a violent awakening in a hospital room

I feel like I’m suffocating. I look at the prosecutor. I look at my mom. She has tears in her eyes.

“Ms. Forbes, please answer the question.”

My frantic search for words is interrupted by the loud ringing of a bell, and no sooner have I heard it than I’ve awoken and pulled my phone from my pocket to see who is calling.

It’s my mom. I don’t want to talk.

I press “ignore” and put my phone back in my pocket, reacquainting myself with my surroundings – a tiny hospital room – and stretching my neck. Sleeping in a chair isn’t my favorite way to sleep. If there’s one thing I hate more than hospitals, it’s tiny hospitals in Middle of Nowhere, Tennessee.

I tell my friends I’m going to go grab a bite to eat, and walk to a diner across the street.

Making my way through the parking lot, I see a Cajun man leaning against an old Porsche. He’s smoking a cigarette, and not being very hungry, I decide to ask him if I may have one.

He obliges me, and I introduce myself, catching my reflection in the window in so doing. I look like hell – blond hair alarmingly stringy and as worn out as the past few days have made me feel. I comfort myself with the fact that my new friend probably isn’t judging me, given that his appearance isn’t much better.

“So, Darryl, is this your car? It’s so cool,” I say, trying to breathe through my mouth to avoid breathing in his offensively nasty fragrance choice.

“Nah, it’s my buddy’s. I’m meeting him here. Just wanted to grab a smoke first.” Despite his rough appearance, he’s actually more attractive than I initially noticed.

“Well, lucky him then. You know, I don’t really smoke,” I grin due to my amusement at my own clear denial of my smoking habit, “I mean, I do so very rarely. But thanks. This is just what I needed.”

Suddenly, a guy whom I imagine to be Darryl’s friend walks up. “Darryl, hi.” He says with, it seems, undue seriousness, and turns to me. “Hi, I’m James.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you James. Your car is lovely.” And suddenly the bell rings again – does a bell ever ring in a manner that isn’t sudden? – and I silently vow to change my ring tone from the “Saved by the Bell” theme song.

It’s my mother again. I cannot avoid her forever, so I excuse myself from James and Darryl.

“Hi, Mom. I’m guessing you’re calling about what happened at the festival. I don’t really know what to say. Is Dad mad?” I spit it out at once, knowing that my mom is calling because my father’s entourage is freaking out.

“What? No, that’s not why I’m calling, Kate. But something has happened. You need to come home right away.”

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