HIDDEN HEART– Excerpt
Tessa opened her eyes and came up on one elbow. Both Chiara and Alessandro rushed to her bed.
“Here, let me help you sit up.” Chiara lifted and fluffed the pillows. “Better now? Are you hungry? The doctor said you could start eating something light, maybe some broth or yogurt, anything you want. I brought muffins, fruits and coffee. Would you like some?”
Tessa didn’t respond. She stared at the covers, clutching them to her chest, eyebrows pushed together and chin trembling.
Alessandro sat on her bed and lifted his palm to caress her cheek. She flinched and jerked away. His palm froze in the air then dropped in his lap.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” he said. He cradled his palms and swallowed hard. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to . . . to save you.”
She drew her knees to her chest and circled them with her arms. Her ribs felt sore and breathing hurt. A knot formed in her throat and tears rolled down her face. She swallowed hard a few times, then looked at Chiara and whispered, “I don’t wanna be awake; can you get me something to sleep?”
Chiara looked back and forth between Alessandro and Tessa and opened her mouth to say something. The door opened and dr. Ivan and two nurses came in.
“We need to get you out of the bed, Miss Cosma,” dr. Ivan placed the stethoscope in his ears and listened to her heart and lungs. “Just a few steps at the time. A psychiatrist will come see you this afternoon.”
“I just want to sleep,” Tessa said, covering her eyes. “Just sleep.”
“You’ll be able to rest throughout the day,” dr. Ivan scribbled something on her chart. “The faster you recover, the sooner you’ll be released. See you later, Miss Cosma.”
About ten minutes after dr. Ivan left, a nurse brought a tray with food. Tessa didn’t touch it. Her stomach growled, but she refused to eat.
“Tessa, honey, I know you hurt, but life doesn’t stop here,” Chiara pleaded.
“Go away, both of you,” Tessa said.
Chiara exchanged looks with Alessandro. She blinked back tears and said in a cheerful voice, “Come on, how about you get out of the bed? Only a few steps, then we’ll let you rest.”
Mechanically Tessa lifted the bed sheets. She put her feet on the floor, and tried to stand. Her knees buckled, her eyes blurred, but Chiara and Alessandro caught her in time to stop her from falling. She felt her skin crawling when Alessandro touched her. She threw her arms around Chiara’s neck and between shallow breaths she managed to say, “Don’t—touch—me!”
Alessandro stepped back as if her words burned him.
“I have you.” Chiara held on her sister’s skeletal body. She shifted Tessa so she could support her elbow and grip the bed’s edge with the other hand. She walked a few wobbly and slow steps but she tired quickly. She sat, her breath worn-out.
“That’s enough, now go,” Tessa said. With trembling hands she crawled back in and bed pulled the bed sheets.
“I promise we’ll go if you eat.” Chiara took a spoon and the cup of yogurt and sat next to Tessa. “Here, just a few spoons.”
Tessa sat, snapped the yogurt and the spoon away and said, “I can feed myself, I’m not a baby.” She ate half of the cup. “Happy now?” She pretended not to see the pain on Chiara’s face. She pretended not to see Alessandro standing by the window, shoulders hunched.
She just wanted them gone. She wanted to be left alone. With no one around to comfort or care about her. Bad people like her didn’t deserve to be loved and happy. Criminals like her didn’t deserve to live.
He scarred her body. He wounded her soul. He should’ve killed her.
She’d welcome death over the pain.
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