Evelyn woke with a start. She had had a nightmare and relived the ski crash except that this time, Dorothy didn’t survive. She woke up just as she was walking out of Dorothy’s bedroom into the kitchen where she grabbed a butcher knife from the top corner of the knife board.
She reoriented herself and reminded herself that Dorothy was alive; she was safe; she was getting better; they would be going home soon enough.
She wondered what Dorothy did all day, and she wondered if she would have another physical therapy session today. She wasn’t sure how she should occupy herself, and she briefly considered sneaking out and going back home. After all, she didn’t tell Victor she had left, nor did she leave him a note to say where she was going. Evelyn checked her cell phone – no missed calls. If he wanted to know, he knew how to reach her, anyway.
As she saw the doctor walk in, Evelyn cut him off and requested they talk in the hall since Dorothy was still sleeping.
“How is she doing?” Evelyn asked.
“She’s doing a lot better than expected. I see that she requested that you come last night. That’s definitely a positive change. I was going to ask her about that to see if her memory is slowly coming back.”
Evelyn couldn’t help but think that, of course her memory is coming back. “Okay, so what is she going to do today?”
Dr. Harper checked his notes. “We’re going to be running some more tests on her, and she’ll have another occupational therapy session today.”
They both made their way back into the room just as Dorothy was waking up. “Hi, Mom,” she said sleepily.
Evelyn beamed when she realized that Dorothy remembered her. “Hi, sweetie.”
There were a thousand things she wanted to say, but Dr. Harper cut her off. “We have to get you prepped from some tests we’re running today.”
“Oh, joy,” Dorothy said, and Evelyn noted that her daughter’s sense of sarcasm didn’t disappear, much to her chagrin.
While Dorothy was being flitted from different testing rooms, Evelyn busied herself for the majority of the day. Finally, she left to run some errands, but came back to the hospital just as Dorothy was being served dinner. Still, no word from Victor, and Evelyn had all but forgotten about him until her phone vibrated deep inside her purse. She and Dorothy were deep in conversation, so she let it go to voicemail, but she secretly checked it in the middle of the night and saw that it was Victor wondering where she had been all day. She sent a cursory text reply but didn’t have the strength or willpower to make a phone call home.
The next fourteen days mirrored the ones before it, and, soon, the days blended into each other until they were just a blur. Before Evelyn knew it, Dorothy was discharged and she was signing release papers. Victor had finally stopped by the hospital, and it was a struggle to get Dorothy to acknowledge his presence and to accept that he was Dad.
“If he’s my dad,” she whined, “why didn’t he show up until now?”
Evelyn truly did not have an answer for that. Not anything good anyway. “He was here when you were in a coma, but it broke his heart too much to see you in that position. He loves you very much.”
Dorothy just scoffed before turning her head back toward her pillow. Evelyn accepted it as normal teenage behavior, and, though it was difficult to watch, she was pleased that Dorothy was beginning to resemble “normal” in the smallest sense of the word. She feared Dorothy would never be normal again, and Evelyn would blame herself for the rest of her life for that.
The drive home started out silent. Evelyn watched Dorothy as she looked out the window, marveling at all the wonders she never knew existed.
“Where are we going?” Dorothy finally asked.
“Home,” Victor said automatically.
“Sweetie, we’re going home now.”
“Okay,” Dorothy said, seeming to accept the answer from Evelyn and not Victor. Evelyn made a mental note of that and decided to work on that with Dorothy when she was ready. Perhaps she would need to work on that herself, too, because she couldn’t understand how he didn’t want to show up at the hospital to show her support when she so clearly needed it the most.
When they finally pulled up into their brick driveway, Evelyn heard Dorothy gasp. “We live here?”
It was the first time since Dorothy used the collective word “we,” and she jumped on it. “Yes, this is our home. Your home.”
Evelyn retrieved the bright red walker from the trunk and helped Dorothy get inside. Fortunately, they didn’t have stairs leading up to the front door, but all the bedrooms were upstairs. She watched as Dorothy made her way through the living room, looking at all the pictures she never remembered being in. Evelyn felt a pang of sadness and loss at the fact she would never have her daughter the way she was ever again, and she had to collect herself before she betrayed her outward mask of strength.
When Evelyn came back into the living room with two glasses of water, she saw Dorothy sitting on the couch and went to join her.
“Is everything okay?” Evelyn asked.
Dorothy looked like she was processing what was just said, and Evelyn wondered briefly if she were being ignored. “No. No, everything isn’t okay.”
“Of being here, of moving on, of life, of having to go throughout life not knowing who I am, where I came from, and what I’m doing.”
It was a lot for Evelyn to take in. Almost three weeks ago, her daughter was a vegetable being preserved with life support and now she was talking about deep philosophical questions to which she didn’t have the answers. It was all too sudden of a change.
“I’m sorry, Dorothy. I don’t even know where to begin in helping you figure that stuff out,” she said then got an idea. “You wait here. I’ll grab something for you.”
Evelyn passed the study where she saw Victor typing on the computer in a flurry and wondered briefly what he was so preoccupied with that he couldn’t spend one moment with his daughter. She shook her head and continued to her bedroom, where she rummaged through the closet before finding the photo album she was searching for.
She walked back into the living room, stroking the cloth binding, and excited to share the memories with her daughter. She only wished they were under different circumstances.