The horror of it all hit her in dizzy waves. Verna seemed to sense it, because she gave her another sip of water.
“Good,” Andrea mumbled, slightly annoyed over how little she was able to say.
“A little bit at a time,” Verna pressed.
“What . . . happened?” Andrea drawled. She’d missed so much, and it was so frustrating.
Darian paled, running his hand down his face.
“Tell me!” Andrea urged. Verna nodded, biting her lip.
“Well,” he began slowly, “when you got attacked by the wolf, they all scattered, so I was holding you in the middle of the woods at night. You were bleeding and unconscious. And when I called for help, they came.”
“Us, he means,” Verna interrupted.
“Yes. They took you to the Hollow, which is the medical center here, and Verna started on you. They gave me food to eat and water to drink. And I’ve been waiting here for you to wake up.”
“Really?” Andrea asked. For her? For so long? Her eyes flooded.
“They introduced me to themselves. The Zahteva, remember? And it’s really cool what they can do—”
“Uh uh, that’s a story for another time,” Verna warned. “You don’t want to overwhelm her.”
“Tell me,” Andrea demanded.
Verna sighed. “Alright,” she said. “But I have to introduce you to the others first.”
“When?” Andrea asked.
Verna rested her head on her knuckles. “You really want to now, huh?”
“Fine, but don’t blame me if you’re too overwhelmed.”
Overwhelmed. It was a funny word. Andrea had been overwhelmed since the moment she’d set out for a cure.
“All right,” Verna said defeatedly. “Darian, you can help me carry her cot.”
The cot was very cozy and comfortable, with a puffy blanket on top of her. Andrea hadn’t really noticed through her near-death experience, but her heart warmed at the Zahteva’s kindness, whoever they were.
They carried her cot through the circular room. It was a detail Andrea had never noticed before. It was large and cozy with a curtain halfway through the room decorated with leaves. The floor was scuffed wood, and the walls were textured and brown. Verna pulled back the curtain and set her down momentarily, revealing stacks and stacks of medical supplies behind the curtain, from bandages to balms.
They continued carrying her, down a spiraling stairwell that had been on the far end of the supplies room. The stairwell smelled rich and woody, and her body ached for fresh air.
Verna pushed open a door that looked identical in texture to the wall, and a chilly breeze swept across her. Perhaps too cold. She shivered. “Promise you’ll tell me if this gets to be too much for you?” Verna asked.
“Yes,” she said.