Evelyn Caldwell rose with the sun. She stood up, walked to her daughter who was still hooked up to machines, and brushed her bangs from her closed eyes. While stroking Dorothy’s cheek, she heard a whimper and watched as Dorothy’s eyes flitted beneath the lids. Panicking, she pressed the code blue button above Dorothy’s bed. Immediately, a flood of nurses ran in the room and an announcement came over the speaker, “Code Blue room 414. Code Blue room 414.”
“What’s going on in here? What happened?” a nurse asked Evelyn.
“Crash cart! We’ve got a code blue in here!” another nurse yelled.
“Her eyelids moved,” Evelyn whispered, still staring at her daughter.
The nurses stopped and noticed for the first time that the heart or oxygen monitors weren’t bleeping. They stared at Evelyn.
“Did you push the button on the wall?”
“Yes,” she said. “She moved her eyes. She was awake. I wasn’t sure what to do. The doctor said he put her in a coma. What does it mean?” Evelyn asked, her voice rising an octave by the end.
One by one, the nurses left and the message, “Code blue cancelled,” could be heard over the intercom. One nurse stayed behind. Evelyn forgot her name, but she recognized the face as the nurse who initially helped her when she first came to the hospital.
“The doctor will be in shortly, Mrs. Caldwell. I’m not supposed to comment on the condition of your daughter, but I can say, in secrecy, that these are all good signs that your daughter may make a full recovery. This is very unexpected, and it is most definitely a positive sign. I will, however, alert her doctor and have him talk with you and your husband further.”
Evelyn exhaled the breath she didn’t know she was holding. “Thank goodness.”She collapsed on the visitor’s bench next to Dorothy’s bedside and watched with anticipation lest her eyes flit with life again.
Ten days and ten hours after being admitted to the hospital, Dorothy arose from her medically-induced slumber, opening one eye at a time. Evelyn saw that Dorothy’s eyes remained unfocused, and that she was having a difficult time sitting up.
“Dorothy, I am Dr. Roy Harper. I have been the one taking care of you while you have been in the hospital. Do you understand me?”
“Uh, yes,” Dorothy said as she looked around the room.
“Do you know where you are?” Dr. Harper asked.
“It looks like a hospital.”
“Do you know why you’re in a hospital?”
She looked up at the ceiling, as if the answers were up there, but she shook her head no.
“Do you know what year this is?”
Dorothy looked at Evelyn, who said, “It’s okay, honey, you can answer him.”
“Who are you?” Dorothy asked.
Evelyn was shocked. She looked at Dr. Harper and gave him a look that asked if this was normal. He shrugged his shoulders in reply, and her mind began to race. My own daughter doesn’t even recognize me. What will they do with her if she doesn’t want to come home with us. What will they do to me? Will they let her stay here? She’s only fourteen; they couldn’t possibly let a minor make her own decisions, but what if she makes up some lie and tells someone she had been abused? What then? Where the hell is Victor, anyway? He was supposed to be here hours ago.
“Dorothy,” the doctor asked, rousing Evelyn from her thought stupor. “You never answered my question. What year is this?”
“Close,” he said, but Evelyn was confused. It wasn’t close at all. It was the year 2011. “How about where you are.”
“The hospital,” she answered, beaming at a correct answer.
“I meant which state,” Dr. Harper clarified.
“Oh,” she said, looking down at the blanket. “I don’t know.” When she looked up, Evelyn saw Dorothy had tears in her eyes.
“Doctor, can we perhaps do this at a different time? She’s clearly stressed,” Evelyn said.
“Just one more question. This is procedural, Mrs. Caldwell. You understand. We are simply checking your daughter’s mental capabilities.” He turned back to Dorothy and asked, “What is your name, miss?”
Dorothy clenched her eyes, and Evelyn was worried that simple act would put her back into a coma, but her eyes burst open and tears streamed out. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.” She pulled the covers over her head and began to sob loudly.
“Doctor,” Evelyn said, standing up. “I must insist that this game of twenty questions wait until she is feeling better. Or at least gets something to eat. It’s been almost two weeks since she has eaten.”
“Mrs. Caldwell,” he began.
“Fine. Evelyn, she has been getting the nutrients her body needs to survive through that tube. She can’t eat solid foods until more tests have been done to check her body’s functions. We need to test her for possible brain damage now. That’s our priority. The sooner you allow us to do our jobs, the sooner you will be allowed to take your daughter home.”
Evelyn glared at the doctor as he turned to walk away.
“Can I say something here?” Dorothy asked, and both Evelyn and Dr. Harper turned to look at her with surprise.
“Of course, dear, you can say anything you’d like,” Evelyn said.
“Good, because it’s for you,” Dorothy said, looking at Evelyn. “I want you out. I don’t know who you are or where you came from, but I don’t want you here.” She looked at the doctor. “Can you please ask her to leave?”
The doctor made a motion to step toward Evelyn but thought twice. “Miss, she is your mother. She has every right to be here, but if you want her out, we can arrange that. Evelyn?”
“If you think I’m leaving my daughter in this condition, you have another thing coming.”
“Please respect your daughter’s wishes. You may come back during visiting hours tomorrow. Until then, it may be best for all involved if you go back to your hotel room, take a hot shower, and get some rest.”
Evelyn looked around, bewildered. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Leave her daughter? When she couldn’t even remember her own mother, least of all her own name? These doctors were quacks, and she knew she should have had Dorothy transferred to a real hospital in Denver before all this talk of a coma was started. Now they had taken away her daughter, and that nurse promised that she would make a full recovery. She knew she was on the losing side of this battle, so she gathered what little belongings she had, gave one last look at her daughter and refrained from kissing her forehead. In that half second, Evelyn had memorized the crease lines next to her mouth that had formed from too much belly laughing, the way her eyes flashed when she was upset, the way her arms lay daintily across the hospital-issued bed. Before she let herself cry, she pushed her way past Dr. Harper and out of the hospital, and she sat on the curb while phoning Victor to pick her up.
During the car ride to the hotel, Evelyn and Victor were silent. Soft jazz played through the radio as Victor weaved his way through traffic toward the hotel he had rented during the past week. When Evelyn walked through the door of the hotel room, Evelyn was taken aback by how “Victor” the room was set up. She never would have stashed the suitcases there; food would not be left out on the dresser; and the beds would definitely not be in that state of disarray. It was as if her husband were living like a bachelor again, and she briefly worried if he were having any affairs on the side, furthering the bachelor life.
“How is she?” Victor asked, finally breaking the silence as he took off his sweater.
“She woke up from her coma,” Evelyn said, absentmindedly.
Victor froze. “And you’re here?”
“She doesn’t want me there, so I’m here. Is that a problem?” she snapped. She didn’t mean to, but there were too many changes all at once and it gave her a headache.
“What do you mean she didn’t want you there?”
“She didn’t want me there. How else can I say it? She requested that I leave. She didn’t recognize me. She didn’t even know who she was or what year it was. She thinks it’s 1997 for some reason.”
“Huh, 1997. That was a good year.”
“Well, apparently, Dorothy thinks so too.”
Without another word, Evelyn crawled into bed. Even though Dorothy had been in a coma and she could’ve gone to sleep, she hadn’t slept more than seven hours in the past ten days and her body had enough of it. Before she knew it, she had fallen into a fitful sleep