Checking for pulse…
A hand shoves my shoulder. Someone else is slapping my face.
Bright light floods my vision, bringing with it heat and searing pain.
“Turn out the light!” I demand, trying to shield my eyes.
“We can’t. It’s rather difficult to turn out the sun, you know.”
Checking for pulse…
“Come on Evan, wake your ass up!”
“Hey buddy, you gotta wake up all right? Wake up for me! Wake up!”
“Evan, can you stand up?” Hat asks me, kneeling down to help me up.
I nod, taking her hand and using her as leverage. I climb slowly to my feet and am assailed by claps on the back and shoulders. The Knight is beaming, one foot over the cooling Jabberwock as Minnie’s foot had been on my chest not ten minutes before. I don’t see her body.
The Tweedle brothers, bruised and battered but otherwise no worse for wear, whooped and holler dancing the do si do to invisible music. What remained of the rag tag army congratulate me one by one then make their way back to the circus.
“I don’t get what I did,” I say, genuinely confused.
Pain doubles me over. Another flash blinds me.
Checking for pulse..
“I don’t think he’s going to make it.”
“You okay?” Hat asks.
I nod. “Fine. Are you all right?”
She looks up at me, her good eye shining. I know the look, Eva’s face was just like hers. She smiles at me and turns.
A man, older than me by maybe a year (and a whole helluva lot more handsome) turns around. His eyes go wide, matching her incredulous expression.
She runs into his arms, laughing and crying. He crushes her to him, kissing her.
I coughed, grabbing for air in deep, wheezing gasps.
“Omigod! He’s alive! He’s alive!”
“Evan can you hear me?”
“Evan are you all right?”
“Back off!” An authoritative voice shouts. “I said, back the hell off! Give the guy some room to breathe, will ya?”
An arm attached to the voice reaches out for me asking, “Do you think you can sit up?”
I stared at the arm. It’s stitched together. My hands went to my chest, checking for the wound I know is there.
“Hey, are you okay?”
I kept staring. “H-Hat?” I croaked.
“What? No. My name is Beezy. Do you know where you are?”
My head throbbed. “Eva’s party.”
The arm disappeared, replaced by a girl with concerned amber eyes and painted patchwork skin. “Good,” she sat next to me. “Do you know your name?”
“Evan Jeremiah Richardson.”
“Social security number?”
I gave it to her.
She nodded and stood up, “The ambulance is on its way. I’m gonna need you to stay in that spot, okay? I’ll go get you some water.”
“I’m cold,” I murmured.
“I’ll see if I can get you some blankets.” She glared at the crowd that had gathered around me. “What are you guys staring at? Isn’t it time for you to be getting home?”
They looked at her, mumbling amongst themselves. She put her hands on her hips.
“I said, git!”
Alerted by the lack of music; Mrs. Schaeffer came out of the house, took a look around, and began shooing people off her property.
“Evan?” A trembling voice asked me.
I tilted my head to look behind me. George stared down at me, tears streaming down his cheeks.
“So, what hit me?” I asked.
“I-I think I did,” He said. “I’m so-Jesus Evan, I didn’t mean it!”
He sobbed audibly, crashing to his knees above me. I felt the bruises where his fists had made contact, but they didn’t feel serious enough to cause whatever had happened to me.
“Dude, quit your blubbering. It’s embarrassing.”
“You DIED!” He nearly shrieked.
“Yeah, but I’m alive now. Jeez. I don’t know what happened, all right? But I don’t think it was your fault.”
He snuffled, wiping snot from his nose. It should have been embarrassing to see him like that, but then I remembered why he had hit me in the first place. I set my jaw, anger returning to me in a hot flash.
“So, where’s Rosalind?”
“Who?” He thought for a minute. “Oh, yeah.”
(Cue the hand on the back of the head routine.)
“Look, Evan I-“
“Yeah, no. I don’t know what the hell happened to me to put me on the ground but you’d better set this whole thing straight before I figure how to get up and kick your ass again.”
His face flushed. “I don’t know what happened!”
“I don’t give a damn.” I stopped, about to tell him what I had been through, decided against it. “She got the ring, George.”
He went white. “What?”
“I took the ring by mistake and gave it to her thinking it was my present. She got the ring.”
“Oh, oh no.”
My eyebrows shot up in surprise. “You weren’t going to give it to her, were you?”
“No! I mean, I was-but…”
The amber eyed girl returned, her arms laden with blankets, preventing me from leaping up and strangling my older brother.
“You need to make this right, George.”
(Speak of the damned devil.)
Her eyes swam with tears. She darted a look at George, bent down, kissed the top of my head, and fled.
“Eva!” George wailed, following behind her.
I sighed, closing my eyes.
“Thank you,” Hat says, reaching out for my hand.
I hold it. It’s surprisingly warm for a woman made of burlap and buttons.
“I didn’t do anything,” I protest.
“You put him back together again for me.”
“Evan?” Amber eyes asks, squatting down. “You think you can sit up?”
I jerk out of my half-sleep.
“Do you think you can sit up?” She repeated patiently, once again reaching out her hand to help me up. I took it, slowly manoeuvring myself to a seating position.
(To be perfectly honest, I was using her as a crutch. It’s sad, I know, but hey they’d just shocked me to get my heart going, what do you expect? Besides, she didn’t seem to mind.)
“What’s your name again?” I asked, needing something to break the silence.
“Beezy,” She answered, wrapping blankets around my shoulders and legs.
She snorted. “My full name is Beatrice Beezlebub Waileran.”
“My parents are reformed Satanists, what do you want from me?”
I laughed. It killed my battered body, but I laughed. Her cheeks flamed red, her amber eyes narrowing into a glare. Afraid she was going to pull out from under me, I stifled myself and tried to look apologetic.
“So, um, do you know what happened to me?”
She shrugged, jarring me painfully. “Your brother was wailing on you pretty badly over that blond girl with the cans.”
“I remember that.”
“Not the one who just came up.”
She searched my gaze, “The other one with the bigger-“
“I got it. The one who came up is Eva, the other one is Rosalind.”
“You two aren’t related are you?”
My brows furrowed. “No, why?”
“It’s just Eva and Evan-you know what? Nevermind, not important.”
I stared at her. She grinned sheepishly and continued, “Then, I don’t know,” she shrugged again, “you sort of went blank and just laid there. I think your brother came to his senses somewhere when you stopped fighting back. He screamed, I shut off the music and tried to get through with the defribillator.” She looked at me, raising an eyebrow, “Thank god people are stupid when they panic. You tell one of them to get out of your way, knock a few others about and they get the message. Anyway, you were on the ground and twitching but, try as I might I couldn’t find a pulse. It was really weird. We thought we almost had you a few times, but you slipped away.”
“How’d you figure that?”
“You were mumbling something.”
My heart skipped a beat. “What?”
She laughed, “I can’t, I can’t, I don’t know. You have to help me?”
I shivered, sinking deeper into the wool blankets. I heard a siren’s wail and sighed.
“Paramedics are coming. My mom is not going to be happy.”
She nudged me, “Hey, it’s better than almost dying.”
“Yeah.” I laughed, “I guess.”
“So, while we’re waiting. You want to tell me what that little scene with your brother and the girl who isn’t related to you but has the female version of your name is all about?”
I looked over my shoulder. George was on his knees in front of Eva, his body language that of a desperate man. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, and part of me wanted her to slap him and never look back. The other part, the one that nearly escaped being torn in half by a Jabberwock, hoped that she would forgive him and get her princess moment on top of that curliqued hill. I looked back at Beezy, a slow smile spreading on my lips.
“I don’t even know,” I admitted.
“Seems intense, whatever it is.”
“It’s melodramatic and stupid.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
We sat in silence for a time, listening to the siren get closer to the Schaeffer’s house.
“You have a cell phone?” I asked.
“Why?” Caution made her look at me out of the corner of her eye.
“There’s a coffee place in town that’s really good at speciality brews.”
“It’s not Starbucks is it?”
I shook my head. “Nah.”
“Are you asking me out?”
“Yes,” I said, then noticed the dark look on her face. “But as a friend! I mean, you’re new and all, you might as well get to know the town.”
She grinned, “Good save. Okay, I’ll go out with you.”
I nodded, “Great. Hey, how much do you know about Humpty Dumpty?”
A raised eyebrow, “Did your brother hit you that hard when he wailed on you?”
“Humour me, we’ve got time before the paramedics get here.”
She licked her lips, her grin turning decidedly chesire cat-like. I held back the urge to laugh again.
“I like you, Evan.”
“Same to you.”
She adjusted her shoulder underneath me, nodding once.
“The only thing I know is that nursery rhyme.”
“Ah,” I said, wagging my finger. “See, that’s where Mother Goose got it wrong.”