Part 3

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“You need to eat and drink something,” Della’s mother said and handed her a cup with steam billowing above the rim. 

Della had been out of the hospital for a day. Her head pounded like a mofo, her body hurt like the worse case of flu she’d ever had. And mentally she was slipping. Her assessment no longer hinged on the fact that she saw Chan.  It hinged on the fact that she was this close to believing him. She was turning into a vampire. And, according to Chan, the first two days were a stroll down Easy Street in flip-flops compared to what the next two would be. 

She pulled the cup of hot tea to her lips, pretended to drink, hoping to appease her mom. The nurse, and then Chan, had told her that eating or drinking anything would make things worse. Oh, Della hadn’t taken them at their word. Nope. She had to go prove it. 

She’d never heard of anyone puking up a vital organ, but odds were she was missing a lung right now. Thank God, she had two.

 “Lee called again,” her mom said, straightening Della’s covers.

“Is he coming over?” Della managed to ask, torn between wanting to see him, and not wanting him to see her like this. Upchucking a lung didn’t leave one looking their best.

“I told him he could, but he said his mom was worried you might be infectious.”

“She never liked me.” Della closed her eyes.

“Why would you say that?” Her mom stood up.

Because I’m half-white.“I don’t know,” Della lied and opened her eyes. “Because I’m too ballsy.”

Her mom squeezed Della’s hand. “You are too ballsy. Too independent. Too stubborn. A lot like your dad. But I love him, too.” She brushed Della’s bangs from her brow. 

When her mom left, Chan stepped out of the closet. He edged up against the bed.  “You’re about to hit Phase Three.”

“How do you know?” she asked and oh, damn but every nerve ending in her body seemed to scream. If this was Phase Three, she didn’t like it one damn bit!

“Your heart rate is increasing,” he said. 

Della pushed her head back into the pillow and muttered some ugly words.

 “Listen to me, Della. This is very important. When your parents come in here, you have to act normal. Whatever happens, we can’t let them take you back to the hospital.”

“Why not?” she asked and moaned.

“There’s too much blood there. You might lose it. Even the smell of blood might send you over the edge. The first feeds have to be controlled feeds.”

Another pain wracked her body and she bit her lip to keep from screaming. “Can I die from this?” She bunched up a fistful of blanket and squeezed. She hated being scared. Hated it because it was a sign of weakness.

His black eyes met hers. “Yeah.”

Another sharp pain exploded in her head. “Am I going to die?” Her thoughts shot to Lee.  She wanted him to be here to hold her. If she died, she wanted to see him one last time. Then her thoughts shot to her little sister, Joy. Della had sworn to be there for her, to make sure no one ever bullied Joy, like they had her. For some crazy reason, Della knew her sister wasn’t as strong as she was.

“No, you’re not going to die,” Chan said, but Della saw the doubt in his eyes. “You’re too hardheaded. Hardheaded Della can’t die. You hear me? You can’t die, Della. You’re going to be strong.”

*  *  *

Two days later, Della slowly drifted awake. She’d slept fitfully for most of the past forty-eight hours. She recalled sitting up and pretending to eat when her parents came in, so she wouldn’t get stuck going back to the hospital. And she remembered talking to Chan a few times. But she’d been so feverish and out of it that her memory was still hazy. She opened her eyes and quickly slapped her hand over them to block the sun spilling through her window. “Stop that,” she seethed.

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