“Bethany?” His voice choked with emotion, a cruel mix of hope and fear. Strange, that seconds ago it was so stern and angry. Emma took a step back as a woman, a doctor, rushed in.
Beth’s hands clawed at her mouth.
“Relax, Bethany. Don’t fight it, it’s breathing for you.” The doctor pulled her hands away but she wasn’t listening, or didn’t understand. The doctor spoke to Mr Spenser, “We could remove it, or sedate her. I can’t have her trying to take it out.”
“Information?” He barked it like an order.
“Sedation, well, there’s a good risk it’ll put her back to sleep, whatever the dose.” That she might not wake up again went unsaid.
“And removing it?” His eyes focussed on the doctors, hard as flint.
“Her lungs… the muscle’s not been active for weeks.” A nurse hurried into the room, leaving the door swinging. “There’s a chance she might not be able to breath herself.”
“Can you re-insert it?” Mr Spenser asked.
“It would be stressful for her, but yes, we could,” she replied.
“Remove then.” He stood back to give her space. Emma pressed herself harder into the cold wall, willing herself to sink into it and escape. She didn’t want to see this. She’d hate anyone to see her like this.
The doctor bent over Beth, “Jackson, get me a fresh tracheal intubation kit and three milligrams of Propofol in case this doesn’t take.”
The nurse left in the same hurried state he’d entered. The doctor didn’t waste any time. She twisted a white plastic valve. There was a short hiss.
“Shush dear, this isn’t going to be comfortable but then it’s over.” She looked at the door, and the moment Jackson was back her attention was back on Beth. With one last glance at one of the machine screens she started pulling the tube from Beth’s throat.
Emma felt a wave of nausea. The sound was the worst. Beth, choking for air as she regurgitated plastic. But the doctor had it out in a few brutal seconds, efficiently discarded into a bag provided by the nurse. “Come-on, girl, breathe. Oxygen, Jackson.”
They hooked a cannula under her nose.
There was a collective intake of breath, held as everyone waited. Then choking cough from the bed. The nurse held Beth in a sitting position as she rasped at the air, feebly fighting it to suck the dispensed oxygen into her lungs.
But Emma could see her chest expand between each cough. If she had the energy for that, surely she’d be able to…
“Alex?” Beth croaked as the coughing subsided, settling to a regular, but no less panicked rhythm. Her eyes were pressed shut, but her hand still clawed around her, as if she was searching for something.
Beth’s father took one with both of his own, dropping to his knees by his daughter’s bedside. “She’s fine Bethany. She’s not here right now though.”
She’s probably fine.
“Dad? Dad?” She sobbed. Raw. Animal.
“I’m here. It’s okay.” Emma was surprised at how soothing his tone was, after everything. He didn’t let it break. He couldn’t. “You’ve been asleep a while.” He paused. “There’s no danger here.”
“They tried to hurt us.” She was whispering, fast and frantic.
“They’ve gone now.”
“Alex, she’ll get them. She’ll kill them, dad.” Her hands stopped their searching. “She’ll kill them.”
“Quiet, dear.” But she’d already stopped talking. “Rest.”
* * *
Emma thought it best to step outside. It was too personal, too much. Only close family should have seen that. Haley clearly had the same idea, because after one last moment staring at Beth she soon followed.
The corridor air was light, simple, a thousand times easier to breathe than the confused fear of that cramped room. But at least Beth was awake. What a strange evening. From ignorant normality, to the shocking truth of the situation then the fierce joy of it coming to a good end all in the space of a few hours.
“Do you think we should wait a while,” Emma said to Haley, “or should we just leave?”
“Did you see that?” Haley asked, with a heavy frown.
“I know, it was… kind of disgusting.” Emma shivered a the memory of the procedure to remove her breathing apparatus. It made the hair on the back of her neck stand up on end more so than the thought of needles. Hospitals were awful, awful places.
“What? Yeah, whatever, but the first thing she said.”
“I thought it was kind of cute, in a…” In a murderous way. She’d said it with such conviction. That Alex was going to kill someone…
“She knows Alex killed those guys.”
“Oh, wait…” Someone had said it was a car accident hadn’t they? Now she thought about it that didn’t make sense at all. Beth had been talking about men.
“She knows Alex killed someone. She fucking wanted it.” Her voice raised, but it wasn’t so calculated as usual. “First thing she asked for: that fucking girl.”
“I don’t understand what you’re talking about, Haley.” Emma was getting worried. The new Haley was slipping away, was it just a mask? Her voice sounded more like the old Haley as she spoke.
“Four fucking years we were friends.” Emma jumped as Haley, half shouting, spun towards her. “Four years.”
“Okay.” Emma knew Beth and Haley had known each other, but not that they’d been good friends. She couldn’t imagine it. But now, feeling the force of Haley’s anger… she didn’t want to argue.
“Then one day this skinny little runt catches her eye and she never fucking shuts up about her.” Haley took a step forwards. “All she talked about.”
“I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me,” Emma backed away as much as she could, and for the second time wished she could pass through walls.
“Alex, you idiot!” Haley almost spat the name. Her breath was hot on Emma’s face. “That weak little bitch, couldn’t even stand up for herself against a fucking fly if it looked at her wrong. Beth never let it go. I tried to show her how pathetic she was, I tried to show her how weak she was but she never did understand. Never.”
Haley spun on her heel, starting to pace the narrow corridor. Emma let out a sigh of relief, she was worried this was going to end with someone getting hurt. Namely herself.
“Now, that bitch is out of the picture. Gone. Fucking off the face of the planet. No way she’s coming back. She fucking murdered people. But the first thing Beth asks for is that fucking girl! I’m right here. I was her friend for so long and she still picks… pick that as a friend over me?”
“I don’t think it really works like that, Haley.”
“You can’t just pick who you…” Emma choked on the word. It made her feel so childish.
“I think she’s made things perfectly clear. Alex is better than me. Well. Fuck her. Fuck everyone.”
Emma watched as Haley walked away, each footfall echoing in the hall.
* * *
Haley slipped her shoulder bag off and fumbled with its contents. Her fingers closed around every object except the one she needed. She yanked out the blusher she’d used hours before and threw it against the wall in a plume of red smoke and a shout from a porter.
It cleared space and in a few seconds she had her phone. At last. She flicked in the key code and scrolled down to her father, shoving her finger hard onto the screen under ‘dial’.
“Haley. Are you…”
“Shut the fuck up, Dad. I’m tired of this shit. I’m done. You want information on that weird kid, ask her best fucking friend.”
“She’s not been very forthcoming so far, given her current state.”
“Yeah, the whole coma thing. Thanks for mentioning that to me. Real helpful.”
“Cut the sarcasm.”
“Okay Daddy. By the way, she just woke up.”
She hit hang up and strutted towards the lift.