The incessant beeping of Melissa’s alarm clock was driving me nuts. Why was she getting up so early? I was the one with a 9 a.m. final. I tried to ignore it, but now that I was awake I couldn’t fall back asleep. “Melissa, turn it off,” I groaned.
“Penny? Penny, thank God.” But it wasn’t Melissa talking. It was definitely a man’s voice.
My eyes flew open and I stared at the man leaning over my bed. Why was there a man in my dorm room? Why was he so close to me? My heart started pounding in my chest. Jesus, where did I leave my pepper spray? I reached toward my nightstand but my fingers came up empty.
The room came into focus and I quickly realized that I wasn’t in my dorm room at all. And the beeping was coming from the machines surrounding me, not from Melissa’s alarm clock. Was I in the hospital? I sat up and silently cursed when the IV tugged against my skin.
“You’re awake,” the man said.
I turned back toward him. He was my doctor I presumed. But he looked like one of those doctors you’d see on primetime TV instead of in real life. He was almost too perfect looking. He wasn’t wearing a white coat, just a freshly pressed suit. And he was much too close to me. “What happened?” I asked. “Where are my parents?” I felt fine, but panic was setting in. I didn’t remember how I got here. Why didn’t I remember what was wrong with me?
“They’re in the waiting room.” The doctor reached for my hand that wasn’t attached to the IV.
I pulled away from him. What was he doing?
“Penny.” He lowered his eyebrows slightly.
The way he was staring at me made me uncomfortable. Like he could see right through my soul. I tried to inch away from him, but I was already close to falling off the side of the bed. “Can you get my parents for me?”
He just stared at me like he couldn’t comprehend my words. Maybe he didn’t speak English well or something. Lots of doctors came to America for work, right? That was a thing.
“Where is my mom? Can you get her for me?” Comprendo?
“Penny, I know I fucked up. If you’d just give me a chance to explain…”
“Please.” Tears started to prick the corners of my eyes. What the hell did he need to explain? I must be dying. God, I’m too young to die!
He looked so dejected. He opened his mouth like he was going to say something, but then pressed his lips back together.
“Okay. I’ll go get them.” But he didn’t move. He just stood there staring at me.
I didn’t want a stranger to see me cry. I turned my head away from him. I didn’t turn back until I heard the door close behind him. He didn’t seem like a very good doctor. He hadn’t even taken my vitals.
My mom came running into the room, quickly followed by my dad.
“Sweetie, thank goodness you’re awake.” She grabbed my hand and squeezed it.
It was so good to see her.
“You gave us quite the fright, Pen” my dad said and took the seat next to my bed. “How are you feeling?”
“Fine. I feel fine.”
“James said you wanted to speak to us right away.”
James? Was that the doctor’s name? “I don’t even know why I’m in here. And I definitely need a new doctor. He…”
“We’ve already taken care of that, sweetie,” my mom said and squeezed my hand again. She reached out and pushed some of my hair off my forehead. “It’s all going to be okay.”
I exhaled slowly. They must have sensed that my doctor had no idea what he was talking about either. I was so glad they were here. What would I do without them?
“But what happened?” I asked. “Am I dying?”
“No, no, no,” my mom said. “You’re fine. You’re awake. Everyone was worried that you might not wake up.” She paused. “But the baby…” her voice trailed off and tears started to well in her eyes.
“Was I babysitting or something?” Why couldn’t I remember?
My mom glanced at my dad and then back at me. “Sweetie, what’s the last thing you remember?”
“I was studying for my sociology final. I must have fallen asleep in bed.”
She stared at me. “Sociology? Didn’t you take that freshman year?”
“Um…yeah.” I laughed awkwardly. “Just a few more exams and I’ll officially be done my first year. Oh no…do you think I missed any of my finals while I’ve been here? What day is it?”
My mom looked back at my dad. “Peter, get the doctor.” Her voice sounded so serious.
My dad practically flew out of his chair. I had never seen him move so fast.
“Why?” I asked. “What’s wrong?”
She squeezed my hand. “You’re not in college anymore. Don’t you remember?”
“Of course I’m still in college. It’s not like I dropped out. I’d never do that. I love school.”
She stared at me. “Penny, you’re 26 years old.”
I laughed. “Mom, I’m 19.”
She dropped my hand and covered her mouth before her sob escaped.
“I’m 19,” I said again. Right?
END OF CHAPTER 1
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