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Her Hands were Cold
Her hands were cold. They were always cold, no matter what she tried to do to warm them up. Her hands were ice cold, but her eyes were warm. If anyone tried to name the color of her eyes, they wouldn’t be able to put their finger on it. Gold and brown swirled together to create an indescribable warm color that filled anyone who stared into them up with warmth. Her hands were cold, but her eyes were always warm.
Lava stared into Ayla’s eyes, trying to name their color. She grasped Ayla’s cold hands, trying to warm them. But Ayla didn’t stir, just lay there, her eyes blinking occasionally, unable to move.
“Say something,” Lava whispered. “Move something. A finger. Something. Please.”
But there was nothing.
The steady tone of the monitors bleeped constantly, monitoring her heart rate and blood pressure. The pale blue tube leading down her throat was at an awkward angle, pushing against Ayla’s lip. The needle leading into her arm was connected to a long tube and fluid bag.
Lava gripped Ayla’s right hand, rubbing it furiously with both hands, trying to warm it. When it refused to heat up, she tried collapsing on top of Ayla’s many blankets to rid her of her hypothermia. Tears rolled down Lava’s cheeks, her body racking with sobs. “Don’t die, you hear me? You. Can’t. D – ” She stopped, her words frozen in her mouth, as the monitor beeps sped up, and then a single monotone blared out. Nurses rushed in from the door, shoving Lava out of their way. One leaped to the wall and pushed a button.
“Code blue, second floor. Code blue,” a calm voice said over the loudspeaker.
Lava stared. She knew what code blue meant. Ayla’s heart had stopped.
It had been happening on and off for the past couple of hours, as Ayla’s heart tried to stable its erratic behavior, as the machines breathed for her, and her body lay helpless in the Intensive Care Unit.
“Damn it, Ayla,” Lava breathed, tears streaming down her face. “Why did you do this? Why?”
“Clear!” A doctor yelled, and Ayla’s body jumped as they shocked her heart.
The monotone continued.
“I’m sorry, miss, you’re going to have to leave,” a nurse said patiently, tugging on Lava’s arm.
“Miss,” the nurse said, her eyes hardening. “Leave. Now.”
Lava got up reluctantly, glancing once more over her shoulder. “I’ll be waiting outside. Come and get me when anything happens, okay?”
The nurse pressed her lips into a hard line and nodded.
Lava sat down hard, her back against the cold hospital wall, and waited, her fingers nervously playing with each other. She whipped out her phone to get her mind off of things, but over thirty texts from worried friends showed up, and she shut it off again, her fingers shaking.
“You can come in now,” said a voice, and one of the nurses heads appeared from the doorway to Ayla’s hospital room. “It’s alright.”
“Is she – ” Lava swallowed, unable to finish her sentence.
Lava breathed a sigh of relief, the tension leaving her shoulders.
“For now. Your friend here is in bad condition… You should be prepared for anything.”
Lava took a deep, shuddering breath, and nodded. “I – I know.”
The nurse put a gentle hand on her shoulder and led her into the Ayla’s room. ‘Listen….Lava, is it?”
“I need to talk to her parents. Ayla’s parents. Do you know when they’ll be here? It’s been almost twenty hours since the accident. Since you were there with her, you’ve been here with her and everything, and we understand that she means a lot to you, but we’ll need to talk to the adults.”
Lava gritted her teeth. “There are no adults in this situation, okay? None that she wants near her. Her parents are cruel, and rude. They don’t care and I – ” She stopped, dropping her head. “I do care. I’m all she’s got.”
The nurse nodded slowly, like she was addressing incomprehensive toddlers. “But she does have parents. We know this. We talked to them on the phone. They said they had a flight. So I need to talk to them – where are they?”
Biting her lip, Lava smirked. “Their flight was delayed. But if Ayla wakes up – ” She swallowed. “When she wakes up – you’re going to have a lot of explaining to do. She doesn’t forgive easily.”
“If you say so,” the nurse said impatiently. “Now tell me – when will they be here?”
“In ten minutes,” she replied under her breath.
“I’ll wait in the lobby. If you want, you may sit by Ayla.”
The nurse turned away, and Lava stuck her tongue out at her behind her back. “Thank you so much for your permission to sit by my girlfriend,” she growled softly. As she entered the room, she ran her fingers over the wall, letting the bumpy edges run over her cut and bruised fingers and palm, which were throbbing from all the nervous fiddling she had been doing.
Ten minutes passed, and then fifteen, and finally twenty. Just as Lava was drifting off to sleep, her hands wrapped around one of Ayla’s, voices echoed from the hallway.
“Where is our daughter? Where is she?”
“Ahead on the left. Twenty-four thirty-one.”
More rushing, heavy footsteps, and then the door was thrown open.
“My baby! Oh, my poor, sweet baby!” A woman’s voice shrieked.
Lava’s eyes flew open. “Oh, Mrs. Perkinson – ”
Mrs. Perkinson gaped. “You? You?! You were here, with our daughter? No. You have no right. Out.”
“What?” Lava whispered. “No! You can’t just – ”
“I said – out! Out!”
Lava stood up abruptly, making the chair fall over. “I was here. I was here for her. I was here for her when you weren’t – when no one else was. I – ”
Mrs. Perkinson’s voice dropped threateningly. “Out,” she whispered.
Lava opened her mouth to retort, but closed it quickly, rushing to leave the room. On her way out, she bumped into Mr. Perkinson, Ayla’s father. He eyed her, his gaze full of hatred, and shoved her aside, stepping into Ayla’s room and closing the door behind him, right in Lava’s face.
Lava could hear sobs coming Ayla’s room. She closed her eyes and tried to block out the sounds. When that failed, she dug her headphones out of her pocket and plugged them into her iPhone, dismissing the waiting texts and turning her music on to shuffle mode, turning it up as loud as it would go. She flinched as the volume shouted in her ears, but the pain was refreshing, and she kept listening to the music.
She woke up to the sound of a door slamming. Her eyes shot open and she sat up abruptly, only to find herself face-to-face with Ayla’s father, Christopher Perkinson, kneeling beside her.
“You. You shouldn’t be here.” His mouth was set in a tight line. They stared into each other’s eyes for a moment more, and then his mouth opened, and a sob escaped it, tears leaking from his eyes. “I know how much you care about her. I just…her mother – ” He glanced toward the closed door. “She cares about her daughter. And…you know she doesn’t think you’re good for her.”
Lava was shocked. Mr. Perkinson had never showed any hint of kindness toward her. He was always backing up his wife, Mae, unfailingly by her side. She opened her mouth, but no sound escaped her. “I just….” She stopped herself. “Mr. Perkinson – I was there. I got her out of the water. I’ve been there when you weren’t – when you sided with your wife, when you left her alone. And I’m not going to leave her now.”
Mr. Perkinson didn’t speak, but a moment of understanding pulsed between them. He stood up slowly. “You’re right. You shouldn’t.”
“Thank y – ”
“But. You may not be in the same room as either Mae or me. So if we are visiting her, which we shall be doing more than ninety percent of the time, you may not be in there with us. And, don’t forget – we never had this conversation. If anyone asks, I completely agree with Mae.”
Lava swallowed, nodding.
Ayla’s father brushed off his suit jacket. “I’m going to get our dinner from the cafeteria. Mae will, I expect, be off to go to the bathroom to change out of her dress clothes soon. That would, hypothetically, be a good time for an…unwanted…visitor to, well, visit.” He turned on his heel and strode out of sight.
Lava walked a couple steps to the next hallway and ducked behind the wall, peeking around to watch the doorway. She remained here for several minutes, waiting and watching, until Mrs. Perkinson exited the room, spare clothes slung over her arm, and walked slowly down the hall in the direction that her husband had gone. Lava waited until she had cleared the hallway and then stepped out from her hiding place and sprinted toward the room, throwing open the door and collapsing in the chair by Ayla’s bed, folding Ayla’s hand into hers.
“Ayla,” she whispered. “Ayla. Please. Please live. I need you to live. I need you to live because…because I love you. I love you, and you mean the world to me, and I can’t – I can’t live without you.”
Lava sat by Ayla’s bedside for five more minutes, and then she began to grow paranoid. Who knew what would happen if Ayla’s mother found her in here. Lava imagined harsh words, hospital security, maybe even a restraining order. She laughed to herself. What a crazy woman. But her being crazy didn’t make her any less frightening, and so Lava stood up, straightening the chair and patting Ayla’s hand once more before creeping out of the room, making sure to position the door in the exact same way Mrs. Perkinson had left it.
Keeping to indirect routes, Lava found her way to the lobby and flagged down a busy nurse with piles of papers in her arms. “Hey, listen, I have a friend here, staying in the hospital…is it possible for me to get a cot in a room near her?” She twirled a piece of dyed-red hair around her finger.
The nurse looked around distractedly before setting her stack of papers down and looking Lava up and down, and settling on her pouting face. “I’m not supposed to, alright? But…I’ve never been a stickler for the rules. Let me finish what I’m doing, and then we’ll work that out. Which room is it?”
An hour later, Lava was settled in to a tiny room with a plain cot down the hall from Ayla’s room. The door was closed, the curtains over the glass windows facing the hall covered, hiding her from prying eyes. She laid her head back on the pillow and sighed, closing her eyes. Sleep came easily, but dreams plagued her throughout the night.
“C’mon, Ayla, let’s go. This isn’t worth it!”
“Lava, you wuss. This’ll be fun, come ON. You know I love nature. I’ve been wanting to sketch something like this for so long….please?”
Ayla, grabbed Lava’s hand in hers, and Lava felt the usual sparks shoot up her arm. She grunted. “Fine, I’ll go.”
Ayla dropped Lava’s hand. “I’ll go grab my sketch pad. Stay here.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Lava replied, and stuck her hands into her pockets, whistling and tapping her foot to the beat.
“I got it! Let’s go, c’mon, I can’t wait!”
Lava grabbed Ayla’s hands and smiled. “Alright. I’ll drive.”
They arrived at the river in a little over an hour. The cold, rushing river was beautiful in the wintertime, with patches of ice floating down the river at a rapid speed, and rocks jutting out in asymmetrical beauty.
“Oh my god,” Ayla breathed. “It’s even more beautiful in real life. I’ve seen it in pictures and I’ve heard about it, but I’d never imagined it would be like this! So…so alive!” Ayla was wearing nothing but a sports bra and shorts that went down to her knees, with over ten pockets. Her muddy sneakers were worn and loved, the laces in shreds. With an enormous sketch pad under one arm and three pencils clutched in the other, she sprinted over the rocky terrain toward the cliff and the river.
“Be careful, Ayla! That’s gotta be a forty-foot drop, and that river looks pretty nasty,” Lava warned.
“Oh, give me a break, Va-Va,” Ayla laughed, brushing away Lava’s comment. “Just a little closer. I want to get a good view.”
“Come on, Lava. Here. Here is good. Sit with me.”
Lava stumbled clumsily over the floor, her klutzy feet tripping over every loose rock. “You’re crazy, you know that, right?”
“You’ve been telling me that ever since we met,” Ayla said, laughing. “Now sit.”
Lava came to join her girlfriend, sitting by her side and wrapping one arm around her waist. “You’re right, it’s beautiful.”
Ayla’s sketch came together beautifully, the shape of the river and rocks exactly the same as the real landscape, the current caught in the exact right moment.
“I just need to get a closer look at that one rock over there – I can’t get it just right,” Ayla groaned, scooting forward on her butt and tossing her sketch pad back farther up the rocks.
“Ayla! Ayla. That’s – that’s too close. Come back here! Ayla!”
“Come on, Lava, you wimp. I’ll be fine. I’ll – ” Rocks slid, and Ayla’s foot slipped. “Lava. Lava, can you help me out? I-I lost my footing.”
Lava rolled her eyes. “I told you that you had to be careful. Here, I’ll help.” She reached out her hand, and just as she was about to grasp Ayla’s hand, the rest of the rocks fell over the cliff, and her remaining grip was lost. She screamed as her feet went over the edge. The only thing holding her to the cliff was one hand, and she was slipping quickly.
“Lava,” she screamed. “Lava, please! Please help me!” Her eyes filled with tears. Her hand slipped, and only two fingers kept her from falling.
Lava stretched out, her body pressing against the sharp rocks, trying to balance and reach Ayla’s fingers. Her hand closed around her girlfriend’s fingers. “It’s going to be alright, Lay. Please, just hold on a little longer. I can help you. You’ll be okay, I promise. Please. Please, hold on.”
Ayla shook her head, her face contorting in pain. “I can’t, Lava. I can’t hold on any longer. It hurts…it hurts so badly.”
Tears ran down Lava’s face. “Damn it, Ayla, hold on!”
Lava woke up suddenly and sat straight up, her eyes wide open and sweat beaded on her forehead. Her shirt was soaked through with sweat, too, as was the back of her neck. She wiped her forehead with the back of her hand, trying to calm her frantic breathing.
Cold sweat poured down her face, mixing with tears. "No," she muttered. "No, no, no." She twisted her fingers into her shirt, her hands shaking. Shaking her head to clear it, she threw back the sheets on her cot and stood up, holding the railings on the cot tightly to try to steady herself.
She calmed herself, slowing her breathing, and then crept into Ayla’s room, her hands shaking. She sneaked past Ayla’s parents, collapsed in a fitful sleep in the chairs by Ayla’s bed. Lava slid one of her hands into Ayla’s, using the other to smooth Ayla’s dirty blonde hair from her face.
“Wake up, honey. Please. Please, wake up,” Lava whispered, her fiery red hair falling on to Ayla’s blankets as she bowed her head, praying. “Please.”
And then there was something – the slightest of twitches in her finger. Lava looked up, staring at the fingers held in her hand. There was no movement. She had imagined it.
But then there it was again. A definite movement, stronger this time. “Ayla?”
Ayla’s head rolled over a little on her pillow, her first obvious voluntary movement since her surgery. Forgetting their coldness toward her for an instant, Lava raced to Ayla’s parents, taking their shoulders in her hands and shaking them, screaming, “She’s awake! She’s awake!”
The parents looked around confusedly for a minute, unsure where they were. And then their memories came rushing back – it was clear by the horrified look on their faces.
“She’s awake, Lava repeated.
“Oh, you again! I – wait, what? She’s…she’s awake?”
Lava nodded, following them as they rushed to Ayla’s side, but hanging back, unsure. Mr. and Mrs. Perkinson gushed over Ayla, calming and hushing her. Lava turned around, hunching her shoulders.
Ayla opened her mouth, and a dry croak emitted her throat.
“What’s that, honey? It’s okay, we’re right here,” Mrs. Perkinson cooed, brushing Ayla’s hair from her face.
“No? Honey, I think you’re not understanding. You’re going to be okay. We – ”
“No. I w – ”
Mrs. Perkinson put her hand to Ayla’s forehead. “Dear,” she said to Mr. Perkinson nervously, “she’s warm.”
“Lava?” Echoed Mr. Perkinson, clearly uncomprehending. “Oh. She means JLava. Hmmm, that’s an odd request. Honey, she wants some coffee.”
“No!” There was more strength in her voice now. “Lava. I want Lava.”
Her parents hesitated and then parted, turning their heads to stare at Lava.
Lava, shocked, who would never have defied her parents a few days ago, stared. “I-I’m sorry. I’ll just be going now.”
“No,” Mrs. Parkinson said, her voice cracking. “It’s okay. You…stay.”
Lava made her way back to her girlfriend’s bedside, careful to avert her eyes from Mrs. Perkinson’s, not wanting to spur a change of heart.
By the time she reached Ayla, Lava was shocked and appalled to notice that tears were sliding down her own face. She made a point never to cry in front of those she loved. She hastily wiped the tears away with her sleeves.
“It’s okay to cry, Lava,” Ayla whispered.
“I was so scared, Ay. So scared.”
“No, you don’t,” Lava said, suddenly angry. “You can’t leave me like that, okay? You can’t.” She hesitated. “Because – because I love you.”
Ayla smiled. “I love you too, you idiot,” she laughed, and raised her head to press her lips to Lava’s.
Lava felt the familiar rush of warmth through her body. Tears slid silently down her face as she kissed Ayla.
They broke apart, laughing, at the sound of Mr. Perkinson clearing his throat from the corner of the room.
Lava looked at him and then his wife, and a silent understanding passed between them, a sort of silent truce made for the girl they both loved.
“How are you feeling, Ayla?” Mr. Perkinson asked.
“All right,” she replied. “Pretty foggy from the drugs. Uh…my chest. It feels tight. My head…and my leg hurts. A lot.”
“I’ll call the nurse,” her mother said hurriedly, going to push the button on Ayla’s bedside table.
“What happened to me, Lava?”
“Well. Um. I don’t think I should…tell you everything. Your doctor will tell you.”
Ayla scared searchingly into Lava’s eyes. “I’m sorry I scared you.”
“Scared me? You freaking gave me a heart attack.” Lava’s stomach grumbled loudly.
Ayla chuckled. “Hungry?”
“Uh – yeah! I haven’t left your side, except to sleep. And I only slept so that I could be awake with you again.”
“Go get something to eat. I won’t die while you’re gone.”
“Promise?” Lava asked, her eyes troubled, holding her pinky out, asking for a pinky promise.
“Promise,” Ayla replied, taking Lava’s pinky and pulling it down, shaking it.