Angelina Marche pressed her hand against the cool thick glass and gaped at Anthony Delano through streams of water. He was standing under the moody Cambridge sky just outside of the Andala Café where her friends were ordering hummus, warm pita, and steamy chicken shawarma sandwiches for lunch. She watched the rain kiss him and force him to squint with his deep brown eyes. Two girls ran in front of him under a magenta umbrella and he smiled with an ease that she couldn’t comprehend. He walked across the street, indifferent to the water soaking through his clothes, and weaved around the parked car where Angie sat in the back seat with her brother.
“You know, you’re not invisible. You might want to stop drooling like an eager puppy.” Ashton tapped his sister on the shoulder.
“I’m invisible to him.” Angie sighed. She couldn’t look away just in case Anthony glanced in her direction. Thunder sounded in the distance as the rain started to pelt the top of the car, a drum matching the beat of Angie’s charging heart.
“Have you tried talking to him?” Ashton kidded.
Angie laughed. “I’ve tried a lot more than that. Do you remember when we all had the flu? Mom rented those eighties movies and we laughed at the sappy things the kids did to get attention?”
Ashton started to laugh with her. “Yeah?”
“I did all of those things. I sat on top of a car in front of the school with a candle lit birthday cake on Anthony’s birthday just like Jake in Sixteen Candles and he walked right by me. I held up dad’s old boom box, like in Say Anything, playing Anthony’s baseball song outside of Starbucks as he was leaving with his coffee and he didn’t even notice me. I won’t even tell you the last one.”
Ashton tried to catch his breath. “Did you call his name or did you just expect him to walk over to you and ask you out?”
“Stop laughing!” She backhanded his arm playfully.
“Tell me the last thing. I gotta know.” He howled as tears poured from his eyes.
Before she could tell him, their eardrums were assaulted with a voluminous crack that burst the glass around them. In that last second, eyes wide, they stopped laughing.
Firemen worked silently, methodically, bending the metal with care. They grunted softly as the crowd, held back by barricades, leaned forward despite the now heavy rain that pricked their faces like shrapnel. The tragedy took precedent over their comfort and their responsibilities. As traffic froze, a backlog of cars lengthened the evening commute for a hundred people just because they were curious. They wanted to know how serious the accident was and to imagine the lives that had been affected by it. The result was a soft appreciation for life that fell like a quick fickle snow only to melt by the next morning.
Angie and Ashton’s parents huddled on the corner of River and Franklin Streets clutching at each other. Beverly and Alex were as close to the scene as the police would allow. They talked quietly with Olivia and Todd who were Angie’s and Ashton’s best friends, also siblings, and the owners of the wrecked car, until a police officer informed them that the kids were being taken to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston instead of Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, which was ten miles closer. Quickly the officer explained to them, before they could question him, that it was the best hospital for this type of trauma in the area. He seemed to have a little speech prepared in advance.
As the officer urged them to leave for the hospital, the firemen completed their last cut and lifted the mangled roof. Sections of wood from the telephone pole that crushed the car were stacked neatly on the sidewalk. The firemen looked down into the backseat and shook their heads. Some of the men turned away. One of them gasped before paramedics swooped in. They placed the kids’ limp bodies on backboards and fastened their necks into extrication collars.
Beverly ran into the cop’s outstretched arms and, after a pause, he let her go through the barricade to her son and daughter. Beverly gasped when she saw them. Angie’s face was swollen, livid from bruising, her left shoulder hung loosely by her ribs, and her legs were flattened. Ashton’s spine wound unnaturally as if he were squirming in his seat. His face was lumpy. She stumbled back into Alex’s arms and they let others move them away from the scene.
Once the kids were safely on the ambulance, Beverly and Alex rushed to the hospital, hoping to get there at the same time. Olivia and Todd were in the backseat.
“I remember when Angie was two and Ashton was three.” Beverly told them. “They would sit in the playroom together. There were so many toys in that room, but they would just look at each other, start giggling, and play some game I couldn’t even understand. They were so cute. Their tiny faces…” Beverly’s voice trailed off.
“It’s going to be okay.” Alex assured them all. He had known Olivia and Todd their entire lives. The four kids had been friends since kindergarten. They were all so young; Angie and Olivia would be juniors at Cambridge Preparatory School in the fall. Ashton and Todd would be seniors.
After several wrong turns they reached the hospital. Angie and Ashton were already behind the moss colored doors and all anyone could do was wait.
Angie was in between waking and the deep groggy state that so often confuses the mind into thinking that the inanimate can be animated and that the darkness is filled with light. She felt like she was floating in water inside a remote cave with her body slowly bobbing and heaving. She wasn’t sure if she was dreaming the shadows that filled the cavernous hollow above her or if this was a real experience. Faint sounds reverberated in the distance. Somewhere ahead a rhythmic drummer kept a soft beat while grave voices trembled and fell before becoming thrilled and frenzied.
The air was muggy and plump with a pungent aroma of roses mixed with patchouli and something else she couldn’t recognize. She felt cool lumps of weighted wetness being placed on her body, taken away, and replaced again. This strangely comforting sensation made her shiver periodically until suddenly warmth crawled from her toes upward and worked its way up her body. It heated her so completely that she felt as if she were being dipped into soup. Short stretches of silence wove in between throbs of chanting and drumming. Next she felt a jolt and heard emphatic voices arguing. They seemed to get closer and for the first time she was able to open her eyes.
A man in his fifties with a grey goatee and bright hazel eyes held his hand up to a younger man. Both men wore white jackets.
“How do you think their parents feel now after I told them their kids had little to absolutely no chance of lasting through the night and you swooped in ten minutes later and said the kids will be fine? Don’t you think that’s suspicious? These are my patients, MacAvoy.” The younger doctor was saying.
“They are in my domain. You can’t mess with Society business.” MacAvoy said.
“Society business has nothing to do with me.” The younger doctor huffed.
“It affects everyone, Josh. Or, would you rather just let them die?” MacAvoy said with his head held high.
“If all medical measures fail, yes.” He yelled.
When MacAvoy noticed Angie watching them, he forcefully pushed the young doctor out of the room. Then Angie’s eyes were pricked by light. As soon as she shut them she lost track of time again.
The next brief thing she heard was the tinkling sound of her mother crying. It was joined by her father’s sobs and she knew that something was horribly wrong. She had never heard her father cry. Not even when his brother, much younger than her dad and only seventeen at the time, had died in a freak boating accident ten years before.
“What is in these bags? Feathers, twigs, tea?” Angie heard her father ask.
Angie felt heaviness and moistness over her torso and legs. In some places sharp points poked at her flesh, which now felt raw. She never imagined that bags were the cause. She tried to open her eyes and move her arms, but she couldn’t. She struggled to lift her fingers, to shift her legs, and rouse her vocal chords. Nothing. It was a dream, she thought. It had to be.
“Their faces are so pale, except for their pink cheeks. It’s like when they napped when they were babies. It always seemed like they were wearing blush. They’re laying so still, Alex. It doesn’t even look like they’re breathing.” She sobbed.
“MacAvoy said they’d be fine.” He reminded her.
“That’s after the first doctor said they were going to die.” She said crying harder now.
“He was confused. Doctors work long hours in the hospital. They get confused sometimes.” Alex said unconvincingly. Angie could picture his eyebrows rising as he made his point.
Angie tried hard to wake up. She wanted to know who her parents were talking about.
“Let’s let them rest.” Alex said. She heard the door close and then there was just silence and fear. She thought that maybe she wasn’t dreaming, not in the sense that she was used to. She thought that maybe she was dead.