I want to ask when it will be normal again, when I’ll be able to walk, how Carolina is doing, why my mom and dad aren’t here, and where is here, anyway? I want to ask all these things, but they’re backed up, tripping over each other in my head. They must show in my face though, because the nurse puts her hand on my arm and smiles at me.

“Your surgeon will be in to talk to you soon,” she says.

My surgeon. Someone whose face I haven’t seen and whose name I don’t know but who’s been wrist-deep in my body, and is intimately familiar with parts of me I haven’t even seen. Except for that one glance, which I could have lived without.

“When?” I ask.

She’s saved from answering when a man walks in, his green scrubs telling me this is the guy I’m waiting on. He introduces himself as Dr. Singh, then takes my chart from the nurse.

“Catalan,” he says. “That Italian?”

“I don’t know,” I say, partly because it’s true, partly because it’s the last thing I care about right now.

“Catalan . . . Catalan . . . ,” he repeats, sitting on the rolling chair. “Seems like I’ve heard the name.”

“My mom’s an ob-gyn,” I tell him, realizing I must not be too far from home if she’s delivered babies in this hospital.

“Annette Catalan?” I’ve got his attention now, his eyes on me instead of a chart about me. “You’re her daughter?”

“Well, I’m adopted,” I say. Mom told me a long time ago I don’t have to say it like it’s a bad thing, or even say it at all. But I’ve always felt like I need to explain how I’m the daughter of a small, cheery blonde.

“Where is my mom?” I ask, and he looks to the nurse.

“On the way,” she says.

“You were flown in to Mercy General from county,” Dr. Singh says. “With injuries like yours it’s important that surgery happens as quickly as possible to improve your chances of recovery. I’m sorry that your mom couldn’t be here—”

“Recovery?” I repeat, interrupting him to grab onto that word. “How long? Softball conditioning starts in March.”

“Well, let’s see . . .” His eyes are back on the chart again, but I know he’s stalling.

I may not show my emotions, but that doesn’t mean I can’t see everyone else’s. I know Dr. Singh isn’t going to tell me anything I want to hear, just as surely as I know that Aaron is in love with Carolina, and has probably called her twenty times already. I can picture her clumsily texting with her left hand, propped up in a hospital bed like mine. I wonder if there’s a doctor with her as well, and if he’s pulling X-rays out of a folder, illustrations in the story about how her life just changed.

“You sustained serious damage to your right hip,” Dr. Singh says, holding them up to the light.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen my bones. I can still spot the fracture on my right femur from when Royalwood’s catcher—who is built like a brick shithouse—landed on me when I slid into home during summer league when I was twelve. I heard the crack on impact, but the ump called me safe. I lay in the dirt for a second, relishing the cheering before everyone realized I wasn’t getting up.

My coccyx is crooked from being broken twice, once when I fell off Nancy Waggoner’s horse, and again when it was my turn to be taken out at the plate by a runner. I held on to the ball even though I had literally broken my ass, and she was out. We won that game, too, and all the girls signed the doughnut pillow I had to sit on for a month.

But those old injuries are nothing compared to this.

“We put three screws in your hip,” my surgeon says, but he hardly needs to explain. I can see them, denser than my bones, so clearly defined that the threading even stands out. I grit my teeth together, remembering the time I helped Dad put up drywall, particles flying in my face as I drilled in screws. How much bone dust is on the floor of that operating room? How much of me was left behind when I was wheeled out, and can my leg still work with what remains?

I want to ask but I don’t get the chance because Mom comes barreling in. She’s wearing pajamas and her hair is a disaster, but she plucks the X-rays from Dr. Singh’s hand like someone with authority, holding them up to the light.

I didn’t cry when I landed in the field, mouth full of blood. I didn’t cry when they separated me from Carolina, or when I saw the meat of my leg, red and raw underneath the antiseptic lights of the ambulance. I didn’t cry when I woke up lost and alone, wondering if I was still in one piece.

But I cry now. I cry when Mom’s face falls at the sight of those screws, her mouth turning down the way it did last year right before she told me about the divorce. I cry because the pain has begun, a fiery hand clasping onto my hip that burns right through whatever they gave me to stop it. The nurse notices and puts a button in my hand, curling my fingers around it.

“For the pain,” she says.

I push it. I push it until the pain is dull and the room is fuzzy. I push it until I can’t tell Mom’s voice from the doctor’s. I push it until I’m floating and can’t hear words like options, therapy, and graft. I push it because I can’t be here right now, and that button is the only way I can leave.

Chapter Four

Mindy McGinnis's Books