Sweeney put his hand on the small of my back, and I took a step to the side. His fingers sent a shiver up my spine. I followed Sweeney as he walked to the last door on the left side of the hallway. He pulled out his own ring of keys and opened the door.
I took one small step before stopping. The walls were painted light pink. There was a huge bed sitting against the wall with crisp white sheets. Sheer white material was hanging from the four posts of the bed. There was a white dresser with a large mirror above it. A pink rug was on the cold cement floor.
Sweeney placed the bowl on top of the dresser. He turned around and shoved his hands into the pocket of his lab coat.
“Sit down,” Sweeney said.
“I’m okay,” I said.
“It’s not an option.”
I struggled to pull the IV pole across the thick carpet. I sat on the edge of the bed. It was so high that my toes barely touched the cold floor. Sweeney grabbed my arm and held it out to look at the IV.
“How’s your pain?” he asked.
“It’s been alright,” I said.
He nodded before picking at the tape holding my IV in place. He pulled off the tape and then pulled the IV out of my arm. He pulled a cotton ball out of his pocket and taped it down to my skin. He pushed the pole to the side.
“There’s a little bit of freedom,” he said.
“It’s not the kind of freedom I want,” I said.
“I did you a favour. Be grateful.”
Sweeney turned before he furrowed his brows and turned back around. I let out a scream as he grabbed my ankle, and he pulled my leg so that it was straight out. I yanked my leg back before kicking him in the shin. I cursed Ben for giving me a dress. Sweeney let go of my leg. I swung my legs underneath me so that I was sitting on top of them.
“What did you do to yourself?” he asked.
I could feel the tiny pricks of pain running up my legs.
“I was shaving my legs,” I said. “I can’t really see, so it’s not my fault.”
Sweeney pulled a small light out of his pocket. How much can he store in these pockets of his?
He flashed the light into each of my eyes.
“You’re not going to do that anymore,” he said.
“Shave. At least not by yourself.”
“I don’t need to be supervised like this,” I said. “This is all ridiculous.”
“Really?” He raised an eyebrow. “If I didn’t have Ben staying here you wouldn’t be trying to run away?”
I swung my legs out from under me so I was sitting on the edge. I wanted to spring up off of the bed and take off running. Sweeney probably left the door unlocked when he came down. I have been on the track team for the past eight years of my life. I know I could outrun him, but Ben’s words stayed in my mind. I need Sweeney’s medication to stay alive.
“You better start behaving,” he said.
“I don’t think you have any confidence in yourself,” I said. “That’s why you have Ben here. You don’t think you’ll be able to keep me down here yourself.”
“You think you’re so smart,” Sweeney said. He walked over to the dresser. I could see him in the corner of my eye, without turning my head. “A smart girl wouldn’t have walked home alone at night with music on full blast.”
Sweeney handed me the bowl. I looked down to see mashed potatoes and a few pieces of corn.
“You did this to yourself, but you’ll be thanking me soon,” he said. “Eat it all. It’s shepherd’s pie.”
I picked up the fork and took small bites of the food. Sweeney sat down on the small bench next to the dresser. He was in the corner of my new expanded vision. I wondered if he knew that I could see him.
“How do you like Ben?” he asked.
I shrugged my shoulders because my mouth was full of food. This is the most delicious thing he’s brought me since I have woken up from surgery, and I was shoveling it all into my mouth.
“Good,” he said. “He’s a nice boy. Are you going to listen to him?”
I nodded my head as I took the last bite of my dinner. I was listening to Ben. I wasn’t trying to run out of here right now.
“Good,” he said again. “You’re going to make me proud at the dinner, right?”
I glared at Sweeney. His face was blurry, so I couldn’t tell how he reacted to that. He got up and walked over to me. He took the bowl out of my hands and placed his other hand on the top of my head. My hair was still damp from my shower, and strands were falling out of my braid. He ran his hand down my hair at an agonizingly slow pace.
“Do you like your room?” he asked.
I looked around at the pink and sheer white surrounding us. This looked like the room for a twelve-year-old girl.
“Anything I can do to make it better?” he asked.
“Can I have a window?” I asked.
Sweeney laughed and finally took his hand off of me.
“You’re funny,” he said. “If you really want to see outside you’re going to have to work your way up to those kinds of privileges, Kitten.”
I couldn’t seem to move after Sweeney left the room. I was frozen on the edge of the bed with my arms wrapped around me. That disgusting nickname he had been giving me was echoing through my mind.
I was his belonging.
I was no better than a pet to him. I am like his house cat that he will keep trapped in this house forever.
There was a knock, and I looked up to see Ben standing in the doorway. He had changed into a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt.
“How do you live like this?” I asked him.
Ben walked toward me, and the bed dipped as he sat down. There was something in his hands, but I could not make out what it was.
“Right now, all we can do is distract ourselves,” he said. “A lot of distraction is needed to keep your mind off of it.”
I looked at Ben, and my jaw dropped. His leg was pressed against mine, and his elbow brushed against my arm. If his surgery was more than three years ago, he hasn’t been around many people for a couple of years. He must not have been with any girl for quite some time. My heart pounded in my chest as I pushed myself further down the bed.
Ben raised his eyebrow.
“What?” His eyes grew wide when he realized what I was doing. “Oh God, Diana. No, that’s not what I meant. I wanted to know if you wanted to watch a movie with me.”
I let out a deep breath, put my hand on my chest, and giggled. I laughed harder when he started to laugh along.
“That would be nice,” I said. “What movie were you thinking?”
He held up the case in his hands. I squinted and leaned in to try and read the title.
“Young Frankenstein,” he said.
“Is this because I said you didn’t know who Frankenstein was?” The corner of my lips tugged into a smile. “You’re going to show me a movie about Frankenstein’s kid?”
“Frankenstein’s kid?” He scoffed. “Okay, you obviously don’t know your Frankenstein movies. This is Gene Wilder. Please tell me you know who Gene Wilder is.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “Willy Wonka, Blazing Saddles. I am well aware of who he is.”
“Just making sure,” he said. “The young ones don’t always know.”
“The young ones?” I asked.
“Yeah, how old are you?”
“Twenty. How about you?”
He got up off the edge of the bed and shook his hair out of his eyes.
“I’ll bring the rest of your stuff in,” he said. “There’s a room across the hall with a TV. Come in when you’re ready.”
He left, and I slid off of the bed. I paced across the plush carpet, as I heard the plastic bags rustle outside my room. Ben set the bags down in my room before closing the door. I searched through the bags until I found a pair of flannel pajama bottoms and a black T-shirt.
I left the bags on the floor. I refused to unpack them. If I put all of this away it would be telling Sweeney that I am happily settling in here.
I went across the hall and saw Ben sitting on a leather sofa. His feet were on a wooden coffee table in front of him. He had the remote in his hands and smiled. I squinted to see a large television hanging on the wall. A foosball table sat behind the couch. I could see a few bookshelves that were littered with books and movies.
“The couch is more comfortable,” Ben said.
I stepped away from the doorway to the couch. I sat down on the other end. I brought my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around myself. Ben held out the remote, and the movie flashed onto the screen.
There was a weird relief that came over me when I saw that the movie was black-and-white. The new soft hue of colours could leave me alone for an hour and a half.
“Where are you from?” Ben asked.
“Ontario, but I am going to Dalhousie University,” I said.
“What were you taking?”
“Really? I wouldn’t take you as the science type.”
I rolled my eyes, and a sharp burn ran up into my temple.
“Did you really just say that to me?” I asked. “I actually majored in biochemistry before I switched to environmental science.”
“Okay.” Ben held his hands up in defense. “Didn’t mean to offend you.”
“What were you doing before you got here?”
“I couldn’t afford school,” he said. “Instead, I moved to Toronto, and was trying to become a writer while I was working part-time at a pizza place.”
“What did you write?”
I giggled and threw my hand over my mouth. Ben turned to face me and was furrowing his brows.
“What’s so funny?” he asked.
“I’m sorry,” I said as I tried to stop laughing. “I just got this picture of you sitting in this hipster cafe full of other writers late at night. It’s funny to me.”
Ben let out a huff of breath before turning to watch the movie.
“Well,” he said. “You’re not exactly wrong.”
I pulled the blanket off of the back of the couch and wrapped it around myself. The white and purple pattern was very similar to the knit blankets my grandmother makes.
Ben and I did not speak to each other for the rest of the movie. It was the most relaxed I had felt since waking up from my surgery.
When the credits rolled on the screen, the stairs creaked. The lights flicked on and Sweeney walked in. He set two glasses of water down on the table.
“What are you two up to?” he asked.
“We’re just watching a movie, sir,” Ben said.
“Alright.” Sweeney nodded. “I have your medication.”
He pulled a bottle out of the pocket of his lab coat and threw it to Ben.
“Dr. Phillips gave me yours,” Sweeney said.
Ben popped off the cap before tossing one into his mouth and taking a drink of water. Sweeney pulled out another bottle and handed me three pills and a glass of water. I could feel Sweeney’s intense stare as I swallowed the pill.
“Open your mouth,” he said.
“What?” I asked.
“I need to make sure that you’re not hiding your medication. Open your mouth and stick out your tongue.”
I glanced over at Ben. He nodded his head. I complied and opened my mouth.
“Good,” Sweeney said. “Don’t stay up too late. I’ll see both of you in the morning.”
“Good night, Dr. Sweeney,” Ben said.
I wrapped the blanket around myself tighter as he walked out of the room. Ben got up from the couch and walked over to the shelf.
“What do you want to watch next?” he asked.
“Something black-and-white,” I said.