They were going to take out the IV anytime now. Which was good because if Clem had to untangle herself from it one more time while hobbling around on one of her many boring strolls through the plain white walls of the hospital that had been her home for the past few days, she was going to yank it out herself. Somehow, Clem didn’t think her doctors would like that much.
Right now though, she supposed, she didn’t have to worry about it. There were eight Whitefields currently crammed into her hospital room, the only one missing was Robert, though as usual, Clem was not sorry for his absence. Her mother kept saying that Robert was on his way, that he’d be in Virga City soon, before the funeral, though…her mother never quite managed to get through the f word, she tended to dissolve into tears before she could finish. Clem was thankful for that, in a small way, she wasn’t sure it was a word she could bear hearing right now.
It was Thanksgiving, but it didn’t feel like it. Sure, that was because they were sitting in a sterile hospital room eating their dinner out of styrofoam containers, but it was something else, something deeper, something Clem refused to accept.
Her grandmother was dead.
It had been two days and Clem still wasn’t over it. It didn’t help that her mother was sobbing every fifteen minutes, or the way she had had to listen to her brothers discuss plans for the funeral, or that her father was coming home. Camilla claimed her husband was coming home because of the ordeal Jason and Clem had been through, and Clem suspected it was part of his reasoning, but she knew he was mostly coming because what kind of heartless bastard wouldn’t be there for their wife when she had to bury her mother?
He was coming home a full two weeks before he normally did, and Clem knew that wouldn’t end well for any of them. The last thing she wanted, in her grief, and her confusion, and her pain, was to see him. But it seemed she had no choice.
Clem was moving the food around on her paper plate more than actually eating it. She wasn’t hungry, hadn’t been for days. The nurses told her it would pass, that she had to eat anyways to build up her strength…but Clem wasn’t sure. Jason was studying her thoughtfully from across the room, though he grinned at her wryly when he saw her looking at him. Jason had been released the day before, but even before then he had spent most of his time in his little sister’s room, when the nurses would let him. His right hand held the fork clumsily, and he kept dropping food on his plate, his fingers fragile and one short.
He had told her the police had interviewed him. They hadn’t come to talk to her, maybe they thought her condition was too fragile to be of much use to them now. Clem almost wish they had come, so she could punch them in the face when they treated her like a delicate doll who might break with the slightest push. Gosh did Clem feel like punching something. And crying. And sleeping. Anything was better than sitting here pushing her green bean casserole around her plate.
Camilla was crying again. Clem didn’t know why, she had stopped listening to the mindless drone of conversations she didn’t care about ages ago. Clem couldn’t take it anymore. She wanted to scream at her mother, to ball her fists together and bury her face in her knees and scream that she had no right to cry. But Clem knew she was wrong, and more than that…she was scared of what would happen if she actually did say those things. So she took a deep breath, looked up at her family and said, “I’m going for a walk.”
She got immediate offers of accompaniment that she denied forcefully. The nurses and doctors preferred her not to walk the walls without company after the time she had snuck out of her room and they had found her struggling for breath collapsed in a different ward the day before. But they had also learned that Clementine Whitefield did what she pleased, and damn the rest of them.
Clem placed her mostly untouched dinner down on her bed and untangled her IV from her arm for what she hoped was one of the last times before putting two tentative feet on the cold tile floor next to her bed. She pushed herself up onto her feet, gritting her teeth against the pain that came from her patchwork of cuts stretching to the breaking point, sore muscles, and aggravated limbs. She gave her family a brave smile before walking out the door and leaving them to their festivities.
Alone, well, relatively, since the halls were still crowded with bustling nurses and other people’s families, she breathed a sigh of relief. But also that weight, that crushing weight of grief and pain filled her up. She kept moving, hoping that if she did she could leave it behind.
It didn’t help much, but it was the most she could do.