"Your Mom's doing OK, right now", said Becky, "but she fell and hit her head pretty hard. She's getting a CAT scan, now - kind of a fancy X-ray of her head. We'll know more after that."
Sophie was silent on the other end of the line.
"Is there someone you can call, Sophie? Someone who can bring you in?"
"I guess so. I guess I can call my Dad."
"OK, sweetie. Call me if you need anything."
"Bye. . . " Sophie's voice sounded small. Smaller, even, than the usual 13 year old trying to not sound small.
"It looks like Tracy has some bleeding inside her brain", said Becky when Sophie arrived with her dad. Sophie was wearing her finest Goth regalia, having just returned from school. A tender child in a tough suit.
Paul looked bewildered, pulled back by duty into a situation he thought he was leaving.
What Becky didn't say was that Tracy had a massive subdural hematoma - otherwise known as a LOT of bleeding inside her brain.
"She'll go to surgery, now, and then to ICU - they'll let the pressure out of her brain where the bleeding is, and give her medicines to help, too. Right now, she's asleep; she won't be able to talk to you."
"Is she gonna be OK?" asked Sophie, trying to sound brave, not very successful.
"I think so, sweetie. We just won't know how it turns out until she starts to wake up. Do you want to see her?" Sophie nodded.
Becky led them into Tracy's room. Sophie stared at her mom, pale and unresponsive. "Can I touch her?"
"Sure," said Becky. "Just be careful not to pull on any tubes."
As Becky left the room, Sophie lay carefully across her mother's chest, quiet, her black leather jacket shaking.
The OR came to take Tracy. Becky put a hand on the girl's shoulder and gently pulled her up. "You'll be able to go see her when she gets back to her room. Why don't you guys get something to eat?"
They walked away, Sophie, the new teenager who tried so hard to be tough, and her Dad, whom she hated just now for leaving them. Just outside the cafeteria door, Sophie reached for her Dad's hand. He used the other one to open the door.
Waking in a haze of drugs and swollen brain, Tracy saw Sophie next to the bed. "Dad! She's moving, Dad!" she said. Tracy lifted her hand, intending to brush the hair back from Sophie's face, but her hand only flopped over on the bed. Tracy stared into her daughter's eyes, now running with tears, hoping that stare looked like love. The fiercest love she'd felt. For the first time in months, she could see the child behind Sophie's black eye shadow and multiply-pierced ears. But holding her eyelids up was becoming impossible.
"Mom, I'll wait for you, OK? Come back, OK?" Sophie said in a broken-sounding voice. Paul stood next to Sophie, his hand on her shoulder, looking uncomfortable. Looking out of his element.
She couldn't abandon this kid. She couldn't.
Her eyes closed, and she slipped back into the strange, fitful, darkness. She couldn't quite remember what she'd seen there, but it was a busy place, very busy.
"Mom? Mommy? MOM?"