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Seven Earned Stitches

Slumber parties are always fun as a kid. They give us something to look forward to all week, and then a chance to stay up late giggling out of control when all the lights go out and all is supposed to be silent. I didn't get many chances to go to slumber parties, but every time I did, I always loved it.

"Will their parents be home?"

"Where do they live?"

"What's their phone number?"

"How many people are going?"

"Are there going to be boys?"

"Can I talk to so-n-so's mom and dad?"

The usual questions came at me like an attacking wildfire, always the same questions, always in the same order and always burning hot as coals. The list of questions went on and on. It seemed never ending. I was so used to the questions and being denied the chance to go that finally I ended up just giving them a slip of paper with the parents contact info and telling them up front "No boys, there will be 3 of us, they live near the High School, her mom will be home, and you can call her at this number."

Usually the answer was still no.

One day they broke. It was summer time and Francesca had been my best friend for several years. We were both 14 years old and in High School. She had decided to have a slumber party and wanted to invite me. She told me the answers to all the usual questions. She said her mom would be there, no boys allowed, just she and I, and her mom would be happy to talk to my parents. My parents finally agreed.

It wasn't quite what Francesca had said it would be. Her neighbor came over, and then so did her little sister, then their friend. Then a couple of boys from the neighborhood came over. Next thing I knew there were 8 people bunched together on the top bunk of Francesca's bunk beds playing "Truth or Dare" at one in the morning.

We were having a grand time, giggling like misfits and chattering away. Francesca's mom had gone out for a little while, but I didn't think anything of it. Her mom was a single mother who worked around 60 hours a week to support her two daughters. I didn't see anything wrong wit her going out - other than I had told my parents she would be there. Ill at ease, I suppressed the feeling and kept on with the games.

One of the neighbor girls (for the sake of the story we'll call her Stephanie) needed a drink of water so she climbed down from the top bunk. As she swung her leg over the ladder and straightened up to climb down, her head hit the square light cover hanging above her. Without thinking anything of it, she continued to climb down. I don't believe she even realized she had hit it. It swayed slightly and then I heard the crack.

Stephanie was about half way down the ladder and still directly beneath the light fixture when it snapped. Everything happened in a matter of a split second, but the details are still as clear in my memory as if it just happened today.

Three large chunks and many shards started to rain down on her head. The first large piece to break away was clearly going to land on the top of her head. She looked up, exposing her face. Without thinking about it, I threw my hand out to push the glass away, hoping to force it into the wall and break rather than hit her in the head. As I did, the second piece slapped against the back side of my arm and sliced deep into the back of my arm. Had my arm not been there, it likely would have gone straight into the side of her neck. Stephanie screamed and leaped backward from the ladder. The third piece missed her by inches, shattering on the lowest rung of the tilted ladder. The resounding "pop" of it hitting and bursting into a million pieces, raining glass all into the carpet echoed off of the silent walls. Stephanie froze, afraid to step anywhere in her bare feet.

I had my thick leather house shoes on, so I climbed down to grab a broom and make sure Stephanie was ok. She seemed fine. I handed a pair of gym shoes to Francesca and she got down to help me clean up the mess.

"Stephanie," Francesca sounded alarmed, "are you sure you're ok?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Why?"

"Where did that come from," Francesca asked, pointing at the dark red spots on the white carpet. "There's some on the glass too," Francesca said, picking up a shard with long bloody streaks down one side.

"I don't know," Stephanie panicked. I grabbed Stephanie and started to dig through her hair. Maybe some of the glass had actually cut her after all! I looked for any traces of red in her nearly white blond hair and saw nothing.

"Manda, stop," she told me. "Don't move." Dread crept into my soul and I knew what had happened. It didn't hurt at all and I didn't notice it spurting out with each heart beat until she said something, but I had sliced open the back of my long lead tricep on my right arm. The gash was gaping open and when I grabbed my arm to look at the open wound, a blood spurt flew out and spattered on the wall. I nearly fainted. My eyes crossed, I grew very dizzy and I sat down right there in the middle of the floor.

"Manda," Francesca said, "I have to call your parents from next door. Our phone is out."

"No," I said, worried. "I'll get in trouble and I won't ever be able to come over again."

"What will you get in trouble for?"

"Because your mom isn't here."

"So what do you want to do?"

"Lets wait for your mom," I said to her. She looked at me, obviously worried. I had grown pale.

"Lets at least go see the neighbors," she said. "They watch over me when Mom isn't home. They'll know how to help." Blood streamed down my arm and dripped onto the floor. Francesca grabbed some paper towels to put on it and we went to knock on the neighbors door. By the time they answered, the paper towels had soaked through completely and were dripping on the porch.

I briefly remember them looking at my arm with me in complete panic mode. It wasn't that I was in pain. I still didn't feel it other than a slight pinching sensation. I just didn't want to get in to trouble. I had lost a lot of blood though and was growing more and more faint by the minute. They insisted that we call my parents to come get me, and finally I relented.

Dad picked me up around 2am, and by 2:30 I was laying face down on a hospital emergency room bed with my father by my side.

"Ok, Honey," he said to me, putting me at ease. He hadn't called me Honey in years at that point. "Hold on to my hand," he reached out for my left. I cringed. I openly admitted that I was scared. "I know," he reassured me, "I know you are. Just hang on, it won't be that bad. Just squeeze my hand if you need to. Squeeze me really hard when it hurts."

WHEN it hurts, he said. Not if, but when. Fear gripped at me and I snatched his hand and held it hard. As the tetanus shot pinched my exposed muscle and made contact with the bone, I gripped harder. As the doctor began to wiggle the needle around like he was digging for the marrow, I yelled and screamed, crying into the pillow under my head and crushing my fathers knuckles.

"Harder," he shouted to me, "You're not gonna hurt me, squeeze me harder!" The pain pulsed through my body and my legs flailed around aimlessly. I kicked at whatever I could kick, making contact with thin air and the bed under me. The doctor held my arm tight, but the last thing in the world I wanted to do was move my arm. I knew it would only make the pain worse. He ground the needle into my bone and I shuddered as he injected the medication into my tissue.

"You won't feel a thing" the doctor lied. I felt every one of the seven stitches as they played their way through my skin, closing the gaping wound. My body shook uncontrollably as he finished and snipped off the rest of the unused blue twine.

"I'm not cold," I told my father as we walked out of the hospital that night, my arm wrapped up in an ace bandage. My entire right side was stained with blood and my clothes were completely ruined. "So why are my teeth chattering?"

"It's your nerves," he explained. "You lost quite a bit of blood." I climbed into the passenger seat of his 1970 Chevelle Malibu and settled back onto the seat, being sure to avoid getting blood on the seats of the precious car. It was the first and last time I can ever remember sitting in that car and not being thrilled by it. I fell fast asleep on the way home and Dad had to wake me up when we got there.

I was never allowed over to Francesca's house again. Mom and Dad told me to stay away from her because she was trouble. It wasn't Francesca's fault. Perhaps her mother should have been there if she said she was going to be, but perhaps at the same time I should have called my parents to tell them the plans had changed. I still would have gotten into trouble and never be allowed over to her house again if that was the case. I took a risk and I paid for it with seven stitches. Still, my getting those seven stitches meant Stephanie didn't end up with much more serious injuries to her face or neck.

Two days later I was climbing the walnut tree in the back yard when I felt the stitches pop out under the ace bandage. To this day I'm left with an unusual looking scar that I used to scare other kids for a few years. But that's a story for another day.

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