Step after step. Mile after mile. Hour after hour.
It was strangely easy, the rhythm of her steps setting time for the rhythm of both hearts. It helped carry Carmen through the pressure of pain that seemed to tighten around her every couple of blocks, which lifted after a dozen seconds or so.
Everything else… well, it was like Monterey Bay Aquarium from a time long ago: standing in an underwater glass tunnel, with everything happening around her, apart from her. Brightly-colored fishes frantically wiggling about, purposefully darting through the water, or serenely drifting with the tides; slugs pressed against the glass, urchins poking up from rocks, seaweed drifting and weaving. It was a little comforting, in a way. She’d always liked field trips to the Aquarium.
Angela came and went in small streaks of flame, bearing message back and forth. Susan wanted them to head to the hospital, said that there’d be a room waiting by the time they got there.
(That was fine. Carmen didn’t really want to be home right now, sitting on their bed, facing their closet… a feeling like cracking glass sliced through her. It was too sudden and settled too quickly to be a contraction.)
Moe told Ange to help get the room ready. Ange obliged. Not long after, Ange reported that Moe shouldn’t make any plans—due to the influx of emergency patients, Susan wouldn’t be able to check on Carmen often so she needed Moe to do it for her. Moe obliged. Sanura asked Ange to check in on Alvaro and Johanna. Not long after, Ange reported that they had returned to Regency Hall without further incident.
(Another crack, at the careful way Sanura tiptoed through her question, and the equally careful way Angie reported it. She wanted to call them on it, to tell them that she wasn’t fragile. But she was, dammit. She was.)
Sofia stayed mostly quiet, focused on getting to the hospital, her steps patient but steady.
(At least, with Sofia here, she wouldn’t be utterly swept away. La roquita. La roquita precioso.)
Finally, after too long, after not long enough, Carmen could see the sign: Bakersfield Memorial Hospital.