Chapter 26 - Strong

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TRISTAN

I'm grateful for whatever medicine is in the little bag dripping into my arm. Even though the fracture in my chest bone is bigger than the one in my head, I thought that my head was going to explode from the pain. At least I can think straight and breathe normally again.

The door of my hospital room opens, and my dad comes inside in his wheelchair. He looks very worried of course, but I try to give him a smile.

"Hey Dad,"

"Will you stop scaring us like this?" he says in a teasing tone, but his worried expression doesn't change.

"I'm sorry. Well, at least I can move this time," I say, lifting my arms and moving my feet.

"What happened?" he says, holding my hand.

"A caretaker told me that Patty, one of our elephants, had an injury in her back leg. There is this tree trunk in the exhibit that all the other elephants have splintered with their tusks. I suspected that it might be the cause of the wound. I asked him to bring her to the back to check on her. She has a little calf that she is very protective of, so they were brought together. I went in with Maddie to teach her how to treat these wounds. She got suddenly so pale and nauseous. I sent her to lay down in my office and went back to work. I could see a splinter in Patty's wound and managed to get it out. She was already behaving a bit odd. I went back to my kit to get something to clean the wound and the little calf followed me. He is too curious and kept trying to grab my cleaning solution with his trunk. She must have seen us too close and kicked me. Dad, I was lucky. She did it with the injured leg and the space wasn't large enough for her to use all her strength. At the most, it was a push. I felt the searing pain in my chest at the contact. Then I bounced against the wall behind me. That is the last I remember before waking up here,"

"Why didn't you call another caretaker to assist you?"

"I should have. It was a very dumb mistake from my part. I guess that I was so concerned about Maddie that I wasn't thinking straight,"

"What is going on with her?" he says, a little crease forming on his forehead.

I suddenly feel a bit of panic. I shouldn't be the one saying these things to Dad.

"I think is better if I wait until Oliver is here. Where is he?"

"Having a talk with Harper. He got very upset at Maddie and treated her harshly because she had to leave you alone. Oliver is still not over the accident that you guys had. To this day, he still thinks that it was his fault. I guess that he saw himself reflected in Maddie and he freaked out,"

"It wasn't his fault. I was as drunk and high as he was on that night," I say and Dad winces at my words. "If I would have been the one climbing before him, I would have probably lost my grip as well. I'm clumsy by nature and I was still quite chubby back then. I would have caused more damage than him,"

"Well, that event is luckily in the past," he says with a deep sigh.

"Dad, can I ask you something?" I say in a serious tone.

"Sure," he says, squeezing my hand softly in reassurance.

"Have you ever doubted if adopting us was the right decision?"

"Never. I mean, I had doubts on whether I knew what I was doing, but never about adopting you two. When you two turned thirteen, that was the summer of hell. You two had big mouths and challenged us on everything. I kept wondering where I went wrong, but I never stopped loving you,"

"I can't apologize enough for that, and well, we learned our lesson the hard way. I guess it was teenage hormones mixed with a quest for independence. Dad, why did you adopt me? Oliver was an obvious choice as the son of your late wife, but why me?"

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