February 1974

Hallie tried to squeeze her eyes shut, but something was holding them open.  She jerked her head to one side to get away from the bright light.  The sudden movement intensified the steady ache in her head.

“She moved!  Did you see that?”  Although the voice sounded a bit muffled and like it was underwater, Hallie recognized it as her mother’s.  But her mother was in Bolivia.  How?  Why?

“Pupils are equal, round, reactive to light.”  Hallie could close her eyes now and she would have, but the bright light had been switched off.  Warily, she closed them part way and waited… for what, she wasn’t sure.  The next moment, she felt her bare feet exposed to the air and a finger stroked the underside of her foot.  She curled her toes at the tickling sensation.

“Good reflexes.”  It was the same calm, clinical voice that had commented on the pupils.  “Hallie!  Hallie, can you hear me?”

“Of course I can hear you,” she tried to say.  But what came out was more like the sound a dying cow might make.  Not that she’d ever heard a dying cow.

“Baby!  Hallie, darling!  Can you squeeze my hand?”  It was her mother again, closer this time.  A cool hand—her mother’s hand—slipped into her own and squeezed.  Hallie squeezed back.

“What are you doing here, Mom?” she tried to say.  Again with the unintelligible sounds.  What was wrong with her?

Turning her head in the direction of her mother’s voice, Hallie stared at her in surprise.  Eleanor Belden was always cool, calm, and collected.  Always dressed appropriately for any occasion, hair neatly coiffed, makeup just so.  Now, even in the dim light of this room, Hallie could see that her hair was mussed, her makeup almost gone, with some faint streaks and smudged mascara on her cheeks.  Although there was nothing wrong with her clothing, it was wrinkled, as if she’d slept in it. 

“Mom?” she tried again.

“Nurse, do you think she’ll be all right?  Why is her voice so... so strange?”  Hallie could hear the careful attempt to conceal panic.  She turned her half-closed eyes in the opposite direction, where a woman in a white nurse’s uniform and cap like a cupcake liner stood at the head of her bed, adjusting the flow of a bottle of IV fluid.  She traced the clear plastic tubing from the bottle down to a piece of gauze taped to her forearm, and noticed then that her arm was fastened to a short stiff piece of padded board.  So, she must be in a hospital.

She felt suddenly too tired to think, and allowed her eyes to close completely.  Later, later she would think about why she was in a hospital and why her mom was here... wherever “here” might be.

“It’s a good sign that she’s responding to your voice and able to follow a command.”  The nurse’s words triggered a tiny, nagging worry in her mind.  But the steady ache pushed away the worry as well as the nurse’s voice and she allowed herself to slip into the state between sleep and wakefulness.

“Doctor, what—how long—will my daughter wake up?  Does she have brain damage?”  Eleanor Belden followed the doctor out of Hallie’s room the next morning.

“Let’s go into a more private area where we can talk, Mrs. Belden.”  Dr. Ferris removed his glasses and slid them into the breast picket of his white lab coat.  She walked beside him for a short distance down the hospital corridor, until they reached a door with a sign  that read “Consultation Room”.  Opening the door, he waved her in ahead of him, to a small grouping of armchairs around a table. She sat down in one of the chairs, not relaxing but perching on the edge of the seat.  Dr. Ferris took a seat in one of the other chairs, withdrew his glasses from his pocket again and deliberately put them on before opening the chart he carried.

“Hallie had a hard blow to her head and a small skull fracture.”  The gray-haired doctor’s voice was grave.  “For a time there was danger of increased pressure inside the skull from swelling of the brain—pressure that could have led to seizures, serious brain damage, even death.”  He paused, gazing at her as if gauging her understanding.  “The longer she was unconscious, the more chance she would remain comatose.  It’s a very good sign that she’s responding more now.”

“But what about the swelling, the pressure on the brain?  How will you know if that’s going down?”  Eleanor forced the words out, twisting the strap of her purse around her fingers.

“Her physical exam shows improvement, not worsening, of her brain function over the past seventy-two hours.”  He pointed to a page in the medical chart.  “Worsening would be demonstrated by repeated vomiting, decline in purposeful movements, certain posturing and reflexes of the body, changes in her pupils’ response to light.  She’s not showing any of those signs, and in fact she’s showing signs of returning function and normal reflexes.  The more time that passes without deterioration, the better her chances for a full recovery.”

“I see.”  Eleanor nodded.  “Can you give me any idea how long it will take for her to return to full consciousness?  To feed herself?  Will she come back to her normal self?”

“That’s unpredictable.”  Dr. Ferris leaned forward and lifted his forearms from the table, hands falling palms-out.  “Each person is unique; each injury is different.  Generally, by one and a half years after the injury, maximum recovery has taken place.  Depending on the brain injury, the personality may be different from before.  More than that, no one can say.”   

“What about the time she was out in the cold, out on that road waiting for an ambulance?”   She began to twist the strap of her purse again.  “Wouldn’t that have caused more damage?”

“Mrs. Belden, it’s actually possible that exposure to the cold temperature was therapeutic in terms of preventing increased pressure on the brain.  That said, the actions of those two young men in removing Hallie from the car after the accident, were heroic and incredibly clear-headed at such a time.  By placing her on the toboggan to bring her up to the side of the road, they protected her spine and increased the chances someone would see them and stop.”  Once again, the doctor removed his glasses and slid them back into his breast pocket.  He cleared his throat and spoke again.  “Is Hallie’s father coming to Sleepyside soon?”   

“Yes, he should be here this afternoon.  We weren’t able to get seats on the same flight.”  Eleanor flushed.  It couldn’t look good to the doctor that both of Hallie’s parents had been out of the country when she was involved in a serious accident.

Dr. Ferris looked directly into her eyes before speaking.  “I’ll be back after office hours to see her again, and of course, the nurses will call me if there’s any change in her condition.  My office is less than five minutes away.”  He glanced at his watch.  “You must be exhausted after your trip.  Why don’t you go back to Crabapple Farm and get some rest?  I’m sure Helen will be happy to come and sit with Hallie if you feel it’s necessary.  You’ll be fresher when your husband arrives and I’ll talk to both of you at the same time.” 

“You’re right, I am tired.  If you really feel Hallie is out of danger, I’ll try to get some rest.”  She gave him a shaky smile and stopped twisting the strap. 

He stood and shook her hand.  “I’ll see you this evening, then.  And I’ll make sure the nurses know to contact you, too, if there’s any significant change.”

Eleanor stood and followed him out of the consultation room.  He headed down a corridor where more patients probably waited to see him, and she walked on, toward the front lobby and outside.  Her whole body felt wrung-out and she knew she must look like an old woman trudging out to Helen’s station wagon in the parking lot.  A weak sun didn’t do much to brighten the crusted, lumpy piles of dingy snow on either side of the cleared sidewalks.  How different New York was from San Cristobal, Bolivia at this time of year!  Although high in the Andes, it was summer there now.  Even during winter there would not be this soggy, clumpy, dingy mess that hung around for months on end.  Still, the weather wasn’t why she was in New York now.  She was here because her baby, her only daughter, had almost died while under the guardianship of her uncle and aunt.  She’s improving, she’ll be all right, she reminded herself.  But how—why did this happen?  Why would Helen and Peter have let Hallie go to a party when the weather was going to get bad?

She yanked at the car door, which had iced up around the edges.  After several tries, it finally yielded and she slid into the driver’s seat, immediately turning the key in the ignition.  Although there would barely be time for the heater to put out warm air before she reached the farm, she adjusted both heat and fan to their highest settings before backing the car from its parking space.  Exhaustion settled on her like a mantle, but the car was so cold that shivering kept her awake until she pulled into the driveway and parked next to her brother-in-law’s house.  Reddy, the family’s happy-go-lucky Irish setter, bounded up from the back yard to greet her.

Eleanor bent down to rub the top of his head and Reddy nudged his nose against her coat, his whole body quivering with affection.  She was a little surprised since she’d only met him the night before, but she’d always been a dog person.  Until her father passed away two years ago, they’d always kept golden retrievers at their Idaho ranch.  Now, with both of her sons away at college, and Hallie… well, Hallie had been running wild since her Grandpa died.  Hal and I have been so busy... it’s our fault—my fault—that all of this happened...  Reddy whined in seeming sympathy with her mood.  We haven’t had time for Hallie, and certainly no time for dogs...

“Come on, boy,” she urged.  “Have you done your business?  Let’s get inside where it’s warm.”  With a joyful-sounding bark, he followed her, tail waving like a flag.

As Eleanor entered through the side door, into the kitchen, her sister-in-law spun around from the sink, where she was finishing up the breakfast dishes.  Her pretty face was taut with worry.  “How is she?”  She dried her hands on a dish towel as she spoke.

“She’s awake, or at least she was awake for a few minutes.  She looked at me, squeezed my hand, and tried to speak.  Dr. Ferris seems to think she’s improving, but he wasn’t ready to commit himself to saying she’ll be all right.”  Eleanor yawned.  “Sorry, but I’m going to lie down and try to get some sleep before Hal gets in.  He’ll want to go to the hospital as soon as possible.”

“I’m glad there are signs of improvement,” Helen said.  She had been sitting with Hallie almost constantly until Eleanor had arrived at just after midnight, and her face showed the strain.  “Please let me know if you need anything.” 

Eleanor only nodded as she kept moving in the direction of the downstairs guest bedroom.  Reddy followed her, ignoring Helen when she called him back.  “Reddy can stay with me, Helen.  He’ll be fine on the rug.”

“If you insist.”  Helen threw up her arms in surrender.  “But don’t be surprised if he’s whining to get back out in fifteen minutes.”  

Hallie blinked against the bright sunlight streaming in from the window of her room.  A housekeeper was running a dust mop over the floor, but no one else was around.  She glanced up to where the bottle of intravenous fluids had hung last time she woke.  It was still there.  Experimentally, she moved one foot, then the other one.  One arm, followed by the other.  A dull ache still pressed against her eyes, but it wasn’t as bad.  She cleared her throat and the housekeeper looked up from her floor.

“Can I help you, Miss Belden?” the older woman asked.

“What day is it?”  Her voice still didn’t sound quite normal, but at least the dying cow sound was gone.

“Tuesday,” was the reply.  “I’ll get your nurse,” she added and left the room.   

Moments later, a white-clad nurse arrived and came to Hallie’s bedside.  “Hello, Miss Belden—Hallie,” she said.  “It’s good to see you’re awake.  How do you feel?” 

“Better.  My head still hurts, but it’s better.”

The nurse held up three fingers.  “How many fingers am I holding up?”

By the time she had been checked from head to toe, Hallie was starting to feel tired and sleepy again, but she felt that she’d passed the tests.  All except one thing—she couldn’t describe what had happened to put her in the hospital.  She couldn’t worry too much about that, though.  Probably someone knew why she was here.  And hopefully, she’d remember soon.  As the nurse left the room to call Dr. Ferris, her eyes closed and she drifted off to sleep again.

Eleanor awoke to the sounds of her husband trying unsuccessfully to put his suitcase into the closet without making any noise.  Raising her head, she saw that the bedside clock read two-thirty and since she could see daylight from the window, it was obviously mid-afternoon and not the wee hours of the morning.  Reddy, who had indeed settled down on the rug, was nowhere to be seen.  “Hal!  Thank God you’re here,” she said.

Harold Belden jumped.  “I thought you were sleeping,” he said.  “I was trying not to make any noise.”

“I was sleeping,” she told him.  “I must have been sleeping like the dead.  Reddy was in here and I never heard him leave.”  She sat up and swung her feet over the edge of the bed.  “When do you want to go to the hospital?”

“In a few minutes,” Hal said.  “Helen told me Hallie seems to be coming around.  But she said you saw her this morning.  What did you think?”

“She did respond to me—opened her eyes, seemed to focus, squeezed my hand.  Dr. Ferris believes she is stable or improving; he says there are no signs of worsening condition.”

“That’s good news.”  He sat down next to her, rubbing his face. 

He looks exhausted, she thought, leaning over to kiss him.  “How was your flight?” 

“Rough.  Turbulent over the mountains, then a two-hour layover in Bogota and three hours in Miami.  Glad it’s over with.”  Hal yawned, and his face relaxed into planes of shadow, creased with lines of worry.

“Why don’t you take a shower, maybe lie down for a bit, before we go to the hospital?”  She reached up and rubbed his back, between the shoulder blades.  “You’re too tired and won’t be able to process what’s going on.”

Harold shook his head.  “No, I need to see my little girl.  Damn it, what were Pete and Helen thinking of to let her ride in a car with that young ex-gangster in a snowstorm?”  He stood up and began to pace.  Eleanor sat and watched him, carefully considering what to say next.

“Hal, maybe we should withhold judgment until we can really talk to Hallie about what happened.”  Even that might not be the right thing to say to him.  Now to walk out onto even thinner conversational ice.   “We couldn’t control her at home; why would we expect Peter and Helen to do what we couldn’t?”

“I know Hallie’s headstrong, but damn it, she’s a kid.  How about saying ‘No, you can’t go’?  What business did any of them have out on the road in that weather?”  Hal stopped his pacing for a moment and glared at her.   Just then, Eleanor caught the sound of Reddy whining outside the guest room door.  She walked over to let him in, stroking his silky coat as he rolled his eyes in ecstasy at the contact.  No longer a rambunctious youngster, he was openly affectionate with her, and even Hal unbent at the sight of the dog, reaching down to scratch between Reddy’s ears.

“At least take a shower and change, so you’ll feel human again,” Eleanor pleaded.  “Eat something, or let’s pick up a burger on the way to the hospital.”  She sat down on the bed again and Reddy rested his head in her lap.

“Maybe you’re right,” Hal admitted, scrubbing the back of his head with his hand.  “I’ll take a shower and change, but I’m not sleeping.  I can’t sleep without seeing my baby.” 

Eleanor freshened up while her husband showered, and thirty minutes later they were deserted by Reddy when Bobby Belden arrived home on the school bus.  Heading into town to the hospital, Hal was still muttering his disapproval of Peter and Helen’s judgment, but she let him vent his feelings; she shared them to an extent.  Thank goodness he’d rented a car at the airport.  She felt uncomfortable accepting his brother and sister-in-law’s hospitality since she was unable to hold them blameless for Hallie’s injuries, and the New York Beldens obviously felt some guilt about what had happened.  At least now they wouldn’t be dependent on using Helen’s car to get back and forth from the hospital.

Dr. Ferris was sitting at the nurses’ station writing in a chart when Eleanor and Harold Belden stepped off the elevator.  Seeing them, he stood up and smiled, removing his glasses and sliding them into his pocket in the gesture Eleanor had already begun to associate with him.

“Is there a change, Doctor?” she asked anxiously.  “This is my husband, Harold.”  She pulled Hal’s hand to draw him closer to the counter.

“Actually, yes.  Hallie woke and spoke to the nurse for a few minutes.  She was alert, recognized that she was in a hospital, and was able to move everything and follow commands.  She still doesn’t remember the accident, but it’s possible that memory will return.”

“That’s wonderful!”  Eleanor clasped her hands together and closed her eyes in a silent prayer of thanks, then was shocked by tears of relief that sprang from her eyes.  She spun around and grabbed her husband’s arm.  “Oh, Hal, isn’t it wonderful?”  

“It’s great news,” Hal agreed.  “But I want to see my daughter.  Can we see her now?”

“Yes, but please try not to excite her.  Her brain needs time to recover from the blow to her head.”  Dr. Ferris smiled and pulled his glasses from his pocket, turning his attention back to the chart he’d been holding when they walked off the elevator.

Once inside Hallie’s room, Eleanor could tell Hal was shocked at the first sight of his daughter.  I should have told him what she looks like, she reproached herself.  Hallie lay on her back, head slightly elevated, with her long straight hair spread out on the pillow.  Someone must have brushed it today.  Her eyes were closed, and the bruising around them looked somehow worse now than it had this morning.  Her face was sprinkled with tiny scabs, where particles of glass had embedded themselves.  Most of the particles had been picked out by the medical team, but Dr. Ferris had explained that others would have to work their way out over time.  A star-shaped cut above the end of one eyebrow had been neatly sutured, but it still looked horrible, Eleanor thought. 

Hal walked to the bedside.  He leaned over to kiss his daughter, then took her hand into his before sinking down into the big armchair next to the bed.  Eleanor kissed Hallie as well, before taking the straight-backed, armless visitor’s chair.  Hallie’s eyelids fluttered open.  She gazed at her father and smiled slowly.  “Dad.”   Eleanor scooted her chair closer and Hallie looked at her, too.  “Mom.”  Her voice sounded almost normal... not like it had this morning.

“Baby.”  Hal squeezed his daughter’s hand, but the muscles in his jaw twitched.  “It’s so good to see you.”

“You, too.  Why? ...you’re supposed to be in Bolivia.  Why... are you here?  Why...I’m in the hospital?”  

“You were in an accident, darling,” Eleanor hurried to explain. “The car you were riding in went off the road and hit some trees... you hit your head and were unconscious for awhile.”

“But you’re going to be fine,” Hal insisted.  “You’re much better already.”

“How long... when did it happen?”

“It happened Friday night, and today is Tuesday,” Eleanor prompted.  “So, four days ago.  You don’t remember anything?”

“No.”  Hallie closed her eyes again.  A single tear escaped from one eye and rolled down the side of her face into her ear.

“Don’t badger her, Ellie,” Hal snapped, glaring at her.  “Rest, baby girl.  You’ll be fine in a few days.”  He still clasped one of Hallie’s hands in one of his, and patted her shoulder with his other hand.

Eleanor and Hal sat in silence as the room grew dim in the gathering twilight.  It was only four-thirty but the sun had moved to the other side of the building and they were so tired it felt later than it was.  Hallie’s breathing slowed and her face relaxed as she slept again.  When the nurse and aide came in to check their daughter’s vital signs, Hal looked at Eleanor and she could read his thoughts.  He was a man of action.  Sitting still in the quiet hospital room was not something he could do for the next few hours.

“Is she out of danger, Nurse?” he asked the efficient white-garbed young woman.  She had walked over to the window and was adjusting the blind while the aide took Hallie’s water pitcher to refill.  Pausing in her task, the nurse turned to face her patient’s father.

“Her vital signs are stable, and she’s been responding appropriately since this morning.”  She smiled.  “We haven’t seen any worrisome symptoms and the doctor will probably have her up tomorrow.  I can’t promise, but she certainly seems to be doing well.”

“In that case, my wife and I... well, we both flew up from South America in the past twenty-four hours and we haven’t had any rest.  Will you call us if there’s any change... or if Hallie wants us?”

“Do you have the number?  We’re staying with my husband’s brother and his family,” Eleanor explained.

“Let’s go out to the station, I’ll check her chart.”  The nurse pulled a cord dangling from the end of the fluorescent light overhead, so that the light was directed upward instead of into Hallie’s face, and then she walked out of the room with Hallie’s parents.

As they drove the short distance back to Crabapple Farm, Eleanor glanced at Hal.  A muscle in his jaw twitched, and he gripped the steering wheel tightly, scowling at the road and other drivers.  She could tell he was angry—and that he realized how powerless he was to affect Hallie’s recovery.  This didn’t bode well for a peaceful evening.  She sighed, but decided to keep her own counsel for the time being.

By the time Eleanor and Hal arrived back at the farm, Peter was home from work and the family was seated at the table, ready to eat supper.  Reddy lay under Mart’s chair, and thumped his tail on the floor in welcome.  Bobby wasn’t there, but both Trixie and Mart were present. 

“Hal and Eleanor, we were just about to start eating,” Helen said with a welcoming smile.  “Please, sit down.  Bobby’s spending the night with a friend, so there’s plenty of room and plenty of food.”  She waved to indicate the places set for them.  Eleanor’s stomach growled, although she hadn’t felt hungry until then.  She started to pull out a chair, but Hal did it for her, before sitting down himself.  As the food was passed around, they helped themselves.  Hal was quiet, but so far was keeping his emotions under control.

“How did you find Hallie?” Peter asked.  “Helen told me you had a good report from the doctor this morning.  We’re so thankful.”  He took a drink of water.

Eleanor started to reply, but was cut off by her husband.  His face was like a thundercloud.  “She’s better.  She talked to us a little, but doesn’t remember what happened.”  Hal set his fork down on the table and wiped his lips with his napkin.  “I don’t know what you and Helen were thinking of, letting her ride with that young hoodlum, Dan Mangan.  Has he been questioned by the police?  Tested for drugs?”

“Dan is no hoodlum.”  Mart was the speaker, and he stood, scraping his chair against the floor as he pushed it back.  “The accident wasn’t his fault.  If anyone was to blame—”

“That’s enough, Mart.”  Peter gave his son a level glance before turning to his brother.  “Dan is a fine young man.  He has saved the lives of both Trixie and Bobby since he’s been living in Sleepyside.”

“Peter’s right.  I’d trust Dan with the lives of my children any day.”  Helen’s face was pale, but her neck was flushed with strong emotion.  

“At the hospital, the doctor said it was thanks to Dan’s and Mart’s quick thinking and calm action that Hallie wasn’t more seriously injured.”  Trixie had joined in the conversation, and she stood in solidarity with her brother.  “Dan wasn’t to blame.”

Hal threw down his napkin and pushed back his own chair.  “I never thought I’d see the day when a Belden would take sides against his own family.  My daughter could have been killed.”  He stood up.  “Thank you for staying with Hallie until we could get here, but maybe it’s time for us to go.  We can get a room at the Glen Road Inn until Hallie can travel.”

“Hal!”  Eleanor was torn between an urge to join in Hal’s condemnation or to believe her in-laws.

Peter took a deep breath and let it out.  “Hal, you and Eleanor are more than welcome to the hospitality of Crabapple Farm.  I want you to think of it as your home.  But I won’t sit here and listen to you condemn a fine young man without knowing the facts of what happened.  I know Dan to be a cautious driver.  True, we wish the kids had decided to start home earlier, but that’s inexperience, not recklessness.  The boy lost a car that he worked hard to earn; he can’t afford to replace it; another passenger in the car was injured, too.  No one has blamed Hallie, but it seems she contributed to the accident.  If you insist on berating Dan in this house, maybe you’d be more comfortable at the Glen Road Inn.” 

“We’re exhausted.”  Eleanor placed a placating hand on her husband’s arm.  “Hal, I think we should get some rest now.  We can’t think clearly.  Maybe we can discuss this with Peter and Helen in the morning, but they know Dan.  We don’t.  We need to give him the benefit of the doubt tonight.”

Hal’s tense shoulders relaxed and the scowl faded from his face.  “You might be right, Ellie.  In fact, I know you’re right.”  He extended a hand to his brother.  “I’m not entirely satisfied, but obviously I’m in no state to have a calm discussion right now.  Pete, Helen, I’m sorry for spouting off.”

“Thanks.”  Peter shook the proffered hand.

Hallie was out of bed for the first time since she had regained consciousness, sitting up in the big armchair in her hospital room, next to the window.  She stared outside at another dull, dreary New York winter afternoon, wondering when she would be discharged from the hospital, and where she would go when that happened.  Somehow, she felt sure her aunt and uncle wouldn’t want to be responsible for her now.  Not that she felt guilty about the accident.  How could she feel guilty when she didn’t even remember it?  But somehow, the fact that she’d wheedled permission to attend Bex’s party, and persuaded Dan to take her, caused her a prickle of discomfort. 

Her parents would probably want her to return with them to Bolivia, and she didn’t want that.

They had arrived early this morning, before Dr. Ferris came.  She relived his visit in her mind.  After a bit of small talk, he’d listened to her heart and lungs, asked her some questions—trying to see if I’m remembering everything—and asked if she or her parents had any questions.  She most certainly did.

“When can I go back to school?  And will I be able to play basketball again in time for the district tournament?” 

Her mother gasped and started to speak.  “Hallie, dear, I don’t think—”

At the same time, her father blurted out, “Basketball!  Are you out of your mind?”

Dr. Ferris sat down in the visitor’s chair next to her bed.  He took the stethoscope off his neck, looped it and slipped it into his pocket.  “Hallie, I think it would be best if you spent the next four weeks at home.  You should rest more than usual, and you might have difficulty concentrating.  We’ll make arrangements with the school to get you a home-bound teacher.”  He cleared his throat and gazed steadily at her.  “No contact sports for at least six months.  You’ve had a skull fracture, Hallie.  You were very fortunate and don’t seem to have sustained any brain damage.  But although I expect the fracture to heal without complication, the bone will take time to regain full strength.  Any further injury, even a minor bump, could result in another break and potentially in a serious loss of function.”

Basketball had been one of the few things about Sleepyside Junior-Senior High that she’d enjoyed.  Playing ball and being part of a team—that had been fun.  Trixie and her friends were busy with senior activities, and although they had tried to include her as often as possible, Hallie just wasn’t interested.  Basketball gave her an activity of her own, and friends who saw her as Hallie, not just as Trixie’s cousin.

Even Diana, who seemed to understand her isolation better than Trixie did, was caught up in college plans, constantly working on the art portfolio she planned to submit to the Chicago Art Institute.  Hallie had compensated by spending her free time with Reddy, and the affectionate dog had responded to her attention by actually learning a few tricks.  But most of all, he was a companion who never criticized her interests. 

The doctor’s words felt like a prison door slamming shut on her, Hallie dropped her gaze to her lap.  Her parents weren’t going to see her cry.  She thought as hard as she could about Reddy, uncritically happy to hear her coming in the door, gamboling before her on their walks to the Wheeler lake.  But would she even get to spend more time with her cousins’ dog—or would she have to fly back to Bolivia with her parents?  

After that, she had pretended to be too tired to visit with her parents.  She faked dozing off and pretended to sleep until they decided to leave for a few hours. 

Now, sitting up in the middle of the afternoon, her stomach growled.  She hadn’t felt like eating much of the bland hospital lunch, and held out little hope of a meal more to her taste for supper.  Wonder if I could ask for a snack?  She was about to press the call button when her door opened and Mart and Trixie walked in together.

“Hi,” she said with an uncertain smile.

“Hi.”  Trixie pulled the visitor’s chair close and sat down, while Mart leaned against the radiator. 

“How are you feeling today?” he asked.

“Not too bad.  My head hurts, but it’s not unbearable.”  Hallie tried to read her cousins’ expressions.  “Where’s Diana?” she asked, surprised that Mart’s girlfriend wasn’t with him.

“She couldn’t come.”  He was uncharacteristically curt, and his narrowed eyes and crossed arms told her he was holding back angry words.  Why?

“Do you remember the accident at all, Hallie?”  Trixie’s question distracted her from Mart’s attitude.

“Accident?  No, I only remember that we went to Bex’s party after the game.  Dr. Ferris told me I was in a car wreck and hit the mirror and windshield.  But I don’t remember it.”

“Diana has a broken wrist.  She won’t be able to submit her portfolio to the Chicago Art Institute by the deadline, because she can’t finish up her two best pieces with the cast on.”

“That’s awful!  She’s spent so much time on it.”  Hallie was really upset for her friend.

“You might have thought about that before you got all shit-faced,” Mart ground out the words.

“What are you talking about?  I have a fractured skull,” she protested.

“Dan’s car was totaled, and he can’t afford to replace it and insure another car,” Trixie retorted.  Her eyes flashed and her face reddened as she continued.  “Not that a car is more important than a person, but he worked so hard to earn it.  You have two parents who would do anything for you, but instead you have to go around trashing other people’s lives.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”  Hallie could feel the heat creeping up her neck.  What were they getting at?

“There was booze and pot at that party,” Mart rapped out.  “Dan saw what was going on, as well as that it was snowing harder, and he tried to get you to leave.  But no!  You had to hang out with the dopers, drinking beer and taking hits from someone’s doobie.  What else was going down?  Did you even know what you were getting?”

“I told you, I don’t remember any of it.”  The heat had spread up her face, into her hairline.

“You were all over Dan while he was trying to drive, acting like a sl—a tramp.  Then you took off your seatbelt and even grabbed his arm.  That’s why the car ran off the road.”  Mart’s jaw was set.  “He tried to be nice to you, and how did you repay him?”

Hallie glanced from Mart to his sister.  Trixie looked equally angry and disgusted.  “Now your dad is blaming Dan for the accident,” she said. “He got into a yelling match with Moms and Dad this morning and now he and your mom have decided to move into the Glen Road Inn until you’re released.  Your dad wants to press charges against Dan.”  She took a deep breath and expelled it slowly, apparently to calm herself.  “My parents took you in, gave you a chance after whatever trouble you got into last year, and how did you repay them?”

“What do you expect me to do?” Hallie asked.  She could feel tears gathering, but willed them not to fall, and clenched her hands together in her lap. 

“Tell your parents the truth about what happened.  It’s not fair to Dan to let him take the blame, but he won’t rat you out, so he has to take it.”

“I don’t want Dan to get into trouble,” Hallie said.  “But I don’t remember any of that stuff you say I did.”  She stared down into her lap.  Her headache was worse again, and it was hard to think.  “My parents will slap me into a convent school in a heartbeat if I told them it happened that way.  My life is screwed, too.  I can’t play basketball for six months and I’m supposed to rest at home for four weeks.  I won’t be able to do anything fun at all.”

“Poor Hallie, it’s all about you, isn’t it?”  Trixie stood up, one corner of her mouth lifted in a sneer of disgust.  “Let’s go, Mart.”

“Yes, let’s go.  I guess it’s all right for Dan and Di to suffer for her stupid stunts.”  Mart turned on his heel and the brother and sister stalked out.

Once she figured they were out of earshot, Hallie let the tears fall.  What should I do? she wondered.  I’ve told Mom and Dad I don’t remember the accident, and that’s the truth.  If I tell them now that it was all my fault, I don’t know if they’ll even believe me.  But it’s a sure thing I’ll never be allowed outside the house again if they do.

She stared out the window, feeling more helpless than she could ever remember.  Snow swirled outside, too thickly to be called a flurry, but still too lightly to accumulate.  It was as if the weather was as undecided as she was.

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Author’s Notes

6186 words

Happy 17th Anniversary, Jixemitri!

A great big thank-you to CathyP; without you and your stories of Trixie and Jim, Jixemitri would not have come into being. Thank you as well to all of the admin team, current and past, for building Jixemitri, keeping it such a wonderful home and bringing together so many great people through Trixie and the Bob-Whites.

Thank you to Ryl and Trish, who provided super-speedy and thoughtful edits for me!  Your comments, questions, and eagle eye for spelling errors, are probably the main reason this story is readable!

This story is a Circle Writing Challenge (CWC) #27 entry, Jixemitri is 17:  A Picture is Worth 1000 Words. The pictures that inspired me were:  #2, 5, 9, 13.  And because I struggle with including the BWGs’ pets, horses, etc., I’d like to give a special shout-out to Trish for her Jixewrimo writing prompt of February 13, 2017: Going to the Dogs.  Reddy seemed quite happy to make a place for himself in this story and since I’ve never had a dog, I hope he felt realistic.  Initially I’d planned to do more with him, but the other characters were too gabby...

Sorry to say, there are a few more Notes...I did a small amount of Rigourous Research for this story:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12493106 An article about the  effect of hypothermia on intracranial pressure

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oceanic_climate#Subtropical_highland_variety_.28Cwb.29 Wikipedia article describing the climate of Bolivia in the primary mining region

My fabulous editors were curious about the “cupcake liner” nurse’s cap described in the story.  Nurse’s caps have gone the way of the dinosaurs, but in 1974 I’m sure every hospital nurse would have been wearing the cap that identified her nursing school...and it gave me an excuse to work up a graphic to illustrate those caps.  You can see a selection of nurse’s caps here, as well as a pic of yours truly at the time of my nursing school graduation.

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/741581_4 An article showing different styles of nurse’s caps

http://oldfoolrn.blogspot.com/2016/01/nurse-caps-cupcake.html A blog post showing different caps, including the “cupcake” cap.  This type of cap was more common in the Northeast.  I worked with a nurse from Maine who wore a cap similar to the cupcake type cap shown here. 

Most hospitals, including mine, refer to the housekeeping department as Environmental Services today.  An individual worker may be called an EVS tech, but in the 1970s they would have been called housekeepers.  In an earlier age they apparently were called maids (Sue Barton nursing series). 

Homebound teachers—While the teachers would be under the authority of the school system, the hospital discharge planning staff (at the time this story is set that would probably have been the doctor and the head nurse) would set the ball in motion with a referral.  I believe the school would need a doctor’s note certifying the student’s homebound status.

It’s not shown in the story, but when Eleanor arrived in the US after the accident, Peter told her Dan was driving Hallie, Mart, and Diana back from the party when the accident happened.  Harold knew Dan was an ex-gang member because Hallie had told her parents about being kidnapped with Dan in #17.

https://one.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/stateofknwlegedrugs/stateofknwlegedrugs/pages/3Detection.html From an article about testing for drug and alcohol intoxication post-accident:  “the principal problem with estimating "drugged" drivers has been the relative unavailability of drug detection methods / devices to routinely test for illegal drugs. In general, such testing capabilities have been limited to highly specialized forensic laboratories (Joscelyn, Donelson, Jones et al., 1980; Turk, McBay, and Hudson, 1974), and even there, have not used routinely.”

http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/drunk-driving-and-the-pre-history-of-breathalyzers-1474504117   Drunk Driving and the Pre-history of Breathalyzers. 
Per this article and several others I consulted, the Breathalyzer, invented in 1954, was not the first device for measuring alcohol in a person’s breath (but it was more convenient and compact than previous devices).  It was definitely available in 1974.  Would Dan have been tested?  Maybe, if police believed he appeared intoxicated—which he was not.  Would Hallie have been tested?  As a passenger in the vehicle, she wouldn’t have been subject to prosecution for driving under the influence.  Since she was unconscious she couldn’t have cooperated in performing the test.  My personal opinion is that if she was breathing effectively on her own and didn’t smell of alcohol—and if Dan and Mart didn’t suggest she may have been under the influence—she would not have had a blood alcohol done in the ER, either.  Drug testing at this time was very limited because there were so few laboratories with the highly specialized equipment required.

Disclaimer: Characters from the Trixie Belden series are the property of Random House. They are used without permission, although with a great deal of affection and respect. All other material on these pages copyright 2017 by MaryN/Dianafan. Banner and end button images from pixabay.com and in the public domain; manipulated in Photoshop; remaining graphics made by me. Graphics copyright by Mary N 2017.

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