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."