When Hero’s Cry
July 2007 – eleven years old.
The phone rang and rang and rang and Tim wondered if anyone would ever pick up. His hand shook as he held the receiver, while he held a towel with the other, pressing down as hard as he could over the flow of blood.
Ring, ring, ring.
‘Pick up…pick up.’
‘Ant? Where’s your dad?’
‘Get your dad. I need him now.’
Tim waited, glancing down at the reddening towel and the pale face of his best friend’s sister. His sister, in all but blood. Blood that was pooling around his fingers.
His fingers clenched around the receiver.
‘Tim?’ came the deep voice of Ant’s father. ‘What’s wrong?’
For a moment, Tim’s mind went blank. There weren’t any words to describe what had happened, what he was going through. What she was going through. But his eyes found the towel again, felt the moisture against his palm that was too think and too red for him to pretend it was water. He had to make her better. That was his job. No matter if he got in trouble, he had to make her better.
‘I need an ambulance. And a doctor. And blood. Lots of blood. And, uh, a police car. Lot’s of police cars. I don’t know where he is, but you’ll need police cars to catch him before he comes to get her again.’
‘Whoa, Tim, slow down. What’s happened?’
‘He attacked her. He cut her up. You have to come now. With a doctor. There’s…there’s a lot of blood.’
Tim’s hand shook as he gripped the receiver. Why did Ma have to be in town today? He wanted to cry. But he couldn’t because his job wasn’t finished until she was better.
There was a pause on the line, and Tim was frightened—so very frightened—that Ant’s dad wouldn’t believe him. That he would accuse Tim of playing another of his pranks and hang up the phone.
‘Are you at home?’
‘I’ll be there as soon as I can,’ said the thick, heavy voice on the other end. ‘I’ve got an ambulance on the way already. Tim, this is very important, is Genie awake?’
‘She’s quiet. I keep trying to talk to her, but she’s not really answering anymore. I know he did it. She said that before. She thinks he was chasing her but I haven’t seen him.’
‘Okay. I have to hang up now, but I’m going to call again very soon? I need you to answer straight away. Do you understand?’
‘I’m on my way, Tim.’
‘And you have cops? Going to Genie’s house?’
‘I have cops going to Genie’s house.’
‘Okay…hurry,’ he said, and slammed the receiver back down.
He looked back down at her pale face. He’d had to drag her inside so he could call Ant. She was so much smaller than him, and yet, she’d been so heavy. Her eyes, normally so grey and bright, were dim and kept fluttering shut.
‘They’re coming, Genie,’ Tim said to her, leaning both hands on the bloody towel. ‘Ant’s dad is a cop, remember? He’s coming to help you. Just stay awake a bit longer, okay? Okay Genie?’
The phone rang, and Tim fumbled for the phone, almost dropping it with his slick red hands. Ant’s dad asked a lot of questions that Tim didn’t remember.
Instead, when asked about what happened, Tim could only remember the panic. The breathlessness. The lump that stuck in his throat as the longest ten minutes of his life dragged out into an eternity.
He was still by the phone when they arrived. He heard them. They came screaming into the driveway sirens blasting through the air, announcing their arrival in a barrage of tones that sent relief washing through Tim. But his job wasn’t over yet.
People flooded in, shouting, asking him lots of questions, trying to take him away from her—but she needed him—and Ant’s dad gently pulling him to the side.
He didn’t remember the drive to the hospital, only that they’d tried to put him in a different ambulance. Ant’s dad stopped them. Tim thought he should be looking for him, for the one who had sliced up one of his best friends. His sister in all but blood. Instead, he sat with Tim in the back, staring at the small, pale little body in the big stretcher and shaking almost as much as Tim was.
‘You did good, Tim,’ he said when they got there, laying a big, heavy hand on Tim’s shoulder as the doctors wheeled Genie away. ‘You did real good.’
Another blank spot. Memory wiped black in the panic and the shock of it all. If he really tried, he could recall snatches and bits and pieces. Shouting, crying, his Ma standing in front of Tim and shouting at a man in a blue uniform, doctors coming in and out of the room over and over again, and the strange way the blood drained away in the sink as he tried to wash his hands clean.
So much blood. How could someone so small bleed so much?
His memory didn’t clear until much later. He was sitting on the edge of the bed with a blanket wrapped tight around him, staring off into the distance as he shivered. A face peered into the room, and Tim tried to focus his gaze.
‘Tim?’ asked a deep voice—Ant’s dad was back. ‘Someone wants to see you, is that alright?’
‘It’s me,’ came the soft, uncertain voice of another of Tim’s best friends.
Ant’s footsteps were light, almost inaudible as he trotted over to the bed. ‘You okay?’
Tim nodded, another shiver rippling through him. He looked down into Ant’s earnest blue eyes, worry creasing them at the edges.
‘They got him,’ said Ant, climbing up onto the bed to sit next to Tim, pressing his shoulder against Tim’s. ‘Dad found him. He said they’re going to send him away for a long time.’
Tim swallowed, turning to stare at Ant. ‘So she’s okay?’
‘She’s okay. You did your job.’
Another shiver rippled through him. He took a deep breath, trying to feel something, anything. Instead, for the first time since it all began, Tim felt safe enough to cry.