Double Blind(5)
Author:Brandilyn Collins


    Yes, he was there! I wanted to cry but didn’t have the energy.

    Footsteps. The curtain around me edged back. Carefully I rolled my head to the left. I sensed bandages on that side of my skull but felt no pain.

    “Lisa?” A quiet voice spoke. Deb . . . somebody. Smith?

    “Huh?”

    “Ah.” She stepped inside. “You’re awake. How do you feel?”

    “Uh-huh.”

    Deb smiled. “That good? Well, all right.”

    I swallowed. My throat felt like a desert. “Did they do it? Put in the chip?”

    “Sure did. Everything went like clockwork.”

    “But I passed out only a second ago.”

    She was checking the IV. “It just feels like that. Anesthesia puts you so deep under, you don’t have a sense of time like when you’re asleep. A total time warp, isn’t it?”

    Way beyond a time warp. Downright eerie. “You sure? ’Cause it doesn’t feel . . .”

    She patted my arm. “Trust me.”

    I closed my eyes, trying to absorb it all. I’d done it. Really gone through with it. Should I laugh—or cry? “What . . . happens now?”

    “We’ll take you to your room. A private one.”

    Good. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. Just wanted to sort things out.

    “I feel . . . heavy.”

    “You’re drugged.”

    “What happens when I’m undrugged?”

    “You won’t feel heavy anymore.” She threw me a smile, as if to apologize for her lightheartedness. “Your head may hurt some. We can give you more pain meds.”

    “I don’t like pain meds. Can’t function on ’em.”

    “Okay, your choice. But we’ll send you home with some, just in case.”

    Decoration for my medicine cabinet. “Where are my clothes?”

    “You’ll find them in your room. Like magic.”

    My other questions evaporated. I just wanted to sleep.

    “You ready to get out of here?” Deb asked.

    “Uh-huh.”

    “All right. I’ll get another nurse, and we’ll take you up.”

    I drifted into unconsciousness.

    Sometime later I found myself in a private room, propped up on pillows in the bed. Questions stormed me all over again. Did I get a real chip? What did I feel? What was my life going to look like?

    Deb got me comfortable and made sure I had water. She showed me how to put the bed up and down, and where the nurse call button was located. “You just give us a ring if you need anything, all right?”

    I nodded . . . and once again floated into sleep.

    Dreams of Ryan came, vague and rambling. Then he stood before me so clearly. I held a baby in one arm. I could see my husband, touch him, smell him. I reached out, ran my fingers through his hair—

    And woke up.

    My bleary eyes saw a hospital room. But Ryan’s face still pulsed in my mind. The dream had been so real. I’d had them like this before and always woke up sobbing.

    Not this time.

    I held my breath. Could that be true?

    Any minute now it would hit. I braced for the familiar pain . . .

    It didn’t come.

    Had this really worked? Please, please, please.

    I waited longer—and still nothing.

    After a few minutes I made myself picture Ryan again. I went over the dream in detail. Seeing Ryan’s face. Touching him. Even with that, my heart lay still.

    This was beyond amazing. I could feel my husband, remember him with warmth and love. I could even smile at the image of the baby we never had. But that deadening grief was gone.

    I’d gotten the real chip. It was working!

    Lightness surged through my body. Had I ever felt such joy in my life? I wanted to jump up and run through the hallway. I wanted to shout and sing. Tell the world it had happened! To me. This promise, this unbelievable gift—

    But I could do none of those things. Drugged and weak, I could only lay there, tears running down my temples. Smiling until my cheek muscles burned. Eventually the tears ran out. My throat was thick and my nose clogged. I didn’t care. I just smiled on.

    At that moment I didn’t think I would ever stop.





    Chapter 5





    SOMETIME LATER I WOKE UP AGAIN.

    How had I ever gone back to sleep? With all the elation knocking around inside me?

    I bunched the covers up to my neck and closed my eyes. What if my head wasn’t quiet anymore? Maybe I’d dreamed the whole thing . . .

    At first I was too scared to test it. Then I focused on more memories of Ryan. Our wedding and honeymoon. The first time we’d kissed.

    And still my head was quiet.

    New wonder surged through me. I wanted to tell the world! I longed to phone Sherry, but trial participants weren’t allowed calls. Cognoscenti didn’t want me talking to anyone who might influence my thinking.

    My hand fumbled around for the call button and pushed it. In a few minutes a middle-aged nurse with large brown eyes appeared.

    “Hi, hon, how we doing?”

    “I’m healed! My brain is healed!”

    She smiled. “Well, that’s great.”

    “No, you don’t understand. My depression is gone! I can remember my husband and everything—but I don’t feel the grief in my heart. I can think. I can even be happy.”

    The nurse beamed at me. “That’s really wonderful, hon.”

    She had no clue.

    “You need to go to the bathroom while I’m here? I’ll help you up.”

    She really didn’t get it. How could she not just fall over?

    “Uh, yeah. Okay.”

    Sherry would understand. Tomorrow I could tell her.

    The nurse fussed over me, taking the IV out of my arm.

    When I got up my legs were sluggish, but not as bad as I’d expected. More good news. Just think—in a few days I’d get my physical energy back, too. That would be so awesome. The things I could do.

    When I was done in the bathroom, the nurse helped settle me back into bed. “You need any more pain pills?”

    “No way. I just want to feel . . . everything.”

    She raised her eyebrows. “You’ve got quite a high pain tolerance there.”

    I’d hardly noticed the pain. It didn’t matter.

    The rest of that day I dozed on and off. Every time I woke I felt stronger. Over the hours my excitement settled into the most wonderful sense of peace. How had I managed to live through the past nine months? The time since Ryan’s death now seemed like a black hole. I could never, ever go back to that.

    I passed the time soaking in my new sensations. I remembered funny moments with Ryan and laughed. Laughed. I pictured the three times I’d miscarried and knew the pain. Understood it. But it wasn’t that smothering darkness that had threatened to kill me.

    By late afternoon more incredible things had happened. I dared myself to even relive the attack—and didn’t feel it. I visualized my car as I walked toward it in the dark. Remembered my hand rummaging inside my purse for the keys. Heard the pounding steps behind me. I felt the sudden hit of an arm clinched around my neck, a force pulling me backward. Scream, scream, my brain wailed, but no sound would come. I could smell the man’s sweat, almost taste it.

    I saw myself at the San Mateo Police Station, wrapped in a blanket, shivering, shivering. The smell of old coffee and despair. A detective taking my statement.

    Then I thought of the months after that. The sleepless nights and shuddering days. The clotting depression. I saw myself unable to think, finally quitting my admin job at the investment company. Collecting the two hundred thousand from Ryan’s life insurance and putting it in the bank with no care to spend a dime.

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