Thrillers by T.R. Folsom
It's not paranoia if they're really after you...
Blind music teacher Emily Warner regains her eyesight through a transplant. But her newfound vision catapults her onto a path that is fraught with danger. As she begins to investigate the strange things she sees, she realizes that the visions she has belong to her cornea donor…. and that her donor’s death was no accident.
When she decides to prove that her donor was murdered, she draws the attention of the killer onto herself. But no matter the danger she’s putting herself in, she has to expose him, before another young girl will die at his hand… and before Emily becomes his next victim.
A fast-paced, suspenseful thriller set among Washington D.C.'s elite.
Review by Bestthrillers.com: A winning blend of psychological thriller and sci-fi that is simultaneously captivating, eerie and moving.
Fifteen years after a car accident destroyed her eyesight and her family, 30-year-old Emily Warner regains her vision through a miraculous cornea transplant. It’s actually her second procedure. The first was a failure, and not just because her body rejected the donation. Shortly after the operation, Emily saw visions that nearly drove her mad.
A second procedure has restored her eyesight, but once again, Emily experiences disturbing memories that aren’t her own. While her doctor pooh-poohs the theory of cellular memory, that doesn’t stop Emily’s determination to find the identity of her donor – and her alleged murderer.
Author T. R. Folsom has created a high-concept thriller that fires on all cylinders. Set in Washington D.C. the book’s cast includes a who’s who of Washington insiders including a defense contractor, a member of the American president’s inner circle and local detective Adam Yang. In a book filled with fascinating characters, Yang is wisely drawn as a rock solid, if somewhat predictable investigator, down to his broken marriage and jurisdictional squabbles. Yang is the blunt instrument through which Folsom drives the narrative, and his dogged investigative nature – along with Emily’s supernaturally-informed sleuthing – are a winning combo.
Folsom also understands the power of keeping her powder dry. Rather than dump Emily’s entire backstory and psychology up front, Folsom reveals evocative pieces at timely moments as the story progresses, at times directly to the reader, and at times to Emily’s BFF.
The result is a fast-paced thriller filled with surprises throughout.
Listen to an excerpt of the audio book narrated by Eric G. Dove.
Greetings from my writing cave,
Copyright © 2022 T.R. Folsom
Maryland – Fifteen Years Ago
Emily Warner should have died in the crash, but she survived.
A week before the accident that changed her life forever, Emily had turned fifteen, and her acne had just cleared up. She saw it as a good sign. She had a mad crush on Kevin, a boy from her school, and she’d caught him looking at her during class. However, her dreams of being kissed by him never came true. She never saw him again. In fact, she never saw any of her classmates and friends again. All because two cars collided at an intersection, one speeding through a red light, the other innocently adhering to the traffic laws.
The red traffic light was the last thing Emily saw, before the seatbelt cut into her chest, robbing her of her breath. Glass shattered all around her. The collision’s sounds echoed in the night. The side impact knocked her unconscious. When she regained consciousness, she wondered for a moment whether she was dead. She felt numb, as if her body was gone. But then the pain receptors in her brain responded, and she realized she was still strapped in by her seatbelt, a sticky fluid covering her eyes. Sharp pain made her head ache worse than any migraine, while her body was tightly wedged between pancaked sheets of metal, plastic, and upholstery. She was trapped, unable to move.
Emily neither saw the blinking lights of the ambulances and the police cars, nor the flashlights of the first responders trying to assess the situation. She only heard the sirens and the police officers’ and paramedics’ voices, telling her to remain calm, assuring her that they would get her out. That she would be alright.
She wanted to believe them.
Emily felt movement and heard metal being bent or cut. Then somebody groaned, and she knew she wasn’t the only one who’d survived. But before she could sigh with relief, a paramedic whispered low to a colleague, obviously not wanting Emily to overhear him, “The passenger has no pulse.”
Her heart stopped in that instant. For an eternity, time stood still. But then her body reacted to the terrible news she didn’t want to be true. Tears mingled with the viscous liquid in her eyes, the blood so thick that no light could penetrate. She tried to wipe it away, but her arm was stuck. She didn’t know then that it wouldn’t have made a difference. The blood remained where it was. No amount of tears could wash it away.
Deep down, Emily knew what it meant, even though she didn’t want to acknowledge it at the time. Like a ragdoll, the paramedics pulled her out of the wreck. The morphine they gave her in the ambulance lulled her into a fitful dream, helping her push the memory of the crash out of her mind.
At the hospital, Emily heard the voices of the emergency physicians and nurses as they went to work on her. According to them, it was a wonder that she was alive.
She knew she should be grateful. But how could she be grateful for the nothingness that greeted her when she opened her eyes? Her future would be different from anything she’d dreamed of ever since she could remember. Nothing would ever be the same again. Her old life was over. A new one, one she hadn’t asked for, had begun. And this new life was overshadowed by an absence of light that swallowed everything around her like a black hole.
Yes, she had survived.
But the miracle came at a price.
She was blind.
Washington D.C. – Present Day
Eric Bolton pulled his silver Mercedes into a parking spot closest to the Emergency Department’s entrance. He jumped out of his car and ran inside, not even locking it, his heart beating like a jackhammer, but he knew he wasn’t having a heart attack. He was fit for his sixty-nine years, barely carried an extra pound around his midsection, and was as healthy as could be expected from an influential man who ate more meals in fancy restaurants than at home.
Inside the hospital, he oriented himself and quickly found a nurse’s station. He had no time to lose.
“Where is my daughter? Madeline Bolton, she came in an ambulance.”
The woman behind the counter looked at him. “What’s your name?”
“Eric Bolton. I’m her father. Where is my daughter?” he asked hurriedly, leaning halfway across the counter as if that would make the woman answer any faster.
“Please calm down, sir,” she said and typed something on her keyboard.
Calm down? How could he calm down? His daughter was hurt, badly hurt from what he could piece together from Lucia’s frantic phone call. Madeline’s housekeeper had cried, her words laden with sadness, alarm, and fear. It sent a shock through his body, and the resulting adrenaline pumping through his veins had somehow helped him drive back into the city and to the hospital without getting into an accident.
“Ms. Bolton was taken to trauma two,” the nurse finally said. “Please take a seat over there.” She pointed to the waiting room.
But Bolton didn’t sit down. He couldn’t. He needed to know what had happened, what state Maddie was in. He needed to be by her side, tell her that she would be okay, that her daddy was here to make sure she got the best care. So he ignored the nurse’s suggestion and headed for the double doors that led to the trauma rooms.
“Sir, sir! You can’t go in there!” she yelled after him.
But he ignored her, even as she called for security over the PA system. “Security to trauma center, corridor B immediately.”
On the other side of the double doors, Bolton rushed along the corridor lined with a variety of medical equipment needed to monitor heartbeat, blood pressure, oxygenation and other vitals, as well as machines to shock a heart back into beating, and ventilators to take over a patient’s breathing. He heard various beeping sounds and hastily spoken commands between the doctors and nurses. The sterile smell of disinfecting liquids hit him, reminding him that the last time he’d been inside a hospital was when Rita had given birth to Madeline. Back then, he hadn’t minded the hospital smells or the sight of the many machines that helped sustain life. Today, the scene and its smells conjured up the worst possible outcomes.
A multitude of rooms, all with large floor-to-ceiling windows, some with closed curtains providing privacy, others with open ones, lay to his left and right. Many of the doors stood open, others were closed.
“You can’t be in here,” a firm male voice addressed him from behind.
Bolton ignored the reprimand and kept walking, reading the signs outside the doors. Trauma five, he read and headed farther down the corridor. But he didn’t get far. The security guard’s hand on Bolton’s shoulder jerked him back, forcing him to stop and pivot.
“Sir, you have to leave, or I’ll have the police arrest you,” the tall black man wearing a dark-blue uniform warned.
“You don’t understand,” Bolton pleaded. “My daughter, she’s here. She’s hurt. I have to get to her.” He tried to free himself from the man’s grip, but couldn’t. So he raised his voice. “Madeline, Madeline, baby, your daddy is here.”
“Let’s go,” the security guard said and dragged him back toward the double doors.
Bolton didn’t make it easy for him, using his weight against the man. “Damn it! Let me go! I have to see Madeline.” He looked over his shoulder and called out toward trauma room two. “Madeline! Maddie!”
All of a sudden, a middle-aged black woman in scrubs appeared in the doorway. With the authority of a physician who’d seen it all, she looked straight at him. “Mr. Bolton?” Then her gaze shifted to the security guard, and she gave him a subtle sign by moving her head to one side.
The security guard let go of Bolton. Bolton made a few steps toward the doctor, then stopped. It was written on her face, the expression that meant that the news wasn’t good.
She met him halfway. “I’m sorry.” Her eyes brimmed with compassion. “Your daughter didn’t make it.”
All life drained from Bolton’s body, and for a moment, the world stood still. The trauma surgeon was still talking. Words like cerebral hemorrhage and swelling of the brain echoed in the corridor. Bolton barely heard anything.
Madeline was gone.
Somebody led him to a chair where he sat numb from grief and pain. Everything seemed too quiet around him. And in the solitary pain of his grief, he realized that everything he’d achieved in his life, everything he’d worked for, meant nothing. He felt tears rim his eyes and forced them back. He couldn’t break down now, couldn’t allow himself to be weak. He had to be strong, for himself and his family. If he gave in now, if he allowed grief to swallow him, there would be nobody to comfort Rita, his wife of forty years.
But how could he comfort Rita when he himself felt more pain than he ever had?
He didn’t know how long he’d been sitting there, somewhere in the hospital, when his cell phone rang. Automatically, he pulled it from his pocket and looked at it. He wasn’t sure why he answered the call, when he could barely speak, but he did it anyway.
The familiar voice was cheerful. “Morning, Eric, how far out are you? The horses are saddled. We’re burning daylight here.”
“Mike,” Bolton said, his voice breaking.
Mike Faulkner, the President’s Chief of Staff had been his friend since they’d both been members of the same fraternity. While at first their career choices had taken them in different directions and to different locations, their friendship had only strengthened, until they’d both ended up in government, Faulkner in the executive branch, and Bolton as a defense contractor with ties to lobbyists, and as a major donor.
“Did you forget?”
“Mike…” Bolton collected all his strength to force the next words out of his mouth without breaking down. “Maddie… she’s dead. My little girl is dead.” A sob tore from his chest. It didn’t matter that Maddie was thirty-two years old and lived on her own in a swanky townhouse in Georgetown. She would always be his little girl. And now she was gone. Her infectious smile gone. Her laughter gone.
“Oh my God, what happened?”
Bolton pushed another rising sob down. “I don’t know. Lucia called me. She found her when she got in. They rushed her to the hospital, but it was too late. She’s…” This time, reality sank in even deeper, and he couldn’t get the word over his lips. The image was too raw, too painful.
“Eric, I can’t even imagine what you and Rita are going through right now.”
“Rita doesn’t know yet. She’s at home.” His voice broke, but he pulled himself together. He took a breath. “I don’t know what to do.”
“I’m here for you, Eric. Whatever you need. You just let me know. You have to be strong for Rita, and I can be strong for you.”
A sob tore from Bolton’s chest. “Maybe there is something you can do. The police… they’ll want to investigate what happened. And I need to know too. I need to know what happened and why. But I don’t want the police to drag her name through the mud.”
Even though he loved Maddie more than his own life, he wasn’t blind. She’d been a wild child in her twenties, and had experimented with drugs. Her lovers spanned the globe. Not all of them decent men. He didn’t want that to be her legacy.
“Don’t worry about anything. You let me handle this. I’ll make sure she’ll be treated right. I’ll send my own people in,” Faulkner promised.
“The Secret Service? Can you do that?”
“Ordinarily, no. It’s not within our jurisdiction. But I can call in some favors so DC Police won’t take point on this. The Secret Service will make sure nothing leaks that you don’t want the public to know about. And they’ll be thorough. I promise you. That’s the least I can do for my goddaughter.”
“I don’t know how to thank you.”
“No need to thank me,” Faulkner said. “Take care of Rita. She needs you now more than ever.”
Before Bolton could utter another thanks, Faulkner disconnected the call, and shoved his cell phone into his pants pocket.
Faulkner stopped at the stable door. He’d looked forward to riding out with Bolton. He didn’t get to ride his horses much anymore since he’d become President Robert Langford’s Chief of Staff over two years ago. In fact, he didn’t get to stay at his equestrian estate in rural Virginia much at all. Instead, Faulkner spent most of his days and nights in his house in Washington D.C. It was close enough to the White House so he could be in the Oval Office with fifteen minutes’ notice, traffic permitting.
Sometimes he wondered why he’d taken the job. Was it because he liked the power the position afforded? The prestige? Or had he given in to the President’s offer because they’d been friends since college? Like Bolton, the President had been a member of the same fraternity Faulkner had pledged to. Maybe it wasn’t either of those reasons. Perhaps not remarrying after the unexpected death of his wife when their son was still a child had contributed to his quest for more professional challenges. He’d been no good at raising his rebellious and grief-stricken teenage son.
“Morning, Mr. Faulkner,” the groom said.
Robert Woolf looked like a crusty old sailor, his face leathered from the time he spent outdoors whatever the weather, his hands calloused from the hard labor he performed without complaint. Faulkner knew a good man when he saw one. And Woolf was a good man, honest, reliable, invaluable.
“Has your guest arrived?” Woolf asked.
“I’m afraid he had to cancel. Something came up. And I have to return to Washington D.C. immediately.”
Woolf sighed. “Hmm. The President sure rides you hard, if you don’t mind my saying so. He never lets you enjoy a day off.”
Faulkner let out a bitter laugh. “Normally you’d be right, but this time, I have to help an old friend out.” He rubbed his hand over the horse Woolf had already saddled. “Perhaps you and Caleb can ride out instead. I’ll call him and see if he has plans to come out.”
Before he could reach for his cell phone, Woolf waved him off. “Don’t think so. He was here yesterday.”
“Caleb? Good!” Though his only son wasn’t as much into horses as Faulkner and his wife had been, he occasionally did show some interest.
“He didn’t take any of the horses out. He wasn’t here long enough. I was ready to saddle Lucky for him, but he said he didn’t have time.”
Faulkner’s forehead furrowed. “Then what did he do here?”
Woolf shrugged. “He said he forgot something last time he was here.”
“Oh well, why don’t you ride Lucky then? And maybe that boy who helps out here occasionally wants to ride the mare. I don’t mind. He seems responsible enough.”
“Will do, sir.”
Faulkner turned and marched out of the stable, pulled his cell phone from his pocket, and scrolled through his contacts.
There was no parking outside the quaint Georgetown two-story townhouse when Detective Adam Yang arrived with his partner, Detective Simon Jefferson. It was to be expected. There was never any parking in this part of Washington D.C. to begin with. And today, it was even worse: a car was already double-parked.
Yang exchanged a look with Jefferson, his black partner of only two years. They’d both become members of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department in their early twenties and risen through the ranks, making detective within six months of each other. But that was where their similarities ended. Jefferson belonged to the black majority at DC Police, where roughly sixty percent of all officers were black, and only a little over two percent were Asian.
While Yang felt at home in the multi-cultural department, he was certainly the odd man out. Just like he was the odd man out in his extended Chinese family. His siblings, two sisters and a brother, as well as his many cousins, were professionals: lawyers, doctors, accountants. His parents had meant for him to follow in their footsteps, but he had no interest in medicine or accounting. The law had called to him, though not in the way his parents had hoped. A lawyer or judge in the family would have satisfied their ambitions for him, but Yang had chosen to join the police force instead.
“Just park behind the black car,” Jefferson said with a shrug.
Normally, Yang would at least have made an effort to find a proper parking spot, but after an early morning phone call with his soon-to-be ex-wife in which they’d fought over the financial aspect of their divorce, which was dragging on for far too long, Yang didn’t have any fight left in him.
Without a word, Yang switched off the engine and hopped out of the car. Jefferson was already on the steps leading to the entrance door, which stood open. Jefferson entered. In the well-appointed foyer, Yang caught up with his partner.
“Nice digs, huh?” Jefferson said in a low voice.
“It reeks of money.” Just like half the city. Yet to Yang it was home. He couldn’t imagine living anywhere else but inside the Beltway. There was something about living in the nerve center of the nation even though he wasn’t part of its political fabric.
Hearing voices from a door, which was ajar, Yang headed for it. But before he and Jefferson reached it, a black man in a dark suit emerged from it and blocked the entrance.
Yang and Jefferson flashed their badges. “Detectives Yang and Jefferson, DC Police. And you are?”
When the man flashed his badge faster than a magician performing a trick, Yang already smelled trouble. The man’s dark suit and his indifferent expression were a dead giveaway.
“Agent Banning, Secret Service.” Banning pointed over his shoulder, still blocking the entrance to the living room. “My colleague Agent Mitchell and I have got this. You’re not needed. Please see yourselves out.”
“I don’t think so. From what I’ve been told, this is a suspicious death, which falls firmly within our jurisdiction,” Yang said without missing a beat. “So, unless this is a case of counterfeiting or bank fraud, I suggest you leave this to us.”
Agent Banning didn’t move. Behind him, Agent Mitchell came into view. He was a carbon copy of his colleague down to the boring tie, though his hair was shorter, and his shoulders broader.
“This is a case for the Metropolitan Police Department, not the Secret Service,” Yang said.
“Guess you didn’t get the memo,” Agent Banning said with a smug face.
Yang opened his mouth to retort when his cell phone rang.
Agent Mitchell pointed to Yang’s pocket, from where the sound originated. “I would answer it if I were you. Might be important.”
Yang met Mitchell’s gaze, then exchanged a look with Jefferson. Jefferson shrugged.
It was clear the agent knew something Yang didn’t. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell. Pressing it to his ear, he answered, “Detective Yang.”
“Yang, Lieutenant Arnold.” Whenever his superior, Lieutenant Latochia Arnold, called, it was generally important.
Jefferson stepped closer so he could listen in.
“Lieutenant, ma’am. I was about to call you to—” He didn’t get to finish his sentence.
“Have the Secret Service agents arrived yet?” she interrupted.
“Yes, how did—?”
Again, she interrupted him. “Good. Leave this to them. I’m pulling you and Jefferson off this case effective immediately.”
“With all due respect, ma’am, this is our jurisdiction,” Yang said as calmly as he could, while staring at the two Secret Service agents. “You can’t just—”
“It wasn’t my call, Yang. My hands are tied.”
Yang grunted in displeasure.
“Listen, Yang,” Arnold said with a little less force, “this comes from way above my pay grade. The victim’s father has clout, and was able to pull some strings. The mayor leaned on the chief to let this one go. Something to do with the victim being in contact with members of a foreign government. Secret Service claims it’s a matter of national security. It’s total b—ahm, I don’t like it either, but it is what it is. So, do me a favor, don’t make a scene. Just leave, and let them deal with it.”
“Alright,” Yang said tightly and disconnected the call.
Trying to ignore the two agents’ self-righteous facial expressions, Yang said, “It’s all yours.”
In the car, Yang turned to Jefferson. “Can you believe this crap? What the fuck was this all about?”
“Well, considering who the victim is… or was…” Jefferson said.
“What do you mean? Who was she?”
“Madeline Bolton. She belongs to D.C. high society.” Jefferson shrugged. “Father is a big shot in politics or something like that. Apparently he’s friends with the President.”
Yang couldn’t believe his ears. “How do you know that?”
Jefferson shook his head. “How don’t you know that? I read the papers.”
“Papers or gossip rags?”
“Either way, I keep up with what’s going on in this town. Can’t hurt knowing who’s who.”
Yang sighed and started the car. “Lieutenant Arnold wasn’t kidding when she said this was above her pay grade.”
“Arnold never jokes unless she’s off-duty. Besides, do you really want to get involved in a case where the victim’s family is going to be up your ass looking for any mistakes you might make? You know what rich people are like.”
Yang grunted, still annoyed.
“You’re just annoyed that Secret Service encroached on our turf,” Jefferson said.
Yang cast him a glance. “I guess that’s the difference between us: I want to solve cases, you want to close them.”
Jefferson gave a short chuckle. “Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. You know that, right?”
Emily felt movement return to her hands and feet as her body shook off the groggy feeling of the sedatives the IV had delivered into her vein. During the surgery, she imagined hearing sentence fragments of Dr. Milton Harland’s steady voice giving orders to his small team. Most likely she was just dreaming, creating her own reality while her life lay in someone else’s hands once more. There was comfort in that thought, and fear. Yet, she felt no pain, nor any sense of time having passed.
At some point, she heard the sound of a hospital bed rolling over the linoleum floor, and felt the movement of a nurse pushing the bed into the recovery room. The brakes being set made a grating noise and indicated that she’d arrived in a cubicle. The sleeve around her right bicep became tighter as it filled with more air. The pressure released slowly while a heart monitor beeped steadily.
“One forty-three over eighty-five,” Tiffany, the nurse who’d helped prepare her for the surgery, said in a soothing voice. A warm hand touched Emily’s. “Still a little high, but it all looks good, hon. The doctor will be with you soon. Just rest in the meantime.”
Emily opened her mouth to thank her, but her throat was parched, and she couldn’t form any words. Instead, she swallowed hard.
“I’ll bring you some water.”
Her lids were too heavy to lift, and she attributed the sensation to the sedatives she’d received. She was coming out of a sleep-like state and felt disoriented. Even if she could have opened her eyes, she didn’t dare do so, worried about what would greet her. Darkness? Intense light? Nothing? She didn’t want to speculate, because it would only add to her anxiety.
Emily felt cool water moisten her mouth and realized that the nurse had come back, pressed a cup into her hands, and led the straw to her lips. She couldn’t remember accepting the water, nor could she feel how Tiffany removed the cup from her hands, only that suddenly a different hand was touching hers lightly.
How much time had passed from the moment she’d taken a sip of water until a hand squeezed hers? She didn’t know.
“It went well.” The voice pulled her further out of her daze. It belonged to Dr. Milton Harland, the surgeon who’d performed the procedure. “Though it took longer than we anticipated.”
Something about his statement sent unease through her body.
“What?” she managed to mumble.
Again, she felt a squeeze of her hand meant to reassure her. “Nothing to worry about. The stem cell patches have integrated well and appear to have repaired the optic nerve atrophy you were diagnosed with several years ago. We couldn’t have done this even five years ago, but medicine has come a long way. As I told you in our pre-op discussion, this therapy is brand-new and still experimental, but I’m confident it’s working. And with the donated corneas we implanted today, you’ll eventually have 20/20 vision.”
Emily picked up on the one word that belied the doctor’s confident statement. She was good at that, at listening for words that didn’t fit, because she’d had to rely on her sense of hearing more than ever after the accident. “Eventually?”
“Well, let’s take a look, shall we?”
She felt the air between them move and realized that Dr. Harland was leaning in.
“Tiffany, dim the lights, please.”
A warm hand touched her face, fingers brushed against her temple. Then the sound of an adhesive strip being pulled away from skin reached her ears, even though she didn’t feel any discomfort. Until now, she hadn’t even realized that her eyes were covered with something, a thin layer of gauze.
On her left side, Emily suddenly perceived a brightness she had almost forgotten existed. Her heart began to thunder in excitement while simultaneously the beeping coming from the heart monitor accelerated. Then an equal brightness appeared on the right.
“Now, slowly open your eyes,” Dr. Harland instructed.
When she hesitated for several seconds, he added, “Don’t be concerned. There are no harsh lights you have to be afraid of.”
She couldn’t delay any longer. It was time to face reality. For fifteen years, she’d lived in the dark. Today, she would find out if light would once again enter her life.
Emily released a shaky breath. “Okay then.” Slowly, she lifted her heavy eyelids a tiny fraction of an inch. Something she hadn’t seen in far too long streamed in as if the floodgates of a dam had been opened: light. With a gasp, for fear the light could burn her eyes, she squeezed them shut.
“Are you in pain?” Dr. Harland asked.
She shook her head. “It’s so bright.”
A soft chuckle rolled off the doctor’s lips. “That’s a good sign. We’ll take it slow, alright?”
Slowly, she corrected him in her mind, her teacher side taking over for a brief moment. But then she immediately slipped back into her role as patient, a patient apprehensive about meeting disappointment. She’d been down this road once before. Back then, the operation had been a failure.
“Try it again,” Dr. Harland encouraged her patiently.
This time, Emily forced herself to open her eyes wider, allowing more light to stream in. The brightness was overwhelming at first, but she called on all her courage not to give in to fear this time, and kept her eyes open.
“That’s good.” The doctor’s voice was full of praise. Or maybe she was just projecting onto him what she was hoping for. “Just a little bit more.”
Emily allowed her eyelids to swing open fully, braving the light as if she were a surfer taking a wave head-on. The reward followed only moments later. The light became more defined. Shapes formed, shadows appeared, and colors popped up from out of nowhere. The silhouette of a person separated from the bright background, still blurred, but becoming clearer with every second.
“Green,” she murmured. “Your scrubs are green.”
Somebody to the right of that shadow let out a relieved breath: the nurse, Tiffany. Emily turned her head slightly and focused on her. It took a few moments for the picture to sharpen sufficiently to recognize the shape of a petite woman dressed in pink. Emily swept her gaze upward and concentrated on the head and hair, but the area appeared as a dark black hole, a place devoid of light. Was there a problem with the corneas they’d implanted? Was there a tear, a blemish, an imperfection that suddenly caused the light to vanish?
“No,” she muttered to herself, panic cutting off the air to breathe.
“What’s wrong?” The doctor’s voice made her snap her head back in his direction.
That’s when she realized her mistake. There was no shadow on her corneas: Dr. Harland’s silhouette appeared without shadows. To confirm her realization, she looked at Tiffany again. With every second, her eyes became more used to the light, and the shapes in front of her became more defined, revealing the nurse with more clarity, contrasting her dark skin from the pink scrubs she wore. Emily felt foolish not having realized that Tiffany was black. Instead, she’d falsely assumed the worst.
“Nothing… nothing is wrong.” It was the truth. “I can see.” She hesitated. She didn’t want to complain or criticize, but her concern gained the upper hand. “Only…”
“You don’t have a clear vision yet. It’s still blurry,” Dr. Harland guessed.
“How did you—”
“It’s to be expected. If it had only been an issue about implanting new corneas, your sight would have been restored immediately. But with having to repair the optic nerve too, the process takes a little longer. Your brain has to form new synapses to process the signals the optic nerve is sending.”
Relief washed over her. “How long?”
“It depends. In some patients, it takes a week, in others several. But in any case, your eyesight will improve with each day.”
“Thank you.” Emily turned her head toward Tiffany in order to include her. “I don’t know how to thank you and your team.” Tears suddenly welled up and clouded her blurry vision further. “And the donor’s family too. I want to thank them.”
“We’re just glad we could take care of you,” Dr. Harland said. “Right, Tiffany?”
“You’ve been a model patient, Miss Emily,” Tiffany replied. “Now, let me call your ride to come so she can drive you home when you’re ready.”
“Thank you.” But Tiffany was already turning and leaving her field of vision.
“And the donor’s family?” Emily asked, looking back at the surgeon. She could now see that he had salt and pepper hair, but more details still escaped her. “I would like to call them.”
Dr. Harland opened a folder, then sighed. “I’m sorry, Miss Warner, but the note from Transplant Administration says that the donor’s family wants to remain anonymous.”
The news was disappointing, but in a way she understood. Perhaps they didn’t want to be reminded of their recent loss. Emily knew what it meant. Unfortunately, she’d never had a choice whether to be reminded of it or not. Every single day of the past fifteen years she’d thought of what she’d lost: not only her vision, but also the person she loved most. She hadn’t found it in her heart to show mercy to the person responsible. Instead, with all the anger of a fifteen-year-old girl, she’d made him pay.