The girl was sitting in the passenger seat of a pick-up truck, her bare feet out the window, air whipping through the cab, warm and free. Next to her, the older gentleman driving was happily singing along with the radio, hand tapping the rhythm on the steering wheel. He sang the male portion; she was singing the female parts.
He was handsome, aging well, with a tanned face, attractively lined with a full head of gray hair kept short. His brown eyes were warm, the corners crinkling as he grinned at her. She knew this was her father; the word came to mind immediately.
It was summer, the fields they rushed by green and lush. It smelt of thriving plant life and the hot asphalt they rode on. There was a loud rumble of engines suddenly, and she turned to peer out the back window, wrenching her neck so she didn’t have to bring her feet down. She counted four men on motorcycles, and as they roared past her father gave a wave to them out the window, two of the riders returning the gesture.
“Do you miss your bike?” she asked, pushing blonde curls out of her face.
Her father shook his head, a grimace on his face. “Not at all. Would never put you on a bike, so who needs one?”
She grinned and shook her head, not believing that he didn’t miss it, yet feeling all the love in the world for the assurance of safety he gave her with that one simple statement.
She rested her head on the back of the bench seat and closed her eyes, her father picking up Johnny Cash’s song, and as the chorus kicked in she had to grin. What a wonderful day for a drive.
Something felt off, however. The breeze vanished, as did the feel of sunshine on her lower legs and the music coming through the truck’s terrible sound system. Her father wasn’t singing, either. And the smell was not the same. The air was stale, dull.
She opened her eyes, blinking furiously. Never had light seemed so bright before; it hurt and she fought the urge to just close her eyes and go back to sleep. She needed to see her father, figure out how long she’d been asleep.
“Sleeping beauty’s coming around.”
This voice she did not recognize. The girl fought to focus her vision, the light swirling and dabbing itself into clarity. There were four women in the room with her, around her…bed? Was she in bed?
“Lucky broad,” one woman said, pushing away from the bed she’d been resting her hip. “I was ready to kill her while she slept.”
The girl didn’t take that as a joke, and she studied the woman’s eyes. They were steel-blue in a deeply tanned complexion. The girl guessed her age to be around forty, but she was in impressive shape. The girl noticed the woman’s arms were bare, the strength in them obvious from the ridges of muscle she was sporting. Even the wall of her chest at the top of her tank was padded with muscle. But the stare was something to be noted. It was cold. She meant it; she would have killed the girl.
“She’s cute,” a peppier voice chimed in. “Can we please keep her?”
The girl tilted her head, which was a lot of effort, and saw another woman, probably thirty or so, with short blonde hair, the undercut a dark brown. She had freckles everywhere on first glance, and her grin was not exactly friendly as her eyes ran over the girl’s face, then down her body. Which was certainly lying in bed.
Why was she in bed? And who were these people?
“Do you know why you’re in here?” This from the severe one again, and she moved closer to the head of the bed. The girl wanted to shrink away, but her body seemed incapable of following simple commands.
“Maybe she don’t talk,” the other one butted in. “Maybe her tongue was cut out so she wouldn’t scream.”
What a horrible thought.
“She was under sedation up until recently, which means they were keeping her in a coma intentionally. Likely an accident of some kind.” This voice was indifferent, which was preferable to the way the other two spoke. “She’s waking up on her own.”
The girl now studied this new woman. She was olive-toned, complexion-wise. Her hair was loose around her shoulders in wild waves, a medium brown in color. Her eyes were a deep, warm, chocolate color, and when she caught the girl looking she offered a smile.
“Can she walk?” The girl was beginning to realize this oldest woman must be the leader, just from the way she spoke and how the others deferred to her.
“Not likely.” Perhaps the woman with the wild hair was a doctor. “Her muscles are most likely atrophied. Could be a few days before she can walk around on her own.”
“Shit.” The leader really seemed worried about her now.
“Fuck it. Leave her here,” a fourth voice shot through the quiet, and the girl cringed. This person sounded angry, and the girl couldn’t find her—
“Hey,” the one with the blonde-on-dark haircut leaned over her, and the girl realized her bed was elevated. Was this a hospital? The walls were bare concrete. That seemed unlikely. “Hey,” the woman repeated, and the girl gave the woman her undivided attention. “Can you talk? Or are you a fucking mute?”
The girl swallowed and opened her mouth. It felt strange to do so, like her body wasn’t used to talking. But that was absurd. “I c…” then she was coughing, her throat so dry she could feel it deep in her chest.
“Get her water,” the leader instructed, and the woman with the kind eyes complied. She held out an odd-looking bottle, but when the water hit her mouth she stopped worrying about the container and swallowed. She even moaned the water tasted so good, and when the bottle was pulled away she made a sound of annoyance. Like a spoiled child.
“Easy,” the woman said, touching the girl’s hair. “You need to go slow.”
“So, what are we doing? We leaving her here or what?” The fourth woman was visible now. The girl got the impression of a vest worn as a shirt, a short loose skirt over leggings and a holster strapped to her thigh. Her arms were crossed, chin jutting to the side, her grey eyes indifferent as they met the girl’s and moved on to the leader. “We need to decide. I can get a message to the girls if we’re deciding to stay here while this freak figures out how to walk and talk.”
“Brit,” the nice one snapped. “Chill out.”
“Shut up, both of you,” the leader said with a sigh. She lifted one leg and half-sat on the hospital bed. Then she leaned over the girl, bracing her arm next to her opposite hip. “Can you tell me your name?”
Of course she knew her name. It was … The girl frowned. It was like heading down a well-known path only to find the place it led to gone. The word wasn’t there.
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