Walker Wildcats Year 1 releases next month on audio book. This has been a very exciting journey for me, but the most exciting part, honestly, was choosing my narrator.
Her name is Hysha, and what really struck me about her, besides having a fantastic voice for narrating a 10-year-old girl, was her desire to be a stay-at-home mom. You can find her blog here, where she journals about her faith, her husband, and her beautiful little girl. The more I read about her, the more excited I was to have her as my narrator. The fact that we have been able to connect over my book thrills me. Suddenly it's not just about me, but also Hysha. My success becomes her success. I don't want to post any pictures of her without her permission, but she's a beautiful, inspirational woman.
In other news! Walker Wildcats Year 2 #2: Supreme Talent launches today! Sale price is $0.99 this weekend only! Snag your copy here!
I'm almost finished with the rough draft to the sequel to LAY ME DOWN. More news on that one coming soon! Same with the sequel to INEVITABLE. It's actually kind of a race, and I'm not sure which book will finish first.
The third book in the PERILOUS series is going through final edits now. I don't have a release date or a cover yet, but hopefully soon!
And my cookbook is with a publisher while I hold my breath in hopes that they will accept it.
When Cassandra starts her sixth grade year of school, she expects to be the kid on top. She signs up for soccer, takes voice lessons, and decides to start running.
But no matter how hard she tries, there's always someone better than her. Cassie starts to wonder what, if any, talents she might have.
Thanks for being a part of this journey with me. Continuing with Episode 1: Creature Comforts, here are chapters 5-6. If you need the previous four please let me know!
Mrs. Jones leaned over and muttered to Mabel, "She can be very stubborn."
"I have an idea." The other nurse left the room, and Mabel wrung her hands together. When the nurse returned, she carried a toilet seat attached to long legs.
"A bedside commode!" Mabel brightened. "Here you go, Cassie."
Cassie examined the portable commode sitting next to her bed. There was no water in it and it didn't flush, but it had toilet paper, and at least she wouldn't feel like she was sitting in her own poop. "Okay."
Her mom and the nurses helped her turn sideways and slide from the bed to the toilet. The moment her foot left the support of the bed, gravity pulled it downward, clanging it against the legs. Cassie inhaled to keep from crying out from the pain. She focused on the seat, ignoring the throbbing weight coming from her heavy, misshapen leg. It distracted her from the staring.
The nurses looked satisfied when she finished. They helped her slide back into bed, but Cassie couldn't lift her leg up. She could feel the muscles straining, trying to respond to her commands, but the leg was too heavy.
"I can't get it up," she said. Would she always need help to use the bathroom?
She explained her fears to her mom after the nurses got her settled on the bed and left the room.
"Let's try something," Mrs. Jones said. "Leave your leg on the bed and turn sideways. Don't let your leg fall." They practiced sliding Cassie on and off the commode without moving her leg, and then Cassie did it herself several times until she felt comfortable.
"Thanks, Mom," she said, relieved. Gaining back at least that much freedom rejuvenated her spirits.
Her mom left around two o'clock to be with the other kids, leaving Cassie alone for three hours until her dad arrived from work. She colored, watched TV, and wished she had a book to read.
Mabel came in around four. "Guess what, Cassie? We're moving you to the pediatric floor!"
Cassie looked up from her coloring. "That's great! Will I be able to walk around?"
"Not yet. But there are other kids there. You'll see them."
Mabel unhooked the finger monitor, the chest stickers, and took out the IV. Cassie flexed her hand, glad to have the tube of dripping liquid gone. Mabel moved her into the wheelchair while Cassie gathered up her things.
"Will my dad be able to find me?" she asked.
"We'll make sure he knows where you are." Mabel wheeled Cassie into the elevator and pressed Floor Four.
"What about the other boy bit by a copperhead?" Cassie asked. "Is he still here?"
"Yes, he is. He'll just be a few doors down from you."
Cassie couldn't wait to meet him and tell him she'd been bit too.
Mabel helped her set up her stuff, then rang the floor nurse. A handsome black man came in, sporting a full head of curly hair and a small goatee.
"Zack, this is Cassandra," Mabel said. "She was bit by a snake also. I'm leaving her in your care. She'll need a bedside commode."
"Hi, Cassandra!" he boomed, flashing a big smile and holding out a hand. Cassie took it and smiled back. "I'll get what you need." He left the room.
Mabel gave Cassie a hug. "You get better. It was a pleasure to meet you."
Cassie didn't realize until that moment that Mabel wouldn't be her nurse anymore. "Are you leaving?"
"The ICU is my unit. But Zack will take good care of you, I promise."
The goodbye was over before Cassie could get emotional. Then Zack was back, a bedside commode slung over one arm.
"Anything else I can get for you, Cassandra?" he asked, setting it by her bed. "Will you need help with that?"
"No, I got it," she said, embarrassed he would even ask. "I did want to meet the other little boy bit by a snake. Can you take me to see him?"
"Let me see if he's awake. If he is, I'll wheel you over."
Zack returned a few minutes later. This time, a little boy shuffled in behind him, one leg bandaged up.
"This is Kevin," Zack said. "Kevin, this is Cassandra. She wanted to meet you."
He was just a little guy, seven or eight years old. "You can walk!" Cassie said, lighting up.
"Kevin was bit on his leg," Zack said. "So he was able to walk quicker than you will, Cassie."
"You were bit by a snake too?" Kevin asked.
"Yeah. I guess I stepped on it when I was walking outside in flip-flops. What about you?"
"It was under my bed. We were playing hide and seek and I crawled under there. It bit me. But we killed it."
"It was in your house?" Cassie stared at him in horror.
"Yeah. But we leave the front door open so the dogs can come in and out."
Still, the very idea of such a creature invading her personal space . . . Cassie shuddered.
"I'm taking Kevin back," Zack said.
"Come visit anytime," Cassie said, already feeling lonely as they moved toward her door. "When I can walk I'll come visit!"
Mr. Jones arrived just as Zack brought dinner in. Cassie's stomach roared in anticipation when she realized it wasn't juice or a chalky drink. She lifted the lid off the food tray and breathed in the aroma of instant potatoes and pot roast, never so happy to see solid food.
"How are you doing, Cass?" Mr. Jones gave her a kiss and settled in the chair next to her bed.
"Much better." Cassie dug into her dinner. "I get real food again."
Zack measured her leg while she ate. "Her swelling's gone down. Things are looking good."
"I'll be able to walk soon," she added around a mouthful of food.
"Soon," Zack agreed. "Not today."
That didn't surprise her, though it was disappointing. "When?"
"We'll check your swelling in the morning."
Cassie didn't sleep well. At least they weren't checking her blood every few hours, but after doing nothing but lay in bed all day, she had a hard time feeling tired. She watched late-night shows and cartoons until the early morning hours.
In the morning, after she'd had her vitals checked, she insisted on trying to walk. Mr. Jones and Zack carefully lowered her to the ground. She sucked in a breath, her foot still impossibly heavy. She tried to hold it up, to hover it above the surface before gingerly putting it down, but she didn't have enough control over it. It slammed into the linoleum floor, and she choked back a gasp.
"Not yet," Zack said, picking her up and putting her back into bed. "The swelling has to go down more. Maybe tomorrow."
The day passed in absolute monotony. The only highlight came when Kevin shuffled into her room to say hi. Cassie gave him a sheet to color, and he sat by her bed with her.
"There are other kids here," he said. "Tom is in the room next to yours."
"What's wrong with Tom?" she asked.
"He fell out of a car. Broke a lot of bones. His leg is screwed into the bed."
Cassie couldn't even picture that. She decided as soon as she could walk, she'd have to go see Tom. "Who else?"
"There's Maggie. She just came yesterday."
"What happened to her?"
"Her appendix burst. They did a surgery on her. She's fine now. I see her in the game room."
"There's a game room?" Why hadn't Cassie heard about this before now?
"Yeah. It's got some movies, video games, a few board games. Lots of kids hang out there."
"Wow." That did it. She had to be able to walk tomorrow. She couldn't stay in bed another day.
Cassie watched Zack measure her leg in the morning.
"How's the swelling?" she asked.
"It's looking better." He eyed her as he put away his instruments. "You want to try walking again?"
She nodded. This time, she was determined to do it no matter how much it hurt.
Mr. Jones had already left for work, so Zack helped her out of bed by himself. She tried to control the swing of her foot as gravity pulled it toward the floor. She managed to slow it right before it hit. Holding her breath, she let her foot touch the ground.
"Careful," Zack murmured.
She straightened up, putting more weight on it. Oh, it hurt. Stabs of burning pain flashed up her calf. She gritted her teeth and forced a grin. "I can do this."
"Really?" Zack backed away, examining her uncertainly.
"Yeah." She hoped he would leave soon. She didn't know how long she could hold this fake grin. "Thanks for your help."
She stayed where she was, grinning like an idiot, as Zack left the room. Then she grabbed the bed and leaned against it, letting out a gasp.
"Oh," she moaned. That hurt. But she was out of bed.
Steeling herself, Cassie began a slow shuffle out of the room. She kept to the edges, leaning against the wall and putting as little weight on her foot as possible.
She didn't make it to Kevin's room. By the time she reached the hallway, beads of sweat had popped out on her head, and she was panting. She made it to the next room over and dropped into an empty chair, breathing heavily and wishing she could lift her leg off the ground.
Cassie hadn't paid any attention to the room resident on the bed until he spoke to her. The TV was on, and the noise of the cartoon characters had distracted her from anyone else in the room. Now she turned her head and started at what she saw.
A boy lay there, about the same age as Kevin. His right arm and leg were in a cast. The left leg, on the other hand, was in a sling hanging from the bed. In the middle of the sling, right through his knee, was a fat bolt, like the kind used to close a hotel door at the top. Bloody tissues surrounded the knee on either side of the bolt.
"Hi," Cassie said, remembering now what Kevin had told her. "Sorry to barge in like this."
"That's okay. I'm Tom. What room are you in?"
"Right next to you. I'm your neighbor. Cassie."
"What are you in for?"
"I got bit by a snake." She eyed his knee. "Does that hurt?"
"Sometimes. When they clean it. I fell out of a car."
Cassie nodded. "That's so crazy."
"Want to play a game?" Tom nodded at the table. "I have some card games."
Cassie hated card games. She never understood the rules and always lost. "That's okay. I just need to catch my breath."
He looked at her foot. "Maybe you shouldn't be walking yet."
What did he know? She scowled at him. "I'm taking it slow."
"Okay." He turned back to watching TV, and she felt bad.
"I'm going to see Kevin. But I'll come back later."
"Sure." He faced her again. "My birthday's tomorrow. My family's having a party. You should come by."
A birthday party. In the hospital. A lump formed in her throat. "How long have you been here?" She noticed then all the cards in the room, the balloons, some half-floating, others hanging limply around the bed, and a myriad of drawings taped to the walls.
"Two months. I'm doing a lot better now."
Two months in the hospital. Cassie shuddered. She'd been here three days and couldn't wait to leave. "Yeah, I'll come by tomorrow."
"See ya," she echoed, forcing herself out of her chair. She grabbed the wall again and made her way out the door.
In the hallway, she paused. She could continue on to Kevin's room and make the lengthy, painful trek back to her room after. Or she could just go the few steps to her room now and try again tomorrow.
"Look at this leg." Zack grinned at her as a doctor she didn't know took her vitals and wrote down a few things in her chart. "Your foot already looks better."
It did. Cassie could see her toes again, and even some ankle definition.
"How was walking yesterday?" Zack asked.
The doctor looked up, raising her eyebrows. "You've already walked on this?"
"A little," Cassie said. "I got tired yesterday. I just went to Tom's room."
Zack nodded and squeezed her shoulder. "Good thinking to come in and rest when you got tired."
Cassie smiled, not about to admit how hard walking had been for her.
"That's good," the doctor said. "Everything is looking great. You should be able to walk around on it easier today. Tomorrow you can leave, if all continues this way. We'll get you some crutches when you are discharged." She handed Cassie a paper cup of water and the usual giant pills, or horse pills, as Zack called them. "Take your meds. Wash them down with extra water."
She did as expected, excitement mounting in her chest. Girls Club Camp started Sunday. If she got out of the hospital on Friday, surely that gave her enough time to go to camp.
Cassie knew her mom would come by soon, but she was anxious to try walking again. She was surprised at how much easier it was to slide her legs off the bed today. She put her feet on the ground and took a few ginger steps. Definitely painful, but not nearly as hard as the day before.
She crept out the door and over to Tom's room. It looked busy. Several kids played with toys around Tom's bed, and a fat man sat overflowing in the chair Cassie had sat in the day before. More balloons and streamers decorated the room.
She didn't want to stay, but she poked her head in. "Happy birthday, Tom!" she called, waving.
He turned his head toward her. There were purple circles under his eyes, and he didn't look all that excited. "Thank you," he said.
Not sure what else to do, Cassie stepped out and continued to Kevin's room.
"You're up!" Kevin was, too, and heading for the door. "I'm going to the game room. Want to come?"
"Yes," Cassie said, though her leg was already throbbing. She was very curious about this room.
It wasn't much bigger than a living room, and just down the hall from their rooms. A movie played on the big screen, and two kids sat in front of a video game console, controllers in their hands. Kevin pulled out a box of checkers and sat at one of the low tables. "Want to play?"
"Sure." Cassie sat across from him. She watched other kids shuffle in and out. A girl with short hair and glasses came in, putting one foot in front of the other in slow, halting steps. She dragged an IV pole behind her, and a woman followed.
"That's Maggie," Kevin said, making his first move. "She's the one who had her appendix out."
"Oh," Cassie said. Maggie's face was pale and tense, as if every step caused her pain. Cassie hoped she never had to have her appendix out.
Kevin won the first game. He set up to play again and said, "I should be leaving today."
"Really?" She felt a stab of jealousy. "But we got here the same day. And I don't get to leave until tomorrow."
He shrugged. "Maybe I healed faster."
She mulled over that, wondering why he would heal faster than her. Was it because of the antivenin? It was the only thing she could think of.
After the third game, she felt sleepy. "I'm going back to my room to rest."
"It's the medicine they give you," Kevin said with a knowing nod. "It makes you tired."
Maybe so. She was really too tired to consider arguing with him right now. Or consider not taking the meds. "Okay. Come say bye before you leave."
Her dad's laugh carried in from the hallway. "Thanks, Rich. I appreciate you doing that."
Cassie's eyes popped open. She stared up at the fluorescent light panel overhead, and then sat up straight in bed. "It's Friday," she breathed. "Today I get to go home." Unable to keep the grin from spreading across her face, she pulled herself out of bed and crept toward her father's voice.
He stood in the hallway just outside her room, talking with Rich, an older gentleman from church.
"Well, there she is," Rich said, spotting her. "The survivor herself."
"Hi," Cassie said, giddy with glee to be leaving this boring place.
Mr. Jones patted her head. "I'll be right back, Cass." He wandered over to the nurses' station.
"How are you feeling today?" Rich asked. He gave her an easy grin. Rich was like a grandfather to all the kids, usually with candy in his pockets and a teasing smile.
"Great!" She leaned against the wall behind her. "I'm going home today."
"Oh, really?" He arched an eyebrow. "How do you know?"
"They said I get to go home on Friday."
"Well, honey, it's not Friday. It's Thursday."
"No, it's not." Cassie shook her head and giggled at him. "It's Friday."
He laughed. "It's Thursday."
"No." She knew how he liked to tease. "It's Friday."
"No, it's Thursday."
Cassie just laughed. "You're so funny." She turned around and hobbled back into the room.
Mr. Jones came in and sat down in the chair as Cassie tried to gather up her pile of get-well cards. "When do we go?" she asked.
He glanced up from the remote to the television and laughed. "I thought Rich was joking when he said you thought it was Friday. Today's only Thursday, Cassie."
"It is?" Her spirits fell. "But yesterday was Thursday."
"You took a really long nap." His face was sympathetic, but his eyes sparkled with humor. "You must've woken up and thought it was the next day."
Had she done that? Cassie couldn't believe it. She sighed and crawled back into bed. "I'll just go to sleep again until tomorrow." She closed her eyes and tried to sleep, willing her body back into the hypnotic trance that would carry her into the next day.
Nothing happened. Her heart pounded with painful anticipation of leaving the hospital, not accepting that she'd be here one more day.
She heard Kevin's shuffling footsteps moments before he said, "Hi, is Cassie here?"
"Yes, but I think she's trying to sleep," her dad said from beside the bed.
Cassie's eyes snapped open. "No, I'm just laying here." She sat up. "Hi, Kevin."
His hand bobbed at his side in a wave. He wasn't in his hospital gown anymore, but normal clothing. "Just came to say bye. I'm leaving."
A mixture of envy and sadness flooded her. "Bye, Kevin. Thanks for keeping me company."
"Hope you get better soon."
"Who was that?" Mr. Jones asked.
"Kevin," Cassie said. "The little boy bit by a snake."
"Oh, that's right. Well, he was bit just a few hours before you. Which means you're next!"
"Yeah." Cassie grabbed the remote control and heaved a sigh. Tomorrow could not come soon enough. Not even her books were interesting anymore.
As much as she looked forward to her moment of leaving, when it finally came the next morning, it seemed extremely anticlimactic. The nurses gave her some crutches, which weren't as easy to get around on as they looked. They rubbed her armpits, and Cassie winced with every step forward. The only person she had to say goodbye to was Tom, so she crutched her way to his room while her mom packed up all the cards and things.
She knocked on the open door frame and poked her head in. "Tom?"
The only response was a whimper. Stepping in, Cassie saw he had two nurses with him. They both worked around his leg, cleaning the wound where the screw connected him to the bed. Cassie stood there, awkward and uncertain, feeling like the intruder to an intimate scene. "I just wanted to say bye."
A small sob escaped Tom's lips, and he turned his head to face the opposite wall. Cassie's heart clenched. She wished she could help him somehow. She maneuvered her way out of the room and back to hers.
"Did you say goodbye to your friends?" Her mom picked up the small box of belongings and shoved a hand through her short, curly black hair. She flashed Cassie a smile.
"Yeah." Cassie leaned on the crutches, taking the weight off her foot. It already throbbed, and she hated to say that she wanted to lie down again. "I'm so ready to get out of here."
"Then let's go."
She turned around as Zack came in pushing an empty wheelchair, a big grin on his face. "Hi, Zack," she said.
"Look at you, up and about. All ready to go home. Come sit down. You get one last ride out of here."
Did he know her foot hurt? She cast him a grateful look and slid into the wheelchair, holding her crutches across her lap. "Oh, Mom," she said, thinking of something else, "am I still going to be able to go to Girls Club Camp?" She held her breath, waiting in expectation for the answer. The last time she'd asked, her mom had said not to worry about that right now. But camp started in two days, and if she wasn't going, she wanted to know.
"Yes, Cassie," Mrs. Jones said. "The doctor cleared you for camp. And the camp nurse already knows the situation. But we're going to need to talk about it so you don't overdo it, okay?"
"Sure," Cassie said, though at that moment she probably would have agreed to anything. She resisted the urge to clap her hands. Camp would be so much fun. And her best friend Riley would be there!
Thank you for being one of my readers! I love hearing from you, so tell me your thoughts!
Professional photo shoot done! (And more chapter sneak peeks. Scroll to the end for the sneak peeks!)
I got some great feedback from a publisher interested in my Brazilian cookbook. One of their requests was to see professional photos of some of the recipes.
Check them out! Aren't they awesome??
Another requirement was to prove with factual numbers and data the people who are actually interested in this book. I do this by showing how many people visit my food blog each day. If you ever want to drop by, see what recipes I have up and add to my numbers, the link is here!
I'm still looking for beta readers to help me read over the sequel toInevitable before it goes to print. I thought I'd be done with edits by April, but . . . it's looking like May now. A beta reader is someone who reads a copy of the book and helps the author find mistakes and errors before it goes to press. If you're interested, please respond to this email and let me know!
(I'm also looking for beta readers for Walker Wildcats Year 2! This book will be available to read later this month.)
Layered Strawberry Custard
Here are chapters three and four of Walker Wildcats Year 2 #1: Creature Comforts! More chapters coming later! If you missed the first two and want to read them, just email me and I'll send them to you!)
In Case of Emergency
In the next moment, the small room erupted with activity. Two nurses came in.
"Cassandra," one said, "we're moving you to another room. We're going to change your clothes. Just relax."
Before she could really think about what they were saying, the nurses were hauling off her shirt and pants. They shoved them all in a plastic bag, including her wet underwear. Next, a paper-thin gown went around her waist, her arms thrust inside the little sleeves. They tied up the back and laid her down on a stretcher.
"Mom!" she called, panicking. "Mom?"
"I'm here." Her mother took her hand, her face pinched with worry.
Then they were moving. Cassie stared at the overhead lights as they rolled by, door frames flashing in and out of her line of sight before they turned a corner and stepped into an elevator. Then they were going down.
They'd barely stepped past the automatic doors when Cassie said, "I'm going to throw up!"
Arms steadied her, lifting her, turning her, and she made the cleanest vomit pile possible on the floor beside the gurney.
They laid her back down and rolled again, finally coming to a stop in another room. This one had machines that beeped and long poles with bags full of liquid. Cassie lost track of the people as voices lolled around her head.
"Measure the circumference of the leg."
"We need to start an IV."
"Search for a vein on her forearm."
Someone grabbed her arm, poked it, and then a band wrapped around it. She felt the jab of a needle, but the pain didn't even register in her body.
"No go on the arm. Her veins are rolling."
"Try the other arm."
"The leg is swelling too quickly. We need to administer antivenin. If the swelling goes past her knee, we risk cutting off circulation and losing the leg."
The same cold swab on her other arm was followed by another quick jab. "No go. Rolling."
"Doing a skin test."
"Try her foot."
"Got a vein!"
"Start the drip!"
There was another jab in her foot. Cassie's body convulsed, and her eyes rolled around in her head. Her stomach started up its familiar churning. Before she could warn anyone, the involuntary spasm hit her. She jerked upward and vomited all over her legs and the personnel at her feet. Something tugged on her right foot, and a slender plastic tube danced in front of her face.
"Clean her up!"
"She just yanked the IV right out of her foot. Blew the vein."
"Find another one!"
Cassie stared at the lights over her head as firm hands pushed her back down. The lights waved and blurred and then disappeared. She heard her dad's voice, felt his hands on her head, but the room went black.
Someone shook her shoulder, and Cassie awoke with a shudder. She opened her eyes and tried to focus on the blurry image silhouetted against the light. Somewhere close by, a machine kept up a steady beeping rhythm. She blinked and widened her eyes, but without her glasses, she couldn't make out the face leaning over her.
She turned her head and saw white bars around her bed, holding her in. She swallowed, her pulse quickening. Behind her, the machine began beeping faster.
"It's okay," the woman said. "I'm a nurse. I'm just here to take your blood."
Cassie realized then that she was in the hospital. "Where are my parents?" Had they left her here alone?
"Your dad's on the couch sleeping."
"Daddy," Cassie called. "Daddy, wake up."
A lump in the corner moved, and her father's figure lifted in the darkened room. "I'm here, Cassie," he said in a groggy voice.
"They're going to take my blood." She couldn't stifle the fear in her voice. She wanted him to tell them to go away, to not do this to her.
"It's all right."
"It'll be okay." The woman leaned closer, and Cassie smelled her flowery shampoo.
"You should have just let me sleep." She winced when the needle bit into her arm.
"I couldn't take the chance of you waking up and jerking the needle out."
Cassie just bit her lip, trying not to cry.
"All done." The woman put the vial of blood on a cart. "Go back to sleep. We'll do this again in a few hours."
Cassie exhaled, letting out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding. She spotted her glasses next to her head, on a small tray. Cassie picked them up and noticed a small glowing light attached to her finger. She wiggled her finger, and the machine beeped in time with her movements. An IV dangled from a vein on her other hand. Putting her glasses on, she spotted a clock under the television. Just after four in the morning.
Television. That meant there was a remote control close by, right? She sat up, and something pulled on her chest. She looked down her hospital gown to see several round stickers with cords coming out of them stuck to her chest. "I look like E.T.," she said with a laugh. She glanced toward her father to see if he'd heard, but apparently drawing her blood hadn't woken him up the way it had her. He lay on the couch, snoring lightly.
Cassie pointed the remote control at the TV and turned it on. She watched reruns of Lassie for twenty minutes before her eyes finally grew heavy and she went back to sleep.
A little after seven, the nurse woke her again. Cassie knew because as soon as her eyes opened, she focused on the clock across the room. She groaned when she saw the needle.
"Just let me sleep!" she said.
"This'll be quick. And then we'll bring you your breakfast."
"Daddy," Cassie called, determined not to bear this pain alone.
He awoke with a grunt. "What?"
"We're taking her blood again," the nurse said, eternal patience in her voice.
Cassie wished he'd come over and hold her hand, but he didn't. She gritted her teeth together and looked the other way.
"All done. Breakfast will be here in a minute."
She wanted to ask what it was but didn't dare. She wasn't sure she could eat.
That turned out to be a good thing when, a moment later, the nurse came in with her breakfast: a cup full of a chalky brown liquid.
"This is breakfast?" Cassie stared at it, wanting very much for it to taste like chocolate milk but doubting it would.
"You can only have liquids, honey. If you want some juice, we can get you that too."
Juice sounded good. "Do you have apple?"
"Sure." The nurse left the cup of chalk on the tray and disappeared.
"How are you?" Mr. Jones asked, stretching before coming to sit in the chair by her.
"What happened?" Cassie asked. Her images of last night were disjointed, blurred. She knew from the IV on her hand that they'd eventually succeeded in getting one in, but she didn't remember it.
"A little boy came in earlier yesterday with a snake bite. His symptoms matched yours, and he'd seen the snake. So they treated you for a copperhead bite."
Copperhead. Cassie tested the word out in her mind. She'd heard of that kind of snake before, but she'd never seen one. She wasn't too familiar with it. "It's poisonous?"
"Yes. There's an antidote, but unfortunately, you're allergic." He gripped her hand and turned it so her palm faced upward. "Here's where they tried it." He ran his fingers over a red rash on the inside of her forearm.
"Oh. So then what?"
"We prayed. They just had to wait. The poison has to drain from your body on its own."
"How long will that take?"
"Well, you seem a lot better. You're not vomiting anymore. We're pretty sure you're on the upside. But you're still in the ICU, so, we're taking it easy."
"Intensive Care Unit."
Cassie tried to internalize his words. She remembered something else, something about her leg— "Am I going to lose my leg?"
He gave a brief smile. "You're a very luck girl, Cassie. The swelling went all the way to your knee and stopped. If it had gone past, we were at risk of it cutting off your blood circulation. But that didn't happen."
She looked toward her legs now, hidden under the blankets. "Can I see my foot?"
He patted her hand. "Not now. Your mom will be here soon. I know she'll want to take a look. Oh, and to top it off, you had a bladder infection."
"A what?" Cassie squeaked.
"A bladder infection. I don't know if you noticed having to use the bathroom more, but that would be why."
Cassie's face burned at talking about this with her father, but she had noticed. "Oh." That probably explained why it hurt when she peed.
Chapter 4 Rest and Relaxation
Mrs. Jones arrived with Emily a little after eight in the morning, when visiting hours started. She brought balloons and coloring books, which Cassie usually had no interest in but was excited for now. The television repeated the same shows over and over again. Mr. Jones gave Cassie a kiss goodbye and left for work.
"Smile, sweetheart," Mrs. Jones said, aiming the camera at Cassie's face.
Cassie smiled, holding up her E.T. finger.
The camera flashed, and immediately all the machines in Cassie's room went off.
"What—what did I do?" her mom gasped.
Three nurses streamed in, their expressions intense and worried. Cassie looked at them blankly, and they rushed over, sticking a thermometer in her ear and a blood pressure cuff on her arm.
"It's my fault," Mrs. Jones stammered. "I took a picture—"
They stopped their movements and gaped at her.
"You took a photograph?" one asked.
"You can't do that in here," another said. "This is sensitive equipment. We'll have to delete that photo."
"I'm sorry," her mom stuttered.
The third nurse waved a hand and gave Mrs. Jones a sympathetic smile. "It's all right. Just don't do it again. Consider yourself lucky for that one photo." She tucked her stethoscope away. "Looks like you're fine here, Cassandra."
Her mom and sister sat in stunned silence for a moment after the nurses filed out.
"Well. That was interesting," Mrs. Jones said. She put her camera away. "Guess we won't document this visit."
"Can we see the leg?" Emily asked, her brown eyes wide. "Can you see where the snake bit you?"
"I haven't seen it yet," Cassie admitted. "Daddy wouldn't let me look."
"That's because it grosses your dad out," Mrs. Jones said. "Let's take a look."
Cassie leaned forward and watched as her mom peeled back the bedsheets. Her thigh looked perfectly normal, and her knee only slightly rounded. But past the knee, her whole calf swelled up like an elephant's leg. Her ankle vanished in the swollen flesh, and the skin of her foot had bubbled up like a bowling ball, swallowing her toes. Pen marks dotted her leg where the hospital staff had measured the circumference.
"Oh, wow," Emily murmured.
Cassie could only stare at it. How was it possible this leg would ever go back to normal?
"Too bad we can't take a picture of it," her mom said.
"What about Girls Club Camp?" She worked hard to blink back the tears before they could fall. "I was so looking forward to seeing Riley again."
"Cassie. Don't worry about that right now. Let's worry about you getting better, okay?"
Easier said than done. Now all she could think about was how she'd miss the sleep away camp, her first chance to ever go to one. She tucked the worry away in the back of her mind. Her mom was right. If she wanted to go, she had to get better.
Someone knocked on the door frame, and the same nurse who had been kind to Mrs. Jones about the camera incident came in.
"Sorry for the confusion earlier," she said. "We just have to be careful. We've had people sue, you know, odd things happen. I'm Mabel, by the way." She flashed a badge from the lanyard around her neck.
"Of course." Mrs. Jones nodded. "How's Cassie looking? Do we have a time-frame here?"
"Really hard to say. But her vitals looks great. I expect we'll be able to move her to pediatrics later today."
Cassie sipped at her apple juice. "When do I get real food?"
"When we move you to pediatrics."
"It's the kids' floor. You'll meet lots of other children in here once we get up there."
Cassie perked up at the thought of not being so alone. "Is there a bathroom? I really need to go."
"Oh, honey, we can take care of that right now." The nurse bent over, and Cassie waited for her to unfold a wheelchair. Instead, she produced a small, u-shaped bowl. "Here, I'm going to help lift you."
Cassie had no idea what that bowl was for until the nurse stuck in under her backside. Then she gasped in astonishment. "I'm supposed to pee in here?"
"It's quite all right, sweetheart. We're used to it."
Her face burned. She couldn't look at her mom or sister.
"We'll step outside," Mrs. Jones said. She took Emily's hand and pulled her into the hallway.
"Go ahead," Mabel whispered.
Cassie nodded and told herself to pee. She willed it to happen, but being stared at seemed to stop up her bladder. Finally she managed to get out a trickle.
"Good girl," Mabel said. But she didn't leave Cassie's side.
"You're going to move this thing, right?" She didn't want to sit on this bowl any longer than she had to.
"You don't have anything else?"
"No, I'm done."
"Are you sure?"
What did she mean? Cassie tried to pee again, but there was nothing left. "Yeah."
"Well, you let me know when you need to go number two, okay?"
Number two. So that's what she meant. Cassie exhaled. Being examined by medical staff for every bodily function would take getting used to. Now that she thought about it. . . . "I do kind of need to do that."
"Go ahead, sweetie. That's why I haven't moved the pan."
It took a moment, but then Mabel's meaning slammed into Cassie. "I'm not pooping in this bowl."
"Well, you have to."
"I'm not. I'll wait till I get to the bathroom."
"We can't take you to a bathroom. You're bedridden. You can't go up to the pediatric unit until you've had a bowel movement."
The argument didn't sway her. The ICU seemed awfully comfortable. "I'm not doing it."
"All right." Mabel finally removed the bowl and left the room.
"Well, how did that go?" Mrs. Jones asked, sweeping back inside.
Cassie told her.
"You wouldn't go in the bedpan?" her mom asked, furrowing her brow.
"I went pee."
Emily laughed. "I wouldn't do it, either."
Eventually Mrs. Jones took Emily home. Mabel came back in with another nurse, and both of them tried to convince Cassie to go in the bedpan. She wouldn't. When Mrs. Jones returned, they cornered her.
"She needs to have a bowel movement. If she doesn't, all the toxins in her waste will start to disperse throughout her body. They could make her really sick."
Mrs. Jones approached Cassie with a worried look on her face. "Honey, I know you don't want to, but you need to use the bedpan."
As if Cassie hadn't heard everything they'd said. "Take me to a toilet. There's a wheelchair." Why were they being so difficult? It couldn't be that hard.
Mabel exhaled, blowing a piece of hair out of her face. "Cassandra, it's really not that bad."