[This is a fiction I co-authored with Louise Norlie. I will be publishing the story in serial installments, every Monday for the next little while. Stay tuned.]
My father was a nurse and worked the night shift at the local hospital. During the day he slept and did not like his slumber interrupted. On one occasion, riding my bicycle, I hit a stone and fell headfirst into the concrete. I must have lain there for a while until someone noticed me, in front of the bushes, blood streaming from the gash in my forehead. Some person who I could hardly see bent over me through the sunlight. She tried to speak to me and offer assistance. All I could think of was that my mother was not home while I suffered, my father was sleeping while I suffered, and how angry he would be if I woke him up to show him what happened. I stumbled to my feet, a little light-headed, and told the stranger I was fine. The stranger did not believe me. I did not believe me either. I put my hand to my head and felt wetness, saw the hand covered in blood. It is funny how the red color of blood always surprises, as if it is hard to believe that brightness is really inside you.
I dropped the bike on the porch and went into the house where all was quiet. I was afraid to look myself in the mirror, confused by the stinging pain on my head, afraid to sit anywhere and stain the furniture, terrified by the stains on my clothes. I was petrified; all I could do was cry, which I started to do, loudly.
Then my father woke up. I heard his footsteps coming down the hall. He took one look at me and led me to the bathroom. His eyes were bloodshot, his face bent over mine. His rough touch washed the wound free of dirt and concrete. It felt like sandpaper on my skin. I think he spoke to me during this, but all I could do was wail from the pain. He told me to stop but I would not. I could not. He thought of a way to quiet me down. Before he wrapped my head with gauze he lifted me up to see the bathroom mirror which was then too high for me. I saw my puffy eyes and the raw wound that still burned from the antiseptic. A stream of blood leaked down my cheek, thin red tears. I was shocked by my appearance. I became quiet.
After that, whenever I look in the mirror, that face is the face I see.