Ben rifled through one of the plastic bags before throwing something on the foot of the bed. I reached down and held it up to see that it was a dark grey dress.
“I know how awful that gown feels,” he said.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a metal ring attached to a carabiner. My lips lifted into a smile as I watched him search through the keys on the ring.
“One of these is for the shower room,” Ben said.
“You have keys?” I asked.
I moved on the bed so that I was sitting on my knees. The dress was clutched in my hands. The corner of Ben’s lip tugged into a slight smile.
“Don’t get too excited,” he said. “Oliver only gave me the keys to the doors in the lab.”
“How do you know that?” I asked. “We should try them.”
“They’re crazy, not stupid.”
I let out a deep breath. He was probably right. Dr. Phillips seemed to have a lot of trust in him. She let him go out to the store and here on his own. She probably wouldn’t let the key to the basement door be around the girl fighting to escape to her freedom.
“Let’s go find the shower room,” he said.
“What am I supposed to do about this?” I lifted my arm that was connected to the IV pole. Ben walked over to the pump and pushed a few buttons before disconnecting me from the tube.
“How do you know how to do that?” I asked.
“You pick up a few things,” he said. “I’ll hook you back up after your shower.”
I scooted to the edge of the bed. I tried to keep the back of my gown closed as I stood up. I kept the dress in one hand. Ben was holding a plastic bag. He watched me take my first few wobbly steps and looked like he was ready to catch me if I toppled over. When I managed to walk straight, he walked beside me down the hallway. It felt odd to walk without having the IV pole to lean against, so I kept my hand against the wall. Nausea reminded me of many Sunday morning hangovers I have had in the past.
I watched Ben fumble with multiple keys before unlocking the shower room. He waved me in, and set the plastic bag on the counter. I looked down at the cold white tiles on the floor that raised up to show three separate showers. Blue shower curtains were pulled across them. The white was so clean that I could almost see my reflection staring back at me. This room was never used before. I was the first, but how many people was he preparing for?
“I got everything I thought a girl would need.” Ben’s voice brought me back to reality. He was peering into the plastic bag. “There’s a strong chance I forgot something. My sister always had the shower full of crap that was supposed to smell like oranges.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“I’ll wait out there for you when you are done,” he said.
I nodded. I looked into the bag and pulled out the items one at a time. There was shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and other toiletries. I smiled when I saw that they were both citrus scented. There were also razors, shaving cream, a brush, hair elastics, and deodorant. I was relieved to see a box of tampons. I was supposed to get my period next week. That was a conversation that I did not want to have with Sweeney.
I chewed on my bottom lip as my heart sank. Why did I assume that I would be here next week? By next week I would have escaped.
I gathered up the things Ben brought me and went over to the nearest shower. I pulled back the curtain to see the white tiles on the wall bent into shelves, and placed the shampoo and wash on it. I turned on the shower and waited for the water to warm. I peeled my gown off, folded it, and placed it on the counter.
I stepped into the shower and let the warm water cascade against my skin. I basked in the smell of citrus as it overpowered the smell of sweat and blood that had been following me. The fire behind my eyes grew worse, but the ache in my skull dulled. I shaved my legs and nicked my legs a few times because I struggled to see. After I finished, I wrapped myself up in a towel.
I wiped the steam off of the mirror and leaned in closer. The swelling had decreased, but there were still faint yellow bruises running up from my cheeks. I ran the brush through my hair before braiding the wet strands. I slipped on the underwear and dress Ben gave me. I took a deep breath before taking a step into the hallway.
Ben was sitting on Sweeney’s chair, and his feet were up on the desk. He had a book open on his lap. He shut it and spun around when he heard me come in.
“Feel better?” he asked.
“As good as I could feel,” I said. “Considering the circumstances.”
“You’ve got spunk,” Ben said with a smile. “I like it, but you’ve got to watch it around the doctors.”
I sat down on the edge of the bed, and let my feet dangle. Ben got up and went around the bed to wheel the IV pole over to me. He reattached it. He sat down in Sweeney’s chair and leaned back. His face was blurry, and I was still not used to the odd hue of colours surrounding me.
“I’m not going to that dinner,” I told him.
“You really don’t have much choice,” he said. “They live for this dinner. They even turn it into a whole weekend. They like showing off their work.”
“So I have to sit still for a bunch of Frankenstein-like doctors?”
“Yes, doctors who piece multiple people together to make something new. Like the novel.”
“I am well aware of the novel.”
I could not see the details of Ben’s face, but from the tone of his voice, I could tell he was smirking.
“Listen, I don’t need to know how to act for this party. I need to know how to get out of here,” I said.
“I already told you I have tried,” he said. “They’re smart, and the punishments are bad. This is what we have to do in the meantime. Until we find the perfect way out.”
“Three years and you haven’t found a perfect way out?”
There was a creak. He was shifting his weight in the chair. I must have made him uncomfortable.
“I’m trying to help you,” he said. “Try running away, and you’ll see what I am talking about.”
“You’re trying to scare me.”
“It’s not that hard to do. Considering the circumstances.”
I bit down on my lip. He was taunting me.
“Give me the keys,” I said.
Ben chuckled. I held onto the IV pole and walked over to Ben. I towered over him. His features came into focus, and he raised an eyebrow. I squinted to see the ring of keys through the loop of his jeans. I reached down, and he caught my wrist. His grip was much stronger than Sweeney’s, but when I yanked my arm back he let go.
“Give me the keys,” I repeated.
“Diana, I already told you I’m on your side,” he said.
“You’re sick,” I said. “You want to be here.”
I lunged forward. My fingers got around the keys before Ben’s warm fingers wrapped around my wrist. I slapped his face with my free hand before he grabbed that wrist. I pulled away from him, and he pulled me back. I stumbled on my feet as I fell toward him. He gave my wrists another yank to pull me onto his lap. The keys dug into the back of my thigh. I reached for the key again, but he had my wrists pinned against my chest. I took in a sharp breath as he stared down at me with his crystal blue eyes.
“Don’t make me sound like an idiot,” he said. “I want to get out of here, and I tried. I already told you that the keys will not get us out of the basement.”
“How do you know that?” my voice came out a lot weaker than I wished.
“I know them,” he said. “Bethany and Oliver are up there fucking each other. It would be the ideal time to run out and get out of here, but she’s not going to give us that.”
“What about earlier today?” I asked. “You went to the store to buy me all of this stuff by yourself. Why didn’t you go to the cops? Why didn’t you get help?”
“Escaping this isn’t just about getting out of here.”
Ben shifted, and I realized that I was still on his lap. I went to stand up, but he dug his fingers into my thigh. My breath caught in my throat. Ben’s eyes were locked on mine. It was as if he was inspecting my large vertical pupils and the new dark green colour.
“What do you think is going to happen to you when you get out of here?” he asked. “You can’t just go home, have these eyes, and live a normal life.”
“Someone can change us back to who we are,” I said.
“A doctor or a vet?”
I pushed his hands off of my legs, and I stood up.
“Okay, I don’t understand you,” I said. “First you said we have to wait for the perfect opportunity to escape, and now you’re telling me there’s no point in getting out of here? Which one is it? How can your opinion change in five minutes?”
“I don’t want to be here,” he said as he stood up from the chair. “But getting out of here is not as easy as you think. They’re keeping us alive. Without their medication, my skin is going to fall off and your eyes are going to be rejected from your body. Their meds stop our bodies from rejecting these transplants.”
I pushed my fingertips into the tender flesh around my eyes. I never thought about my body rejecting them, and it turning itself against me. I actually had to rely on Sweeney? Did he continue to get to play God over my life?
“That’s why leaving is not as simple as you think,” he said.
There was a click as the lock to the door on top of the door turned. I took a step back from Ben. I watched Sweeney’s figure come into focus. He had two bowls in his hands. He smiled when he looked in my direction.
“You look nice,” he said. He handed Ben one of the bowls. “I hope she hasn’t been too much trouble for you, Ben.”
“Not at all, sir,” he said with a fake smile. “She’s lovely.”
“I’m going to show Diana her new room, and make sure she eats.”
Sweeney walked toward me, and I tried to avoid the gaze of the man in charge of my life.