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FATHER JERKED THE CAR to the side of the road and stopped. "Are you okay, Evvy?" he asked, turning in his seat to look at me.
I pitched my head back, gasping for air between coughs. Breathe! a voice inside me screamed. I dropped the Loon Lake brochure. A blast of heavy, moist air shot up from my lungs and exploded into the handkerchief I'd grabbed and pressed against my lips.
But I could breathe again. "I'm okay, Father," I said, though my voice crackled as if it had just been hatched and never used before. "Really I am."
He sank back down into his seat and grabbed the steering wheel. "Ya got Francy?" he asked, glancing at me in the rearview mirror, worry in his eyes.
I lifted my stuffed bear to show him. Thirteen was too old to be holding on to a teddy bear--at least, that's what Mother thought. I was glad Father didn't feel that way.
"Then get some rest, Puddlejump," Father said, using the nickname he'd given me when I was a little girl. "And don't worry, we'll be there soon." As if that could make me feel any better.
He put the car in gear, and the two of us were off again, driving to Loon Lake--or Loony Lake, as my twin brother, Abe, had already renamed it--a sanatorium where sick and contagious people like me went to get better. At least, that was the hope.
When I knew Father wasn't looking, I opened my hand. The damp handkerchief unfolded just enough so I could see the streaks of blood across it. It wasn't the first time I'd coughed up blood. But I'd never told anybody, not even Abe. I was too afraid. Did this blood mean I was going to die?
Copyright © 2012 by Marsha Hayles