Cleo was sitting in an uncomfortable chair in the tiny alcove in the emergency room. They had taken her mother in for x-rays and for the first time since everything had started, Cleo was alone. And exhausted and close to tears.
How had it gotten this far? What else should she have done? Should she have pushed her mom more? Or gotten Dr. Degas involved before now? For the moment, the emergency room staff was focusing on her mother’s immediate injuries. These included moderate hypothermia and some cuts and scrapes. They didn’t think there were any broken bones, but her feet had been so numb that they wanted to be sure. So they’d rolled her bed away, leaving Cleo in here.
It was Edie’s birthday. They were supposed to be at some restaurant in Fitchburg right now, eating overpriced nachos and making progressively more seductive jokes at each other. But instead, she was pretty sure that Edie was at Olivia’s house and Cleo was here, sitting in the emergency room in Athol Hospital.
Cleo was so tired that her thoughts felt choppy. She wanted to be home with Edie, warm in bed. Or at least on the squashy couch in Olivia’s living room. Either would be fine and she couldn’t bring herself to care about the risks of being in New Winslow. Honestly, Cleo was too tired to decide how she felt about anything right now.
At some point, she must have dozed off in her chair, because she woke up suddenly to the sound of a tech wheeling her mother’s bed back into the alcove. Cleo shook her head and blinked as the old man smiled at her.
“The nurse will be in shortly,” he said.
He dimmed the lights as he walked out, and Cleo looked over at the bed. Her mom looked back at her, face lined with exhaustion. There were bandages on her cheeks and she was wrapped in blankets. But she was awake and alive.
Cleo glanced at her mother’s hands, which were tightly clasped on her chest over the blanket. “Get some rest, Mom,” Cleo whispered through the lump in her throat. “I’ll be here until they bring you up to your room.”
Dr. Degas sat down on her stool and took a second to assess. It was a fractured wrist, that was all. The x-rays had come back with a fresh break alongside the poorly healing break Noah had finally admitted he’d been hiding for nearly a year.
With two known fractures and God knows how much irritation and inflammation from a year of friction, she’d been concerned about infection. In all honesty, she had no idea how Noah hid his injury so well. But thankfully there weren’t any signs of infection, so this should be a straightforward bone setting.
She waited patiently as her nurse, Bonnie, administered a mild sedative to help control the pain. As she looked at Noah’s arm stretched out in front of her, she could easily see the breaks under the skin. So hopefully this would be a quick process.
“Can you feel me touching your arm, hun?” Bonnie asked.
Dr. Degas glanced over. Noah was lying under a blanket on the exam table. His eyes were closed and he was breathing softly. “No,” he murmured, not opening his eyes.
“Alright, he’s good,” Bonnie said.
Dr. Degas picked up his arm and consulted the X-ray beside her. She fell into the rhythm of the work quickly, gently manipulating the bones back into place. This was something she’d done hundreds of times, she could probably do it in her sleep.
“Did you say something, sweetie?”
She looked up a few minutes later as Bonnie spoke. Noah’s eyes were still closed, but he was squinting slightly.
“It’s a distal radius fracture in two places,” he said, his voice barely a whisper. “The scaphoid is alright, so don’t worry about avascular necrosis.”
Bonnie and Dr. Degas exchanged a look. “That’s right,” Bonnie said, sounding a little uncertain. “But Dr. Degas is going to fix you up, so don’t worry.”
“I want to be a doctor.”
Dr. Degas smiled softly as she felt the first bone slide into place under her fingers. “That’s nice,” Bonnie said indulgently.
“My mom says no. I need…I need to go first.”
“Just relax, honey. She’s almost done.”
“She said just go once.”
Dr. Degas glanced at Bonnie. “Give him a little more,” she said.
“We’re just gonna make you a little more comfortable while she finishes up, hun,” Bonnie said.
Dr. Degas turned back to her work. “Almost done,” she said as Noah’s face settled again.
“What do you need from me?” Bonnie asked.
“Just keep monitoring his vitals. He was right. Somehow. There’s no infection. I’m just resetting the second break now.”
“Is he a medical student?” Bonnie asked.
Dr. Degas shook her head as she pulled over the table of cast equipment. “No, I’ve known him since he was ten. He’s a smart man, but has never mentioned anything about wanting to be a doctor. And his mom’s been out of the picture the whole time, so I have to assume that was just the drugs.”
They were quiet for a little while as Dr. Degas put the cast on Noah’s arm. Once it was finished, she pushed back from the table and pulled off her gloves.
“He’s all set,” she said, turning to the sink to wash her hands. “His housemate is in the waiting room, so he can be released as soon as he’s ready. I’ll check in once he’s awake.”
Bonnie nodded and Dr. Degas turned to look at Noah as she dried her hands. He lay still on the table, eyes closed and good hand draped loosely on his hip.
She was still feeling unsettled. Obviously he’d known he had a broken wrist, but she’d never discussed any of the terminology with him. There would have been no need to. If it wasn’t a gross violation of his medical privacy, she would be tempted to ask Andrew if any of that doctor and mother talk sounded familiar.
Bonnie was moving around the exam table, sliding the now-immobile arm into a sling. She glanced at Dr. Degas. “Everything alright?”
Dr. Degas blinked and shook her head. “Yeah,” she said quickly. “Yeah. I’m going to go to my office, I’ll be back shortly.”