The Seventh Hour(13)By: Tracey Ward
“My ribs ache, but otherwise I’m okay.”
“Are you pretending you don’t know what I mean or do you really not know what I’m asking?”
“Pretending and hoping you’ll let it go.”
She nods her head agreeably. “Whatever you want.”
“Though I have some advice if you want it.”
“It has to do with the heart.”
She chuckles as she presses her fingertips gently against the tender flesh of my side. It burns but I don’t make a sound. “That’s your choice, Grayson, but I’ll tell you this; you’re never too young to be concerned with the inner workings of the human heart.”
I grunt in pain as her fingers find a soft spot, her probing touch suddenly making me collapse defensively in on my side.
Dr. Kanden tsks as she takes a step back. “I was worried about that. You cracked a rib. Maybe two.”
“Cracked or bruised?”
“What do I do about it?”
“You heal. That’s all you can do. I don’t want to wrap it because it might make it even more difficult for you to take deep breathes and you could contract pneumonia. I’ll give you something for the pain, though.”
“I’ll manage without it.”
She shakes her head, her face serious. “You say that now but when you try to get to sleep at night the pain will most likely keep you awake. You won’t be able to lie comfortably. You’ll have trouble doing daily activities. This is going to take a good seven weeks to heal, and a lot of that time is going to hurt. Take the painkillers. It doesn’t make you any less of a man.”
I snort, carefully pulling my shirt over my head. “Two minutes ago Karina called me a coward. Now you’re telling me to stop being so tough.”
“Why did she call you a coward?”
I pull the shirt down slowly, trying not to wince. I fail. “She was joking. She called me a hero in almost the same breath.”
“You don’t sound any happier about being called a hero than a coward.”
“A lot of people will disagree with that assessment after what you did.”
“They weren’t there. They have no idea what they’re talking about.”
“The girl was there,” she reminds me. “We’ll see what she has to say about you when she wakes up.”
It’s cold. Cold and wet and dark.
This has to be Hell. It’s the Twelfth hour, absolute midnight, and it’s every nightmare I’ve ever had. My mouth is dry, my stomach churning. I’m afraid to open my eyes. Afraid to find out I didn’t reach the surface. That I went in the water and I never made it out.
My lids flutter, my mind bracing for the numbing cold water to sting my eyes. It doesn’t come. Instead I find light, blurry and faint. A flickering flame in the distance that makes my heart ache with joy. It’s the sun; bigger and brighter than it has been in weeks. Closer.
The ships – they came back for me. They saved me. It’s the only way, the only reason, and the only person in the world who would have tried to save me is—
“Gav?” I call out, my throat constricting around his name. I cough coarsely before trying again. “Gav!”
“Stop yelling,” a voice rumbles to my left.
A shadow moves in front of the sun, plunging me into darkness again. I start to shiver violently, the movement sending my left shoulder into burning agony, and the sickness in my stomach leaps to the back of my throat. I try to sit up but it only makes it worse. My head swims, my vision spiraling. My stomach can’t take it anymore. I lean over the side the bed I didn’t realize I was laying on and I vomit on the floor with an audible splat.
The shadow curses as it backs away quickly. It manages to avoid the spray but there’s more. So much more. Salt water and the last meal I ate – chicken with lemon sauce – spews from my lips onto the ground. I gag as my body tries to pull in breaths and push out the contents of my stomach all at the same time. Muscle convulsions make my shoulder ache even worse. My sight bursts bright white at the edges, and when it dims it feels darker than before. My vision is clearer now that my eyes are wide open. I can see the light. It’s not the sun. It’s a candle on a desk. A desk pushed up against a smooth stone wall.