Chapter 17

17-1

We hear Alina’s voice over a black screen: “Tracey. Tracey, wake up.” Slowly, Tracey’s eyes open, and she establishes consciousness as she peers around the hospital room. Alina stands beside the bed. “I’m here, baby,” says Alina. Tracey blinks slowly and needs an extra moment to process everything. Then, Alina again: “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Tracey, increasingly more alert, has nothing to say. “Forgive me, Tracey. Darling. Please. I’m so sorry.” Then a nod from Tracey. All is forgiven as she extends her hand to Alina, who leans over to kiss her protege on the forehead. “Thank you,” Alina whispers. “Thank you.”

17-2

A doctor slowly removes the bandage from Tracey’s forehead as she sits upright in bed. Alina stands on the opposite side, offering encouraging words: “You’re doing great. Being so brave.” There’s a knock at the door. It’s Ward. The doctor smiles and waves him in. Tracey stares quietly at him, and Alina whispers: “Keep your spine about you. He’s a pushover.” Ward can’t see Alina, even though he positions himself next to her. He hovers awkwardly, silently, watching the bandage removal process. “Swelling looks minimal,” the doctor says. “We’ll have you out of here in a couple hours.” He scribbles some notes on a clipboard, smiles, and exits, leaving the two—or three, rather—alone. Alina again: “Where’s Helene? Ask him where Helene is.” Tracey opens her mouth to abide, but Ward cuts her off: “Hi Sadey. How are you feeling?” Tracey’s mouth stays open, though she’s speechless. “It’s on your tax papers. And thank god. I mean, how else could I have contacted your parents to tell them you were here?” // “You did not.” // “I did. And I Googled you…quite the history! But don’t worry, your parents won’t be coming. Mom said they hope you’re well, though it didn’t sound too sincere.” Alina’s turn: “What’s all this? Who’s Sadey…?” Ward continues: “Helene broke her hip last night. They operated, and she’s upstairs.” This news worries Alina more than it does Tracey. “Oh my god,” Alina says to Tracey. “We have to go see her.” Then Tracey, to Ward: “Can we go see her?” Ward nods: “She would like that.” Ward notices that Tracey keeps looking to some non-thing, to where we know Alina resides. He peeks over to that same space, and we see in his face that he’s piecing together something. “Let’s all go upstairs,” he says, turning his back on the women as they share a concerned look.

17-3

Tracey and Ward now stand on either side of Helene. Alina is at the foot of the hospital bed, watching over. “So, they’ll keep me here a while,” Helene is saying. “Chemotherapy and physical therapy, hand in hand. What a way to spend my final days.” Alina starts sobbing, though it’s so melodramatic that it’s kind of humorous. She excuses herself to the corner; Tracey stares in that direction, which also catches Ward’s attention. “But, on to more optimistic topics,” Helene says. “How’s your head, Tracey dear?” // “Fine. I got a few stitches. Behind my hair. I think there are 8 in all.” A pause. “I’m going home today. But I can stay here with you and—” Ward cuts Tracey off: “I’ll stay with her. You focus on your next deadline.” “I’m her girlfriend,” Tracey replies sternly. “I’ll stay. I can work from here.” “First of all,” Helene starts. “Nobody here is anybody’s girlfriend. And second of all, everyone here is taking a couple weeks off work. Get your lives in order. I’ll do the same, as best I can from this sterile prison. Tracey, I’m so relieved you’re ok. But don’t do something so childish like that again.” // “But I didn’t…” “Don’t bother,” Alina says from the corner. “Just tell her you’ll be better from now on.” Tracey repeats the phrase, almost robotically. “I’ll be better from now on.” // “Good,” Helene says.

17-4

Ward escorts Tracey out of the hospital. Alina tags along, a few paces behind. “Did he call us a cab?” Alina asks. “He’s always a gentleman to me and Helene. Ask him if he called a cab.” Tracey turns to Ward: “Did you call us a cab?” “I think you’ll manage on your own just fine,” he says as he sees her out the front revolving door. Then he ends with business talk: “I’ll reach out to schedule the next publisher meeting. And please give Helene and me some space for the next couple weeks. I mean that.” He doesn’t wait for a reaction; he just marches back into the hospital. “Ward turned into an ass hole,” Alina says as Tracey looks spurned. “Don’t listen to his bullshit. We have to see Helene, though, once she’s home. I need you to take care of her. For me.” // “I will, Alina.” // “I knew I could trust you. I love you for that.” … It’s exactly what Tracey wanted to hear.

17-5

Tracey and Alina hold hands in the back seat of the cab; they make eyes at one another and giggle. We see the cabbie watching the scene from his rearview mirror; he’s confused, and a little put off. After all, he just sees Tracey. Alina slips her hand past Tracey’s waistline; it’s like the scene we saw before, with roles reversed. Tracey invites it, and her face can’t help but express the elation. The cab driver sees her expression in the mirror, then turns around to see what’s happening. We don’t get his perspective, but we know that he finds this inappropriate and lewd. “Get out!” he screams as he pulls over to the side of the overpass. “Get out of my car, now!” // “What the hell?! We’re on the overpass, dude!” // “Do you understand consequences of choices?” he yells. “OUT!!! NOW!!!” Tracey hurriedly climbs out the back right seat, with Alina behind her. Cars blare their horns. “We really should stop taking cabs together,” Alina jokes. Tracey has a mildly deranged smile. Cars honk from behind, and she turns to them, smiling still, waving her middle finger. Both women laugh hysterically.

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