FLEDGLING (THE SHAPESHIFTER CHRONICLES)
By Natasha Brown
Average 4.4 STARS
Set apart from other eighteen year olds, Ana Hughes knows she is different. A life threatening heart condition smothers her future and she yearns to feel normal. Her hopes are pinned on a fresh start in a remote town far from her native Colorado. Then she meets Chance Morgan... Struggling to keep up appearances, she soon suspects Chance is hiding something as well. His animal-like senses, miraculous healing ability and peculiar reaction to her Thunderbird necklace compels Ana to question if there's more to the stories about his Navajo ancestry. Without any other explanation, she fears he is playing tricks on her. But the truth may prove too much for Ana's delicate heart...
Familiar sterile white walls surrounded Ana, providing a form of anesthesia, leaving her numb. Her legs dangled above the linoleum floor as she sat on the exam table, her hands folded in a neat pile on her lap. Even though she was eighteen and technically an adult, she felt like a six-year-old again; totally powerless.
“Good thing we don’t pay Dr. Wilson by the hour.”
Ana glanced over at her mom, and watched her busily fidgeting with her watch. Permanent worry lines creased her otherwise attractive features, aging her appearance.
“Mom, you should know by now that it always takes longer than you expect. Nothing moves quickly here.” Ana gripped the edge of the padded table and shrugged. A long strand of dark hair slipped over her shoulder and she watched it move like a pendulum until it grew still.
A knock rose from the door and it swung open revealing a tall man with glasses. “Hello ladies, I’m sorry I’m running late today.”
Ana’s mother jumped up, almost knocking her purse onto the floor and reached out to shake the man’s hand.
“Hello, Melissa. Nice seeing you again.”
“Hi, David. It was only the other week we were here. Only difference is, I don’t have a job now.” The strain on Melissa’s face was evident. “Layoffs.”
Dr. Wilson frowned, creating dark shadows under his eyes and cheeks. “I’m sorry to hear that. Any hope for a new job?”
Ana’s mother shrugged, “Well, my sister talked to my old boss and can get my job back at Clark Bend Bank.”
Ana shot her a glare, which she conveniently avoided and kept talking, “Eva’s usually game for anything, but I’m not so sure about dragging Ana to Idaho. What do you think, Dr. Wilson…is it too risky?”
“Well, like I’ve said before, it couldn’t hurt going down to a lower altitude. More available oxygen there- it could make Ana a bit more comfortable.” Dr. Wilson turned around to face Ana, who was tapping her toes together in a nervous rhythm.
“Hi, Ana, didn’t mean to ignore you. How are you feeling?” His frown was such a familiar sight she considered it was probably one of the first faces she saw when she was born. Why did everyone always have to feel sorry for her? She was sick and tired of it. She wasn’t pitiful, like a stray dog dying of starvation you give scraps of food to. Or was she? Ana stared into his eyes and saw the answer.
“Baby, weren’t you complaining about shortness of breath? You were having problems the other day with carrying the laundry upstairs.” Melissa blinked and swallowed hard.
“How is that different from three weeks ago?” Ana whispered.
Dr. Wilson nodded sympathetically and sighed. “Well, things don’t look good. I know you don’t want to hear the word transplant, but I’m afraid that is where we’re going. Your heart is hardening much more rapidly now, and I’m worried you’re approaching congenital heart failure. It could only be weeks now at this rate.”
Silence fell. With each breath Ana took, she counted away the seconds that she would never get back. Each breath closer to surgery, or worse.
Dr. Wilson breached the quiet room with his softened voice, “Although moving may be a bit of an adjustment, it could give you a little more time in the waiting game. When you are placed on the transplant list, it could take a day or a year. Idaho doesn’t have any transplant centers, but Washington does, and I know the division chief at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Where was it in Idaho you were thinking of moving?”
Melissa cleared her throat and answered, “Clark Bend in northern Idaho. It’s not too far from Seattle.”
“Well, it’s up to you ladies. But I would support the move. As long as Ana takes it easy. No carrying heavy boxes or arm chairs. And as long as you get in to the cardiology department within a couple weeks.” He grinned and squeezed Ana’s shoulder.
His wire rimmed glasses gleamed from the florescent lighting and Ana’s reflection stared back at her blankly. It felt like she was having a worst case scenario kind of day. Then she considered it was more like a worst case scenario kind of life.
Her mother caught her eye. The worry was written all over her face. Ana knew her mom only wanted the best for her, and it had just gone from hard to worse after the layoffs. A job with insurance was necessary. With no family nearby, going through a transplant would be a challenge. Melissa needed her sister’s support.
It never felt like she had the leisure to make decisions based on what she wanted. She never seemed to have a choice. A choice would imply there was more than one option, and there never was. Not really.
As her doctor told her mother all about the state-of-the-art facility in Washington, Ana dropped down to the floor and slipped over to the window. Her long pale fingers tightened into fists and she closed her eyes tight. She was tired of the constraints of her body and the never ending fear that plagued her. She hated her heart. It always ruined everything. Peering from the third story window down to the cars driving past on the streets below, she wished she could trade places with any anonymous, normal person. Boring would be great. If her biggest problems were cars and boys, she would be overjoyed.
Normal. But she would never have the opportunity to be normal.
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