This is part one of the three-part short story about broken relationships and broken minds.
Please note this is fiction and any similarity between real people and places is purely coincidental.
Everything was so loud. The sound of metal scraping against metal, strange beeping noises, swift footsteps. These noises were incongruous against the backdrop of hushed voices.
Melanie could sense the brightness behind her closed eyelids. She would have been certain she was suffering from the mother of all hangovers had it not been for those hushed voices. They too should have been loud intrusions into her foggy mind.
As new realization began to dawn, the waves of pain increased, making Melanie pray for the release of unconsciousness again. This feeling, the sounds, and sensations were familiar to her.
When she was a young teenager she had a similar experience, but she couldn’t remember what it was. Melanie tried to open her eyes as her memory came flooding back. It was her last big teenage rebellion, a bottle of bourbon and she woke to the same sounds and smells. That was it, the smell – unmistakable, she was in the emergency ward of a hospital!
Her eyes flickered open momentarily but the bright light was unbearable so she fought the urge to inspect her surroundings as she pondered the circumstances.
Letting her mind drift to the past, Melanie remembered how mortified she felt when she realized she had been rushed to the emergency ward to have her stomach pumped. That was decades ago yet she could still feel the shame as if it happened only yesterday.
She had been found lying unconscious in the grounds of the local high school. Even through the current haze, Melanie was able to empathize with the teenager who found her lying in the dark. He had been using the school as a shortcut on his way home from stacking shelves at the local supermarket.
It must have been frightening to come across this prone body, surrounded by vomit, making him fear the careless girl would choke. He called an ambulance.
Melanie had no memory of the ambulance ride, the boy who found her, or the friends who deserted her, frightened that their under-age drinking would get them into trouble.
She woke up to the stringent smells, bright lights and loud noises of the emergency ward, wishing she could disconnect her aching head from the rest of her body.
When she could bear to open her eyes, the first thing she saw was the distress on her parents’ faces, tears running down her mother’s cheeks.
She and some other kids, not her usual friends, had lied about going to the movies and her parents had been frantically taking it in turns to look for her when she didn’t come home – until the call from the hospital.
Surely the thirty-six-year-old mother of two had not over indulged in such a stupid, careless way again. That behaviour ended in her teens when the look of disappointment in her parents’ eyes had cut into her heart just as efficiently as a sharp knife.
A BROKEN HEAD
As the small brunette lay immobile in the emergency room of Westmead Hospital in Sydney’s western suburbs, the fog lifted and Melanie remembered her final moments of consciousness.
The crazy woman, her best friend, flew at Melanie with an alien look in her eyes. Her face was contorted with rage as she lifted the rock and slammed it into Melanie’s head.
Now, as she gingerly tried to touch her head, Melanie wondered if she had needed stitches and if so, had her head been shaved. She considered her long dark hair her greatest physical asset – what a shame if it were all shorn away.
She was still too groggy and weak to make her hand reach her head, too nervous about what she would feel to force it.
Someone was touching her arm. Melanie gingerly opened her eyes to see a nurse by her side. Later she would look back on the moment with shame. There were so many important questions, not least of which was the safety of her children. Instead, she asked;
“Is my hair all gone?”
“No dear, just relax.
“I’ll get Doctor to come and see you now.” the nurse replied as she walked away.
It struck Melanie, as she allowed her eyes to flutter closed, that the nurse’s feet made no noise. She wondered whose footsteps she had heard earlier – probably the doctors’. How typical the caring nurses would have quiet, padded shoes and the doctors would be the ones making noises.
As she thought this, Melanie heard the noisy footsteps again.
“Mrs. Johnson, I’m Dr Blaney, can you open your eyes?”
With great effort, Melanie complied and tried to focus on imaginary flowers and ignore the pain while the doctor looked into her eyes with special instruments.
“Mrs Johnson, do you know where you are?” the doctor asked. This was followed by a host of other silly questions like ‘what’s your name, where do you live, how many fingers am I holding up’. It made Melanie feel like a pre-schooler again and she had to concentrate on editing the sarcastic replies and ridiculous laughter that threatened to bubble out of her.
“Do you remember what happened to you?” he asked.
“Bits and pieces are starting to come back to me,” Melanie replied.
“That’s good. It could take several days, or even weeks, for your memory to be fully restored as you were unconscious for several hours,” said Dr. Blaney.
“We gave you a CT scan and there is no severe injury or bleeding on the brain so we expect you to make a full recovery.
“Your injury required stitches and we shaved that area of your head.”
At this, Melanie forced her arm to lift so she could touch her head.
“We didn’t shave it all,” Dr. Blaney said, registering her distress.
“Just the section where the injury occurred.
“The police have been waiting to talk to you,” he continued.
Come back next Friday for part two of the short story Broken.
Wishing you a gleeful week, Tamuria.