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The doctor-Jon Wooten, it said on his nametag-dropped the flashlight into his white-coat pocket and put his warm hands on the sides of my face. I tried not to shiver.
"So, you hit your head on impact?" he said, nodding at my throbbing forehead.
"No." I hoped what I'd learned in my drama classes would kick in as I faked a smile. "The airbag hit me. Those things are dangerous!"
"It got you right here."
He brushed his fingers along my cheek, and I winced.
"We'll clean that up and get you some ice for the swelling," he said. "It's an abrasion-it won't leave a scar."
I was so not worried about a mark on my face. What I was worried about was getting out of here before- "All right, we're going to have you change into a gown so I can examine you."
"I'll have a nurse help you." He nodded at my father, who was standing in the corner of the curtained cubicle where he'd been asked to stay. "She's definitely had a concussion. I may want a CT scan to rule out internal injuries, but let's see if there's anything else going on first."
He motioned for Dad to follow him and then swept out.
Dad nodded, but he came to me and leaned over the table. His face was gray, his pale blue eyes wet around the edges. In the harsh hospital light, I saw lines etched in his face that weren't there when I left the house that night, as if he'd just gotten old that very minute. He had to be even skinnier now too, and the thinning place on top of his head made him seem somehow fragile. My father never showed much emotion except when he had to put a young dog to sleep. The way he was looking at me, I could have been a terminal puppy.
He was a veterinarian, but a doctor's a doctor. He couldn't be missing the fact that my heart was slamming at my chest and taking my breath away. "Bryn, this is serious," he said. "Don't downplay it-tell them everything, you hear?"
His Virginia-soft accent didn't usually affect me that much. Probably because he didn't actually talk to me that much. But right now it was doing me in. I swallowed back the sob that threatened to burst from my chest. At least he wasn't asking me what I'd been doing in a car alone with Preston.
"Brynnie?" he said.
"Okay," I said. "But I'm really not hurt."
Except for the pain in my stomach and the ache in my arm and the throbbing in my head, that was the truth.
As soon as he disappeared through the curtain, panic grabbed at my insides and climbed all the way up my throat and gagged me. I plastered my hand over my mouth and prayed I wouldn't throw up. Then I prayed that Dr. Wooten would learn about a sudden outbreak of the plague in Virginia Beach and forget about me, and Dad and I could go home and pretend to forget this whole thing happened.
But there was as much a chance of that as there was that once I was clad in a flimsy gown, that doctor wasn't going to see what was under it. I wasn't so worried about tonight's injuries. Those bruises wouldn't rise to the surface until at least tomorrow.
It was Wednesday's evidence I was worried about. I couldn't let him see that. Not with Dad standing there. At least my mother wasn't here. At least there was that.
A nurse in turquoise scrubs and a messy ponytail slipped in through the curtain, a gown and a sheet over her arm. She looked at me like I was one of Dad's patients, recently brought in from a storm drain.
"Hey, girlfriend," she said. "I'm Cindi. How you doin'?"
"I'd be better if I could just go home," I said. "I bet you have people way sicker than me to take care of."
"Nope. You lucked out tonight."
She put her hand on my shoulder, and I tried not to cringe.
"I'm going to need you to take everything off and put on this precious gown." She gave me a winky smile. "It's not a good look for anybody, but it's all we've got."
If she was trying to get me to relax, it wasn't working. My mouth dried up, and I could feel my hands oozing sweat.
"Once you get that on you can lie back and I'll cover you with the sheet." She tilted her head at me. "Are you cold?"
I was, even in my pink sweater, even though it was June and everybody else at the party had been in tank tops. It was pointless to pretend I wasn't shivering now. I could almost feel my lips turning blue.
"I'm going to go get you a blanket," she said. "If you even start to feel dizzy, lie down and I'll help you get undressed when I come back."
When she left I fought back more panic. Jesus, what do I do?
I wasn't swearing. I was really asking Jesus, just like I'd been doing for the last three months. I hadn't gotten any answers. I would have given up a leading role for one right now-because if there was any way out of this beyond a miracle, I wasn't seeing it.
I pulled the thread-thin blue gown to my face and breathed in the hospital smell and begged Jesus to make me disappear. Outside the cubicle, sneakers squealed past on the linoleum. I could either do it now or do it ten minutes from now or two hours from now. But they were going to make me do it, and the longer I put it off, the more suspicious they were all going to be.
I pushed the gown from my face. Okay-do it fast-like it's no big deal. Make up a story about the bruises. Promise to be more careful with my bird-boned, five-foot-one self in the future.
I couldn't come up with anything else.
I pulled off the sweater, the one Preston said back in the beginning made me look delicious, and yanked the deeper shade of pink long-sleeved tee over my head. The pain seared through me like I was being sliced with a bread knife, but I was now beyond crying. Fear steals your tears-I'd learned that. Still, I didn't dare look at myself as I fed my arms gingerly through the holes in the gown.
Tying the thing in the back was almost not worth the agony involved, but it might keep the doctor from seeing that part. Not that he would need to. The black-and-purple handprint around my bicep told enough of a story by itself. I was going to have to think of a better one, and tell it with a sheepish smile. Assure them it would never happen again.
Please, Jesus-don't let it ever happen again.
Things were tangling in my head and I couldn't allow it. I put all my focus on wriggling out of the rest of my clothes and tucking the gown tightly around my legs and draping my hair over my shoulders. Maybe they'd believe some lame story because I was blonde. I was about to pull the sheet up to my neck when Nurse Cindi slid the curtains apart, already talking.
"Are we set?" she said.
Her lips stopped moving in mid-word. Even while I was retreating behind the sheet I caught the flicker that went through her eyes. It was gone almost before it was there, a trick they must teach in nursing school. But it had lingered long enough for me to know she knew.
Any story I came up with was going to be perfectly useless. I buried my face in my knees.
"I'll be right back," she practically whispered. "No worries, girlfriend. We'll take care of this."
No. Jesus, please don't let them "take care of it." You take care of it. Make it go away.
He didn't. Instead, the curtain parted again and I groped for my smile and the strands of my story. Everything on Dr. Wooten's face came to a suspicious point. Nurse Cindi wasn't even trying to hide the pity on hers.
"Where's my dad?" I said.
"Filling out some paperwork," he said.
I let go of a ragged breath that dragged through my ribs. Good. I didn't want him here for this.
Without a word, Dr. Wooten pulled back the sheet and examined my arms with only his eyes. I could feel him taking in the bruises-some of them pale blue and red, some dark purple, a few a sickening yellowish green. Cindi watched him, watched me, looked at him again. A whole conversation went on while nobody said a word. I had to stop it.
"Those are old bruises," I said.
"I know," he said.
"I got them playing football."
"I'm going to have you lie back for me."
"Seriously. I'm a double linebacker."
"There's no such thing as a double linebacker, Bryn."
Doctor Wooten pressed his hands on my abdomen and that's when I lost it all-my smile, my loser attempt at a story, my hope. The sucker-punch pain in my stomach throbbed worse now than it had when it first happened. I squeezed the sides of the table and cried without making a sound.
"This one is new," he said. "Were you wearing a seatbelt?"
I shook my head and waited for the lecture. The doctor only frowned and pulled the sheet back up to my chest. Nurse Cindi smoothed and tucked and bit at her lip.
He rolled a stool close and sat looking at me long and hard. I should have seen it before: he had eyes you didn't lie to, even if you thought your life depended on it.
"Let's talk about how this happened," he said, "without the football scenario."
He put his hands on my neck and felt around, his eyes never leaving mine alone. He wouldn't find anything there. It never happened in a place I couldn't keep covered up. I didn't own any turtlenecks.
It was a random thought to have at that moment, but my mind was trying to leave my body. This doctor with the bald head and the intense brows and the eyes that saw everything must have seen that too, because he said, "Who did this to you, Bryn?"
It was an accident," I said. My voice was so thin I could hardly hear it.
"Was it an accident every time?" "He didn't plan it. He just got mad and it happened."
"And he hit you in the stomach."
I started to shake my head, but he went on. "You have a large hematoma that's rising even as we're looking at it. Probably a broken blood vessel in your abdominal wall, which could be serious. If you weren't wearing a seatbelt-"
"Maybe I was-"
"Bryn. Who did this?"
His voice had gone soft around the edges. I closed my eyes and felt the tears
slither into my ears.
"I'm sorry this has happened to you," he said. "We don't want it to happen again, so you need to tell us who's been hurting you."
"I can't." I opened my eyes and let them plead for me. "I'll make it stop, I promise."
"If you could have stopped it you would have." His voice got firmer. "This is not your fault, Bryn."
"Yes, it is. Please-I'll take care of it."
He folded his arms and looked at me so sadly I thought for a minute he was going to let me.
"Your dad's Doctor Christopher," he said.
"He's a vet," I said.
"Does he have his own practice?"
"It's next door to our house." I didn't know where we were going with this, but at least it was away from my beat-up body.
"Is he under a lot of stress?"
"My dad?" I would have laughed if I hadn't been crying. My father was more laid back than Winnie the Pooh.
"Does your mom live with you?"
"Yes, sir, but she's away on a trip." Thank goodness.
"How long has she been gone?"
"Two weeks. She won't be back 'til the end of July."
I closed my eyes again. Suddenly I was so tired I could have faded away-if he hadn't said what he said next.
"I don't have a choice, Bryn. You're only fifteen. I have to report this."
My eyes sprang open.
"You're the victim of assault."
I tried to sit up, but I flopped back like a helpless fish. "He didn't assault me." I said. "He just-"
He just what? Was I going to tell them his eyes had gone wild and the veins in his neck bulged like purple cords and I knew he couldn't stop himself? That I knew it was going to be worse than last time because it always was?
Dr. Wooten stood up. "I'm going to send you down for a CT scan so we can be sure of what's happening with your belly. That will give you some time to think it over." He brushed my hand with his fingertips, like he knew that was the only place on me that didn't hurt. "I want you to know there's nothing to be afraid of, for you or your dad. He can get help-"
In spite of the breath-stealing pain, I sat right up on the table this time.
"My dad?" I said. "You think my dad did this?"
"No matter what you feel you did to deserve it, it's child abuse."
"You don't understand!" I grabbed for his wrist and caught a handful of his coat in my fingers. "My dad would never do this."
"Then who was it, Bryn? Because if you don't tell us, the police are going to assume it was him."
"The police?" I let go of his sleeve and shoved my hands into my hair. And then I let go of the words that were going to change my life forever and ever.
"It wasn't my father," I said. "It was my boyfriend."
I was "Bryn" to the technician who did the CT scan, the woman who came in and took pictures of all my bruises for the hospital records, and of course Cindi, who kept telling me everything was going to be all right even though nothing was ever going to be all right again.
But to my father I was "Brynnie." He kept saying it from the minute Cindi brought him in, even when she stayed in my cubicle as if she'd been told to keep an eye on him.
He came straight over to the table, so I just pulled back the sheet. Everybody that worked at that hospital had already looked at my shame. Why shouldn't he?
He whispered "Brynnie" as he studied me. His face was no longer ash-colored. He and I were both blushers, and he was now as red as he'd been pale before. I couldn't tell if it was from anger. I'd never seen my father mad until now.
"Brynnie," he said again. "Preston did this?"
If he'd sounded the tiniest bit like he didn't believe me, I would have said no. But it was more like a statement than a question, as if he didn't doubt my word for a minute. That broke my heart right in half.
"Yes, sir," I said. "I'm sorry-"
"We're pressing charges."
Excerpted from Boyfriends, Burritos & an Ocean of Trouble by Nancy Rue Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Rue. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted March 16, 2011
I origianaly thought it would be really bad. Boy, was I wrong! It sucked me in like a tornado and I couldnt drop it. At times I ran out my nookcolors battery just reading it. I think every girlshould read this wonderfly delightful book.
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Posted January 29, 2011
This is a story of a girl who faces her abuser. It combines her story with a magic book that helps her find her faith in God. I am not Christian myself, but the story was a story of strength and survival that is inspiring. The bible references are done in such a way that they are not overpowering or uncomfortable.
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Posted April 20, 2011
Posted March 25, 2013
The book was amazing. I think that most girls should read this book because once you start reading it you cant put it down!THe book kept me on an edge the whole time. I love books that have a person overcome a life challenge especially one that tests relationships. I love all of nancy Rues books because they are always really decriptive and I have yet to pick up a dry book. My favorite part of the book was watching Byn try to learn how to surf. Bryn connects surfing with lots of things in real life. I liked watching Bryn creates new relationships. The story is about a young girl who is faced with a hard decision. She has to turn her boyfriend in because he has been abusing her. When she turns him in she is sent to her dads house and meets many new people. When he comes and finds her she has to choose to either let her best friend get hurt or tel the truth and loose her best friendWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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Posted July 2, 2011
We read about it almost every day or hear it on the radio or TV. Girl/woman abused by boyfriend/husband. Or it might be boy abused, as well. Many times the abuse has been going on for weeks, months, even years. So why does the victim allow it to continue? Why don't they tell the authorities, their parents, or a good friend? Author Nancy Rue's novel, BOYFRIENDS, BURRITOS AND AN OCEAN OF TROUBLE, deals with the subject of abuse. Through her fictional characters, Bryn and her abusive boyfriend, Preston, the author provides a glimpse into possible reasons people do not report what's happening to them. Preston is popular, good looking, and Bryn thinks she's lucky to be his girlfriend. She keeps quiet about his hitting her, until they are in an auto accident and the truth is revealed. When her father insists on pressing charges against Preston, Bryn learns just how far Preston will go to protect his reputation and his future. Bryn's mother and sister are away. That leaves Bryn and her father, who avoid discussing what they don't want to talk about, to deal with what soon escalates into threats and intimidation unless they drop the charges. Can Grandmother Mim who comes to stay until Bryn's mother returns home and gives Bryn surfing lessons while helping her through the days leading up to the trial and the trial itself, a book called RL (Real Life) that tells Bryn stories about Jeshua, and Shaun, a gorgeous new guy, help Bryn overcome her distrust of boys and put her life back together? The author has written a story that anyone who's been in the same situation as Bryn can relate to. They'll understand her reluctance and fear to tell on the abuser. Perhaps seeing how Bryn deals with the situation will encourage them to act. This novel would make a good supplemental reader for classrooms to let young people know they're not alone and they need to admit the truth to stop the abuse. Also, the book would be a useful resource for school counselors when dealing with their subjects. I recommend this novel for teen readers and their parents, as well. Paperback courtesy of Zondervan and Z Street Team ###Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
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