Cherish every moment spent with family throughout your life, but if you want to be happy, find yourself some good girlfriends.” – CJ Zahner’s thoughts as she sprawled out on an emergency-room floor while Carolyn and Vicki fought to save her life.
I open my eyes. Singing angels dance across the sky. One grips my arm, and a long translucent thread guides us toward a blinding light in the heavens.
I focus, try to see my Maker. Faint shadows grow like flowers blooming. The echo of the angel’s soft singing dissipates to humming then whirring then—wait, what is that? I’m not in heaven?
My vision clears and the room around me materializes. A dangling IV, stained-white ceiling, and buzzing fluorescent light stare down at me. I smell a nauseating antiseptic that resembles embalming fluid and hear a gruff voice that sounds remotely like what I believe the angel of gloom might sound like, hot and nasally. A doctor’s voice.
Oh, for God’s sake, I’m alive.
I snap my eyes shut, disappointed in God’s decision to spare Mark from single parenthood, a plight I’ve sworn for years he could not handle.
My memory of the back yard, the wine, and—oh, dear Lord—the marijuana aroma swirling around the medics’ heads hits me in flashes. I remember people arriving. Faint voices.
“Mom? Were you smoking dope?” It’s Delanie, home from her part-time summer job, and Gianna, home from school. “Mommy, Mommy, don’t die.” “Shut up, Gianna. Stop crying. Mom’s not sick. She’s stoned.”
I block the rest from seeping into my memory and pray inside my head.
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. Forgive me. Take me. Now. Quick.
A voice responds but not God’s. Evy’s. He’s talking to the nasal-sounding doctor.
“You can’t expect her to wake up in this room. The drapes are orange, for God’s sake. Do you want her to have another seizure?”
Though my eyes are shut, I can feel their presence, too many people hovering around my bed. Normally, I’d crave the company, but right now I want solitude. I tighten my eyes, wishing them away so I can die in peace.
“Nikki, are you awake?” Jody, of course. She never misses a beat.
I keep still. Not a twitch.
“I know you’re awake,” she says, a slight snigger in her pitch.
I pinch my eyelids as tight as I can, screw up my lips, and sigh.
“Open up,” she instructs, and I do because only Jody knows what’s best for me. I’ve listened to her for years.
“Did they do a blood test?” I whisper. At first, no one else notices I’m awake.
She nods. Raises her eyebrows.
“For who? You or me?”
“You.” She laughs.
“She’s awake,” Evy announces, and suddenly people lunge toward my bed as if I had flat-lined.