NOTE: This is part of the new novel I am writing. I am posting it here as a diversion for readers who may be living under shelter-in-place policies while the world waits for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. For an explanation of this project, please click here. To read the chapters I’ve posted in order, click here.

Coldwater High School ~ Coldwater, N.M.

Pain consumed Holly’s thought as she regained consciousness.

Pain, followed closely by another sensation, hazy at first, coming into crisp focus only after she opened her eyes to a blur of white light. She was dying. She had died. No, wait. She was feeling pain. Pain and another sensation. She struggled for an instant to find a name for it.

Oh, right: nausea.

Holly tried to sit up. The pain intensified. Not dead, then. People didn’t hurt like this when they were dead. 

Pain and nausea wrestled briefly for control of Holly’s senses. The foul stench of spoiled milk and uneaten broccoli coming from the dumpster gave nausea a momentary edge, and she started to retch.  

A woman’s voice spoke somewhere above her.

“Get her onto her side so she doesn’t choke.”

One pair of hands guided her gently onto her side and into something like a sitting position while another pair swept her hair away from her face and held her head steady while she emptied the contents of her stomach.

She vomited until her abs hurt. Someone eased her back down, tucking something under her head. She tried opening her eyes again, just a slit, and this time, the white blur resolved itself into the shape of the security light above the back door.

The dumpster reeked, and Holly closed her eyes against the urge to vomit again.

The dumpster.

Oh, God — her uncle was behind the dumpster. 

No, wait. Not her uncle. Her uncle was dead. What was behind the dumpster? She needed to get away. Her rescuers needed to get away. Her mind went wild, and she struggled to get up, but she was too weak, and her head hurt too badly. Somewhere, through the fog of pain and fear, she became distantly aware that her right ankle hurt. How could she get away from the thing behind the dumpster if she couldn’t get up? 

Holly started to cry — not the hysterical, prescient tears of the bean sidhe, but the exhausted tears of a woman who had just been blindsided by physical and emotional trauma.

“Sh, sh, sh, sh, sh.” A deep, masculine voice soothed her. “You’re safe. You hit your head. We’re going to get you to the doctor. Don’t try to move just yet.”

Relief washed over her. Safe.

“Abuelito,” she mumbled.

Sí.” She could hear the reassuring smile in Abuelito’s voice. “Abuelito. Stay still. Abuelito’s got you.”

“Who’s with you?” Holly didn’t have the energy to look.

Someone touched her hand. “It’s me. Sandy. Morgan’s grandma. You took a nasty fall. I’ve called Sierra. She’s coming to take you to the hospital in Santa Rosa.”

Holly hummed, content for the moment. Sandy was safe. Abuelito was safe. Holly was safe. She closed her eyes and drifted out of consciousness again.

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