All the Broken Pieces
by Cindi Madsen
Liv comes out of a coma with no memory of her past and two distinct, warring voices inside her head. Nothing, not even her reflection, seems familiar. As she stumbles through her junior year, the voices get louder, insisting she please the popular group while simultaneously despising them. But when Liv starts hanging around with Spencer, whose own mysterious past also has him on the fringe, life feels complete for the first time in, well, as long as she can remember.
Liv knows the details of the car accident that put her in the coma, but as the voices invade her dreams, and her dreams start feeling like memories, she and Spencer seek out answers. Yet the deeper they dig, the less things make sense. Can Liv rebuild the pieces of her broken past, when it means questioning not just who she is, but what she is?
Title: All the Broken Pieces
Author: Cindi Madsen
Genre: YA Contemporary
Length: 344 pages
Release Date: December 2012
Print ISBN: 978-1-62061-129-6
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-62061-130-2
Imprint: Entangled Teen
© 2012 Cindi Madsen
White ceiling, a fuzzy face hovering over hers. Gloved fingers against her skin. A steady chirping noise mixed in with words she couldn’t quite catch hold of.
Opening her eyes took so much effort. And they kept closing before she got a good look. One prick, another. Tugging at her skin. A blurry arm moved up and down in time with the pinpricks.
I think I’m going to puke.
Strange, dreamlike voices floated over her. “I think she’s waking up.”
“She’s not ready yet.”
Cold liquid shot into her arm at her elbow and wound up to her shoulder, through her chest, until it spread into her entire body. Then blackness sucked her back under.
Her leg twitched. Then an arm. She wasn’t telling them to move; they kept doing it on their own. Her eyes flickered open and she caught a flash of a white ceiling. The chirping noise sounded out, steady and loud.
With a gasp, she shot up.
Hands eased her back down into the soft pillows. “Take it easy,” a blurry form said.
She blinked a couple times and her vision cleared.
A woman stood over her, a warm smile on her face. Her dark hair fell from behind her ear as she moved closer. “How are you feeling?”
Confusion filled her. She felt lost, scared. She wanted…she wasn’t sure what. “I’m…” Her throat burned as she tried to form a sentence. “I don’t…” The words didn’t sound right. They were thick and slurred. Frustration added to the confusion as she tried again. “What’s…going…am I?”
The woman reached down and cupped her cheek. “Shh. You were in an accident. But everything will be fine.”
She searched her memory. There was nothing. Nothing but flashes of being in this room. “I feel…strange.”
“But you’re talking. That’s an excellent sign.” The woman sat on the edge of the bed. “Do you remember anything? The accident? Your name?”
Pain shot across her head as she searched through the fuzziness. Tears pricked her eyes. “I don’t remember…anything.”
“Olivia, honey, it’s me. Your name is Olivia, and I’m…” Her smile widened and unshed tears glistened in her eyes. “I’m your mother. Victoria Stein.”
Olivia tried to put the images together, tried to make sense of it all. But it didn’t fit. Or she couldn’t remember if it did. A tear escaped and ran down her cheek.
The woman—Mom—leaned down and hugged her. “It’s okay. You were in a bad car accident and had to have several surgeries, but you’re going to be just fine. Because I’m going to take such good care of you.”
Mom squeezed Olivia’s hand. “Let me go get Henry—your father. He’ll be so glad to see that you’re finally awake.”
When Dad stepped into the room, he didn’t look familiar, either. Olivia saw the concern in his eyes, but there was something else. He seemed reluctant.
Mom pointed at the chirping monitor. “Look at her heart rate. She can understand me, and she can talk.”
Why is she saying it like that? Like it’s a big surprise. Olivia licked her lips and forced the question from her dry throat. “Why wouldn’t I be able to talk?”
Mom sat on the foot of the bed. “Because, dear, your injuries were so severe. The brain trauma, and your heart…” She shook her head, then placed her hands over her own heart, looking like she might start crying. “You’re our little miracle.”
Olivia reached up, feeling the tender spots on her head. Her fingers brushed across a row of—were those little ridges made of metal?
“Careful. The staples are almost ready to come out, but it’s still going to be sore for a while.”
Staples?! Her stomach rolled. I have staples in my head? She lowered her now-shaking hand. “Can I get a mirror?”
Mom looked at Dad, then back at her. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Not until you’ve healed a little more.”
Olivia gave two slow nods. If only everything weren’t so strange. If she could just remember something. Anything.
“You’re healing very well,” Dad said. “And your heartbeat is strong. That’s good.”
Mom smiled at her. “That’s because you’re amazing.”
Dad grabbed Mom’s hand. “Darling, I need to talk to you about something. In the other room.”
Mom patted Olivia’s leg. “You just relax. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
The two of them left the room, but when Mom swung the door closed, it didn’t latch. Olivia could hear their voices in the hall.
“I still think we should…” She couldn’t make out the rest of Dad’s muffled words. “…know if I can do this.”
“…late for that,” Mom said. “We’d lose everything, including…” Her voice faded as they got farther away. “…have to move.”
She could tell the conversation was tense, but the words were impossible to decipher now. Holding a hand in front of her face, she turned it back and forth. A plastic tube ran from her arm to a machine next to her bed.
Weird. Everything was weird. She pulled a strand of her hair forward. Dark brown—like Mom’s. But it didn’t help her remember how she looked or who exactly she was. She kicked off her covers and stared at her legs. Running her gaze up and down, she assessed the damage: a few bruises and cuts. Her chest felt tight. She peeked into her nightgown and stared in horror at the long red stripe running down her chest.
You’re alive. You shouldn’t be thinking about looks.
She dropped the nightgown, then put a palm over her heart. Ouch.
Lowering her hand, she scanned the room. I wonder how my face looks. From the way Dad stared at me, plus the fact that Mom won’t let me see a mirror, it must be bad.
Brains are more important than looks.
That’s what ugly people say.
Olivia put her hands on her head and squeezed. “Stop it,” she whispered to her arguing thoughts, hysteria bubbling up and squeezing the air from her lungs. What was happening to her? Why didn’t she recognize her parents or know where she was? Who she was? Tears ran warm trails down her cheeks. “Just make it all stop.”
Mom swung open the door and walked into the room. “What was that, dear?”
Olivia swiped the tears off her face. “Nothing. Is everything okay?”
Mom nodded. “Of course. I’m going to take some time off from work to help you heal. As soon as we get you recovered enough, we’re moving. After everything that’s happened, I think we could use a fresh start.”
Olivia was still too hazy to think about a fresh start. All she knew was that something seemed wrong. Make that everything seemed wrong. So she clung to the hope that she would recover quickly. And that when she did, all the wrongness would go away.
Olivia twisted a strand of her hair around her finger as she stared out her bedroom window. Women strode past wearing workout gear and swinging their arms; people walked their dogs; kids rode bikes up and down the street. The outside world was busy. But as usual, she was in her room, on the inside looking out.
A knock sounded on the door, followed by Mom walking in. “The clothes we ordered came today.”
Olivia glanced at the cardboard box Mom set on the floor, then returned her attention to the window. A young brunette girl pulled a wagon filled with dolls and stuffed animals down the sidewalk, her mouth moving, even though no one else was near her. Olivia leaned closer to the window, unable to take her eyes off the girl.
I feel like I know her. Or not her, but…someone.
The image of a white cartoon kitten, red bow over one ear, popped into her head. A heaviness entered her chest, and she had the strangest urge to run outside and throw her arms around the little brunette.
The girl looked up to the window. Normally, Olivia stepped back before anyone saw her; this time, she wasn’t fast enough. The girl didn’t shrink away, though. Giant grin on her face, she lifted a hand and waved.
It took a few seconds for Olivia to wave back.
“Who are you waving at?” Mom asked.
“Just a little girl.”
“Well, don’t you want to try these on?”
She had been eager to get clothes that fit better—the first ones Mom ordered had been too big. But now that they were finally here, she wasn’t in the mood. It wasn’t like new clothes could fix what was wrong with her. “Why’d we have to move before I got a chance to talk to my old friends?”
Mom’s head jerked up. “I thought you didn’t remember your friends.”
Hard as she tried, nothing from her old life—no memories of Rochester, Minnesota, besides the days in her room there—came back to her. She ran a finger down the window, leaving a smudge in its wake. “I don’t, but maybe if I just saw them, I’d—”
“You kept to yourself. You were homeschooled. I’ve told you all this before.”
Any time Olivia brought up the past, Mom got so weird. “Fresh start” was like her favorite phrase.
Olivia sighed, then crossed her room and lifted one of the shirts from the box. She slid it out of the plastic bag and stepped into her adjoining bathroom. Even though Mom had seen the scars before, she felt raw and too open when they were exposed.
She peeled off her baggy shirt and dropped her gaze to the line running down the middle of her chest. Over the past month and a half, the scar had faded from bright red to dark pink. But it still looked gross. The one on her neck wasn’t much better, though at least she could hide it by wearing her hair down.
She squared off in front of the mirror and stared at the girl looking back at her. She kept waiting for the day when she’d see her reflection and remember who she was. The fact that it never looked right, never seemed familiar, always left her unsettled.
I guess I should just be happy my face healed. I looked like some kind of monster for weeks. Both of the voices in her head had been pretty horrified when she’d first seen her puffy, bruised face in the mirror. Even the one that claimed looks weren’t important.
At first the voices had completely freaked her out—she knew it wasn’t normal to have constantly arguing thoughts running through her mind. But she was such a mess when she woke up from the coma, and Mom and Dad had already been so stressed over her recovery, that she kept deciding to wait to tell them. Then week after week passed and she didn’t know how to bring it up. How to tell them that in addition to being scarred and having no memories, something else was seriously wrong with her.
It’s just a side effect from my injuries. They’ll go away. They have to.
She pulled the stiff black T-shirt over her head, glad to see it not only fit but also covered her scar.
You should’ve gone with pink. All the muscles in her body tensed. She waited for the retort, knowing it would come.
I hate pink. It’s like happiness threw up on me.
Olivia let out a long breath, trying to release tension, and then focused on what she thought of the shirt. With the intense desert heat, she’d love to wear nothing but tank tops. They didn’t cover enough, though.
When they’d moved a couple weeks ago, they’d made the trip at night. Each time she’d woken up, they’d been in a new city, a new state. Until they’d ended up here, in Cottonwood, Arizona.
They pick hot, dry, middle-of-nowhere of all places. There’s nothing but dirt and cactuses. Not that it matters. It’s not like I ever go anywhere anyway.
“So?” Mom asked. “How does it look?”
Olivia pushed open the door. “Well, it fits.”
“You want to try on the rest?”
Trying on another shirt meant facing the stranger in the mirror and the scar on her chest again. “Maybe later.”
“Come downstairs, then, and I’ll get you a snack so you can take your pills before we move on to your lessons.”
When Mom had started reviewing school subjects with her, information popped into her head, slowly at first, then faster and faster. Math was her favorite—it was always the same. And at least something looked familiar, even if it was only proofs. “I’ll be right down.”
Olivia walked back to her window and pulled the curtains wide. All day she’d been trying to work up the courage to talk to Mom and Dad. Hiding in her bedroom wasn’t getting her anywhere, and it was starting to feel suffocating—more like a cage than a haven. At first she’d remained isolated because of how hideous she knew she looked. But now, even after her face healed and her ugly scars could be hidden with her hair and clothing, the thought of being around people she didn’t know terrified her.
I’ve gotta get out there sometime. Sooner rather than later if I’m going to follow through with my plan.
Yesterday she’d gone online to look up more about the town they’d just moved to and found out the new school year started in two weeks. Two weeks to get herself socially ready for public school.
Just thinking about it sent her pulse racing.
You’re never going to change the world from your room.
Forget changing the world. How about a little social interaction besides Mom and Dad?
Olivia pressed her fingers to her temples. Maybe getting out with other people would help make the voices go away, too. Or at least drown them out for a while.
She thought about the little girl who’d waved at her. All the people who passed her window, experiencing the outside world, smiling and talking to their friends. She wanted that. She also hoped that by being around people her age, she’d get a better grasp of who she was and then stop feeling so lost.
And smart women are powerful.
So are popular women.
“Argh! No more. Just shut up—both of you!” Trying not to think that yelling at her thoughts made her a total freak, she lifted her chin and took a deep breath. “I can do this,” she said, then headed downstairs.
With every step she took, her chest got tighter. By the time she made it to the kitchen, she could hardly breathe.
Dad looked up as she came in. “There’s my girl. How’re you doing today?”
“I’m okay. How was your first day as the newest doctor at the Cottonwood Cardiac Care Center?” She knew he’d been nervous about it last night, even though Mom had assured him the center would be thrilled to have one of the Mayo Clinic’s top cardiac surgeons working for them.
“I hate first days. I don’t know anyone; don’t know where anything goes. It’s good to be home.”
The courage she’d built up started to fade. Dad didn’t make the outside world sound all that great. In fact, he made it sound intimidating.
Mom pointed to the crackers, cheese, and carrot sticks she’d put out on a platter. “Have something to eat, and here…” She dumped a handful of pills onto the counter, filled a glass of water, and passed it over.
Olivia took the pills and washed them down with the water. She glanced at the table, where Mom had already set up for today’s lesson. Just a couple of books and a lonely notepad. Hours of no sound but her pencil scratching against the paper, Mom’s pacing, the clock ticking.
If I ever want to have friends, I’m going to have to face my fear.
Her pulse pounded through her head, and her throat went dry. “I’ve made a decision. I’ve decided that I want to enroll in school.”
Mom’s mouth dropped.
Reaching across the counter and putting a hand on her shoulder, Mom said, “Honey, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“She wants to,” Dad said. “If she wants to go, we should—”
“But there are germs out there that she’s extra vulnerable to because of her condition and the meds she’s on. Public school’s not a good idea right now.”
Disappointment filled her, bursting the image she’d dreamed up of laughing and talking with friends.
Of being normal.
“I’m not going to drop it this time.” Dad set his jaw. “You’ve got to let her live, Victoria.”
Mom’s nostrils flared, and Olivia braced for the harsh words that were about to be thrown at Dad.
“I’m her mother, and I’ll decide what’s best for—”
“If you don’t sign her up,” Dad said, his voice calm but firm, “I will.”