Twenty-six years later, Deanna Iris and her son Brent move back to the town she grew up in—back where her secret began and when her life changed forever.
As she is unpacking boxes, she receives a call from Officer Bates stating her sister and son have been taken to Mendota Community Hospital after being critically injured in a car accident.
Sitting with her son who is unconscious and her sister Sheila who is in a coma, Deanna meets their doctor who reminds her of someone she once knew. Could it be possible that Dr. Sheldon is her daughter, who Deanna was told died minutes after being born?
After meeting her old friend who knew about her secret, and is later found murdered, Deanna receives a note in her mailbox telling her to leave town or she will suffer the same fate. What transpired all those years ago and who is the mysterious woman she spots as she drives by her sister’s house?
Will Deanna ever allow herself to be loved and to let go of the past? Or will searching for the answers lead to her death?
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I started writing this book seven years ago, and had put it aside. I guess waiting for something to happen. I ended up writing BROKEN PROMISES, and then finally finished NOT FORGOTTEN.
The story crept into my head and I just had to wrote it.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Deanna, the main character, portrays herself as I do. Brice, her close friend, I made him a french man because I wanted him to be sexy, the voice and the body. The man who played on SWITCHED AT BIRTH, Gilles Marini, was in my head when I wrote the chartacter.
The next few days were hectic. Packing our belongings and getting rid of trash from the house I had lived in for eleven years. As I sorted through the many miscellaneous objects I had collected, I began to recognize I had the genes of a hoarder. It was hard to let many items go as I remembered everything about the once precious possessions. I needed to remind myself this was a welcome change — for the better and not for the worse.
I stood in the kitchen when the movers arrived early Friday morning and put the last of the food in a cooler ready for the journey. I glanced around one last time and knew I had to let go of this place I had called home.
A few hours later, I stood in our new kitchen and watched the men unload the truck. My sister said she would pick Brent up from school and stop for ice cream before coming over to help me unpack.
I kept busy by putting things away and didn’t even realize it was getting dark outside. I dug in my purse for my cell phone. No messages. They should have been here by now. I dialed my sister’s number, but it went straight to voice mail.
“She never has her phone off,” I mumbled just before I left a quick message. I paced the room and then went into the kitchen to finish unpacking.
All of a sudden, I felt as though someone was watching me. I looked around the room and then through the window. The darkness had to be playing tricks on me, so I rubbed my eyes and looked again — the figure I thought was standing by the old oak tree was gone.
I began to pace from room to room willing for my sister to call me back, but the hours just ticked by.
I sat on the sofa waiting and sprang to my feet when my phone rang.
“Yes, is this Miss Iris?” A man asked.
“Yes’, this is she.” Disappointed it wasn’t Sheila.
“This is Officer Bates. I’m sorry to be calling you this late, but I’ve just received your contact information.”
Panic flowed through my body like a heat wave. “What’s this about?”
“I’m sorry, but I have some bad news. Sheila Larisa was in a car accident. She is at Mendota Community Hospital.” Tears flooded my eyes. Then I remembered she went to pick up Brent.
“Oh God, no! What about Brent? Was Brent with her?”
“Yes, there was a boy with her. They are both at the hospital. Ma’am, do you have someone to take you there?”
“No! I’m sorry, I mean I can drive.” Grabbing my purse I ran to my car.
“How long will it take you?”
“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.” Officer Bates said he would meet me in the lobby.
I flashed back to a day many years ago, a time way before Brent was born and a day I will never let myself forget.
Stop it Deanna. You can’t think like that. He will be fine. He’s not going to die — you have to believe that.
I parked the car and sprinted up the walkway to the main entrance. As the sliders zipped open, my eyes searched the waiting room then I saw the officer approaching me.
“Are you Miss Iris?”
“I’ll take you to your son and sister. They’re in the intensive care unit and their conditions are not good I’m afraid.”
Tears poured down my face. I was scared and sad all at the same time.
“Do you need to sit down, Miss Iris?” He put his hand on my shoulder and I flinched.
I shook all over. “I can’t lose him.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Iris, but if there is anything, anything at all I can do to help, just let me know.”
“You can call me Deanna.” I gazed up at his deep hazel eyes that glistened with sympathy, yet there seemed to be something different about him when I mentioned my name. I noticed a scar on his forehead, long and thin; his short blonde hair not quite covering it. He reminded me of someone I knew long ago. I imagined from his touch that he was gentle and kind, but he seemed quiet and distant. I started to feel unsteady and reached for something to hold onto. He grabbed my arm, but I pulled away from him and leaned against the wall.
“I’m fine. Really, I’ll be fine.” I hoped he would believe me and leave. Instead he led me to my son’s room.
“Can you tell me what happened? What caused the accident?”
“From what the State Trooper told me, a deer ran out in front of her car and he thinks she jerked the steering wheel too hard, causing them to flip over when they hit a ditch. It took a couple of hours to cut them out of the vehicle. They are lucky to be alive, thanks to some of the other drivers who saw the crash happen and called it in, but…”
“There’s something you should know before you go in.”
“What more could you possibly have to tell me?”
“I overheard before I called you…your son is unconscious and your sister is in a coma.”
“Coma. You mean she won’t ever wake up?”
His eyes widened. “I didn’t say she won’t wake up. I wanted you to know before you went in to see your son because he may not respond to you.”
I absorbed what he said and had to see for myself. I took a deep breath and swung the door open. Officer Bates waited outside the room.
Wires hung all around my son. A machine beeped beside his bed. An IV pumped fluids into his body through his left arm. I could only see his fingers on his right arm because a light blue cast hid the rest and reached his shoulder. I stood beside him stroking his cheek. Tears slithered down my face as he didn’t even look like my son. His swollen face covered with cuts and bruises — he was unrecognizable.
This morning he left for school wearing his favorite Cubs shirt and a pair of jeans. Excited about living in our new place and he couldn’t wait to sleep in his room. He begged me to let him stay home from school, but I said no and that I would see him later. He tried to change my mind and said he didn’t need to go because it was the last day of school. That he didn’t need to go. Now I wished I had let him stay with me, and then he wouldn’t have been lying in this bed, hurt, helpless, and alone — perhaps even dying.
I smoothed his dark brown hair, though a lot of it was shaved and replaced with stitches. He no longer had that skateboarder look with his hair worn long which covered his eyes. I kissed his forehead and felt the warmth of his face on my lips. I whispered, “Please God, let him be okay. Don’t take him from me. He’s all I have — I can’t live without him.”
When I came out of the room, Officer Bates had his eyes closed as he sat in the chair. I nudged his arm and his eyes popped open.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”
“It’s okay. It’s been a long night. Can you take me to my sister now? I would like to see her.”
He nodded and stood up as he stretched. We went down a couple of doors then he pointed to her room.
“You don’t have to stay you know. I’ll be fine. Go home and get some sleep.” His eyes looked bloodshot.
“Are you sure? Do you have family nearby that can stay with you? Do you need me to contact your sister’s husband and let him know what’s happened?”
“No.” I shook my head, in part to clear the haze of despair that had begun to set in. “They are all I have, and as for her husband, he died four years ago.” Not giving him time to respond, I turned and pushed the door open, leaving him outside.
I stood at Sheila’s bedside. Her face was puffy, black and blue. A neck brace pushed up the skin around her cheeks. Her left arm lay on a pillow and the right arm raised in a sling, both were in casts. When a nurse came in to check her vitals, I asked how severe my sister’s injuries were. She began telling me about the Glasgow Coma Scale: a scoring system to assess the level of consciousness after a head injury, whether the person can move their eyes and limbs, and if there is any coherent speech. I stopped the nurse a moment and asked if she was awake when she was brought in, but she replied, Sheila was already in a coma.
I had so many questions. How could my sister be helped in any way by a test she couldn’t pass when she was out cold? How could they assess her coherence when she was unable to answer their questions?
The nurse seemed frustrated with me as I was with her. “The abilities are scored numerically. Higher scores mean milder injuries. A CT scan is run to visualize fractures and uncover evidence of bleeding in the brain or swelling.”
Before she could finish, I asked when she would come round and whether an MRI had been carried out.
She shook her head as if I didn’t understand hospital emergency procedures. She replied, “Doctors don’t often use MRIs during emergency assessments of traumatic brain injuries because the procedure takes too long. That test can be used after the person’s condition has stabilized.” She also added “We can’t give an exact time when she will wake up…”
My attention lost focus as she started to tell me about the tissue swelling and how the doctor had inserted a probe through my sister’s skull to monitor the pressure. After all that information the nurse ended the conversation with, “Your sister was lucky to have survived at all.”
I sat in a chair next to her bed and touched her fingers, as they lay motionless on the sheet.
I don’t know how long I sat there staring at her. I prayed she would wake up; as I wanted so much to tell her I would forgive her. To tell her everything I felt inside — like sisters should.
Donna M. Zadunajsky was born and raised in Bristolville, Ohio, and resides in Homer Glen, Illinois. She has written seven children’s books that are about her daughter and all the adventures she has done in her young life. They are currently on the Barnes and Noble website, at Amazon.com, and at www.littletscorner.com. available in eBook and paperback.
She spends her time writing short stories as well as novels. She published her first novel ‘Broken Promises,’ in June 2012 and has currently finished her second novel ‘Not Forgotten.’
Besides writing, she enjoys spending time with her daughter and husband, their dog and two cats. She enjoys reading and working on crafts and scrapbooking. She graduated from The Institute of Children’s Literature in spring 2011.
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