Chapter 1- Shadows (Excerpt)
There was a noise and Jay sprang upright. Everything in his vision spun wildly for a brief second. He felt so tired. Remembering was really hard work when you were recovering from a coma; so hard in fact that he almost hadn’t noticed Maggie standing beside him, fiddling with his heart monitor and tsking.
“Oi! I thought I told yeh not ta turn it off me lad.”
It wasn’t a question.
Mrs. Margaret MacKay had a hospital name-tag clipped to the left pocket over her heart, and beside the letters RN, hand-written in sparkly purple marker, was her own definition: ‘Real Nutcase’.
She also had a miniature koala bear clipped to her stethoscope, gripped there as if it were swinging from some purple jungle vine, hanging on for dear life. Everything about this ‘jungle’ seemed to be tinted purple, from her auburn hair to the orthopedic clogs on her feet.
“Hey Maggie.” Jay might only be fourteen years old but he knew how to read people. Or at least he thought he knew how to read people before he broke his head and went bonkers. Maggie was the only nurse who didn’t baby-talk him. And when she gave him medicine she didn’t say, “Here’s your sugar pill, Honey,” like all the others.
The anti-seizure syrup was sweet enough. He didn’t need reminders.
Maggie pulled a pink Smartphone out of what she called her pocket full of tricks, and passed it to Jay.
“What? Should I order us a pizza?” he asked with a wry smile.
She laughed, “Och, lad ya crack me up, hah. O’ sorry. No puns intended ‘bout your wee cracked noggin’ eh! No, me boy, jus’ be a love and look at the screen would’ya then?”
He could tell by the lilting end to her words that she was asking him if he wanted to and so to please her, he looked: there were phone numbers, all the same, piled one on top of another like floors in a skyscraper.
“Geeze, somebody really wants to get in touch with you,” he remarked dryly.
“Yeh don’ recognize it?” She scrunched up her round face.
He glanced again, and worried as he tried to concentrate on the numbers. He used to be good with numbers. His mom, code name Math Professor, had always been overly proud, but now she might have one more thing to fear from his accident. There were too many numbers. The call was long distance, that much he did know, but he moved his head very slowly, very gently, in the direction of ‘No’.
Maggie took the phone from his hand and waved it in front of his face, “It’s yer uncle lad, the one who lives in Berlin. That’s a nice place by the way, I went there when–,”
“–Uncle Henry?” Jay blurted.
“Yah, yah, I had to give ‘im my personal number ‘cause the girls at the station were complainin’ ‘bout him ringin’ them up all night long and they couldna get their work done.” She handed him back the phone. “He seems nice, yer uncle. Yeh should ring ‘im up, he’s worried sick about yeh.”
“But Maggie, wouldn’t that be an expensive call?” Jay frowned, and tried not to wince at the pain it caused.
She passed her phone back to him, “Unlimited international calling plan me darlin’. I’m on shift for twelve hours and maybe even a double if that useless twit Doreen doesn’t show up again, so use it any time yeh want and jus’ beep me at the desk when yer done!”
Pivoting to go she added, “An, don’t be goin’ ta sleep now eh! I’ll be back with yer medication for tha’ headache.”
“How did you know?” he asked.
She put a hand on her round hip and raised one thick, pencilled eyebrow. “I’ve been nursing a long time m’dear and I can read between the lines on them machines pretty good too.”
He only hoped that Maggie MacKay, Real Nutcase and Registered Nurse Extraordinaire, couldn’t read minds as well as she could read machines. He wasn’t ready to share his secrets or his fears.
As the door swung shut there was a flutter of movement out on the window ledge but Jay purposefully looked the other way and watched the green beats on the monitor, seeking evidence that he was alive rather than evidence that he had lost his wits.
He did not see it from the corner of his eye; no, he did not. He did not hear its sharp bill knocking at the glass, pecking at the February chill; no, he did not. His peripheral vision was not closing in on him; no, it wasn’t. He was not going crazy. He couldn’t.
But he also couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that it might be possible for a bird, his bird, to have flown twelve thousand kilometers just to sit there and watch him.
Jay’s curiosity overcame him. He glanced out the window. The shadow shifted, turned, and peered through the glass directly at Jay, watching him.