I've been working on Autumn Leaves for a long time now and am re-starting work on it starting this week and through the summer until I finish my manuscript (at least a first draft). I'm posting one chapter here, Chapter 14 called "Morphine", which is smack dab in the middle of the story, but I feel like you can get enough background information to get the point of where I'm going with this from the excerpt. I don't quite know what background information to give without giving away the entire first half of the story besides saying it's about a senior in high school named Autumn Sumners (few side notes: Jenkins is the butler and Autumn's "nanny" throughout her childhood, the Sumners are a wealthy family that is well known within their small town, her dad has been away on various unexplained business trips since she was young, and she's struggling with blaming her mother for what happened to her when she was eight). Anyways, here it is. If anyone who reads this has any questions, feel free to ask me. Here is Chapter 14: Morphine.
Everything is cold and my breathing is uneven. I know it's coming, I just know it. Then, I feel his hand run up my thigh before he violently rips my shirt to gain access to my underwear. I look above me and see a flickering streetlamp. "Just stay lit, I keep telling myself. "If you stay lit, maybe someone will find me." But the light is unforgiving. The flickering quickly turns to a dim shadow of a light.
"Agh!" My eyes flew open at the sudden burst of pain. My vision may have been blurry, but I knew something was wrong with this picture. Why was everything so white? I attempted to sit up, only to find that much more painful than reclining. Where was I? Lifting my arms gingerly, I rubbed my eyes and took a second look around. Oh, shit.
"Thank goodness you're awake!" a distant female voice yelled at me. "You have no idea how lucky you have been. We were afraid we were going to lose you a couple times."
I didn't know who the hell this lady was or what she was doing in my room, but by the looks of her outfit, I guessed she was a nurse. I had landed myself in the hospital.
"I'm so sorry, how rude of me, I haven't introduced myself! My name is Jacqueline and don't be afraid to ask for anything. I'm here to make sure you make a speedy recovery," she said, her voice doing nothing to ease the ache that seemed to cover my entire body.
She looked awfully happy to see me lying here helplessly. I stared back at her in confusion. Her large smile turned to a look of genuine concern.
"You don't remember what happened, do you?" she said.
What? WHAT?! Had I been in some horrible accident? Oh God, I was probably missing a leg or something!
"What do you mean? Remember what? What happened to me?!" I panicked.
"Whoa, easy there. Don't go over exerting yourself. You'll rip out your stitches with that kind of flailing."
"Stitches?!" I screamed.
"Well, what did you expect the doctors to cover your gunshot wounds with, a Band-Aid?" she laughed at her cleverness, but seemed to miss the look of grave concern on my face.
"Wait a minute, you mean that wasn't all a dream? The school shooting was real?"
"Yes I'm afraid it was," she said with sincerity. "But you were the little hero who saved everyone's lives, especially the sweet Stacy Robyn. You've been all over the TV and in every newspaper from New York City to San Francisco. Everyone wants a piece of you, and it's taken every bit of my strength to keep those pariahs out of her the past week."
"I've been out a week?!" I screamed again, flailing against her orders even though it caused me much pain.
Jacqueline looked unsure of what her next move should be, but she definitely chose the right one and said, "Erm, maybe now would be a good time to up your morphine."
I was in so much pain that I could feel my muscles squeezing the life out of me. My head felt like it was going to explode and it hurt horribly for me to breathe. And there was something wrong with my right shoulder; it felt as though it weighed twenty pounds.
"I'm really sorry. I've never been too good at this whole 'nursing' thing," Jacqueline apologized.
No shit Sherlock.
"I've been working on my bedside manner and my boss says it still needs some work. But I promise you that by the time you get out of here, I won't be so horrible."
She walked over to a machine I was hooked up to and started pressing it's "up" arrow. Suddenly, great warmth spread throughout my body, numbing me with that same afterglow sensation of a great orgasm.
"Thank you," I whispered.
She smiled and stroked my hair reassuringly. It was an odd sensation. I wasn't complaining though; I could use a bit of motherly affection at a time like this.
"Where's my mother?" I asked in a voice so raspy I could swear it wasn't my own.
Never before did I want her beside me so badly. I was hoping Jacqueline would tell me she was right outside the door, waiting to run in and hug me, but I knew that wouldn't happen.
"You just missed her, sweetie," Jacqueline said. "She was here for the first four days, but she said she had to go home to take care of some business. She insisted that we call her the moment you woke up. She'll probably be calling you in a little bit."
My mother wanted them to call? I could barely believe the worlds coming out of her mouth.
"I, uh, think I'll just leave you alone for a while dear."
I had forgotten that Jacqueline was still standing beside me.
"What? Oh, yeah, whatever."
"Just page me if you need anything, okay?" she offered, leaving my hospital room and me with my thoughts.
I thought, "Okay Autumn, deep breaths. You're okay...you're okay..."
A few hours later, I awoke from my morphine-induced sleep. Still though, I couldn't understand how I got here. There was the shooting. I shot Zack. Then he shot...me. Oh God. I leaned over to my bed-side table and looked at the doctor's report of my injuries. Skimming the document, I could barely make heads or tails of the complex words or odd abbreviations. As I reached the third page, my eyes caught sight of a paragraph: "Injury to the right shoulder, punctured lung, brain swelling, broken left wrist and hand. First bullet lodged in muscle tissue of shoulder and second lodged in rib cage behind right lung."
The pages slipped from my hands onto the floor. I could remember the gun pointed at me, and then a loud sound and then--
"Miss Sumners? Is it all right for me to enter?" a voice said from behind me.
It was Jenkins, standing awkwardly by my hospital room's door. I was glad to see him; at least it was a familiar face that showed compassion rather than a preppy, obnoxious wind-up doll.
"Hm? Oh yes, Jenkins, come right in," I invited, as I would on any other occasion in our house.
He shifted in as though he was horribly uncomfortable with the entire situation. What was he so frazzled by?
"Is something wrong, Jenkins? You look a little skittish."
"Me? What? Oh nothing, nothing at all. I'm just glad to see that you are alright," he said.
He could barely make eye contact with me and that was a dead giveaway that something was up; his usual look was one that tried to bore itself into your head to find out about your daily happenings. It was no wonder that he became my caregiver when I was a child.
"Miss Sumners, may I ask you something?"
"Of course, Jenkins, what is it?"
"I was wondering why you didn't come to me," he stated carefully.
"Come to you for what, Jenkins? What's going on?"
"The...the incident, when you were eight?" he coaxed.
My heart stopped beating momentarily.
"I, uh, don't quite know what you are talking about, Jenkins. Now, if you don't mind, I'm very tired and in a lot of pain right now so if you could just--"
"--the rape. That's the 'incident' I was speaking of," he interjected.
Nope, there was no fucking was in hell I was going to discuss this with him, right here, right now. Jenkins had no right to ask me all these personal questions; my mother would kill him--or worse, fire him--if she ever heard a breath of what he was inquiring.
"Ra...rape? I, ehem, don't understand."
Without another word, Jenkins took the remote from my bed-side table and handed it to me, as though I was expected to do something.
"It's on every channel, Miss Sumners. They are calling you the bravest girl in Michigan: from Pain to Power. They say you are a true hero. While I also think that is true, after the incident at school, students revealed to reporters the content of the exchange between yourself and Mr. Crusto. Is it true what they are saying? Is it true you were attacked?
Jenkins sighed and turned toward the door to leave, "Remember, Miss Sumners: you cannot be helped if you will not accept it. The hospital is suggesting therapy for victims of rape for you. Mrs. Sumners says it will not be necessary because said incident never occurred. I may feel differently, but unless you say it happened and want to proceed with the hospital's plans, I can do nothing."
I stared at him blankly, hoping he wouldn't bore his eyes into me as he did so frequently. I was surprised he had bothered to bring my mother into this issue, or that he had the balls to stand up to her.
"I don't know what you are talking about, Jenkins. Now if you would please leave."
Jenkins bowed deeply and exited, but not before taking one final concerning glance at me.
"If you change your mind, I will be leaving the business card of the therapist in the secret cabinet on the ground floor of your home. Remember? It's the one the maids used to stuff with candy for you during the holidays," he smiled in fond memory. "She's a good therapist, world-renowned. Anytime you need her, anytime at all, call her. I have instructed her office to make sure that if you are to call that she is to see you immediately."
"That will not be necessary, Jenkins, but thank you for the thought."
And with that, Jenkins left my hospital room.
My mother called me an hour later; I had briefly wondered why she wasn't here sitting next to me, even just for the good image of a caring mother-figure.
"Autumn, darling, is that you? I am so relieved you are alright! The doctors had assured me you made it alright out of that latest surgery."
I listened closely and realized that the surrounding noises sounded familiar.
"Are you at Fusion salon?"
My mother sighed one of her long dramatic sighs, "Darling, you know I always get my French manicure on Saturdays at 10 o'clock at Didi's. I will be by later tonight, Autumn darling, but I'm sorry, I can't talk for long right now. I have a few more things to take care of before you can come home."
"What kind of 'things,' mother?" I questioned. What, was she installing an escalator up to my bedroom so I didn't have to strain my arm on the railing?
"Well, I want to make sure your side of the story is heard, and that the publicity is appropriate for the situation. A few stunning, though tasteful, photo shoots and television interviews should do the trick. Now, your father never hired a publicist for you since he doesn't see the need for one at your age, but I feel that due to the circumstances, I should step into that role for you. We need to make sure that we continue to play up this 'hero' status the media is promoting, which I'm sure you are already well aware of."
I had no idea what the fuck mother was going on about and she seemed to think we were on the same wavelength. I was afraid of this as soon as soon as I woke up: damage control. Mother wanted to make sure that I retracted everything Zack had said about me and, more importantly I think, her. She didn't even need to say it; I knew mother saw this as an opportunity to bring the Sumners family back into the public sphere. Her daughter, shot while trying to save a fellow classmate? It was too good an offer to refuse.
"Yes, I did here something about that, but I haven't exactly been awake long enough to research my public image," I tried to hold in the urge to inject more sarcasm into the conversation. "When will you be coming by?"
"Oh! I need to go, Diane Sawyer is on the other line, but I promise I'll stop by later."
Click. She hung up.