure. “Emily is part mine.” She looked at me and winked.
After beaming at her for a long moment, Dr. Jay turned back to me. “Miss Emily Kincaid, you have a very nice family. Also, two teenage sisters.” His delight faded briefly, and I wondered what the twins had said or done to make an impression. With them, the possibilities were endless.
“This is important,” he said, writing again. “Your very nice family will be a help to you in recovering.”
“Just what will that involve?” I didn’t want to commit without knowing first what Dr. Jay had in mind.
“You will be up to sit in a chair a bit today with therapy at your side. This will be done, and when you are stable, you will transfer to rehab. When you can safely function, you go home.” He took a moment to read something on his phone, and when he looked up again, his big brown eyes pinned me. “Miss Emily, one does not visit death and return to the living without change. You are beginning a new life. Proceed with gratitude.”
Clueless of an appropriate response, I nodded at him, and he did the same to me. He took Gran’s hand again, bowed slightly, and left.
“That was weird.” I pitched my voice low to be sure he couldn’t hear me if he was still outside the door.
Gran shook her head. “Not really. He just has a bit of difficulty with the language. I only know one language and so do you. I’m always impressed with those who know more.”
“Uh, no. I meant it was weird what he said about beginning a new life.”
She took a deep breath. “You do realize the wreck nearly—killed you?”
Why did everybody have to mention my close scrape with death as if it was news to me? I wanted to scream—put the past where it belongs and get me out of here!
I cleared my throat, forcing my voice to remain calm. “I get that I was in bad shape.”
“You were given a fifty-fifty chance, Emily. Do not take this lightly. The fact that we are having any type of conversation at this moment is miraculous. Take Dr. Jay’s advice. Proceed with gratitude.” She closed the magazine that lay ignored on her lap. “Then decide how you’re going to live your life. Enough of simply existing.”
I sighed and turned my head toward the window, remembering the dream about sitting on the hill in a field of daisies. The scene was still beautifully vivid in my mind, but I hadn’t mentioned the experience to anyone, afraid of spoiling its perfection. Though I liked to think of the dream as a glimpse of heaven, it was just as likely induced by pain meds. Either way, I would keep my secret, hugging the memory tightly when I felt despondent, which was often.
And no amount of being preached at about gratitude was going to make me feel better. I was in pain, bored with the hospital, and missing my boyfriend.
Turn the page, Emily.
Although I’d heard it before when Gran wasn’t there and knew it wasn’t her voice, there was no one else in the room, so I turned back and looked at Gran. She was gathering a large knitting project and her magazines, sliding them into her massive tote bag.
“Did you hear that?” I whispered.
She glanced at me as she slid her arms into her coat sleeves. “Hear what?”
“Oh…nothing.” I wanted an explanation for the voice, yet was afraid to explore for it. “Um. You’re leaving already, Gran?”
“I’ve been here six hours, Emily. You slept most of the time, but I’m ready to go home and flop into a comfortable chair.” She picked up the black velvet tote with bright shapes stitched onto it in an eccentric pattern. “Your parents will be here in a little while, honey. I’ll let you tell them your news.” Leaning down, she kissed my cheek. “I’ll see you very soon. I love you, Emily Elizabeth.”
“Love you too, Gran.”
My parents arrived, looking tired and rushed. I wondered how many times they had driven the forty minutes to visit me here, even when I was unconscious and didn’t know they were around. At any rate, I could see the whole experience had taken a toll on both of them, as it had on Gran. But it wasn’t like I’d asked them to make the trip so often, right?
“Hey, guys. Good news from Dr. Jay. Have you met him?”
Dad slipped off his coat and helped Mom with hers. “He and the other doctors in his office have been impressive. What’s the news?”
“I get out of bed today, and before long, I should be out of here.”
They looked doubtful. “I’ll go to the nurses’ station,” Mom said and left.
Dad tossed the coats onto the chair Gran had vacated. He perched cautiously on the edge of my bed and took my hand in his big one.
I was hurt by their reaction—or rather, lack of it. “Mom doesn’t believe me?”
He shrugged. “We’ve learned to check at the nurses’ station after talking to a doctor. Sometimes we’ve been so overwhelmed by everything, it’s been difficult to take in the information the doctors give. Checking to see what’s written on the chart is a reassurance or helps us clarify.”
I sagged into the pillow. “I’m sorry for what I’ve put you through, Dad.”
“No need to apologize. Your focus should be on getting stronger, Emily.”
“You’ve got it. I want to get out of here and get on with life.” Such as it was.
“Has Adam been in to see you?” Dad’s voice was casual as he re-arranged the ugly privacy curtain.
“Not that I’m aware of. I mean, if he was here, it was when I was asleep.” I sighed. “Probably not.”
“That’s no way for a young man in love to behave.”
“Maybe he’s sick and doesn’t want to give me a germ.” Whatever. I didn’t want to think deeply about my boyfriend’s absence or have this conversation—the one that started with—Why do you always choose that kind of guy? The irresponsible kind. The ones who aren’t worthy of you?
I’d heard those words many times through the years. From my parents, siblings, friends. And with Gran it was even worse—she could just look at me a certain way and I knew what she was thinking. No doubt she compared all my boyfriends to my grandpa, who’d been like this ideal husband, father, grandfather, important citizen in the community, and all that. I had loved Grandpa Geoffrey, but his memory would be hard for anyone to live up to, especially the losers I seemed to gravitate to.
Mom’s face was flushed with excitement when she came in after getting the details from the nurses.
“Marcus, the nurse says once Emily is able to get up into a wheelchair and her temperature stays normal, she can be moved to Meadowbrooke for rehabilitation. It’s just a few miles from here. Easy to get to from the flyer they gave me.” She was clutching the flyer in one hand and gently put it in mine. How pathetic is it to see your mom excited about moving you to a nursing home?
Without looking at the paper, I pushed it away and it fluttered to the floor. Again, I had to force my voice to sound normal, even when I felt I was about to lose it. “You must be kidding. I’m not going there.”
“Yes, you are.” Dad’s ‘no-nonsense’ look had appeared. “In anticipation of the doctor’s statement today, I’ve already talked with several of the staff here and done a little research. Meadowbrooke’s rehab department has a great reputation.” He scooped up the flyer and deposited it on the table by my bed. “We need to be thankful for this step in the right direction, instead of ruining it from the outset with the wrong attitude.”
I took a deep breath, curled my nails into my palms when what I wanted to do was pound on something in frustration. “I’m twenty-five, not eighty-five. I’m not going to a nursing home.”
His face was suddenly as forbidding as winter storm clouds. “I know a lot of people over eighty who are in better shape right now than you are, Emily. You will go to Meadowbrooke and work hard, and when you’re well enough, you can come home.”
Frowning right back at him, I barely managed to keep my thoughts to myself for the moment. It felt as if they were pushing me away, not wanting to deal with me when I wasn’t able to do everything for myself. Well, the good news for them was that I wasn’t going to their house after I was better. I was going to Adam’s, once he got off his butt and took some initiative. They had conveniently managed to forget that fact, and I would just let it ride for now.
Mom was still smiling. “They’re sending physical therapy in a few minutes to get you up, Emily.” She took a bathrobe out of the meager closet space, draped it over my knees, and pushed the bed control to slowly raise me into a sitting position.
A stoic looking woman soon appeared, carrying an aluminum walker. “Hello. I’m June. I understand Dr. Jay has told you about starting P.T. today.”
We muttered agreement.
“Good.” She nodded, made use of the hand sanitizer, and looked at her watch. “An aide will be here soon to assist me.” June was my mom’s age or more and had deeply etched frown lines between brows that could have used some shaping. She cleared her throat and looked at the clock on the wall, focused on doing her job and not on chatter. That worked for me—I wanted to check this physical therapy thing off my list so I could get out of here.
“Hey, June.” A stocky girl with swinging dark hair bounced into the room. Her face was a giant smile, and I immediately disliked her for it. “Hey, everybody. I’m Kim. They told me Emily’s ready to start P.T. How great is that?”
Staring at her, I tried to recall meeting her before. “Do I know you?”
“I’m Kim,” she said more slowly this time. “Don’t know if you remember me, but I’ve been in to help with you a bunch of times. You were asleep a lot.”
Wow. There’s news.
“I remember you, Kim,” Mom said cheerfully enough for all of us. “Thanks to both of you for coming in so quickly. We think it’s wonderful news the doctor wants Emily to start getting out of bed.”
“I bet. Since she was almost dead and all.” Kim winked at me. “But not quite dead, right, Emily?”
While I glared at them, they efficiently got me swiveled around and gently lowered my legs off the bed. “And not as far gone as Westley in The Princess Bride.” My legs were dangling over the side of the bed now, and Mom rushed to put slippers on my feet. I think she was trying to be gentle, but it hurt so much I bit my lip to keep from shrieking. Suddenly I was dizzy and my stomach began to roll with queasiness. I was in pitiful shape if sitting up in bed had this effect.
June spoke briefly to Kim, her voice so low I couldn’t hear.
Kim nodded understanding and resumed chatting to me and my parents. “So we don’t have as much of a project as Miracle Max had. Now…if you were mostly dead, this would really be a challenge.” Deep dimples appeared in Kim’s cheeks and her dark eyes sparkled as she chuckled at the movie reference. I knew that old movie too and steeled myself not to be taken in by Kim’s cheerfulness.
To move things along and get Kim out of my face, I started to push off the bed, but they stopped me.
“Take a moment,” June directed. “Breathe slowly and deeply.”
Kim’s smile widened. “No magic pill here. Your rehab is going to require lots of hard work.”
I stared into her eyes. “Are you playing the part of Andre the Giant in this epic?”
Mom gasped, and Kim took a deep breath. “Whatever works to get your motor running, Emily. You need to say ugly things to me, go ahead. I’m just doing my job. Or you could be pleasant. Up to you.”
I didn’t want to be pleasant. I wanted to be left alone—or even better, to just be okay again. Nobody seemed to know who or what had caused the wreck, so I was angry without anything in particular to direct the anger toward. The giant, day-at-a-time calendar on the wall told me I’d lost two weeks of my life flat on my back in this stupid hospital. It was mid-November already.
June re-positioned my hands on the walker. “Do not put any weight on your right leg, Emily. Ready? Here we go!”
I tried not to but couldn’t help yelling. The pain was incredible.
“Emily!” Mom was instantly at my side. “June, should she be up if it hurts this much?”
“Doctor’s orders,” June said softly, while helping support me.
Kim added, “From what the doctors and nurses say, she’s gonna hurt for a long time. Lucky to be alive.” She looked from Mom to me. “You don’t feel lucky right now, I bet.”
No way would I try to answer. Tears streamed down my face as I stood there, clutching the walker.
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