"We have to go after him," I said, running back into the lodge.
"We will, go upstairs and get your jacket and his - and shoes," my dad had already pulled out his phone as he shooed me upstairs. By the time I came downstairs, my dad was deed in conversation with the lodge medic I'd spoken to earlier in the day.
"Jake?" I asked, stunned to see him awake and alert at this hour.
In my brief absence, Jake had agreed to drive us down the mountain to the hospital in town and to pick up Todd along the way. We cam across my near frozen, trembling best friend within half a mile of the lodge.
He took the letter-man jacket gratefully and slid into the seat next to me. "That was really dumb Todd," I whispered before wrapping my arm around his shoulder.
"Yeah, I know," he said quietly.
It took us nearly an hour to reach the hospital due to the heavy snow and ice on the mountain roads. Jake told us about his part-time, mostly volunteer, position at the hospital while we drove but no one really listened. Dad had given us the little information he knew about Mei-Ling's accident, leaving all of us to worry in silence.
At the hospital, we were all turned away by the nurse at the front desk because we weren't family. I had to hold Todd back as he started in on the nurse while Jake promised to see what he could do.
"This is ridiculous!" Todd said as he slumped forward.
I couldn't really argue with him - well I could but I knew he didn't want to hear 'It's their job' just now so I kept my mouth shut. "Hopefully Jake can find something out for us," I said softly.
Jake, who knew the best target I suppose, had gone to another nurse's station and was working up a nurse on the other side of the emergency room. I couldn't make out what he was saying but from her general lack of acknowledgement, I felt discouraged as I watched the exchange.
Appearances were apparently deceiving though, because a few minutes later he came over and nodded. He waved us toward the double doors, a quick glance around to be sure the original nurse wasn't looking. "Do you know what happened?" I asked.
"Just that there was an accident," Jake said, his expression grim.
"What? What is it?" I pushed. He knew more than he was saying, that much I could tell.
Before he could respond and before I could press him further, we came upon the small one bed room Mei-Ling occupied. From outward appearances she didn't actually look that bad, I noticed.
"One at a time," Jake said. My dad and I both deferred to Todd, allowing him to slip into the room first.
Behind me, Jake had started peppering Dad with questions about Mei-Ling's family and who ought to be contacted. "They attempted to contact her parents but I gathered that they live in China and they haven't been able to reach them."
"They were flying back today...yesterday I guess," I said, watching Todd anxiously through the window.
"Does she have any one here? I mean in the States?" Jake seemed about to say something more but stopped himself there.
"Um..." I was going to shake my head no when I recalled her mentioning an Aunt and Uncle. "She has an aunt and uncle here I think. They sponsored her visa...why? What's wrong?"
Jake didn't, or couldn't, answer but nodded before leaving to relay the information to the nurses. I turned back toward the window and leaned against the frame.
"She doesn't look so bad right?" I said, though I wasn't sure if I actually expected an answer.
"Ginny..." my dad said quietly. He placed his hand on my shoulder and started to pull me away. He knew something - or suspected anyway. Something he wasn't telling.
"What? What is it?" I whirled around to face him. "What do you know?"
"I don't know anything," he said, placing particular emphasis on the word know.
"But....?" I prompted, sensing that there was more to be said. Dad merely shook his head sadly. "What? What does that even mean? Dad...."
"Ginny, the accident was bad. Really bad. That's all I know."
"Well? Accident can be bad...bad accidents are still walked away from...." Even as I said the words, I was flashing back to the accident that had taken my mother. I wondered if Dad was thinking of her too. Before the tears could start flowing, I hurried away in search of a distraction.
"Oh come on!" I shrieked at the vending machine that was holding my soda hostage. I pounded on it with my fists before resorting to a swift and pathetic kick.
For all my effort I received an annoyed huff from a nurse and a sore foot, but no soda.
"Ginny?" My dad's voice was full of concern for me, which seemed somewhat odd considering it was Mei-Ling laying in the hospital bed and Todd who was fretting. "Are you alright?"
"My foot hurts," I whimpered.
"That happens when you kick machines," my dad said, trying to lighten the mood.
"Dad....is she...?" I trailed off, unable to say the words.
"I don't really know Ginny," he said, holding out his arms. I took the invitation and collapsed into his warm embrace. "I hope she'll be fine, I really do...."
I nodded, trying to wiped my tears away and hug him at the same time. "I'm sorry....about earlier, in your room," I said through awkward sniffles.
"Oh Ginny, no I'm sorry. I should have told you...warned you..."
A few hours later, once the sun was up and everyone at the lodge had learned of the accident, Tim and Nai'a showed up with Ms. Moore. Todd was still in Mei-Ling's room, having barely left it all night. I guess most of the nurses looked the other way as long as he stayed out of their way.
"How is she?" Nai'a asked, looking toward the double doors that separated the visitors from the sick or injured. "Is she awake?"
I shook my head, "I don't know really. She hasn't woken up..." I stopped myself before finishing the depressing thought. Would she wake up? "Todd is with her now. I guess they called her aunt and she's on her way now."
I tried to convince the two to return to the lodge and get another day of skiing - or making out - in, but they ignored me. Tim pulled out some cards and we found some dominoes in one of the waiting areas to try and pass the time.
Delayed by flights and distance, Mei-Ling's aunt didn't arrive until well into the afternoon following the accident. Todd had come out only twice in that time - neither time with anything good to report. "Why hasn't she woken up...?"
He didn't expect an answer from me, or anyone else, but he asked the same questions over and over again. Finally, on his way to grab a drink, he spotted her standing awkwardly near one of the nurse's stations. "Mrs. Lin?"
"This is Mei-ling's aunt," Todd explained, when Jake looked over at him curiously.
"Oh Todd!" Mrs. Lin, who had always liked Todd and favored him in the whole arranged marriage drama, spun around to face him and envelop him in hugs. "How are you dear?"
"Um...confused," he glanced over at Jake apologetically, "they won't tell me anything since I'm not family. Though Jake has been as helpful as he could be," he added quickly.
"Oh my boy, well we'll find out everything now..."
Jake came around the desk and nodded to her, "Why don't I show you to her room and I'll page the doctor? Todd, you should take this time to go tell your friends that Mrs. Lin has arrived..."
"But..." Todd started to protest.
"No, he's right Todd. I will speak with the doctor and come find you soon yes?" Though Todd would have preferred to argue, he nodded out of respect and hung back as Jake led her to Mei-Ling's ICU room.
"Oh god! My niece!"
"I'm not sure you're grasping the severity of her injuries....no of course I'm not questioning you....don't you think you ought to be here...."
It was impossible to understand such a disjointed, one-sided conversation but it didn't stop Tim, Nai'a and I from trying to make sense of it. Perhaps we shouldn't have been ease-dropping but it was impossible not to in this case as Mrs. Lin was having the phone conversation only a few feet from us.
"No! You cannot place that responsibility on me! YOU are her mother...." Several minutes passed, tears trickling down Mrs. Lin's cheeks in the mean time. "Of course, I understand that sister, however..."
Mrs. Lin hung up, her face contorted with sadness and anger. She glanced over at us and smiled awkwadly, almost apologetically and then pushed open the doors. Tim and Nai'a had returned to their game as the conversation ended. I tucked the cards back into their box and went in search of Todd.
I finally tracked him down, two floors up and looking as if he were in another time a place. "Todd?" I asked.
He didn't look my way or even flinch as I came closer. It wasn't until I hopped onto the hospital gurney beside him that he glanced my way. "Her aunt is with her now..."
"I know, I saw her," I said quietly. "She said....did you talk to her?"
Todd nodded and looked away again, growing more distant instantly.
"I don't think we're supposed to be sitting on this thing," I said after a long silence.
"Probably not," was all the reply I received.
"Todd..." I placed my hand on his arm gently, half expecting him to pull away. When he didn't, I wrapped an arm around him and laid my head against his back. I didn't say anything more. I just held onto him, tethering his body to this time and place while his mind wandered over time and space.
We'd sat like that for some time when he finally spoke, his voice cracked, "she's not going to wake up is she?"
"I don't know Todd," I whispered.
After awhile, we hopped off the gurney and paced the halls of the hospital hand in hand. After lapping the newborn nursery three times, I suggested we go back downstairs.
Tucked into the corner just outside Mei-Ling's alcove, Mrs. Lin was sobbing and clutching the nurse. Todd started to pull away, to turn and run but I held his hand firmly. "I can't..." he said, shaking his head. The realization of the situation had hit him as he watched the scene unfold in front of us.
Though no one had told us then, there had been clues along the way to suggest the otherwise serene look on Mei-Ling's face was hiding her true condition. Later, we'd learn that she'd suffered extensive internal injuries as well as severe head trauma. But at that moment, as we watched Mrs. Lin sign some papers, all we could see was that her family was giving up on any hope of her recovery.
"Todd, you can," I said, tears in my eyes. "And you would hate yourself if you didn't go in there right now and hold her hand again."
Mrs. Lin watched as we came closer, reaching out for Todd at the door. "I'm so sorry....I...." At a loss for words, she shook her head and looked down at the papers in her hands.
I waited until Todd had gone inside the room before turning to the small group, "is there no hope that she might be okay?"
Jake looked down at his feet, but shook his head. "Her parents....they made the decision to unplug the machines and let her pass naturally."
"But she's seventeen! She shouldn't be passing at all!" I argued, swiping at the tears in my eyes. "Are they coming to be here at least?" This time is was Mrs. Lin's turn to look down and avoid eye contact. "Damn." I leaned against the frame of the door, turning my attention to Todd.
"Can I...?" I recalled the 'one at a time' rule from before but hoped it didn't apply now. Jake nodded and even opened the door for me.
Jake touched my arm, stopping me just inside the room, "she died in that car crash Ginny - her body just didn't know well enough to stop going." He spoke so softly, I almost didn't hear him.
"They're going to let her die..." Todd said, as the door hissed closed behind me. It wasn't a question.
I nodded but he wasn't looking at me. "I'm sorry Todd," I said, "I am so sorry."
He picked up her hand and stroked it for several seconds with his thumb before kissing it lightly. "Goodbye," he whispered, backing away from Mei-Ling's bed.
I caught him in my arms before he collapsed on the ground and held him tightly as he cried.