BEST DAYS OF YOUR LIFE

Chapter 22

Shelby and Beth go back to Boston, and things go almost back to normal at home.

Bekah's hardly around at all because the winter showcase at her school is coming up, and even though she's only a junior, she's pretty convinced that scouts will be there taking notes for future students. She's got a mile-long list of college music programs she wants to try for, and she doesn't seem interested in cutting it down any time soon. She's working really hard, though, which is something to her credit. She's always been a hard worker when it comes to getting things that she wants, so it's not really surprising that she's spending most of her time at school these days, hours after school actually lets out. It's easier for her to rehearse there- one, because the pianos there are much nicer than the small one they have squeezed into the living room, and two, because there are no neighbors around to annoy, so she can play as long and as loud as she wants to.

Noah's still killing himself at school, so Rachel barely sees him, either, but she's pretty busy, too. Two days after Shelby leaves, they get news of the show closing. It sucks, and everybody is pretty upset, but they have to be realistic. They knew it wasn't going to run forever. And even though it got pretty good reviews and everything, there wasn't enough interest or enough funds to try and move it to Broadway. It got a much longer run than anyone expected, too, so there's really nothing to be but thankful. Still, it's sad to see it end, and Rachel has to spend the last few weeks of its run trying to line up auditions and find something else to do come December 23rd.

It's easier to get into auditions now. She has real work experience and real representation, and she's able to do a lot more than just wait in line at the opens. Getting into auditions doesn't help her actually land parts, though- not when there doesn't seem to be anything to fit her. It seems like every role that's casting is either not in her range or wants someone tall and blonde. She gets especially frustrated when she goes to an audition and gets told that she's too "cookie cutter." She would buy it and leave before, but she's spent the last few months taking her clothes off and dying of a heroin overdose on stage, so she tells the casting director just that. He just kind of looks at her like he's unsure of why she's still there. She's not really sure, either, so she leaves.

It's frustrating, though. She got too comfortable with her show, and it's like she let herself forget that not working as an actor really, really sucks. She whines about to Parker one night before the show, and he gives her this look that just lets her know she's going to hate whatever comes out of his mouth.

"I got a job…"

She doesn't hate it. She's jealous, yes, but he's her friend, and she needs to be happy for him. Plus, it's not exactly like he's her competition, so she just bites down her bitterness and tries not to look as bitchy as she feels.

He throws her a half-eaten bag of Twizzlers, and she chews on one as she listens to him tell her about his new job. Paper Mill Playhouse is nothing to laugh at by any means, and A Chorus Line is classic. So Parker getting the role of Mark for a planned late winter production is actually pretty amazing. She tries not to be jealous, and she honestly is really happy for him, but there's a tiny part of her that doesn't think it's fair that he can just move from one show to another, while she's struggling through auditions with basically no luck.

She does her makeup in his dressing room and tries not to stress about it too much. Something will happen for her, she just has to be patient. Parker keeps telling her stories about the crazy lady who lives next door to him, and she laughs and tries to pay attention even though she's not really in that great of a mood.

"Your phone's ringing."

His words take her out of her own self-pity for a second, and she listens until she can hear the faint buzzing from inside her purse. Parker grabs it for her, and she digs around until she finds the phone and answers it.

"Is this Rachel Puckerman?"

She doesn't recognize the number or the voice, and it's a little bit strange for someone to call and ask for her by her married name. Yes, legally she is a Puckerman, but professionally, she still goes by Berry. Anyone who might be calling in regards to an audition or a role would call her by her maiden name.

"Yes, this is she."

"This is Mary Anderson at City Medical." Rachel immediately puts down the bobby pin she was attempting to stick into her hair. "Your husband has been admitted here."

"What? Why?" She could probably be quiet for two seconds and hear the information without having to ask for it, but something drops in her stomach and makes it impossible for her to think clearly.

"He was in an accident. A taxi accident. He's going into surgery now. Can you come and sign the paperwork?"

"What kind of accident?" She's starting to panic, and she can see Parker looking at her strangely. She doesn't understand what's happening right now. "Is he okay?"

"He sustained some fairly extensive injuries. The doctor can tell you more when you arrive."

"But is he okay?"

"He's going into surgery now. You should try to get here as soon as possible."

She doesn't know what that means, but it sounds terrible. She hangs up after getting the address for the hospital, and Parker immediately asks what's wrong.

"Noah's in the hospital." She's already up and halfway out the door.

Parker gets up, too, and follows her across the hall to her own dressing room where she starts changing and getting her things together without preamble. They see each other nearly naked on a nightly basis, so there's basically nothing to hide. "What happened?" He looks concerned and possibly scared for her as he leans against the doorway.

"I don't know." She feels like she wants to cry, but for some reason, she can't do anything but stare straight in front of her as she pulls on her coat and shoves her feet into some shoes. "A taxi accident." It sounds weird when she says. Taxis don't have accidents- the drivers are insane and terrible, but they don't actually get into accidents- or at least it's not something she hears about on a regular basis.It doesn't make sense.

"Do you want me to go with you?" He's got her purse and hands it to her as she finishes getting dressed.

"No. Just… tell them." She should go find the director or tell her understudy or something, but she can't think right now.

"Call me if you need anything." He's being sincere, she knows it. He's a really good friend to her, and she's thankful for that but can't deal with it right now.

"I'll text you later."

She leaves then without saying anything else, hurrying out to the corner down from the theatre to catch her own taxi. She can't think straight right now. Nothing makes sense in her head, and she just gives the address to the driver and tries really hard not to have some kind of mental breakdown or something. She keeps telling herself not to panic, especially since she doesn't even know what happened or if he's seriously hurt. But the nurse's words keep swimming in her ear. Fairly extensive injuries. It's too much. She just can't deal.

The ride to the hospital seems to take forever, and she doesn't wait for change after she throws a twenty over the seat. She practically runs into the hospital and stops at the front desk to find out where to go. And when she gets to the appropriate floor, the nurse at that information desk just hands her a stack of paperwork to fill out and tells her that someone will be out to speak with her shortly.

That doesn't cut it. She doesn't want somebody to come out and speak with her shortly, she wants to know what the hell is going on right now. She doesn't have time to wait for shortly, and she opens her mouth and says just that.

"Ma'am, I understand that you are concerned. However, I don't have any information to give you right now."

"Then find someone who does!"

"Your husband is in surgery. When he is out, the doctor will speak with you. I'm sure you don't want me to call the doctor away from the surgery, do you?" It's condescending and bitchy, and Rachel can tell it's a long-perfected line that she probably delivers several times a week.

Rachel's bitter, but she grabs the paperwork and takes it over to the waiting area. She stares at it after she sits down, wondering how she's supposed to concentrate on filling this crap out when no one will even tell her what's going on.

Don't panic, she tells herself while she takes a deep breath. You don't know that there's any reason for panic.

It may be true, but it doesn't make dealing with this any easier. She's still freaking out inside and feeling like she's going to be sick any second now. She pulls her phone out to call Santana because she really doesn't want to be alone, and it hits her out of nowhere that she hasn't even called Bekah yet. She's not sure how the hell that managed to slip her mind, but she immediately finds the name and hits send. She isn't surprised at all when she doesn't get an answer.

Emergency. Call me ASAP. She types out the text and hits send, knowing that while Bekah may not be in a position (or have the desire) to answer her phone, she's more than likely going to get the text right away.

And she's right. Her phone rings less than a minute later.

"What's wrong?" Bekah sounds scared, too, and she doesn't blame her. Still, she does her best to sound as calm and together as possible.

"I'm at the hospital. Noah's been in an accident."

There's silence on the other end, and she's almost convinced that the call's dropped until Bekah finally says, "What kind of accident?"

"A taxi. I'm not sure what happened, nobody will tell me anything."

Bekah asks what hospital and says she's on her way, and Rachel feels bad when she hangs up because she knows she's already freaked Bekah out. Still, she has to know, and it's Rachel's responsibility to tell her.

She calls Santana next and leaves a voicemail because she doesn't actually get an answer. She wants somebody to show up and hold her hand and tell her everything's going to be okay, but she knows that's not going to happen. When Bekah gets here, it's going to be up to Rachel to be the mature one and take care of things. She checks her watch and can't believe less than four minutes have passed since she sat down.

The paperwork is just stupid information. His name, his birth date, height, weight, blood type. All those things that they could potentially find out through other methods that don't involve having his wife sit in a stuffy waiting room filling out a stack of pages that really mean nothing. She focuses on it, though, kind of glad that she has something to take her attention away from the fact that Noah's in an operating room having God only knows done to him. She wants to know what's wrong with him and what they're doing. She wants to know that he's alright, and she wants to see it with her own eyes.

But nobody seems too interested in giving her what she wants.

Bekah shows up half an hour later looking absolutely scared out of her mind. She runs up to Rachel and immediately asks what's going on.

"I don't know. He's still in surgery."

"Is he okay?"

Rachel nods even though she has no proof of this. But she knows it's the only answer that's not going to send Bekah into hysterics of some sort. She's literally shaking when she slides into the seat beside Rachel.

"Are you okay?"

Bekah just nods, but it's obviously a lie. Rachel can't ever remember seeing her look like this- just cold panic set in deep. Her eyes are watering, and her skin is paler than normal. She's very obviously shaken up, and Rachel doesn't know what to say, so she just puts an arm around her and squeezes her into a half-hug that Bekah all but ignores.

"He's going to be fine."

Another nod, this one just as forced and fake as the last one.

They sit there in silence because neither one knows what to say or do. Rachel's mind is buzzing and panicking, and Bekah's just sitting there very plainly trying not to cry. She looks scared out of her mind, which actually puts a little bit of Rachel's own fears into perspective. She can at least put her focus into being the calm one because she can already tell that the littlest thing is going to set Bekah off.

They sit there for two hours before anyone finally comes to speak with them. "Puckerman?" A woman who appears to be no more than thirty finds them in the waiting room, and they both nod in answer to her question. "I'm Dr. Vinestead," she shakes both of their hands and then sits down on the end table across from them. "Your husband is doing well." Rachel lets out a breath she wasn't even aware she was holding, and the doctor gives her a little smile. "He's out of surgery and in recovery now. He should be awake soon."

"Can we see him?" She shouldn't interrupt, but she can't help it.

"As soon as he's moved to the unit, yes. I want to keep him in ICU at least overnight just to keep an eye on his initial healing. If he's doing alright tomorrow, we can move him to a private room."

"What happened?" Rachel feels like she's asked the same questions twenty times, and so far she's yet to hear a real answer.

"Well, from the accident report, I believe his car was in a side collision at an intersection. Because of the impact, your husband was directly hit and suffered a few broken bones in his right arm and two broken ribs. His hip is also broken, so we had to surgically affix three screws." Rachel realizes she's holding her breath again. Everything the doctor's saying sounds so technical and terrible, and she just wants to see with her own eyes that he's alright.

"Is he going to be okay?" She doesn't realize how scared she is until she hears it in her own voice.

Dr. Vinestead nods and tries to offer what's probably supposed to be an encouraging smile. "I expect him to heal just fine. I don't have an exact estimate on his recovery yet. Broken hips vary in healing timeframes."

Rachel tries to process all of it. It's sounds so terrible, but the doctor seems optimistic. She still can't really breathe, though, and she asks how long they have to wait before they can see him.

"Once he's awake and stabilized, we'll move him to ICU. Then you can see him. I'll send a nurse to let you know."

Dr. Vinestead leaves them, and Rachel leans back in her chair. She's still unsure of what she's supposed to be feeling- she's so scared but relieved as well. It takes maybe a minute before she realizes the crying beside her.

Bekah is clearly trying very hard not to break down, but she's failing miserably. Her normally light olive skin is pink, and her eyes are watering to the point that they can't hold back the tears any longer. Rachel watches as Bekah wipes at her eyes and cheeks and tries very hard not to show how upset she really is.

"He's okay." Rachel says it quietly, almost carefully, because she's not sure how Bekah's going to react. She's honestly surprised to see her so emotional. She has moments, of course, but for the most part her sister-in-law is very talented at keeping anything besides normal teenage angst hidden. This isn't that at all, though, and Rachel's a little shocked. "The doctor said he's going to be fine…"

"But what if he's not?" Bekah apparently gives up on trying to hide her crying, and she looks up with tears streaking down her cheeks. Her eye makeup is already running in thin black lines, and she looks scared to death.

"He is. You heard the doctor. It's just some broken bones."

"How could this happen again?" Bekah sounds young and very confused. Rachel's confused as well.

"Again?"

"I hate cars!"

And then it all makes sense, and all the pieces fall into place. Rachel's shocked that this is literally the first time she's made the connection, and she immediately feels guilty. Side collision- T-Boned- it's exactly the same as when Mrs. Puckerman was killed. A sick feeling settles low in her stomach, and she tries to figure out what she's supposed to say or do right now. She can't think of anything, though, and Bekah doesn't give her a chance.

"When my mom died, they made me wait at the hospital and pretended like she might be okay. But she was already dead."

Rachel stares at her. She has absolutely no clue what she's talking about, but Bekah's staring straight ahead and keeps taking in these really ragged breaths like she can't control her own breathing or something.

"I was at home, and then this social worker showed up and made me go to the hospital. And I had to wait there forever, and they kept telling me they didn't know how she was but that everything would be okay, but they were lying. And I had to wait there with that woman all night until Noah finally got there. And then they made him tell me." She shakes her head like she's trying to erase the memory or something. "And she was dead the whole time."

Rachel's never heard this story before. She remembers coming home that morning and finding Bekah shut up alone in her room staring at the wall. And then she remembers Bekah breaking down and clinging to her like the terrified little girl that she was. But she has never asked who told Bekah or how Bekah found out. She knows Noah drove all night from Philadelphia while his mother was in surgery and that by the time he arrived back in Lima, it was too late, but she's never known exactly what Bekah went through that night.

She's crying less now, mostly just still taking in those same ragged breaths and trying hard to keep herself under control. There are a few moments of silence, and then she says, "I don't want to go back to foster care," really quietly like it's some kind of secret.

Rachel's confused. She finds her voice for the first time in a couple of minutes and says, "You won't have to. Why would you think that?"

"If something happens…" Bekah bites down on her lower lip, and it's bright red when she lets it go.

"Nothing's going to happen." Rachel's surprised to find how confident her words are considering the fact that such a large part of her is still so scared. "I promise, Bek, he's fine."

Bekah nods a little, but she brings her feet up to the chair and sits with her knees tight against her chest. She looks so young right now, and it's scary because sometimes she doesn't seem young at all. But she's only sixteen, and this is probably just too much. Rachel puts an arm around her again and hugs her, only a little surprised when Bekah's head drops to the side to rest on her shoulder.

They don't talk much after that. They just both sit there watching reruns of Friends on TBS until a nurse comes out and lets them know that they can finally see Noah. She takes them down the hallway to the ICU waiting room and lets them know that until he's out of the unit, filling them in a little on the way about his condition.

"He's awake now, but he's extremely groggy due to the anesthesia and the pain medication. The doctor has him on a morphine drip, so he's not one-hundred percent coherent." She's all cheerful like this is something to celebrate. Rachel really wants to tell her to just shut up.

It gets worse when the nurse starts laying out the ICU visitation policies. "While he's in the unit, only immediate family can visit. Visitation hours are 10 AM to 2 PM and 6 PM to 8 PM. You're more than welcome to stay overnight, but you must stay in the waiting room." Rachel's barely listening, just focusing on the fact that she needs to get back there. She stops, though, when she sees the nurse focus on Bekah. "How old are you?"

"Sixteen…"

The nurse gives her this sad little smile and shakes her head a little. "Sorry. You have to be eighteen to visit in the unit."

Bekah's mouth kind of falls open, and she stares at the nurse in disbelief and then looks at Rachel like she's silently begging her to do something. Rachel tries, even though she already knows it's pointless. "She's his sister-"

"I'm sorry." The nurse is still doing that annoying sympathetic thing, and Rachel wants to hit her again. "It's just policy."

Bekah looks like she's about to burst into tears again, so Rachel tries to diffuse it. She pulls her aside a little bit and tries to be calm. "He won't have to stay here long." She has no idea if this is true, but she's trust what the doctor initially said. "Once he's in a regular room, you can visit all the time, I promise."

She hands Bekah her purse and cell phone. "Call Santana back and tell her to come down here." Santana's called four times since the initial voicemail that Rachel left, but she hasn't had the will to answer any of them. "I'll go and make sure everything's okay."

Bekah just nods, but she looks so sad and young that it's really heartbreaking. Rachel can't understand the purpose in not allowing someone's perfectly healthy nearly adult sister to visit them. There's no difference between sixteen and eighteen, and she can't for the life of her figure out the purpose behind this policy.

Because it's already after visiting hours, the nurse tells her she can only stay back there for fifteen minutes. Rachel tries to protest that as well, but there's no point. The rules are apparently set in stone, so all she can do is follow the hand-washing instructions and follow the nurse back through the doors to the ICU.

There's little privacy back here. It's just one open spaced area separated by thick blue curtains all spread out around a central nurses' station. It's busy and not very quiet. There's the general hustle of nurses and doctors moving around to check on the various patients, but there's also the hum and beeping of the various machinery that the patients are hooked up to.

Rachel holds her breath a little bit when the nurse she's following finally pushes back one of the curtains and smiles at her like it's some kind of welcoming or something. She holds the curtain back for Rachel and reminds her of the fifteen minute time constraint before leaving them alone.

Noah looks much worse than she expected.

She's spent the last few hours convincing herself that he's fine and that broken bones aren't that much of an issue, but seeing him makes her more terrified than she was before. He's lying there wearing a hospital gown with his arm in a cast and a sling that's elevating his leg off the bed. It's not the casts or the slings that get to her, though, it's the fact that nearly one whole side of his face is covered by a giant bruise, not to mention what seems to be about a hundred cuts on his face and neck and god knows where else under the gown. He looks terrible.

But he still smiles when he sees her, and when she starts crying against her own will, he holds his good hand out to her and waits until she takes it to say anything.

"It's not that bad."

She wants to smack him. It's not that bad. He literally looks half-dead lying there hooked up to a million different monitors and bruised literally from head to toe.

"Hey, don't cry." His voice is a little scratchy, but he tugs her closer until she's standing right beside his bed. Her first instinct is to sit down with him, but there's hardly any room, and she doesn't want to hurt him.

"Does it hurt?" She tries to stop crying, just because she knows he doesn't want to see her tears. He hates seeing her cry, and she shouldn't make him worry right now.

"Morphine's kind of awesome." He gives her this stupid smile that she honestly can't even be mad at. Still, she doesn't think all the pain medication in the world could mask the injuries he appears to have.

"It looks terrible."

"Thanks." He gives her a little smirk, and she lets herself smile a little even though she doesn't really feel it. He just looks at her for a couple of seconds, and then he says, "I'm fine. I promise."

"They won't let Bekah back because she's not eighteen." She changes the subject because she doesn't think she can listen to him tell her how fine he is when he's lying in the intensive care unit looking like that.

"I'll probably be in a normal room tomorrow." She wonders if he's already heard the same spill from the doctor that she has.

She thinks about telling him how scared his sister is and how she had a breakdown in the waiting room with flashbacks to five years ago when her mom died. But this isn't the time for that. He doesn't need anything else to worry about, and she definitely doesn't want him lying here all night comparing his own accident to his mother's.

He's still got her hand, and he pulls her a little bit closer until she can tell he wants her to lean down and kiss him. She's scared of hurting him, but she takes a chance and just barely brushes her lips against his. Just enough to feel him but not enough to hurt him.

He's still got that stupid smirk on his face, and she wonders how good morphine actually is.

She has a feeling that as soon as that drip stops, he's not going to be in nearly as good of a mood.