Forty Eight: Runaway Run

Taylor

“I am never coming here again.”

I glanced over at Alley, who looked a little frazzled. Well, make that a lot frazzled. Louise glanced over at me. I shrugged helplessly.

Alley continued her rant. “When I get home, I’m going to run out and tell everyone that I have indeed seen hell, and it is Tulsa, Oklahoma. I am going to lobby to have this place removed from the face of the earth. I am going to--”

“Shut up,” Louise broke in. “Quit whining. You sound like Taylor. Besides, everything will work out in the end.”

Alley scowled, eyebrows furrowed. “You shut up. How in the hell can you be so optimistic? It’s irritating.” She took an angry sip of water from the glass sitting on the table. “Even this water tastes like shit.”

“That’s because it’s actually clean, unlike water in Kentucky,” I said. “You’re used to that dirty taste.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Taylor--”

“Can I get you anything else, ladies?” Our waiter appeared, looking a little nervous. No surprise there. She had already bawled him out once for bringing us the wrong appetizer. Personally, I felt sorry for the guy.

“Yeah, you can get me a--”

“We’re fine, thanks,” Louise interrupted her. The waiter dashed off and I sighed, staring morosely at the tablecloth. Alley was right, in a way. So far this trip had been anything but a bundle of joy.

It started when we arrived at the hotel. It was after midnight by the time we managed to stumble into our room, after a very tense argument with the desk clerk, who insisted that we were not listed among their reservations. Naturally, we didn’t get the suite Alley had requested, but a small single room with one bed. Which left the problem of where to sleep. Only two people could fit on the bed, which left one to sleep elsewhere. We’d requested a cot, which never materialized, so the third person was forced to sleep on the floor. We had been switching around the sleeping arrangement so that all of us spent one night on the floor – no one would have to sleep there twice. Last night was Alley’s night, and it had not gone over too well with her.

Today was Tuesday. All of Monday had been spent investigating. We had tried numerous times to find out anything we could on my condition. A few people completely ignored us and one man cursed us out for stopping him and “wasting his time.” However, for the most part, it seemed that the old adage “out of sight, out of mind” was true. Allison and Louise’s casual questions to the locals were only met with blank stares. In a way, I was pissed off. Didn’t anybody care anymore?

“So what now?” I asked, tracing an invisible pattern on the table.

Louise gently tapped the side of her glass. “I think we should find out which hospital you’re in.” She paused. “Man, that sounded weird.”

“I know.”

“How many hospitals are around here?”

“I sighed. “Beats me. Tons.”

Louise gave me a look. “Taylor. You’re the Tulsa expert here, you’ve got to help us out. Do you really not have any inkling whatsoever which one?”

“Well,” I hedged. “Let me think for a minute.” I stared at the wall, concentrating, trying to think of where all of us children had been born. “I think Zoe, my youngest sister, was born at St. John Medical Center… it’s pretty huge. Maybe there?”

Louise leaned forward, nodding. “Okay, well, that’s a start. Should we call them or something?”

I shook my head. “No, they won’t tell you anything on the phone. Especially since… well, you know.”

“Yeah, yeah,” she said. “Sorry. I wasn’t thinking. So are you saying we should just go there? Is that going to do us any good either?”

“Well, I don’t know, but I think that’s probably our best bet.” I shrugged.

Louise nodded again. Allison had not been paying attention to this conversation. She was staring out the window, looking at God knows what. I poked her.

“Hey,” I said. “What do you think?”

“About what?”

Louise and I exchanged a glance. “Nevermind,” I said. “We’ll explain it to you on the way.”

                                                                                   *****

“What?”

We were sitting in the car, on the second floor of the hospital’s main parking garage. Louise and I had explained to Allison a plan that we had devised – one of us would go in and attempt to find the right hospital room. We decided there were two ways this could be accomplished. One was to send one girl in to try and sneak in and just get a look around. If that didn’t work, then the other girl would go in and pretend to be family and see if they would let her in. We had just informed Allison that she would be partaking in the second plan.

“Why do I have to do that part? Why can’t I be the one to sneak in?”

“Because you’re blond,” Louise said. “It would be more believable. You resemble his family more.”

“Just because I’m blond does not mean I look like Taylor! Or his brothers!”

“Hey, I have sisters, too, you know,” I interrupted. And while I agreed with her, I also had to agree with Louise’s reasoning. Louise herself was dark-haired and dark-skinned. A total opposite. At least fair skin and blond hair did run in my family.

“Taylor’s the one who can’t be seen. It would be easiest if he went in and looked around.”

“He’s not going in,” Louise said.  “At least not at first.”

We both turned and looked at her. “Why?”

“I just think one of us girls should go in first and check things out.”

I was silent for a minute before speaking again. “In case it’s bad?”

“Yeah.”

The corner of Alley’s eyes turned down, and I could see understanding there. Louise gave me a sympathetic smile. I looked away.

“Okay,” Allison said after a minute. “Well, are we going to do this or not?” I smiled gratefully at her.

“I’m going,” Louise said. She stepped out of the car and stuck her head back in the door. “I’ll be back in a little while. I don’t know how long, it depends on whether I can get in or not. You’ve got your cell, don’t you?”

“Yeah, right here.” Allison pointed to her purse.

“Alright. I’ll give you a call if I make it in, and tell you how to get there. Otherwise, I’ll be back out here.”

“We’ll be waiting,” Allison said. Louise walked off, her stance tall and stiff. She was obviously nervous.

“Well,” I said at length. “This should be interesting, anyway.” I laughed, but it sounded high and jittery, even to me. Now that we were here, now that we actually here and finding answers to questions we’d had for over nine months… my nerves were shot. Every minute that passed, I could feel my heart race a little faster. I was in that building…. Just through those doors.  God, that sounded freakish. Which floor? I wondered. Was anyone visiting right now?

“What are you thinking about?” Alley turned around in her seat and calmly studied me. Well, she seemed to at least be in a better mood now.

“Nothing.”

“Liar.”

I shrugged uncomfortably. “Just…. Stuff.”

She remained quiet, choosing not to press the issue. I leaned forward, resting my forehead on the headrest of her seat. A moment later, long, gentle fingers were combing lightly through my hair. It felt nice. And relaxing. “Thanks,” I mumbled.

“No problem.” She chuckled softly. “So… tell me about this town, Taylor.”

“I thought you hated this place.”

“Well, everyone deserves a second chance. Where are all the cool hangouts? What kind of stuff do you all do around here?”

“I dunno… go see movies. Eat dinner. Go see bands play.”

“Where?”

“Clubs and restaurants.”

“Could you possibly be more specific?” She used her fingernails to lightly scratch my scalp. It felt heavenly. “Taylor?” she questioned when I didn’t reply.

“Mmm?” I mumbled. “Oh, oh, sorry. What was the question again?”

“Places to go?”

“Um… let me see. Well, we used to go to a lot of the local coffeeshops around here.” Allison snorted at that. I ignored her.
“Nordaggio’s, The Loft… bands play there sometimes. Gypsy’s…. that’s another good one. There’s this place next door that has live music, too. My brothers and I used to go there a lot.” I paused thoughtfully. “You’d probably like it.”

“Really? We should go there, then. God knows I need to find something good in this city.” She chuckled, and I rolled my eyes, although she couldn’t see.

“You’re impossible.”

“I know.” She began to hum softly as she scratched my head. I recognized the song. Ben Folds Five. Lullabye. I grinned and hummed with her.

After our little performance, we sat in silence. It was uncomfortable, at least for me, anyway, because I was no longer distracted and could dwell on the inevitable. I raised my head from the headrest.

“Alley?” I asked tentatively.

“Hmm?”

“I’m….” I twisted my hands nervously. “I’m scared. I’m fucking scared to death.”

“Oh, Taylor….” She reached one of her long arms back to me and squeezed my shoulder. “I know.” She lowered her hand and grasped it with mine. I curled my fingers around hers. “I’m scared, too.”

To hear her say that was somewhat comforting. I smiled. “I don’t feel quite so alone now.”

“You aren’t alone.”
I felt like kissing her hand. For all her brattiness, she could be terribly sweet at times. I smiled at her, feeling the corners turn up even higher when she smiled back. Lovely.

Our little moment was interrupted by a loud rapping on the window. I jumped, startled, and glanced over, silently cursing Louise.

Louise opened the door to the backseat and slid in beside me. “Well, that was a grand failure.”

“Really?” Allison asked, looking disappointed. I echoed her sentiments.

“Yeah. I made it partway down the hall, but then I got confused about where I was at – this guy sees me, I don’t know what he was, doctor, nurse, whatever, but he asks me if he can help me with anything. Well, I said ‘No’ and tried to walk away, but apparently that wasn’t a very satisfactory answer. He pretty much steered me back out into the lobby. And I think he told security to watch for me, because I swear they stared me down the whole time I was in there. Bastards. I finally gave up and left.” She shrugged sympathetically. “Sorry, Taylor.”

“It’s okay,” I said.

“Well, I guess that leaves it up to me,” Allison sighed heavily. She grabbed her purse and pushed open the door. “Wish me luck.”

Louise looked a little startled. “Wait. Have you thought about what you’re gonna say?”

“Yeah, don’t worry.” Allison brushed her off. “I have to go now before I lose my nerve. I’ve got my phone. I’ll call if I make it.”

“Well, okay….”

I grinned at Louise as we watched her walk off. “Think she’ll get in?”

Louise shook her head grimly. “Not a chance in hell.”

“You never know,” I replied with a chuckle. “She might surprise us.”

“You place entirely too much faith in that girl.” She laughed. “Unsurprisingly.”

“Shut up,” I grumbled. I sighed and leaned my head back against the seat. “She was right, you know. You should have just sent me in. It would have  been quick and easy. And you two could have just sat out here and waited.”

“And waited? What kind of friends do you think we are, Taylor? Besides, in your condition, you’re likely to do something irrational once you get in there. Especially without our supervision.”

“Without your supervision? What am I, twelve?”

“Taylor, you know what I mean.” She lightly punched my shoulder. I remained silent, staring out the window, waiting for either a phone call or for Alley to come walking around the corner back to the car. I couldn’t see the main entrance of the hospital from where we were parked. Plus, we were on the second floor.

After what felt like eons, Louise yawned. “She seems to be taking an awful long time.”

“That’s probably a good sign,” I said hopefully.

She eyed me. “As I said before…. Too much faith, my boy.”

“But--”

We were interrupted by the merry tune of the Mexican Hat Dance from Louise’s phone. I sucked in a sharp breath. Louise quickly punched the answer button and held the phone up to her ear. “Yeah?”

I could hear Alley’s loud shrieks loud and clear, even from where I was sitting. “Start the car, start the car!”

Louise and I looked at each other, confused. “What?” she asked into the phone. “Allison, what happened?”

JUST START THE CAR!”

Louise looked at the phone in her hand. Allison had hung up. “Wonder what that was all about.”

“Maybe you should do what she said,” I responded uneasily.

“Alright…” She got out of the backseat and into the driver’s seat, turning the key. The engine roared to life. I turned back around in my seat, looking at everything behind us. Suddenly a lanky blond came staggering around the corner to the car. Allison?

“Um…. Louise…” was all I managed to get out.

“What the hell?” Louise had turned around in her seat as well, and was staring agape at the madwoman running towards us. The next thing I knew, the back door was being jerked open and Allison literally leaped inside. And on top of me.

“DRIVE!” she shouted, while her elbow made friends with my stomach. I grunted, trying to push her off.

“What the hell is going on?” demanded Louise.

“Stop asking questions and just get us the hell out of here! NOW!”

This time Louise obliged, stepping on the gas sharply. We circled around, down to the first floor of the garage. The tires squealed slightly as we lurched back onto a main road and drove off. Allison remained hunkered down in the seat, still partly on my lap. And her damn elbow was still in my stomach.

“Get your elbow off of me! Are you trying to kill me?” I gingerly rubbed my stomach. There would probably be a bruise there tomorrow. “And what are you so tore up over, anyway?”

“Um…. Nothing,” she said meekly, raising her head up enough to peek out the windows. Once she saw the buildings and street signs flying by us, she seemed to calm down. I glared at her, then looked behind us. I could see the hospital back in the distance…. And several men dressed in dark blue standing in front, looking around. I nearly choked.

“Allison,” I murmured, staving off laughter. I couldn’t help it. “What exactly happened back there?”

“Oh, you know, nothing really. I mean, it was just a little argument…”

“A little argument? Is that why there are ten security guards standing at the doors, looking for you?”

“How do you know they’re looking for me?” she asked, rolling over and attempting an innocent look.

“Just a hunch, Allison. Just a hunch.”