Thickness. Heaviness. Thoughts were trying to make their way to the surface, but Ella’s brain was full of confusing liquid, rushing her thoughts from side to side, making it hard to keep them straight. Ideas were treading through dense murkiness, floating to the top, trying to form into words, but no words would come out. She heard a deep and unfamiliar voice and it warmed her immediately, velvety heat flowed through her when she heard it.
“There you are, Babe. I’ve missed that mouth.” She was listening, trying to place the voice. Then she felt the most gentle and soft kiss right on the corner of her lips. Who was kissing her? And why did it make her heart flutter?
“You are so beautiful,” the mystery voice again. She felt her eyes scrunching in confusion. This wasn’t Kyle, why was he putting his mouth on her? “Ella? Baby?”
She was trying to fight her way through, she didn’t know this voice, but she felt it. Whoever it belonged to obviously knew her. His voice was so soothing and it sounded full of gentleness. She needed to see whoever it belonged to.
As she tried to wake up, all of a sudden, there was loud commotion everywhere. More voices, more people, lots of footsteps and people touching her. And then the voice.
“I’m right here, Ella. I’m not going anywhere.”
Like lifting hundred pound weights with her eyelids, she struggled, but finally the light crept in. Blinding light. Her hand instinctively came up to block it. She wanted to see, but the light was too bright. And why did her hand feel like it was full of sand? It fell back on the bed with a thud and her eyes snapped shut as her head fell to the side.
“What are her oxygen levels?” Another unfamiliar voice, but this one did nothing to her heart. It was cold and clinical.
“She’s at a ninety-eight, Doctor.” Doctor? “Her heart rate is elevated, but not too high.”
“Ella? My name is Doctor Andrews. You’re at OHSU. You’re going to be ok. If you can hear me, can you try to open your eyes?”
OHSU? Ella knew that was the hospital. Why was she in the hospital? She tried to pry her eyes open again, and another sliver of light shone through as she blinked a few times. She saw blurred figured standing around the bed she was laying in, and then she saw another fuzzy person enter the room.
“Ella, you’re awake!” Her mother.
“Ma…Mah…Mo…” Her throat hurt tremendously, and every sound she made felt like sandpaper scraping up the inside of her neck. She swallowed hard. “Mom?” Ella was shocked by the sound of her own voice. Gravelly and weak.
“I’m here, Sweetie. Everything is going to be ok.” Her eyes closed again and she felt her mother take her hand. “Why isn’t she waking up?”
“This is totally normal, Mrs. Sinclair. It will take a little while for her to adjust and she still has the sedative in her system making her groggy. So far, she is responding wonderfully. She’s moving and talking; all good signs.” Ella could hear them, but she had no energy to try to open her eyes again and talking hurt too much. For a while Ella listened to all the people in the room fuss over her and every few minutes she would open her eyes, trying to get use to the light. Eventually, the pain lessened and she was able to look at her mother.
“Ella,” her mother said with tears in her eyes, “we were so scared.”
“It’s ok,” Ella whispered, wincing. “Water?” Ella pointed to her throat. A nurse brought her a cup of water with a straw and the water felt and tasted better than anything she could remember, like an icy, numbing salve running down her throat.
“What happened?” Ella squeaked.
“Oh Ella, don’t worry about it right now. Just focus on getting better. Your father and sister and waiting outside to see you.”
“Megan? I want…” Ella took another sip of the cool water. “Can I see her?” Her mother looked to the doctor and he gave a nod to one of the nurses. A minute later Megan came in the room and Ella smiled at her. Megan’s mouth curved up in a smile and tears welled up in her eyes.
“Ella, I am so glad you are ok,” Megan cried as she gave her a gentle squeeze. Ella felt her eyes closing again, but wanted to talk to her mother and sister. It was useless to try and keep them open, they weighed a million pounds. She rested for a few minutes and when she opened them again. Looking at the smiling faces of the women she loved the most she realized someone was missing.
“Don’t worry about him, Ella. We’ve got everything taken care of.” Ella’s eyebrow’s scrunched up in confusion. She shook her head a little, not understanding what her mother meant.
“Where is he? Is he outside? Can I see him?” Her mother’s face went from concerned, to angry, to shocked, to confused. Megan took a step forward and placed her hand on Ella’s shoulder.
“Ella, we told the police what happened, and they are looking for him. But don’t worry, we won’t let him near you.”
“What are you talking about? What do you mean they can’t find him? What happened to him? Is he ok?” Panic was coursing through her now, and she could hear the machine monitoring her heart beeping more rapidly. “What do you mean? He didn’t do anything to me.” Ella felt the fog trying to take her brain over again.
“We know he hurt you, Ella. Porter told us what happened,” Megan said softly.
Megan and her mother exchanged worried looks.
“What is going on?” Ella demanded, trying to sound authoritative, but failing when her voice came out at a whisper still.
“Ella might still be dealing with some confusion, it is totally normal. Try not to add to her confusion by overwhelming her,” the doctor said to her mother and sister. “Ella, do you mind if I ask you some questions?” Ella shook her head.
“Do you know how old you are?” Ella raised an eyebrow at the doctor and thought he was asking her pretty stupid questions.
Her mother took in a sharp breath and held it.
“Good, now what month is it?”
“March.” This time Megan reacted, bringing a hand over her mouth to stifle a shocked cry. Ella’s eyes fluttered between the doctor, her mother and her sister. Something was wrong. “What is it?” Ella looked to the doctor for answers and he smiled at her reassuringly.
“Ella, what is the last thing you remember? Tell us what you did yesterday.” Ella blinked at him. It was a simple question, but she found that the answer was buried by heavy muck in her mind. She was going to have to dig and wade through mental mud to dig up the memory he was asking for. She closed her eyes and tried to bring up the events of the day before. She thought hard and long, and finally images came to her mind. Megan was there, and they were walking past stores and they were outside.
“Megan and I went shopping downtown. We had lunch at Rockbottom Brewery,” Ella looked over at her sister.
“Very good, Ella. Why don’t you get some rest now?”
“Is Daddy outside?” She asked.
“I’ll send him in,” Megan said, sounding sad. Ella watched Megan leave the room then her head fell to the side again, feeling heavy and droopy.
“Mom?” Ella asked softly.
“Yes, Baby?” Her mother answered as she brushed her hair out of her face.
“Who is Porter?”