“Of course she’s not in trouble. She’s hurt.” Dad came to stand in front of me and patted my leg. “Go ahead. He’s here to help, but you have to tell the truth.”
“I never lie, Dad.” He stared me down until I started talking. Still, I couldn’t tell him that it was a teacher, even if he was only a couple years older than me. “I was kissing a guy who used to go to St. Ailbe’s—”
Dr. Schel held up his hand. “You’re absolutely sure that he was connected with St. Ailbe’s?”
“Yes, but—” I stopped talking as the doctor took a slow step away from me. What was wrong with this place? He jerked his gaze to the floor and cleared his throat again. The stink of fear increased, radiating from him. I wanted to plug my nose, but that would’ve been rude.
“Unfortunately, it seems the nurse wasn’t misunderstanding anything. I’m sorry, but we’re not going to be able to help you here,” he said.
“What do you mean you’re not going to be able to help her? This is a hospital, for Christ’s sake!” Dad’s face had gone red and his fists were clenched.
“There’s nothing I can do for her. That anyone can do for her,” he said.
“Of course there’s something you can do for her. She has a fever of 108, goddamn it. She needs some antibiotics for whatever infection is giving her the fever. And some more Tylenol and fluids. Even I know this shit and I’m not a damn doctor!”
“I’m sorry. I truly am. But no doctor can fix what’s wrong with your daughter.”
What did he mean no doctor could fix me?
He held up his hands to stop us from moving. “Please. Please, wait here. Stay calm. I promise you that she’s fine for the moment. I’m going to get someone who can help you. A specialist.” He took some hurried backward steps and slid to the other side of the curtain.
Dad suddenly walked around the bed and stared at my back.
“Oh, Christ Almighty.”
I twisted to look at him.
“You’re sure that it was someone from St. Ailbe’s that did this?”
“It was Dastien, the teacher that came to the house the day we got here,” Mom said.
Dad cursed again. “With what, Tessa? What did he scratch you with!”
My heart was racing. I’d never seen Dad so pissed. “I don’t know. His hand?”
Dad cursed up a storm, knocking the tray next to my bed to the ground. The sound had him freezing. He stood there, facing the curtain, breathing heavily.
“Dad?” I waited, but he didn’t say anything. “Dad?”
“Stay calm, John. If there’s a chance this is what we think…just stay calm. It’s early. We caught it. There has to be a way out of it.”
It was like he couldn’t even hear us. Dad paced back and forth in the tiny area next to the bed, but he wouldn’t speak a word.
I tried not to freak out—Dad was freaking out enough for both of us—but everything smelled too strongly. It was almost as if I could taste my parents’ growing anger and frustration. It was too much. The world started to spin again.
My whole body trembled. It felt like I was lying on hot coals. “Mom.” It came out a whisper.
She held my hand. “I’m right here, baby.”
“I feel like I’m on fire.”
Mom dug through cupboards and found a cream colored plastic pitcher. “Get her some ice and a bottle of water.”
Dad left without a word.
Dad still wasn’t speaking by the time Dr. Schel came back with another man. I didn’t have to look up to know who the man was. I watched the floor as he walked toward me in that graceful, soundless way. I took a breath and glanced up at him. His eerie hazel eyes bored through me. I had to stop myself from squirming under his gaze. Mom patted my glove-covered arm.
What was he doing here?
“This is Michael Dawson. He’s the head of St. Ailbe’s Acad—”
“I know damn well who he is.”
The doctor stepped back out of Dad’s way. Probably a smart decision.
“What in the hell did that boy do to my daughter?”
“I’m so sorry, John. I warned her—”
“Bullshit you did. Don’t give me that crap like it’s an excuse.” Dad raked his fingers through his hair. “You will not blame this on my daughter. Her life is ruined. Ruined!”
“John!” Mom said. “Not yet. We don’t know anything for sure yet.”