My full-length novel debut, Promises We Break, is coming June 24th! Here is an exclusive look at Chapter One.💜
~ Add it to your Goodreads wishlist here!
~ Read the synopsis here!
I don’t believe in promises anymore. And now, looking back on everything, I don’t even believe in myself anymore.
After watching her suffer at the fault of people’s broken promises over and over again, I know now that the only person my sister really needs is me. Even though I’m no better, I actually stick to my word and do my best to protect her at all costs. A promise, in my mind, is just a word used to make us feel better, when in the end all it does is lead to disappointment and failure.
My head throbs. I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in days. I drag a chair next to the hospital bed, and I sit down and take my sister’s free hand. It’s cold and limp. An oxygen tube is taped to one rosy cheek.
She’s never been asleep for this long, I think defeatedly. Angry tears threaten to spill out from the corners of my eyes, but I force myself to take a deep breath and blink them away. What I’m angry about, I can’t quite tell, but there are a lot of things going through my head right now. I need to stay strong when everyone else isn’t. I can’t give up like everyone else did.
Mom is slouched in the doorway of Bailey’s hospital room, purple sweatsuit on, her large magenta purse slung over one shoulder. I can tell she is ready to leave; it’s 10:30 A.M. and our third full day at the hospital. Dad, on the other hand, has been dozing off on the white loveseat in the corner of the room since about two A.M. Everything in this room is a blinding white—the bed, cabinets, furniture, equipment, appliances. Everything is white, cold, and smells like bleach. This is our first time at the Ruxlor County General Hospital, but I’ve been to hospitals umpteen times in my life, and none of this ever gets old.
Dr. Leigh, Bailey’s favorite doctor, is writing with a stylus on her white iPad Mini. I notice every doctor here has one. “Do you know what could have possibly triggered this attack?” she asks my mother as she does a once-over of the machines that Bailey is hooked up to. I know the answer, but I let Mom speak this time. In the end, everything is Mom’s decision, and my input isn’t necessary.
Mom sighs, slowly pushing herself off the doorframe and standing up straight. “Well...I’m not sure if this is the exact reason—we can never tell with this child—but two months ago, her after-school therapy sessions were cut without us knowing...The practice we’ve been going to is under new management by some rich company, and they told us they’re not accepting our insurance anymore. They also said since Bailey hasn’t made any progress in a few years, they gave her spot to a new client who was willing to pay more money to get her doctor...But nothing else has changed—I just...don’t understand...” Mom’s words trail off as she vigorously dabs at her eyes with a crinkled tissue.
Dr. Leigh nods solemnly, jotting down a few more notes and leaving a few minutes later. That seemed to explain enough; she’s been seeing Bailey and me since we were babies, that’s why when she got a new job position at this hospital we knew we had to come here from now on, and Dr. Leigh knows just as much as I do what caused this to happen to Bailey.
Mom wakes up Dad and says to me, “Zoe, we’re driving home. We need rest. Your father will try to stop by later tonight. Call me when Bailey wakes up, alright?”
I don’t say anything as I watch my parents leave. I would be—should be—mad at them for leaving right now, but I’m not. They do this every time; they’re too tired to deal with this, too tired to deal with Bailey. They don’t mean to be, but they do this every time.
At 5:30 that evening, I walk down to the colorful zoo-themed food court in the pediatrics wing and snag my usual: a grilled cheese, French fries, and wedding soup. When I take the elevator back up to Bailey’s hospital room, Bailey’s eyes are wide open. She’s finally awake.
She looks at my to-go box curiously, but I know she won’t eat what’s inside. I think her nurse or Dr. Leigh herself will order something for her soon because patients at this hospital have their own menus and get their meals delivered to their rooms.
I text Mom and Dad the good news before sitting down in the cold loveseat Dad was in and start to eat some of my food. I didn’t have an appetite while Bailey was asleep, but now that she’s awake I feel like I can eat now.
A nurse comes in at six o’clock with a laminated dinner menu, and I tell her what to deliver Bailey for dinner: macaroni and cheese with minimal cheese sauce and biscuits. Those are the only things here that she’ll eat because she can only eat soft food. When Bailey’s dinner arrives twenty minutes later, I sit on the edge of the bed and we eat together, everything silent except for the sounds of Bailey’s careful chewing, the machines on either side of her, and the small flat screen TV up on a shelf showing a creepy Lifetime movie.
“You’ve never had a panic attack this bad,” I tell Bailey when I’m done eating. She’s not done eating yet; it takes her a long time to eat. “You really scared Mom and Dad. You scared me. You hurt yourself really bad, too.” I motion to her bandaged forearms.
She doesn’t respond. I kind of don’t expect her to, but there will forever be a small glimmer of hope in me that one day she’ll respond.
“You know I love you, right?”
“And I’m always here for you, no matter what. You know that? You can always depend on me. It’s like...no one else cares anymore, like they all just gave up on you. But don’t worry, Bailey. I’m here, and that’s all that matters.”
Another blink. Then a sign: I love you. In American sign language, to say ‘I love you’, you put your pointer finger and pinky finger up, and your thumb out.
I smile. The small glimmer of hope grows just a bit bigger. “I love you, too.”
• • •
Dr. Leigh checks in a little before nine o’clock. “Are your parents still here?” she asks as she begins to take Bailey’s vitals and turns off a few machines.
“No, they left this morning.” I reply.
“Oh...Alright, then. Well, I see that you’re awake.” She smiles tiredly at my sister. “Her vitals look very good now, she’s very alert and she doesn’t seem to be in much pain, therefore I have good news: she can be discharged tomorrow morning and sent home with an observation list.”
“Really?” I say. “Are you sure?”
Dr. Leigh nods.
“This is great.” I take my cell phone out of my hoodie pocket and text my parents: Bailey is being discharged tomorrow.
I don’t get a response. I already know they’re fast asleep at home.