The hospital room was hushed and dim, save for the low beeps and lights coming from the monitor and IV pump. A slight woman sat hunched by the bed, holding Pete’s hand with hers and a rosary wound around both. She looked up when she heard Andy’s hesitant footsteps.
“How is he? Will he be okay?”
“You leave this room right now Andy. I know what you did. You did nothing. You were there and you did nothing. You let that boy beat Pete into a pulp and you did nothing until it was too late. After everything you two have been through. After everything your mother and I have been through.”
Andy was stunned. He did not expect her quiet fury directed at him. After all, he stopped the beating once the car was out of commission. But surely he couldn’t explain that. Who would believe him? “I’m…I’m so sorry. I did my best. I pulled Chad off of him as soon as I could. The crowd was so thick and a car came flying down the hill and…”
“You. Get. Out. Now.” Pete’s mother hissed at him. The look in her eyes told Andy all he needed to know. He backed slowly out of the room, tears in his eyes and hands in his pockets. “I’m so sorry, Pete.” He whispered as much to himself as Pete. “I’m so sorry.”
Everyone knew the old man was dead. It had been a fluke thing, something that no one could have prevented. He was an old diabetic and had a massive stroke while driving home from the pub. He hadn’t even been drinking. Just a bowl of stew and a nice hunk of bread for lunch, as he had nearly every day. Nobody knew how many lives Andy had saved but Andy, and now he had no one to talk to about the whole ordeal.
Andy hung around outside the hospital until the last visitors made their way out the front doors to the parking lot. He watched Pete’s mother leave. Then he slipped up the sidewalk to the doors and as someone came out, he went in. The door latched behind him.
He quickly made his way up to Pete’s room. The last thing he wanted was to be stopped in the hall by some drill sergeant of a nurse or security guard and forced to leave. Night staffing was low as it had been when his father lay dying in this hospital. No one saw him, and he turned into Pete’s room and sat down.
“Pete. It’s me, Andy.” He peered into his friend’s bruised and swollen face. “Pete, can you hear me? Can you open your eyes?” Nothing. There was no movement; no flutter of eyelashes as there would be on a theatre screen. There was only the rise and fall of Pete’s chest, and a painful silence.
Andy had an idea. He took Pete’s hand. He closed his eyes. He matched the rhythm of his breathing to Pete’s. If Spock could do it, maybe he could, too. He felt the electrical tingle. “Pete.” He whispered almost imperceptibly. “Pete, can you hear me?”
“Of course I can, you jerk. What are you doing here? Haven’t you done enough already?” Andy’s eyes flew open. Still no movement. Pete wasn’t speaking, but Andy could hear his answers. At least he could until he heard them, snatched his hand back and opened his eyes. Andy broke out in a cold sweat.
Pete’s nurse came in on her rounds and jumped when she saw a visitor in the chair. Andy was feeling queasy. All he could do was sit there, sweating and shivering. “You startled me.” The nurse said softly. “Visiting hours are over, hon. Do you have a ride home or shall I call a cab?” Andy sat there limply. He was not sure, but he thought he might puke.
The nurse turned on her little flashlight, and shined it indirectly at Andy. The sweaty sheen and pasty face were all she needed to see to know why he wasn’t answering her. “Are you okay, hon? Here, put your head between your knees for a tic. Or we could lay you on the floor, although if it were me, I’d stick to the chair. Germs and all that.”
She spoke kindly and Andy bent over as instructed. “Can I get you a cup of water? Or juice? Have you eaten today?”
“No.” Andy choked out single syllables. “Juice, please.” The nurse turned on her heel and was gone in a flash to get the juice. She returned just as quickly. “Sorry kiddo, we only have fruit punch. It isn’t very good, but it should keep you going until you can get something else in you.” She punched a tiny straw through the top of the plastic cup.
Andy sipped. It was so nice and cool. He took his time; he wanted to be sure what he drank would stay down. Juice nearly came out his nose. “It might work better if you sit up now.” “Oh yeah.” Andy had forgotten he was bent over. His thoughts were spinning and incoherent.
“Better?” He nodded. “Okay, now you really do have to go. Do you have a ride?” Andy nodded again. “Yeah, my mom is waiting for me outside. Sorry. Thank you for the juice. I think it helped.”
“Good. You were looking pretty pasty for a minute there. Now what is your name?” The nurse asked gently, but Andy knew she was going to need a name before she let him go. “It’s Andy.” “Okay Andy. Well it was nice to meet you. I’m glad you are feeling better, but it’s late and Pete needs his rest if he is ever going to wake up. Can you find your way out? I don’t have to escort you, do I?”
“No ma’am. I know the way. I promise I’ll go. I don’t really like it here.” Andy was serious. As he spoke he remembered how much he hated this place. “That’s good,” she answered. “There’s something wrong with you if you enjoy hospitals.” She chuckled. “Maybe I’ll see you next time. You get something to eat when you get home, okay? It isn’t good for you to wait so long.”
Andy nodded and shuffled out of the room, empty juice cup in hand. He flew down the stairs and out of the hospital, his head spinning. What had just happened with Pete? Could he help him wake up somehow?
Before he knew it, he was at the main road. Andy stuck out his thumb and tried to look like a waif. He was too tired to walk home.