*Unedited and subject to change*
Prologue - Cara
I woke up on a Tuesday. My eyes fluttered open and I glanced around the stark white room. I was surrounded by paper swans that hung from the ceiling and I held my breath, afraid that I didn’t survive my attack. Was this Heaven? Had they somehow let me slip through? The beeping of machines filled my ears but a blurred vision of Ellie was what I struggled to focus on.
“I’m here,” she spoke and the beeping of my heart monitor increased as her fingers wrapped around mine.
I tried to speak but my throat was raw and sore. A nurse was quickly by my side to give me a sip of water.
“Your throat was injured in the attack. Just take it easy,” the nurse said as she placed her hand on my shoulder. I kept my eyes locked on El as if she was an illusion that would vanish if I looked away. Please don’t disappear.
The nurse made a few notes on a clipboard and asked me a few questions before finally giving me a moment alone with Ellie. She leaned down, placing her forehead against mine and I finally let my eyes close.
“We don’t have much time,” she whispered as she pulled back to look me in the eye. “You have to tell them that this was a hate crime, Cara.”
I shook my head as I croaked out the word no.
“You can’t let him get away with this, Cara. I won’t let you let him get away with this.”
I shook my head again as she held up my cup of water so I could take another drink. “No one can know, El. Please. My mother…”
“Isn’t a mother at all if she doesn’t care about your safety or happiness.”
“What happiness?” I asked and she gave me a sad smile as her hand covered mine. My knuckles hurt but I squeezed her back, needing to be closer to her.
“El, there aren’t any laws in Georgia to prevent hate crimes.”
I watched her lip quiver as that reality hit her. Our own government didn’t accept us as equals.