Be Careful What You Wish For–Part 7


Thursday, September 3
Day 8


Tim spent the night sleepless at Ellis’s side, one hand monitoring his pulse constantly. By dawn he was noticeably worse, pulse feeble and skin of a livid cast.

Can’t put it off any longer, Tim thought wearily. He tried to push from his mind the last time he’d performed such a surgery on a child, of fighting desperately to keep life in his patient, and failing. The boy had died there beneath his hands.

Josie had gone to her room to catch a few hours of sleep, but she’d left her door wide open and was lying on the bed fully dressed, ready to respond at a moment’s notice. Tim knocked on the doorframe loudly and she sat up, immediately alert.

“I need you. Now.”

Back in Ellis’s room, she silently helped him set up a rough operating table.

“What do I do?” she asked in a low voice as Tim hefted Ellis up on the table.

“He’s currently unconscious. You’re my extra hands and eyes. Hand me anything I ask for—instruments, towels, and so forth—and keep watch on him in case he comes around unexpectedly. I’m hoping I can get the tube in place before that happens.”

“And if he does awake?”

“Hold him down,” Tim told her through clenched teeth even as he cursed beneath his breath. The boy’s neck was so swollen he couldn’t see the landmarks he needed. Fine. Do it by feel.

Finger down the neck. Bump. Thyroid cartilage. Finger up the neck. Bump. Cricoid cartilage. Cricothyroid membrane in the middle. Cut there.

Blood. Blood and mucus everywhere. What the –? There shouldn’t be this much blood!

His fingers slipped along the neck, seeking a pressure point; it took both hands to stem the flow, Can’t stay like this. Have to continue. Josie could handle the blood, could take his place, but—

“We need another set of hands. Get your grandmother now.”

Josie darted from the room without a word. Tim barely noted her departure, all of his focus on keeping the patient under his hands from bleeding out. He risked easing the pressure of a hand, and immediately clamped down again.

“Blast it all, I will not lose you as well,” he snarled at the boy.

Suddenly Josie was back, dragging a wide-eyed, still-nightgowned Samantha behind her. He’d barely registered that fact when Josie propelled her sister toward the table.

“Stop the bleeding,” she ordered, voice snapping like a whip across the room.

I’m trying, Tim nearly said out loud, feeling an overwhelming urge to obey her command.

Beside him Samantha held her hands on either side of her cousin’s head, staring with strangely unfocused eyes at something only she could see. Moments later Tim felt the flow of blood beginning to lessen beneath his fingers, as if it were being pushed back inside where it belonged. That’s right. Samantha’s a Healer too. How could I have forgotten that?

“I’ve got it under control,” Samantha reported, voice shaking a little. “But I’m not sure I can—”

Josie interrupted, her tone shifting, becoming more subtle, comforting. “You can do it, Sam. Mama has taught you well. You have the strength and the knowledge. Just stay calm and focus.”

Samantha straightened and her face took on a serene expression. “I’m ready now. What next?”

Tim blinked as a wave of confidence washed over him as well. Holy mackerel, was his incredulous thought. If I’m not the focus of her Leaning, and I still feel like this . . . ?

“Timothy.” Josie was talking to him now. “Tell us what you need us to do.”

He shook his head to clear it, wiped his bloody hands on a nearby towel, and brought his attention back to the task at hand.

“Just keep on doing whatever the heck it is you’re both doing.”

Tim had never felt so alert and confident, so aware of every vital little detail through each step of the operation. In the back of his head was the realization that it was Josie who was keeping him so sure and focused. We all fear the power the Talented have over our minds, and yet what an asset such power can be! he thought, even as his hands continued to move steadily.

“Dr. Tim?” Samantha said suddenly. “He’s trying to wake up; I can feel his mind moving.”

Before Tim could do or say anything, Josie said mildly, “Then put him back to sleep, Sam.”

The girl was silent for several minutes, then, “He’s fighting me. He’s afraid.” There was a note of anxiety in her words.

Josie was already speaking, her voice reassuring and steady as she laid a slim white hand on her cousin’s sandy hair. “Relax, Ellis. There’s no reason to fear, no reason to wake up. This will all be over with very soon. Just tell your mind to rest and be still.”

“He’s unconscious again,” said Samantha.

Tim breathed a small sigh of relief and returned to his work.

Moments later he announced, “Done,” in a quiet voice.

“He should stay asleep for a while,” Samantha answered distractedly, her fingers moving in a strange pattern. “I’ll be finished in a moment. There’s a ton of infection in here. I’ve got most of it corralled but such things tend to break free rather easily, so I’ll have to repeat what I’m doing in a few hours.” She swayed slightly as she spoke.

Josie leaned in close to his ear and whispered, “Do you need me here, or can I take her back to her room when she’s finished? She’s going to need food and rest after this.”

He shook his head. “I’m fine. Take care of your sister.”