Lost and FoundBy: Lexi Blake
Sixteen years before
Becca stared through the window of the hospital room at the woman who’d been her rock all of her life and couldn’t quite get her brain to comprehend what was happening. “I don’t understand.”
Her father’s hands were shaking slightly as he put them on her shoulders. “I’m sure you understand far better than anyone else your age could. Sweetie, your mom is sick. Have you noticed how she’s been forgetting things? Right before you went to camp there was that day when she couldn’t find her keys. She was panicked, remember? You found them in the freezer. Disturbance in cognitive ability is one of the signs of the disease your mom has.”
Her mom had laughed it off. She’d also laughed off the incident when she’d completely forgotten where the library was. She’d winked Becca’s way and said she needed more caffeine.
Now that she looked back, she could see a hundred small signs.
She hadn’t read anything about degenerative mental diseases. She’d spent her summer studying emerging viruses with students five years older than she was. Most of them completely ignored her. Some of the girls were nice though. None of them could really be considered friends.
She wanted her mother’s arms around her. How could this be happening? Tears threatened.
Her father looked down at her and he stopped. “Becca, I’m sorry. I’m not handling this well.” He seemed to get choked up for a moment. “I…I don’t know if I should be honest with you or protect you for as long as I can.”
At least he was feeling something. “Is that why you didn’t tell me?”
A woman with dark hair walked up, her eyes wide. Melissa. She’d been with the department for as long as Becca could remember. Melissa babysat when her parents would go out on dates. Her mom would get all dressed up and she would be smiling and happy and her father would promise he wouldn’t even look at his phone. Melissa would watch Disney movies with her and tell her to not do her homework for five freaking minutes.
“You told her here?” Melissa hissed the question. “We talked about this, Leland.”
Her father flushed and moved them toward the on-call room. “She came on her own. I didn’t expect her home until tomorrow. She was supposed to go to her grandmother’s for the night but she showed up here.”
“I took the subway.” She hadn’t wanted to go to her grandmother’s. She’d been away all summer and she’d wanted to see her mom. It had been easy to change her flight to an earlier one because she’d had cash and a sob story and sounded far older than her years. She’d discovered as long as she talked the talk, most people were ready to believe she was at least sixteen. So much of life, she’d learned, was about walking in like she owned the place.
Her mother had taught her that. Her college professor momma had told her nothing could hold her back.
If you get to the end of the road, my love, build a new one. It will be hard and many people will try to block you, but you build it so the women who come after you have an easier time. I built part of that road and it will be your time to add to it soon. If we all do it, if we’re brave enough, we can build one to take us all the way home.
How could she be in a hospital bed?
Melissa frowned at her dad. “Still, you don’t tell her like that.” She looked back to Becca. “First off, what you did was insanely dangerous. I know you’re crazy smart for your age, but you can’t do that. Anything could have happened to you.”
It seemed like something horrible had happened and it had nothing to do with the fact that she’d managed to navigate the public transit system. It was easy. There was a map and everything. All she’d had to do was buy a ticket and she’d gotten home. When she’d realized no one was there, she’d walked to the hospital her dad worked at. It was only four blocks away and after having spent an entire summer locked in a classroom, it had felt good to be in the sunshine for a while.
Now she wished she was still outside, still in that moment before she realized how everything was crashing around her.
Her father had practically gone white. “God, I hadn’t even thought about that.”