Patel is the first person to come in the next morning. He pulls the gauze away with careful, precise fingers, showing me the tender, pink skin.
"It may take weeks to heal," he says, dabbing at it with a disinfectant wipe, "If the vaccine had been given when the wound was fresh, it might not have gotten this bad. Yet, it wasn't, and this is the result. Jaelyn has been bitten several times while I've known her, and this has never happened. You're lucky the virus hadn't altered your genes yet."
He left me alone with one instruction: wait.
So, I had no choice but to stay in bed, watching Lexi message Riley back at home.
"She's worried about you," she says, flicking the screen with her finger, "Wants to know if you're dead."
"What are you going to tell her?" I ask, typing up the message about the vaccine to the other compounds.
"That you are. I'll say it just like this, 'can't talk right now. Too busy digging his grave. Don't wait on me for dinner. I may never come home again. Can't live without him.' Should I put a crying face, or is that too much?"
When I look up from my screen she's staring at me, a half smile teasing her cheek. I scowl at her, but her face doesn't soften. That unmistakable spark is back in her eyes, letting me know there's no stopping her. Apparently my brush with death couldn't even dampen her mean spirit.
"Don't tease her," I mumble, shaking my head as I go back to typing.
"Oh, she'll get over it. I already sent it."
She laughs at her own prank, scrolling through more messages.
Time in the hospital room seems to crawl by. Jay and Isaac don't come back, but I watch for them when shadows pass by in the hallway.
When someone knocks on the door, I scoot up excitedly, ready to hear what Patel says about the vaccine being ready for the rest of the compound. Instead, Dad pokes his head in the door, carrying Elliot in one arm.
Lexi squeals, tossing her tablet down on the bed and running over to steal the baby from him. Dad hands him over, giving her a small smile as he sits down beside the bed.
His beard has grown in, revealing more than a sprinkle of gray hair. His eyes have bags under them, and he sits slouched, shoulders drooping.
"May I?" I call over to Lexi, holding my arms out for Elliot. She groans, handing him over and taking a seat beside Dad.
"I was worried sick," he admits, watching with cautious, motherly eyes as I cradle the sleeping Elliot.
"I sent word to let you know I was fine," I whisper.
"Yes, but that was after your mother was dead and right before you almost died. I came to see you but those other two kids wouldn't let me in."
I smile. 'Those two other kids' must be Jay and Isaac.
"I'm sorry, Dad. Everything's fine, now. I'll be home to help with Elliot soon."
"I've started calling him Leo," Dad says, "Like a brave little lion."
Grazing my fingers against Elliot's warm cheek comforts me. His bright blue eyes open, gazing unblinking up at me.
"Hi, Leo," I coo, and he smiles a tiny baby smile.
Hours pass in silence, and I listen to the way he breathes, watch the way he blinks in slow motion. His hair is growing in, thick and brown. Just like Mom's. If it wasn't for his nose, he would be a mirror image of her.
YOU ARE READING
Selected (Book 2 of the Immune Series)Science Fiction
"As far back as I can remember, I've been surrounded by water. The salt in the air even now makes it hard to breath, forcing me to squint. Sand clings to every inch of me, caking my pants and shoes. The wind from the ocean picks my hair up, sending...