CHAPTER 17HEAR HER SONG (COMPLETED)
The buzzing of the fluorescent lights illuminating the waiting room would've been deafening if it wasn't for the bustling waiting room. There wasn't a triage centre in Siren's Bay's quaint, little town so, Joy had to be transported to the next town over, Brinland. It had been a taxing forty-minute drive once Joy had gone unconscious. The paramedics reassured her that she would be okay once they reached the hospital, but that didn't ease Niylah's worry. She was helpless; there was nothing she could do to save her friend. It was up to the paramedics and the hospital staff to take care of her now.
Once they reached the hospital, the paramedics lowered the gurney out of the hospital and wheeled her into the emergency room where they called out for a nurse. A man in light blue scrubs spoke to one of the paramedics, using terms and abbreviations Niylah wasn't quite familiar with. She heard them on hospital dramas before, but that didn't mean she understood what they meant. What she could understand was the bullet was still lodged inside Joy's shoulder and it would require surgery to remove it.
The nurse had tried to speak to her, but Niylah was like a zombie. She felt like her body was on autopilot as she nodded. She watched as Joy was transported through a pair of large, locked doors. A red line marked the threshold where she wasn't able to cross. The only thing she could do was wait.
That's exactly what she was doing. Waiting.
She wasn't sure how much time had passed as she sat, alone, in the waiting room. She knew it was at least morning, the clock hanging above the nurse's station had stated it was 6:21 when she last looked, but she didn't bother checking it anymore. With each second that passed where Joy wasn't out, her concern for her grew. It was easier to deal with the stress without being reminded by the time.
Despite it being morning, the hospital was still swarming with activity. Nurses moved to and from the station, some standing reading charts and some typing away at the computers before disappearing down hallways and through doors. An electronic hum signaled the patients coming in and out of the hospital.
Niylah was sat in one of the cushiony, blue chairs. Her elbow rested against the plastic armrest, holding up the side of her head. She stared blankly ahead, listening to the world continue around her. She didn't even start when Tom approached her, tapping her on the shoulder to alert her of his presence.
“How is she?” Tom asked.
Niylah the roof of ; it was like she had wads of cotton soaking up the saliva from . It was dry and she was thirsty, but she did nothing to solve the issue.
“I'm not sure,” she said. “They took her to surgery.”
“How long has she been in there?”
Niylah's response was a shrug and she hoped he wouldn't ask her more questions that she didn't have the answers for. She kept staring ahead, at nothing in particular.
Silence passed among them for some time. Niylah wasn't sure if it had been an hour or only fifteen minutes since they last shared a word with each other.
“I spoke to the sheriff,” Tom said, breaking the quiet. “They haven't caught Malden yet, but they have a few ideas on where he might've run.”
When Niylah didn't offer a reply, he continued. “I brought a change of clothes for you. Joy probably won't like to see you covered in her blood once she's out of surgery.”
She tore her gaze away from the nothingness in front of her and rested it on him. He had changed into a fresh, black button-up; his sleeves were rolled up to his elbows. Even his normal Siren's Bay Marina hat had been switched out for a clean cap. Niylah had on the same clothes, covered in Joy's blood.
One of the nurses asked if she wanted something to clean into but she had politely declined.
He had a plastic bag held between his knees and she could see on of her sweatshirts peaking out from the top. Once she became more animated, he held out the bag to her. Niylah took it with a quiet 'thank you' and headed for the bathroom. She placed the bag on the side of the sink and washed her hands, squirting soap into her palm. The suds and the water turned a sickening pink and the smell of iron invaded her nostrils, nearly causing her to gag.
She looked in the mirror and was horrified by the reflection staring back at her. Her brown hair was frizzy and disheveled so she quickly combed her fingers through in an attempt to tame her wild locks. Her eyes were bloodshot and the dark circles didn't help her frightening appearance. Blood streaked her cheek and she leaned over the sink to wash it off.
Finally clean, Niylah stepped into the stall to change. She stripped her bloodstained clothes off and replaced them with the fresh clothes her dad had brought her. She shrugged into her comfy sweatshirt, already feeling better despite how exhausted she was.
She placed the dirty clothes into the plastic bag, tied it shut, and disposed of it in the trash can before returning to Tom in the waiting room. Just as she was sitting, a doctor approached.
“Are you the family of Joy Fisher?”
Niylah's heart dropped.
She was sure they were going to receive horrible news. The night had gone in everyone's favour but her own and she was prepared to hear the worst. However, the doctor came bearing great news. Joy was out of surgery and she was wanting to see Niylah. Her heart was pounding so quickly, she was sure even Tom could hear it.
They stepped into the hospital room and Niylah couldn't hide her smile. The curtains were pulled back, letting the morning sun shined through the window, casting the mermaid in an ethereal glow. Niylah didn't think she'd seen a more beautiful sight.
Joy was sitting up against a stack of pillows with one arm attached to an IV that steadily dripped next to her bedside and the other secured in a sling. The doctor informed her that Joy may seem dazed as the general anesthesia wore off, but Joy looked like she was coherent. She brightened as soon as Niylah and Tom stepped into the room.
“Niylah,” Joy greeted, her plump lips turning up in a smile.
“Joy!” Niylah cried as she raced over to the side of the bed. She wrapped the other girl in a hug, being careful not to injure her shoulder in the process. “I was so worried.”
“Do not worry,” Joy said, lifting a hand, careful not to rip out her IV, to rest on Niylah's cheek. Niylah leaned into the gesture, eyes closing, as her forehead pressed against Joy's. “Humans saved my life. You saved my life.”
Her eyes fluttered open as she met Joy's gaze. She didn't have time to reply as Joy leaned forward, wincing slightly at the pain, but bearing through it. She captured Niylah's lips in a chaste kiss.
The intimate gesture caught her so off guard, she pulled back, cheeks rouging in embarrassment.
“W-What was that for?”
“Is it not okay?” Joy looked at Tom and then to Niylah to see if she had done something wrong. “You say humans kiss to show care.”
It wasn't not okay, but Niylah hadn't expected it. Yes, she cared about Joy. She cared a great deal about her, but she wasn't sure she thought of her in that way. She had never even entertained the idea of possibly developing feelings for someone who wasn't a boy.
But, she didn't hate it. She wasn't gay. She couldn't be. Though, she couldn't recall a time where she crushed on a guy. There was Robbie in third grade, but she figured she liked him just because he gave her his cookies.
Tom cleared his throat, tearing her away from her inner gay panic. He was visibly awkward as he shifted from foot to foot. “I'm going to give you girls some privacy.”
Just as he was about to step outside of the room, Sheriff Busby appeared in the doorway, hand lingering on the frame as if he were about to knock.
“Good, you're all here,” he said with a grim smile.
“What is it, Sheriff?” Tom asked, the uncomfortable scenario already forgotten with the sheriff's tone.
Niylah stared ahead at the sheriff, aware that Joy was looking at her. Heat rose to her cheeks again, and she wanted to reach out and hold her hand to comfort her, but she couldn't. Not after what just happened.
“We found something at the warehouse,” the sheriff started. “Or rather, someone.” He cast his gaze over the girls before letting it reside on Tom. “It looks like she was captured by Malden and his guys and tortured for some time – years even – but she asked for you, Tom.”
A/N: I know this might not be the end everyone wants, but it won't be the last time we see Joy and Niylah!
I am currently revising this story and a lot has changed even in the first three chapters. This is the first draft and it's obviously not perfect but I look forward to showing you the end result!
Thank you for sticking around for this journey. This book is dedicated to my late dad and I'm glad you got to see some of him shining through Tom and Sheriff Busby (a character inspired by him).
Thank you for reading and taking an interest in Hear Her Song and becoming invested in Niylah and Joy. ♥